The Pen and the Sword
Mary Russell Mitford
The Morning Chronicle (March 24, 1810)
Mary Russell Mitford, Poems (London, 1810), pp. 137-144
Inscribed to the Right Hon. R. B. Sheridan.
And dar'st thou then with me compare,
Frail fleeting passenger of air!
Say, am not I my country's rock,
The lion in the battle's shock?
I pour impetuous from afar
The mighty torrent of the war,
Like Kissoun's waters, Phison's flood,
Spreads far the whelming tide of blood!
Forsaken parents well can tell
How fierce the raging currents swell;
Deserted lands the tide-mark form,
And nations perish in the storm.
Bright is the forked lightning's stream;
As bright, as fatal too, my beam!
From me the bravest warrior flies,
Or pausing bleeds, and sinks, and dies.
And as the dews of Heav'n that fall
On vines that clothe the cottage wall,
Send life through ev'ry drooping cell,
The tendrils curl, the clusters swell;
To baths of blood my pow'rs restore,
My nourishment the hero's gore!
From me the lion's princely whelp
Expects and finds its only help;
Her prey from me the vulture seeks,
And pays me with her dismal shrieks;
And with the wild wolf's deepen'd howl,
Makes music for my restless soul.
Fear not! while I exist ye ne'er
Shall pangs of thirst and hunger share;
Still be the warrior's flesh your food,
Still be your drink the hero's blood!
And dar'st thou, frail and brittle reed!
Match thy weak word with my proud deed?
Can'st thou resist the eddying storm;
Will not the flames consume thy form?
And I, whom thou hast dar'd to brave,
My very touch would be thy grave.
Yes, such thou art, the pen replied—
Yes, such is war's ensanguin'd tide!
Thine be the fame to latest times,
To shine supreme in blood and crimes.
Oh! innocents untimely slain;
Oh! matrons kill'd in child-birth pain!
Babes from their mother's bosom borne!
Sons from their dying father's torn!
Nations of orphans and of slaves!
Unpeopl'd earth and peopl'd graves!
'Tis yours to tell what endless fame
This all-consuming sword may clams.
My pure, unblemished rights to share!
Learn thy contracted sphere to scan;
If strength were pow'r, then what were man?
The elephant had rul'd the world,
And monarchs from their thrones had hurl'd.
'Tis mind, 'tis reason's sovereign sway,
That nations own and states obey.
And what art thou? and what am I?
The globe shall hear the proud reply.
Me, science, wisdom, virtue claim,
And gain a never ending fame.
Through me the eloquence that dies
Fast as the fleeting shadow flies,
To ages yet unborn, shall shew
The Priest's pure zeal, the Patriot's glow.
Through me, the high behest, ye share,
That bids frail man his fellow spare;
And still the heav'nly thunders roll
"Commit no murder" on the soul!
Thou dwell'st among the mountain rocks,
Haunt of the chamois, and the fox;
Thou sleep'st upon the rugged bed,
Where foaming torrents erst have spread;
Thou roam'st along the blasted heath,
Or shades of plunder and of death,
Where murd'rers ply their dreadful trade,
And bathe in blood thy reeking blade.
Such is thy fate! and dar'st thou then
Compare therewith the blameless pen?
Scourge of the weak, but wisdom's slave,
Dar'st thou to threat an early grave?
My waving banners once unfurl'd,
Have launch'd thee o'er a conquer'd world;
My breath can bid the havoc cease,
And sheath thy gory blade in peace.