Christmas Under Arms

By George Sterling

By the star that led kings to His feet in the night of His birth,
Put ye no trust in kings not the mighty ones of the earth!
Put ye no trust in prayer nor abase ye unto the Past—
By the star of the mind alone shall your sons see dear at last!

Who are we that we make its a feast, or say of the years, "They are ours!"
As the lost might revel in Hell and bind their foreheads with flowers?
Wherefore now are we glad, when the nations toil in their night,
Seeking them battle-music and engines grievous to smite?

A thousand masters are ours, and the weight or a thousand chains;
We cease not this side death to seek new bondage and pains.
Him that forgeth the shackles, him we acknowledge as lord,
And darker over the burdened world falls the shadow of the sword.

Cannon arraigneth cannon, and fort is answer to fort;
Death sits silent and masked by the cliffs and dunes of the port;
They gird themselves in the East to the day when their battleships go forth;
And there comes no pause in the thunder of the forges of war in the North.

Whither, O Man I say whither may the steel-girt highway lead!
We have made of the past a shambles red and a place where vultures feed.
Nay I must it ever be thus with the hope and promise of Life—
Ever the agony, ever the waste and the hatred and blindness of strife?

Which way we look is night, and the wind of a great unrest
Moans on our high-built towers, and passes on to the West.
Vague in the gloom before us move shadows vaster than man,
And doubts lay hold on the human host and rumors trouble our van

Have we budded but for the flame, and sown that Death may reap?
Shall we give our morning to murder and our noon to eternal sleep?
Answer, Thou who we dream dost abide in the gloom apart !—
There is no answer, O Man ! except in the silence of thy heart!

With thee alone is the answer, and the answer is "Love and Peace!"
Except the message be heard, the bountiful years shall cease
Except the message be honored, a curse shall come to the lands
Where thou waitest on Christmas morning with a sheathless sword in thy hands!

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