Posted by: John Looker | 26 August, 2018

‘Voices loud in martial prayer’

Each month this year, more or less, I am posting a poem from my book The Human Hive. This one is taken from Part Four, ‘Tribal Loyalties’ which considers the darker side of human nature. Although the poem describes a historic event, the culmination of religious conflict which in 1618 ignited the Thirty Years War in Europe, it seems painfully relevant to the world today.

The Defenestration of Prague

No blood here now, unless imagination
can paint the grey stone brown along the sill.
No water in the moat below, just grass.
And such a sense of peace.
It takes imagination to conceive
of how rough hands and over-certain minds,
calling on God but vying for civil power,
could hurl those men and all Bohemia with them
into a war of thirty years –
the Holy Roman Empire, dukedoms, fiefs,
cottage and mill – out of this room
of elegant refinement, out of this land 
of settled prosperity, into a world
where would-be theologians write their theses
with the sword, voices loud in martial prayer,
their conscience clear. 

© John Looker 2015

The Human Hive was published in 2015 by Bennison Books and is available through Amazon at a modest price. You can also read a selection of its poems here on this blog – see the page at:


  1. It DOES take imagination and one saturated in good sense. The poem becomes the history to be imitated. Out of this room (stanza) indeed. Bravo John!


    • Thank you Tom. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world could at last imitate models of good sense!


  2. The playing on the metaphor of throwing everything out the window, is beautifully handled here to line up the act itself & the consequence, which goes deep into the lives of so many who would suffer 30 years of war for the actions of a few.
    I don’t know much about this war. I don’t read history much, I probably should, but I find it difficult to make it relevant, mostly because the “you have to learn from history” spiel doesn’t ring with me, there is nothing to learn in an era of time without precedent, that era being our own. History then, for me, becomes a curiosity. But then I suppose, as some argue, nothing is anymore than a curiosity, something to do. That’s life isn’t it.


    • Thanks Daniel. Good to hear from you. This bit if history has resonance for me partly because I have stood in that room in Prague’s castle and looked out of this window, though not recently. And then my thoughts ran on to the world today.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. John, your beautifully disturbing poem places us right there on the spot, that window open before us…and those thirty long years of senseless carnage. Will we ever learn from history?

    Excellent writing on a sober theme.

    My very best,



    • That’s good of you Paul – I’m pleased the poem rang true for you. Will we ever learn, you ask? We hold tight to optimism I suppose.


  4. I’m glad to see this again, John. The strongest part of the poem is the ending:
    “where would-be theologians write their theses
    with the sword, voices loud in martial prayer,
    their conscience clear.”
    We, as a species, have not matured much since the beginning of the Thirty Years War, have we? We’d probably substitute “theologians” for “partisans” or something like that today, but the old blood that urges domination, greed, advantage, and power still roams like a slavering beast through our ranks.
    This is obviously a poem relevant to the world we are living in today.


    • I very much agree with you Tom. Thank you for reading and commenting.


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