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John Oxenham: The Stars’ Accusal

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

British writers on peace and war

John Oxenham: Thank God For Peace!

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John Oxenham (William Arthur Dunkerley)
The Stars’ Accusal

How can the makers of unrighteous wars
Stand the accusal of the watchful stars?

To stand –
A dust-speck, facing the infinitudes
Of Thine unfathomable dome, a night like this, –
To stand full-face to Thy High Majesties,
Thy myriad worlds in solemn watchfulness, –
Watching, watching, watching all below,
And man in all his wilfulness for woe!

Dear Lord, one wonders that Thou bearest still
With man on whom Thou didst such grace bestow,
And with his wilful faculty for woe!

Those sleepless sentinels! They may be worlds
All peopled like our own. But, as I stand,
They are to me the myriad eyes of God, –
Watching, watching, watching all below,
And man in all his wilfulness for woe!

And then – to think
What those same piercing eyes look down upon
Elsewhere on this fair earth that Thou hast made! –
Watching, watching, watching all below,
And man in all his wilfulness for woe!

-On all the desolations he hath wrought,
-On all the passioned hatreds he hath taught,
-On all Thy great hopes he hath brought to nought; –
-Man rending man with ruthless bitterness,
-Blasting Thine image into nothingness,
-Hounding Thy innocents to awful deaths,
And worse than deaths! Happy the dead, who sped
Before the torturers their lust had fed!
-On Thy Christ crucified afresh each day,
-On all the horrors of War’s grim red way.
And ever, in Thy solemn midnight skies,
Those myriad, sleepless, vast accusing eyes, –
Watching, watching, watching all below,
And man in all his wilfulness for woe!

Dear Lord! –
When in our troubled hearts we ponder this,
We can but wonder at Thy wrath delayed, –
We can but wonder that Thy hand is stayed, –
We can but wonder at Thy sufferance
Of man, whom Thou in Thine own image made,
When he that image doth so sore degrade!

If Thou shouldst blot us out without a word,
Our stricken souls must say we had incurred
Just punishment.
Warnings we lacked not, warnings oft and clear,
But in our arrogance we gave no ear
To Thine admonishment.

And yet, – and yet! O Lord, we humbly pray, –
Put back again Thy righteous Judgment Day!
Have patience with us yet a while, until
Through these our sufferings we learn Thy Will.

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