The Last Voyage
Delayed by folly, baffled and beaten again
By lethargy, in man’s own sleep-walking world,
Driven back in defeat by the nightmare chaos of war
But finding new light, even there, on that blood-red road;
The struggle went on; each age with a broken cry,
Ars longa, vita brevis, re-echoing still
The cry of Hippocrates, Galen and Harvey in turn,
But flinging the deathless fire with a dying hand
To youth that should follow and conquer….
“We grieve when we look on an exquisite tapestry torn,
A picture disfigured, a Parian masterpiece wrecked,
A desecrate shrine; yet – yet – with our wars and our sins
What havoc we make of God’s image….”
Gerard Manley Hopkins
When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut,
Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs?
When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite
To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows
Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it?
O surely, reaving Peace, my Lord should leave in lieu
Some good! And so he does leave Patience exquisite,
That plumes to Peace thereafter. And when Peace here does house
He comes with work to do, he does not come to coo,
He comes to brood and sit.
From The Torch-Bearers
Watchers of the Sky
Wars we have sung. The blind, blood-boltered kings
Move with an epic music to their thrones.
Have you no song, then, of that nobler war?
Of those who strove for light, but could not hope
Even of this victory that they helped to win,
Silent discoverers, lonely pioneers,
Prisoners and exiles, martyrs of the truth
Who handed on the fire, from age to age;
Of those who, step by step, drove back the night
And struggled, year on year, for one more glimpse
Among the stars, of sovran law, their guide;
Of those who searching inward, saw the rocks
Dissolving into a new abyss, and saw
Those planetary systems far within.
Atoms, electrons, whirling on their way
To build and to unbuild our solid world;
Of those who conquered, inch by difficult inch,
The freedom of this realm of law for man;
Dreamers of dreams, the builders of our hope,
The healers and the binders up of wounds,
Who, while the dynasts drenched the world with blood,
Would in the still small circle of a lamp
Wrestle with death like Heracles of old To save one stricken child.
Their magic fleet came foaming into port.
Whereat old senators, wagging their white beards.
And plucking at golden chains with stiff old claws
Too feeble for the sword-hilt, squeaked at once:
“This glass will give us great advantages In time of war.”
War, war, O God of love,
Even amidst their wonder at Thy world,
Dazed with new beauty, gifted with new powers,
These old men dreamed of blood. This was the thought
To which all else must pander, if he hoped
Even for one hour to see those dull eyes blaze
At his discoveries.
“Wolves,” he called them, “wolves”…
War was the thought
That filmed those old men’s eyes. They did not hear
My father, when he hinted at his hope
Of opening up the heavens for mankind
With that new power of bringing far things near.
From Don Juan
You are ‘the best of cut-throats:’ – do not start;
The phrase is Shakspeare’s, and not misapplied:
War’s a brain-spattering, windpipe-slitting art,
Unless her cause by right be sanctified.
If you have acted once a generous part,
The world, not the world’s masters, will decide,
And I shall be delighted to learn who,
Save you and yours, have gain’d by Waterloo?
I am no flatterer – you ‘ve supp’d full of flattery:
They say you like it too -‘t is no great wonder.
He whose whole life has been assault and battery,
At last may get a little tired of thunder;
And swallowing eulogy much more than satire, he
May like being praised for every lucky blunder,
Call’d ‘Saviour of the Nations’ – not yet saved,
And ‘Europe’s Liberator’ – still enslaved.
To you the unflattering Muse deigns to inscribe
Truths, that you will not read in the Gazettes,
But which ‘t is time to teach the hireling tribe
Who fatten on their country’s gore, and debts,
Must be recited…
O ye! or we! or he! or she! reflect,
That one life saved, especially if young
Or pretty, is a thing to recollect
Far sweeter than the greenest laurels sprung
From the manure of human clay, though deck’d
With all the praises ever said or sung:
Though hymn’d by every harp, unless within
Your heart joins chorus, Fame is but a din.
From Don Juan
Now back to thy great joys, Civilisation!
And the sweet consequence of large society,
War, pestilence, the despot’s desolation,
The kingly scourge, the lust of notoriety,
The millions slain by soldiers for their ration…
Here War forgot his own destructive art
In more destroying Nature; and the heat
Of carnage, like the Nile’s sun-sodden slime,
Engender’d monstrous shapes of every crime.
All that the mind would shrink from of excesses;
All that the body perpetrates of bad;
All that we read, hear, dream, of man’s distresses;
All that the devil would do if run stark mad;
All that defies the worst which pen expresses;
All by which hell is peopled, or as sad
As hell – mere mortals who their power abuse –
Was here (as heretofore and since) let loose.
If here and there some transient trait of pity
Was shown, and some more noble heart broke through
Its bloody bond, and saved perhaps some pretty
Child, or an aged, helpless man or two –
What ‘s this in one annihilated city,
Where thousand loves, and ties, and duties grew?
Cockneys of London! Muscadins of Paris!
Just ponder what a pious pastime war is.
Think how the joys of reading a Gazette
Are purchased by all agonies and crimes:
Or if these do not move you, don’t forget
Such doom may be your own in aftertimes.
The Victory Ball
The cymbals crash,
And the dancers walk,
With long white stockings
And arms of chalk,
And white breasts bare,
And shadows of dead men
Watching ’em there.
Shadows of dead men
Stand by the wall,
Watching the fun
Of the Victory Ball.
They do not reproach,
Because they know,
If they’re forgotten
It’s better so.
Under the dancing
Feet are the graves.
Dazzle and motley,
In long white waves,
Brushed by the palm-fronds
Grapple and whirl
And slim white girl.
Fat wet bodies
Go waddling by,
Girdled with satin,
Though God knows why:
Gripped by satyrs
In white and black,
With a fat wet hand
On the fat wet back.
See, there’s one child
Fresh from school,
Learning the ropes
As the old hands rule.
God! how the dead men
As she begs for a dose
Of the best cocaine.
God, how that dead boy
Gapes and grins
As the tom-toms bang
And the shimmy begins.]
“What do you think
We should find”, said the shade,
“When the last shot echoed
And peace was made?”
“Christ,” laughed the fleshless
Jaws of his friend,
“I thought they’d be praying
For worlds to mend,
“And making earth better
Or something silly
Like white-washing hell
They’ve a sense of humour,
These women of ours,
These exquisite lilies,
These fresh young flowers!”
“Pish”, said a statesman
I’m glad they keep busy
Their thoughts elsewhere!
We mustn’t reproach ‘em,
They’re young you see.”
“Ah”, said the dead men,
“So were we!”
On with the dance!
Back to the jungle
The new beasts prance!
God, how the dead men
Grin by the wall,
Watching the fun
Of the Victory Ball.
From Don Juan
Mortality! thou hast thy monthly bills;
Thy plagues, thy famines, thy physicians, yet tick,
Like the death-watch, within our ears the ills
Past, present, and to come; – but all may yield
To the true portrait of one battle-field.
