From The Pleasures of Memory
What tho’ the iron school of War erase
Each milder virtue, and each softer grace;
What tho’ the fiend’s torpedo-touch arrest
Each gentler, finer impulse of the breast;
Still shall this active principle preside,
And wake the tear to Pity’s self denied.
From Ode to Superstition
Lo, steel-clad War his gorgeous standard rears!
The red-cross squadrons madly rage,
And mow thro’ infancy and age:
Then kiss the sacred dust and melt in tears.
Thy triumphs cease! thro’ every land,
Hark! Truth proclaims, thy triumphs cease:
Her heavenly form, with glowing hand,
Benignly points to piety and peace.
Flush’d with youth her looks impart
Each fine feeling as it flows;
Her voice the echo of her heart,
Pure as the mountain-snows:
Celestial transports round her play,
And softly, sweetly die away.
She smiles! and where is now the cloud
That blacken’d o’er thy baleful reign?
Grim darkness furls his leaden shroud,
Shrinking from her glance in vain.
Her touch unlocks the day-spring from above,
And lo! it visits man with beams of light and love.
From The Siege of Corinth
Deep in the tide of their warm blood lying,
Scorched with the death-thirst, and writhing in vain,
Than the perishing dead who are past all pain.
There is something of pride in the perilous hour,
Whate’er be the shape in which Death may lower;
For Fame is there to say who bleeds,
And Honour’s eye on daring deeds!
But when all is past, it is humbling to tread
O’er the weltering field of the tombless dead,
And see worms of the earth, and fowls of the air,
Beasts of the forest, all gathering there;
All regarding man as their prey,
All rejoicing in his decay.
From The Prophecy of Dante
Amidst the clash of swords, and clang of helms,
The age which I anticipate, no less
Shall be the Age of Beauty, and while whelms
Calamity the nations with distress,
The genius of my country shall arise,
A Cedar towering o’er the Wilderness,
Lovely in all its branches to all eyes,
Fragrant as fair, and recognized afar,
Wafting its native incense through the skies.
Sovereigns shall pause amidst their sport of war
Wean’d for an hour from blood, to turn and gaze
On canvas or on stone; and they who mar
All beauty upon earth, compell’d to praise,
Shall feel the power of that which they destroy…
But never tear his cheek descended,
And never smile his brow unbended;
And o’er that fair broad brow were wrought
The intersected lines of thought;
Those furrows which the burning share
Of Sorrow ploughs untimely there;
Scars of the lacerating mind
Which the Soul’s war doth leave behind,
He was past all mirth or woe:
Nothing more remained below
But sleepless nights and heavy days,
A mind all dead to scorn or praise,
A heart which shunned itself – and yet
That would not yield – nor could forget,
Which when it least appeared to melt,
Intently thought – intensely felt:
The deepest ice which ever froze
Can only o’er the surface close –
The living stream lies quick below,
And flows – and cannot cease to flow.
Still was his sealed-up bosom haunted
By thoughts which Nature hath implanted;
Too deeply rooted thence to vanish,
Howe’er our stifled tears we banish;
When, struggling as they rise to start,
We check those waters of the heart,
They are not dried – those tears unshed
But flow back to the fountain head,
And resting in their spring more pure,
For ever in its depth endure,
Unseen, unwept, but uncongealed,
And cherished most where least revealed.
With inward starts of feeling left,
To throb o’er those of life bereft,
Without the power to fill again
The desart gap which made his pain;
Without the hope to meet them where
United souls shall gladness share…
William Lisle Bowles: When her war-song Victory doth sing, Destruction flaps aloft her iron-hurtling wing
William Lisle Bowles
From Hope, An Allegorical Sketch
By the shade of cities old,
By many a river stained with gore,
By the sword of Sesac bold,
Who smote the nations from the shore
Of ancient Nile to India’s farthest plain,
By Fame’s proud pillars, and by Valour’s shield
By mighty chiefs in glorious battle slain,
Assert thy sway; amid the bloody field
Pursue thy march, and to the heights sublime
Of Honour’s glittering cliffs, a mighty conqueror climb!
Then said I, in my heart: Man, thou dost rear
Thine eye to heaven, and vaunt thy lofty worth;
The ensign of dominion thou dost bear
O’er nature’s works; but thou dost oft go forth,
Urged by proud hopes to ravage and destroy,
Thou dost build up a name by cruel deeds;
Whilst to the peaceful scenes of love and joy,
Sorrow, and crime, and solitude, succeeds.
