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.
From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
By Heaven! it is a splendid sight to see
(For one who hath no friend, no brother there)
Their rival scarfs of mixed embroidery,
Their various arms that glitter in the air!
What gallant war-hounds rouse them from their lair,
And gnash their fangs, loud yelling for the prey!
All join the chase, but few the triumph share:
The Grave shall bear the chiefest prize away,
And Havoc scarce for joy can cumber their array.
The foe, the victim, and the fond ally
That fights for all, but ever fights in vain,
Are met – as if at home they could not die –
To feed the crow on Talavera’s plain,
And fertilise the field that each pretends to gain.
There shall they rot – Ambition’s honoured fools!
Enough of Battle’s minions! let them play
Their game of lives, and barter breath for fame:
Fame that will scarce reanimate their clay,
Though thousands fall to deck some single name.
From Jochanan Hakkadosh
“Say there’s a tyrant by whose death we earn
Freedom, and justify a war to wage:
Good! – were we only able to discern
“Exactly how to reach and catch and cage
Him only and no innocent beside!
Whereas the folk whereon war wreaks its rage
” – How shared they his ill-doing? Far and wide
The victims of our warfare strew the plain,
Ten thousand dead, whereof not one but died
“In faith that vassals owed their suzerain
Life: therefore each paid tribute, – honest soul, –
To that same Right and Good ourselves are fain
“To call exclusively our end…”
From The Excursion
Glory – beyond all glory ever seen,
Confusion infinite of heaven and earth,
Dazzling the soul. Meanwhile, prophetic harps
In every grove were ringing, ‘War shall cease;
‘Did ye not hear that conquest is abjured?
‘Bring garlands, bring forth choicest flowers, to deck
‘The tree of Liberty.’
Knowledge, methinks, in these disordered times,
Should be allowed a privilege to have
Her anchorites, like piety of old;
Men, who, from faction sacred, and unstained
By war, might, if so minded, turn aside
Uncensured, and subsist, a scattered few
Living to God and nature, and content
With that communion…
Truth every day exemplified, no less
In the grey cottage by the murmuring stream
Than in fantastic conqueror’s roving camp,
Or ‘mid the factious senate, unappalled
Whoe’er may sink, or rise – to sink again,
As merciless proscription ebbs and flows.
Our life is turned
Out of her course, wherever man is made
An offering, or a sacrifice, a tool
Or implement, a passive thing employed
As a brute mean, without acknowledgment
Of common right or interest in the end;
Used or abused, as selfishness may prompt.
Walter Savage Landor
From On the Conflgration of the Po
Where once was fire, and men to men were true.
Fierce ones and faithless now approach the waste,
Who look transversely with an evil eye,
And scowl and threaten, and uplift the sword,
And, if they lower it, ’tis but to grasp more
And more of amber left on either bank. Apollo hates the land he once so loved,
Nor swan is seen nor nightingale is heard
Nigh the dead river and affrighted vale…
From To the River Avon
Avon! why runnest thou away so fast?
Rest thee before that Chancel where repose
The bones of him whose spirit moves the world.
I have beheld thy birthplace, I have seen
Thy tiny ripples where they play amid
The golden cups and ever-waving blades.
I have seen mighty rivers, I have seen
Padus, recovered from his fiery wound,
And Tiber, prouder than them all to bear
Upon his tawny bosom men who crusht
The world they trod on, heeding not the cries
Of culprit kings and nations many-tongued.
What are to me these rivers, once adorn’d
With crowns they would not wear but swept away?
Worthier art thou of worship, and I bend
My knees upon thy bank, and call thy name,
And hear, or think I hear, thy voice reply.
‘Some stopped revenge athirst for slaughter, some
Sowed the slow olive for a race unborn.
These had no wishes, therefore none are crowned;
But theirs are tufted banks, theirs umbrage, theirs
Enough of sunshine to enjoy the shade,
And breeze enough to lull them to repose.’
Oft the grave judge alarms religious wealth
And rouses anger under gentle words.
Woe to the wiser few who dare to cry
‘People! these men are not your enemies,
Inquire their errand, and resist when wronged.’
Through palaces and porches evil eyes
Light upon e’en the wretched, who have fled
The house of bondage or the house of birth;
Suspicions, murmurs, treacheries, taunts, retorts,
Attend the brighter banners that invade;
And the first horn of hunter, pale with want,
Sounds to the chase, the second to the war.
From The Russiadde
Others employ the immortal mind
To wrest and vex the human kind…
Another loves to rob and plunder;
O’er fields of death to guide the thunder;
And still his fev’rish mind is brewing
How to arise on others’ ruin.
The nation’s groan, for pity crying,
The fields are heaped with dead and dying!
No qualm of conscience! no disgust!
For power and rule is all his lust.
But thanks to Him who rules on high,
And lightens nature with his eye,
That few such monsters, very few
On earth these ravages renew.
Two such within an age, are sure
As much as mankind can endure,
And God in mercy oft sends fewer.
Robert Southey: Selections on peace and war
From various poems
No shadowy forms entice the soul aside,
Secure she walks, Philosophy her guide.
Britain, who long her warriors had adored,
And deemed all merit centred in the sword;
Britain, who thought to stain the field was fame,
Now honoured Edward’s less than Bacon’s name.
Her sons no more in listed fields advance
To ride the ring, or toss the beamy lance;
No longer steel their indurated hearts
To the mild influence of the finer arts…
Tho’ now, where erst the grey-clad peasant stray’d,
To break the quiet of the village shade
Gleam war’s discordant habits thro’ the trees,
And the red banner mock the sullen breeze;
Tho’ now no more thy maids their voices suit
To the low-warbled breath of twilight lute,
And heard, the pausing village hum between,
No solemn songstress lull the fading green,
Scared by the fife, and rumbling drum’s alarms,
And the short thunder, and the flash of arms…
That man will have a trophy, humble Spade!
A trophy nobler than a conqueror’s sword.
The Heavens are thronged with martyrs that have risen
From out thy noisome prison;
The penal caverns groan
With tens of thousands rent from off the tree
Of hopeful life, – by battle’s whirlwind blown
Into the deserts of Eternity.
Unpitied havoc! Victims unlamented!
But not on high, where madness is resented,
And murder causes some sad tears to flow,
Though, from the widely-sweeping blow,
The choirs of Angels spread, triumphantly augmented.
The rivers stained so oft with human gore,
Are conscious; – may the like return no more!
May Discord – for a Seraph’s care
Shall be attended with a bolder prayer –
May she, who once disturbed the seats of bliss
These mortal spheres above,
Be chained for ever to the black abyss.
And thou, O rescued Earth, by peace and love,
And merciful desires, thy sanctity approve!’
From The Guerrilla
O, Heaven! can life-blood only that abate?
Did’st thou the human frame for slaughter thus create?
Millions have bled that sycophants may rule.
Have fallen to dust and left no trace behind;
And yet we say that Heaven is merciful.
And loves and cares for all the human kind;
And we will spread our hands, and mouthe the wind,
With fulsome thanks for all its tenderness.
