Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
We Cannot War
WE cannot war!—the Briton thinks,
  Our arms were framed to toil—not bleed!
He little dreams how scythes are swords,
  When comes the bloody hour of need.
He little recks the selfsame strength,        5
  Which swings in peace the summer blade,
Will mow as broad a swath among
  The files where carnage is a trade.
Mark the great oaks! they sway their leaves
  To every breath of noon or night;        10
Gentle, as gentlest things of earth—
  Sleeping upon their sense of might.
The storm is up!—they cast their leaves
  Like useless summer robes away,
And on the hill-side greenly fix’d,        15
  They meet the storm in stern array.
We cannot war! our cheeks will blanch
  Before the fierce breath of the foe:
When carnage looks on us her first,
  To coward’s burial we shall go.        20
We, who have trod beneath our heel
  The forest serpent and her young;
We, who have grappled with the wolf,
  And met the panther as he sprung.
If we could be thus base—thus vile,        25
  A solemn train of men would spring
Forth from the sod—the pilgrim sires!
  Their manly voices then would ring
Like death-knells: “Sons—once sons of ours,
  We give you to the curse ye seek!        30
No more look back to us as sires:
  But bear the vengeance kings can wreak.”
But where is Gaul? her sons can tell
  If ours is frozen, coward blood;
Ask of the Indian! he can say        35
  If ours are trusty swords and good.
The fort o’erturn’d; the ambush’d foe
  Mark’d down by his own glancing eyes,
The averted brand, which madly blazed
  A meteor in the midnight skies.        40
These, and a thousand rays of soul,
  Shot from the darkness of our days,
The firm resolve—the hardy toil—
  The free-born thought (though this is praise)
Attest the hearts, whose noblest wish        45
  Is but a dream—to dare—to die,
In breathing, battling, suffering for
  The stolen hope of Liberty!

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