Old Spookses’ Pass, Malcolm’s Katie and Other Poems

by Isabella Valancy Crawford


 

WAR.


 

Shake, shake the earth with giant tread,
    Thou red-maned Titian bold;
For every step a man lies dead,
    A cottage hearth is cold. [Page 184]
Take up the babes with mailed hands,
5
    Transfix them with thy spears,
Spare not the chaste young virgin-bands,
    Tho’ blood may be their tears.

Beat down the corn, tear up the vine,
    The waters turn to blood;
10
And if the wretch for bread doth whine
    Give him his kin for food.
Aye, strew the dead to saddle girth,
    They make so rich a mould,
Thoul’t thus enrich the wasted earth—
15
    They’ll turn to yellow gold.

On with thy thunders, shot and shell,
    Send screaming, featly hurl’d;
Science has made them in her cell,
    To civilize the world.
20
Not, not alone where Christian men
    Pant in the well-arm’d strife;
But seek the jungle-throttled glen—
    The savage has a life.

He has a soul—so priests will say—
25
    Go! save it with thy sword;
Thro’ his rank forests force thy way,
    Thy war cry, “For the Lord!”
Rip up his mines, and from his strands
    Wash out the gold with blood—
30
Religion raises blessing hands,
    “War’s evil worketh good!” [Page 185]

When striding o’er the conquer’d land,
    Silence thy rolling drum,
And led by white-robed choiring bands
35
    With loud “Te Deum” come.
Seek the grim chancel, on its wall
    Thy blood-stiff banner hang;
They lie who say thy blood is gall,
    Thy tooth the serpent’s fang.
40

See! the white Christ is lifted high,
    Thy conqu’ring sword to bless;
Smiles the pure monarch of the sky—
    Thy king can do no less.
Drink deep with him the festal wine,
45
    Drink with him drop for drop;
If, like the sun, his throne doth shine,
    Thou art that throne’s prop.

If spectres wait upon the bowl,
    Thou needs not be afraid,
50
Grin hell-hounds for thy bold black soul,
    His purple be thy shade.
Go! feast with Commerce, be her spouse;
    She loves thee, thou art hers—
For thee she decks her board and house,
55
    Then how may others curse

If she, mild-seeming matron, leans
    Upon thine iron neck,
And leaves with thee her household scenes
    To follow at thy beck— [Page 186]
60
Bastard in brotherhood of kings,
    Their blood runs in thy veins,
For them the crowns, the sword that swings,
    For thee to hew their chains.

For thee the rending of the prey—
65
    They, jackals to the lion,
Tread after in the gory way
    Trod by the mightier scion.
O slave! that slayest other slaves,
    O’er vassals crowned, a king!
70
War, build high thy throne with graves,
    High as the vulture’s wing! [Page 187]