There the still varying pangs, which multiply
Until their very number makes men hard
By the infinities of agony,
Which meet the gaze whate’er it may regard –
The groan, the roll in dust, the all-white eye
Turn’d back within its socket, – these reward
Your rank and file by thousands, while the rest
May win perhaps a riband at the breast!
Yet I love glory; – glory’s a great thing: –
Think what it is to be in your old age
Maintain’d at the expense of your good king:
A moderate pension shakes full many a sage,
And heroes are but made for bards to sing,
Which is still better; thus in verse to wage
Your wars eternally, besides enjoying
Half-pay for life, make mankind worth destroying.
From Don Juan
O blood and thunder! and oh blood and wounds!
These are but vulgar oaths, as you may deem,
Too gentle reader! and most shocking sounds:
And so they are; yet thus is Glory’s dream
Unriddled, and as my true Muse expounds
At present such things, since they are her theme,
So be they her inspirers! Call them Mars,
Bellona, what you will – they mean but wars.
History can only take things in the gross;
But could we know them in detail, perchance
In balancing the profit and the loss,
War’s merit it by no means might enhance,
To waste so much gold for a little dross,
As hath been done, mere conquest to advance.
The drying up a single tear has more
Of honest fame, than shedding seas of gore.
The night was dark, and the thick mist allow’d
Nought to be seen save the artillery’s flame,
Which arch’d the horizon like a fiery cloud,
And in the Danube’s waters shone the same –
A mirror’d hell! the volleying roar, and loud
Long booming of each peal on peal, o’ercame
The ear far more than thunder; for Heaven’s flashes
Spare, or smite rarely – man’s make millions ashes!
William Lisle Bowles
From The Missionary
With murmured prayer, when Mercy stood aghast,
As War’s black trump pealed its terrific blast,
And o’er the withered earth the armed giant passed!
Ye, who his track with terror have pursued,
When some delightful land, all blood-imbrued,
He swept; where silent is the champaign wide,
That echoed to the pipe of yester-tide,
Save, when far off, the moonlight hills prolong
The last deep echoes of his parting gong;
Nor aught is seen, in the deserted spot
Where trailed the smoke of many a peaceful cot,
Save livid corses that unburied lie,
And conflagrations, reeking to the sky…
When the trump echoed to the quiet spot,
He thought upon the world, but mourned it not;
Enough if his meek wisdom could control,
And bend to mercy, one proud soldier’s soul…
When will the turmoil of earth’s tempests cease?
Father, I come to thee for peace – for peace!
Such is the conqueror’s dread path: the grave
Yawns for its millions where his banners wave;
But shall vain man, whose life is but a sigh,
With sullen acquiescence gaze and die?
From Don Juan
I pass each day where Dante’s bones are laid:
A little cupola, more neat than solemn,
Protects his dust, but reverence here is paid
To the bard’s tomb, and not the warrior’s column.
With human blood that column was cemented,
With human filth that column is defiled,
As if the peasant’s coarse contempt were vented
To show his loathing of the spot he soil’d:
Thus is the trophy used, and thus lamented
Should ever be those blood-hounds, from whose wild
Instinct of gore and glory earth has known
Those sufferings Dante saw in hell alone.
This is the patent age of new inventions
For killing bodies, and for saving souls,
All propagated with the best intentions;
Sir Humphry Davy’s lantern, by which coals
Are safely mined for in the mode he mentions,
Tombuctoo travels, voyages to the Poles,
Are ways to benefit mankind, as true,
Perhaps, as shooting them at Waterloo.
Of rapture to the blinding new-born light
In heaven, a light which though from age to age
Clouds may obscure it, grows and still shall grow
Until that nobler commonwealth be born,
That Union which draws nigher with every day,
That turning of the wasteful strength of war
To accomplish large and fruitful tasks of peace,
A gathering up of one another’s loads
Whereby the weak are strengthened and the strong
Made stronger in the increasing good of all.
William Lisle Bowles: Selections on war and peace
Why, child, I loathe all war, and warriors;
I live in peace and pleasure: what can man
I pray you note,
That there are worse things betwixt earth and heaven
Than him who ruleth many and slays none;
And, hating not himself, yet he loves his fellows
Enough to spare even those who would not spare him…
I am content: and, trusting in my cause,
Think we may yet be victors and return
To peace the only victory I covet.
To me war is no glory conquest no
Renown. To be forced thus to uphold my right
Sits heavier on my heart than all the wrongs
These men would bow me down with. Never, never
Can I forget this night, even should I live
To add it to the memory of others.
I thought to have made mine inoffensive rule
An era of sweet peace ‘midst bloody annals,
A green spot amidst desert centuries,
On which the future would turn back and smile,
And cultivate, or sigh when it could not
Recall Sardanapalus’ golden reign.
I thought to have made my realm a paradise,
And every moon an epoch of new pleasures.
Arthur Hugh Clough
From The Bothie of Tober-na-vuolich
What! for a mite, for a mote, an impalpable odour of honour,
Armies shall bleed; cities burn; and the soldier red from the storming
Carry hot rancour and lust into chambers of mothers and daughters:
What! would ourselves for the cause of an hour encounter the battle,
Slay and be slain; lie rotting in hospital, hulk, and prison:
Die as a dog dies; die mistaken perhaps, and dishonoured.
[O]ne would drudge
And do one’s petty part, and be content
In base manipulation, solaced still
By thinking of the leagued fraternity,
And of cooperation, and the effect
Of the great engine. If indeed it work,
And is not a mere treadmill! which it may be.
Who can confirm it is not? We ask action,
And dream of arms and conflict; and string up
All self-devotion’s muscles; and are set
To fold up papers. To what end? we know not.
From The Bothie of Tober-na-vuolich
Grace is given of God, but knowledge is bought in the market;
Knowledge needful for all, yet cannot be had for the asking.
There are exceptional beings, one finds them distant and rarely,
Who, endowed with the vision alike and the interpretation,
See, by the neighbours’ eyes and their own still motions enlightened,
In the beginning the end, in the acorn the oak of the forest,
In the child of to-day its children to long generations,
In a thought or a wish a life, a drama, an epos.
There are inheritors, is it? by mystical generation
Heiring the wisdom and ripeness of spirits gone by; without labour
Owning what others by doing and suffering earn; what old men
After long years of mistake and erasure are proud to have come to,
Sick with mistake and erasure possess when possession is idle.
William Lisle Bowles: Oh, when will the long tempestuous night of warfare and of woe be rolled away!
William Lisle Bowles
Shouts, and the noise of war!
