Home > Uncategorized > William Wordsworth: All merit centered in the sword; battle’s hecatombs

William Wordsworth: All merit centered in the sword; battle’s hecatombs


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

William Wordsworth: Selections on peace and war


William Wordsworth
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!’

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