An Elegy on War
The Protestant Dissenter's Magazine, III (1796), pp. 32-33
From the drear mansions of the stygian shade
Where glide the ghosts and images of woe;
Come horror, and afford thy solemn aid,
And give the strain in tearful plaints to flow.
If down thy cheeks the sympathetic dew
E'er copious flow'd, when misery sought relief;
Unloose the fountains; let them stream anew;
And swell the ocean with a tide of grief.
Hark! the loud clangor of the trumpets breath,
Rides the sad gale, and wakes the bloody plan:
'Tis the dire prelude to the work of death,
Big with th' eternal destiny of man.
See the mad squadrons rush to horrid fight;
And lavish vengeance fling o'er all the plain:
Humanity flies far in wild affright
On some lone surge-beat rock to mourn the slain.
Ghastly and pale the wounded heroes bleed;
Each sod redundant drinks the purple flood:
And every moment wing'd with rapid speed
Bears a free'd spirit to its last abode.
Amazing change!—This moment gaily clad
In all the gorgeous panoply of war;
The next a spectre, dreary, wan, and sad,
Arraign'd before Jehovah's awful bar!
Deep fraught with tidings flies the sullen gale;
The wife a husband mourns; the child a sire;
The tear of friendship gushes at the tale
And the sick heart desponds in anguish dire.
O fell ambition! foe to human kind!
Thine the desire the passions to inflame;
To kindle martial rage o'er all the mind,
And gild destruction with the glare of fame.
Was it for this, O man, thy Maker God
Illum'd with heavenly light the mental mine?
Love, reason, conscience, graciously bestow'd
And gave to aid them documents divine?
Ah no!—For nobler ends these powers were giv'n,
Else had his plaudit ne'er pronounc'd them good:
Cease then rebellion 'gainst the laws of heav'n,
And thirst no more to spill a brother's blood.
Quick sheathe the sword, and for a moment pause:
The cries of widows, and of orphans hear;
Let sympathy awake and plead the cause,
And check the passions in their mad career.
The gifts of heav'n are free; to none deny'd;
But pour'd profuse as are the beams of day;
Be they enjoy'd; and know no other pride
Than highest to exalt the grateful lay.
Let the destructive arts be known no more,
In dire oblivious dark abyss conceal'd:
Turn swords and spears deep ting'd with human gore,
To prune the Vine, and plough the fruitful field.
Then sportive loves, an ever jocund train,
Shall chant in every grove the gladsome song;
PEACE bless the nations with her genial reign,
And friendship's balm diffuse from every tongue.
So when the angry north forbears to blow,
And zephyrs bland announce th' approach of spring,
The ice dissolves; the limpid fountains flow;
The swains rejoice; and feather'd warblers sing.
The days of man are few.—As flies the shade
When the light cloud flits o'er the face of day,
So flies he hence: diseases fierce invade,
Impair his strength, and hasten him away.
Why then fly o'er the distant climes of earth,
With fire and sword to trouble his repose?
Despoil creation; damp the voice of mirth;
And add unfeeling to the list of woes.
O may the sun, in his ethereal tour,
No more see man beneath his fellow bleed,
Or seeing, veil his glory; and spread o'er
A cloud of darkness horrid as the deed.
O come Benevolence, with ray benign;
Spread o'er the nations thy magnetic sway;
Teach the proud heart to bow at nature's shrine,
And to the God of nature homage pay.
Bent low; submissive to his high behest,
Be every pow'r in earth and heav'n above;
And let his sacred laws, by all confess'd,
Unite the world in happiness and love.