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Matilda Betham: All the horrid charms 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

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Matilda Betham

From Edgar and Ellen

“Arrest thy steps! On these sad plains,
Fair dame, no further go!
But listen to the martial strains,
Whose wildness speaks of woe!

Hark, strife is forward on the field,
I hear the trumpet’s bray!
Now spear to spear, and shield to shield,
Decides the dreadful day!

Unfit for thee, oh! Lady fair!
The scenes where men engage;
The gentle spirit could not bear
The fearful battle’s rage.”

***

“Lord Hubert pledg’d his sacred word,
He wept, and, kneeling swore,
In England ne’er to wield a sword,
Or shoot an arrow more.

From civil war, whose daily crimes
This island long shall rue,
From all the evil of the times,
In anguish he withdrew.”

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Fragment

Where yonder mossy ruins lie,
And desolation strikes the eye,
A noble mansion, high and fair,
Once rear’d its turrets in the air.
There infant warriors drew their breath,
And learn’d to scorn the fear of death,
In halls where martial trophies hung.
They listened while the minstrels sung,
Of pain and glory, toil and care,
And all the horrid charms of war:
There, caught the fond desire of fame,
And panted for a hero’s name.
Alas! too oft in youthful bloom,
Renown has crown’d the early tomb,
Has pierced the widow’s bosom deep,
And taught the mother’s eyes to weep.
She, on whose tale the stripling hung,
While pride and sorrow rul’d her tongue,
His father’s gallant acts to tell,
How bold he fought, how bravely fell.

Methinks e’en now I hear her speak,
I see the tear upon her cheek;
The musing boy’s abstracted brow,
And the high-arching eye below,
The stifled sigh and anxious heave,
The kindling heart which dares not grieve;
The finely-elevated head,
The hand upon the bosom spread,
Proclaim him wrought by potent charms,
And speak his very soul in arms.

Incautious zeal! what hast thou done?
The tale has robb’d thee of thy son.
And while thy pious tears deplore,
The loss of him who lives no more,
Ambition wakes her restless fire,
The boy will emulate his sire,

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