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William Stokes: Can fields of blood redeem mankind from error?

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

British writers on peace and war

William Stokes: Selections on peace and war

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William Stokes
War in the Crimea and the Sea of Azoff

And this is progress! this the growth of nations! 
The royal training for an empty name! 
The model deed for future generations, 
To lure them on to "glory" and to fame! 

This the proud work of Christian might and treasure! 
The boon of mercy to a world depressed! 
The sacred pledge, that without stint or measure, 
Some future age with freedom shall be blest! 

For this the Saxon and the Frank united, 
Make common cause with Infidel profane! 
For freedom's sake, the Cross and Crescent plighted, 
Pour seas of blood along the Russian plain! 

Oh, vile delusion! Can the reign of terror, 
Confer true freedom on a race depraved?
Can fields of blood redeem mankind from error? 
Or burst the fetters of a land enslaved?

Will broken hearts, and widows' loud bewailing, 
With twice ten thousand orphans' piercing cries, 
Show the proud cause of liberty prevailing? 
Or give to serfdom aught that freemen prize? 

Can slaughtered hosts, with miles of martial thunder, 
The iron tempest, and the cannon's roar; 
The burning homestead, or the wholesale plunder, 
That robs the widow of her scanty store; — 

E'er prove to men how freedom is progressing, 
Or drive the Despot from his slavish work? — 
Can lust and theft convey a freeman's blessing, 
Or teach a holier faith to serf or Turk? 
Britain, go weep that deeds thus vile and savage, 
Are done by freemen in the Christian name! 
Go mourn in sackcloth that thy warriors ravage, 
The peasant's home, nor "blush to call it fame!" 

List to the cries to yonder Heavens ascending, 
The widow's wail, the orphan's heavy groan; 
Then at the feet of heaven's Avenger bending, 
Ask, — How shall Britain for this guilt atone ? 

NOTES.

“The Turkish troops were very busy pillaging the dead; an occupation which most of its were employed in, more or less. I did not, however, come across any sables in my explorations. We, however, shall have grand looting at Sebastopol, when my China experience may avail me. This is a horrible way to talk, and no doubt will shock you much; but it is one of the concomitants of grim war, and perhaps one of the most agreeable.” – From a Medical Officer in the Crimean War.

“As we approach the towns and villages, the inhabitants desert them, and as soon as we come to halt our men disperse through them in search of plunder, and such a scene you could not imagine as is to he seen here in a few minutes. Thousands of men loaded with tables, chairs, sofas, chests of drawers, pier glasses, geese, ducks, cabbages, fowls, – in fact, everything that can be imagined. Our men lie on beautiful beds and costly sofas in the open air.” – Do.

” – At Yenikale, not only did the garrison retire, but the inhabitants also, – terrible tidings of rapacity and violence had reached them. Their fears were well founded, for very soon their own town was plundered of everything moveable, and the ships of war were receptacles for the plundered property” – History of the War against Russia, vol. 2, p. 332.

“It is to be regretted that the French general in command of the place allowed the soldiers to plunder not only the houses, but the persons of the inhabitants. – Do., p 332.

Berdiansk, – “All government property was destroyed, – this included corn to the value of £60,000.Do., p. 340.

Genitschi, – “The stores and corn (destroyed) were at least worth £160,000″— Do., p. 341.

Taganrog,- ” When we arrived at Taganrog, we vented our spite upon the Russians. As for my part, I burned everything I could – in fact, anything that would catch fire, I committed to the flames.”- Do., p. 388.

Gheisk – “However, we burned all his stock, consisting of 574 large stacks of corn, besides his granaries and everything that belonged to him; his corn alone was valued at £30,000″ –

”We are still cruising about the sea, burning and destroying everything, besides what we take away. We live like fighting cocks.” – “You may depend when I come across any money, I know I can find a place for it; but it is very scarce.” – “We have in all taken fifteen vessels, burned twelve, and sent two to be sold at Constantinople, and sent one away with the Russian prisoners on board, fifty-seven in number, without compass or anything to steer by, to find the best of their way wherever chance would let them go.” – Do., p. 388.

Can anything be conceived more diabolical, more fiendish than this? To send away a vessel with fifty-seven prisoners without the means necessary for their preservation! And this by Englishmen, – and in the pay of a Christian people! If it be true, (and who can question it?) “be sure your sin will find you out,” what may not be expected as a punishment? Oh War, thou art a thou a robber and a scoundrel, all the world over!

Some of the atrocities at Kertch by our “Allies” the Turks, and others, I should be ashamed to mention. – W. S.


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