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Byron: War returns on its perpetrator

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

British writers on peace and war

Byron: Selections on war

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Byron
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.”

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