Ah me! that man, preposterously blind,
Should feel, hear, see, reflect, yet not the less
Hope in his hopeless state of abject nothingness!
Poor worm! to death, doubt, and despondence born,
How blest art thou entrusting Providence!
Oh, thou hast nought to dread, though all forlorn!
Thou hast a guardian, a sure defence!
There rest, environed in Omnipotence,
In safety rest Alas! and woe is me.
That tyrant should, on any vague pretence,
Drunkard, or madman, do away with thee,
Thou thing of high regard! – of immortality!
From Power and Gentleness
I’ve thought, at gentle and ungentle hour.
Of many an act and giant shape of power…
And then of all the fierce and bitter fruit
Of the proud planting of a tyrannous foot,-
Of bruised rights, and flourishing bad men,
And virtue wasting heavenwards from a den;
Brute force, and fury; and the devilish drouth
Of the fool cannon’s ever-gaping mouth;
And the bride-widowing sword; and the harsh bray
The sneering trumpet sends across the fray;
And all which lights the people-thinning star
That selfishness invokes, – the horsed war.
Panting along with many a bloody mane. –
I’ve thought of all this pride, and all this pain,
And all the insolent plenitudes of power,
And I declare, by this most quiet hour,
Which holds in different tasks by the fire-light
Me and my friends here, this delightful night.
That Power itself has not one half the might
Of Gentleness. ‘Tis want to all true wealth;
The uneasy madman’s force, to the wise health;
Blind downward beating, to the eyes that see;
Noise to persuasion, doubt to certainty;
The consciousness of strength in enemies,
Who must be strain’d upon, or else they rise;
The battle to the moon, who all the while.
High out of hearing, passes with her smile;
The tempest, trampling in his scanty run,
To the whole globe, that basks about the sun;
Or as all shrieks and clangs, with which a sphere.
Undone and fired, could rake the midnight ear,
Compared with that vast dumbness nature keeps
Throughout her starry deeps,
Most old, and mild, and awful, and unbroken.
Which tells a tale of peace beyond whate’er was spoken.
Edward Young: Selections on peace and war
On the high summit of yon rocky hill,
Proud Fame! thy temple stands, and see around
What thronging thousands press; and hark! the sound
That fires ambition: ’tis thy clarion shrill.
Amid thy path the deadly thorn is strew’d,
And oft intwin’d around the wreath they claim;
And many spurn at justice’ sacred name,
And “wade to glory through a sea of blood.”
Be mine to leave thy path, thy motley crowd,
And, while to hear their names proclaim’d aloud
Upon the brazen trump, the throng rejoice,
I’ll court fair virtue in her humbler sphere,
More pleas’d in calm reflection’s hour to hear
The approving whispers of her still small voice.
From : An Epistle to the Right Hon. George Lord Lansdowne
Nor is it peace alone, but such a peace,
As more than bids the rage of battle cease.
Death may determine war, and rest succeed,
‘Cause nought survives on which our rage may feed:
In faithful friends we lose our glorious foes,
And strifes of love exalt our sweet repose.
From conflicts pass’d each other’s worth we find,
And thence in stricter friendship now are join’d;
Each wound receiv’d, now pleads the cause of love,
And former injuries endearments prove.
Thus generous hatred in affection ends,
And war, which rais’d the foes, completes the friends.
A thousand happy consequences flow
(The dazzling prospect makes my bosom glow);
Commerce shall lift her swelling sails, and roll
Her wealthy fleets secure from pole to pole…
This happy concord in no blood is writ,
None can grudge Heaven full thanks for it:
No mothers here lament their children’s fate.
And like the peace, but think it comes too late.
No widows hear the jocund bells.
And take them for their husbands’ knells:
No drop of blood is spilt, which might be said
To mark our joyful holiday with red.
The armour now may be hung up to sight.
And only in their halls the children fright.
The gain of civil wars will not allow
Bay to the conqueror’s brow:
At such a game what fool would venture in.
Where one must lose, yet neither side can win?
From An Epistle to the Right Hon. George Lord Lansdowne
Now war is weary, and retir’d to rest;
The meagre famine, and the spotted pest,
Deputed in her stead, may blast the day,
And sweep the relics of the sword away.
When peaceful Numa fill’d the Roman throne,
Jove in the fulness of his glory shone;
Wise Solomon, a stranger to the sword,
Was born to raise a temple to the Lord.
Of greater things than peace or war inquire;
Fully content, and unconcern’d, to know
What farther passes in the world below.
The bravest of mankind shall now have leave
To die but once, nor piece-meal seek the grave:
On gain or pleasure bent, we shall not meet
Sad melancholy numbers in each street
(Owners of bones dispers’d on Flandria’s plain,
Or wasting in the bottom of the main);
To turn us back from joy, in tender fear,
Lest it an insult of their woes appear,
And make us grudge ourselves that wealth, their blood
Perhaps preserv’d, who starve, or beg for food.
Devotion shall run pure, and disengage
From that strange fate of mixing peace with rage.
On heaven without a sin we now may call,
And guiltless to our Maker prostrate fall;
Be Christians while we pray, nor in one breath
Ask mercy for ourselves, for others death.
Much we shall triumph in our battles past,
And yet consent those battles prove our last;
Lest, while in arms for brighter fame we strive,
We lose the means to keep that fame alive.
In silent groves the birds delight to sing,
Or near the margin of a secret spring:
Now all is calm, sweet music shall improve,
Nor kindle rage, but be the nurse of love.
The thunder of the battle ceas’d to roar,
Ere Greece her godlike poets taught to soar;
Rome’s dreadful foe, great Hannibal, was dead,
And all her warlike neighbours round her bled;
For Janus shut, her Iö Pæans rung,
Before an Ovid or a Virgil sung.
Edward Young: No more the rising harvest whets the sword, now peace, though long repuls’d, arrives at last
From On the Late Queen’s Death, And His Majesty’s Accession to the Throne
Heroes returning from the field we crown,
And deify the haughty victor’s frown.
His splendid wealth too rashly we admire,
Catch the disease, and burn with equal fire:
Wisely to spend, is the great art of gain;
And one reliev’d transcends a million slain.
When time shall ask, where once Ramillia lay,
Or Danube flow’d that swept whole troops away,
One drop of water, that refresh’d the dry,
Shall rise a fountain of eternal joy.
From An Epistle to the Right Hon. George Lord Lansdowne
Long has the western world reclin’d her head,
Pour’d forth her sorrow, and bewail’d her dead;
Fell discord through her borders fiercely rang’d,
And shook her nations, and her monarchs chang’d;
By land and sea, its utmost rage employ’d;
Nor heaven repair’d so fast as men destroy’d.
In vain kind summers plentuous fields bestow’d,
In vain the vintage liberally flow’d;
Alarms from loaden boards all pleasures chas’d,
And robb’d the rich Burgundian grape of taste;
The smiles of Nature could no blessing bring,
The fruitful autumn, or the flowery spring;
Time was distinguish’d by the sword and spear,
Not by the various aspects of the year;
The trumpet’s sound proclaim’d a milder sky,
And bloodshed told us when the sun was nigh.
