Vox Populi

Yea peoples of the earth, put not your trust
In princes, nor in any child of man
Set over you in lordship, their desires
Are not as your desires, they have no care,
No fatherly solicitude for you.
They are not neighbourly like other men,
But ever the war fever in their veins
Surges and throbs and will not let them rest.
Their hearts are big with pride, they would be gods
That are but men like you : they know not truth,
Truth is no friend of princes ; from their birth
False silken flatterers whispering in their ears
Teach them the lust of conquest, fill their hearts
With vain imaginations, idle dreams
Of boundless world dominion. One will urge,
'Your people are grown restless, learning tends
Too much to licence in the masses, some
Chafe at your rule and talk of liberty.
A stiff-necked generation ! We must curb
Their aspirations, check these wayward dreams,
And give them other food for thought ; a war
Will stimulate their waning loyalty,
And make you strong at home and feared abroad.'
Another : ' Frederick was called the Great,
The Conqueror William, Attila was named
The Scourge of God, and Alexander wept
For other realms to conquer, but the world
Is larger grown since Alexander's day :
You may be greater than all these.' A third :
' You have the mightiest army of all time.
An engine of destruction swift to smite
And irresistible, a weapon forged
And ready to your hand, an instrument
To make your will a law to all the earth.
What is an army but for use ? ' And he.
This puppet of an hour, this little man
With mind diseased by kingship, will exult,
And raise his hand, and send his armies forth
A devastating flood, and hideous war
Will thunder through the world. Defenceless towns
Will hear the clash of arms, and drunken mobs
Will loot and murder in their blazing streets.
And men will die for men, heroic deeds
Be lightly undertaken ; men will laugh
In face of imminent death, and some will go
Exultantly to battle, some will creep
In unavailing agonies of fear.
And thrones will totter, kingdoms will decay,
Homes be made desolate, and all the land
Be filled with lamentation and despair.
And he will be acclaimed the king of kings,
The lord of war, the mighty conqueror.
Because he sent his people forth to die.
Such are the kingly titles to renown.
And such the ways of princes : they are judged,
The mark of Cain is on them ; trust them not.
Nor hearken to their bidding. From henceforth
Shall men put off the bondage of the years,
For slavery is broken, and the world
Is grown too wise to be the sport of kings.
Wherefore let all the enfranchised peoples sing
The song of liberty and love, and send
This message to their rulers : We have done
With those that govern us in our despite,
The tyrant and the oppressor, you that make
A shambles of the earth ; we will not wear
Your hated yoke upon our necks, nor give
Our sons into your service. We have done
With such as Bloody William, Constantine

The Traitor, Ferdinand the Fox, and he.
The bully and the tyrant, that old dupe
Whom neither suffering nor length of years
Taught wisdom or compassion. Now no more
Shall blood be poured in rivers at your word ;
No more shall women broken-hearted weep
Their dearest sent untimely forth to death.
We will not be your slaves, we will not go
Like cattle to the slaughter, no, nor bear
Your reeking standards into foreign lands.
We have no quarrel with the peoples there,
They are our brothers and our friends, while you
Are enemies and scourges of mankind.
War is not of the people, war is bred
In courts and palaces ; the people die
That kings may reap the glory ; but the day
Is now not far when kings shall be no more.
And war shall cease in all the world, and love
Shall be established in the hearts of men,
And over the free peoples of the earth
Triumphant peace shall reign.
When that day dawns,
As surely it will dawn, then not in vain
Shall be accounted all the blood and sweat,
The tears of women, and the fair young lives
Mangled and maimed, the panic and the flight
Of homeless peoples destitute, not vain

The labour and the wounds, not vain the rage
And all the nameless infamies of war.
Therefore we will salute the mighty dead.
Hail and farewell, you that have fought to-day.
Have fought and died for ending of all war.
Because you were the heralds of the dawn
And harbingers of morning, you shall have
Praise and high honour to the end of time,
For you have given to ages yet unborn
The imperishable heritage of peace.

by Maria Frances Cecilia Cowper

Comments (1)

check spelling 'mosts' second line?