Home > Uncategorized > Arthur Hugh Clough: For an impalpable odour of honour armies shall bleed

Arthur Hugh Clough: For an impalpable odour of honour armies shall bleed


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

British writers on peace and war

Arthur Hugh Clough: Ye vulgar dreamers about peace


Arthur Hugh Clough

From The Bothie of Tober-na-vuolich

What! for a mite, for a mote, an impalpable odour of honour,
Armies shall bleed; cities burn; and the soldier red from the storming
Carry hot rancour and lust into chambers of mothers and daughters:
What! would ourselves for the cause of an hour encounter the battle,
Slay and be slain; lie rotting in hospital, hulk, and prison:
Die as a dog dies; die mistaken perhaps, and dishonoured.


From Dipsychus

[O]ne would drudge
And do one’s petty part, and be content
In base manipulation, solaced still
By thinking of the leagued fraternity,
And of cooperation, and the effect
Of the great engine. If indeed it work,
And is not a mere treadmill! which it may be.
Who can confirm it is not? We ask action,
And dream of arms and conflict; and string up
All self-devotion’s muscles; and are set
To fold up papers. To what end? we know not.


From The Bothie of Tober-na-vuolich

Grace is given of God, but knowledge is bought in the market;
Knowledge needful for all, yet cannot be had for the asking.
There are exceptional beings, one finds them distant and rarely,
Who, endowed with the vision alike and the interpretation,
See, by the neighbours’ eyes and their own still motions enlightened,
In the beginning the end, in the acorn the oak of the forest,
In the child of to-day its children to long generations,
In a thought or a wish a life, a drama, an epos.
There are inheritors, is it? by mystical generation
Heiring the wisdom and ripeness of spirits gone by; without labour
Owning what others by doing and suffering earn; what old men
After long years of mistake and erasure are proud to have come to,
Sick with mistake and erasure possess when possession is idle.

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