WAR Poetry/Poem by James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)

EZ fer war, I call it murder,–
There you hev it plain an’ flat;
I don’t want to go no furder
Than my Testyment fer that….
They may talk o’ Freedom’s airy
Tell they’er pupple in the face,–
It’s a grand gret cemetary
Fer the barthrights of our race;
They jest want this Californy
So’s to lug new slave-states in
To abuse ye, an’ scorn ye,
An’ to plunder ye like sin.

TO A DEAD SOLDIER Poetry/Poem by Kendall Harrison

THOUGH all the primrose paths of morning called
Your feet to follow them, and all the winds
Of all the hills of earth, with plucking hands
Wooed you to slopes that shone like emerald,
You might not go. The thin green grass that binds
Your feet had Earth and Death to forge its bands.

The rain’s wet kiss is on your lips, where lay
Once the live pulses of a woman’s soul;
Your eyes give back unto the quiet sky
Only the sheen of stars, the glare of day,
Or darkness when the kindly shadows roll
Up from the sea to hide you where you lie.

No woman’s whisper holds your strong heart spent
And breathless. All the silver horns that blew
While legions cheered, are still. These things are done,
But these you have: a death for monument,
And peace you died to buy, and after you
The laughing play of children in the sun.

THE KAISER AND GOD Poetry/Poem by Barry Pain (1867-1928)

[“I rejoice with you in Wilhelm’s first victory. How magnificently God supported him!”—Telegram from the Kaiser to the Crown Princess.]

LED by Wilhelm, as you tell,
God has done extremely well;
You with patronizing nod
Show that you approve of God.
Kaiser, face a question new–
This–does God approve of you?

Broken pledges, treaties torn,
Your first page of war adorn;
We on fouler things must look
Who read further in that book,
Where you did in time of war
All that you in peace forswore,
Where you, barbarously wise,
Bade your soldiers terrorize,

Where you made–the deed was fine–
Women screen your firing line.
Villages burned down to dust,
Torture, murder, bestial lust,
Filth too foul for printer’s ink,
Crime from which the apes would shrink–
Strange the offerings that you press
On the God of Righteousness!

Kaiser, when you’d decorate
Sons or friends who serve your State,
Not that Iron Cross bestow,
But a cross of wood, and so–
So remind the world that you
Have made Calvary anew.

Kaiser, when you’d kneel in prayer
Look upon your hands, and there
Let that deep and awful stain
From the blood of children slain
Burn your very soul with shame,
Till you dare not breathe that Name
That now you glibly advertise–
God as one of your allies.

Impious braggart, you forget;
God is not your conscript yet;
You shall learn in dumb amaze
That His ways are not your ways,
That the mire through which you trod
Is not the high white road of God.

To Whom, whichever way the combat rolls,
We, fighting to the end, commend our souls.

FREDERICKSBURG Poetry/Poem by Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1906)

THE increasing moonlight drifts across my bed,
And on the churchyard by the road, I know
It falls as white and noiselessly as snow. . . .
‘T was such a night two weary summers fled;
The stars, as now, were waning overhead.
Listen! Again the shrill-lipped bugles blow
Where the swift currents of the river flow
Past Fredericksburg; far off the heavens are red
With sudden conflagration; on yon height,
Linstock in hand, the gunners hold their breath;
A signal rocket pierces the dense night,
Flings its spent stars upon the town beneath:
Hark!–the artillery massing on the right,
Hark!–the black squadrons wheeling down to Death!

