Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

CROMWELL'S REFLECTIONS ON 'KILLING NO MURDER', by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Some devil wrote this book! The words are daggers
Last Line: I will lie down, and learn to sleep again.
Alternate Author Name(s): Bulwer, Edward; Lytton Of Knebworth, 1st Baron; Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer, Lord
Subject(s): Cromwell, Oliver (1599-1658)

SOME devil wrote this book! the words are daggers.
Lawful to slay me! Slaughter proved a virtue!
Writ in cold blood; the logic of the butcher;
So calm, and yet so deadly! I'll no more of it! --

"KILLING NO MURDER!" so this book is call'd;
It summons that great England whom this hand
Hath made the crown of nations, to destroy me!
"At board, at bed," -- so runs the text, -- "let Death
Be at his side; albeit to the clouds
Reaches his head, the axe is at his root;
And men shall cry, 'Where now the lofty Cromwell?"
Vain threats, I scorn ye! Yet 'tis ably writ;
And these few leaves will stir a storm of passion
In the deep ocean of the popular heart.
We men of deeds are idiots, to despise
The men of books -- for books are still the spells
Of the earth's sorcery, and can shape an army
Out of the empty air. Words father actions,
And are the fruitful yet mysterious soil
Whence things bud forth, grow ripe, and burst to harvest
And when they rot away, 'tis words receive
The germs they leave us, and so reproduce
Life out of Death -- the everlasting cycle!
The Past but lives in words! A thousand ages
Were blank if books had not evoked their ghosts,
And kept the pale unbodied shades to warn us
From fleshless lips. So what will Cromwell be
To times unborn, but some dim abstract thought
That would not be if books were not? Our toil --
Our glory -- struggles -- life, that sea of action,
Whose waves are stormy deeds -- all come to this,
A thing for scholars, in a silent closet,
To case in periods, and embalm in ink:
Making the memory of earth-trampling men,
The poor dependant on a pedant's whim!
It is enough to make us laugh to scorn
Our solemn selves! But Fate whirls on the bark
And the rough gale sweeps from the rising tide
The lazy calm of thought.
Can I believe
These lines, and doubt all faith for evermore?
"My muster-roll -- my guards -- my palace train" --
It saith, "contain the names of freemen sworn
To slay the tyrant!" I appeal from man,
To thee, the Lord of Hosts! Out, damned thing

Thou hast taught me one deep lesson, and I thank thee
Power must be guarded by the fiery sword;
Death shall be at my side -- sure death to all
Whose treason stings existence to a curse.
I've been too merciful -- too soft of soul --
Till bad men, drunk and sated with forgiveness,
Grow mad with crime. The gibbet and the axe
Shall henceforth guard the sceptre and the orb;
And Law put on the majesty of Terror.
Why what a state is this, when men who toil
Daily for England cannot sleep of nights!
Three nights I have not slept! I know my cure;
The blood of traitors makes my anodyne!
And in the silence of a trembling world,
I will lie down, and learn to sleep again.

Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net