From The Curse of Minerva
“The bannered pomp of war, the glittering files,
O’er whose gay trappings stern Bellona smiles;
The brazen trump, the spirit-stirring drum,
That bid the foe defiance ere they come;
The hero bounding at his country’s call,
The glorious death that consecrates his fall,
Swell the young heart with visionary charms,
And bid it antedate the joys of arms.
But know, a lesson you may yet have taught,
With death alone are laurels cheaply bought:
Not in the conflict Havoc seeks delight,
His day of mercy is the day of fight.
But when the field is fought, the battle won,
Though drenched with gore, his woes are but begun:
His deeper deeds as yet ye know by name;
The slaughtered peasant and the ravished dame,
The rifled mansion and the foe-reaped field,
Ill suit with souls at home, untaught to yield.
Say, with what eye along the distant down
Would flying burghers mark the blazing town?
How view the column of ascending flames
Shake his red shadow o’er the startled Thames?
Nay, frown not, Albion! for the torch was thine
That lit such pyres from Tagus to the Rhine:
Now should they burst on thy devoted coast,
Go, ask thy bosom who deserves them most.
The law of Heaven and Earth is life for life,
And she who raised, in vain regrets, the strife.”
From The Peacemaker
Peace and Contention lie here on Earth, as trading factors for life and death. Who desires not to have traffic with life? who (weary of life) but would die to live?
Peace is the passage from life to life, come then to the factory of Peace, thou that desirest lo have life: behold the substitute of Peace on earth, displaying the flag of Peace, Beati pacifici.
Were blows more bountiful to thee? Did blood yield thee benefit? War afford thee wealth? Didst thou make that thine own by violence, which was another’s by right? It may be, the hand-maid was fruitful, and the mistress barren; but Sarah has now brought forth, and in her seed are the blessings come.
The trading merchant finds it, who daily ploughs the sea, and as daily reaps the harvest of his labours. What wants England that the world can enrich her with? Tyre sends in her purples; India her spices; Afric her gold; Muscovy her costly skins of beasts; all her neighbour countries their best traffic, and all purchased by friendly commerce, not (as before) by savage cruelty.
The fearless trades and handicraft men sing away their labours all day (having no noise drowned with either noise of drum or cannon) and sleep with peace at night.
The frolic countryman opens the fruitful earth, and crops his plenty from her fertile bosom; nay, even his toiling beasts are trapped with bells, who taste (in their labours) the harmony of peace with their awful governors.
Peace – stay and abide with her, and thou shalt never know her enemies, God’s enemies, and thine own enemies: let them that seek Peace, find Peace, enjoy Peace, and have their souls laid up in Eternal Peace.
And where there is no Peace, all other benefits have a cessation. It is the only health of thy soul; and that once lost, thy soul sickens immediately, even to death, and can no more taste or relish a joy after than a sick man’s palate his nutriment.
When was war sent as a blessing, or peace as a punishment?
Behold the Father, the God of Peace; the Son, the Lamb of Peace; the blessed Spirit, the Dove of Peace; the angels, servants, and ministers to this power of Peace; infinities and all rejoicing at one soul’s entrance into Peace.
Behold the new Jerusalem, Kirjath-salem, the City of Peace ; that which was militant and troubled in the wilderness (the Church) behold it there triumphant in ever blessed Peace, that Peace which as it is unintelligible, so is it most unutterable.
From Ode: To the Honourable Charles Townshend
Let vulgar bards, with undiscerning praise,
More glittering trophies raise:
But wisest Heaven what deeds may chiefly move
To favour and to love?
What, save wide blessings, or averted harms?
Nor to the embattled field
Shall these achievements of the peaceful gown,
The green immortal crown
Of valour, or the songs of conquest, yield.
From Ode: To the Right Reverend Benjamin, Lord Bishop of Winchester
For not a conqueror’s sword,
Nor the strong powers to civil founders known,
Were his; but truth by faithful search explored,
And social sense, like seed, in genial plenty sown.
Wherever it took root, the soul (restored
To freedom) freedom too for others sought.
