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Elizabeth Bentley: On the return of celestial peace

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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

Elizabeth Bentley: Terror-striking War shalt be banish’d far

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Elizabeth Bentley

From Welcome to Peace

The meek-eyed angel Peace descends,
To this low world her course she bends,
Child of celestial love!
With Plenty, of co-equal birth,
In mercy to the sons of earth,
Commission’d from above.

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On The Return of Peace and Plenty
(1801)

Lo! what descending cherub, robed in light,
With dazzling beams o’erwhelms the sight?
Is it a Genius of th’ etherial spheres?
Or Angel from before th’ Almighty’s face,
His errand fraught with blessings to our race
Lo! yet more near the heav’nly guest appears:

Ah! no, ’tis Peace hail beauteous queen!
Too long on earth a stranger hast thou been,
By crimes of mortals banish’d from below;
While clanging trumpets pierced the ear,
And War high-wav’d his sanguine spear,
And bade th’ affrighted world his empire know.

With pitying eye the God of mercy view’d,
Where slaughter’s sword in reeking gore imbrued,
Spread desolation o’er th’ unpeopled land;
He will’d his creatures’ punishment should cease,
And thus to thee, celestial Peace, –
Proclaim’d his high command:

“No more let earth thy absence mourn,
“Go, heal the wounds by Discord torn,
“With gentler thoughts inspire the vengeful mind;
“Go, bid War’s crimson streams forbear to flow,
“And round the hero’s laurel’d brow
“Thy olive chaplet bind.

“Hark! ’tis thy sister Plenty’s voice,
“Already bids the fields rejoice,
“Scattering with bounteous hand her golden store;
“Go, meet her on yon favour’d isle,
“From thence united beam the gladdening smile,
“And on mankind your genial blessings pour.”

And see, they come: O welcome lovely pair!
Famine avaunt! and blank Despair
For ever veil’d in nightly shades remain;
While Plenty binds her yellow sheaves,
And wreaths of triumph Concord weaves,
And o’er the world resumes her lasting reign.

Too long the fiend destructive War,
Has whirl’d o’er earth his flaming car,
The trembling realms no more shall dread his ire;
The cannon shuts its death-denouncing throat,
While the harsh trumpet’s brazen note,
In dulcet strains expire.

Now Peace explores the well-fought field,
Where bleeding Valour scorn’d to yield,
The clashing jar of arms resounds no more;
Changed by the magic of her word,
The useful plough-share rises from the sword,
And tills those plains it drench’d in blood before.

Too long pale Avarice, brooding o’er
His fast accumulating store,
Had seal’d his ear ‘gainst Pity’s gentle call;
Whate’er his greedy eye survey’d,
The vulture Rapine swift convey’d
Amid his gloomy walls.

At length for others’ woe he feels,
Self-love no more his bosom steels,
Soften’d by Plenty’s stream which largely flows;
By Heav’n’s benignant sun-shine warm’d,
His heart no more of ice is form’d,
Diffusive gifts his liberal hand bestows.

To greet their much-loved native home,
See Albion’s conquering sons in triumph come,
Who bade remotest climes her pow’r obey;
May inward factions ne’er her peace molest,
But loyalty pervade each honest breast,
And o’er our minds firm fix our Monarch’s sway.

In vain Britannia’s threatening foe
Sought o’er her Isle the vengeful shaft to throw,
Forbade by Heav’n’s all-ruling King,
To whom the sounds of praise shall rise,
With grateful accents penetrate the skies,
While seraphs thence to earth shall future blessings bring.

***

The Hour of Peace

Hail! silent hour of peace serene,
No busy din disturbs the scene;
The sons of toil their labours close,
And taste the sweets of sound repose;
Pent within their safe retreat,
The slumb’ring sheep no longer bleat,
While round the field, with half-shut eye,
Cumbent the drowsy cattle lie:
The buzzing bee has sought her home,
Fraught with sweets to store the comb.
There’s not a breeze to curl the rill,
And e’en the aspen leaf is still;
The sun himself seems sunk to rest,
His last faint gleam has streak’d the west;
The birds have sung their farewell lay,
Pour’d sweet to his departing ray;
And last of all the merry train,
The redbreast too has ceas’d his strain.
Hail! hour of Peace the happy time,
To meditate on themes sublime;
In union with the tranquil scene,
The mind is sooth’d to thoughts serene;
The soul now feels her heav’nly birth,
Disdains the trivial joys on earth,
And pants to gain her promised rest,
“Mid the pure spirits of the blest.

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