The Arsenal at Springfield

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807–1882 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
This is the Arsenal. From floor to ceiling,
      Like a huge organ, rise the burnished arms;
But from their silent pipes no anthem pealing
      Startles the villages with strange alarms.

Ah! what a sound will rise, how wild and dreary,
      When the death-angel touches those swift keys!
What loud lament and dismal Miserere
      Will mingle with their awful symphonies!

I hear even now the infinite fierce chorus,
      The cries of agony, the endless groan,
Which, through the ages that have gone before us,
      In long reverberations reach our own.

On helm and harness rings the Saxon hammer,
      Through Cimbric forest roars the Norseman's song,
And loud, amid the universal clamor,
      O'er distant deserts sounds the Tartar gong.

I hear the Florentine, who from his palace
      Wheels out his battle-bell with dreadful din,
And Aztec priests upon their teocallis
      Beat the wild war-drums made of serpent's skin;

The tumult of each sacked and burning village;
      The shout that every prayer for mercy drowns;
The soldiers' revels in the midst of pillage;
      The wail of famine in beleaguered towns;

The bursting shell, the gateway wrenched asunder,
      The rattling musketry, the clashing blade;
And ever and anon, in tones of thunder
      The diapason of the cannonade.

Is it, O man, with such discordant noises,
      With such accursed instruments as these,
Thou drownest Nature's sweet and kindly voices,
      And jarrest the celestial harmonies?

Were half the power, that fills the world with terror,
      Were half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts,
Given to redeem the human mind from error,
      There were no need of arsenals or forts:

The warrior's name would be a name abhorred!
      And every nation, that should lift again
Its hand against a brother, on its forehead
      Would wear forevermore the curse of Cain!

Down the dark future, through long generations,
      The echoing sounds grow fainter and then cease;
And like a bell, with solemn, sweet vibrations,
      I hear once more the voice of Christ say, "Peace!"

Peace! and no longer from its brazen portals
      The blast of War's great organ shakes the skies!
But beautiful as songs of the immortals,
      The holy melodies of love arise.

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Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807–1882

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Arts & Sciences, War & Conflict, Social Commentaries, Music, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Henry Wadsworth  Longfellow

Biography

By far the most widely known and best-loved American poet of his time, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow achieved a level of national and international prominence possibly unequaled in the literary history of the United States. Poems such as "Paul Revere's Ride," Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie (1847), and "A Psalm of Life" became mainstays of national culture, long remembered by generations of readers who studied them in school. . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, War & Conflict, Social Commentaries, Music, Mythology & Folklore

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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