John Davidson (Scottish)

Scottish poet, translator, novelist, and man of letters, John Davidson spent the first part of his life as a teacher in Greenock, Glasgow, Perth, Crieff, and other places.

In 1899 he moved to London and earned a living by journalism. His second and third volumes of verse, Fleet Street Eclogues (1893), proved popular, established his reputation, and earned the respect of T. S. Eliot, who wrote a preface to a selection of Davidson's poems in 1961 edited by Maurice Lindsay. Little after these books, whether poetry, novels, or translations, did well, and Davidson moved depended on his friends for support until getting a Civil List pension in 1906 and moving to Penzance a year later.

The last half of his literary career was devoted to unsuccessful philosophical poems and tragedies promoting a new world order. Depressed and ill, Davidson committed suicide March 23, 1909, but his body was only found on the seashore months later. He was buried at sea on September 21, 1909.

Source: Famous Poets and Poems. com


War Song

I
n anguish we uplift
A new unhallowed song:
The race is to the swift;
The battle to the strong.

Of old it was ordained
That we, in packs like curs,
Some thirty million trained
And licensed murderers,

In crime should live and act,
If cunning folk say sooth
Who flay the naked fact
And carve the heart of truth.

The rulers cry aloud,
"We cannot cancel war,
The end and bloody shroud
Of wrongs the worst abhor,
And order's swaddling band:
Know that relentless strife
Remains by sea and land
The holiest law of life.
From fear in every guise,
From sloth, from lust of pelf,
By war's great sacrifice
The world redeems itself.
War is the source, the theme
Of art; the goal, the bent
And brilliant academe
Of noble sentiment;
The augury, the dawn
Of golden times of grace;
The true catholicon,
And blood-bath of the race."

We thirty million trained
And licensed murderers,
Like zanies rigged, and chained
By drill and scourge and curse
In shackles of despair
We know not how to break --
What do we victims care
For art, what interest take
In things unseen, unheard?
Some diplomat no doubt
Will launch a heedless word,
And lurking war leap out!

We spell-bound armies then,
Huge brutes in dumb distress,
Machines compact of men
Who once had consciences,
Must trample harvests down --
Vineyard, and corn and oil;
Dismantle town by town,
Hamlet and homestead spoil
On each appointed path,
Till lust of havoc light
A blood-red blaze of wrath
In every frenzied sight.

In many a mountain pass,
Or meadow green and fresh,
Mass shall encounter mass
Of shuddering human flesh;
Opposing ordnance roar
Across the swaths of slain,
And blood in torrents pour
In vain -- always in vain,
For war breeds war again!

The shameful dream is past,
The subtle maze untrod:
We recognise at last
That war is not of God.

 

Battle

The war of words is done;
The red-lipped cannon speak;
The battle has begun.

The web your speeches spun
Tears and blood shall streak;
The war of words is done.

Smoke enshrouds the sun;
Earth staggers at the shriek
Of battle new begun.

Poltroons and braggarts run:
Woe to the poor, the meek!
The war of words is done.

"And hope not now to shun
The doom that dogs the weak,"
Thunders every gun;

"Victory must be won."
When the red-lipped cannon speak,
The war of words is done,
The slaughter has begun.