Sydney Thompson Dobell

(1824-1874 / England)

To 1862 - Poem by Sydney Thompson Dobell

(In Prospect Of War With America)

I

Oh worst of years, by what signs shall we know
So dire an advent? Let thy New-Year's-day
Be night. At the east gate let the sun lay
His crown: as thro' a temple hung with woe
Unkinged by mortal sorrow let him go
Down the black noon, whose wan astrology
Peoples the skyey windows with dismay,
To that dark charnel in the west where lo!
The mobled Moon! For so, at the dread van
Of wars like ours, the great humanity
In things not human should be wrought and wrung
Into our sight, and creatures without tongue
By the dumb passion of a visible cry
Confess the coming agony of Man.

II

Even now, this spring in winter, like some young
Fair Babe of Empire, ere his birth-bells ring,
Shewn to the people by a hoary King,
Stirs me with omens. What fine shock hath sprung
The fairy mines of buried life among
The clods? Above spring flow'rs a bird of spring
Makes February of the winds that sing
Yule-chants: while March, thro' Christmas brows, rimehung,
Looks violets: and on yon grave-like knoll
A girlish season sheds her April soul.
Ah is this day that strains the exquisite
Strung sense to finer fibres of delight
An aimless sport of Time? Or do its show'rs,
Smiles, birds and blooms betray the heart of conscious Pow'rs?

III

Methinks the innumerable eyes of ours
That must untimely close in endless night
Take in one sum their natural due of light:
Feather'd like summer birds their unlived hours
Sing to them: at their prison pitying flow'rs
Push thro' the bars a Future red and white,
Purple and gold: for them, for them, yon bright
Star, as an eye, exstils and fills, and pours
Its tear, and fills and weeps, to fill and weep:
For them that Moon from her wild couch on high
Now stretches arms that wooed Endymion,
Now swooning back against the sky stares down
Like some white mask of ancient tragedy
With orbless lids that neither wake nor sleep.

IV

Hark! a far gun, like all war's guns in one,
Booms. At that sign, from the new monument
Of him who held the plough whereto he bent
His royal sword, and meekly laboured on,
Till when the verdict of mankind had gone
Against our peace, he, waiving our consent,
Carried the appeal to higher courts, and went
Himself to plead-She whom he loved and won,
The Queen of Earth and Sea,-her unrisen head
Bowed in a sorrowy cloud-takes her slow way
To her great throne, and, lifting up her day
Upon her land, and to that flag unfurl'd
Where wave the honour and the chastity
Of all our men and maidens living and dead,
Points westward, and thus breaks the silence of the world:-

V

'Since it is War, my England, and nor I
On you nor you on me have drawn down one
Drop of this bloody guilt, God's Will be done,
Here upon earth in woe, in bliss on high!
Peace is but mortal and to live must die,
And, like that other creature of the sun,
Must die in fire. Therefore, my English, on!
And burn it young again with victory!
For me, in all your joys I have been first
And in this woe my place I still shall keep,
I am the earliest widow that must weep,
My children the first orphans. The divine
Event of all God knows: but come the worst
It cannot leave your homes more dark than mine.'


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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010



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