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Byron: The time is past when swords subdued

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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 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.

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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.

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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…

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