Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

For centuries past this war-madness
Has laid hold of each combative race,
While our God takes but heed of the flower,
And that sun, moon, and stars keep their place.

The sight of the heavens above us,
The bird's nest and lily-like snow,
Drive not from the brain of us mortals
The war-thirst, with its feverish flow.

We love but the field with its carnage,
And the strife which turns earth into hell;
And eager for glory, the people
Would not change the fierce drum for church-bell.

The vain aspirations of glory,
With banners and cars of bright gold,
Draw tears from the widows and orphans,
As often has happened of old.

Our natures have changed to brute fierceness;
'Forward! -- Die!' bursts from each angry throat,
While our lips seem to mimic the music
Of the echoing war-trumpet's note.

Steel flashes, the bivouacs are smoking,
As with pale brows we eagerly run.
The thoughtful are driven to madness
By the flash and the roar of the gun.

Our lives are but spent for the glory
Of the kings who smile over our grave,
And build up a fabric of friendship
With cement from the blood of the brave;

While the beats of the field and the vultures
Come in search of their banquet of hell,
And they strip the red flesh from the bodies
That lie stiff and stark where they fell.

Each man's hand is raised 'gainst his neighbour,
While he strives all his wrath to excite,
And trades on our natural weakness
To inveigle us into the fight.

'A Russian! Quick! Cut down the villain!
Put your sword through that murderous Croat!
How dare they from our men to differ,
Or venture to wear a white coat!'

'I slay fellow-creatures, and go on
My life's path. What glory like mine?
Their crime is most black and most heinous,—
They live on the right of the Rhine.'

'For Rosbach and Waterloo, vengeance!'
The cry maddens the heart and the brain;
Men long for the fierce glow of battle
And the blood that is poured forth like rain.

In peace we could drink from the fountains,
Or calmly repose in the shade,
But our brethren in battle to slaughter
Is a pleasure which never will fade.

The lust for blood-spilling incites us
To rush madly o'er valleys and plains;
The vanquished are crying in terror,
And are clasping our swift horses' manes.

And yet I ask sometimes in wonder,
As I wander the meadows among,
Can brother for brother feel hatred
As he hears the lark's musical song?

by Victor Marie Hugo

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