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Henry Kirke White: The red-eyeballed warrior doomed to ruin

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

British writers on peace and war

Henry Kirke White: Far better music inspire peace than war

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Henry Kirke White
From Time

Where are the heroes of the ages past?
Where the brave chieftains, where the mighty ones
Who flourish’d in the infancy of days?
All to the grave gone down. On their fallen fame
Exultant, mocking at the pride of man,
Sits grim Forgetfulness. – The warrior’s arm
Lies nerveless on the pillow of its shame;
Hush’d is his stormy voice, and quench’d the blaze
Of his red eyeball. – Yesterday his name
Was mighty on the earth. – To-day – ’tis what?
The meteor of the night of distant years,
That flash’d unnoticed, save by wrinkled eld,
Musing at midnight upon prophecies,
Who at her lonely lattice saw the gleam
Point to the mist-poised shroud, then quietly
Closed her pale lips, and lock’d the secret up
Safe in the charnel’s treasures.

***

Where is Rome?
She lives but in the tale of other times;
Her proud pavilions are the hermit’s home,
And her long colonnades, her public walks,
Now faintly echo to the pilgrim’s feet,
Who comes to muse in solitude, and trace,
Through the rank moss reveal’d, her honour’d dust.
But not to Rome alone has fate confined
The doom of ruin; cities numberless,
Tyre, Sidon, Carthage, Babylon, and Troy,
And rich Phoenicia – they are blotted out,
Half razed from memory, and their very name
And being in dispute. –

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Yet there is peace for man. – Yea, there is peace
Even in this noisy, this unsettled scene;
When from the crowd, and from the city far,
Haply he may be set (in his late walk
O’ertaken with deep thought) beneath the boughs
Of honeysuckle, when the sun is gone,
And with fix’d eye, and wistful, he surveys
The solemn shadows of the Heavens sail,
And thinks the season yet shall come, when Time
Will waft him to repose, to deep repose,
Far from the unquietness of life – from noise
And tumult far – beyond the flying- clouds.
Beyond the stars, and all this passing scene.
Where change shall cease, and Time shall be no more.

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