the bursting shell, the gateway wrenched asunder


Peter Bruegel the Elder,  “Dulle Griet”  1562

Here are the last seven stanzas of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Arsenal at Springfield” written in 1843:


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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