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Francis Thompson: Flattering the too-much-pampered Boy of War


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

British writers on peace and war

Francis Thompson: Kingly crown and warrior’s crest not worth a blade of grass


Francis Thompson
From The Nineteenth Century

Yet let it grieve, grey Dame,
Thy passing spirit, God wot,
Thou wast half-hearted, wishing peace, but not
The means of it. The avaricious flame
Thou’st fanned, which thou shouldst tame:
Cluck’dst thy wide brood beneath thy mothering plumes,
And coo’dst them from their fumes,
Stretched necks provocative, and throats
Ruffled with challenging notes;

Yet all didst mar,
Flattering the too-much-pampered Boy of War:
Whence the far-jetting engine, and the globe
In labour with her iron progeny,
Infernal litter of sudden-whelped deaths,
Vomiting venomous breaths;
The growl as of long surf that draweth back
Haifa beach in its rattling track,
When like a tiger-cat
The angry rifle spat
Its fury in the opposing foeman’s eyes;
These are thy consummating victories.
For this hast thou been troubled to be wise!

And now what child is this upon thy lap,
Born in the red glow of relighted war?
That draws Bellona s pap, –
Fierce foster-mother! – does already stare
With mimicked dark regard
And copied threat of brow whose trick it took from her
Young Century, born to hear
The cannon talking at its infant ear
The Twentieth of Time’s loins, since that
Which in the quiet snows of Bethlehem he begat.
Ah! with forthbringing such and so ill-starred,
After the day of blood and night of fate.
Shall it survive with brow no longer marred.
Lip no more wry with hate;
With all thou hadst of good.
But from its blood
Washed thine hereditary ill,
Yet thy child still?

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