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Byron: War feeds the vultures, wolves and worms

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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 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.

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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!

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From Lara

…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.

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