Now peace, though long repuls’d, arrives at last,
And bids us smile on all our labours past;
Bids every nation cease her wonted moan,
And every monarch call his crown his own:
To valour gentler virtues now succeed;
No longer is the great man born to bleed;
No more the rising harvest whets the sword,
No longer waves uncertain of its lord;
Who cast the seed, the golden sheaf shall claim,
Nor chance of battle change the master’s name.
Each stream unstain’d with blood more smoothly flows;
The brighter sun a fuller day bestows…
Nor…be surpris’d to hear
That laurels may be due
Not more to heroes of the field,
(Proud boasters!) than to you…
Beneath a banner nobler far
Than ever was unfurl’d
In fields of blood; a banner bright!
High wav’d o’er all the world.
It, like a streaming meteor, casts
A universal light…
The billows stain’d by slaughter’d foes
Inferior praise afford;
Reason’s a bloodless conqueror,
More glorious than the sword.
From The Last Day
A life well spent, not the victorious sword,
Awards the crown, and styles the greater lord.
Nor monuments alone, and burial-earth,
Labours with man to this his second birth;
But where gay palaces in pomp arise,
And gilded theatres invade the skies,
Nations shall wake, whose unrespected bones
Support the pride of their luxurious sons.
The most magnificent and costly dome
Is but an upper chamber to the tomb.
From Journey Renewed
And now, if men with men in peace abide,
All other strength the weakest may withstand,
All worse assaults may safely be defied.
From The River Duddon
But here no cannon thunders to the gale;
Upon the wave no haughty pendants cast
A crimson splendour: lowly is the mast
That rises here, and humbly spread, the sail;
While, less disturbed than in the narrow Vale
Through which with strange vicissitudes he passed,
The Wanderer seeks that receptacle vast
Where all his unambitious functions fail
And may thy Poet, cloud-born Stream! be free –
The sweets of earth contentedly resigned,
And each tumultuous working left behind
At seemly distance – to advance like Thee;
Prepared, in peace of heart, in calm of mind
And soul, to mingle with Eternity!
Overweening Statesmen have full long relied
On fleets and armies, and external wealth:
But from within proceeds a Nation’s health…
From Guilt and Sorrow
Or Incidents Upon Salisbury Plain
“Bad is the world, and hard is the world’s law
Even for the man who wears the warmest fleece;
Much need have ye that time more closely draw
The bond of nature, all unkindness cease,
And that among so few there still be peace:
Else can ye hope but with such numerous foes
Your pains shall ever with your years increase?”
From On the Power of Sound
The trumpet (we, intoxicate with pride,
Arm at its blast for deadly wars)
To archangelic lips applied,
The grave shall open, quench the stars.
From Peter Bell
Away we go – and what care we
For treasons, tumults, and for wars?
We are as calm in our delight
As is the crescent-moon so bright
Among the scattered stars.
The Crab, the Scorpion, and the Bull –
We pry among them all; have shot
High o’er the red-haired race of Mars,
Covered from top to toe with scars;
Such company I like it not!
The moving accident is not my trade;
To freeze the blood I have no ready arts:
‘Tis my delight, alone in summer shade,
To pipe a simple song for thinking hearts.
As I from Hawes to Richmond did repair,
It chanced that I saw standing in a dell
Three aspens at three corners of a square;
And one, not four yards distant, near a well.
What this imported I could ill divine:
And, pulling now the rein my horse to stop,
I saw three pillars standing in a line, –
The last stone-pillar on a dark hill-top.
The trees were grey, with neither arms nor head;
Half wasted the square mound of tawny green;
So that you just might say, as then I said,
“Here in old time the hand of man hath been.”
I looked upon the hill both far and near,
More doleful place did never eye survey;
It seemed as if the spring-time came not here,
And Nature here were willing to decay.
I stood in various thoughts and fancies lost,
When one, who was in shepherd’s garb attired,
Came up the hollow: – him did I accost,
And what this place might be I then inquired.
The Shepherd stopped, and that same story told
Which in my former rhyme I have rehearsed.
“A jolly place,” said he, “in times of old!
But something ails it now: the spot is curst.
“You see these lifeless stumps of aspen wood –
Some say that they are beeches, others elms –
These were the bower; and here a mansion stood,
The finest palace of a hundred realms!
“The arbour does its own condition tell;
You see the stones, the fountain, and the stream;
But as to the great Lodge! you might as well
Hunt half a day for a forgotten dream.
“There’s neither dog nor heifer, horse nor sheep,
Will wet his lips within that cup of stone;
And oftentimes, when all are fast asleep,
This water doth send forth a dolorous groan.
“Some say that here a murder has been done,
And blood cries out for blood: but, for my part,
I’ve guessed, when I’ve been sitting in the sun,
That it was all for that unhappy Hart.
“What thoughts must through the creature’s brain have past!
Even from the topmost stone, upon the steep,
Are but three bounds – and look, Sir, at this last –
O Master! it has been a cruel leap.
“For thirteen hours he ran a desperate race;
And in my simple mind we cannot tell
What cause the Hart might have to love this place,
And come and make his deathbed near the well.
“Here on the grass perhaps asleep he sank,
Lulled by the fountain in the summer-tide;
This water was perhaps the first he drank
When he had wandered from his mother’s side.
“In April here beneath the flowering thorn
He heard the birds their morning carols sing;
And he, perhaps, for aught we know, was born
Not half a furlong from that self-same spring.
“Now, here is neither grass nor pleasant shade;
The sun on drearier hollow never shone;
So will it be, as I have often said,
Till trees, and stones, and fountain, all are gone.”
“Grey-headed Shepherd, thou hast spoken well;
Small difference lies between thy creed and mine:
This Beast not unobserved by Nature fell;
His death was mourned by sympathy divine.
“The Being, that is in the clouds and air,
That is in the green leaves among the groves,
Maintains a deep and reverential care
For the unoffending creatures whom he loves.
“The pleasure-house is dust: – behind, before,
This is no common waste, no common gloom;
But Nature, in due course of time, once more
Shall here put on her beauty and her bloom.
“She leaves these objects to a slow decay,
That what we are, and have been, may be known;
But at the coming of the milder day,
These monuments shall all be overgrown.
“One lesson, Shepherd, let us two divide,
Taught both by what she shows, and what conceals;
Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.”
For men begin to pass their nature’s bound,
And find new hopes and cares which fast supplant
Their proper joys and griefs; they grow too great
For narrow creeds of right and wrong, which fade
Before the unmeasured thirst for good: while peace
Rises within them ever more and more.
Such men are even now upon the earth,
Serene amid the half-formed creatures round
Who should be saved by them and joined with them.
From Strafford: A Tragedy
I! I! that was never spoken with
Till it was entered on! That loathe the war!
That say it is the maddest, wickedest …
Do you know, sir, I think within my heart,
That you would say I did advise the war…
As you then were, as half yourself, desist!
The warrior-part of you may, an it list,
Finding real falchions difficult to poise,
Fling them afar and taste the cream of joys
By wielding such in fancy…
But all is changed the moment you descry
Mankind as half yourself, – then, fancy’s trade
Ends once and always: how may half evade
The other half? men are found half of you.