Hence, when her war-song Victory doth sing,
Destruction flaps aloft her iron-hurtling wing.
But see, as one awakened from a trance,
With hollow and dim eyes and stony stare,
Captivity with faltering step advance!
From On the Birth of the Prince of Wales
And O, young Prince, be thine his moral praise;
Nor seek in fields of blood his warrior bays.
War has its charms terrific. Far and wide
When stands th’ embattled host in banner’d pride;
0’er the vext plain when the shrill clangors run.
And the long phalanx flashes in the sun;
When now no dangers of the deathful day
Mar the bright scene, nor break the firm array;
Full oft, too rashly glows with fond delight
The youthful breast, and asks the future fight;
Nor knows that Horror’s form, a spectre wan.
Stalks, yet unseen, along the gleamy van.
May no such rage be thine: no dazzling ray
Of specious fame thy steadfast feet betray.
Be thine domestic glory’s radiant calm,
Be thine the sceptre wreath’d with many a palm:
Be thine the throne with peaceful emblems hung,
The silver lyre to milder conquest strung!
Instead of glorious feats achiev’d in arms,
Bid rising arts display their mimic charms!
Sees Civil Prowess mightier acts achieve,
Sees meek Humanity distress relieve;
Adopts the Worth that bids the conflict cease.
And claims its honours from the Chiefs of Peace.
Thomas Middleton: Selections on peace and war
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Christmas Carol
The shepherds went their hasty way,
And found the lowly stable shed,
Where the Virgin-Mother lay:
And now they checked their eager tread,
For to the Babe, that at her bosom clung,
A mother’s song the Virgin-Mother sung.
They told her how a glorious light,
Streaming from a heavenly throng,
Around them shone, suspending night,
While sweeter than a mother’s song
Blest angels heralded the Saviour’s birth,
Glory to God on high! and peace on earth.
She listened to the tale divine,
And closer still the Babe she prest;
And while she cried, “The Babe is mine!”
The milk rushed faster to her breast.
Joy rose within her, like a summer’s morn.
Peace, peace on earth! the Prince of Peace is born.
“Thou Mother of the Prince of Peace,
Poor, simple, and of low estate!
That strife should vanish, battle cease,
Oh, why should this thy soul elate?
Sweet music’s loudest note, the poet’s story, –
Did’st thou ne’er love to hear of fame and glory?
“And is not war a youthful king,
A stately hero clad in mail?
Beneath his footsteps laurels spring,
Him, earth’s majestic monarchs hail
Their friend, their playmate; and his bold bright eye
Compels the maiden’s love-confessing sigh.”
“Tell this in some more courtly scene,
To maids and youths in robes of state.
I am a woman poor and mean,
And therefore is my soul elate.
War is a ruffian, all with guilt defiled,
That from the aged father tears his child!
“A murderous fiend, by fiends adored,
He kills the sire and starves the son;
The husband kills, and from her board
Steals all his widow’s toil had won,
Plunders God’s world of beauty; rends away
All safety from the night, all comfort from the day.
“Then wisely is my soul elate
That strife should vanish, battle cease:
I’m poor and of a low estate,
The mother of the Prince of Peace.
Joy rises in me, like a summer’s morn.
Peace, peace on earth! the Prince of Peace is born.”
Strange prophecy! If all the screams
Of all the men who since have died
To realise war’s kingly dreams,
Had risen at once in one vast tide,
The choral song of that blest multitude
Had been o’erpowered and lost amid the uproar rude.
From Ode to Tranquillity
The feeling heart, the searching soul,
To thee I dedicate the whole!
And while within myself I trace
The greatness of some future race,
Aloof with hermit-eye I scan
The present works of present man –
A wild and dream-like trade of blood and guile,
Too foolish for a tear, too wicked for a smile!
From The Vision of Judgment
There was a handsome board – at least for heaven;
And yet they had even then enough to do.
So many conquerors’ cars were daily driven,
So many kingdoms fitted up anew;
Each day too slew its thousands six or seven,
Till at the crowning carnage, Waterloo,
They threw their pens down in divine disgust –
The page was so besmear’d with blood and dust.
From The Bride of Abydos
Mark! where his carnage and his conquests cease!
He makes a solitude, and calls it – peace!
I, like the rest, must use my skill or strength,
But ask no land beyond my sabre’s length;
Power sways but by division, her resource
The blest alternative of fraud or force!
