How Long?

How long, O Prince of Peace, how long? We sicken of the shame
Of this wild war that wraps the world, a roaring dragon-flame
Fed on earth's glorious youth, high hearts all passionate to cope
—O Chivalry of Hope!—
With the cloudy host of the infidel and the Holy Earth reclaim.
For each dear land is Holy Land to her own fervent sons
Who fling in loyal sacrifice their lives before the guns,
But when they meet their foes above the battlesmoke, they laugh,
And all together quaff
The cup of welcome Honor pouts for her slain champions.
Oh, if a thousandth part of all this treasure, purpose, skill,
Were poured into the crucible transforming wrong and ill,
By the white magic of a wise and generous brotherhood,
To righteousness and good,
The world would be divine again, with eery war-cry still.
Poor world so worn with wickedness, bedimmed with rage and fear,
Sad world that sprang forth singing from God's hand, a golden sphere,
O yet may Love's creative breath renew thee, fashioned twice
A shining Paradise,
Unsullied in the astral choir, with Joy for charioteer.
How long shall bomb and bullet think for human brains? How long
Shall folk of the burned villages in starving, staggering throng
Flee from the armies that, in turn, are mangled, maddened, slain,
Till earth is all one stain
Of horror, and the soaring larks are slaughtered in their song?
Oh, may this war, this blasphemy that blots the globe with blood,
Slay war forever, cleanse the earth in its own mighty flood
Of tears, tears unassuageable, that will not cease to fall
Till Time has covered all
Our guilty century with sleep, and the new eras bud!
How long? The angels of the stars entreat the clouded Throne
In anguish for their brother Earth, who stands, like Cain, alone,
And hides the mark upon his brow, the while their harps implore
The Silence to restore
Peace to this wayward Son of God, whose music is a moan.
Come swiftly, Peace! Oh, swiftly come, with healing in thy feet;
Bring back to tortured battlefields the waving of the wheat;
Bring back to broken hearths, whereby the wistful ghosts will walk,
Blithe hum of household talk,
Till childhood dare to sport again and maiden hood be sweet,
Though thou must come by crimson road, with grief and mercy come,
Not with the insolence of strength, the boast of fife and drum;
Come with adventure in thine eyes for the splendid tasks that wait,
To weld these desolate
Crushed lands into the fellowship of thy millennium.
O Peace, to rear thy temple that no strife may overawe!
O Purity, to fashion thee a palace without flaw! Galilee,
To build the state on thee,
And shape the deeds of nations by thy yet untested law!

by Katharine Lee Bates

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