Out of a thousand helps, just one or two
Can be accomplished presently…
See if, for that, your other half will stop
Should the new sympathies allow you.
A tear, begin a smile! The rabble’s woes,
Ludicrous in their patience as they chose
To sit about their town and quietly
Be slaughtered, – the poor reckless soldiery,
With their ignoble rhymes on Richard, how
‘Polt-foot,’ sang they, ‘was in a pitfall now,’
Cheering each other from the engine-mounts…
Air, flame, earth, wave at conflict! Then, needs must
Emerge some Calm embodied, these refer
The brawl to – yellow-bearded Jupiter?
No! Saturn; some existence like a pact
And protest against Chaos, some first fact
I’ the faint of time.
William Wordsworth: Selections on peace and war
Overweening Statesmen have full long relied
On fleets and armies, and external wealth:
But from within proceeds a Nation’s health…
Wide-wasted regions – cities wrapt in flame –
Who sees, may lift a streaming eye
To Heaven; – who never saw, may heave a sigh;
But the foundation of our nature shakes,
And with an infinite pain the spirit aches,
When desolated countries, towns on fire,
Are but the avowed attire
Of warfare waged with desperate mind
Against the life of virtue in mankind;
Assaulting without ruth
The citadels of truth;
While the fair gardens of civility,
By ignorance defaced,
By violence laid waste,
Perish without reprieve for flower or tree!
Between Namur and Liege
What lovelier home could gentle Fancy choose?
Is this the stream, whose cities, heights, and plains,
War’s favourite playground, are with crimson stains
Familiar, as the Morn with pearly dews?
The Morn, that now, along the silver MEUSE,
Spreading her peaceful ensigns, calls the swains
To tend their silent boats and ringing wains,
Or strip the bough whose mellow fruit bestrews
The ripening corn beneath it. As mine eyes
Turn from the fortified and threatening hill,
How sweet the prospect of yon watery glade,
With its grey rocks clustering in pensive shade –
That, shaped like old monastic turrets, rise
From the smooth meadow-ground, serene and still!
Composed by the Side of Grassmere Lake
Clouds, lingering yet, extend in solid bars
Through the grey west; and lo! these waters, steeled
By breezeless air to smoothest polish, yield
A vivid repetition of the stars;
Jove, Venus, and the ruddy crest of Mars
Amid his fellows beauteously revealed
At happy distance from earth’s groaning field,
Where ruthless mortals wage incessant wars.
Is it a mirror? – or the nether Sphere
Opening to view the abyss in which she feeds 10
Her own calm fires? – But list! a voice is near;
Great Pan himself low-whispering through the reeds,
“Be thankful, thou; for, if unholy deeds
Ravage the world, tranquillity is here!”
Go back to antique ages, if thine eyes
The genuine mien and character would trace
Of the rash Spirit that still holds her place,
Prompting the world’s audacious vanities!
Go back, and see the Tower of Babel rise;
The pyramid extend its monstrous base,
For some Aspirant of our short-lived race,
Anxious an aery name to immortalize.
There, too, ere wiles and politic dispute
Gave specious colouring to aim and act,
See the first mighty Hunter leave the brute
To chase mankind, with men in armies packed
For his field-pastime high and absolute,
While, to dislodge his game, cities are sacked!
If the whole weight of what we think and feel,
Save only far as thought and feeling blend
With action, were as nothing, patriot Friend!
From thy remonstrance would be no appeal;
But to promote and fortify the weal
Of our own Being is her paramount end;
A truth which they alone shall comprehend
Who shun the mischief which they cannot heal.
Peace in these feverish times is sovereign bliss:
Here, with no thirst but what the stream can slake,
And startled only by the rustling brake,
Cool air I breathe; while the unincumbered Mind
By some weak aims at services assigned
To gentle Natures, thanks not Heaven amiss.
Not Love, not War, nor the tumultuous swell,
Of civil conflict, nor the wrecks of change,
Nor Duty struggling with afflictions strange –
Not these ‘alone’ inspire the tuneful shell;
But where untroubled peace and concord dwell,
There also is the Muse not loth to range,
Watching the twilight smoke of cot or grange,
Skyward ascending from a woody dell.
Meek aspirations please her, lone endeavour,
And sage content, and placid melancholy;
She loves to gaze upon a crystal river –
Diaphanous because it travels slowly;
Soft is the music that would charm for ever;
The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly.
From The Borderers
Of towns in flames, fields ravaged, young and old
Driven out in troops to want and nakedness;
Then grasp our swords and rush upon a cure
That flatters us, because it asks not thought:
The deeper malady is better hid;
The world is poisoned at the heart.
One a King,
General or Cham, Sultan or Emperor,
Strews twenty acres of good meadow-ground
With carcases, in lineament and shape
And substance, nothing differing from his own,
But that they cannot stand up of themselves
Another sits i’ th’ sun, and by the hour
Floats kingcups in the brook – a Hero one
We call, and scorn the other as Time’s spendthrift…
From Mille Viae Mortis
Here pallid Fear & dark Despair were seen.
And Fever here with looks forever lean,
Swoln Dropsy, halting Gout, profuse of woes,
And Madness fierce & hopeless of repose,
Wide-wasting Plague; but chief in honour stood
More-wasting War, insatiable of blood;
With starting eye-balls, eager for the word;
Already brandish’d was the glitt’ring sword.
From A Ballad:
Noting the Difference of Rich and Poor, in the Ways of a Rich Noble’s Palace and a Poor Workhouse
In peace, as in war, ’tis our young gallants’ pride,
To walk, each one i’ the streets, with a rapier by his side,
That none to do them injury may have pretence;
Wretched Age, in poverty, must brook offence.
From On An Infant Dying As Soon As Born
Why should kings and nobles have
Pictured trophies to their grave;
And we, churls, to thee deny
Thy pretty toys with thee to lie,
A more harmless vanity?
There are who lord it o’er their fellow-men
With most prevailing tinsel: who unpen
Their baaing vanities, to browse away
The comfortable green and juicy hay
From human pastures; or, O torturing fact!
Who, through an idiot blink, will see unpack’d
Fire-branded foxes to sear up and singe
Our gold and ripe-ear’d hopes. With not one tinge
Of sanctuary splendour, not a sight
Able to face an owl’s, they still are dight
By the blear-eyed nations in empurpled vests,
And crowns, and turbans. With unladen breasts,
Save of blown self-applause, they proudly mount
To their spirit’s perch, their being’s high account,
Their tiptop nothings, their dull skies, their thrones –
Amid the fierce intoxicating tones
Of trumpets, shoutings, and belabour’d drums,
And sudden cannon. Ah! how all this hums,
In wakeful ears, like uproar past and gone –
Like thunder clouds that spake to Babylon,
And set those old Chaldeans to their tasks. –
Are then regalities all gilded masks?
From On the Seas and Far Away
Peace, thy olive wand extend,
And bid wild War his ravage end,
Man with brother Man to meet,
And as a brother kindly greet;
Then may heav’n with prosperous gales,
Fill my sailor’s welcome sails;
To my arms their charge convey,
My dear lad that’s far away.