From: Ode: To the Country Gentlemen of England
For, oh! may neither Fear nor stronger Love…
Thee, last of many wretched nations, move,
With mighty armies station’d round the throne
To trust thy safety. Then, farewell the claims
Of Freedom! Her proud records to the flames
Then bear, an offering at Ambition’s shrine…
From Ode to Curio
In sight, old Time, imperious judge, awaits:
Above revenge, or fear, or pity, just,
He urgeth onward to those guilty gates
The great, the sage, the happy, and august.
And still he asks them of the hidden plan
Whence every treaty, every war began,
Evolves their secrets and their guilt proclaims:
And still his hands despoil them on the road
Of each vain wreath by lying bards bestow’d,
And crush their trophies huge, and raze their sculptured names.
From The Pleasures of the Imagination
In all the dewy landscapes of the Spring,
In the bright eye of Hesper, or the morn,
In Nature’s fairest forms, is aught so fair
As virtuous friendship? as the candid blush
Of him who strives with fortune to be just?
The graceful tear that streams for others’ woes?
Or the mild majesty of private life,
Where Peace with ever blooming olive crowns
The gate; where Honour’s liberal hands effuse
Unenvied treasures, and the snowy wings
Of Innocence and Love protect the scene?
When shall the laurel and the vocal string
Resume their honours? When shall we behold
The tuneful tongue, the Promethéan band
Aspire to ancient praise? Alas! how faint,
How slow the dawn of Beauty and of Truth
Breaks the reluctant shades of Gothic night
Which yet involves the nations! Long they groan’d
Beneath the furies of rapacious force;
Oft as the gloomy north, with iron swarms
Tempestuous pouring from her frozen caves,
Blasted the Italian shore, and swept the works
Of Liberty and Wisdom down the gulf
Of all-devouring night.
From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
But thou, exulting and abounding river!
Making thy waves a blessing as they flow
Through banks whose beauty would endure for ever,
Could man but leave thy bright creation so,
Nor its fair promise from the surface mow
With the sharp scythe of conflict…
A thousand battles have assailed thy banks,
But these and half their fame have passed away,
And Slaughter heaped on high his weltering ranks:
Their very graves are gone, and what are they?
Thy tide washed down the blood of yesterday,
And all was stainless, and on thy clear stream
Glassed with its dancing light the sunny ray;
But o’er the blackened memory’s blighting dream
Thy waves would vainly roll, all sweeping as they seem.
Like to a forest felled by mountain winds;
And such the storm of battle on this day,
And such the frenzy, whose convulsion blinds
To all save carnage, that, beneath the fray,
An earthquake reeled unheededly away!
None felt stern Nature rocking at his feet,
And yawning forth a grave for those who lay
Upon their bucklers for a winding-sheet;
Such is the absorbing hate when warring nations meet.
What matters where we fall to fill the maws
Of worms – on battle-plains or listed spot?
Both are but theatres where the chief actors rot.
Algernon Charles Swinburne
From A Word for the Country
‘Gaze forward through clouds that environ;
It shall be as it was in the past.
Not with dreams, but with blood and with iron,
Shall a nation be moulded to last.’
So teach they, so preach they,
Who dream themselves the dream
That hallows the gallows
And bids the scaffold stream.
‘With a hero at head, and a nation
Well gagged and well drilled and well cowed,
And a gospel of war and damnation,
Has not empire a right to be proud?
Fools prattle and tattle
Of freedom, reason, right,
The beauty of duty,
The loveliness of light.
‘But we know, we believe it, we see it,
Force only has power upon earth.’
So be it! and ever so be it
For souls that are bestial by birth!
Byron: Selections on war
From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
Not so the rustic: with his trembling mate
He lurks, nor casts his heavy eye afar,
Lest he should view his vineyard desolate,
Blasted below the dun hot breath of war.
Ah, monarchs! could ye taste the mirth ye mar,
Not in the toils of Glory would ye fret;
The hoarse dull drum would sleep, and Man be happy yet.
