Nostra Culpa

Nostra Culpa
We knew, this thing at least we knew, – the worth 
Of life: this was our secret learned at birth.
We knew that Force the world has deified,
How weak it is. We spoke not, so men died.
Upon a world down-trampled, blood-defiled,
Fearing that men should praise us less, we smiled. 

We knew the sword accursed, yet with the strong
Proclaimed the sword triumphant. Yea, this wrong
Unto our children, unto those unborn
We did, blaspheming God. We feared the scorn
Of men; men worshipped pride; so where they led,
We followed. Dare we now lament our dead?

Shadows and echoes, harlots! We betrayed
Our sons; because men laughed we were afraid.
That silent wisdom which was ours we kept 
Deep-buried; thousands perished; still we slept.
Children were slaughtered, women raped, the weak
Down-trodden. Very quiet was our sleep. 

Ours was the vision, but the vision lay
Too far, too strange; we chose an easier way. 
The light, the unknown light, dazzled our eyes – 
O sisters, in our choice were we not wise?
When all men hated, could we pity or plead
For love with those who taught the Devil’s creed?

Reap we with pride the harvest! it was sown 
By our own toil. Rejoice! it is our own.
This is the flesh we might have saved – our hands,
Our hands prepared these blood-drenched, dreadful lands.
What shall we plead? That we were deaf and blind?
We mothers and we murderers of mankind. 
Margaret Sackville

from Pageant of War (1916)

Margaret Sackville

Margaret Sackville was a poet and activist in support of poetry for the first half of the 20th century, and a pacifist whose views coloured  her First World War poetry.  

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