Far o’er the land hath been my flight,
O’er many a forest dark as night,
O’er champaigns where the Tartar speeds,
O’er Wolga’s wild and giant reeds,
O’er the Carpathian summits hoar,
Beneath whose snows and shadows frore,
Poland’s level length unfolds
Her trackless woods and wildering wolds,
Like a spirit, seeking rest,
I have passed from east to west,
While sounds of discord and lament
Rose from the earth where’er I went.
I care not; hurrying, as in scorn,
I shook my lance, and blew my horn;
The day shows clear; and merrily
Along the Atlantic now I fly.
Who comes in soft and spicy vest,
From the mild regions of the West?
An azure veil bends waving o’er his head,
And showers of violets from his hands are shed.
‘Tis Zephyr, with a look as young and fair
As when his lucid wings conveyed
That beautiful and gentle maid
Psyche, transported through the air,
The blissful couch of Love’s own god to share.
Winter, avaunt! thy haggard eye
Will scare him, as he wanders by,
Him and the timid butterfly.
He brings again the morn of May;
The lark, amid the clear blue sky,
Carols, but is not seen so high,
And all the winter’s winds fly far away!
I cried: O Father of the world, whose might
The storm, the darkness, and the winds obey,
Oh, when will thus the long tempestuous night
Of warfare and of woe be rolled away!
Oh, when will cease the uproar and the din,
And Peace breathe soft, Summer is coming in!
From The Sylph of Summer
O’er sanguine fields
Now rides he, armed and crested like the god
Of fabled battles; where he points, pale Death
Strides over weltering carcases; nor leaves, –
But still a horrid shadow, step by step,
Stalks mocking after him, till now the noise
Of rolling acclamation, and the shout
Of multitude on multitude, is past:
The scene of all his triumphs, wormy earth,
Closes upon his perishable pride;
For “dust he is, and shall to dust return”!
From The Voyage of Columbus
War and the Great in War let others sing.
Havoc and spoil, and tears and triumphing;
The morning-march that flashes to the sun,
The feast of vultures when the day is done;
And the strange tale of many slain for one!
[O]f all his conquests a few columns,
Which may be his, and might be mine, if I
Thought them worth purchase and conveyance, are
The landmarks of the seas of gore he shed,
The realms he wasted, and the hearts he broke.
The ungrateful and ungracious slaves! they murmur
Because I have not shed their blood, nor led them
To dry into the desert’s dust by myriads,
Or whiten with their bones the banks of Ganges;
Nor decimated them with savage laws,
Nor sweated them to build up pyramids,
Or Babylonian walls.
Oh, thou wouldst have me doubtless set up edicts
“Obey the king – contribute to his treasure –
Recruit his phalanx spill – your blood at bidding –
Fall down and worship, or get up and toil.”
Or thus – “Sardanapalus on this spot
Slew fifty thousand of his enemies.
These are their sepulchres, and this his trophy.”
I leave such things to conquerors; enough
For me, if I can make my subjects feel
The weight of human misery less, and glide
Ungroaning to the tomb: I take no license
Which I deny to them. We all are men.
I hate all pain,
Given or received; we have enough within us,
The meanest vassal as the loftiest monarch,
Not to add to each other’s natural burthen
Of mortal misery, but rather lessen,
By mild reciprocal alleviation,
The fatal penalties imposed on life:
But this they know not, or they will not know.
I have, by Baal! done all I could to soothe them:
I made no wars, I added no new imposts,
I interfered not with their civic lives…
‘T is true I have not shed
Blood as I might have done, in oceans, till
My name became the synonyme of death,
A terror and a trophy. But for this
I feel no penitence; my life is love:
If I must shed blood, it shall be by force.
Till now, no drop from an Assyrian vein
Hath flow’d for me, nor hath the smallest coin
Of Nineveh’s vast treasures e’er been lavish’d
On objects which could cost her sons a tear:
If then they hate me, ‘t is because I hate not:
If they rebel, ‘t is because I oppress not.
From The Peacemaker
The walls were daubed with untempered mortar, and they shall fall, yet still shall Truth have Peace, and the Peacemaker shall preserve the truth; they shall dwell together, and live together. The heavenly soldiers have sung it, the Father hath sent it, the Son hath brought it, the blessed Dove shall preserve it; ever comfort us with it, our Anointed bath received it, we do enjoy it, and see it plentiful in Israel.
Peace takes a view of such as do molest,
And kindle most unquiet in her breast.
Peace – stay and abide with her, and thou shalt never know her enemies, God’s enemies, and thine own enemies : let them that seek Peace, find Peace, enjoy Peace, and have their souls laid up in Eternal Peace.
Well may peace then have the excellency of her glorious name advanced above all titles and inscriptions: and so much the rather, in that it pleaseth the Almighty Creator himself, to be called the God of Peace, and the Author (I Cor. xiv. 33). Nay, Love itself, delighting in he name (I John iv. 16): God is Love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him; and (I Thess. v. 33): May the very God of Peace sanctify you throughout, &c. Christ the Saviour of the World, the Lamb of Peace (John xi. 29) ; Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world. There is peace made in taking sin away, which is the only fuel of wrath. And (Ephes. ii. 14): Christ is our peace, – which hath made of both one, and hath broken the stop of the partition wall.
Moreover, the heavenly soldiers, at the birth of Christ, praising God, said: Glory be to God, in the high Heavens, and peace in Earth, and toward men good will.
And as his most blessed Nativity was the Fountain of Peace, there wanted not the fruits that sprang from that sacred fountain in his departure (John xiv. 27) : Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor fear. Let not your heart, speaking to many, because all his ought to be of one heart, which is a work of peace.
And not leaving, but in the same Evangelist (16, 17): I will pray my Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, intimating thereby, the eternal peace of soul and conscience, by the coming of the Holy Ghost, calling hi m in the words immediately following. Even the Spirit of Truth, whom the Father mill send in my name (26) ; he comes all peace, and in the name of Peace, of Christ our Saviour.
Mark how the philosopher bath ordered this battle, and given the colonies, to both these great commanders, Pacem cum omnibus hebebis, bellum cum vitis. Have peace all the world, only war with thy sins. Melior et tutior est certa pax, quam incerta victoria: for more safe and noble is a certain peace, than a doubtful victory with all his honours attending.
Now let us bind ourselves to the Peace, put in security for our good behaviours. Let our souls be bound for our bodies, our bodies for our souls, and let each come in at the General Sessions to save his bail; where we shall find a merciful Judge. If there we can answer we have not broke his Peace, our bonds shall be cancelled. As we have kept the Peace, we shall be rewarded with Peace, and kept in Eternal Peace. Amen.
Arthur Hugh Clough
There are two kindreds upon earth, I know.
The oppressors and the oppressed. But as for me,
If I must choose to inflict wrong, or accept,
May my last end, and life too, be with these.
Yes; whatsoe’er the reason, want of blood,
Lymphatic humours, or my childhood’s faith,
So is the thing, and be it well or ill,
I have no choice. I am a man of peace…
To battle, to battle – haste, haste –
To battle, to battle – aha, aha!
