Words Are Not Guns

Don Marquis

Put by the sword (a dreamer saith),
  The years of peace draw nigh!
Already the millennial dawn
  Makes red the eastern sky!

Be not deceived.  It comes not yet!
  The ancient passions keep
Alive beneath their changing masks.
  They are not dead.  They sleep.

Surely peace comes.  As sure as Man
  Rose from primeval slime.
That was not yesterday.  There’s still
  A weary height to climb!

And we can dwell too long with dreams
  And play too much with words,
Forgetting our inheritance
  Was bought and held with swords.

But Truth (you say) makes tyrants quail—
  Beats down embattled Wrong?
If truth be armed!  Be not deceived.
  The strife is to the strong.

Words are not guns.  Words are not ships.
  And ships and guns prevail.
Our liberties, that blood has gained,
  Are guarded, or they fail.

Truth does not triumph without blows,
  Error not tamely yields.
But falsehood closes with quick faith,
  Fierce, on a thousand fields.

And surely, somewhat of that faith
  Our fathers fought for clings!
Which called this freedom’s hemisphere,
  Despite Earth’s leagued kings.

Great creeds grow thews, or else they die.
  Thought clothed in deed is lord.
What are thy gods?  Thy gods brought love?
  They also brought a sword.

Unchallenged, shall we always stand,
  Secure, apart, aloof?
Be not deceived.  That hour shall come
  Which puts us to the proof.

Then, that we hold the trust we have
  Safeguarded for our sons,
Let us cease dreaming!  Let us have
  More ships, more troops, more guns!

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