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Edwin Markham: Peace Over Africa

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Edwin Markham
Peace Over Africa

O bugles, ripple and shine,
Ripple and rapture down the wavering line.
Praise! Praise! Praise!
For the last of the desperate days.
Shake out the lyrical notes
From your cavernous silvern throats;
Burst into joy mad carols once again
To herald the homing men.

O bugles, tell it to the opening sky,
And go the roads of men with joyous cry.
Peace on the wreath and the wreathless head –
Peace over England, over Africa –
Peace for the living, quiet on the dead –
Peace on the souls hurled downward from the day,
Hurled down with bated breath,
To join the old democracy of Death.

II

The challenge of the bugle and the glum
Rejoinder of the drum,
The neigh of startled stallions,
The hurried rhythm of the hot battalions,
The blown wild scent of crushed geranium,
The parley of the howitzers, the shrill,
Grim colloquy of hill with hill, –
These had their fateful hour. But now, even now,
A bird sings on a cannon-broken bough,
Sings all the afternoon;
And when dark falls
On the short-torn walls,
Frail wings will come to wander in the moon,
Wander in long delight
Through Africa’s star-filled, delicious night.

III

War’s bitter root, and yet so fair a flower!
Sing and be glad, O England, in this hour;
But not as one who has no grief to bear,
No memories, no burden, no despair.
Be glad, but not as one who has no grief:
The victor’s laurel wears a wintry leaf.
The clarions revel and the joy-bells rave,
But what is all the glory and the gain
To those wet eyes behind the misty pane,
Whose Africa is crumpled to one grave,
A lone grave at the mercy of the rain?

No; not the stern averment of the guns,
Nor all our odes, nor all our orisons,
Can sweeten these intolerable tears,
These silences that fall between the cheers.
In all the joy a memory cries and dwells,
A heart-break of heroical farewells.

IV

Let there be no more battles: field and flood
Are sick of bright-shed blood.
Lay the sad swords asleep;
They have their fearful memories to keep.
These swords that in the dark of battle burned, –
Burned upward with insufferable light, –
Lay them asleep: heroic rest is earned;
And in their rest will be a kinglier might
Than ever flowered upon the front of fight.

And fold the flags; they weary of the day,
Worn by their wild climb in the wind’s wild way;
Quiet the dauntless flags,
Grown strangely old upon the smoking crags.
Look, where they startle and leap!
Look, where they hollow and heap!
Tremulous, undulant banners, flared and thinned,
Living and dying momently in the wind!
And war’s imperious bugles, let them rest,
Bugles that cried through whirlwind their behest,
Wild bugles that held council in the sky,
They are a-weary of that curdling cry
That tells men how to die.

And cannons worn out with their work of hell,
The brief, abrupt persuasion of the shell, –
Let the shrewd spider lock them, one by one,
With filmy cables glancing in the sun;
And let the throstle, in their empty throats,
Build his safe nest and spill his rippling notes.

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