On, on to the conqueror’s feast,
From east to west, and south and north,
Ye men of valour and of worth,
Ye mighty men of arms come forth,
And work your will, for that is just;
And in your impulse put your trust,
Beneath your feet the fools are dust.
Alas, alas! grief and wrong,
The good are weak, the wicked strong;
And my God, how long, how long!
Dong, there is no God; dong.
Ring, ting; to bow before the strong,
There is a rapture too in this;
Work for thy master, work, thou slave –
He is not merciful, but brave.
Ring ding, ring ding, tara, tara,
Away, and hush that preaching – fagh!
Ye vulgar dreamers about peace…
Exacter rules than yours we know;
Resentment’s rule, and that high law
Of whoso best the sword can draw.
William Lisle Bowles
From The Battle of the Nile
Hasten, O God! the time, when never more
Pale Pity, from her moonlight seat shall hear,
And dropping at the sound a fruitless tear,
The far-off battle’s melancholy roar;
When never more Horror’s portentous cry
Shall sound amid the troubled sky;
Or dark Destruction’s grimly-smiling mien,
Through the red flashes of the fight be seen!
Father in heaven! our ardent hopes fulfil;
Thou speakest “Peace,” and the vexed world is still!
From St. Michael’s Mount
For now the glittering domes crash from on high –
And hark, a strange and lamentable cry!
It ceases, and the tide’s departing roar
Alone is heard upon the desert shore,
That, as it sweeps with slow huge swell away,
Remorseless mutters o’er its buried prey.
So Ruin hurrieth o’er this shaken ball:
He bids his blast go forth, and lo! doth fall
A Carthage or a Rome. Then rolls the tide
Of deep Forgetfulness, whelming the pride
Of man, his shattered and forsaken bowers,
His noiseless cities, and his prostrate towers.
If o’er the southern wave we turn our sight,
More dismal shapes of hideous woe affright:
Grim-visaged War, that ruthless, as he hies,
Drowns with his trumpet’s blast a brother’s cries;
And Massacre, by yelling furies led,
With ghastly grin and eye-balls rolling red!
O’er a vast field, wide heaped with festering slain,
Hark! how the Demon Passions shout amain,
And cry, exulting, while the death-storm lowers,
Hurrah! the kingdoms of the world are ours!
Therefore I mourn for man, and sighing say,
As down the steep I wind my homeward way,
Oh, when will Earth’s long muttering tempests cease,
And all be sunshine (like this scene) and peace!
From The Pleasures of Memory
What tho’ the iron school of War erase
Each milder virtue, and each softer grace;
What tho’ the fiend’s torpedo-touch arrest
Each gentler, finer impulse of the breast;
Still shall this active principle preside,
And wake the tear to Pity’s self denied.
From Ode to Superstition
Lo, steel-clad War his gorgeous standard rears!
The red-cross squadrons madly rage,
And mow thro’ infancy and age:
Then kiss the sacred dust and melt in tears.
Thy triumphs cease! thro’ every land,
Hark! Truth proclaims, thy triumphs cease:
Her heavenly form, with glowing hand,
Benignly points to piety and peace.
Flush’d with youth her looks impart
Each fine feeling as it flows;
Her voice the echo of her heart,
Pure as the mountain-snows:
Celestial transports round her play,
And softly, sweetly die away.
She smiles! and where is now the cloud
That blacken’d o’er thy baleful reign?
Grim darkness furls his leaden shroud,
Shrinking from her glance in vain.
Her touch unlocks the day-spring from above,
And lo! it visits man with beams of light and love.
From The Siege of Corinth
Deep in the tide of their warm blood lying,
Scorched with the death-thirst, and writhing in vain,
Than the perishing dead who are past all pain.
There is something of pride in the perilous hour,
Whate’er be the shape in which Death may lower;
For Fame is there to say who bleeds,
And Honour’s eye on daring deeds!
But when all is past, it is humbling to tread
O’er the weltering field of the tombless dead,
And see worms of the earth, and fowls of the air,
Beasts of the forest, all gathering there;
All regarding man as their prey,
All rejoicing in his decay.
From The Prophecy of Dante
Amidst the clash of swords, and clang of helms,
The age which I anticipate, no less
Shall be the Age of Beauty, and while whelms
Calamity the nations with distress,
The genius of my country shall arise,
A Cedar towering o’er the Wilderness,
Lovely in all its branches to all eyes,
Fragrant as fair, and recognized afar,
Wafting its native incense through the skies.
Sovereigns shall pause amidst their sport of war
Wean’d for an hour from blood, to turn and gaze
On canvas or on stone; and they who mar
All beauty upon earth, compell’d to praise,
Shall feel the power of that which they destroy…
But never tear his cheek descended,
And never smile his brow unbended;
And o’er that fair broad brow were wrought
The intersected lines of thought;
Those furrows which the burning share
Of Sorrow ploughs untimely there;
Scars of the lacerating mind
Which the Soul’s war doth leave behind,
He was past all mirth or woe:
Nothing more remained below
But sleepless nights and heavy days,
A mind all dead to scorn or praise,
A heart which shunned itself – and yet
That would not yield – nor could forget,
Which when it least appeared to melt,
Intently thought – intensely felt:
The deepest ice which ever froze
Can only o’er the surface close –
The living stream lies quick below,
And flows – and cannot cease to flow.
Still was his sealed-up bosom haunted
By thoughts which Nature hath implanted;
Too deeply rooted thence to vanish,
Howe’er our stifled tears we banish;
When, struggling as they rise to start,
We check those waters of the heart,
They are not dried – those tears unshed
But flow back to the fountain head,
And resting in their spring more pure,
For ever in its depth endure,
Unseen, unwept, but uncongealed,
And cherished most where least revealed.
With inward starts of feeling left,
To throb o’er those of life bereft,
Without the power to fill again
The desart gap which made his pain;
Without the hope to meet them where
United souls shall gladness share…
William Lisle Bowles: When her war-song Victory doth sing, Destruction flaps aloft her iron-hurtling wing
William Lisle Bowles
From Hope, An Allegorical Sketch
By the shade of cities old,
By many a river stained with gore,
By the sword of Sesac bold,
Who smote the nations from the shore
Of ancient Nile to India’s farthest plain,
By Fame’s proud pillars, and by Valour’s shield
By mighty chiefs in glorious battle slain,
Assert thy sway; amid the bloody field
Pursue thy march, and to the heights sublime
Of Honour’s glittering cliffs, a mighty conqueror climb!
Then said I, in my heart: Man, thou dost rear
Thine eye to heaven, and vaunt thy lofty worth;
The ensign of dominion thou dost bear
O’er nature’s works; but thou dost oft go forth,
Urged by proud hopes to ravage and destroy,
Thou dost build up a name by cruel deeds;
Whilst to the peaceful scenes of love and joy,
Sorrow, and crime, and solitude, succeeds.