…some watchword for the fight
Must vindicate the wrong, and warp the right;
Religion – freedom – vengeance – what you will,
A word’s enough to raise mankind to kill;
Some factious phrase by cunning caught and spread,
That guilt may reign, and wolves and worms be fed!
What boots the oft-repeated tale of strife,
The feast of vultures, and the waste of life?
The varying fortune of each separate field,
The fierce that vanquish, and the faint that yield?
The smoking ruin, and the crumbled wall?
And they that smote for freedom or for sway,
Deem’d few were slain, while more remain’d to slay.
It was too late to check the wasting brand,
And Desolation reap’d the famish’d land;
The torch was lighted, and the flame was spread,
And Carnage smiled upon her daily bread.
William Lisle Bowles
From Monody, Written at Matlock
Thou dost in solitude thy course pursue,
As thou hadst bid life’s busy scenes farewell,
Yet making still such music as might cheer
The weary passenger that journeys near.
Such are the songs of Peace in Virtue’s shade;
Unheard of Folly, or the vacant train
That pipe and dance upon the noontide plain,
Till in the dust together they are laid!
But not unheard of Him, who sits sublime
Above the clouds of this tempestuous clime,
Its stir and strife; to whom more grateful rise
The humble incense, and the still small voice
Of those that on their pensive way rejoice,
Than shouts of thousands echoing to the skies;
Than songs of conquest pealing round the car
Of hard Ambition, or the Fiend of War,
Sated with slaughter.
From The Wisdom of Solomon Paraphrased
Cain could see, but folly struck him blind,
To kill his brother in a raging mind.
O too unhappy stroke to end two lives!
Unhappy actor in death’s tragedy,
Murdering a brother whose name murder gives,
Whose slaying action slaughters butchery:
A weeping part had earth in that same play,
For she did weep herself to death that day.
Blood-quaffing Mars, which wash’d himself in gore,
Reign’d in her foes’ thirst slaughter-drinking hearts;
Their heads the bloody store-house of blood’s store.
Their minds made bloody streams disburs’d in parts
What was it else but butchery and hate,
To prize young infants’ blood at murder’s rate ?
But let them surfeit on their bloody cup.
Carousing to their own destruction’s health,
We drink the silver-streamed water up,
Which unexpected flow’d from wisdom’s wealth;
Declaring, by the thirst of our dry souls.
How all our foes did swim in murder’s bowls.
Butchers unnatural, worse by their trade.
Whose house the bloody shambles of decay.
More than a slaughter-house which butchers made,
More than an Eschip, seely bodies prey:
Thorough whose hearts a bloody shambles runs;
They do not butcher beasts, but their own sons.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
From The Destiny of Nations
A vast plain
Stretched opposite, where ever and anon
The plough-man following sad his meagre team
Turned up fresh sculls unstartled, and the bones
Of fierce hate-breathing combatants, who there
All mingled lay beneath the common earth,
Death’s gloomy reconcilement! O’er the fields
Stept a fair Form, repairing all she might,
Her temples olive-wreathed; and where she trod,
Fresh flowerets rose, and many a foodful herb.
But wan her cheek, her footsteps insecure,
And anxious pleasure beamed in her faint eye,
As she had newly left a couch of pain,
Pale convalescent! (Yet some time to rule
With power exclusive o’er the willing world,
That blest prophetic mandate then fulfilled —
Peace be on Earth!) A happy while, but brief,
She seemed to wander with assiduous feet,
And healed the recent harm of chill and blight,
And nursed each plant that fair and virtuous grew.
But soon a deep precursive sound moaned hollow:
Black rose the clouds, and now (as in a dream)
Their reddening shapes, transformed to warrior-hosts,
Coursed o’er the sky, and battled in mid-air.
Nor did not the large blood-drops fall from heaven
Portentous! while aloft were seen to float,
Like hideous features looming on the mist,
Wan stains of ominous light! Resigned, yet sad,
The fair Form bowed her olive-crowned brow,
Then o’er the plain with oft reverted eye
Fled till a place of tombs she reached, and there
Within a ruined sepulchre obscure
The delegated Maid
Gazed through her tears, then in sad tones exclaimed —
‘Thou mild-eyed Form! wherefore, ah! wherefore fled?
The power of Justice like a name all light,
Shone from thy brow; but all they, who unblamed
Dwelt in thy dwellings, call thee Happiness.
