Thursday, September 1, 2016

WAR, a poem

THE serpent-horror writhing in her hair,
     And crowning cruel brows bent o'er the ground
     That she would crimson now from many a wound,
Medusa-like, I seem to see her there—
War! with her petrifying eyes astare—
     And can no longer listen to the sound
     Of song-birds in the harvest fields around;
Such prophecies do her mute lips declare.
Evils? Can any greater be than they
     That troop licentious in her brutal train?
          Unvindicated honour? She brings shame—
          Shame more appalling than men dare to name,
Betraying them that die and them that slay,
     And making of this earth a hell of pain!
"War" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Athenaeum on 8 August 1914, and subsequently published in Poems (1916) Volume II.

From Elizabeth Clendenning Ring’s “Florence Earle Coates: Some Phases of Her Life and Poetry.” (Book News Monthly. Dec 1917):
“[Mrs. Coates] vividly recalls an early August morning, in 1914, when she watched company after company of soldiers go marching along the quays of Marseilles, from a nearby barracks, to entrain for northern France.  With rhythmic beat, each man marked time with monotonous precision, as he pushed steadily ahead, with set, grave face, and eyes that glowed with strange fires, while the pulsating chords of the Marseillaise came tumbling down the breeze and fairly fell upon him, listening, half-dazed, as he tramped, to its savage, delirious appeal.  But something quivered about the tightly-compressed lips of those marching men, something lurked about the corners of their drawn mouths, that gave one the impression they longed to give utterance to the stark, tormenting things that tore at their heart strings. By iridescent word, by winged phrase, or poignant line, Mrs. Coates strives to voice the dumb questionings that struggled in the souls of those marching thousands in Marseilles, the dark splendor of the Fate upon which the world’s youth is so gaily, so gallantly, so bravely plunging, the shapeless horrors that dart out of the red murk, the shining idealism and the baleful realism of war...”

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