Canto 33: Imperial Scramble

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England

Rupert Brooke

Otto Von Bismark

Each different spike you joined into a broom,
You had the same vision
As that of Bismarck
Dhani Ram Chatrik

The German nations reach a higher gear,
With industry manpowering supreme,
Enter Von Bismarck & his vision clear,
Mind xiphoid proffering empiric dream;
Thro’ noble veins
The Junker spirit flows,
Where lust for great campaigns & martial glory grows.

Joining forces with Vienna
Denmark driven from Sleswick,
But bickering with Austria
Leads to battle ballistic,
A trial of strength at Sadova
Shows Hapsburg has grown sick –
World-status lost with Berlin’s victory,
& even Venetia to Italy!

Proclaim the hero of the hour,
First of this epoch’s men,
With deep glower what keen power
Glows rushing thro his pen,
Signing the scroll of peace, pronounce bloodshed not if, but when?


March of Moscow

I have followed narrow twisting ridges,
Sharp-topped & jagged as a broken crosscut saw
Across the roof of all the Elk-world
Gary Snyder

Praise the endeavours of Mother Russia,
Once again her paterfamilias,
Living as a second Alexander,
Launches conquest, riding imperious;
Swelling the roll
Of empire’s endless names,
Scriven on Moscow’s scroll, soul of the Tsarist claims.

As Ivan won the Caspian,
Great Peter reach’d the Baltic,
The Caucasus & Carpatian
Cath’rine won thro politik,
His father conquer’d Kazakhstan,
Thro’ battles endemic;
Georgia, Tashkent, Chechnia, Samarkand,
Now southern aces in the Russian hand.

The Tsar’s claims absorb Kamchatka,
The eastern stakes are rais’d,
America gains Alaska
& leaves the game unphazed,
While China & Japan upon the golden sickle gazed!


European Struggle

Wild as the tomb, wild as the mountainside
A storm of hours has shaken the fine spun world
Tearing away our palaces, our faces, & our days
Kathleen Raine

The nephew of the first Napoleon
Light-hearted bent on conflict, as it nears,
What enmity ruffles thro the Prussian,
Catalyst for a century of tears;
An excuse found,
Madrid’s invalid throne,
The buglers calls resound & brutal war is born.

Abandon’d by her enemies,
Once vast manpower dwindling,
France faced the conjoin’d Germanies
Like a bee without a sting,
United were her enemies
Beneath a single king;
Baden, Württemberg & Bavaria
Merge with the North & its Prussian kaiser.

What mighty military rolls
To Paris at a pace?
Grand fortress falls, “Surrender!” calls
The emperor’s red face,
Far from Jena a great power put firmly in her place.


Defeating France

After the tumult & the blood
Had died, had dried,
Silence unmade its history
Fyodor Tyutchev

“Vive la France!” gen’ral Gambetta’s cry,
New armies rais’d to save the capital,
On ev’ry side great hordes of grey-coats lie,
Willing moments when men would do battle;
Now Paris meets
Visions of Baudelair,
Shapes grotesque grip the streets, folk starving everywhere.

While waiting for the diplomats
They gorged on their resources,
Then, after eating all the cats,
Felt forced to eat the horses,
& when the city free of rats
In march’d Bismark’s forces,
Forcing humiliation on the French,
Thro Gallic hearts avengeant thoughts entrench.

The gate went up at Brandenburg
Praising Victoria,
Crowns from Hamburg to Nuremburg
Absorb’d by the Kaiser,
A mighty friendship forged to face an unforeseen future.


African Scramble

And there were many other things
Encounter’d near & far,
Exotic, strange, yet natural
Syd Scroggie

Rhodes brings a lamp to the Dark Continent,
Postpones Europa’s struggling mastery,
Towards rough pencil marks all borders went,
Ten thousand chieftans hear doom’s augary;
Zulu, Dinhu,
Mashona & Masai,
Spinuliferous threw sharp spears into the sky.

