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Joseph Fawcett: The distempered dream of war

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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Fawcett: War Elegy

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Joseph Fawcett
From The Art of War

There, froze with fatal terror, he had stood
For ever fix’d, by the cold horror held
For ever fast, nor more releas’d to life
By th’ unrelenting ice – had then a voice,
Sounding from Heav’n, the palsied fire inform’d,
That most inhuman and most monstrous deed ,
Of stormiest passion born, with wildness done,
And first-seen, swift-seiz’d weapon, when no eye
Witness’d its wondrous horror, – was to be
The settled practice of his frantic race!
By his mad children methodiz’d to art!

Nam’d Noble Science! in the number rank’d
Of fair-reputed callings, thick that throng
The door of active life, and court the choice
Of doubtful youth! among the paths that lead
To Fame’s high fane, among the Muse’s themes
Plac’d eminent in front! no deed of night!
That seeks disguise; ambitious of the day!
Provok’d and spurr’d by the inspiring thought,
“All eyes shall see me!” Gracefully perform’d,
With beauteous instruments from whose bright face
The beams of day rebound gay blazing back;
With no infuriate look, no quaking nerve,
But with sedate, unruffled feature done!
Nor stinted to one solitary act!
By multitude on multitude committed!

Like some distemper’d dream, that only shows
Strange monstrous shapes, and all things represents
Turn’d upside down, in wild confusion tost,
War, thy wild picture to mine eye appears!
Am I awake? or is this world, so long
That to my mind substantial stuff hath seem’d,
Unreal apparition? painted air?
Mad Fancy’s work, while troubled slumber binds
My feverish frame in startful rest reclin’d ?
And shall I soon to sober certainty
Of other and of fairer scene arise,
(Soon as th’ oppression from my brain hath past)
And, recollecting these fantastic forms
That long have mock’d me, to my fellows tell,
How strange a vision visited my sleep?

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