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Mary Barber: The officer’s widow

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

British writers on peace and war

Irish writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Mary Barber
On seeing an Officer’s Widow distracted who had been driven to Despair, by a long and fruitless Sollicitation for the Arrears of her Pension

O wretch! hath Madness cur’d thy dire Despair?
Yes – All thy Sorrows now are light as Air:
No more you mourn your once lov’d Husband’s Fate,
Who bravely perish’d for a thankless State.
For rolling Years thy Piety prevail’d;
At length, quite sunk – thy Hope, thy Patience fail’d:
Distracted now you tread on Life’s last Stage,
Nor feel the Weight of Poverty and Age:
How blest in this, compar’d with those, whose Lot
Dooms them to Miseries, by you forgot!

Now, wild as Winds, you from your Off-spring fly,
Or fright them from you with distracted Eye;
Rove thro’ the Streets; or sing, devoid of Care,
With ratter’d Garments, and dishevell’d Hair;
By hooting Boys to higher Phrenzy fir’d,
At length you sink, by cruel Treatment tir’d,
Sink into Sleep, an Emblem of the Dead,
A Stone thy Pillow, the cold Earth thy Bed.

O tell it not; let none the Story hear,
Lest Britain’s Martial Sons should learn to fear:
And when they next the hostile Wall attack,
Feel the Heart fail, the lifted Arm grow slack;
And pausing cry – Tho’ Death we scorn to dread,
Our Orphan Off-spring, must they pine for Bread?
See their lov’d Mothers into Prisons thrown;
And, unreliev’d, in iron Bondage groan?

BRITAIN, for this impending Ruin dread;
Their Woes call loud for Vengeance on thy Head:
Nor wonder, if Disasters wait your Fleets;
Nor wonder at Complainings in your Streets:
Be timely wise; arrest th’ uplifted Hand,
Ere Pestilence or Famine sweep the Land.

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