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Ernest Crosby: The Peace Congress


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

American writers on peace and against war

Ernest Crosby: Selections against war, for peace


Ernest Crosby
The Peace Congress

Round a long green table sat
Ambassadors of peace,
To ponder for the Christian world
How war and strife might cease;
And captains of the sea were there
And captains of the land,
And with the tassels of their swords
Played many an idle hand.

And some who had the morning’s news
Were reading there with zest
Of battles in the farthest East
And battles in the West;
While at the door two sentries stood,
With muskets at their side
And bayonets fixed, to show that peace
Depends on war and pride.

The president then rang his bell,
And up a bishop rose,
And prayed for all the kings and queens
In most poetic prose.
His lips that every week had asked
For victory in war,
Now prayed that in our time sweet Peace
Might come for evermore.

Then suddenly the hall grew bright,
The roof was rent in two,
And down from heaven an angel came
To their astonished view;
The envoys looked aghast, the priest
Muttered a faint “Amen.”
A stern voice answered, “I am Peace;
What would you have, ye men?

“Why is it that you call me here
From God’s unsullied air –
Here, where the smell of blood corrupts
The spirit of your prayer?
Here where you dare to name my name
Holding a blood-stained sword?”
(The troubled counsellors now hid
Their hilts beneath the board.)

“And who are these who guard the place?”
(They slunk behind the door,
And two such frightened shamefaced men
I never saw before.)
“What mean these tawdry epaulets,
And all this martial show?
The very pictures on the wall
But tell of war and woe.

“Read me that journal lying there;
Let its reports accuse.”
The president then picked it up
And read the morning’s news;
And it was pitiful to hear
His wretched, stammering tale,
And it was pitiful to see
His trembling lips turn pale.

He read about the Philippines,
Where prisoners are slain
By Yankee heroes while they curse
The cruelty of Spain;
He read of pious Englishmen
Who slaughter as they please
To boom Egyptian bonds, and stab
The wounded Soudanese.

He read of Russian men-at-arms
Who torture as they will
The gentle, peaceful Doukhobors
Because they will not kill;
He read of mighty realms that rob
Poor China of her soil,
And carve up Africa because
The victor’s is the spoil.

He read of Poland tyrannized,
Of Ireland held by hate,
Of Finland cheated of her rights,
And Kruger’s tottering state,
Of Cuba and the Congo too,
Samoa and far Tonquin –
The whole world made a hell of blood
By governmental sin.

He ceased to read, and for a time
An awful silence fell,
While all were waiting anxiously
To hear what Peace might tell.
At last she spake, and, breathing fast
With loud, indignant speech,
She thundered at the sorry crew
With words that shook them each.

“And thus it is,” she cried in scorn,
“You and your masters deal;
You fill the world with pain and grief
And grind it with your heel;
You build huge ships to murder men;
You make the heart breed hate;
You make the earth breed dynamite –
And then you call you great.

“You live by murder, hate and theft,
And no one will pretend
Your masters have the least design
To bring them to an end.
Ye hypocrites who know full well
That Peace can never reign
Until you cease from making war
Nor take my name in vain.

“Begone, base slaves of despots base, –
And drop your idle task,
Or else the world will laugh, for now
I’ve stripped you of your mask.
Go home, and tell your masters all
What they well knew before:
That when at last Peace rules the earth,
Then they will rule no more.”

She stopped and forth she stretched her hand,
And, at this sign of hers,
They fled, their swords between their legs
Like a whipped pack of curs.
There stood she, and for all I know,
There stands she still serene,
Triumphant in that empty hall
Above the table green.

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