James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

July 11

First News from Villafranca

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)

  • This treaty, signed by the Emperors Francis Joseph of Austria and Napoleon III., on July 11, 1859, ended the war between the Austrians and the French and Sardinians.

  • I.
    PEACE, peace, peace, do you say?

    What!—with the enemy’s guns in our ears?

    With the country’s wrong not rendered back?

    What!—while Austria stands at bay

    In Mantua, and our Venice bears

    The cursed flag of the yellow and black?

    Peace, peace, peace, do you say?

    And this is the Mincio? Where’s the fleet,

    And where’s the sea? Are we all blind

    Or mad with the blood shed yesterday,

    Ignoring Italy under our feet,

    And seeing things before, behind?

    Peace, peace, peace, do you say?

    What!—uncontested, undenied?

    Because we triumph, we succumb?

    A pair of Emperors stand in the way,

    (One of whom is a man, beside)

    To sign and seal our cannons dumb?

    No, not Napoleon!—he who mused

    At Paris, and at Milan spake,

    And at Solferino led the fight:

    Not he we trusted, honored, used

    Our hopes and hearts for … till they break—

    Even so, you tell us … in his sight.

    Peace, peace, is still your word?

    We say you lie then!—that is plain.

    There is no peace, and shall be none.

    Our very dead would cry ‘Absurd!’

    And clamor that they died in vain,

    And whine to come back to the sun.

    Hush! more reverence for the Dead!

    They’ve done the most for Italy

    Evermore since the earth was fair.

    Now would that we had died instead,

    Still dreaming peace meant liberty,

    And did not, could not mean despair.

    Peace, you say?—yes, peace, in truth!

    But such a peace as the ear can achieve

    ’Twixt the rifle’s click and the rush of the ball,

    ’Twixt the tiger’s spring and the crunch of the tooth,

    ’Twixt the dying atheist’s negative

    And God’s Face—waiting, after all!