Category Archives: Act 1

Canto 12: Crescent & Cross

Riding swiftly, Minaya Alvar Fanez kill’d thirty-four Moors with his sharp sword; his arm was stain’d with the blood dripping down to his elbow

The Poem of ‘The Cid’


Alfred

It may be glorious to write
Thoughts that shall glad the two or three
High souls, like those far stars that come to sight
James Russel Lowell

Only the lords of Wessex dare defy
The victual flamboyance of the Vikings,
“Are we not Saxons?” rings a captain’s cry,
The morning chorus of the English kings;
As great a man
As ever was Pompey,
Driving his battle-plan along the old Ridgeway.

They met the Norsemen on the hill
Life’s liberties to defend,
A moment making time stand still,
Immortalies suspend –
Britain some Nordic overspill
Or war-heroic blend?
The Saxons tough the better of the fight
The Ravens breaking cloth are put to flight.

Upsrings a worthy capital
Laws writ in native tongue,
The chronicle of his struggle
Preserv’d in prose & song,
Then marries into Mercia to make his nation strong.

Winchester
892


Holy Roman Empire

While Rome could none esteem
But virtue’s patriot theme
You loved her hills, & led her laureat band
William Collins

Distant princes court Alfred’s grand-daughters,
Enchaunted by their dancing beauty’s youth;
Perfect as pearl, skin soft as spring-waters,
Souls hankering for virtue-verdur’d truth;
King Otho’s bride,
Edgitha, shares his reign,
Her Saxon blood allied with sacred Charlemagne.

How yearnst I,” sighs the emperor,
“For to unite Germany,
Bind beautiful Bavaria
To blueberry Lombardy
Blend heather-scented Swabia
With sunny Saxony –
Administ’ring, with best Papal consent,
The central portions of this continent.”

Arose a sense of nationhood
Tied by Teutonic tongue,
In hall & wood, those tayles of blood,
The Niebelungen song,
Stirr’d up a spirit which the soul of Seigried soar’d among.

Germania
962


The Rise of Paris

The city’s all a-shining
Beneath a fickle sun,
A gay young wind’s a-blowing
Sara Teasdale

Long since the notion struck the Parisii
To settle by the Seine, & since sublime
Lutetia prais’d each Ceasar’s victory,
This eagle’s nest amidst the mists of time
Claims Frankish throne,
As jangling jongleurs sing,
“One of our very own has been elected king!

How many noble knights advance
Gorgeous daughters for the bride
Of Hugh Capet, the first in France,
His Parisians felt pride,
But only one lass stood a chance
As once again allied,
The blood of Charlemagne & Alfred merge,
One wedding night, abed, with mighty spurge.

“So this is life!” the pilgrim said
Upon the paths to Spain,
Those slowly tread, with fruit & bread,
Those roads thro’ Aquitaine
Upon the route… the valorous, the vocal & the vain.

France
990


Taking the Cross

Look on Her Enemies, on their Godly Lyes,
Their Holy Perjuries,
Their Curs’d encrease of much ill gotten wealth
William Cartwright

From the Praetendarius of Llanfair
To the old Thesaurarius of Lille,
It seems Pope Urban’s essence moves thro’ air,
It prospers thro’ the priesthoods, keen with zeal;
Christ’s foremost knight
Tours Europe’s fidget thrones,
“Those Muslims must we fight!” rouses convictive tones.

“My brave, young hawks, open thy mind
To Heaven & His glories,
Thy quadrivium leave behind
Renege thine earthly follies,
With my bold guard of falcons bind,
Mutatis Mutandis!
Jerusalem is grieving for our grace
To free her from the Saracen embrace.”

Redemption calls, tempted afar,
Men bend on steely knee,
’Neath sacred star them bless’d, them are
The Crucesignati!
Those continental cavaliers of Christianity!

Claremont
1095


Crusaders

Oh Jerusalem, the city of sorrow
A big tear wandering in the eye
Who will halt the aggression
Nizar Qabbani

Impulse grown gory thro’ all Christendom,
“God wills it!” uproars the monks of Cluny,
Most voiciferous van against Islam,
Cause focus’d by Henry of Burgandy;
His brimming ships
Batter the Biscay bay…
Men land, what fervour grips these battles fought today.

As raiding parties ebb & flow
Twyx Braga & Toledo,
Reclaims, Henry, the Duoro
&, unnoposed, Oporto,
For mile-on-mile, from grand Minho
To moor-like Mondego,
Portugal is awaking, native lands
Return like saint-stigmata to the hands.

News permeates the Prophet’s world
Of this Hispanic loss,
Banners unfurl’d, blasphemies hurl’d,
As Cresent curses Cross,
Soon bloody pools must soak’d up be by spongey mountain moss.

Palestine
1097


The First Crusade

Dear, beauteous death, the jewel of the just :
Shining nowehere but in the dark ;
What mysteries do lie beyond thy dust
Henry Vaughan

One hundred thousand claim a crucifix,
& gallop to the Gallilean hills,
All them but pawns of Papal politics,
With swords & lances, sleek dipteran quills;
A spirit shield,
Of sweet death deified,
From holy battlefields souls rise on sacred tide.

At last they capture Antioch,
Long siege of land & water,
Infidels fighting rock-by-rock,
Apocalyptic slaughter!
Depleting, daily, human stock –
War’s terminal quota;
Infernal, body-mangl’d battlefield,
Where flat hymns mingl’d as the singing peel’d.

From miracle to miracle
The city stood no chance,
A gritty yell, the citadel
To libbards, fell, of France,
Lungs bellowing, “Avanti!“Adelante!” & “Advance!”

Jerusalem
1099


The Second Crusade

Praise Him, all creatures here below
Praise Him, above, ye heavenly host !
Praise Father, Son, & Holy Ghost
Thomas Ken

The road to Jerusalem hatch’d open,
The Templars guard it nightly, like a star,
All Europe flocking here to feel Heaven:
The desperate, the pilgrim, the bizarre;
As western ways
Encroach upon the east –
Into the desert haze the Seljuk Turks releas’d.

What good tidings prick’d Paereaus!
Pious kingdom in the sun!
“The English are victorious!”
”London delivers Lisbon!”
”The times & tides turn serious
For Allah’s talisman!”
From single stroke such optimism falls,
A shout rings out, “The Turks are at the walls.”

