Lines Written at Norwich
On The First News of Peace
Poems by Mrs. Opie (1802), pp. 81-86
The European Magazine, LXII (July 1802), pp. 43-44
What means that wild and joyful cry?
Why do yon crowds in mean attire
Throw thus their ragged arms on high?
In want what can such joy inspire?
And why on every face I meet
Now beams a smile, now drops a tear?
Like longloved friends, lo! strangers greet, . . . .
Each to his fellow man seems dear.
In one warm glow of christian love
Forgot all proud distinctions seem;
The rich, the poor, together rove;
Their eyes with answering kindness beam . . . .
Blest sound! blest sight! . . . . But pray ye pause
And bid my eager wonder cease;
Of joy like this, say, what's the cause?. . . .
A thousand voices answer . . . . 'PEACE!'
O sound most welcome to my heart!
Tidings for which I've sighed for years!
But ill would words my joy impart;
Let me my rapture speak in tears.
Ye patient poor, from wonder free
Your signs of joy I now survey,
And hope your sallow cheeks to see
Once more the bloom of health display.
Of those poor babes that on your knees
Imploring food have vainly hung,
You'll soon each craving want appease, . . . .
For Plenty comes with Peace along.
And you, fond parents, faithful wives,
Who've long for sons and husbands feared,
Peace now shall save their precious lives;
They come by danger more endeared.
But why, to all these transports dead,
Steals yon shrunk form from forth the throng?
Has she not heard the tidings spread?
Tell her these shouts to Peace belong . . . .
'Talk not of Peace, . . . . the sound I hate,'
The mourner with a sigh replied;
'Alas! Peace comes for me too late, . . . .
For my brave boy in Egypt died!'
Poor mourner! at thy tale of grief
The crowd was mute and sad awhile;
But e'en compassion's tears are brief
When general transport claims a smile.
Full soon they checked the tender sigh
Their glowing hearts to pity gave;
But, while the mourner yet was nigh,
They warmly blessed the slaughtered brave: . . . .
And from all hearts, as sad she passed,
This virtuous prayer her sorrow draws: . . . .
'Grant, Heaven, those tears may be the last
That war, detested war, shall cause! . . . .
Oh! if with pure ambition fraught
All nations join this virtuous prayer,
If they, by late experience taught,
No longer wish to slay, but spare, . . . .
Then hostile bands on War's red plain
For conquest have not vainly burned,
Nor then through long long years in vain
Have thousands died and millions mourned.