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A poem by Hannah S. Battersby

The Angel On War

Title:     The Angel On War
Author: Hannah S. Battersby [More Titles by Battersby]

An angel spirit winging
Through aerial space her flight,
O'er peaceful, sleep-bound nature
Thus sang one autumn night:
What are those hosts advancing
In legions o'er the plain,
Through orchards heavy laden
And fields of full-eared grain?

Eastward and westward come they
Shining like gems of light,
Beneath soft, silvery moonbeams
Of peaceful, silent night.
Surely assembled nations
Are gathering for a fete
Of tournament, sham fight or joist,
In pride of strength elate.

Or, may be, some grand meeting
On field of cloth of gold,
Attracts those swarming legions
A peaceful tryst to hold;
For see, the steeds caparisoned
In trappings rich and bright,
With noble, high-bred men astride,
In transports of delight!

The flower of German fatherland,
In manhood's strength and pride,
Press on in measured marching,
By grey-haired veterans' side,
And westward press the youth of France,
Whose ardour none can stay,
Thirsting for laurels in the tilts
And contests of the day.

Emperors, with marshals, generals,
And stalwart men, are there;
Flushed with excitement swift they come
The splendid sports to share,
Doubtless each wears the colours
Of some loved lady fair
Whom they predict shall one day
Their heart and fortunes share.

Now sable night droops kindly
Into the arms of morn,
Who comes to herald in the day
And nature's face adorn?
Heaven's soft grey eastern portals
For her wide open fly,
As the grand sun's golden chariot
Wheels proudly through the sky.

Night's gentle Queen and star gems
Withdraw their gracious sway,
As the sun in rose-hued splendour
Kisses to life the day.
Waters like polished silver
Dotting the plain like shields,
Babble their morning greeting
From golden, grain-crowned fields.

Then the glad light of morning
Trips joyful o'er the plain,
As the angel horror stricken
Takes up her strain again,
Alas! those hosts advancing
In hot haste from afar,
But yesternight so joyous,
Now close in bloody war.

And, as ferocious tigers,
On tasting human blood,
Revel in greedy madness
Amid the crimson flood,
So these fierce hostile warriors,
Now stained with human gore,
Grow unrestrained and reckless,
And fiercer than before.

The valley late so peaceful
Steams with the rage of strife,
Fast down the gloated furrows
Flows the red stream of life.
Maddened to rage and fury,
Th' opposing hosts contend,
And murder, ruin, carnage, death,
Through the gorged plains extend.

What can be, cried the angel,
The meaning of such strife,
And how dare man thus rashly
Trifle with human life?
Can all the so-called glory,
That man to man can pay,
Outweigh the dire inheritance
Of this unhallowed fray?

Are hearts thus drunk with life blood,
And hands thus steeped in gore,
Not calculated to become
More brutal than before?
And do not youth and manhood
Deserve a better fate,
Than to be rashly sacrificed
To jealous greed and hate?

Thousands of glittering lances
Cut through the startled air,
As valiant chiefs and mighty men
The blood-red carnage share.
Flashes, like sunlight splendour,
Gleam forth from brazen shields,
And burnished arms dart back the light,
O'er the blood-gorged fields.

List! said the angel, sighing,
From many a ghastly mound
Deep groans of torture mingle
With the battle din around.
What piteous cries of anguish
Are those, who dying moan,
That they may never more behold
Their dearly loved at home!

Some of earth's best and brightest,
'Mid prospects glad and gay,
Others to loved ones plighted
Slaughtered and bleeding lay!
Some, sons of widowed mothers
Who had none else to cheer,
Some, guardians of fond sisters,
Many to wives most dear!

Ah! who can tell the sorrow
Intailed by war's foul breath,
Or gauge the dire inheritance
Of all this murderous death!
The sinew of their country,
The hope of years to come,
Cut down in prime of manhood,
Buried in stranger tomb!

O sages, statesmen, rulers,
Bestir yourselves and teach
The nation's misled millions
A higher goal to reach;
Exchange for greed and murder,
A reign of peace divine;
Thus, elevate earth's children
To brotherhood sublime!

Thus spake the gentle angel
As, gathering each fond prayer,
She wreathed them into garlands,
Of flowerets rich and rare
For Sardanapolis to plant,
Where they shall ever bloom,
In the eternal gardens
Beyond the silent tomb.

[The end]
Hannah S. Battersby's poem: Angel On War