Shelly, the English poet, exposes the lust for war of our ruling elite

Percy Shelly, the early 19th century English poet, engaged in the sharpest of polemics in his anti-war poem. He showed the corruption, coldness and lust for war of the ruling elite.

Here is a 10 line extract from the 72 line poem.

We read this poem today. One thing seems evident. Nothing has changed.

Shelly got thrown out of university for writing this poem and an essay advocating atheism. The ruling classes and the media today have successfully marginalised the poets, the philosophers and the mystics as an interesting irrelevance.

I have numbered each line of the stanza and restated line by line a meaning in contemporary use . There is no substitute for Shelly’s original, fearless insights.

  1. Ye cold advisers of yet colder kings,
  2. To whose fell breast no passion virtue brings
  3. Who scheme, regardless of the poor man’s pang,
  4. Who coolly sharpen misery’s sharpest fang,
  5. Yourselves secure. Your’s is the power to breathe
  6. O’er all the world the infectious blast of death,
  7. To snatch at fame, to reap red murder’s spoil,
  8. Receive the injured with a courtier’s smile
  9. Make a tired nation bless the oppressor’s name
  10. And for injustice snatch the meed of fame.

Line 1. Cold ministers, civil servants, generals, press officers, endorse their heartless leader.

Line 2.  No heart, no love, no ethics inside of them

Line 3.  They plan the war regardless of the countless numbers of poor families who will suffer

Line 4. Advisors and leaders remain determined to maximise the suffering

Line 5. Advisors, Presidents and Ministers take no risks themselves. It is their lust for power.

Line 6. These wars become infectious with attacks and death in more and more countries

Line 7. There is a desire for fame, to leave a legacy, through the slaughter of others.

Line 8. Heartless leaders and advisors offer false condolences to the wounded, maimed and blinded.

Line 9. The powerful govern the media. Nation is sick to death of wars. Oppressors are the leaders.

Line 10. Injustice, abuse of human rights. Yet leaders continue to snatch at recognition/status.

May all beings campaign for change

May all beings transform the political system

May all beings live with wisdom and compassion




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