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Joseph Fawcett: The deep scarlet shame of unceasing 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

Mankind, wild race! say, are your moons to blame,
Thro’ all your races that this rage hath run?
That this demoniac, worse than dog-star’ madness
‘Mong all your nations, in each age hath foam’d?
E’en elemental strife more lasting love,
Than ye have shown, of soothing Peace displays!
Proportion’d to the periods of their wrath,
For more protracted intervals your seas
Abstain from tempest; – your less angry skies
With greater length of season are serene;
In your wild forests the loud bestial rage
Suspends its roaring longer, than have paus’d
Your death-denouncing trumpets; than your arms
Have ceas’d their odious din! and the calm world,
Beneath the lovely olive’s placid shade,
In sweet repose from loud alarms hath lain.
And, lull’d in amiable quiet, known
A space of partial innocence and gold;
A sickly gleam of languid amity,
Whose wat’ry shine foretels returning clouds.
Who that stands still, and fixes on the fact
His thoughtful eye, and doth not feel his sense
Swim round with wonder and his soul lie hush’d
In the dead stillness of astonishment?
That this amazing maniac rage hath been,
Not of some single race th’ eccentric crime,
For following ones to rise and wonder at,
By some peculiar and uncommon cause
From this wild start from Nature’s orbit flung
Struck by some stranger star’s erratic wrath
With strange distraction; – no brief flighty fit; –
From men’s accustom’d line a single leap;
Transient distortion of their standing state;
From their staid usage one wild shoot aside;
By strong distemper’s paroxysm inspir’d,
Some all-infecting fever’s fierce excess,
When at its hottest and brain-burning height;
But a fix’d phrenzy; – of their dreadful way
The steady tenour; the deep scarlet shame
On Reason’s redden’d cheek bidding burn on
Thro’ rolling ages, an establish’d blush!
Protracted tragedy! as long as deep!
Whose unspent horror thro’ all time hath spun
The harrowing tale! O’er history’s lengthening course
The vein of persevering fury runs;
And he that reads its pages, rightly calls them
Records of Carnage, Chronicles of Blood!

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