These rampant Mohammedians
Cut off the Holy Land
From Christians’ relief legions,
Men bleeding in the sand,
& begging Islam’s mercy, are all slaughter’d out of hand.

Dorylaeum
1147


Birth of Berlin

Thou should’st tell me all its story,
Whence, and where, it cometh here,
That my heart may yet be wary.
Herr Ulrich von Liechtenstein

As rivers seek a causeway to the sea
& change their course when rocky terran strong,
Crusader States turn north for Germany
Admonishing each easy, heathen throng;
“Ye pagans proud,
Baptise or be deceas’d!
Slavs form a rabble crowd & grovel to the east.

As curdling milk congeals to cream
Steps tentative turn to stride,
Into abandon’d forests teem
The Aryans, sky-blue eyed,
Whereby this signal, signet stream
Tween Elbe’s & Oder’s glide,
Builds up a town amidst the finny lakes,
Fair beauties flow as early morning breaks.

Knights bound for Lithuania
(They’ll convert pagans there),
Out-spill from the silviculture,
Filling a cobbl’d square,
Where, breaking fast, near morning mass, men share a battle-prayer.

Germania
1147


Jacob’s Ford

We are the fallen.
O . . . Death Angel,
will you convey our bodies to heaven!
Zeyar Lynn

Damascus seiz’d by Sa-Lah-Din, & so
Encircling siege surrounds Crusader States:
Leprous Baldwin reacts, & acts not slow,
Building a bristling buttress at the gates;
“An iron key,”
Wise Sa-Lah-Din believes,
“Unlocking it shall free Jerusalem from thieves!”

Before impregnable ramparts,
Islamic slogans crying,
A mine explodes, the battle starts,
Fine arrow storms are flying
At Templars whittl’d down in parts,
‘Til, surrender-sighing,
The fortress falls, altho’ six hours away
Baldwin sees smoke… him sinking in dismay

Calls off the march, a klutz alone,
Strategy in tatters,
His chance has blown, as stone-by-stone
Down his castle clatters,
Delightment-dappl’d Sa-Lah-Din blesses current matters.

Galilee
1179

Canto 13: Mongols

Indica tigris agit rabida cum tigride pacem perpetuam; Saevis inter se convenit ursis… Ast homini ferrum letale incude nefanda produxisse parum est

Juvenal


Ghengiz Khan

East of Eden is mountains & desert & every
thing creeps up on you & comes in the night,
unexpectedly
Paul Blackburn

The babe born with a blood-clot in his fist
Knew fratricide before his father died –
Posion’d by rival tribesmen – the promised
Inheritance was his, & now a bride;
Naught did they lack,
& led, they, simple life,
’Til bad Chief Krull attack’d & stole away his wife.

As from defeat the notion springs
Of victory’s existence,
Brave Temujin tightens bowstrings,
Makes men respect insistance,
& launch’d them on vendetta’s wings
To a violent vengeance,
& saving his dear wife from devil’s den
He boil’d alive Chief Krull & all his men.

This was no ordinary soul,
Spirit excelsior,
Who hears the rolling thundercall
Of conquest & of war,
When all the surface of the world shall tremble at his awe.

Mongolia
1181


Sa-Lah-Din

It is bitter
To walk among strangers
When the strangers are in one’s own land
Iain Crichton Smith

The Crescent League cries faith & sacred war;
Turban’d Berbers, pitch-black Afric captains,
Pristine Emirs, the shark-paced Almacor,
Sunburn’d Saracens & Syrians;
Lord at the helm,
One man unites them all,
To raze Outremer’s realm & seize the Wailing Wall.

Damascus & Aleppo fall
To the dark Mujahaddin,
Crushing Christian armies small
At that slaughter at Hattin,
“Allah!” the cause, “Allah!” the call,
“Allah! & we shall win!”
At last, on Heaven’s city look’d he down,
There man-on-man press’d forwards for renown.

The situation sacrosanct
Beneath a saffron sky,
The Templars thank’d their lord, outflank’d,
They knew them set to die,
But to preserve this Paradise they could but only try.

Jerusalem
1187


Frederick Barbarossa

The glories of our birth & state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against fate
James Shirley

Being the European Suzerain,
Capp’d by the Iron Crown of Lombardy,
Red-bearded leader, redux Charlemagne,
First Chapiter of Milites Christi;
Congregations,
Heard stirring aria,
“Seek your souls’ salvations, march with the Emperor!”

Waltzing off to war’s grave meeting
With firm, steady demeanour,
Pounding hearts in strong chests beating,
Ventricles lusting vigour,
As on their arms, golden gleaming,
Daylight tinting brighter,
Pregnant with promise of a perfect day,
The mighty breath of life in human clay.

Alas! it was a little stream
That kill’d a god-like king,
A drowning dream…Heaven dost gleam
Thro’ Selaph’s glimmering,
There Seraphs beckon utterwards towards the reckoning!

Cilicia
1190


Richard I

This desert, to which you came
with two raised palms like an absurd hope,
no longer begets prophets
Amjad Nasser

The Lionheart of England goes to war;
His helm: respect-expostulating deeds,
His sword: the sacred fury of god’s law,
His shield: the lamb & all his righteous needs;
His pond’rous mace,
Shall shatter waggling foes,
His head: his noble grace, his heart: an English Rose.

Seeking Allah’s extirpation,
Preaching peace, but wielding war,
Making trails of acerbation,
“Come & fight!” corbrechtan roar,
Confrontations, hesitation,
Runs thro Mohammed’s corps,
As all along the front His Highness rode
No man dare meet the challenge of his sword.

Sa-Lah-Din & his great army
Repell’d from Arsuf plain,
But victory, elusively,
From both men would abstain,
Instead… peace nervous spreads for prayers, burials & pain.

Jaffa
1192


Teutonic Knights

Need to belong has made me come
to help rebuild Jerusalem,
where everyone is family
Karen Gershon

A thirsty seige, sunrise follows sunrise,
An endless killing, moats filling with dead,
Breeding legions of disease-spreading flies,
Maggots burrow’d in mouldy, meagre bread;
Behind which walls
A German hospital
Of dedicated souls, primes for zealous battle.

