Sunday, November 16, 2014

War / John Le Gay Brereton



The beast exultant spreads the nostril wide,
     Snuffing a sickly hate-enkindling scent;
     Proud of his rage, on sudden carnage bent,
He leaps, and flings the helpless guard aside.
Again, again the hills are gapped and dyed,
     Again the hearts of waiting women spent.
     Is there no cooler pathway to content?
Can we not heal the insanity of pride?

Silence the crackle and thunder of battling guns,
     And drive your men to strategy of peace;
          Crush ere its birth the hell-begotten crime;
Still there’s a war that no true warrior shuns,
     That knows no mercy, looks for no surcease,
          But ghastlier battles, victories more sublime.


Envy has slid in silence to its hole,
     And Peace is basking where the workers meet,
     And fire has purged the fever of the street
Where raucous tradesmen grinned and gave and stole.
Yet louder now the tides of battle roll,
     With cheer or sob of charge or stern retreat,
     And sullen thud and rumble of cannon beat
About the heights and passes of the soul.

Not only that amid the hush we hear
     The sounds that once were blurred by market cries,
          Or classes wrangling in affairs of state:
But forces now set free from sordid fear
     No longer work as Mammon’s murdering spies,
          But storm the very citadels of hate.

John Le Gay Brereton (1871-1933)
from The Burning Marl, 1919

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

John Le Gay Brereton biography

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