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Charles Churchill: Thousands bleed for some vile spot where fifty cannot feed


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

British writers on peace and war


Charles Churchill
From Night

Stripp’d of her gaudy plumes and vain disguise,
See where ambition mean and loathsome lies;
Reflection with relentless hand pulls down
The tyrant’s bloody wreath and ravish’d crown.
In vain he tells of battles bravely won,
Of nations conquer’d, and of worlds undone;
Triumphs like these but ill with manhood suit,
And sink the conqueror beneath the brute.


Through a false medium things are shewn by day;
Pomp, wealth, and titles judgment lead astray.
How many from appearance borrow state,
Whom Night disdains to number with the great!
Must not we laugh to see yon lordling proud
Snuff up vile incense from a fawning crowd?
Whilst in his beam surrounding clients play,
Like insects in the sun’s enlivening ray,
Whilst, Jehu-like, he drives at furious rate,
And seems the only charioteer of state,
Talking himself into a little god,
And ruling empires with a single nod.
Who would not think, to hear him law dispense,
That he had interest, and that they had sense?
Injurious thought! beneath Night’s honest shade,
When pomp is buried, and false colours fade,
Plainly we see, at that impartial hour,
Them dupes to pride, and him the tool of power.


Vice after vice with ardour they pursue,
And one old folly brings forth twenty new.
Perplex’d with trifles through the vale of life,
Man strives ‘gainst man, without a cause for strife;
Armies embattled meet, and thousands bleed
For some vile spot, where fifty cannot feed.
Squirrels for nuts contend, and, wrong or right,
For the world’s empire kings ambitious fight.
What odds? to us ’tis all the self-same thing,
A nut, a world, a squirrel, and a king.

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