In the long wars of religion
At the gates of Christendom,
Suffering their faith in fusion
With lord god & His bellum,
Happy Hanseatic legion,
Ordu Pugnatorum,
Raising the lofty flag of Heaven’s fight,
Teutonic in their blood, in blade a knight!

As tired beseigers melt away
Inspired Crusaders cheer,
Then kneel & pray, them to this day
Knew God’s justice would steer,
Sensing their lot was spared by fate, but for what course unclear.

Acre
1197


Spanish Rebirth

The hymn falls silent, the stone bleeds.
The prayers chafe against the stone. The voices chafe
against the prayer. The hymn chafes against the stone.
Eva Ström

The troubadour descended from the ben,
In him was human artistry allied,
Singing of arms & empires & the men
Whom battles fought & kingdoms gentrified;
Bold verses move
Castille’s resplendent court,
Men’s valors set to prove when Reconquista fought!

El Cid’s endeavours have enflamed
The trains of Spain’s militia,
For far too long they’ve been ashamed
Of a native patria;
Navarra, Aragon, reclaim’d
With gold Galicia;
No more uprose the five-times daily din
Of Muslims by the bull-finch Muezzin.

The Almohads of Africa
Are sent to stem the tide,
Grand armada thro’ Grenada,
But murder meets the stride,
As six progressive centuries of Islam’s light hath died.

Las Navas de Toloda
1212


Mongol Threat

The mountain Sharshar he turned into a void
he felled the trees of the forest of cedar.
The woodland looked as if traversed by the Deluge
Erra & Ishum

The dark tribes, unified beneath one king,
Traverse the Gobi, pierce Qin Shi Huang’s Wall,
Bring all their might to bare upon Beijing,
As conquerors absorb its cultured soul;
Karakorum!
Heartlands of history,
Mongol imperium marching off to glory.

By mountain, forest, steppe & sea,
Go the Khan’s ambassadors,
Insulting Persian perfidy
Sends two of them back headless,
Decapitates diplomacy,
Ghengiz felt bitterness,
& pointing westwards with a frozen sword
A storm of arrows oer the Silk Road soar’d.

That blood-debt settl’d & repaid
Five hundred thousand times,
A cavalcade of violence flay’d
A path thro’ Persian climes,
T’where Christendom & Islam trembles at the Mongol’s crimes.

Asia
1222


Mongol Advance

where the wind remembers the enemy
where the moon is yellow & horned
I walk’d as tho’ in the sea’s depth
Anna Akhmatova

Tho’ Ghengiz Khan is dead what spirit soars
Boundless, as the impenetrable skies,
Now his young horselets view the coursing wars
Thro’ slanting & steel-hued rapacious eyes;
Warrior race,
Blood-forg’d formidable,
Whole villages erase – scenes indescribable!

Thro’ hillswept Urals hoof-prints pound,
Then splash thro’ Volga’s water,
At Novogrod the godless found
Resistance earns, ‘No quarter!
Trails of deda bodies choke the ground
Kiev on to Georgia,
There noble men grovel for liberty –
The bloody swamp of Mongol slavery!

Young Morad rode into the west
For all the gold men made,
Yon Budapest onto the crest
Of Christendom’s crusade,
Til forests high & haunted halt the heathen cavalcade!

Europe
1241


Mamluk Dawn

By torch and trumpet fast arrayed,
Each horseman drew his battle blade,
And furious every charger neighed
Thomas Campbell

When the disaffected rise from slumber,
Ye gentlemen, afraid be of your slaves,
Else Spartacus admit to that number
& garden weeds cover thy royal graves;
In auld Egypt,
Boldly the slave-race grew,
Wheeling on an edict, a military coup!

This new paras enters the game
Of Palestein’s knotted plots,
Wishing to win outrageous fame
& those precious pepper pots,
Being the first to inflict shame
Of loss that glory rots,
As coming on the roving Mongol horde
Men, one-by-one, along the ridge, draw sword.

Morad stood in the bodygaurd
Of his great lord Ordu,
The fighting hard, the day ill-starr’d,
The royal horse withdrew,
An unexpected moment, ‘Full retreat,’ blew Hulegu.

Ayn Jelut
1260

 

Canto 14: The New World

The barbarians are to arrive today

C.P Cavafy


Death of Morad

A thousand, ten thousand miles I’ve roamed.
By rivers where the green grass grows thick,
Beyond the border where the red sands fly
Han Shan

The Mamluk may have driven Mongol back,
But Islam still quivers for grammercy,
Hashassin forts crush’d neath a fresh attack,
Then Araby, up to the Grecian sea;
Such victories
Have crippl’d Kings with fear,
Miscarried pregnancies as Morad’s armies near.

In Xanadu’s lush pleasure dome
He met the great Khan, Kubla,
Good captain, welcome to my home,
What’s mine must be your pleasure,
When ye have done traverse the foam,
Launching from Korea
An invincible fleet of invasion
& put to sleep these sheeplings of Nippon.”

See supra-strobile typhoon blow,
Lucky kamikaze:
Minamoto Tamatono
Shoots arrows cross the sea,
& slices open Morad’s throat… he chokes in agony.

Japan
1274


Crusader Sunset

We pray that Thou wilt grant, O Lord,
safe passage to our vessels bringing
heathen souls unto Thy chastening
Robert Hayden

The Mamluk Sultan shares the spoils of war;
From Cairo, beehive of the Muslim sphere,
His horsemen rode, & the Levantine shore
Was port-by-port broken upon the spear;
Christ’s foremost hymns
Silenced by Mahomet,
Leaves scaphelated limbs & driven deep regret.

From Nazareth to Tripoli,
Thro’ Haifa & Ceasara,
Acres of Christianity
Ever shrinking area,
As Giaour gains his victory –
Antioch & Acre –
The western world back to the west is sent,
The course of Holy Wars a war-horse spent.

Throughout mankind once more hath sprung
The love of lands for gain,
When kings were young, when songs were sung
To add to his domain
As would Edward Plantagent in Prince Llewellyn’s reign.

