The phrase “dogs of war” is from the Shakespeare play, Julius Caesar. It is spoken by Mark Antony in the line “…with a Monarch’s voice cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.” He is trying to send a message to the crowd to rise up against the assassins.
To my knowledge, there are not many songs on this particular topic :-). And Lisa penned a particularly beautiful and powerful one here. I love performing this song live. Here is the studio version of it:
Here is the excerpt by Lisa from the liner notes of Outlaws and Bystanders:
Dogs of War (Rome, 44 BC by way of England, 1599)
Yeah, okay, Band of Brothers was so much fun that we thought we’d borrow from Shakespeare again. It is the ides of March, and Caesar has been murdered. His loyal man, Mark Antony, vows to Caesar’s bloody corpse that the killers will pay, but Antony is alone and weaponless. All he has are his words.
Forgive me now, O bleeding piece of Earth! I make this vow, thou noblest man of birth– These butchers will not win the day, But I must measure what I say Lest they may see and silence me.
Over thy corse I make this prophecy– Without remorse, what fury there shall be! The empty womb, the mourning weeds, All pity choked with deadly deeds; Revenge will tell, come hot from Hell!
Woe to the hand that shed this blood! Woe to the land caught in the flood! The tide of times will wash away their choice; A curse shall light the limbs of men, And strife shall smite beyond their ken, When spirits calling with a monarch’s voice Cry, “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war.
Gentles and friends, I pray lend me your ears; As grief descends, let there be time for tears; I come to bury, not to praise Evil lives on beyond our days And all good word is oft interred.
Good men have slept, and better men have died; The King has wept when that the poor have cried. What cause withholds you then to care? My heart is in the coffin there, So bear with me ‘til it goes free.
‘Twould be unkind if I sought to inspire Your heart and mind to mutiny and ire; I should do men of honor wrong, And so I choose to go along, To wrong the dead, on my own head.
It is not meet that you should ever learn The love complete that worthies would not spurn; You are not wood, you are not stone, But being men, could you have known Just what you had, and not run mad?
I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts And all my ends are far beyond my arts They gave me public leave to speak For in this matter I am weak And they are strong, but they are wrong.
I have no wit, nor words, nor worth, but woe; And I admit no more than what you know, But had I now the power of speech To stir men’s blood, to rouse and teach, Then let there be a mutiny!
Words and music by Lisa Theriot © 2013, Raven Boy Music, ASCAP