Last Songs from Vagabondia

by Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey


 

PEACE


 

THERE is peace, you say. I believe you.
Peace? Ay, we know it well—
Not the peace of the smile of God, but the peace of the leer of Hell,
Peace, that the rich may fatten and barter their souls for gain,
Peace, that the hungry may slay and rob the corpse of the slain,
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Peace, that the heart of the people may rot with a vile gangrene.
What though the men are bloodless! What’s a man to a machine?

Here you come with your Economics. If ever the Devil designed
A science, 't was yours, I doubt not, a study to Hell’s own mind,
Merciless, soulless, sordid, the science of selfish greed,

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Blind to the light of wisdom, and deaf to the voice of need.
And you prate of the wealth of nations, as if it were bought and sold!
The wealth of nations is men, not silk and cotton and gold.

How will you measure in money the cost of knowledge and Art?
Is honour valued in bank-notes? Can you pay for a broken heart?

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Can you reckon the worth of a poem by a standard of meat and drink?
Can you buy with gold and silver a heart too great to shrink?
Tell me, how many dollars will pay for the life-blood shed
From the veins of the true and valiant who feared not and are dead?

Battle is fearful—I grant it. The fields are burnt bare with its breath,

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Death and the wrongs of women that cry out louder than death,
The grime and the trampled faces and the shrieking of shells in the air,
White lips of victims that pray and there comes no help for their prayer,
And Famine that follows the armies, and Crime that skulks in their rear,—
These are fearful alike to the soldiers that strike and the cravens that fear.
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But there’s yet one woe far worse than war with its griefs and graves—
To sink to a nation of cowards, sycophants, thieves and slaves,
There is one thing for man or nation more within man’s control
And worse than the death of the body, and that is the death of the soul.
But the sins of the city are silent and her ruin is wrought by stealth
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And the sores that fester are cloaked and her rottenness masks as health.

True Peace is a holy thing—the peace God gives to his own,
Heart’s peace, though the body move where the thickest shot is thrown,
Deeps of peace forever unplumbed by a mortal eye—
But the peace of the world is the Devil’s, a mockery and a lie,

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Better city arrayed against city and hamlet with hamlet at strife,
So valour outvalue lucre and honour be more than life.