Gwynned
1291


Medievals

La Patria is memory…Scraps of life
wrapped in ribbons of love or of pain;
the murmur of palms, the commonplace song
Ricardo Miró

Grown sick of Crusades, & their crimson gods
The English crown content to claim the Scots,’
First Wallace then The Bruce defy the odds,
A Scotiad defying Longshanks’ plots;
A turn of tide,
Funded by parliament
The Saxon sailors glide down to the Continent

Where feed they King Edward the Third,
Chevaucheing Picardy,
Whose revolutions fate deffer’d
To the hamlet of Crecy,
His yeomen launch a brutal bird,
Murderous arrowrie
Forms over fields, & falling on the French,
Warfare hath moderniz’d with murd’rous wrench.

As longbow & ribauldequin
Their poor foes decimate,
The kings begin to sense the spin
Of roulette wheels of fate,
Prowess is not important whence from distance death dost wait.

Europe
1346


Ottoman Empire

Yea, the coneys are scared by the thud of hoofs,
And their white scuts flash at their vanishing heels,
And swallows abandon the hamlet-roofs.
Thomas Hardy

With Seljuk Sultans groaning warfare won –
From Marmora to Anatolia
All fawn before the ultimate sultan,
This Turkestani chief now emperor!
Europe aghast,
Greece forms a falcon host,
Byzantium bypass’d, Turk storms the Balkan coast.

Thro’ Thessalonika & Thrace
Thrive the Bey & Pasha brown,
The anguish’d tarnish’d Serbs’ disgrace
Mighty Macedon knock’d down,
All Bulgars put in sunless place
While Islam wins renown,
Inflicting fear within each Latin court,
An invisible serpent at the throat.

The Plain of Blackbirds hosts the duel
To end the Balkan war,
The day runs cruel, the Sultan’s rule
Thro’ Europe’s corner tore –
Beyond, kings live in luxury, but wolves growl at the door.

Albania
1389


Rise of Moscow

Listen,
if stars are lit
it means – there is someone who needs it
Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky

From squabbling fractions of the Mongol zone
Nobility clings to the Golden Horde,
Keeps Russian princes firmly on his throne
Beneath the cushion’d presses of a sword;
Cunning masters
Of realpolitik,
Centralising taxes with royal rhetoric.

As Slavic leaders unified
To secure their native soil,
One drifted to the other side,
Determin’d to stay loyal,
Asian might aiding Ivan’s ride,
The rebel fools to foil –
When in the ruins of Novogorod
He’ll dedicate his victory to god.

Respectful of this loyalty
The Duke of Vladamir
Made royalty, thro’ Muscovy
First palaces appear,
Ordain’d to rule a wilderness stretching to Korea.

Russia
1392


Teutonica

A white stone half-dug into the soil,
Said to me as I was passing by:
– God bless you, pray, I’m a tombstone
Azim Souyun

As when a lover lusts with wanton arms,
Or when the pilgrim years for sainted bone,
& thinkers first hear of the desert’s charms,
Or when in Arthur’s chest the Grailquest grown;
Bright knights advance,
Their destiny releas’d
Into the vast expanse that is the dancing East.

Sword-brother-brethren first remove
Baltic tribesmen from Prussia,
Then caught in an annual groove
Fortify the Vistula,
Better in mettle did they prove
Oer Lithuania –
But by battle’s bouncebackability
Pagans ally with Poland’s proud army,

Whom on a day amid the lakes,
Administer defeat –
The white wave breaks, what anguish aches,
Too proud to call retreat,
Charges the doom’d Grandmaster, ‘Drang nach Osten‘ incomplete.

Tannenburg
1403


Constantinople Fall

‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’
Emma Lazarus

As panting deer outpace the panther’s claws,
Then sleep where wolves oft meet in company,
The Ottoman clamps down his drooling jaws
Upon outposted Christianity;
Eighty thousand
Gore-grizzl’d warriors,
Encamp upon the sand kissing soft Bosphorous.

As cannon swallow gunpowder,
Spitting out destructive balls,
Such a clamour ripples louder
From the beaches neath the walls,
Scenes of sorry death enshroud her,
Byzantium she falls –
As Janissaries slew the last Ceasar,
Crescent flags command the Kerkoporta.

Leaving the Sultan to his prize
The Genoese flee,
The local wisemen realize
Passage to Italy,
Leaving a city changing name, shaming its history!

Istanbul
1453


New Spain

But just before the end
there is always this crepuscular hailstorm
echoing base voice owned by men
Elvis Gbanabom Hallowell

Not knowing world empire was theirs’ to sire
Fair Isobel promised to Fernando,
With passion elevating cannonfire,
Grenada falls beneath the combin’d blow;
United land
Centred upon Castille,
Chief of the bible brand with homicidal zeal.

From Genoa Columbus came
From Cadiz his fleet set sail,
The lure of spice, the lust for fame
Thro that mission did prevail,
Each sunset ‘rison flash’d aflame
Or brooded on a gale,
‘Til verging on murderous mutiny
Thin verdant sliver parted sky & sea.

I claim this place for regal Spain,”
Flag thrusteth in the rocks,
“This pleasant rain must grow our grain
& feed our teeming flocks,”
On board a sickly sailor breaths out death-streams of smallpox.

America
1492


India

You darken the eye of the inland man
when he offers plenty in exchange
without bargain — just to get you
Kumalau Tawali

With Ottoman monopolising trade
Tween Occident & spicy Orient,
A fresh attempt to reach the east is made,
Vasco de Gama sailing on the scent;
On him god smiles,
The sea of storms was calm,
Pass’d many ocean miles with hardly an alarm.

Landing at ruby Kerala
Saraswhati on her plinth,
Gold traded for thymimia,
Pepper, amethyst, jacinth,
From gorgeous gardens of Goa
Extracted hyacinth,
There leaving soldiers to secure the vine
The fleet twice cross’d the equinoctal line.

& receiv’d a royal welcome
Lining the Lisbon shore,
Sum-after-sum a vast income
Pass’d thro’ de Gama’s door
For now defenders of the faith are loving Mammon more.

Portugal
1500

Canto 15: Conquistadors

What trouble is beyond the rage of man?
What heavy burden will he not endure?
Jealousy, faction, quarelling, & battle,
The bloodiness of war, the grief of war.

