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Isabella Valancy Crawford: War

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

Women writers on peace and war

Isabella Valancy Crawford: The Forging of the Sword

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Isabella Valancy Crawford
War

Shake, shake the earth with giant tread,
Thou red-maned Titan bold;
For every step a man lies dead,
A cottage hearth is cold.
Take up the babes with mailèd hands,
Transfix them with thy spears,
Spare not the chaste young virgin-bands,
Tho’ blood may be their tears.

Beat down the corn, tear up the vine,
The waters turn to blood;
And if the wretch for bread doth whine,
Give him his kin for food.
Ay, strew the dead to saddle-girth,
They make so rich a mold,
Thou wilt enrich the wasted earth –
They’ll turn to yellow gold.

On with thy thunders! Shot and shell
Send screaming, featly hurled –
Science has made them in her cell
To civilize the world.
Not, not alone where Christian men
Pant in the well-armed strife,
But seek the jungle-throttled glen –
The savage has a life!

He has a soul – so priests will say –
Go, save it with thy sword!
Thro’ his rank forests force thy way,
Thy war cry, “For the Lord!”
Rip up his mines, and from his strands
Wash out the gold with blood –
Religion raises blessing hands,
“War’s evil worketh good!”

When striding o’er the conquered land
Silence thy rolling drum,
And, led by white-robed choiring band,
With loud, “Te Deum” come.
Seek the grim chancel, on its wall
Thy blood-stiff banner hang;
They lie who say thy blood is gall,
Thy tooth the serpent’s fang.

See, the white Christ is lifted high,
Thy conquering sword to bless!
Smiles the pure Monarch of the sky –
Thy king can do no less.
Drink deep with him the festal wine,
Drink with him drop for drop;
If like the sun his throne doth shine,
Of it thou art the prop.

If spectres wait upon the bowl,
Thou needst not be afraid;
Grin hell-hounds for thy bold, black soul,
His purple be thy shade.
Go, feast with Commerce, be her spouse!
She loves thee, thou art hers;
For thee she decks her board and house,
Then how may others curse

If she, mild-seeming matron, leans
Upon thine iron neck,
And leaves with thee her household scenes
To follow at thy beck?
Bastard in brotherhood of kings,
Their blood runs in thy veins;
For them the crowns; the sword that swings
For thee, to hew their chains.

For thee the rending of the prey;
They, jackals to the lion,
Tread after in the gory way
Trod by the mightier scion.
O slave, that slayest other slaves,
O’er vassals crowned a king,
O War, build high thy throne with graves,
High as the vulture’s wing!

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