‘Twas on a Grecian autumn’s gentle eve,
Childe Harold hailed Leucadia’s cape afar;
A spot he longed to see, nor cared to leave:
Oft did he mark the scenes of vanished war,
Actium, Lepanto, fatal Trafalgar:
Mark them unmoved, for he would not delight
(Born beneath some remote inglorious star)
In themes of bloody fray, or gallant fight,
But loathed the bravo’s trade, and laughed at martial wight.
In yonder rippling bay, their naval host
Did many a Roman chief and Asian king
To doubtful conflict, certain slaughter, bring
Look where the second Caesar’s trophies rose,
Now, like the hands that reared them, withering;
Imperial anarchs, doubling human woes!
God! was thy globe ordained for such to win and lose?
Blood follows blood, and through their mortal span,
In bloodier acts conclude those who with blood began.
Thou hast not followed that immortal Star
Which leads the people forth to deeds of war.
Weary of life, thou liest in silent sleep,
As one who marks the lengthening shadows creep,
Careless of all the hurrying hours that run…
Yet wake not from thy slumbers, – rest thee well,
Amidst thy fields of amber asphodel,
Thy lily-sprinkled meadows, – rest thee there,
To mock all human greatness: who would dare
To vent the paltry sorrows of his life
Before thy ruins, or to praise the strife
Of kings’ ambition, and the barren pride
Of warring nations!
For as the olive-garland of the race,
Which lights with joy each eager runner’s face,
As the red cross which saveth men in war,
As a flame-bearded beacon seen from far
By mariners upon a storm-tossed sea, –
Such was his love for Greece and Liberty!
Byron, thy crowns are ever fresh and green:
Red leaves of rose from Sapphic Mitylene
Shall bind thy brows; the myrtle blooms for thee,
In hidden glades by lonely Castaly;
The laurels wait thy coming: all are thine,
And round thy head one perfect wreath will twine.
From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
By Heaven! it is a splendid sight to see
(For one who hath no friend, no brother there)
Their rival scarfs of mixed embroidery,
Their various arms that glitter in the air!
What gallant war-hounds rouse them from their lair,
And gnash their fangs, loud yelling for the prey!
All join the chase, but few the triumph share:
The Grave shall bear the chiefest prize away,
And Havoc scarce for joy can cumber their array.
The foe, the victim, and the fond ally
That fights for all, but ever fights in vain,
Are met – as if at home they could not die –
To feed the crow on Talavera’s plain,
And fertilise the field that each pretends to gain.
There shall they rot – Ambition’s honoured fools!
Enough of Battle’s minions! let them play
Their game of lives, and barter breath for fame:
Fame that will scarce reanimate their clay,
Though thousands fall to deck some single name.
From Jochanan Hakkadosh
“Say there’s a tyrant by whose death we earn
Freedom, and justify a war to wage:
Good! – were we only able to discern
“Exactly how to reach and catch and cage
Him only and no innocent beside!
Whereas the folk whereon war wreaks its rage
” – How shared they his ill-doing? Far and wide
The victims of our warfare strew the plain,
Ten thousand dead, whereof not one but died
“In faith that vassals owed their suzerain
Life: therefore each paid tribute, – honest soul, –
To that same Right and Good ourselves are fain
“To call exclusively our end…”
From The Excursion
Glory – beyond all glory ever seen,
Confusion infinite of heaven and earth,
Dazzling the soul. Meanwhile, prophetic harps
In every grove were ringing, ‘War shall cease;
‘Did ye not hear that conquest is abjured?
‘Bring garlands, bring forth choicest flowers, to deck
‘The tree of Liberty.’
Knowledge, methinks, in these disordered times,
Should be allowed a privilege to have
Her anchorites, like piety of old;
Men, who, from faction sacred, and unstained
By war, might, if so minded, turn aside
Uncensured, and subsist, a scattered few
Living to God and nature, and content
With that communion…
Truth every day exemplified, no less
In the grey cottage by the murmuring stream
Than in fantastic conqueror’s roving camp,
Or ‘mid the factious senate, unappalled
Whoe’er may sink, or rise – to sink again,
As merciless proscription ebbs and flows.
Our life is turned
Out of her course, wherever man is made
An offering, or a sacrifice, a tool
Or implement, a passive thing employed
As a brute mean, without acknowledgment
Of common right or interest in the end;
Used or abused, as selfishness may prompt.
