A Fantasy of War

Henry Lawson 1867 (Grenfell) – 1922 (Sydney)

From Australia
OH, tell me, God of Battles! Oh, say what is to come!
The King is in his trenches, the millionaire at home;
The Kaiser with his toiling troops, the Czar is at the front.
Oh! Tell me, God of Battles! Who bears the battle’s brunt?
The Queen knits socks for soldiers, the Empress does the same,
And know no more than peasant girls which nation is to blame.
The wounded live to fight again, or live to slave for bread;
The Slain have graves above the Slain—the Dead are with the Dead.
The widowed young shall wed or not, the widowed old remain—
And all the nations of the world prepare for war again!
But ere that time shall be, O God, say what shall here befall!
Ten millions at the battle fronts, and we’re five millions all!
The world You made was wide, O God, the world we made is small.
We toiled not as our fathers toiled, for
Sport was all our boast;
And so we built our cities, Lord, like warts, upon the coast.

From Europe
The seer stood on the mountain side, the witch was in her cave;
The gipsy with his caravan, the sailor on the wave;
The sophist in his easy chair, with ne’er a soul to save,
The factory slaves went forth to slave, the peasant to the field;
The women worked in winter there for one-tenth of the yield;
The village Granny nursed their babes to give them time to slave;
The child was in the cradle, and the grandsire in his grave.
The rich man slumbered in his chair, full fed with wine and meat;
The lady in her carriage sat, the harlot walked the street
With paint upon her cheek and neck, through winter’s snow and sleet.
We saw the pride of Wealth go mad, and Misery increase—
And still the God of Gods was dumb and all the world was Peace!

The wizard on the mountain side, he drew a rasping breath,
For he was old and near to life, as he was near to death;
And he looked out and saw the star they saw at Nazareth.
“Two thousand years have passed,” he said. “A thousand years,” he said.
“A hundred years have passed,” he said, “and, lo! the star is red!
The time has come at last,” he said, and bowed his hoary head.
He laid him on the mountain-side—and so the seer was dead.
And so the Eastern Star was red, and it was red indeed—
We saw the Red Star in the South, but we took little heed.
(The Prophet in his garret starved or drank himself to death.)

The witch was mumbling in her hole before the dawn was grey;
The witch she took a crooked stick and prodded in the clay;
She doddered round and mumbled round as is the beldame’s way.
“Four children shall be born,” she said, “four children at a birth;
Four children of a peasant brood—and what shall come on earth?
Four of the poorest peasantry that Europe knows,” she said,
“And all the nations of the world shall count their gory dead!”
The babes are born in Italy—and all the world is red!

The Ship

The world You gave was wide, O Lord, and wars were far away!
The goal was just as near, O Lord, to-morrow or to-day!
The tree You grew was stout and sound to carve the plank and keel.
(And when the darkness hid the sky Your hand was on the wheel.)
The pine You grew was straight and tall to fashion spar and mast.
Our sails and gear from flax and hemp were stout and firm and fast.
You gave the metal from the mine and taught the carpenter
To fasten plank and rib and beam, and sheath and iron her.
The world You made was wide, O Lord, with signs on sea and sky;
And all the stars were true, O Lord, you gave to steer her by.
More graceful than the albatross upon the morning breeze.
Ah me! she was the fairest thing that ever sailed the seas;
And when the madness of mankind burns out at last in war,
The world may yet behold the day she’ll sail the seas once more.
We were not satisfied, O Lord, we were not satisfied;
We stole Your electricity to fortify our pride!
You gave the horse to draw our loads, You gave the horse to ride;
But we must fly above the Alps and race beneath the tide.
We searched in sacred places for the things we did not need;
Your anger shook our cities down—and yet we took no heed.
We robbed the water and the air to give us “energy,”
As we’d exhaust Thy secret store of electricity.
The day may come—and such a day!—when we shall need all three.

And lest Thou shouldst not understand our various ways and whys,
We cut Thy trees for paper, Lord, where-on to print our lies.
We sent the grand Titanic forth, for pleasure, gold and show;
And all her skeletons of wealth and jewels lie below.
For fame or curiosity, for pride, and greed, or trade,
We sought to know all things and make all things that Thou has
Font size:
Collection  PDF     

Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

4:27 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic heptameter
Characters 4,532
Words 890
Stanzas 6
Stanza Lengths 18, 14, 10, 8, 23, 6

Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson 17 June 1867 - 2 September 1922 was an Australian writer and poet Along with his contemporary Banjo Paterson Lawson is among the best-known Australian poets and fiction writers of the colonial period more…

All Henry Lawson poems | Henry Lawson Books

3 fans

Discuss the poem A Fantasy of War with the community...



    Find a translation for this poem in other languages:

    Select another language:

    • - Select -
    • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
    • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
    • Español (Spanish)
    • Esperanto (Esperanto)
    • 日本語 (Japanese)
    • Português (Portuguese)
    • Deutsch (German)
    • العربية (Arabic)
    • Français (French)
    • Русский (Russian)
    • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
    • 한국어 (Korean)
    • עברית (Hebrew)
    • Gaeilge (Irish)
    • Українська (Ukrainian)
    • اردو (Urdu)
    • Magyar (Hungarian)
    • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
    • Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Italiano (Italian)
    • தமிழ் (Tamil)
    • Türkçe (Turkish)
    • తెలుగు (Telugu)
    • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
    • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
    • Čeština (Czech)
    • Polski (Polish)
    • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Românește (Romanian)
    • Nederlands (Dutch)
    • Ελληνικά (Greek)
    • Latinum (Latin)
    • Svenska (Swedish)
    • Dansk (Danish)
    • Suomi (Finnish)
    • فارسی (Persian)
    • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
    • հայերեն (Armenian)
    • Norsk (Norwegian)
    • English (English)


    Use the citation below to add this poem to your bibliography:


    "A Fantasy of War" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 22 Jul 2024. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/17705/a-fantasy-of-war>.

    Become a member!

    Join our community of poets and poetry lovers to share your work and offer feedback and encouragement to writers all over the world!

    July 2024

    Poetry Contest

    Join our monthly contest for an opportunity to win cash prizes and attain global acclaim for your talent.

    Special Program

    Earn Rewards!

    Unlock exciting rewards such as a free mug and free contest pass by commenting on fellow members' poems today!

    Browse Poetry.com


    Are you a poetry master?

    The way the lines look on the page is known as ________.
    A Line
    B Paragraph
    C Form
    D Stanza