Sophocles


Niccolo Machiavelli

If you tear down the web I said
It will simply know
This isn’t a place to call home
Fady Joudah

As battle brutal & incessant grates
The gates of Florence, Venice, Sicily,
Genoa, Naples & the Papal States,
All pounc’d upon by foreign ‘Barbari;’
No tribal seat
Shall keep this clan intact,
At Italy’s defeat ‘twas unity they lack’d.

It is the writer’s lot in life
To say what we are thinking,
Of course this comes weigh’d down with strife,
While heavier the drinking :-
Winning himself a frisson wife
With his Princes linking,
He sets himself a mission to implore
His countrymen their glory to restore.

Some call’d him diabolical,
Degenerate, deprav’d,
Thro’ which evil courtly counsel
A road to Hell was pav’d,
But in his words lies common sense, their rescue widely-crav’d.

Florence
1513


Death of Chivalry

Her tears of bitterness are shed: when first
He had put on the livery of blood,
She wept him dead to her
Robert Southey

Beneath the pyramids the Sultan stands,
Protecting ancestral lands Islamic
From Ottoman conquest, his line expands,
Across the sands strange muskets chambers click;
Fathomless force
That is the flow of time
Electrifies his horseman on a charge sublime.

Those brave Aegyptians went to work,
Yank back drawstrings on their bows,
Their lust for bloodshed bled bezerk
As fann’d one thousand arrows,
But images of future lurk
In the Turkish shadows –
The Mamluk line withers as winter rots
As masters of gunpowder blast their shots.

As Lion Kings must lose their pride
When old worlds meets the young
Lead-ball wall wide of genocide,
Dead men from dead mounts flung
& knowing he would be the last, their last Sultan was hung

Cairo
1517


Motecuhzoma

In the beholding eye,
A thousand years of wind
Are cool
Shiki

There was a time when white men thought them best,
Of course we know this naught but braggart’s boast,
But then, there was a time when to the West
Great floating mountains landed off the coast;
“Quetzalcoatl
Has come!” the Emperor,
Faced with an immortal, tribulates in terror.

Hernando Cortez was no god,
Gunpowder was his magic,
Him over honour rode slip-shod,
Intransigencies tragic,
Snapping Motecuhzoma’s rod,
Sends tumbling, double-quick,
A vast empire of gleaming golden plate,
Consumed entire into the Spanish state.

Five hundred years, from pole-to-pole,
European empires
Shall each & all rise up & fall,
Until the thought retires
That men are meant to others rule… Cortez inspects the pyres.

Tenochtitlan
1521


Iberia

He was adorned in his very best,
he was oiled like a king,
with beads of silver in his hair
Ama Ata Aidoo

Magellan proves the world a moving sphere,
Criss-cross’d & pin-prick’d by the flags of Spain,
Throne of a restless king, whose lands appear
As gardens of a globular domain;
Unto him comes
The Holy Roman crowns,
The roll of Spanish drums belittling Europe’s towns.

He was a very handsome king
& his fate, a special queen,
Who gifts him her engagement ring,
Valladolid hosts the scene,
Where bridal dress more angel wing
& afterwards, serene,
Alhambra Palace holds a honeymoon
Of warm love-making in the afternoon.

Don Carlos kiss’d his Isobel,
Sending souls delighted,
Seductive smell, the sunset fell,
Verses soft recited,
Then enter’d her with passionfire, with Portugal united!

Granada
1525


Siege of Vienna

That ancient tree, don’t let it fall
Until old age is knelling;
So many things it can recall
Hans Christian Andersen

For Suliman, the Caesar’s sultan heir,
This Istanbul a worthy capital,
All creeds & races in her splendour share
Where lonely wives worry after battle,
Whose young boys dream
Of stately tents of war,
Where blazing colours stream & sharp the Zulfiqar!

Part of that Byzantine glory
That was ardent Achea,
Once more denied of liberty
With Belgrade & Wallachia,
North Africa to Hungary
Thro’ Transylvania –
Embassies of nervous western nations
Profess cordial congratulations.

As Turks arrive at Vienna
The French fear for their lives,
But come winter’s onset men were
Loin-weary for their wives,
So left the wall which Suliman defiantly survives.

Austria
1529


Monarchia Hispania

I saw the rampart of my native land,
One time so strong, now dropping in decay,
Their strength destroy’d by this new age’s way
FG de Quevedo y Villegas

Conquistadors view the Pacific blue,
Cortez claims the nopal of Mexico,
& the laurels for conquering Peru
Go to gallant Francisco Pizarro;
Strecthing the range
Of Hispanic mandate,
Thro lands & native strange, decorum to create.

Above the earth the sun was sent,
Shining down on land & sea,
From continent to continent –
Volcanic Cotopaxi,
Mozambique, Kerala & Ghent,
Conjoin’d community,
Whose peoples seem powerless to resist
The vigours of this white supremacist.

The virgin world desilverized,
Building a bridge to Spain,
Christianized & Hispanized
To civilise the reign,
Abuzz with swarms of Afric slaves in fields of sugar cane.

South America
1540


Opening the Orient

A naked picture of surrealist
Beauty in eerie stumps,
& ancient banyans
Mmoe Malietoa Von Reiche

Among the islands of the coral sword
Pink-faced traders find friendly harbourage,
Lisboan captain meets a local lord
& welcomes him into the modern age;
Gold muskets fire,
Bouy’d by their example
The samurais admire these gifts from Portugal.

Swordsmen of armour’d cavalry,
With battledress their pillow,
Handle their weapons gracefeully
As poets play the koto,
Epitomising chivalry,
Personify Shinto;
No compliments exist enough on earth
To bless the moments of their noble birth.

Persuasive parley was prepared
Scent spreading sensually,
Opinions air’d, religion shared,
Propounded in treaty,
Portugal penetrates indigenous endogamy.

Japan
1543


Prophecies

Truth before time
Truth within time
Truth here & now
Guru Nanak

Nature has taught us have aspiring minds;
Fuell’d by the scholarly Byzantine drain
The genius of Leonardo finds,
& unveils, parts of our uncharted brain;
Renaissance men –
Tasso, Copernicus –
Muse with alchemic pen… with them Nostradamus

Peers deep inside his brass tripod;
Shiny, time-flickering eye
Sees mushroom clouds, brash act of god,
Pig-faced pilots heaven high,
Men harnessing a lightning rod
Tall houses scraping sky,
Saw metal monsters spitting yellow flame
Then saw a face, then heard a demon’s name.