EXHORTATION TO BATTLE Poetry/Poem by Callinus

HOW long will ye slumber? when will ye take heart
And fear the reproach of your neighbors at hand?
Fie! comrades, to think ye have peace for your part,
Whilst the sword and the arrow are wasting our land!
Shame! grasp the shield close! cover well the bold breast!
Aloft raise the spear as ye march on your foe!
With no thought of retreat, with no terror confessed,
Hurl your last dart in dying, or strike your last blow.
Oh, ‘t is noble and glorious to fight for our all,–
For our country, our children, the wife of our love!
Death comes not the sooner; no soldier shall fall,
Ere his thread is spun out by the sisters above.
Once to die is man’s doom; rush, rush to the fight!
He cannot escape, though his blood were Jove’s own.
For a while let him cheat the shrill arrow by flight;
Fate will catch him at last in his chamber alone.
Unlamented he dies; — unregretted. Not so,
When, the tower of his country, in death falls the brave;
Thrice hallowed his name amongst all, high or low,
As with blessings alive, so with tears in the grave.

BATTLE OF FONTENOY Poetry/Poem by Bartholomew Dowling (1823-1863)

BY our camp-fires rose a murmur
At the dawning of the day,
And the tread of many footsteps
Spoke the advent of the fray;
And as we took our places,
Few and stern were our words,
While some were tightening horse-girths,
And some were girding swords.

The trumpet-blast has sounded
Our footmen to array–
The willing steed has bounded,
Impatient for the fray–
The green flag is unfolded,
While rose the cry of joy–
“Heaven speed dear Ireland’s banner
To-day at Fontenoy!”

We looked upon that banner,
And the memory arose
Of our homes and perish’d kindred
Where the Lee or Shannon flows;
We look’d upon that banner,
And we swore to God on high,
To smite to-day the Saxon’s might–
To conquer or to die.

Loud swells the charging trumpet–
‘Tis a voice from our own land–
God of battles! God of vengeance!
Guide to-day the patriot’s brand;
There are stains to wash away,
There are memories to destroy,
In the best blood of the Briton
To-day at Fontenoy.

Plunge deep the fiery rowels
In a thousand reeking flanks–
Down, chivalry of Ireland,
Down on the British ranks!
Now shall their serried columns
Beneath our sabres reel–
Through the ranks, then, with the war-horse–
Through their bosoms with the steel.

With one shout for good King Louis,
And the fair land of the vine,
Like the wrathful Alpine tempest,
We swept upon their line–
Then rang along the battle-field
Triumphant our hurrah,
And we smote them down, still cheering,
“Erin, shanthagal go bragh.”

As prized as is the blessing
From an aged father’s lip–
As welcome as the haven
To the tempest-driven ship–
As dear as to the lover
The smile of gentle maid–
Is this day of long-sought vengeance
To the swords of the Brigade.

See their shatter’d forces flying,
A broken, routed line–
See, England, what brave laurels
For your brow to-day we twine.
Oh, thrice bless’d the hour that witness’d
The Briton turn to flee
From the chivalry of Erin
And France’s “fleur de lis.”

As we lay beside our camp-fires,
When the sun had pass’d away,
And thought upon our brethren
Who had perished in the fray,
We prayed to God to grant us,
And then we’d die with joy,
One day upon our own dear land
Like this of Fontenoy.

FONTENOY is a village of Belgium, and famous as the scene of the battle fought May 11, 1745, between the French under Marshal Saxe and the allied army of English, Dutch, and Austrians, under the Duke of Cumberland. The Campaign was part of what is known as the War of the Austrian Succession, which involved almost all the countries of Europe on one side or the other, and which, although it began over a question as to the succession to the throne of Austria, came to have many other objects. At the time of this battle the French were trying to keep the allied army from marching to relieve the siege of the fortress of Tournai.

The French were posted on a hill behind Fontenoy, and at first appeared to have all the advantage. But soon after the battle began the Duke of Cumberland placed himself at the head of his army, and marched a column of fourteen thousand men with fixed bayonets down the ravine between the two forces and up the opposite slope. Legend has it that the advancing English invited the French to fire first, and that the French refused; but the French were surprised by the brave advance and cheered the enemy. The English then opened a devestating fire, and the first French line broke. The allies charged, and gained the hill. This was the critical moment of the battle. The French king, Louis XV, and the Dauphin, refused to fly, and Marshal Saxe, although ill, mounted his horse and took command of the French cavalry.