On the seas and far away,
On stormy seas and far away;
To my arms their charge convey,
My dear lad that’s far away.
From Two Choruses to the Tragedy of Brutus
Ye shades, where sacred truth is sought,
Groves, where immortal sages taught,
Where heav’nly visions Plato fired,
And Epicurus lay inspired!
In vain your guiltless laurels stood
Unspotted long with human blood.
War, horrid war, your thoughtful walks invades,
And steel now glitters in the Muses’ shades.
From The Temple of Fame
Straight the black clarion sends a horrid sound,
Loud laughs burst out, and bitter scoffs fly round,
Whispers are heard, with taunts reviling loud,
And scornful hisses run thro’ the crowd.
Last, those who boast of mighty mischiefs done,
Enslave their country, or usurp a throne;
Or who their glory’s dire foundation lay’d
On Sov’reigns ruin’d, or on friends betray’d;
Calm, thinking villains, whom no faith could fix,
Of crooked counsels and dark politics;
Of these a gloomy tribe surround the throne,
And beg to make th’ immortal treasons known.
The trumpet roars, long flaky flames expire,
With sparks, that seem’d to set the world on fire.
At the dread sound, pale mortals stood aghast,
And startled nature trembled with the blast.
From I Murder Hate
I murder hate by flood or field,
Tho’ glory’s name may screen us;
In wars at home I’ll spend my blood –
Life-giving wars of Venus.
The deities that I adore
Are social Peace and Plenty;
I’m better pleas’d to make one more,
Than be the death of twenty.
Thanksgiving for a National Victory
Ye hypocrites! are these your pranks?
To murder men and give God thanks!
Desist, for shame! – proceed no further;
God won’t accept your thanks for Murther!
From A Waterloo Ballad
“With kicks and cuts, and balls and blows,
I throb and ache all over;
I’m quite convinc’d the field of Mars
Is not a field of clover!
“O why did I a soldier turn
For any royal Guelph?
I might have been a Butcher, and
In business for myself!”
From Ode to Richard Martin
How many sing of wars,
Of Greek and Trojan jars –
The butcheries of men!
The Muse hath a “Perpetual Ruby Pen!”
Dabbling with heroes and the blood they spill;
But no one sings the man
That, like a pelican,
Nourishes Pity with his tender Bill!
Thomas Campbell: Selections on peace and war
From Nature’s Law – A Poem
Let other heroes boast their scars,
The marks of sturt and strife:
And other poets sing of wars,
The plagues of human life:
Shame fa’ the fun, wi’ sword and gun
To slap mankind like lumber!
I sing his name, and nobler fame,
Wha multiplies our number.
Ye Powers of peace, and peaceful song,
Look down with gracious eyes;
And bless auld Coila, large and long,
With multiplying joys;
Lang may she stand to prop the land,
The flow’r of ancient nations;
And Burnses spring, her fame to sing,
To endless generations!
From A Winter Night
“Blow, blow, ye winds, with heavier gust!
And freeze, thou bitter-biting frost!
Descend, ye chilly, smothering snows!
Not all your rage, as now united, shows
More hard unkindness unrelenting,
Vengeful malice unrepenting.
Than heaven-illumin’d Man on brother Man bestows!
“See stern Oppression’s iron grip,
Or mad Ambition’s gory hand,
Sending, like blood-hounds from the slip,
Woe, Want, and Murder o’er a land!
Ev’n in the peaceful rural vale,
Truth, weeping, tells the mournful tale,
How pamper’d Luxury, Flatt’ry by her side,
The parasite empoisoning her ear,
With all the servile wretches in the rear,
Looks o’er proud Property, extended wide;
And eyes the simple, rustic hind,
Whose toil upholds the glitt’ring show-
A creature of another kind,
Some coarser substance, unrefin’d –
Plac’d for her lordly use thus far, thus vile, below!
From Castle Gordon
Spicy forests, ever gray,
Shading from the burning ray
Hapless wretches sold to toil;
Or the ruthless native’s way,
Bent on slaughter, blood, and spoil:
Woods that ever verdant wave,
I leave the tyrant and the slave;
Give me the groves that lofty brave
The storms by Castle Gordon.
From On Scaring Some Water-Fowl In Loch-Turit
Conscious, blushing for our race,
Soon, too soon, your fears I trace,
Man, your proud, usurping foe,
Would be lord of all below:
Plumes himself in freedom’s pride,
Tyrant stern to all beside.
The eagle, from the cliffy brow,
Marking you his prey below,
In his breast no pity dwells,
Strong necessity compels:
But Man, to whom alone is giv’n
A ray direct from pitying Heav’n,
Glories in his heart humane-
And creatures for his pleasure slain!
In these savage, liquid plains,
Only known to wand’ring swains,
Where the mossy riv’let strays,
Far from human haunts and ways;
All on Nature you depend,
And life’s poor season peaceful spend.
Or, if man’s superior might
Dare invade your native right,
On the lofty ether borne,
Man with all his pow’rs you scorn;
Swiftly seek, on clanging wings,
Other lakes and other springs;
And the foe you cannot brave,
Scorn at least to be his slave.
From The Cherubs
On wings outspeeding mail or post,
Our sprites o’ertook the Imperial host;
In massacres it wallowed:
A noble nation met its hordes,
And broken fell their cause and swords,
Unfortunate, though hallowed.
They saw a late bombarded town,
It streets still warm with blood ran down;
Still smoked each burning rafter;
And hideously, ‘midst rape and sack,
The murderer’s laughter answered back
His prey’s convulsive laughter.
They saw the captive eye the dead,
With envy of his gory bed, –
Death’s quick reward of bravery:
They heard the clank of chains, and then
Saw thirty thousand bleeding men
Dragged manacled to slavery.
“Fie! fie!” the younger heavenly spark
Exclaimed – “we must have missed our mark,
And entered hell’s own portals:
Earth can’t be stained by crimes so black;
Nay, sure, we’ve got among a pack
Of fiends and not of mortals.”
“No,” said the elder; no such thing:
Fiends are not full enough to wring
The necks of one another: –
They know their interests too well:
Men fight; but every devil in hell
Lives friendly with his brother.”
From Lines Written In a Blank Leaf of La Perouse’s Voyages
His truth so touched romantic springs of thought,
That all my after-life his fate and fame
Entwined romance with La Perouse’s name. –
Fair were his ships, expert his gallant crews,
And glorious was the emprise of La Perouse, –
Humanely glorious! Men will weep for him,
When many a guilty martial fame is dim:
He ploughed the deep to bind no captive’s chain –
Pursued no repine – strewed no wreck with slain…
“Man even strives with Man, but we eschew
The guilty feud, and all fierce strifes abhor;
Nay, we are gentle as the sweet heaven’s dew
Beside the red and horrid drops of war,
Weeping the cruel hates men battle for,
Which worldly bosoms nourish in our spite:
For in the gentle breast we ne’er withdraw,
But only when all love hath taken flight,
And youth’s warm gracious heart is harden’d quite.”