Knocking his tripod to the floor
He shrank away in fear,
Demonic roar consumes his core,
Phantasms dissapear,
Fearing for Europe’s future ‘Hister’ writ thro’ misty tear.

Provence
1553


Ivan the Terrible

The eagle is king of the birds; among fishes
Leviathan holds the first place.
Cleaving the far, crimson cloud
Sung Yü

As Mother Russia crown’d imperatrix,
Her Caesar has proclaim’d himself the Tsar,
Power-drunk upon the streak sadistic,
Men sent to die for his ascending star;
Entainted souls
Into Hell’s pits are hurl’d –
On men fate crudely falls when madness shapes the world.

Cross oceans flowers besprinkling
Twards the Sea of Caspian,
Boiling, roasting & impaling,
Conquering all Kazakhstan,
Constant drilling, constant killing,
Conquering Astrakhan,
These puppet kings afraid in fealty –
The Mongol Khans but foggy memory.

Fur traders from the Tudor court
Meet the ‘Barbarian,’
Good contract sought, his highness bought
With wonderments western,
Fusing cultural amity twixt Moscow & London.

Russia
1556

Canto 16: Siege of Malta


Malta of gold, malta of silver, malta of precious metal,
We shall never take you!
& from her ramparts a voice replied,
I am she who has decimated the galleys of the Turks
& all the warriors of Constantinople & Galata

Badajoz


Digression

Such dire encroachments to prevent in time,
Demands the critic’s voice – the poet’s rhyme.
Can our light scenes add strength to holy laws?

RB Sheridan

I pledge a motion for the grand digress,
Which poems of this nature may include,
Some may question its appropriateness,
Yet others think the moment rather shrewd;
To all accounts
I offer further gloss,
Bless’d by those faithful founts, the Crescent & the Cross.

As we walk among these pages,
With a mind to phantsize,
Ghosts have willow’d down the ages
Forming phantoms in the skies,
As the cataclysm rages
Twix Axis & Allies,
We find the legacies of former times
Have influenced the varnish of these rhymes.

The Knights of Saint John, & their swords,
Seek out new naval base
Departing Rhodes, darting Whale-roads,
Like pirates at a pace,
To settle on a treeless rock & fortify its face.

Malta
1530


War’s Promise

I feel that I am the king of time
I possess the earth and everything on it
and ride into the sun upon my horse

Nizar Qabbani

The Peacock of the World rose from his throne,
Wishing a land-lock’d sea a Turkish pond,
The fish of Malta is the stepping stone
To Sicily & all the world beyond;
That obscure rock
Insults us & our queen,
Thus from their viper-dock we’ll drive the Nazarene.

My finest force I shall employ,”
Added Allah’s deputy,
These sons of dogs ever destroy,
Tho’ they earn’d my clemency
When I was young & full of joy
Thro’ my first victory,
& I allow’d them honour after Rhodes –
No more shall we suffer their vile marauds.

Our scimitars their throats shall slit,
Dragut, prepare the fleet!

Yearning credit, gurning merit,
Gen’rals kiss jewel’d feet,
Then divan leave, planning the heathen’s ultimate defeat.

Istanbul
1564


Call to Arms

My grandmother is calling her goslings
My mother is summoning her hens
The sun has vanished into the ocean

Marilyn Chin

Grave news flies to Grandmaster De Valette,
Tho’ days of armageddon clamour near,
From coming frays his faith shall never fret,
To him the infidel inspires no fear;
Prepare the walls,
Cancel every corso!”

The clang of cannonballs rang thro’ Saint Angelo.

Across the world the summons sent
By ship & sweat-stain’d horsemen,
“Brave knights fly back to the Convent
Go fight beside your brethren!”
Soon many-a-foreign accent
With one voice sang, “Amen,
Renewing vows at the Sacred Altar;
Each man determined to die on Malta.

Outside, in strangest summer rain,
Four thousand strong Maltese
Shall march & train with men from Spain,
As on the ocean breeze
Soft scented Turkish incense wafted slowly overseas.

Birgu
May
1565


Muslim Landing

From the depths of the ocean
a crocodile in search of a destiny
spied the pool of light, and there he surfaced

Xanana Gusmão

From watchtowers the warning cannon ring,
The Sultan’s fleet arrives as a vast fan,
With livestock & the still-green crops of spring
Many to Birgu & Mdina ran;
Dead beast & dung
Poison’d the Marsa wells,
Songs of devotion sung as witches flung their spells.

That armada sail’d round Gozo,
To show that the sea was closed,
Then at the Marsascirroco
Made anchorage unnoppos’d,
As skiffs ferried his war-cargo
Their old commander dozed,
Untroubl’d by the course of coming days,
Sure on him, soon, the Sultan should heap praise.

Dreams were woken by Mustapha,
First sword of the army,
“My young Pasha, what’s the matter?”
Yawn’d adm’ral Piali,
This is no time for sleeping, we must seek the victory.”

Marsaxlokk
19th May
1565


The Fall of Fort Saint Elmo

‘Tis a true & faithful saying –
‘Greater love how can there be
Than to yield up life for thee’
Bishop Doane

Dawn lifted rosy wave-breaks to the shore
Where swept a moment of sickly slaughter
For stubborn struggles, say the laws of war,
May never be allow’d normal quarter;
The Knights prepare
To make their final stand,
One crippl’d in his chair, sword tightly in his hand.

Breachward the Janissaries pour’d,
Pride of the Sultan’s power,
All inside gutted on the sword
Yet not one Knight would cower,
For, still, the Maltese Lion roar’d
For one murderous hour –
Until its throat was cut, then stone-dead fell…
Mustapha stepp’d into that groaning hell,

“So small a son has cost us dear,
Then, what price the father?”
More shots men hear, them very near
Five knights fled thro water,
Guided by Toni Bajada safely, cross the Harbour.

