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George Sterling: To the War-Lords


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

American writers on peace and against war

George Sterling: War past, present, future


George Sterling
To the War-Lords

Be yours the doom Isaiah’s voice foretold,
Lifted on Babylon, O ye whose hands
Cast the sword’s shadow upon weaker lands,
And for whose pride a million hearths grow cold!
Ye reap but with the cannon, and do hold
Your plowing to the murder-god’s commands;
And at your altars Desolation stands,
And in your hearts is conquest, as of old.

The legions perish and the warships drown;
The fish and vulture batten on the slain;
And it is ye whose word hath shaken down
The dykes that hold the chartless sea of pain.
Your prayers deceive not men, nor shall a crown
Hide on the brow the murder-mark of Cain.


Now glut yourselves with conflict, nor refrain,
But let your famished provinces be fed
From bursting granaries of steel and lead!
Decree the sowing of that deadly grain
Where the great war-horse, maddened with his pain,
Stamps on the mangled living and the dead,
And from the entreated heavens overhead
Falls from a brother’s hand a fiery rain.

Lift not your voices to the gentle Christ:
Your god is of the shambles! Let the moan
Of nations be your psalter, and their youth
To Moloch and to Bel be sacrificed!
A world to which ye proffered lies alone
Learns now from Death the horror of your truth.


How have you fed your people upon lies,
And cried “Peace! peace!” and knew it would not be!
For now the iron dragons take the sea.
And in the new-found fortress of the skies,
Alert and fierce a deadly eagle flies.
Ten thousand cannon echo your decree,
To whose profound refrain ye bend the knee
And lift unto the Lord of Love your eyes.

This is Hell’s work: why raise your hands to Him,
And those hands mailed, and holding up the sword?
There stands another altar, stained with red,
At whose basalt the infernal seraphim
Uplift to Satan, your conspirant lord,
The blood of nations, at your mandate shed.

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