Breathing-Time

Peace, perfect peace. . . . Come, lay aside your gun.
The danger zone is past; the gauntlet run.
The bark of Scylla ceases on her shore,
And grim Charybdis threatens us no more.
Respite, Nepenthe, leaning-posts and beer!
Football and horses! Breathing time is here!

O witless fools, who, with your cry, 'To Arms!'
Your warnings venomous, and false alarms,
Sought to estrange us from our yellow friends,
Thus all your potter and your bunkum ends!
We are secure once more; we breathe again.
No further need is there for ships or men.
'The Treaty is renewed!' Hip, Hip, Hooray! . . .
Now let us dream the happy hours away.

One pen-stroke! and our liberty appears
Secure again, for ten long, blissful years.
A diplomat or two, a little ink,
Some paper, and, Hi Presto! in a wink,
The Yellow Peril vanishes from sight,
Like vague dream shadows of a restless night.
Let gentleness and peace overspread the land;
And bid our infant warriors disband.

The War-god broods o'er Europe even yet?
What matter? We've a decade to forget
That e'er we dreamed we heard the grim dogs bark.
What child at noon is fearful of the dark?
The forges of the nations still are lit?
Their anvils ring? What do we reek of it?
With ten long years of peace and joy and light,
We laugh at our vague terrors of the night.

Are truces ever broken? Treaties scorned?
Statesmen corrupted? Diplomats suborned?
Perish the thought! What if, in some far day,
Some foreswom nation flung its bond away?
Shall we, for such as that, forego our joy,
And start at shadows, like a frightened boy?
Shall croaking pessimists, with mild alarms,
Force us, all needlessly, to fly to arms?

Down with the dolts who prate of ships and guns!
Stern Mars shall not enslave Australia's sons.
Come, gag the fools who urge us to defend
Our ports against our harmless yellow friend!
Their words are insults; their aggressiveness
May give him pain, and cause us much distress.
Ab, gaze on him! as he steps forth to sign -
Say, is his smile not peaceful and benign?

Ten years to hoard the gold in shop and mart;
Ten peaceful years to play the trader's part;
To tend the sheep; to watch the green corn sprout
To cheer the race; to gaily clap and shout
At sports of children, played by heedless men.
Ten years of sweet Areadia - and then? . . .
Heed not the voice that thunders the alarm:
'Ten years to play the man! Ten years to arm!'

(O God of Battles, who, thus long, hath spared
A heedless nation, grant we be prepared!
Ten pregnant years! Tens canty years of grace,
To make or mar the fortune of a race.
Grim years of strenuous and unceasing toil,
That all may not become a foeman's spoil -
That it may not be told, some fateful day:
'Ten years they had; ten years they fooled away.')

Peace, perfect peace. . . Ho, let the fun begin,
And split the welkin with a joyous din!
Charybdis grim has ceased to roar and rave,
And Scylla sits demurely in her cave.
Ho! clash the cymbals, and begin the race!
And thank the gods we have a breathing-space.

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"Breathing-Time" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 11 Dec. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/6239/breathing-time>.

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