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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Amy Lowell (1874–1925)

Poems of the Great War: Before the Declaration of War

OVER there, there are guns,

Guns roaring over the earth,

Belching black smoke into the thin blue sky,

Shattering all silences.


Intolerable pounding and beating of guns,

Unbearable crashing crepitation of guns,

Cracking, tearing, rending clash and clamor of ceaseless guns.

And here there is the soft snapping of the fire,

And the round still glow of the lamp.

There, the sky is specked with dragonflies,

Black dragonflies with sharp yellow flashings,




Tilting in a wind-slant,

Up, over, and turn in a loop,

With the machine-gun spattering on the one below.

Ha! Ha! I’ve potted him,

Poor devil, gone to kingdom come from six thousand feet,

Bang through a cloud to perdition.

A log bursts, and the sparks flare up with soft explosions

And then go out, one by one, without sound.

There are lines and lines of tunnels,

With men swarming in their mud

Like cold larvæ crawling through a dying cheese.

Men with frozen feet,

Blank with sleeplessness,

Peering through periscopes

At a waste country stark with burnt trees.

Men popping rifles at a gaunt horizon,

Wounded men lying in squirming earthworm tracks

Waiting for the stretcher bearers.

It is all black print on white paper for me,

With the quiet lamp-light making the letters glaze.

Shame of my fire and my lamp-light,

And yet I love them.

“Shame!” in red letters across the map of America,

“Peace at any price,”

And the red stripes of the flag

Wind themselves to spell “Shame!”

She was a four-masted schooner

Bound to Sicily from Penobscot Bay,

With the foam bubbling at her cutwater,

Her big sails out over the starboard gunwale

All drawing,

Bleached white in the sun,

And blue at the turn below the gaff.

They slapped down on the water like Monday washing,

Held her for a moment with their spread,

Then soaked up the waves,

And, still ballooning,

Collapsed and sank,

The Lyman W. Law

And her set sails swing in the undulating water,

And the name on her stern is fantastic

With the waving of the sea.

I love peace,

I desire peace,

And the peaceful arts

Of quiet centuries.

I love to strew words over a thought

And brighten it to a picture

Lacquered with gold.

But words have poisoned us,

America is sick with words:

“Watchful waiting,”

“Too proud to fight,”

Wolf’s-bane and poppy,

And after them—dreams;

The nightmare visions of opiates,

The horror of stars drowned in smoke,

Of irons branding our monuments.

“Shame!” in crimson letters up Bunker Hill,

“Shame!” flaunted from the cresset of the Statue of Liberty,

“Shame!” ticked out on the headstones of Arlington.

“Shame!” graven on my own heart,

For I only desire peace,

And in my ears I hear the surging of my blood

Striving to obliterate the shame.

February 15th, 1917.