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Helen Maria Williams: Now burns the savage soul of 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

Helen Maria Williams: Heaven-born peace

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Helen Maria Williams
From An Ode on the Peace

Now burns the savage soul of war,
While terror flashes from his eyes,
Lo! waving o’er his fiery car
Aloft his bloody banner flies:
The battle wakes – with awful sound
He thunders o’er the echoing ground,
He grasps his reeking blade, while streams of blood
Tinge the vast plain, and swell the purple flood.

***

And lo! a radiant stream of light
Defending, gilds the murky cloud,
Where Desolation’s gloomy night
Retiring, folds her sable shroud;
It flashes o’er the bright’ning deep,
It softens Britain’s frowning steep –
‘Tis mild benignant Peace, enchanting form!
That gilds the black abyss, that lulls the storm.

So thro’ the dark, impending sky,
Where clouds, and fallen vapours roll’d,
Their curling wreaths dissolving fly
As the faint hues of light unfold –
The air with spreading azure streams,
The sun now darts his orient beams –
And now the mountains glow – the woods are bright –
While nature hails the season of delight.

Mild Peace! from Albion’s fairest bowers
Pure spirit! cull with snowy hands,
The buds that drink the morning showers,
And bind the realms in flow’ry bands:
Thy smiles the angry passions chase,
Thy glance is pleasure’s native grace;
Around thy form th’ exulting virtues move,
And thy soft call awakes the strain of love.

Bless, all ye powers! the patriot name
That courts fair Peace, thy gentle stay;
Ah! gild with glory’s light, his fame,
And glad his life with pleasure’s ray!
While, like th’ affrighted dove, thy form
Still shrinks, and fears some latent storm,
His cares shall sooth thy panting soul to rest,
And spread thy vernal couch on Albion’s breast.

***

No more the sanguine wreath shall twine
On the lost hero’s early tomb,
But hung around thy simple shrine
Fair Peace! shall milder glories bloom.
Lo! commerce lifts her drooping head
Triumphal, Thames! from thy deep bed;
And bears to Albion, on her sail sublime,
The riches Nature gives each happier clime.

***

Yet hide the sabre’s hideous glare
Whose edge is bath’d in streams of blood,
The lance that quivers high in air,
And falling drinks a purple flood;
For Britain! fear shall seize thy foes,
While freedom in thy senate glows,
While peace shall smile upon thy cultur’d plain,
With grace and beauty her attendant train.

***

Enlight’ning Peace! for thine the hours
That wisdom decks in moral grace,
And thine invention’s fairy powers,
The charm improv’d of nature’s face;
Propitious come! in silence laid
Beneath thy olive’s grateful shade,
Pour the mild bliss that sooths the tuneful mind,
And in thy zone the hostile spirit bind.

 

 

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