Walter Savage Landor
From On the Conflgration of the Po
Where once was fire, and men to men were true.
Fierce ones and faithless now approach the waste,
Who look transversely with an evil eye,
And scowl and threaten, and uplift the sword,
And, if they lower it, ’tis but to grasp more
And more of amber left on either bank. Apollo hates the land he once so loved,
Nor swan is seen nor nightingale is heard
Nigh the dead river and affrighted vale…
From To the River Avon
Avon! why runnest thou away so fast?
Rest thee before that Chancel where repose
The bones of him whose spirit moves the world.
I have beheld thy birthplace, I have seen
Thy tiny ripples where they play amid
The golden cups and ever-waving blades.
I have seen mighty rivers, I have seen
Padus, recovered from his fiery wound,
And Tiber, prouder than them all to bear
Upon his tawny bosom men who crusht
The world they trod on, heeding not the cries
Of culprit kings and nations many-tongued.
What are to me these rivers, once adorn’d
With crowns they would not wear but swept away?
Worthier art thou of worship, and I bend
My knees upon thy bank, and call thy name,
And hear, or think I hear, thy voice reply.
‘Some stopped revenge athirst for slaughter, some
Sowed the slow olive for a race unborn.
These had no wishes, therefore none are crowned;
But theirs are tufted banks, theirs umbrage, theirs
Enough of sunshine to enjoy the shade,
And breeze enough to lull them to repose.’
Oft the grave judge alarms religious wealth
And rouses anger under gentle words.
Woe to the wiser few who dare to cry
‘People! these men are not your enemies,
Inquire their errand, and resist when wronged.’
Through palaces and porches evil eyes
Light upon e’en the wretched, who have fled
The house of bondage or the house of birth;
Suspicions, murmurs, treacheries, taunts, retorts,
Attend the brighter banners that invade;
And the first horn of hunter, pale with want,
Sounds to the chase, the second to the war.
From The Russiadde
Others employ the immortal mind
To wrest and vex the human kind…
Another loves to rob and plunder;
O’er fields of death to guide the thunder;
And still his fev’rish mind is brewing
How to arise on others’ ruin.
The nation’s groan, for pity crying,
The fields are heaped with dead and dying!
No qualm of conscience! no disgust!
For power and rule is all his lust.
But thanks to Him who rules on high,
And lightens nature with his eye,
That few such monsters, very few
On earth these ravages renew.
Two such within an age, are sure
As much as mankind can endure,
And God in mercy oft sends fewer.
Robert Southey: Selections on peace and war
From various poems
No shadowy forms entice the soul aside,
Secure she walks, Philosophy her guide.
Britain, who long her warriors had adored,
And deemed all merit centred in the sword;
Britain, who thought to stain the field was fame,
Now honoured Edward’s less than Bacon’s name.
Her sons no more in listed fields advance
To ride the ring, or toss the beamy lance;
No longer steel their indurated hearts
To the mild influence of the finer arts…
Tho’ now, where erst the grey-clad peasant stray’d,
To break the quiet of the village shade
Gleam war’s discordant habits thro’ the trees,
And the red banner mock the sullen breeze;
Tho’ now no more thy maids their voices suit
To the low-warbled breath of twilight lute,
And heard, the pausing village hum between,
No solemn songstress lull the fading green,
Scared by the fife, and rumbling drum’s alarms,
And the short thunder, and the flash of arms…
That man will have a trophy, humble Spade!
A trophy nobler than a conqueror’s sword.
The Heavens are thronged with martyrs that have risen
From out thy noisome prison;
The penal caverns groan
With tens of thousands rent from off the tree
Of hopeful life, – by battle’s whirlwind blown
Into the deserts of Eternity.
Unpitied havoc! Victims unlamented!
But not on high, where madness is resented,
And murder causes some sad tears to flow,
Though, from the widely-sweeping blow,
The choirs of Angels spread, triumphantly augmented.
The rivers stained so oft with human gore,
Are conscious; – may the like return no more!
