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Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: War is the mailèd hand of criminal states

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: Selections from the Peace Sonnets

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Jessie Wiseman Gibbs
From Peace Sonnets

XLIX
Hark how each king and emperor declares
That God is on his side – how all appeal
To God to help them murder, waste and steal!
But none appeals to Christ, of whom God swears,
“He is my Son; hear Him!” and not one dares
Assert that Christ is on his side, to feel
The filthy passions of his fiendish zeal;
And Christ’s pure name is not in all their prayers.

The god they cry to, he is of their own
Imaginations, yea, a god outgrown,
And impotent to help as wood or stone;
But as for the eternal God Christ came
To show, they know Him not, and to their shame
They take upon their lips his awful name!

L
This last colossal crime of Christendom
Is fruit of her apostasy and sin
Of unbelief, for Satan enters in
When Christ goes out: there is no vacuum
In spirit, more than flesh, but evils come
On heels of our denials and begin
To work a vast destructive woe wherein
We cry again for faith’s palladium.

Thou art not guiltless of this great transgression,
My Country! O God give thee to discern
The meaning of this time, to humble thee,
To own thy sin, with all thy heart to turn
To Christ, ere thou be forced to make confession
Of Him at mouth of Hell’s artillery!

LI
War is revelation: in an hour
That men know not, seeds of selfishness,
Fear, suspicion, envy, they caress
In their bosoms, grown to unknown power,
Burst before the world in bloody flower,
All whose dripping petals reconfess
That old revelation alterless,
“Hate is murder,” spoke by Truth’s Avower.

War is judgment: from the ripened grain
It doth pluck the tares at last for burning;
And above it God, the Judge, is turning
To destruction bloody men and vain;
And its sentence is as old as breath
On this blood-soaked planet: “Sin is death!”

LII
War is the mailèd hand of criminal states
That strike the helpless down and bind the free
And build an arrogant supremacy
Of selfish force; but the just land that waits
For righteousness and loves God’s law, and hates
Iniquity, builds up his courts, and she
Shall not be put to shame therein, but He
Will send his angels forth to guard her gates.

And she shall prosper and shall have a new
Supremacy of service, and the word
Of God shall go forth from her mouth to all
The lands and not return again unheard,
But they shall come from east and west to view
Her great salvation and to own Christ’s thrall.

LIII
What one war settles may another war
Unsettle, and what has been won by force
May so be lost again, and in the course
Of dealing death do nations die; therefore
War settles naught, but God is Governor
Who made all men one flesh, not to divorce
Them from each other, and their last resource
Is love, and Christ alone is Conqueror.

But that is settled which is settled right,
And they are free from fear who trust the might
Of the Almighty, and they that deal in love,
Though they may agonize in blood and tears,
Shall never die, but all his power shall prove
And live and reign with Christ a thousand years.

LIV
I take the slur of “peace at any price”
And wear it unashamed with Him, who, when
He was reviled, reviled not again,
But prayed for brutish men who cast their dice
Upon his blood-stained garments, whose foul cries
Mocked his great gift of life their narrow ken
Perceived not, rendering up his soul for men
To God, a free, obedient sacrifice.

I count Him strong, who rendered good for ill,
Love for despite; I count He overcame
The world, and proved the glory of God’s will,
The invincibility of faith, the claim
Of love to love; I reckon He indeed
Was free, and by his spirit men are freed.

LVI
How vainly have we cried “Peace! Peace!” where no
Peace was! How vainly shall the nations patch
A partial, unenforcèd peace, and snatch
A little respite ere the whole world flow
Together in unutterable woe
Of self -destruction; if all men attach
Them not to Heaven’s Kingdom, to o’ermatch
All principalities and powers below!

Know, O my Country, this democracy
Thou boastest in, is but a half-way house
Between the City of Destruction and
The Holy City; and thou canst not stand
Therein, but must go back in infamy,
Or forward and the Lamb of God espouse!

LVII
The sword has pierced my bosom and its pain
Consumes me so that outward sights grow dim,
But inwardly my soul has sight of Him
Who came from God unweaponed and was slain,
In whose great death is all our life made plain.
O all God’s lightning-girded cherubim
Could but have brought us to destruction grim
He saved us; through his death we life attain!

Therefore hath God exalted Him on high.
And thou, my Country, that hast dared to love
Humanity and peace, so must thou die
To self and sin and look to God above
To bring his Kingdom through thee and to raise
Thee up therein immortal to his praise.

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