“O fret away the fabric walls of Fame,
And grind down marble Caears with the dust:
Make tombs inscriptionless – raze each high name,
And waste old armors of renown with rust:
Do all of this, and thy revenge is just:
Make such decays the trophies of thy prime,
And check Ambition’s overweening lust,
That dares exterminating war with Time, –
But we are guiltless of that lofty crime.”
Whereas the blade flash’d on the dinted ground,
Down through his steadfast foe, yet made no scar
On that immortal Shade, or death-like wound;
But Time was long benumb’d, and stood a-jar,
And then with baffled rage took flight afar,
To weep his hurt in some Cimmerian gloom,
Or meaner fames (like mine) to mock and mar,
Or sharp his scythe for royal strokes of doom,
Whetting its edge on some old Caesar’s tomb.
From Windsor Forest
‘Hail, sacred Peace! hail, long-expected days,
That Thames’s glory to the stars shall raise!
Tho’ Tiber’s streams immortal Rome behold,
Tho’ foaming Hermus swells with tides of gold,
From Heav’n itself tho’ sev’nfold Nilus flows,
And harvests on a hundred realms bestows;
These now no more shall be the Muse’s themes,
Lost in my fame, as in the sea their streams.
Let Volga’s banks with iron squadrons shine,
And groves of lances glitter on the Rhine;
Let barb’rous Ganges arm a servile train,
Be mine the blessings of a peaceful reign.
No more my sons shall dye with British blood
Red Iber’s sands, or Ister’s foaming flood:
Safe on my shore each unmolested swain
Shall tend the flocks, or reap the bearded grain;
The shady empire shall retain no trace
Of war or blood, but in the sylvan chase;
The trumpet sleep, while cheerful horns are blown,
And arms employ’d on birds and beasts alone.
Behold! th’ ascending villas on my side
Project long shadows o’er the crystal tide;
Behold! Augusta’s glitt’ring spires increase,
And temples rise, the beauteous works of Peace.’
‘O stretch thy reign, fair Peace! from shore to shore,
Till conquest cease, and slavery be no more;
Till the freed Indians in their native groves
Reap their own fruits, and woo their sable loves;
Peru once more a race of kings behold,
And other Mexicos be roof’d with gold.
Exiled by thee from earth to deepest Hell,
In brazen bonds shall barb’rous Discord dwell:
Gigantic Pride, pale Terror, gloomy Care,
And mad Ambition shall attend her there:
There purple Vengeance, bathed in gore, retires,
Her weapons blunted, and extinct her fires:
There hated Envy her own snakes shall feel,
And Persecution mourn her broken wheel:
There Faction roar, Rebellion bite her chain,
And gasping Furies thirst for blood in vain.’
‘My humble Muse, in unambitious strains,
Paints the green forests and the flowery plains,
Where Peace descending bids her olives spring,
And scatters blessings from her dovelike wing.’
From Lines on Leaving a Scene in Bavaria
The world and falsehood left behind,
Thy votary shall bear elate,
(Triumphant o’er opposing Fate,)
His dark inspired mind.
But dost thou, Folly, mock the Muse
A wanderer’s mountain walk to sing,
Who shuns a warring world, nor woos
The vulture cover of its wing?
Then fly, thou cowering, shivering thing,
Back to the fostering world beguiled,
To waste in self-consuming strife
The loveless brotherhood of life,
Reviling and reviled!
Away, thou lover of the race
That hither chased yon weeping deer!
If Nature’s all majestic face
More pitiless than man’s appear;
Or if the wild winds seem more drear
Than man’s cold charities below,
Behold around his peopled plains,
Where’er the social savage reigns,
Exuberance of wo!
His art and honors wouldst thou seek
Emboss’d on grandeur’s giant walls?
Or hear his moral thunders speak
Where senates light their airy halls,
Where man his brother man enthralls;
Or sends his whirlwind warrants forth
To rouse the slumbering fiends of war,
To dye the blood-warm waves afar,
And desolate the earth?
From clime to clime pursue the scene.
And mark in all thy spacious way,
Where’er the tyrant man has been,
There Peace, the cherub, cannot stay;
In wilds and woodlands far away
She builds her solitary bower.
Where only anchorites have trod.
Or friendless men, to worship God,
Have wander’d for an hour.
In such a far forsaken vale, —
And such, sweet Eldurn vale, is thine, —
Afflicted nature shall inhale
Heaven-borrow’d thoughts and joys divine;
No longer wish, no more repine
For man’s neglect or woman’s scorn ;
Then wed thee to an exile’s lot.
For if the world hath loved thee not,
Its absence may be borne.
From Lines on Revisiting a Scottish River
One heart free tasting Nature’s breath and bloom
Is worth a thousand slaves to Mammon’s gains.
But whither goes that wealth, and gladdening whom?
See, left but life enough and breathing-room
The hunger and the hope of life to feel,
Yon pale Mechanic bending o’er his loom,
And Childhood’s self as at Ixion’s wheel,
From morn till midnight task’d to earn its little meal.
Is this Improvement? – where the human breed
Degenerates as they swarm and overflow,
Till Toil grows cheaper than the trodden weed,
And man competes with man, like foe with foe,
Till Death, that thins them, scarce seems public wo?
Improvement ! — smiles it in the poor man’s eyes,
Or blooms it on the cheek of Labor ? – No –
To gorge a few with Trade’s precarious prize.
We banish rural life, and breathe unwholesome skies.
Nor call that evil slight; God has not given
This passion to the heart of man in vain.
For Earth’s green face, th’ untainted air of Heaven,
And all the bliss of Nature’s rustic reign.
For not alone our frame imbibes a stain
From foetid skies; the spirit’s healthy pride
Fades in their gloom — And therefore I complain.
That thou no more through pastoral scenes shouldst glide.
My Wallace’s own stream, and once romantic Clyde!
From The Vanity of Human Wishes
The Tenth Satire of Juvenal, imitated
But, scarce observed, the knowing and the bold
Fall in the general massacre of gold;
Wide-wasting pest! that rages unconfined,
And crowds with crimes the records of mankind
For gold his sword the hireling ruffian draws,
For gold the hireling judge distorts the laws;
Wealth heap’d on wealth, nor truth, nor safety buys,
The dangers gather as the treasures rise.
Let history tell, where rival kings command,
And dubious title shakes the madded land,
When statutes glean the refuse of the sword,
How much more safe the vassal than the lord:
Low skulks the hind beneath the reach of power,
And leaves the wealthy traitor in the Tower;
Untouch’d his cottage, and his slumbers sound,
Though Confiscation’s vultures hover round.
The needy traveller, serene and gay,
Walks the wild heath, and sings his toil away.
Does envy seize thee? Crush the upbraiding joy,
Increase his riches, and his peace destroy –
Now fears in dire vicissitude invade,
The rustling brake alarms, and quivering shade;
Nor light nor darkness brings his pain relief,
One shows the plunder, and one hides the thief.
Yet still one general cry the sky assails,
And gain and grandeur load the tainted gales;
Few know the toiling statesman’s fear or care,
The insidious rival, and the gaping heir.