May Discord – for a Seraph’s care
Shall be attended with a bolder prayer –
May she, who once disturbed the seats of bliss
These mortal spheres above,
Be chained for ever to the black abyss.
And thou, O rescued Earth, by peace and love,
And merciful desires, thy sanctity approve!’
From The Guerrilla
O, Heaven! can life-blood only that abate?
Did’st thou the human frame for slaughter thus create?
Millions have bled that sycophants may rule.
Have fallen to dust and left no trace behind;
And yet we say that Heaven is merciful.
And loves and cares for all the human kind;
And we will spread our hands, and mouthe the wind,
With fulsome thanks for all its tenderness.
Ah me! that man, preposterously blind,
Should feel, hear, see, reflect, yet not the less
Hope in his hopeless state of abject nothingness!
Poor worm! to death, doubt, and despondence born,
How blest art thou entrusting Providence!
Oh, thou hast nought to dread, though all forlorn!
Thou hast a guardian, a sure defence!
There rest, environed in Omnipotence,
In safety rest Alas! and woe is me.
That tyrant should, on any vague pretence,
Drunkard, or madman, do away with thee,
Thou thing of high regard! – of immortality!
From Power and Gentleness
I’ve thought, at gentle and ungentle hour.
Of many an act and giant shape of power…
And then of all the fierce and bitter fruit
Of the proud planting of a tyrannous foot,-
Of bruised rights, and flourishing bad men,
And virtue wasting heavenwards from a den;
Brute force, and fury; and the devilish drouth
Of the fool cannon’s ever-gaping mouth;
And the bride-widowing sword; and the harsh bray
The sneering trumpet sends across the fray;
And all which lights the people-thinning star
That selfishness invokes, – the horsed war.
Panting along with many a bloody mane. –
I’ve thought of all this pride, and all this pain,
And all the insolent plenitudes of power,
And I declare, by this most quiet hour,
Which holds in different tasks by the fire-light
Me and my friends here, this delightful night.
That Power itself has not one half the might
Of Gentleness. ‘Tis want to all true wealth;
The uneasy madman’s force, to the wise health;
Blind downward beating, to the eyes that see;
Noise to persuasion, doubt to certainty;
The consciousness of strength in enemies,
Who must be strain’d upon, or else they rise;
The battle to the moon, who all the while.
High out of hearing, passes with her smile;
The tempest, trampling in his scanty run,
To the whole globe, that basks about the sun;
Or as all shrieks and clangs, with which a sphere.
Undone and fired, could rake the midnight ear,
Compared with that vast dumbness nature keeps
Throughout her starry deeps,
Most old, and mild, and awful, and unbroken.
Which tells a tale of peace beyond whate’er was spoken.
Edward Young: Selections on peace and war
On the high summit of yon rocky hill,
Proud Fame! thy temple stands, and see around
What thronging thousands press; and hark! the sound
That fires ambition: ’tis thy clarion shrill.
Amid thy path the deadly thorn is strew’d,
And oft intwin’d around the wreath they claim;
And many spurn at justice’ sacred name,
And “wade to glory through a sea of blood.”
Be mine to leave thy path, thy motley crowd,
And, while to hear their names proclaim’d aloud
Upon the brazen trump, the throng rejoice,
I’ll court fair virtue in her humbler sphere,
More pleas’d in calm reflection’s hour to hear
The approving whispers of her still small voice.
From : An Epistle to the Right Hon. George Lord Lansdowne
Nor is it peace alone, but such a peace,
As more than bids the rage of battle cease.
Death may determine war, and rest succeed,
‘Cause nought survives on which our rage may feed:
In faithful friends we lose our glorious foes,
And strifes of love exalt our sweet repose.
From conflicts pass’d each other’s worth we find,
And thence in stricter friendship now are join’d;
Each wound receiv’d, now pleads the cause of love,
And former injuries endearments prove.
Thus generous hatred in affection ends,
And war, which rais’d the foes, completes the friends.
A thousand happy consequences flow
(The dazzling prospect makes my bosom glow);
Commerce shall lift her swelling sails, and roll
Her wealthy fleets secure from pole to pole…