Home > Uncategorized > Charlotte Turner Smith: Statesmen! ne’er dreading a scar, let loose the demons of war

Charlotte Turner Smith: Statesmen! ne’er dreading a scar, let loose the demons of war

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

British writers on peace and war

Charlotte Turner Smith: The lawless soldiers’ victims

Charlotte Turner Smith: Thus man spoils Heaven’s glorious works with blood!

Charlotte Turner Smith: To bathe his savage hands in human blood

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Charlotte Turner Smith
From The Forest Boy

At the town was a market­ and now for supplies,
Such as needed her humble abode,
Young William went forth; and his mother with sighs
Watch’d long at the window, with tears in her eyes,
Till he turn’d through the fields to the road.

Then darkness came on; and she heard with affright
The wind every moment more high;
She look’d from the door; not a star lent its light,
But the tempest redoubled the gloom of the night,
And the rain pour’d in sheets from the sky.

The clock in her cottage now mournfully told
The hours that went heavily on;
‘Twas midnight: her spirits sank hopeless and cold,
And it seem’d as each blast of wind fearfully told
That long, long would her William be gone.

Then heart‐sick and cold to her sad bed she crept,
Yet first made up the fire in the room
To guide his dark steps; but she listen’d and wept,
Or if for a moment forgetful she slept,
Soon she started!­and thought he was come.

‘Twas morn; and the wind with a hoarse sullen moan
Now seem’d dying away in the wood,
When the poor wretched mother still drooping, alone,
Beheld on the threshold a figure unknown,
In gorgeous apparel who stood.

“Your son is a soldier,” abruptly cried he,
“And a place in our corps has obtain’d,
Nay, be not cast down; you perhaps may soon see
Your William a captain, he now sends by me
The purse he already has gain’d.”

So William entrapp’d ‘twixt persuasion and force,
Is embark’d for the isles of the West,
But he seem’d to begin with ill omens his course,
And felt recollection, regret, and remorse
Continually weigh on his breast.

With useless repentance he eagerly eyed
The high coast as it faded from view,
And saw the green hills, on whose northernmost side
Was his own silvan home: and he falter’d, and cried,
“Adieu! ah! for ever adieu!

“Who now, my poor mother, thy life shall sustain,
Since thy son has thus left thee forlorn?
Ah! canst thou forgive me? And not in the pain
Of this cruel desertion, of William complain,
And lament that he ever was born?

“Sweet Phoebe!­ if ever thy lover was dear,
Now forsake not the cottage of woe,
But comfort my mother; and quiet her fear,
And help her to dry up the vain fruitless tear,
That too long for my absence will flow.

“Yet what if my Phoebe another should wed,
And lament her lost William no more?”
The thought was too cruel; and anguish now sped
The dart of disease­With the brave numerous dead
He has fall’n on the plague‐tainted shore.

In the lone village church‐yard, the chancel‐wall near,
High grass now waves over the spot,
Where the mother of William, unable to bear
His loss, who to her widow’d heart was so dear,
Has both him and her sorrows forgot.

By the brook where it winds through the wood of Arbeal,
Or amid the deep forest, to moan,
The poor wandering Phoebe will silently steal;
The pain of her bosom no reason can heal,
And she loves to indulge it alone.

Her senses are injured; her eyes dim with tears;
She sits by the river and weaves
Reed garlands, against her dear William appears,
Then breathlessly listens, and fancies she hears
His step in the half wither’d leaves.

Ah! such are the miseries to which ye give birth,
Ye statesmen! ne’er dreading a scar;
Who from pictured saloon, or the bright sculptured hearth
Disperse desolation and death through the earth,
When ye let loose the demons of war.

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