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Caroline Clive: The bloody words of ruffian war

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Caroline Clive

From Beaten to Death

Worse than if battle laid their treasure low,
For they court death who give their sons to war!

***

The First Morning of 1860

One evening ‘mid the summer flown
Has stamped my memory more than any;
It pass’d us by among the many,
And yet it stands there, all alone.

We sate without our open’d room,
While fell the eve’s transparent shade;
The out-door world, all warmth and bloom,
To us a summer parlour made.

The garden’s cultivated grace,
The luxury of neatness round,
The careless amplitude of space,
The fountain with perpetual sound,

Told of a state through many years
Serenely safe in doing well;
And while we sate, there struck our ears
The summons of the evening bell.

It call’d to food, it call’d to rest,
The many whom the rich man’s dome
Had gathered in its ample breast,
To them and him alike a home.

That very hour, was thund’ring o’er
A neighbouring land the tramp of War
Which stalk’d along the lovely shore,
Its shapes to blast, its sounds to mar.

The pang my bosom rudely beat.
What if that fate our own had been?
What if or victory or defeat
Had wrapp’d us in its woe and sin?

What if it still our fate should be?
And the safe hours, enjoy’d like this.
Amid our home-scenes safe and free
Should be the passing year of bliss?

The new one on the lectern lies,
Its leaves the turning hand await;
Those fresh unopened leaves comprise
Th’ unread, but written words of Fate.

O God! what are they? if they be
The bloody words of ruffian war,
Grant us success! – but rather far
Avert the scourge of victory!

Too dear the price! Ah! human forms
Of guardian husbands, precious sons
Once children, hid from smallest harms
Of mind and body, cherished ones!

Shall ye stand up, the gallant mark
Of the brute shot and iron rod.
And man’s frame, exquisite in work,
Be treated like earth’s common clod?

Shall England’s polish’d glory, pure
In freedom, wisdom, high estate,
Her open Bible, and her poor
Becoming one with rich and great, –

Shall these high things be but the aim
Of envious men in rough affray,
To try against the noble frame
Their brutal skill to rob and slay?

Forbid it, Thou, who to the strong
And wise hast might and counsel lent;
And lead’st them danger’s path along,
Audacious, firm, and confident.

Forbid it. Thou, who to the weak
Permittest to be strong in prayer;
From Whom we wives and mothers seek
Peace to endow the new-born year.

***

From The Grave

I saw whole cities, that in flood or fire
Or famine or the plague, gave up their breath;
Whole armies whom a day beheld expire,
By thousands swept into the arms of Death.

***

All that have died, the earth’s whole race, repose
Where Death collects his treasures, heap on heap;
O’er each one’s busy day the night shades close
Its actors, sufferers, schools, kings, armies – sleep.

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From I Watched the Skies

And there the conqueror, who on earth had fought
To make himself a name, stood nameless by;
One spot of earth had been the prize he sought,
Whose whole self now had faded from the sky;
And round through that existence infinite.
He, restless, turn’d his ever-wand’ring sight,
Gazing through worlds which shone with countless flame.
For that within whose orb he left his fame;
But none that Fame remembered, and he grew
A vacant wand’rer, past remembrance riven;
Save when some giber of the demon crew
Mock’d at the homage he on earth had given.

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