Birgu
June 22nd
1565


Pivotal Point

Like cormorants that seek a submerged prey.
An angel of destruction guards the door
And keeps the peace of our ancestral home

Henry Head

By boat & tower came the great assault,
The Port of Castille reeling neath the blow
All seeming lost, but for that thunderbolt
The gods upon our mortal minds bestow;
Hospital horse
Roll’d down Mdina’s ramp,
Set on a killer course to burn the Muslim camp.

As every able-bodied Turk
Rush’d toward the walls in waves,
The christians perform’d such work
On their wounded & their slaves
That thro the smoke of battle’s murk
A road of error paves –
When verged on perfect triumph Pasha hears
“Relief is sent,” fulfilling all his fears.

He march’d his army back to base,
Of enemy no sign,
His fuming face wick with disgrace,
Neck-heckles, shiver-spine,
“Where are these men from Sicily, the victory was mine!”

Marsa
August 7th
1565


The Last Assault

In an embrace which was warm and fiery.
I sinned surrounded by arms
that were hot and avenging and iron

Forough Farrokhzad

As mines explode in animosity
Toni Bajoda shot up in his bed,
Tho’ wounded he’d discover’d energy,
Men, from the sacred infirmary, led;
All gallant friends,
Tho’ most could barely stand,
Upon this strength depends the freedom of a land.

As knight shields fill’d walls warp’d by mine,
Courageous Callachio
Join’d by the Maltese at the line,
Equal with corragio,
Toni took toll of twenty-nine,
His knife well-loved the foe,
So much an arquebusier took aim,
& sent shot flying in a flash of flame.

Tho’ wounded, in a world of pain,
Toni did not falter,
Brave Muslim bane heaping his slain,
Sacrificial altar,
Fed by force indivisible, “I shall fight for Malta!”

Senglea
August 18th
1565


Gran Sossorso

When liberty is headlong girl
And runs her roads and wends her ways
Liberty will shriek and whirl

Archibald MacLeish

One hundred days of daily hearing, “When?”
Sicily’s Viceroy sends vital relief,
Below Mellieha disembarks his men,
Mustapha strokes his beard in disbelief;
“How many ride?”
“Nigh twenty thousand sire,
Combing the countryside!” “The army may retire.”

All thro’ the night the camp was struck –
As the Maltese heard them yell
Them for more attackers were mistook,
Standing arms, set to repel,
Then saw to sea the foe had snook,
& rang triumphant bell,
Amplified across the purple clover,
“The infidel has fled, the siege over!”

Come dawntint were bells still ringing,
Folk stepp’d outside the wall,
Some dance, some sing, some tear-shedding
On bleeding knees did fall,
As all about black bodies burst, curs’d by the murd’rous maul.

Birgu
September
1565


The Relief of Malta

And so when I saw you, nightmare island,
Fade into the autumnal night
I felt the tears rise up for my land

George Barker

Mustapha heard the news he had been fool’d,
Just six thousand form’d Sicily’s relief,
Piali’s caution was soon over-ruled,
“Land ten thousand & meet us up the coast!”
How felt the Turk
When forced back onto land
For more of war’d black work, with peace so close at hand?

Dispirited once brave men are,
Heads filling with dying fear,
Hard galloping down from Naxxar
Swerve the fresh-faced Chevalier,
Men from Mdina & Mgarr
Now on his flank appear,
Enough to finalise his rising doubt,
Cohesion turns to rabble turns to rout.

Some with his friends, some limping lone,
Crawl to the coastal crack,
Shelves of sandstone bare blood & bone,
Christ-sword plunged in their back,
The Turks plunge toward safety to a shrill, “…& dont come back!”

Saint Paul’s Bay
September 8th
1565

Canto 17: Halyconica

War is little more than a catalogue of mistakes & misfortunes

Winston Churchill


Victorious Valetta

I cannot think this creature died
By storm or fish or sea-fowl harm’d
Walking the sea so heavily armed
Andrew Young

As back to Turkey gloom-cloak’d galleys glide
Let it forever cross the world be known
How one small island majesty defied,
Plucking charr’d feathers from the Peacock Throne;
How Christendom
Triumph’d over Crescent –
Europe’s every kingdom gold-gratitudes have sent.

Auberges of Auvergne & France,
Aragon & Germany,
Castille, Portugal & Provence,
Pour wealth into the kitty,
Fortune enough to help finance
A fortified city,
Forever joining with its founding father,
‘Humillima Civitas Valettae.

This was the Ottoman High Tide,
World conquest incomplete
Now Maltese pride with Rome allied,
The grand, Christian fleet
Slaughters the Turkish navy – irreversible defeat.

Lepanto
1571


Armada

Let the hen be clawed; let the lion roar;
Let the foolish be pugnacious;
Let the heart be broken with grief.
Llywarch Hen

English impressa dares the best of Spain,
Tho’ feeble-bodied Alfred carv’d her heart,
As Buccaneers ravage her golden Main,
Castille, to punish, plans this bold upstart –
Vainglorious,
Armies pois’d for battle,
Her fleet as numerous as th’Augean cattle.

Sea-fortresses threaten the shore,
’Twas national squeakybumtime,
Drake sent his navy out to war,
Soak’d in chivalry & rhyme,
Fierce as Erymanthean Boar,
Proud men in scurvy prime,
Shall pour hot blood out of a British sky
On men who went expecting not to die.

As day-by-day King Phillip’s fleet
Grew weary for the fight,
On came defeat, with backbone beat
& battle-plan contrite,
Spectres of splendid, gilded ships like crops which locusts blight.

Irish Sea
1588


Thistle & Rose

Is not Thy Forth, as well as Isis Thine?
Though Isis vaunt shee hath more Wealth in store,
Let it suffice Thy Forth doth love Thee more
William Drummond of Hawthornden

London laments the passing of an age,
The virgin Gloriana breathes her last,
As clannom-moulds of monarchs hold the stage
Proud Stuart bloodline pours into the cast;
Britain reborn,
One king, one law, one land!
The border guards withdrawn, the lords & ladies stand,

“Deirest bretherin & friendis
My two realmis I unite
To endis all oor quarellis,
Together wee must fyght
All oor rascally enemis,
Put them to common flyght,
Letting oor contree prosper with the peese,
& all oor revenues thereby increese.”

