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Margaret Sackville: Sacrament


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


Margaret Sackville

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.


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.



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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