The English stood their ground, although the enemy now commenced attacks on three sides. Finally the Irish brigade, allies of the French, charged on the English flank, and after desperate fighting broke the solid English square. The English retreated, but prevented a rout by standing again and again against the terrific onslaughts of the French and Irish. The battle, which at first had appeared likely to be a victory for the allies, ended in a decisive triumph for the French.

The poem is spoken by one of that Irish brigade who had joined the French King Louis and fought England because of the harsh treatment that country had shown Ireland after the battle of the Boyne in 1690.

THE BATTLE OF BLENHEIM Poetry/Poem by Robert Southey (1774-1843)

IT was a summer evening,
Old Kaspar’s work was done,
And he before his cottage door
Was sitting in the sun,
And by him sported on the green
His little grandchild Wilhelmine.

She saw her brother Peterkin
Roll something large and round
Which he beside the rivulet
In playing there had found;
He came to ask what he had found,
That was so large, and smooth, and round.

Old Kaspar took it from the boy,
Who stood expectant by;
And then the old man shook his head,
And with a natural sigh,
“‘Tis some poor fellow’s skull,” said he,
“Who fell in the great victory.

“I find them in the garden,
For there’s many here about;
And often when I go to plough,
The ploughshare turns them out!
For many thousand men,” said he,
“Were slain in that great victory.”

“Now tell us what ’twas all about,”
Young Peterkin, he cries;
And little Wilhelmine looks up
With wonder-waiting eyes;
“Now tell us all about the war,
And what they fought each other for.”

“It was the English,” Kaspar cried,
“Who put the French to rout;
But what they fought each other for
I could not well make out;
But everybody said,” quoth he,
“That ’twas a famous victory.

“My father lived at Blenheim then,
Yon little stream hard by;
They burnt his dwelling to the ground,
And he was forced to fly;
So with his wife and child he fled,
Nor had he where to rest his head.

“With fire and sword the country round
Was wasted far and wide,
And many a childing mother then,
And new-born baby died;
But things like that, you know, must be
At every famous victory.

“They said it was a shocking sight
After the field was won;
For many thousand bodies here
Lay rotting in the sun;
But things like that, you know, must be
After a famous victory.

“Great praise the Duke of Marlbro’ won,
And our good Prince Eugene.”
“Why, ’twas a very wicked thing!”
Said little Wilhelmine.
“Nay … nay … my little girl,” quoth he,
“It was a famous victory.”

“And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win.”
“But what good came of it at last?”
Quoth little Peterkin.
“Why, that I cannot tell,” said he,
“But ’twas a famous victory.”

BANNOCKBURN Poetry/Poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796)

AT Bannockburn the English lay,–
The Scots they were na far away,
But waited for the break o’ day
That glinted in the east.

But soon the sun broke through the heath
And lighted up that field of death,
When Bruce, wi’ saul-inspiring breath,
His heralds thus addressed:–

“Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled–
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led–
Welcome to your gory bed.
Or to victorie!

“Now’s the day, and now’s the hour;
See the front o’ battle lower;
See approach proud Edward’s power–
Chains and slaverie!

“Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward’s grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!

“Wha for Scotland’s king and law
Freedom’s sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand or freeman fa’–
Let him follow me!

“By Oppression’s woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

“Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty’s in every blow!
Let us do or die!”

ARMA VIRUMQUE Poetry/Poem by Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

“OURS is a Christian army”; so he said
A regiment of bangomen who led.
“And ours a Christian navy,” added he
Who sailed a thunder-junk upon the sea.
Better they know than men unwarlike do
What is an army, and a navy too.
Pray God there may be sent them by-and-by
The knowledge what a Christian is, and why.
For somewhat lamely the conception runs
Of a brass-buttoned Jesus firing guns.


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