Black fool, why winter here?
These frozen skies,Worn by your wings and deafen’d by your cries,
Should warn you hence, where milder suns invite,
And day alternates with his mother night.
These words were written by my great-great-great-great-great uncle, Joel Barlow just before he died trying to deliver an American treaty to Napoleon during the retreat from Moscow in 1812. The poem, “Advice to a Raven in Russia,” was found and printed years later, its anti-Napoleon sentiment moot.
Today, however, as the Bush administration eyes Iran as its only way out of Iraq, the sentiments he expressed take on new importance, though the arrogance and deviltry belongs to George Bush, no Bonaparte, he.
You fear perhaps your food may fail you there–
Your human carnage, that delicious fare,
That lured you hither, following still your friend,
The great Napoleon to the world’s bleak end.
The raven of the poem, it seems to me, becomes the neo-con and Halliburton of today, feasting on the disasters befalling others.
You fear, because the sourthern climes pour’d forth
Their clustering nations to infest the north,Bavarians, Austirans, those who drink the Po
And those who skirt the Tuscan seas below,
With all Germania, Neustria, Belgia, Gaul,
Doom’d here to wade thro slaughter to their fall,
You fear he left behind no wars, to feed
His feather’d cannibals and nurse the breed.
Napoleon’s army that poured into Russia had numbered over 600,000, many times larger than the American forces that took over Iraq. But both drained the home country. In Napoleon’s case, he left the door open (well, not open—there were 100,000 soldiers guarding it) for Wellington’s successes in Spain to lead him into France and Toulouse. The foolhardiness of Napoleon’s campaign, though it had taken him all the way to Moscow, defeated him. Let’s just hope the foolhardiness of Bush has not set us on a similar path of defeat followed by further war to reclaim elusive “victory.”
Fear not, my screamer, call your greedy train,
Sweep over Europe, hurry back to Spain,
You’ll find his legions there; the valiant crew
Please best their master when they toil for you.
Just as there was war all over Europe—and America—in 1812, we’re seeing war all over the world today. The United States, which some believed would be able to put a virtual end to war through its position as the sole remaining superpower, has only perpetuated war. Not only have we started one ourselves, and may be on the verge of starting another, but we enable dozens of others through our arms sales.
Abundant there they spread the country o’er
And taint the breeze with every nation’s gore,
Iberian, Lusian, British widely strown;
But still more wide and copious flows their own.
Do we even understand just how evil our warmongers are? Seeking profit and power, they spread destruction far wider than anything of the Europe of 1812. Though…
Go where you will; Calabria, Malta, Greece,
Egypt and Syria still his fame increase,
Domingo’s fatten’d isle and India’s plains
Glow deep with purple drawn from Gallic veins.
The destruction Napoleon caused has been lost to us through the fog of passing time. He remains mere legend, not the evil that we now associate with Hitler—though he, himself, is fading into a past where good and evil become simply detail. We can only pray that Bush never manages to make more than Iraq “glow deep with purple” blood.
No raven’s wing can stretch the flight so far
As the torn bandrols of Napoleon’s war.
Choose then your climate, fix your best abode,
He’ll make you deserts and he’ll bring you blood.
So far, the wars of Bush have been localized. Afganistan, Iraq, and (maybe soon) Iran in between. It has gone far enough, now. If Iran is pulled in, the world will follow.
How could you fear a dearth? Have not mankind,
Tho slain by millions, millions left behind?
Has not CONSCRIPTION still the power to wield
Her annual faulchion o’er the human field?
A faithful harvester! Or if a man
Escape that gleaner, shall he scape the BAN?
The triple BAN, that like the hound of hell
Gripes with joles, to hold his victim well.
Conscription—it gave Napoleon the power to build armies larger than any Europe, at least, had ever seen. It changed warfare, making the soldier less valuable than the cannon, for the soldier was now more easily replaced. It is here where Bush’s hand is stayed, for he dare not force the mass of Americans into his fights.
Fear nothing then, hatch fast your ravenous brood,
Teach them to cry to Buonaparte for food;
They’ll be like you, of all his suppliant train,
The only class that never cries in vain.
For see what natural benefits you lend!
(The surest way to fix the mutual friend)
While on this slaughter’d troops your tribes are fed,
You cleanse his camp and carry of his dead.
Only the war profiteer makes good out of the slaughter a Napoleon or a Bush unleashes. Look at the corruption in Iraq, and the companies gorging themselves on the disaster.
Imperial scavenger! But now you know,
Your work is vain amid these hills of snow.
His tentless troops are marbled through with frost
And change to crystal when the breath is lost.
Mere trunks of ice, tho limb’d with human frames,
And lately warm’d with life’s endearing flames.
They cannot taint the air, the world impest,
Nor can you tear one fiber from their breast.
No! from their visual sockets as they lie,
With beak and claws you cannot pluck an eye.
The frozen orb, preserving still its form,
Defies your talons as it braves the storm,
But stands and stares to God, as if to know
In what curst hands he leaves his world below.
Our soldiers, not frozen, but wasted, dying and maimed—for what? Who is this “guardian” of our people who causes such pain?
Fly then, or starve; tho all the dreadful road
From Minsk to Moskow, with their bodies strow’d
May count some Myriads, yet they can’t suffice
To feed you more beneath these dreary skies.
Go back and winter in the wilds of Spain;
Feast there awhile, and in the next campaign
Rejoin your master; for you’ll find him then,
With his new million of the race of men,
Clothed in his thunders, all his flags unfurl’d,
Raging and storming o’er the prostrate world!
Iraq is not enough for you, you neo-con warmongers, you Halliburton war profiteers? Just wait: another war is sure to come, for the forces in our government—the Democrats—are too timid to force Bush from his path to war. It will take more than their sorry and meek objections to stop him, if Iran is really his goal.
War after war his hungry soul requires,
State after State shall sink beneath his fires,
Yet other Spains in victim smoke shall rise
And other Moskows suffocate the skies,
Each land lie reeking with its peoples slain
And not a stream num bloodless to the main.
Till men resume their souls, and dare to shed
Earth’s total vengeance on the monster’s head,
Hurl from his blood-built throne this king of woes,
Dash him to dust, and let the world repose.
The time for hand-wringing is over. We must do everything we can to stop this tyrant of our own.