Hence, when her war-song Victory doth sing,
Destruction flaps aloft her iron-hurtling wing.
But see, as one awakened from a trance,
With hollow and dim eyes and stony stare,
Captivity with faltering step advance!
From On the Birth of the Prince of Wales
And O, young Prince, be thine his moral praise;
Nor seek in fields of blood his warrior bays.
War has its charms terrific. Far and wide
When stands th’ embattled host in banner’d pride;
0’er the vext plain when the shrill clangors run.
And the long phalanx flashes in the sun;
When now no dangers of the deathful day
Mar the bright scene, nor break the firm array;
Full oft, too rashly glows with fond delight
The youthful breast, and asks the future fight;
Nor knows that Horror’s form, a spectre wan.
Stalks, yet unseen, along the gleamy van.
May no such rage be thine: no dazzling ray
Of specious fame thy steadfast feet betray.
Be thine domestic glory’s radiant calm,
Be thine the sceptre wreath’d with many a palm:
Be thine the throne with peaceful emblems hung,
The silver lyre to milder conquest strung!
Instead of glorious feats achiev’d in arms,
Bid rising arts display their mimic charms!
Sees Civil Prowess mightier acts achieve,
Sees meek Humanity distress relieve;
Adopts the Worth that bids the conflict cease.
And claims its honours from the Chiefs of Peace.
Thomas Middleton: Selections on peace and war
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Christmas Carol
The shepherds went their hasty way,
And found the lowly stable shed,
Where the Virgin-Mother lay:
And now they checked their eager tread,
For to the Babe, that at her bosom clung,
A mother’s song the Virgin-Mother sung.
They told her how a glorious light,
Streaming from a heavenly throng,
Around them shone, suspending night,
While sweeter than a mother’s song
Blest angels heralded the Saviour’s birth,
Glory to God on high! and peace on earth.
She listened to the tale divine,
And closer still the Babe she prest;
And while she cried, “The Babe is mine!”
The milk rushed faster to her breast.
Joy rose within her, like a summer’s morn.
Peace, peace on earth! the Prince of Peace is born.
“Thou Mother of the Prince of Peace,
Poor, simple, and of low estate!
That strife should vanish, battle cease,
Oh, why should this thy soul elate?
Sweet music’s loudest note, the poet’s story, –
Did’st thou ne’er love to hear of fame and glory?
“And is not war a youthful king,
A stately hero clad in mail?
Beneath his footsteps laurels spring,
Him, earth’s majestic monarchs hail
Their friend, their playmate; and his bold bright eye
Compels the maiden’s love-confessing sigh.”
“Tell this in some more courtly scene,
To maids and youths in robes of state.
I am a woman poor and mean,
And therefore is my soul elate.
War is a ruffian, all with guilt defiled,
That from the aged father tears his child!
“A murderous fiend, by fiends adored,
He kills the sire and starves the son;
The husband kills, and from her board
Steals all his widow’s toil had won,
Plunders God’s world of beauty; rends away
All safety from the night, all comfort from the day.
“Then wisely is my soul elate
That strife should vanish, battle cease:
I’m poor and of a low estate,
The mother of the Prince of Peace.
Joy rises in me, like a summer’s morn.
Peace, peace on earth! the Prince of Peace is born.”
Strange prophecy! If all the screams
Of all the men who since have died
To realise war’s kingly dreams,
Had risen at once in one vast tide,
The choral song of that blest multitude
Had been o’erpowered and lost amid the uproar rude.
From Ode to Tranquillity
The feeling heart, the searching soul,
To thee I dedicate the whole!
And while within myself I trace
The greatness of some future race,
Aloof with hermit-eye I scan
The present works of present man –
A wild and dream-like trade of blood and guile,
Too foolish for a tear, too wicked for a smile!
From The Vision of Judgment
There was a handsome board – at least for heaven;
And yet they had even then enough to do.
So many conquerors’ cars were daily driven,
So many kingdoms fitted up anew;
Each day too slew its thousands six or seven,
Till at the crowning carnage, Waterloo,
They threw their pens down in divine disgust –
The page was so besmear’d with blood and dust.
From The Bride of Abydos
Mark! where his carnage and his conquests cease!
He makes a solitude, and calls it – peace!
I, like the rest, must use my skill or strength,
But ask no land beyond my sabre’s length;
Power sways but by division, her resource
The blest alternative of fraud or force!
…some watchword for the fight
Must vindicate the wrong, and warp the right;
Religion – freedom – vengeance – what you will,
A word’s enough to raise mankind to kill;
Some factious phrase by cunning caught and spread,
That guilt may reign, and wolves and worms be fed!
What boots the oft-repeated tale of strife,
The feast of vultures, and the waste of life?
The varying fortune of each separate field,
The fierce that vanquish, and the faint that yield?
The smoking ruin, and the crumbled wall?
And they that smote for freedom or for sway,
Deem’d few were slain, while more remain’d to slay.
It was too late to check the wasting brand,
And Desolation reap’d the famish’d land;
The torch was lighted, and the flame was spread,
And Carnage smiled upon her daily bread.
William Lisle Bowles
From Monody, Written at Matlock
Thou dost in solitude thy course pursue,
As thou hadst bid life’s busy scenes farewell,
Yet making still such music as might cheer
The weary passenger that journeys near.
Such are the songs of Peace in Virtue’s shade;
Unheard of Folly, or the vacant train
That pipe and dance upon the noontide plain,
Till in the dust together they are laid!
But not unheard of Him, who sits sublime
Above the clouds of this tempestuous clime,
Its stir and strife; to whom more grateful rise
The humble incense, and the still small voice
Of those that on their pensive way rejoice,
Than shouts of thousands echoing to the skies;
Than songs of conquest pealing round the car
Of hard Ambition, or the Fiend of War,
Sated with slaughter.
From The Wisdom of Solomon Paraphrased
Cain could see, but folly struck him blind,
To kill his brother in a raging mind.
O too unhappy stroke to end two lives!
Unhappy actor in death’s tragedy,
Murdering a brother whose name murder gives,
Whose slaying action slaughters butchery:
A weeping part had earth in that same play,
For she did weep herself to death that day.
Blood-quaffing Mars, which wash’d himself in gore,
Reign’d in her foes’ thirst slaughter-drinking hearts;
Their heads the bloody store-house of blood’s store.
Their minds made bloody streams disburs’d in parts
What was it else but butchery and hate,
To prize young infants’ blood at murder’s rate ?
But let them surfeit on their bloody cup.
Carousing to their own destruction’s health,
We drink the silver-streamed water up,
Which unexpected flow’d from wisdom’s wealth;
Declaring, by the thirst of our dry souls.
How all our foes did swim in murder’s bowls.
Butchers unnatural, worse by their trade.