The festal blazes, the triumphal show,
The ravish’d standard, and the captive foe,
The senate’s thanks, the Gazette’s pompous tale,
With force resistless o’er the brave prevail.
Such bribes the rapid Greek o’er Asia whirl’d;
For such the steady Romans shook the world;
For such in distant lands the Britons shine,
And stain with blood the Danube or the Rhine;
This power has praise, that virtue scarce can warm,
Till Fame supplies the universal charm.
Yet Reason frowns on War’s unequal game,
Where wasted nations raise a single name,
And mortgaged ‘states their grandsires’ wreaths regret,
From age to age in everlasting debt;
Wreaths which at last the dear-bought right convey
To rust on medals, or on stones decay.
On what foundation stands the warrior’s pride,
How just his hopes, let Swedish Charles decide;
A frame of adamant, a soul of fire,
No dangers fright him, and no labours tire;
O’er love, o’er fear, extends his wide domain,
Unconquer’d lord of pleasure and of pain;
No joys to him pacific sceptres yield,
War sounds the trump, he rushes to the field;
Behold surrounding kings their powers combine,
And one capitulate, and one resign;
Peace courts his hand, but spreads her charms in vain:
‘Think nothing gain’d,’ he cries, ’till nought remain,
On Moscow’s walls till Gothic standards fly,
And all be mine beneath the polar sky.’
The march begins in military state,
And nations on his eye suspended wait;
Stern Famine guards the solitary coast,
And Winter barricades the realms of Frost;
He comes, nor want nor cold his course delay;
Hide, blushing Glory! hide Pultowa’s day:
The vanquish’d hero leaves his broken bands,
And shows his miseries in distant lands;
Condemn’d a needy supplicant to wait,
While ladies interpose, and slaves debate.
But did not Chance at length her error mend?
Did no subverted empire mark his end?
Did rival monarchs give the fatal wound,
Or hostile millions press him to the ground?
His fall was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
He left the name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.
All times their scenes of pompous woe afford,
From Persia’s tyrant to Bavaria’s lord.
In gay hostility, and barbarous pride,
With half mankind embattled at his side,
Great Xerxes comes to seize the certain prey,
And starves exhausted regions in his way;
Attendant Flattery counts his myriads o’er,
Till counted myriads soothe his pride no more;
Fresh praise is tried, till madness fires his mind,
The waves he lashes, and enchains the wind;
New powers are claim’d, new powers are still bestow’d,
Till rude resistance lops the spreading god;
The daring Greeks deride the martial show,
And heap their valleys with the gaudy foe;
The insulted sea with humbler thoughts he gains,
A single skiff to speed his flight remains;
The encumber’d oar scarce leaves the dreaded coast
Through purple billows and a floating host.
The bold Bavarian, in a luckless hour,
Tries the dread summits of Casarean power,
With unexpected legions bursts away,
And sees defenceless realms receive his sway:
Short sway! fair Austria spreads her mournful charms,
The Queen, the Beauty, sets the world in arms;
From hill to hill the beacon’s rousing blaze
Spreads wide the hope of plunder and of praise;
The fierce Croatian, and the wild Hussar,
With all the sons of ravage, crowd the war;
The baffled prince, in Honour’s flattering bloom,
Of hasty greatness finds the fatal doom,
His foes’ derision, and his subjects’ blame,
And steals to death from anguish and from shame.
From To the Rainbow
As fresh in you horizon dark,
As young thy beauties seem,
As when the eagle from the ark
First sported in thy beam.
For, faithful to its sacred page.
Heaven still rebuilds thy span.
Nor lets the type grow pale with age
That first spoke peace to man.
From The Last Man
Go, let oblivion’s curtain fall
Upon the stage of men,
Nor with the rising beams recall
Life’s tragedy again.
Its piteous pageants bring not back.
Nor waken flesh, upon the rack
Of pain anew to writhe;
Stretch’d in disease’s shapes abhorr’d
Or mown in battle by the sword,
Like grass beneath the scythe.
From Gertrude of Wyoming
Dismal to her the forge of battle gleams
Portentous light! and music’s voice is dumb;
Save where the fife its shrill reveille screams,
Or midnight streets re-echo to the drum.
That speaks of maddening strife, and blood-stain’d fields
From Upon the Feast of St Simon and St Jude
Of Fields with dead bestrew’d around,
And Cities smoaking on the ground
Let vulgar Poets sing,
Let them prolong their turgid lays
With some victorious Heroe’s praise
Or weep some falling King.
While I to nobler themes aspire,
To nobler subjects tune my lyre…
From An Ode
When Pride, by guilt, to greatness climbs,
Or raging factions rush to war,
Here let me learn to shun the crimes
I can’t prevent, and will not share.
From The Seasons
Let such as deem it glory to destroy
Rush into blood, the sack of cities seek;
Unpierced, exulting in the widow’s wail,
The virgin’s shriek, and infant’s trembling cry.
Let some, far distant from their native soil,
Urged or by want or harden’d avarice,
Find other lands beneath another sun.
Let this through cities work his eager way,
By legal outrage and establish’d guile,
The social sense extinct; and that ferment
Mad into tumult the seditious herd,
Or melt them down to slavery. Let these
Insnare the wretched in the toils of law,
Fomenting discord, and perplexing right,
An iron race! and those of fairer front.
But equal inhumanity, in courts,
Delusive pomp and dark cabals, delight;
Wreathe the deep bow, diffuse the lying smile.
And tread the weary labyrinth of state.
While he, from all the stormy passions free
That restless men involve, hears, and but hears,
At distance safe, the human tempest roar,
Wrapp’d close in conscious peace. The fall of kings,
The rage of nations, and the crush of states
Move not the man, who, from the world escaped,
In still retreats and flowery solitudes.
Not such the sons of Lapland: wisely they
Despise the insensate barbarous trade of war;
They ask no more than simple Nature gives.
They love their mountains, and enjoy their storms.
No false desires, no pride-created wants.
Disturb the peaceful current of their time.
These are not subjects for the peaceful Muse,
Nor will she stain with such her spotless song ;
Then most delighted, when she social sees
The whole mix’d animal-creation round
Alive and happy. ‘Tis not joy to her,
The falsely cheerful barbarous game of death.
This rage of pleasure, which the restless youth
Awakes, impatient, with the gleaming morn:
When beasts of prey retire, that all night long,
Urged by necessity, had ranged the dark,
As if their conscious ravage shunn’d the light,
Ashamed. Not so the steady tyrant Man,
Who with the thoughtless insolence of power
Inflamed, beyond the most infuriate wrath
Of the worst monster that e’er roam’d the waste,
For sport alone pursues the cruel chase.
Amid the beamings of the gentle days.
O Man! tyrannic lord! how long, how long
Shall prostrate Nature groan beneath your rage,
Awaiting renovation? when obliged.
Must you destroy?
From the Olney Hymns
“There, like streams that feed the garden,
Pleasures without end shall flow;
For the Lord, your faith rewarding,
All his bounty shall bestow;
Still in undisturb’d possession
Peace and righteousness shall reign;
Never shall you feel oppression,
Hear the voice of war again.”
