Alfred Austin

(30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)

To Arms! - Poem by Alfred Austin

World! to arms!
Do you shrink?
What! shrink when the hoofs of the Cossack are crushing
The bosom of mother, the tonsure of priest,
And the youth of a nation, pain-maddened, is rushing
On visible doom, as to tourney or feast?
When the savagest hell-hounds that ever existed
Are hunting the tender and brave of our race,
And the lash of the insolent Tartar is twisted
With mock of defiance, and cracked in your face-
Do you shrink?

World! to arms!
Do you shrink, gallant France, when the blood of a nation,
Ne'er stinted for you, for itself flows in vain?
Aroused by the might of a grand inspiration,
Avenge with your war-clang the souls of the slain.
If you shrink, may you never know ending or respite
To strife internecine and factional hate,
Except when the hand of liberticide despot
Imposes on all one opprobrious fate!
France! to arms!

Do you shrink?
You! politic Austria! now that you only,
If feebly you hesitate, hasten your doom-
Have you yet not discovered that, selfish and lonely,
An Empire but marches blindfold to the tomb?
Let a penitent sword in sublime vindication
Of Freedom its manifold mischiefs undo:
If you shrink, may the multiplied wrongs of each nation
You ever have outraged be hurled back on you!
Do you shrink?

World! to arms!
O my beautiful Italy! nought of misgiving
Doth trouble the summons that touches your pride;
The graves of your slaughtered are fresh, but your living
Are throbbing to conquer, or sleep at their side.
By your maidens equipped, in whose beauty exult you,
Your sons must make ready with pennon and sheen
To go straight. If you shrink-but I will not insult you,
Who, often unfortunate, never were mean.
Then, to arms!

World! to arms!
Do you shrink?
Shrink! England! what! shrink when intoxicate Tartar,
Deriding your wrath, rides in blood to the waist?
When the flesh of the virgin, the bones of the martyr,
The breast of the matron, are bared and defaced?
Do you deem diplomatic frivolities ample
To save you your title of moral and just,
When a horde of ensanguined barbarians trample
Mankind and remonstrance alike in the dust?
England shrink?
No! to arms!

All! to arms!
Will you wait till behind the impassable rampart
Of winter they laugh at your impotent rage,
And your war-nostrils frozen, your ironclads hampered,
Destruction-then ``Order''-shall swoop on the stage?
Yes! the spring will come back, and unbar you the ocean,
But will not the sinews relax of the slain:
Swift! to arms! Set the vengeance-charged tumbrils in motion,
As dread as God's thunder, as blest as His rain!


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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