Whose house the bloody shambles of decay.
More than a slaughter-house which butchers made,
More than an Eschip, seely bodies prey:
Thorough whose hearts a bloody shambles runs;
They do not butcher beasts, but their own sons.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
From The Destiny of Nations
A vast plain
Stretched opposite, where ever and anon
The plough-man following sad his meagre team
Turned up fresh sculls unstartled, and the bones
Of fierce hate-breathing combatants, who there
All mingled lay beneath the common earth,
Death’s gloomy reconcilement! O’er the fields
Stept a fair Form, repairing all she might,
Her temples olive-wreathed; and where she trod,
Fresh flowerets rose, and many a foodful herb.
But wan her cheek, her footsteps insecure,
And anxious pleasure beamed in her faint eye,
As she had newly left a couch of pain,
Pale convalescent! (Yet some time to rule
With power exclusive o’er the willing world,
That blest prophetic mandate then fulfilled —
Peace be on Earth!) A happy while, but brief,
She seemed to wander with assiduous feet,
And healed the recent harm of chill and blight,
And nursed each plant that fair and virtuous grew.
But soon a deep precursive sound moaned hollow:
Black rose the clouds, and now (as in a dream)
Their reddening shapes, transformed to warrior-hosts,
Coursed o’er the sky, and battled in mid-air.
Nor did not the large blood-drops fall from heaven
Portentous! while aloft were seen to float,
Like hideous features looming on the mist,
Wan stains of ominous light! Resigned, yet sad,
The fair Form bowed her olive-crowned brow,
Then o’er the plain with oft reverted eye
Fled till a place of tombs she reached, and there
Within a ruined sepulchre obscure
The delegated Maid
Gazed through her tears, then in sad tones exclaimed —
‘Thou mild-eyed Form! wherefore, ah! wherefore fled?
The power of Justice like a name all light,
Shone from thy brow; but all they, who unblamed
Dwelt in thy dwellings, call thee Happiness.
Ah! why, uninjured and unprofited,
Should multitudes against their brethren rush?
Why sow they guilt, still reaping misery?
Lenient of care, thy songs, O Peace! are sweet,
As after showers the perfumed gale of eve,
That flings the cool drops on a feverous cheek;
And gay thy grassy altar piled with fruits.
But boasts the shrine of demon War one charm,
Save that with many an orgie strange and foul,
Dancing around with interwoven arms,
The maniac Suicide and giant Murder
Exult in their fierce union! I am sad,
And know not why the simple peasants crowd
Beneath the Chieftains’ standard!’ Thus the Maid.
William Lisle Bowles
From Mr. Howard’s Account of Lazarettos
I view those deeds, and think how vain
The triumphs of weak man, the feeble strain
That Flattery brings to Conquest’s crimson car,
Amid the bannered host, and the proud tents of war!
From realm to realm the hideous War-fiend hies
Wide o’er the wasted earth; before him flies
Affright, on pinions fleeter than the wind;
Whilst Death and Desolation fast behind
The havoc of his echoing march pursue:
Meantime his steps are bathed in the warm dew
Of bloodshed, and of tears; – but his dread name
Shall perish – the loud clarion of his fame
One day shall cease, and, wrapt in hideous gloom,
Forgetfulness bestride his shapeless tomb!
From The Grave of Howard
Relentless Time, that steals with silent tread,
Shall tear away the trophies of the dead.
Fame, on the pyramid’s aspiring top,
With sighs shall her recording trumpet drop;
The feeble characters of Glory’s hand
Shall perish, like the tracks upon the sand;
But not with these expire the sacred flame
Of Virtue, or the good man’s honoured name.
From The Wisdom of Solomon Paraphrased
A rule, not tyranny, a reign, not blood,
An empire, not a slaughter-house of lives,
A crown, not cruelty in fury’s mood,
A sceptre which restores, and not deprives;
All made to make a peace, and not a war.
By wisdom, concord’s queen and discord’s bar.
The coldest word oft cools the hottest threat.
The tyrant’s menaces the calms of peace;
Two colds augmenteth one, two heats one heat,
And makes both too extreme when both increase:
My peaceful reign shall conquer tyrants’ force,
Not arms, but words, not battle, but remorse.
Yet mighty shall I be, though war in peace,
Strong, though ability hath left his clime.
And good, because my wars and battles cease,
Or, at the least, lie smother’d in their prime…
Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Selections on peace and war
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
From The Destiny of Nations
‘When luxury and lust’s exhausted stores
No more can rouse the appetites of kings;
When the low flattery of their reptile lords
Falls flat and heavy on the accustomed ear;
When eunuchs sing, and fools buffoonery make,
And dancers writhe their harlot-limbs in vain;
Then War and all its dread vicissitudes
Pleasingly agitate their stagnant hearts;
Its hopes, its fears, its victories, its defeats,
Insipid royalty’s keen condiment!
Therefore uninjured and unprofited,
(Victims at once and executioners)
The congregated husbandmen lay waste
The vineyard and the harvest. As along
The Bothnic coast, or southward of the Line,
Though hushed the winds and cloudless the high noon,
Yet if Leviathan, weary of ease,
In sports unwieldy toss his island-bulk,
Ocean behind him billows, and before
A storm of waves breaks foamy on the strand.
And hence, for times and seasons bloody and dark,
Short Peace shall skin the wounds of causeless War,
And War, his strained sinews knit anew,
Still violate the unfinished works of Peace.
But yonder look! for more demands thy view!’
He said: and straightway from the opposite Isle
A vapour sailed, as when a cloud, exhaled
From Egypt’s fields that steam hot pestilence,
Travels the sky for many a trackless league,
Till o’er some death-doomed land, distant in vain,
It broods incumbent. Forthwith from the plain,
Facing the Isle, a brighter cloud arose,
And steered its course which way the vapour went.
From The Wisdom of Solomon Paraphrased
Thrice-happy habitation of delight,
Thrice-happy step of immortality,
Thrice-happy souls to gain such heavenly sight
Springing from heaven’s perpetuity!
O peaceful place! but O thrice-peaceful souls,
Whom neither threats nor strife nor wars controls!
Knowledge and wisdom known in wisest things
Is reason’s mate, discretion’s sentinel;
More than a trine of joys from virtues springs,
More than one union, yet in union dwell:
One for to guide the spring, summer the other;
One harvest’s nurse, the other winter’s mother.
Four mounts and four high mounters, all four one,
One holy union, one begotten life.
One manifold affection, yet alone,
All one in peace’s rest, all none in strife;
Sure, Stable, without care, having all power,
Not hurtful, doing good, as one all four.
This peaceful army of four-knitted souls
Is marching unto peace’s endless war.
Their weapons are discretion’s written rolls,
Their quarrel love, and amity their jar:
Wisdom director is, captain and guide;
All other take their places side by side.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
From Religious Musings
Mistrust and Enmity have burst the bands
Of social peace: and listening Treachery lurks
With pious fraud to snare a brother’s life;
And childless widows o’er the groaning land
Wail numberless and orphans weep for bread!
