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Margaret Sackville: How is it that men slaughter men even here upon the earth?

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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
The Challenge

We lead our tattered armies, the halt, the lame, the weak,
Under a ragged banner, scarce knowing what we seek.
In the face of the world’s laughter we answer with our tears,
(Laughter and tears alike the same for now two thousand years.)
Loud is the laughter of the world; our lips are dumb
Yet terrible our silence, more deadly when we come.
Oh! neither sceptres, jewels, crowns, no guerdon do we claim;
How shall we run this race of yours, we who are lame?
We do not crave for high estate, nor garments silken-lined;
How may we judge your flashing things, we who are blind?
Not for the prize ye claim from life have we endured so long,
We are the foolish ones, the weak – and ye are strong.
Yet we have dared to dream our dream, and we have dared the deed:
Mountains shall move although our faith is little as a seed.
Ye powerful ones, how is it now, ye who are free from birth,
How is it that men slaughter men even here upon the earth?
Guardians and lords and kings who hold unblamed the seas and lands,
How is there terror in your souls and blood upon your hands?
Have we not waited, held our peace, been patient till this hour,
Thinking ye surely would make whole who had the power?
But half the world is drenched in blood oh, silent ones awake,
They are murdering our children – rise for our children’s sake!
Not with more blood, with lies, with lust, or the sword’s swing shall we
Drive that thick darkness from our doors where the fresh air should be;
But silently and without noise on quiet feet
Our innumerable armies shall meet you in the street.
We bear no terror in our hands, no house of yours shall burn,
Only the thing we Will shall hold your eyes at every turn.
No hungry scaffold shall we raise within the market-place,
But woe to him who cannot read when he meets us face to face.
This clot of blood which is the world shall melt at last
Into a kindly human stream; your reign is past.
The strong may overcome the strong, ye seek in vain
To silence those your hand might crush again and yet again.
Do ye proclaim your strength supreme and have ye set
Your banners high above the world? We have not met.

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Pax Ventura

Our Peace was but a honey-comb
Whereon we fed like glutted bees:
Not knowing that the Peace to come
Must be as dangerous as the seas.

A sword – a magnitude – a flame,
A holy passion, brave and high;
Not for this peace that was our shame
Do ye, oh our redeemers, die!

Gather us up out of our sleep,
And pray that we may be forgiven,
Who followed life like frightened sheep,
Who lived in Hell and spoke of Heaven.

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