Ode for Peace

Today is the feast of Peace in the old Roman calendar. She was depicted with a cornucopia dispensing blessings, and rays of light issuing from her head and shoulders.

Hail, lady Peace, long ignored and maligned:
too long did we gird you in wisps of silk,
and make you a prize for what War designed.
Famine, Ruin, and spirits of that ilk
have spread your legs to slake their desires.
They poisoned every fruit swelling your womb,
so even when you reign, the milk of War
drips from your breasts — your children’s sires
steal them from ploughshare, pruning hook, and loom
to mine for coal, and process iron ore,

and gift the wealth of nations to the flames.
Shall spices from afar repay widows
for husbands turned to photographs and names,
for sons of rank laid in stony meadows?
Men get gold watches for twenty years down
building ships to command broad ocean, and skies,
and medals to march the broad lap of earth.
Yet their work is to bomb a distant town,
and cover its dead with maggots and lies,
claiming the deed has some strategic worth.

Yet be crowned with laurel, and rise to rule,
not robed in swift-stripped luxury, but cloth
made by neighbor’s hands, and place every tool
in hands of diligence instead of sloth.
Approach, sweet Peace, and pour out plenty’s horn:
lavish your gifts on every tribe and race,
so Abundance and Content come to all,
from elderly folk down to the unborn,
from great cities to each forgotten place,
and war dies forgotten, beyond recall.

I’m debating whether or not to send this out to my usual e-mail lists. For one, it still needs work. For another, it strikes me as being a little too imploring — it decries Peace as helpless, and then burdens her with the responsibility for stopping Ares from carrying out his nefarious purposes. The real responsibility lies with us to stop War, and this poem doesn’t really capture that purpose.

I’d be interested in some feedback, and whether or not you think I should send it.

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4 comments

  1. I’d agree with those assessments…

    … which is part of the reason I didn’t send the poem out to the normal four or five e-mail lists, and instead only posted it here. I grant that the poem needs work before it’s a true hymn to Peace. On the other hand, it is a hymn to peace, and not to war.

    Ares/Mars has a day specifically set aside for him in my calendar program, and when I get there in early March, I’ll be writing his ode, too. I’m already thinking about it in the back of my head.

  2. It also suggests that the work of Ares is ever nefarious, which is more than a little insulting as well, both to the god and to those who’ve taken up his cause justly.

    You want meaning, you’ve got to get at the real complexity, not just the part that makes it look easy.

    I’d also note that the responsibility to stop War doesn’t exist. The responsibility to Do What Is Right(tm)(c) does, and sometimes doing that requires doing things that are distasteful. Like war, and wearing plaid.

  3. It also suggests that the work of Ares is ever nefarious, which is more than a little insulting as well, both to the god and to those who’ve taken up his cause justly.

    You want meaning, you’ve got to get at the real complexity, not just the part that makes it look easy.

    I’d also note that the responsibility to stop War doesn’t exist. The responsibility to Do What Is Right(tm)(c) does, and sometimes doing that requires doing things that are distasteful. Like war, and wearing plaid.

    • I’d agree with those assessments…

      … which is part of the reason I didn’t send the poem out to the normal four or five e-mail lists, and instead only posted it here. I grant that the poem needs work before it’s a true hymn to Peace. On the other hand, it is a hymn to peace, and not to war.

      Ares/Mars has a day specifically set aside for him in my calendar program, and when I get there in early March, I’ll be writing his ode, too. I’m already thinking about it in the back of my head.

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