Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE COST, by ROBERT UNDERWOOD JOHNSON



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THE COST, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Of late we heard dark oracles proclaim
Last Line: A nobler vision, happier fate be thine!
Subject(s): World War I; First World War


OF late we heard dark oracles proclaim
In History's alluring name,
And with no flush of shame,
The cure for all our civic ills is War!
And while they flaunt their flippant lore,
With hideous irony the hope-barred door
To Mars' red altar gapes, and forth there fare
With torch and sword the Furies, driven by one
Hailed as the god's bronze image come to life,
But, nearer seen, a pietistic Hun!
With wild, fanatic air,
In Death's-head helmet and greaves worn with prayer,
He sets the unwilling world in myriad strife
To orphan Europe, plowing hill and mead
For Famine's harvest of the iron seed;
From that blue sea that knows no shore
On fair, defenseless towns lets slip
The havoc of his pirate ship;
And, drowning conscience with the cannon's roar,
Holds his frank perfidy
As part of a divine decree,
While with a holy rage
He wars upon his Age,
Till the pure Alps ensanguine every sea;
Now, with a rusted key unlocks
The evils of Pandora's box;
Stills the world's music, stays its daily joys;
Makes murderers of boys
Who yesterday made mimic murder at their toys;
Turns brotherhood to hate,
And floors the heavens with carnage that would sate
All devils but a devil incarnate!

Greater than Bonaparte? -- Yes, by a century's cost
Of lives devoured, of fireside loving lost.
. . .
O country mine!
Who shall seduce thee to such mad design?
A nobler vision, happier fate be thine!





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