Thursday, July 20, 2006

Stephen Spender

The latest war in the Middle East made me think of Stephen Spender's stunning, sad, cynical poem, "The War God."

Here's the poem:

Stephen Spender's "The War God"

Why cannot the one good
Benevolent feasible
Final dove, descend?

And the wheat be divide?
And the soldiers sent home?
And the barriers torn down?
And the enemies forgiven?
And there be no retribution?

Because the conqueror
Is victim of his own power
That hammers his heart
From fear of former fear--
When those he now vanquishes
Destroyed his hero-father
And surrounded his cradle
With fabled anguishes.

Today his day of victory
Weeps scalding lead anxiety
Lest children of these slain
Prove dragon teeth (sown
Now their sun goes down)
To rise up one morning
Stain the sky with blood
And avenge their fathers again.

The defeated, filled with lead,
On the helpless field,
May dream the pious reasons
Of mercy, but alas
They know what they did
In their own high seasons.

The world is the world
And not the slain
Nor the slayer, forgive.
There's no heaven above
To make passionate histories
End with endless love.
Yet under wild seas
Of chafing despairs
Love's need does not cease.