To Germany

By George Sterling


Beat back thy forfeit plow-shares into swords:
    It is not yet, the far, seraphic dream
    Of peace made beautiful and love supreme.
Now let the strong, unweariable chords
Of battle shake to thunder, and the hordes
    Advance, where now the famished vultures scream.
    The standards gather and the trumpets gleam;
Down the long hill-side stare the mounted lords.

Now far beyond the tumult and the hate
The white-clad nurses and the surgeons wait
    The backward currents of tormented life,
        When on the waiting silences shall come
        The screams of men, and, ere those lips are dumb,
The searching probe, the ligature and knife.


Was it for such, the brutehood and the pain,
    Civilization gave her holy fire
    Unto thy wardship, and the snowy spire
Of her august and most exalted fane?
Are these the harvests of her ancient rain
    Men reap at evening in the scarlet mire,
    Or where the mountain smokes, a dreadful pyre,
Or where the warship drags a bloody stain?

Are these thy votive lilies and their dews,
    That now the outraged stars look down to see?
        Behold them, where the cold, prophetic damps
Congeal on youthful brows so soon to lose
    Their dream of sacrifice to thee—to thee,
        Harlot to Murder in a thousand camps!


Was it for this that loving men. and true
    Have labored in the darkness and the light
    To rear the solemn temple of the Right,
On Reason's deep foundations, bared anew
Long after the Caesarian eagles flew
    And Rome's last thunder died upon the Night?
    Cuirassed, the cannon menace from the height;
Armored, the new-born eagles take the blue.

Wait not thy lords the avenging, certain knell—
    One with the captains and abhorrent fames
The echoes of whose conquests died in Hell?—-
        They that have loosened the ensanguined flood,
    And whose malign and execrable names
        The Seraph of the Record writes in blood.


From gravid trench and sullen parapet,
    Profane the wounded lands with mine or shell I
    Turn thou upon the world thy cannons' Hell,
Till many million women's eyes are wet!
Ravage and slay! Pile up the eternal debt!
    But when the fanes of France and Belgium fell
    Another ruin was on earth as well,
And ashes that the race shall not forget.

Not by the devastation of the guns,
    Nor tempest-shock, nor steel's subverting edge,
Nor yet the slow erasure of the suns
        The downfall came, betrayer of thy trust!
    But at the dissolution of a pledge
        The temple of thine honor sank to dust.


Make not thy prayer to Heaven, lest perchance
    O troubler of the world, the heavens hear!
    But trust in Uhlan and in cannoneer,
And, ere the Russian hough thee, set thy lance
Against the dear and blameless breast of France!
    Put on thy mail tremendous and austere,
    And let the squadrons of thy wrath appear,
And bid the standards and the guns advance!

Those as an evil mist shall pass away,
    As once the Assyrian before the Lord:
Thou standest between mortals and the day,
        Ere God, grown weary of thine armored reign,
    Lift from the world the shadow of thy sword
        And bid the stars of morning sing again.

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