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Alfred Noyes: Mars and Urania

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

British writers on peace and war

Alfred Noyes: Selections on war

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Alfred Noyes
From The Torch-Bearers
Watchers of the Sky

Wars we have sung. The blind, blood-boltered kings
Move with an epic music to their thrones.
Have you no song, then, of that nobler war?
Of those who strove for light, but could not hope
Even of this victory that they helped to win,
Silent discoverers, lonely pioneers,
Prisoners and exiles, martyrs of the truth
Who handed on the fire, from age to age;
Of those who, step by step, drove back the night
And struggled, year on year, for one more glimpse
Among the stars, of sovran law, their guide;
Of those who searching inward, saw the rocks
Dissolving into a new abyss, and saw
Those planetary systems far within.
Atoms, electrons, whirling on their way
To build and to unbuild our solid world;
Of those who conquered, inch by difficult inch,
The freedom of this realm of law for man;
Dreamers of dreams, the builders of our hope,
The healers and the binders up of wounds,
Who, while the dynasts drenched the world with blood,
Would in the still small circle of a lamp
Wrestle with death like Heracles of old To save one stricken child.

Their magic fleet came foaming into port.
Whereat old senators, wagging their white beards.
And plucking at golden chains with stiff old claws
Too feeble for the sword-hilt, squeaked at once:
“This glass will give us great advantages In time of war.”

War, war, O God of love,
Even amidst their wonder at Thy world,
Dazed with new beauty, gifted with new powers,
These old men dreamed of blood. This was the thought
To which all else must pander, if he hoped
Even for one hour to see those dull eyes blaze
At his discoveries.

“Wolves,” he called them, “wolves”…

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War was the thought
That filmed those old men’s eyes. They did not hear
My father, when he hinted at his hope
Of opening up the heavens for mankind
With that new power of bringing far things near.

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