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James Montgomery: Fratricidal war speeds on inexorability of Death

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

British writers on peace and war

James Montgomery: War, that self-inflicted scourge of man

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James Montgomery
From The World Before the Flood

From sunrise to the ocean of the west,
I found that sin, where’er the foot of man
Nature’s primeval wilderness o’er-ran,
Had tracked his steps, and through advancing time
Urged the deluded race from crime to crime,
Till wrath and strife, in fratricidal war,
Gather’d the force of nations from afar,
To deal and suffer death’s unheeded blow,
As if the curse on Adam were too slow,
Even now an host, like locusts on their way,
That desolate the earth and dim the day…

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When first the mingling sons of God and man
The demon-sacrifice of war began,
Self-exiled here, the family of Seth
Renounced a world of violence and death,
Faithful alone amidst the faithless found,
And innocent while murder cursed the ground.

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From The Brahmin

“Now, mark the words these dying lips impart,
And wear this grand memorial. round your heart:
All that inhabit ocean, air, or earth,
From ONE eternal sire derive their birth.
The Hand that built the palace of the sky
Formed the light wings that decorate a fly:
The Power that wheels the circling planets round
Rears every infant floweret on the ground;
That Bounty which the mightiest beings share
Feeds the least gnat that gilds the evening air.
Thus all the wild inhabitants of woods.
Children of air, and tenants of the floods;
All, all are equal, independent, free,
And all the heirs of immortality!
For all that live and breathe hare once been men.
And, in succession, will be such again:
Even you, in turn, that human shape must change.
And through ten thousand forms of being range.

“Ah ! then, refrain your brethren’s blood to spill,
And, till you can create, forbear to kill!
Oft as a guiltless fellow-creature dies,
The blood of innocence for vengeance cries:
Even grim, rapacious savages of prey.
Presume not, save in self-defence, to slay;
What, though to heaven their forfeit lives they owe,
Hath heaven commissioned thee to deal the blow?
Crush not the feeble, inoffensive worm.
Thy sister’s spirit wears that humble form!
Why should thy cruel arrow smite yon bird?
In him thy brother’s plaintive song is heard.
When the poor, harmless kid, all trembling, lies,
And begs his little life with infant cries,
Think, ere you take the throbbing victim’s breath.
You doom a dear, an only child, to death.
When at the ring the beauteous heifer stands,
– Stay, monster! stay those parricidal hands;
Canst thou not, in that mild, dejected face,
The sacred features of thy mother trace?
When to the stake the generous bull you lead.
Tremble, – ah, tremble, – lest your father bleed.
Let not your anger on your dog descend,
The faithful animal was once your friend;
The friend whose courage snatch’d you from the grave,
When wrapp’d in flames or sinking in the wave.
– Rash, impious youth! renounce that horrid knife,
Spare the sweet antelope! – ah, spare – thy wife!
In the meek victim’s tear-illumined eyes.
See the soft image of thy consort rise;
Such as she is, when by romantic streams
Her spirit greets thee in delightful dreams;
Not as she look’d, when blighted in her bloom;
Not as she lies, all pale in yonder tomb…

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