“No More Words!”

No More Words!
[Boston, 1861]
By Franklin Lushington*

No More words;
Try it with your swords!
Try it with the arms of your braves and your best!
You are proud of your manhood, now put it to the test;
Not another word;
Try it by the sword!

No more notes;
Try it by the throats
Of the cannon that will roar till the earth and air be shaken;
For they speak what they mean, and the cannot be mistaken;
No more doubt;
Come–fight it out!

No child’s play!
Waste note a day;
Serve out the deadliest weapons that you know;
Let them pitilessly hail on the faces of the foe;
No blind strife;
Waste not one life.

You that in the front
Bear the battle’s brunt–
When the sun gleams at dawn on the bayonets abreast,
Remember ’tis for government and country you contest;
For love of all you guard,
Stand, and strike hard!

You at home that stay
From danger far away,
Leave not a jot of chance, while you rest in quiet ease;
Quick! forge the bolts of death; quick! ship them o’er the seas;
If War’s feet are lame,
Your will be the blame,

You, my lads abroad,
“Steady” be your word;
You at home, be the anchor of your soldiers young and brave;
Spare no cost, none is lost, that may strengthen or may save;
Sloth were sin and shame;
Now play out the game!

* The original structure of this poem has lines 5 and 6 tabbed, lines 3 and 4 completely left justified.  However, because of my HTML limitations, I have not been able to reproduce the formatting correctly. Please see the link for the original formatting.

Lushington’s words are  full of both fallacy and contradiction.  Perhaps these are strong, condemning words on my part, but if we look at the poem stanza by stanza, we soon might question whether the narrator is confused or kidding.

At first, the poem extols the sword, the violence that supposedly signifies manhood:  “Not another word; Try it by the sword!”  However, in promoting “the deadliest weapons that you know,” (third stanza), the narrator sets up a good reason for these men not to fight.  After all, if the Union soldiers “pitilessly hail on the faces of the foe,” won’t the Confederates do the same?  Is this an incentive to “Bear the battle’s brunt” (stanza four)?

Furthermore, in that same stanza four, the narrator admits it is those “in the front” who will suffer the greatest hardships and presumably number of deaths.  What is the motivation to fight?  “Remember, ’tis for government and country you contest,” Lushington says.  But while one might fight for country, would one fight for government?  Apparently, many took the bait, but I am not sure Lushington accomplished this feat alone.  Surely government, not necessarily an esteemed institution, would fail to be considered a good reason to die.

Perhaps, however, the starkest contradictions appear in the final stanza. The narrator admonishes, “You at home that stay/Far from danger far away,” continuing with “If War’s feet are lame, Yours will be to blame” (stanza five). But in the last stanza he says, “You at home, be the anchor of your soldiers young and brave.”  So are those at home truly cowards if they are safe but supporting the soldiers?  Why does Lushington not make the distinction?

Finally, Lushington contradicts himself again in the final stanza.  In the third stanza he calls the war, “No child’s play!”  Yet the last line of the poem reads, “Now play out the game!”  Apparently this war is indeed some kind of “game,” though admittedly, it might not be what Lushington considers a child’s game.

There are so many discrepancies in this work, I actually wonder if Lushington was being serious or ironic when he wrote it.  I will continue to search for critical analyses of this poem and will add bibliographic links if I am successful.  In the meantime…I’m not impressed.

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