Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, WAR, by GEORGE STERLING

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

WAR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The night was on the world, and in my sleep
Last Line: Men rose and made a second sacrifice.
Subject(s): Dreams; Military; War; Nightmares


The night was on the world, and in my sleep
I heard a voice that cried across the dark:
"Give steel!" And gazing I beheld a red,
Infernal stithy. There were Titans five
Assembled, thewed and naked and malign
Against the glare. One to the furnace throat,
Whence issued screams, fed shapes of human use—
The hammer, axe and plow. Those molten soon,
Another haled the dazzling ingot forth
With tongs, and gave it to the anvil. Two,
With massy sledges throbbing at the task,
Harried the gloom with unenduring stars
And poured a clangorous music on the dark,
With loud, astounding shock and counter-shock
Incessant. And the fifth colossus stood
The captain of that labor. From his form
Spread wings more black than Hell's high-altar—ribbed
As are the vampire-bat's. The night grew old,
And then was I aware they shaped a sword. ...

In that domain and interval of dream
'Twas dawn upon the headlands of the world,
And I, appalled, beheld how men had reared
A mountain, dark below the morning star—
A peak made up of horses and of herds,
Of cradles, yokes and all the handiwork
Of man. Upon its crest were gems and gold,
Rare fabrics, and the woof of humble looms.
Harvests and groves and battlements were made
Part of its ramparts, and the whole was drenched
With oil and wine and honey. Then thereon
Men bound their sons, the fair, alert and strong,
Sparing no household. And when all were bound,
Brands were brought forth: the mount became a pyre.

Black from that red immensity of flame,
A tower of smoke, upcoiling to the sky,
Was shaped by the winds, and took the form
Of him who in the stithy gave command.
A shadow between day and men he stood;
His eyes looked forth on nothingness; his wings
Domed desolations, and the scarlet sun
Glowed through their darkness like a seal that God
Might set on Hell forever. Then the pyre shrank
And he reeled. Whereat, to save that shape
Their madness had evoked in death and pain,
Men rose and made a second sacrifice.

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