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  • “The Conqueror and the Murderer”
  • Mary Livermore

“As you were born a king, and I a private man, you have been able to become a mightier robber than I.”

Alexander and the Scythian.

He heard the stormy clarion’s blast, The clear trump’s starting peal,He caught the wave of tossing plumes, The flash of gleaming steel.He buckled on his burnished mail,              5 His crested helm and shield,Spurring his fiery charger, where Lay spread the battle-field.

Amid the serried hosts he dashed,            10 His sword glanced through the air,And many a strong man’s raised right arm, Fell powerless through despair.His war-horse trod with iron hoof The mangled quivering heaps,                  15His fetlocks bathed in blood that rushed, Like rivers to the deep.

And him they met with gushing songs, With tuneful sweet-voiced lyres;                20For him they wove the airy dance, And kindled festal fires;To him, who hewed his hundreds down, Were bright libations poured:And myrtle-blooms, the flowers of love,      25 Were twined around his sword. [End Page 374]

He, whose young life was all unfed By honey-dews of love,Uncradled in a mother’s arms,                      30 Nor laid her heart above:Unnurtured and unblest his soul By virtue’s sunlight ray,Before the siren charmer, sin, He fell an easy prey.                                     35

With darkened mind and hopeless heart, No light within his breast,Which tiger passions made their home, Untamed and unrepressed,                         40He bathed his dagger to the hilt In his oppressor’s blood,And gazed unmoved, when crimson red, Out-gushed the bubbling flood.                  45

And him they thrust with vengeful hands, And eyes of burning hate,Where God’s free light had scarcely leave To pass the narrow grate.And him, who one vile man had slain, ;       50 They coolly doomed to death,And with the mock of legal pomp, They seized his heaven-lent breath.

Men, know ye not the conqueror crowned,    55 Who swims in slaughter’s tide,Hath blacker guilt upon his soul, And hands more redly dyedThan he, ye hurl from off the earth, With hissing shouts of shame,         ;          60Wringing his heart with anguish out, Branding with guilt his name?

And dare ye, with profanity, The warrior’s murders laud,                        65And from the other, rend the life, Unsanctioned by your God? [End Page 375]

Oh, if the pulse of human love, Is not benumbed and still,List to the awful voice of God,                     70 “Forbear, O man, to kill!”

List to the minstrel angel’s chant, Who hymned the words of peace,Accord with him in songs of love,               75 And let the war-trump cease.Throw down the sword, and booming gun, The hangman’s twisted cord,And join the many broken links, That draw us up to God!                             80 [End Page 376]

Mary Livermore
The Hangman, 24 September 1845


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pp. 374-376
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