Home > Uncategorized > Eliza Cook: Who can love the laurel wreath, plucked from the gory field of death?

Eliza Cook: Who can love the laurel wreath, plucked from the gory field of death?

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

British writers on peace and war

Eliza Cook: Selections on peace and war

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Eliza Cook
From The Wreaths

Whom do we crown with the laurel leaf?
The hero god, the soldier chief,
But we dream of the crushing cannon-wheel,
Of the flying shot and the reeking steel,
Of the crimson plain where warm blood smokes,
Where clangour deafens and sulphur chokes:
Oh, who can love the laurel wreath,
Plucked from the gory field of death.

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But there’s a green and fragrant leaf
Betokens nor revelry, blood, nor grief:
‘Tis the purest amaranth springing below,
And rests on the calmest, noblest brow:
It is not the right of the monarch or lord,
Nor purchased by gold, nor won by the sword;
For the lowliest temples gather a ray
Of quenchless light from the palm of bay.

Oh, beautiful bay! I worship thee –
I homage thy wreath –  cherish thy tree;
And of all the chaplets Fame may deal,
‘Tis only to this one I would kneel:
For as Indians fly to the banian branch,
When tempests lower and thunders launch,
So the spirit may turn from crowds and strife
And seek from the bay-wreath joy and life.

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From The Christmas Holly

The laurel the warrior’s brow may wreathe,
But it tells of tears and blood.
I sing the holly, and who can breathe
Aught of that that is not good?

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