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Would We Be Saved?

Discussion in 'Inspirational' started by Mai Harinder Kaur, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. Mai Harinder Kaur

    Mai Harinder Kaur
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    Mentor Writer SPNer

    Oct 6, 2006
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    This is a poem that I have not been able to get out of my head. I first came across it in a book called Poems of War Resistance, Scott Bates, ed. in 1970.

    It still haunts me. The less said the better. Just read the poem and look at the picture.

    Nightmare, With Angels

    By Stephen Vincent Benét

    An angel came to me and stood by my bedside,
    Remarking in a professorial-historical-economic and
    irritated voice,
    "If the Romans had only invented a decent explosion-
    Not even the best, not even a Ford V-8
    But, say, a Model T or even an early Napier,
    They’d have built good enough roads for it (they
    knew how to build roads)
    From Cape Wrath to Cape St. Vincent, Susa, Babylon
    and Moscow,
    And the motorized legions never would have fallen,
    And peace, in the shape of a giant eagle, would brood
    over the entire Western World!"
    He changed his expression, looking now like
    a combination of Gilbert Murray, Hilaire Belloc and
    a dozen other scientists, writers, and prophets,
    And continued, in angelic tones,
    "If the Greeks had known how to Cooperate, if there'd
    never been a Reformation,
    If Sparta had not been Sparta, and the Church had been
    the Church of the saints,
    The Argive peace like a free-blooming olive-tree, the
    peace of Christ (who loved peace) like a great,
    beautiful vine enwrapping the spinning earth!
    Take it nearer home," he said.
    "Take these Mayans and their star-clocks, their
    carvings and their great cities.
    Who sacked them out of their cities, drowned the cities
    with a green jungle?
    A plague? A change of climate? A queer migration?
    Certainly they were skilful, certainly they created.
    And, in Tenochtitlan, the dark obsidian knife and the
    smoking heart on the stone but a fair city,
    And the Incas had it worked out beautifully till Pizarro
    smashed them
    The collectivist state was there, and the ladies very
    They lacked steel, alphabet and gunpowder and they had
    to get married when the government said so.
    They also lacked unemployment and overproduction.
    For that matter," he said, "take the Cro-Magnons,
    The fellows with the big skulls, the handsome folk, the
    excellent scribers of mammoths,
    Physical gods and yet with the sensitive brain (they
    drew the running reindeer) .
    What stopped them? What kept us all from being Apollos
    and Aphrodites
    Only with a new taste to the nectar,
    The laughing gods, not the cruel, the gods of song, not of
    Supposing Aurelius, Confucius, Napoleon, Plato, Gautama,
    Just to take half a dozen--
    Had ever realized and stabilized the full dream?
    How long, O Lord God in the highest? How long, what now,
    perturbed spirit? "
    He turned blue at the wingtips and disappeared as another
    angel approached me. -
    This one was quietly but appropriately dressed in
    cellophane, synthetic rubber and stainless steel,
    But his mask was the blind mask of Ares, snouted for
    He was neither soldier, sailor, farmer, dictator nor
    Nor did he have much conversation, except to say,
    "You will not be saved by General Motors or the pre-
    fabricated house.
    You will not be saved by dialectic materialism or the
    Lambeth Conference.
    You will not be saved by Vitamin D or the expanding
    In fact, you will not be saved."
    Then he showed his hand:
    In his hand was a woven, wire basket, full of seeds, small
    metallic and shining like the seeds of portulaca;
    Where he sowed them, the green vine withered, and the smoke
    and the armies sprang up.

    Picture credits: I believe all pictures used in this are in the public domain except for the gas mask, which is one recommended for civilian use by the Israeli army

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