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Matthew Arnold: New Age. Uphung the spear, unbent the bow.

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

British writers on peace and war

Matthew Arnold: Man shall live in peace, as now in war

Matthew Arnold: Tolstoy’s commandments of peace

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Matthew Arnold

From Bacchanalia: Or the New Age

The epoch ends, the world is still,
The age has talk’d and work’d its fill –
The famous orators have shone,
The famous poets sung and gone,
The famous men of war have fought,
The famous speculators thought,
The famous players, sculptors, wrought,
The famous painters fill’d their wall,
The famous critics judged it all.
The combatants are parted now –
Uphung the spear, unbent the bow,
The puissant crown’d, the weak laid low.
And in the after-silence sweet,
Now strifes are hush’d, our ears doth meet,
Ascending pure, the bell-like fame
Of this or that down-trodden name
Delicate spirits, push’d away
In the hot press of the noon-day.
And o’er the plain, where the dead age
Did its now silent warfare wage –
O’er that wide plain, now wrapt in gloom,
Where many a splendour finds its tomb,
Many spent fames and fallen mights –
The one or two immortal lights
Rise slowly up into the sky
To shine there everlastingly,
Like stars over the bounding hill.
The epoch ends, the world is still.

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From Lines Written in Kensington Gardens

From I, on men’s impious uproar hurl’d,
Think often, as I hear them rave,
That peace has left the upper world
And now keeps only in the grave.

Yet here is peace for ever new!
When I who watch them am away,
Still all things in this glade go through
The changes of their quiet day.

Then to their happy rest they pass!
The flowers upclose, the birds are fed,
The night comes down upon the grass,
The child sleeps warmly in his bed.

Calm soul of all things! make it mine
To feel, amid the city’s jar,
That there abides a peace of thine,
Man did not make, and cannot mar.

The will to neither strive nor cry,
The power to feel with others give!
Calm, calm me more! nor let me die
Before I have begun to live.

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From Stanzas from The Grande Chartreuse

We are like children rear’d in shade
Beneath some old-world abbey wall,
Forgotten in a forest-glade,
And secret from the eyes of all.
Deep, deep the greenwood round them waves,
Their abbey, and its close of graves!

But, where the road runs near the stream,
Oft through the trees they catch a glance
Of passing troops in the sun’s beam –
Pennon, and plume, and flashing lance!
Forth to the world those soldiers fare,
To life, to cities, and to war!

And through the wood, another way,
Faint bugle-notes from far are borne,
Where hunters gather, staghounds bay,
Round some fair forest-lodge at morn.
Gay dames are there, in sylvan green;
Laughter and cries – those notes between!

The banners flashing through the trees
Make their blood dance and chain their eyes
That bugle-music on the breeze
Arrests them with a charm’d surprise.
Banner by turns and bugle woo:
Ye shy recluses, follow too!

O children, what do ye reply? –
“Action and pleasure, will ye roam
Through these secluded dells to cry
And call us? – but too late ye come!
Too late for us your call ye blow,
Whose bent was taken long ago.

“Long since we pace this shadow’d nave;
We watch those yellow tapers shine,
Emblems of hope over the grave,
In the high altar’s depth divine;
The organ carries to our ear
Its accents of another sphere.

“Fenced early in this cloistral round
Of reverie, of shade, of prayer,
How should we grow in other ground?
How can we flower in foreign air?
– Pass, banners, pass, and bugles, cease;
And leave our desert to its peace!”

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From Merope, a Tragedy

Peace, who tarriest too long;
Peace, with delight in thy train;
Come, come back to our prayer!
Then shall the revel again
Visit our streets, and the sound
Of the harp be heard with the pipe,
When the flashing torches appear
In the marriage-train coming on,
With dancing maidens and boys –
While the matrons come to the doors,
And the old men rise from their bench,
When the youths bring home the bride.

Not condemn’d by my voice
He who restores thee shall be,
Not unfavour’d by Heaven.
Surely no sinner the man,
Dread though his acts, to whose hand
Such a boon to bring hath been given.
Let her come, fair Peace! let her come!
But the demons long nourish’d here,
Murder, Discord, and Hate,
In the stormy desolate waves
Of the Thracian Sea let her leave,
Or the howling outermost main!

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