William Watson (1858-1935)

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The World in Armor


Under this shade of crimson wings abhorred
That never wholly leaves the sky serene,
While Vengeance sleeps a sleep so light, between
Dominions that acclaim Thee overlord--
Sadly the blast of Thy tremendous word,
Whate'er its mystic purport may have been,
Echoes across the ages, Nazarene:
Not to bring peace Mine errand, but a sword.
For lo, Thy world uprises and lies down
In armor, and its Peace is War, in all
Save the great death that weaves War's dreadful crown;
War unennobled by heroic pain,
War without triumph, without glorious fall;
War that sits smiling, with the eyes of Cain.


When London's Plague, that day by day enrolled
His thousands dead, nor deigned his rage to abate
Till grass was green in silent Bishopsgate,
Had come and passed like thunder--still, 'tis told,
The monster, driven to earth, in hovels old
And haunts obscure, though dormant, lingered late,
Till the dread Fire, one roaring wave of fate,
Rose, and swept clean his last retreat and hold.
In Europe live the dregs of Plague today,
Dregs of full many an ancient Plague and dire--
Old wrongs, old lies of ages blind and cruel.
What if alone the world-war's world-wide fire
Can purge the ambushed pestilence away?
Yet woe to him that idly lights the fuel!


A moment's fantasy, the vision came
Of Europe dipped in fiery death, and so
Mounting re-born, with vestal limbs aglow,
Splendid and fragrant from her bath of flame.
It fleeted; and a phantom without name,
Sightless, dismembered, terrible, said: "Lo,
I am that ravished Europe men shall know
After the morn of blood and night of shame."
The specter passed, and I beheld alone
The Europe of the present, as she stands,
Powerless from terror of her own vast power,
'Neath novel stars, beside a brink unknown;
And round her the sad Kings, with sleepless hands,
Piling the fagots, hour by doomful hour.