Thee to defend, dear Saviour of Mankind!
Thee, Lamb of God! Thee, blameless Prince of Peace!
From all sides rush the thirsty brood of War! –
O ye to Glory’s field
Forced or ensnared, who, as ye gasp in death,
Bleed with new wounds beneath the vulture’s beak!
O thou poor widow, who in dreams dost view
Thy husband’s mangled corse, and from short doze
Start’st with a shriek; or in thy half-thatched cot
Waked by the wintry night-storm, wet and cold
Cow’rst o’er thy screaming baby!
From Father Hubburd’s Tales
Thy colour wasted, thy blood lost,
Thy limbs broke with the violent rape
Of hot impatient cannons, which desire
To ravish lives, spending their lust in fire.
O what a ruthful sight it is to see.
Though in a soldier of the mean’st degree,
That right member perish’d
Which the body cherish’d!
That limb dissever’d, burnt, and gone.
Which the best part was borne upon:
And then, the greatest ruth of all,
Returning home in torn estate,
Where he should rise, there most to fall,
Trod down with’envy, bruis’d with hate;
Yet, wretch, let this thy comfort be,
That greater worms have far’d like thee.
So here thou left’st, bloodless and wan.
Thy journeys thorough man and man;
These two cross’d shapes, so much opprest,
Did fray thy weakness from the rest.
From Elegy on Newstead Abbey
Hark how the hall, resounding to the strain,
Shakes with the martial music’s novel din!
The heralds of a warrior’s haughty reign,
High crested banners wave thy walls within.
Of changing sentinels the distant hum,
The mirth of feasts, the clang of burnished arms,
The braying trumpet and the hoarser drum,
Unite in concert with increased alarms.
Hush’d is the harp, unstrung the warlike lyre,
The minstrel’s palsied hand reclines in death;
No more he strikes the quivering chords with fire,
Or sings the glories of the martial wreath.
At length the sated murderers, gorged with prey,
Retire: the clamour of the fight is o’er;
Silence again resumes her awful sway,
And sable Horror guards the massy door.
Here Desolation holds her dreary court:
What satellites declare her dismal reign!
Shrieking their dirge, ill-omen’d birds resort,
To flit their vigils in the hoary fane.
From Ode From the French
With a fierce and lavish hand
Scattering nations’ wealth like sand;
Pouring nations’ blood like water,
In imperial seas of slaughter!
But the heart and the mind,
And the voice of mankind,
Shall arise in communion –
And who shall resist that proud union?
The time is past when swords subdued –
Man may die – the soul’s renew’d:
Even in this low world of care
Freedom ne’er shall want an heir;
Millions breathe but to inherit
Her for ever bounding spirit…
From War, A Fragment
Oh! Charity, fair daughter of the skies,
How many a hateful form before Thee flies, lo
On whose dark brow, and grinning smile, and yell,
Thou might’st, if justice reign’d, for ever dwell!
Yet thou haft mark’d their faults, whilst pity sigh’d,
And to disturb thy peace, their little powers defy’d.
But whilst of happiness we feebly tell,
And praise her worth, and paint her halcyon cell;
Declare of joys that round their parent twine,
And speak of shores where suns perpetual shine;
How many pence-bought engines wield the spear,
Whose slavish breasts this fun must never cheer!
How many myriads of the human race,
On carnage bent, the name of man disgrace.
Some lazy tyrant’s hireling tool obey,
And rush like blood-hounds on their unknown prey.
If on the slaughter’d field some mind humane,
Should stop to sooth a gasping Soldier’s pain;
Enquire the cause that urg’d him to engage
In war’s fell clangor, and infernal rage;
“I know no cause,” his trembling tongue replies,
And with a hollow groan distends his frame, and dies.
From The Curse of Minerva
“The bannered pomp of war, the glittering files,
O’er whose gay trappings stern Bellona smiles;
The brazen trump, the spirit-stirring drum,
That bid the foe defiance ere they come;
The hero bounding at his country’s call,
The glorious death that consecrates his fall,
Swell the young heart with visionary charms,
And bid it antedate the joys of arms.
But know, a lesson you may yet have taught,
With death alone are laurels cheaply bought:
Not in the conflict Havoc seeks delight,
His day of mercy is the day of fight.
But when the field is fought, the battle won,
Though drenched with gore, his woes are but begun:
His deeper deeds as yet ye know by name;
The slaughtered peasant and the ravished dame,
The rifled mansion and the foe-reaped field,
Ill suit with souls at home, untaught to yield.
Say, with what eye along the distant down
Would flying burghers mark the blazing town?
How view the column of ascending flames
Shake his red shadow o’er the startled Thames?
Nay, frown not, Albion! for the torch was thine
That lit such pyres from Tagus to the Rhine:
Now should they burst on thy devoted coast,
Go, ask thy bosom who deserves them most.
The law of Heaven and Earth is life for life,
And she who raised, in vain regrets, the strife.”
From The Peacemaker
Peace and Contention lie here on Earth, as trading factors for life and death. Who desires not to have traffic with life? who (weary of life) but would die to live?
Peace is the passage from life to life, come then to the factory of Peace, thou that desirest lo have life: behold the substitute of Peace on earth, displaying the flag of Peace, Beati pacifici.
Were blows more bountiful to thee? Did blood yield thee benefit? War afford thee wealth? Didst thou make that thine own by violence, which was another’s by right? It may be, the hand-maid was fruitful, and the mistress barren; but Sarah has now brought forth, and in her seed are the blessings come.
The trading merchant finds it, who daily ploughs the sea, and as daily reaps the harvest of his labours. What wants England that the world can enrich her with? Tyre sends in her purples; India her spices; Afric her gold; Muscovy her costly skins of beasts; all her neighbour countries their best traffic, and all purchased by friendly commerce, not (as before) by savage cruelty.
The fearless trades and handicraft men sing away their labours all day (having no noise drowned with either noise of drum or cannon) and sleep with peace at night.
The frolic countryman opens the fruitful earth, and crops his plenty from her fertile bosom; nay, even his toiling beasts are trapped with bells, who taste (in their labours) the harmony of peace with their awful governors.
Peace – stay and abide with her, and thou shalt never know her enemies, God’s enemies, and thine own enemies: let them that seek Peace, find Peace, enjoy Peace, and have their souls laid up in Eternal Peace.
And where there is no Peace, all other benefits have a cessation. It is the only health of thy soul; and that once lost, thy soul sickens immediately, even to death, and can no more taste or relish a joy after than a sick man’s palate his nutriment.
When was war sent as a blessing, or peace as a punishment?
