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Margaret Sackville: Sacrament

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Margaret Sackville: Selections on peace and war

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Margaret Sackville
Sacrament

Before the Altar of the world in flower,
Upon whose steps thy creatures kneel in line,
We do beseech Thee in this wild Spring hour,
Grant us, O Lord, thy wine. But not this wine.

Helpless, we, praying by Thy shimmering seas,
Beside Thy fields, whence all the world is fed,
Thy little children clinging about Thy knees,
Cry: ‘Grant us, Lord, Thy bread!’ But not this bread.

This wine of awful sacrifice outpoured;
This bread of life – of human lives. The Press
Is overflowing, the Wine-Press of the Lord!
Yet doth he tread the foamings no less.

These stricken lands! The green time of the year
Has found them wasted by a purple flood,
Sodden and wasted everywhere, everywhere; –
Not all our tears may cleanse them from that blood.

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Ora Pro Nobis

Not these bright feet
Which tread their chosen road of death, deplore;
But ours which walk the customary street,
Barren and dull and anxious as before.
These million dead
Need not your tears: but let them flow
For us to whom is given our daily bread
And are content as long as this is so.

Who sleep at ease
In a safe corner of a world in flame.
Pray for us then, but not for these
Who have no portion in our shame.

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Who?

Not these I pity
Who in the swing and surge of battle die
With passion in their hearts – but these
The wreck and ruin of the city,
These myriad souls outcast, they know not why,
Torn, tortured, exiled, driven over-seas.

For these what price
Shall the inexorable laws demand
Upon their heads what heavy toll is set?

Theirs is the unforgotten sacrifice;
Their blood has watered the waste lands:
When God remembers, who shall pay the debt?

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