The French won North-West Africa
When the Germans took Togo,
British flags swarm’d into Kenya
As the Belgians claim’d Congo,
& only bloody Adowa
Saw white faces red glow,
For Abyssinia breaks Italy –
Leaving her but Libya & Tripoli.

Few spears are falling on the foe,
Mown down by modern arms,
By diamond glow the rich crops grow
Upon the fertile farms,
Settlers from the Old World set sail seduced by sultry charms.

Cape Town


The Leaning Tower.
The Pyramids. The Taj Mahal.
I made a little watercolour of them all
Carol Ann Duffy

Most rugous, longevous, famous of forms,
Roll’d slowly midst her Golden Jubilee,
Upon all sides the doting empire swarms
Piloted by her growing family;
Sitting alone
Her banquet shall begin,
The whole world bares the throne of Britain’s sovereign.

Europa’s aging grandmother
Attends her garden party,
With crown heads of Romania,
Nippon, Siam, Hawaii,
Plus dashing princes of Persia;
Pays homage to the splendour of their Queen –
Her three grandsons play polo on the green.

A British crown prince lames the horse
Of a future Kaiser,
His curses coarse, a show of force
From the prince of Russia –
Petty is the bickering continuing thro supper…


War’s Progress

The old strifes are done, the fight is fought.
And with a clang and roll, the new creation
Bursts forth ‘mid tears and blood and tribulation
Sir Lewis Morris

With Gordon’s blood encrusted at Khartoum,
Bit-chomping Churchill blushing vernal haste –
Advancing to an oblivious doom
Brave Dervishes drift cross the desert waste;
Fifty thousand,
Led by bearded Emirs,
Cross tiger-lily sand, raising courageous cheers.

Hail Maxim, military king,
As the s’cockacoka glows,
Death’s mechanical chattering
Scatters Dervishes in rows,
Forms tangl’d heaps of suffering,
But few foe come to blows,
As tho’ they wore tartan at Culloden –
Dows’d in blood the desert sands grew sodden.

“Well, war has chang’d,” young Winston said,
Watching with Kitchener,
Sunset flows red, above the dead
Rose a haunting clamour,
“La llaha illa llah Muhammed Rasul Allah!”


The Boer War

Thy body must needs be given to thy country;
But if thou shalt become dust at the frontier-post,
Thy wife will be the tablet-stone a-top thy mound
Liu Chi

The last defiant tribe of Africa
Launches a bold attack upon the foe,
The empire’s finest face a brave farmer,
Finding themselves impotent from the blow;
Paddy Sumner,
The same day he quit school,
Join’d the Queens Lancashire to sail from Liverpool.

He dug a trench at Spion Kop,
Being more a shallow grave,
Mausers did maim as kill did Krupp,
Avarice wave-after-wave,
Harvest scythemen cut down the crop,
The day such culling gave,
That Churchill, watching from a safer height,
Determin’d on the world to set aright.

To beat the Boer’s pernicious sword
Camps of concentration
Proud women hoard, a chequerboard
Of barb’d-wire fills the nation,
British victory tastes bitter at the devastation.


American Empire

A sacred burden is this life ye bear:
Look on it, lift it, bear it solemnly,
Stand up & walk beneath it steadfastly
FA Kemble

As the destiny of America
Manifests with industrious resolve,
Far from the treaty of Westphalia
The Spanish Empire shudders to dissolve;
While Washington
Fortifies Havana,
Forces American liberate Manilla.

Men like young Teddy Rooseveldt,
With riders rough & ready,
Conquer the plush Panama belt
& exotic Hawaii,
Across the world fresh fears are felt
For world hegemony,
What is this contree striding ‘cross the stage?
This new century seems like a new age!

& while the nobles of Madrid
Wept for their relique lands,
The Amerindian great bid
For tribal peace now stands
A cause consumed by modern goals, a goat in hungry hands.


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