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Joseph Cottle: Know you their crimes on whom you warfare wage?

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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Cottle: Selections on war

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Joseph Cottle
From War, A Fragment

Is man on man for ever doom’d to prey?
Shall he for ever passively obey
The voice which Discord thunders from afar?
Exulting wield the infuriate scourge of war?
Shall never Reason whisper in the ear
Of him who lights the torch, or hurls the spear,
“Know you their crimes on whom you warfare wage?
“For whom you feel resentment’s deadly rage?
“Has never the obtruding thought arose,
“What is the cause, for which I flay my foes?
“Have they deceiv’d their friends? from justice swerv’d?
“Betray’d their country? and their fates deserv’d?
“Or have they not, mid clashing interest’s cry,
“Ventur’d their lives, like me. unknowing why?”

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If such the ills of war, by Heaven abhorr’d!
What are your crimes, ye Guardians of the sword,
At whose decision countless scabbards fly,
And murders fill the earth, and groans the sky?
What are your crimes, if, sway’d by wealth or power,
Ye loose your “war-dogs” in ambition’s hour?
Contented view your subjects bleed and groan,
To add some bauble to a burthen’d throne ?
Or, that when Death ten thousand eyes has chain’d,
Courtiers may shout some glorious feather gain’d?
Sins so stupendous, here but seldom find.
That signal wrath of heaven which waits behind;
Too foul such terpitude for moral woe!
Too huge such crimes for cognizance below!

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