He speaks – obedient to his call,
Our warm affections move:
Did he but shine alike on all,
Then all alike would love.
Then love to every heart would reign,
And war should cease to roar;
And cruel and bloodthirsty men
Would thirst for blood no more.
From Pleasures of Hope
Primeval Hope, the Aonian Muses say.
When Man and Nature mourn’d their first decay;
When every form of death, and every woe,
Shot from malignant stars to earth below;
When Murder bared her arm, and rampant War
Yoked the red dragons of her iron car;
When Peace and Mercy, banish’d from the plain,
Sprung on the viewless winds to Heaven again;
All, all forsook the friendless, guilty mind,
But Hope, the charmer, linger’d still behind.
Where barbarous hordes on Scythian mountains roam,
Truth, Mercy, Freedom, yet shall find a home;
Where’er degraded Nature bleeds and pines,
From Guinea’s coast to Sibir’s dreary mines.
Truth shall pervade th’ unfathom’d darkness there.
And light the dreadful features of despair –
Hark! the stern captive spurns his heavy load,
And asks the image back that Heaven bestow’d!
Fierce in his eye the fire of valor burns.
And, as the slave departs, the man returns.
Man! can thy doom no brighter soul allow?
Still must thou live a blot on Nature’s brow?
Shall War’s polluted banner ne’er be furl’d?
Shall crimes and tyrants cease but with the world?
What! are thy triumphs, sacred Truth, belied?
From The Seasons
The mineral kinds confess thy mighty power.
Effulgent, hence the veiny marble shines;
Hence Labour draws his tools ; hence burnish’d War
Gleams on the day; the nobler works of Peace
Hence bless mankind, and generous Commerce binds
The round of nations in a golden chain.
[T]he softening arts of Peace,
Whate’er the humanizing Muses teach;
The godlike wisdom of the temper’d breast;
Progressive truth, the patient force of thought;
Investigation calm, whose silent powers
Command the world; the light that leads to Heaven;
Kind equal rule, the government of laws,
And all-protecting Freedom, which alone
Sustains the name and dignity of man…
And blind amazement prone, the enlighten’d few,
Whose godlike minds Philosophy exalts…
Nothing, save rapine, indolence, and guile,
And woes on woes, a still-revolving train!
Whose horrid circle had made human life
Than non-existence worse: but, taught by thee,
Ours are the plans of policy and peace;
To live like brothers, and conjunctive all
Embellish life. While thus laborious crowds
Ply the tough oar, Philosophy directs
The ruling helm; or like the liberal breath
Of potent Heaven, invisible, the sail
Swells out, and bears the inferior world along.
From The Task
Sure there is need of social intercourse,
Benevolence and peace and mutual aid,
Between the nations, in a world that seems
To toll the death-bell to its own decease;
And by the voice of all its elements
To preach the general doom.
‘Tis universal soldiership has stabb’d
The heart of merit in the meaner class.
Arms through the vanity and brainless rage
Of those that bear them in whatever cause,
Seem most at variance with all moral good,
And incompatible with serious thought.
The clown, the child of nature, without guile,
Blest with an infant’s ignorance of all
But his own ſimple pleaſures, now and then
A wrestling match, a foot-race, or a fair,
Is ballotted, and trembles at the news.
Sheepish he doffs his hat, and mumbling swears
A Bible-oath to be whate’er they please,
To do he knows not what. The task perform’d,
That instant he becomes the sergeant’s care,
His pupil, and his torment, and his jest.
His awkward gait, his introverted toes,
Bent knees, round shoulders, and dejected looks,
Procure him many a curse. By slow degrees,
Unapt to learn and formed of stubborn stuff,
He yet by slow degrees puts off himself,
Grows conscious of a change, and likes it well.
He stands erect, his slouch becomes a walk,
He steps right onward, martial in his air
His form and movement; is as smart above
As meal and larded locks can make him; wears
His hat or his plumed helmet with a grace,
And his three years of heroship expired,
Returns indignant to the slighted plough.
He hates the field in which no fife or drum
Attends him, drives his cattle to a march,
And sighs for the smart comrades he has left.
‘Twere well if his exterior change were all –
But with his clumsy port the wretch has lost
His ignorance and harmless manners too.
To swear, to game, to drink, to show at home
By lewdness, idleness, and sabbath-breach,
The great proficiency he made abroad,
T’ astonish and to grieve his gazing friends,
To break some maiden’s and his mother’s heart,
To be a pest where he was useful once,
Are his sole aim, and all his glory now.
Incorporated, seem at once to Iose
Their nature, and disclaiming all regard
For mercy and the common rights of man,
Build factories with blood, conducting trade
At the sword’s point, and dying the white robe
Of innocent commercial justice red.
Hence too the field of glory, as the world
Misdeems it, dazzled by its bright array,
With all the majesty of its thund’ring pomp,
Enchanting music and immortal wreaths,
Is but a school where thoughtlessness is taught…
Is Troy more noble ’cause to ashes turned,
Than virgin cities that yet never burned?
Is fire, when it consumes
Temples, more fire, than when it melts perfumes?
Thus I enjoy my self, and taste the fruit
Of this blest Peace; whilst, toiled in the pursuit
Of bucks and stags, emblems of War, you strive
To keep the memory of our arms alive.
If Virtue must inherit, she’s my slave;
I lead her captive in a golden chain
About the world; she takes her form and being
From my creation; and those barren seeds
That drop from Heaven, if I not cherish them
With my distilling dews and fotive heat,
They know no vegetation; but, exposed
To blasting winds of freezing Poverty.
Or not shoot forth at all, or budding wither.
Should I proclaim the daily sacrifice
Brought to my Temples by the toiling rout,
Not of the fat and gore of abject Beasts
But human sweat and blood pour’d on my Altars
I might provoke the envy of the gods.
Turn but your eyes, and mark the busy world,
Climbing steep Mountains for the sparkling stone.
Piercing the Centre for the shining Ore,
And th’ Ocean’s bosom to rake pearly sands :
Crossing the torrid and the frozen Zones,
‘Midst rocks and swallowing Gulfs, for gainful trade :
And through opposing swords, fire, murd’ring cannon,
Scaling the walled Town for precious spoils.
Witness Mount Ida, where the Martial Maid
And frowning Juno did to mortal eyes
Naked for gold their sacred bodies show!
Therefore for ever be from heaven banished:
But since with toil from undiscover’d Worlds
Thou art brought hither, where thou first did’st breathe
The thirst of Empire into Regal breasts,
And frightedst quiet Peace from her meek Throne,
Filling the World with tumult, blood, and war…
The revolutions of Empires, States,
Sceptres and Crowns, are but my game and sport,
Which as they hang on the events of War,
So these depend upon my turning wheel.
You warlike Squadrons, who, in battle join’d,
Dispute the Right of Kings, which I decide.
Present the model of that martial frame,
By which, when Crowns are staked, I rule the game!
[H]ave to that secure fix’d state advanced
Both you and them, to which the labouring world –
Wading through streams of blood – sweats to aspire.
William Cowper: Selections on peace and war