Behold the Father, the God of Peace; the Son, the Lamb of Peace; the blessed Spirit, the Dove of Peace; the angels, servants, and ministers to this power of Peace; infinities and all rejoicing at one soul’s entrance into Peace.
Behold the new Jerusalem, Kirjath-salem, the City of Peace ; that which was militant and troubled in the wilderness (the Church) behold it there triumphant in ever blessed Peace, that Peace which as it is unintelligible, so is it most unutterable.
From Ode: To the Honourable Charles Townshend
Let vulgar bards, with undiscerning praise,
More glittering trophies raise:
But wisest Heaven what deeds may chiefly move
To favour and to love?
What, save wide blessings, or averted harms?
Nor to the embattled field
Shall these achievements of the peaceful gown,
The green immortal crown
Of valour, or the songs of conquest, yield.
From Ode: To the Right Reverend Benjamin, Lord Bishop of Winchester
For not a conqueror’s sword,
Nor the strong powers to civil founders known,
Were his; but truth by faithful search explored,
And social sense, like seed, in genial plenty sown.
Wherever it took root, the soul (restored
To freedom) freedom too for others sought.
From: Ode: To the Country Gentlemen of England
For, oh! may neither Fear nor stronger Love…
Thee, last of many wretched nations, move,
With mighty armies station’d round the throne
To trust thy safety. Then, farewell the claims
Of Freedom! Her proud records to the flames
Then bear, an offering at Ambition’s shrine…
From Ode to Curio
In sight, old Time, imperious judge, awaits:
Above revenge, or fear, or pity, just,
He urgeth onward to those guilty gates
The great, the sage, the happy, and august.
And still he asks them of the hidden plan
Whence every treaty, every war began,
Evolves their secrets and their guilt proclaims:
And still his hands despoil them on the road
Of each vain wreath by lying bards bestow’d,
And crush their trophies huge, and raze their sculptured names.
From The Pleasures of the Imagination
In all the dewy landscapes of the Spring,
In the bright eye of Hesper, or the morn,
In Nature’s fairest forms, is aught so fair
As virtuous friendship? as the candid blush
Of him who strives with fortune to be just?
The graceful tear that streams for others’ woes?
Or the mild majesty of private life,
Where Peace with ever blooming olive crowns
The gate; where Honour’s liberal hands effuse
Unenvied treasures, and the snowy wings
Of Innocence and Love protect the scene?
When shall the laurel and the vocal string
Resume their honours? When shall we behold
The tuneful tongue, the Promethéan band
Aspire to ancient praise? Alas! how faint,
How slow the dawn of Beauty and of Truth
Breaks the reluctant shades of Gothic night
Which yet involves the nations! Long they groan’d
Beneath the furies of rapacious force;
Oft as the gloomy north, with iron swarms
Tempestuous pouring from her frozen caves,
Blasted the Italian shore, and swept the works
Of Liberty and Wisdom down the gulf
Of all-devouring night.
From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
But thou, exulting and abounding river!
Making thy waves a blessing as they flow
Through banks whose beauty would endure for ever,
Could man but leave thy bright creation so,
Nor its fair promise from the surface mow
With the sharp scythe of conflict…
A thousand battles have assailed thy banks,
But these and half their fame have passed away,
And Slaughter heaped on high his weltering ranks:
Their very graves are gone, and what are they?
Thy tide washed down the blood of yesterday,
And all was stainless, and on thy clear stream
Glassed with its dancing light the sunny ray;
But o’er the blackened memory’s blighting dream
Thy waves would vainly roll, all sweeping as they seem.
Like to a forest felled by mountain winds;
And such the storm of battle on this day,
And such the frenzy, whose convulsion blinds
To all save carnage, that, beneath the fray,
An earthquake reeled unheededly away!
None felt stern Nature rocking at his feet,
And yawning forth a grave for those who lay
Upon their bucklers for a winding-sheet;
Such is the absorbing hate when warring nations meet.
What matters where we fall to fill the maws
Of worms – on battle-plains or listed spot?
Both are but theatres where the chief actors rot.
Algernon Charles Swinburne
From A Word for the Country
‘Gaze forward through clouds that environ;
It shall be as it was in the past.
Not with dreams, but with blood and with iron,
Shall a nation be moulded to last.’
So teach they, so preach they,
Who dream themselves the dream
That hallows the gallows
And bids the scaffold stream.
‘With a hero at head, and a nation
Well gagged and well drilled and well cowed,
And a gospel of war and damnation,
Has not empire a right to be proud?
Fools prattle and tattle
Of freedom, reason, right,
The beauty of duty,
The loveliness of light.
‘But we know, we believe it, we see it,
Force only has power upon earth.’
So be it! and ever so be it
For souls that are bestial by birth!
Byron: Selections on war
From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
Not so the rustic: with his trembling mate
He lurks, nor casts his heavy eye afar,
Lest he should view his vineyard desolate,
Blasted below the dun hot breath of war.
Ah, monarchs! could ye taste the mirth ye mar,
Not in the toils of Glory would ye fret;
The hoarse dull drum would sleep, and Man be happy yet.
‘Twas on a Grecian autumn’s gentle eve,
Childe Harold hailed Leucadia’s cape afar;
A spot he longed to see, nor cared to leave:
Oft did he mark the scenes of vanished war,
Actium, Lepanto, fatal Trafalgar:
Mark them unmoved, for he would not delight
(Born beneath some remote inglorious star)
In themes of bloody fray, or gallant fight,
But loathed the bravo’s trade, and laughed at martial wight.
In yonder rippling bay, their naval host
Did many a Roman chief and Asian king
To doubtful conflict, certain slaughter, bring
Look where the second Caesar’s trophies rose,
Now, like the hands that reared them, withering;
Imperial anarchs, doubling human woes!
God! was thy globe ordained for such to win and lose?
Blood follows blood, and through their mortal span,
In bloodier acts conclude those who with blood began.
Thou hast not followed that immortal Star
Which leads the people forth to deeds of war.
Weary of life, thou liest in silent sleep,
As one who marks the lengthening shadows creep,
Careless of all the hurrying hours that run…
Yet wake not from thy slumbers, – rest thee well,
Amidst thy fields of amber asphodel,
Thy lily-sprinkled meadows, – rest thee there,
To mock all human greatness: who would dare
To vent the paltry sorrows of his life
Before thy ruins, or to praise the strife
Of kings’ ambition, and the barren pride
Of warring nations!
For as the olive-garland of the race,
Which lights with joy each eager runner’s face,
As the red cross which saveth men in war,
As a flame-bearded beacon seen from far
By mariners upon a storm-tossed sea, –
Such was his love for Greece and Liberty!
Byron, thy crowns are ever fresh and green:
Red leaves of rose from Sapphic Mitylene
Shall bind thy brows; the myrtle blooms for thee,
In hidden glades by lonely Castaly;
The laurels wait thy coming: all are thine,
And round thy head one perfect wreath will twine.