Ah! why, uninjured and unprofited,
Should multitudes against their brethren rush?
Why sow they guilt, still reaping misery?
Lenient of care, thy songs, O Peace! are sweet,
As after showers the perfumed gale of eve,
That flings the cool drops on a feverous cheek;
And gay thy grassy altar piled with fruits.
But boasts the shrine of demon War one charm,
Save that with many an orgie strange and foul,
Dancing around with interwoven arms,
The maniac Suicide and giant Murder
Exult in their fierce union! I am sad,
And know not why the simple peasants crowd
Beneath the Chieftains’ standard!’ Thus the Maid.
William Lisle Bowles
From Mr. Howard’s Account of Lazarettos
I view those deeds, and think how vain
The triumphs of weak man, the feeble strain
That Flattery brings to Conquest’s crimson car,
Amid the bannered host, and the proud tents of war!
From realm to realm the hideous War-fiend hies
Wide o’er the wasted earth; before him flies
Affright, on pinions fleeter than the wind;
Whilst Death and Desolation fast behind
The havoc of his echoing march pursue:
Meantime his steps are bathed in the warm dew
Of bloodshed, and of tears; – but his dread name
Shall perish – the loud clarion of his fame
One day shall cease, and, wrapt in hideous gloom,
Forgetfulness bestride his shapeless tomb!
From The Grave of Howard
Relentless Time, that steals with silent tread,
Shall tear away the trophies of the dead.
Fame, on the pyramid’s aspiring top,
With sighs shall her recording trumpet drop;
The feeble characters of Glory’s hand
Shall perish, like the tracks upon the sand;
But not with these expire the sacred flame
Of Virtue, or the good man’s honoured name.
From The Wisdom of Solomon Paraphrased
A rule, not tyranny, a reign, not blood,
An empire, not a slaughter-house of lives,
A crown, not cruelty in fury’s mood,
A sceptre which restores, and not deprives;
All made to make a peace, and not a war.
By wisdom, concord’s queen and discord’s bar.
The coldest word oft cools the hottest threat.
The tyrant’s menaces the calms of peace;
Two colds augmenteth one, two heats one heat,
And makes both too extreme when both increase:
My peaceful reign shall conquer tyrants’ force,
Not arms, but words, not battle, but remorse.
Yet mighty shall I be, though war in peace,
Strong, though ability hath left his clime.
And good, because my wars and battles cease,
Or, at the least, lie smother’d in their prime…
Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Selections on peace and war
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
From The Destiny of Nations
‘When luxury and lust’s exhausted stores
No more can rouse the appetites of kings;
When the low flattery of their reptile lords
Falls flat and heavy on the accustomed ear;
When eunuchs sing, and fools buffoonery make,
And dancers writhe their harlot-limbs in vain;
Then War and all its dread vicissitudes
Pleasingly agitate their stagnant hearts;
Its hopes, its fears, its victories, its defeats,
Insipid royalty’s keen condiment!
Therefore uninjured and unprofited,
(Victims at once and executioners)
The congregated husbandmen lay waste
The vineyard and the harvest. As along
The Bothnic coast, or southward of the Line,
Though hushed the winds and cloudless the high noon,
Yet if Leviathan, weary of ease,
In sports unwieldy toss his island-bulk,
Ocean behind him billows, and before
A storm of waves breaks foamy on the strand.
And hence, for times and seasons bloody and dark,
Short Peace shall skin the wounds of causeless War,
And War, his strained sinews knit anew,
Still violate the unfinished works of Peace.
But yonder look! for more demands thy view!’
He said: and straightway from the opposite Isle
A vapour sailed, as when a cloud, exhaled
From Egypt’s fields that steam hot pestilence,
Travels the sky for many a trackless league,
Till o’er some death-doomed land, distant in vain,
It broods incumbent. Forthwith from the plain,
Facing the Isle, a brighter cloud arose,
And steered its course which way the vapour went.
From The Wisdom of Solomon Paraphrased
Thrice-happy habitation of delight,
Thrice-happy step of immortality,
Thrice-happy souls to gain such heavenly sight
Springing from heaven’s perpetuity!
O peaceful place! but O thrice-peaceful souls,
Whom neither threats nor strife nor wars controls!
Knowledge and wisdom known in wisest things
Is reason’s mate, discretion’s sentinel;
More than a trine of joys from virtues springs,
More than one union, yet in union dwell:
One for to guide the spring, summer the other;
One harvest’s nurse, the other winter’s mother.
