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Mary Robinson: The wise shall bid, too late, the sacred olive rise


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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Mary Robinson: Selections on war


Mary Robinson

From Monody

When the dark demons of destructive ire
No more shall see devoted hosts expire;
When, o’er the desolated clime, the wise
Shall bid, too late, the sacred olive rise –
Then Justice shall the dreary spot illume
Where Pity lingers on the martyr’s tomb…

Trims the day hearth, and, as the faggots blaze,
Chants the old ditty of his grandsire’s days;
While his fond mate the homely meal prepares,
Smiles on his board and dissipates his cares.
No more, amidst the simple village throng,
He joins the sportive dance, the merry song;
Now, torn from those, he quits his native wood,
Braves the dread front of war, and pants for blood!
Now, to his reap-hook and his pastoral reed,
The crimson’d pike and glittering sword succeed !
His russet garb, now changed for trappings vain;
His rushy pillow, for the tented plain.


From Solitude

The wreath of fame, imbued with human gore;
And, worst of all – O agonizing thought!
The paltry boast of treasure, wrung, alas,
From the torn bosom of the hapless slave,
The wretched offspring of a fiercer sun!
For these, he wields the desolating sword;
Quits the dear mansion of domestic peace;
The loved companions of his native home;
The social comforts, .and the calm delights,
That thronging round the blazing hearth, beguile
The tardy winter’s night: for these he dares
The poisonous vapours of infected climes.
The torrid ray, or the pernicious blasts
Of petrifying Lapland’s cheerless skies!
For these he wanders for, o’er unknown seas,
To tame the tribes barbarian, or explore
The sad variety of human woes.
Oh! blind, misguided, and mistaken man!
To leave the garden of luxurious sweets,
And wander ‘midst a desert, fraught with thorns.


From The Progress of Melancholy

While horror, maddening, conjures up an host
Of spectres gaunt; of chiefs, whose mould’ring bones
Have slept beneath the green-sod where they fell,
Till village legends scarcely say – they died!
Now from their prison-graves again they start,
Hurling the airy javelin on the foe;
And now they rush, in mighty legions, on;
Now from the lengthening columns fiercely brave;
And now the broken ranks disorder’d fly,
Pale as the silvery beam that marks their course;
And now the breathless heaps bestrew the plain,
While on their mangled limbs the batter’d shield
Gleams horrible; as through the indented steel
The life-stream gushes from the recent wound!
The groan of death fills up the dreadful pause;
Sad, and more sad, it echoes o’er the scene,
Till, oft repeated, the deep murmur dies!
The cherish’d poison, now more potent grown,
Riots o’er all the faculties at will;
Strong in conceit, with fascination fraught,
Painfully pleasing. As the fever burns
The consciousness of misery recedes;
Till, fill’d with horror, Reason’s barrier fails,
And Frenzy triumphs o’er the infected brain!

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