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Mary Robinson: Dread-destructive power of war


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 Ode to Vanity

Thy light hand plumes the warrior’s brow,
Decks e’en fierce War with tinsel show,
E’en in the tented fields thy banners flow,
To thee illustrious chieftains bow;
‘Tis thy capricious influence forms
All that mad ambition warms;
The laurel wreath, though steep’d in blood,
Placed by thy fickle hand, appears
Radiant as the sunny spheres,
When morn’s proud beams roll in a golden flood.

Ah, Vanity! avert thine eye;
Check thy fell exulting joy;
With burning drops thy flush’d cheek lave,
Nor gloat upon the carnaged brave;
For what can trophied wreaths supply,
To drown the desolating cry,
That, o’er th’empurpled fields afar,
Proclaims the dread-destructive power of war?


From Ode to Humanity

O blest Humanity! ’tis thine
To shed consoling balm divine
Wide o’er the groaning race beneath ;
And when fell Slaughter lifts her wreath,
Let the laurel bough appear,
Gemm’d with Pity’s holy tear;
Let it moisten every bud,
Glowing, hot with human blood!
And when no crimson tint remains,
When no foul blush its lustre stains…

Mark, oh ! mark the tented plains
Where exulting Discord reigns;
Flush’ d with rage, her panting breast,
Her eye with ruthless lightnings stored,
She lifts her never-failing sword,
With wreathes of withering laurel drest.

By her side, in proud array,
Ambition stalks, with restless soul;
Maddening Vengeance leads the way;
Her giant crest disdains control;
Triumphantly she waves her iron hand,
While her red pinions sweep the desolated land!
See, beneath her murderous wing,
Howling famine seems to cling!
Feeding on the putrid breeze,
Her wither’d heart begins to freeze!
With sullen eye she scowls around,
O’er the barren hostile ground;

Where once the golden harvest waved;
Where the clustering vineyard rose,
By many a lucid streamlet laved;
Now the purple torrent flows!


Haste, Humanity! prepare
Chains to quell the fiend Despair;
Round pale Vengeance swiftly twine;
Discord bind in spells divine!
Now where Famine droops her head,
Reason’s balmy banquet spread;
And where the blood-stain’d laurel dies,
Oh! let the olive bloom, the favourite of the skies!

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