Four mounts and four high mounters, all four one,
One holy union, one begotten life.
One manifold affection, yet alone,
All one in peace’s rest, all none in strife;
Sure, Stable, without care, having all power,
Not hurtful, doing good, as one all four.
This peaceful army of four-knitted souls
Is marching unto peace’s endless war.
Their weapons are discretion’s written rolls,
Their quarrel love, and amity their jar:
Wisdom director is, captain and guide;
All other take their places side by side.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
From Religious Musings
Mistrust and Enmity have burst the bands
Of social peace: and listening Treachery lurks
With pious fraud to snare a brother’s life;
And childless widows o’er the groaning land
Wail numberless and orphans weep for bread!
Thee to defend, dear Saviour of Mankind!
Thee, Lamb of God! Thee, blameless Prince of Peace!
From all sides rush the thirsty brood of War! –
O ye to Glory’s field
Forced or ensnared, who, as ye gasp in death,
Bleed with new wounds beneath the vulture’s beak!
O thou poor widow, who in dreams dost view
Thy husband’s mangled corse, and from short doze
Start’st with a shriek; or in thy half-thatched cot
Waked by the wintry night-storm, wet and cold
Cow’rst o’er thy screaming baby!
From Father Hubburd’s Tales
Thy colour wasted, thy blood lost,
Thy limbs broke with the violent rape
Of hot impatient cannons, which desire
To ravish lives, spending their lust in fire.
O what a ruthful sight it is to see.
Though in a soldier of the mean’st degree,
That right member perish’d
Which the body cherish’d!
That limb dissever’d, burnt, and gone.
Which the best part was borne upon:
And then, the greatest ruth of all,
Returning home in torn estate,
Where he should rise, there most to fall,
Trod down with’envy, bruis’d with hate;
Yet, wretch, let this thy comfort be,
That greater worms have far’d like thee.
So here thou left’st, bloodless and wan.
Thy journeys thorough man and man;
These two cross’d shapes, so much opprest,
Did fray thy weakness from the rest.
From Elegy on Newstead Abbey
Hark how the hall, resounding to the strain,
Shakes with the martial music’s novel din!
The heralds of a warrior’s haughty reign,
High crested banners wave thy walls within.
Of changing sentinels the distant hum,
The mirth of feasts, the clang of burnished arms,
The braying trumpet and the hoarser drum,
Unite in concert with increased alarms.
Hush’d is the harp, unstrung the warlike lyre,
The minstrel’s palsied hand reclines in death;
No more he strikes the quivering chords with fire,
Or sings the glories of the martial wreath.
At length the sated murderers, gorged with prey,
Retire: the clamour of the fight is o’er;
Silence again resumes her awful sway,
And sable Horror guards the massy door.
Here Desolation holds her dreary court:
What satellites declare her dismal reign!
Shrieking their dirge, ill-omen’d birds resort,
To flit their vigils in the hoary fane.
From Ode From the French
With a fierce and lavish hand
Scattering nations’ wealth like sand;
Pouring nations’ blood like water,
In imperial seas of slaughter!
But the heart and the mind,
And the voice of mankind,
Shall arise in communion –
And who shall resist that proud union?
The time is past when swords subdued –
Man may die – the soul’s renew’d:
Even in this low world of care
Freedom ne’er shall want an heir;
Millions breathe but to inherit
Her for ever bounding spirit…
From War, A Fragment
Oh! Charity, fair daughter of the skies,
How many a hateful form before Thee flies, lo
On whose dark brow, and grinning smile, and yell,
Thou might’st, if justice reign’d, for ever dwell!
Yet thou haft mark’d their faults, whilst pity sigh’d,
And to disturb thy peace, their little powers defy’d.
But whilst of happiness we feebly tell,
And praise her worth, and paint her halcyon cell;
Declare of joys that round their parent twine,
And speak of shores where suns perpetual shine;
How many pence-bought engines wield the spear,
Whose slavish breasts this fun must never cheer!
How many myriads of the human race,
On carnage bent, the name of man disgrace.
Some lazy tyrant’s hireling tool obey,
And rush like blood-hounds on their unknown prey.
If on the slaughter’d field some mind humane,
Should stop to sooth a gasping Soldier’s pain;
Enquire the cause that urg’d him to engage
In war’s fell clangor, and infernal rage;
“I know no cause,” his trembling tongue replies,
And with a hollow groan distends his frame, and dies.