The world we live in day-by-day
Was born this very year,
This moulded clay, this keen swordplay,
This burgeoning idea,
That Britain is an entity, her destiny unclear.

London
1603


Pilgrim Fathers

Peach blossom that’s made thicker by the rain.
Deep in the trees, I sometimes see a deer,
And at the stream I hear no noonday bell
Li Bai

Far from the divine right of divers kings,
Mayflower unburthens the purer faiths,
Shores paradisean Polaris brings –
No longer men but ragged, pale-faced wraiths;
Indian chief
Welcomes his white guests in,
Advent of native grief, the sentence did begin.

In the land of the Sequana
& the endless prairie plain,
Where the buffalo & cougar
Suckle Susquehanna’s vein,
Horseback tribes have lived forever
Praising both sun & rain,
Content to roam upon ancestral soil –
Now aiding pilgrims in their meagre toil.

Seedling imperial takes root,
The plant begins to spread,
As shoot-by-shoot fresh towns recruit
Life to replace the dead,
Tough slaves are made to gather grain, rough soldiers guard the bread.

North Virginia
1628


Closing the Orient

I saw the follies of my former flame,
I turn’d indignant from the hateful sight,
Struck with remorse, and mortified with shame
HJ Pye

As families of monkeys hug the trees
Away from the rambunctious jungle floor,
As dragonflies hover on mountain breeze
Like albatrosses gathering offshore;
Tokugawa
Shuns the approaching West,
European power views more encroaching pest.

The Shogun’s temple throbb’d intense,
Send them back across the seas,
About our harbours build a fence,
All their goods & assets seize,
& offer them no recompense,
Even the Portuguese,
No more their decadence must we endure,
Let us free Shinto from this stint impure.”

Imagine if the pedalo
Was thrown off Lake Nakki!
From Tokyo to Kyoto
Via Nagasaki,
Old ports are cleans’d of foreign trade, trinkets deem’d quite tacky.

Japan
1640


The Thirty Years War

Through a mist that makes five rivers one,
We bid each other a sad farewell,
We two officials going opposite ways
Wang Bo

As shepherds find pockets of anxious sheep
Pull from the flock, as Rajput palaces
Crumble with time, as when the pathway steep
Descends from pinnacles & promises;
Colossal Spain,
Catholic continent,
Lay challenged in her reign by northern protestant.

& so the great death-time begun
Spoken across gypsy palms,
These phrenzied wars of religion
Only spilling blood becalms,
Bouy’d up by Aztec bullion,
Germany up in arms –
As three hundred petty princes squabble
Handsome burghers turn’d to brick & rubble.

The treaty of Westphalia
Ends three decades of wars,
When Europa has together
Made conflict cause-by-cause,
When Prussian gentry muses, “This not peace, but more a pause.

Berlin
1648


Nervous World

An old woman sat alone at the edge
of the market
a pitcher of water beside her
Ante Popovski

Masticating mellifluous parley,
Men praise war & its pale, auspicious strain,
Proving keystones of mortal history,
Even the New World forced to know its bane.
Setting the scene
For godless, global rage,
Deep things to be & been must pass upon this page.

The world has sewn its seeds of woe
In the fertile bed of time,
Every one a weeping willow
Every one commits a crime,
Ye free men of the future show
Thro’ prose or rosy rhyme,
How great world war was always meant to be,
For we will always worship destiny!

Berlin, Moscow, Paris, Warsaw,
Valetta, Washington,
Brussels, Cairo, Rome, Tokyo,
Vienna & London,
Pace round PEACE, a pack of wolves approaching Armageddon.

Earth
1656


Sun-King

your smile was my sun anon,
you created upon the earth beauty with your ways,
and my soul in your garden lives on
Knut Hamsun

To be a Frenchman is to feel a king
& if a king of France then feel a god,
The fourteenth Louis, near life’s fountain spring,
Unnerving ancyent nations with his nod;
Thro cocksure steel
& arrogantine steel
His legions conquer Lille, Alsace & Flander’s field.

As godheads in their realmis reign,
Build palaces in the sky,
Upon the Parisian plain
Would heaven on earth arise,
Where courtiers sip dry champagne
& chandeliers surprise;
The sycophantic fervour of Versaille,
Were men on earth ever esteem’d so high?

He builds a string of starry forts
From Verdun to Gravelines,
Then fills the ports with thrilling sorts –
Many a tough marine –
Combine these with her mountains & Europa’s queen serene.

France
1684


Siege of Vienna

The bird in me awoke again
Its cry spread anguish
In the heart of my kingdom
Nimrod Bena Djangrang

Islamic spectres on Austria fell,
Vienna must, for Europa, stand firm,
Else Pasha & the Turkish infidel
Into the west & thro their wives would worm;
Aiming the guns
At Allah’s grand empire,
More bonfires than are suns, the Kahlenburg on fire.

As constant as a perfect waves
That rolls into Biaritz,
The Sipahi slip to their graves
In the death-deep city pits,
Tho’ conquest human honour craves
From these far-flung limits,
Facing superior technology,
Fled the apex of Turkish history.

The royal horses are preserv’d,
Churches Hosannah sing,
Islam unnerv’d, Europe preserv’d,
Her internicine spring,
When bleeding for ones empire breeds purpose in existing.

Vienna
1688

Canto 18: Europe At War

If you live among wolves you have to act like a wolf

Nikita Kruschev


Glorious Revolution

In those moments
Neptune’s word had breathed in off the ocean
& carried away Cygnus
Ted Hughes

E’er since Prince Henry with Rome schism made
English papists grate the gist from friction,
King James, taunted today by Judas’ shade,
Bows to the jurisdiction Vatican;
Rise angry shouts,
Entreason’d parliament,
“Send out a world of scouts, scour out a Protestant!”

So, who shall be London’s saviour,
Wear the crown & thrust the pike,
Swing the Tudor wunderkammer,
Triumph all with timely strike?
Fate has brought the Dutch Stadholder
(After France drown’d in his dyke),
To land an army on the Saxon shore,
When, wanting not another civil war

Strange zeitgeist sets King James aflight,
Parisian, a pawn,
First Jacobite… without a fight
Upon a vacant throne,
King Billy dons the triple-crown on Scotias’s ancyent stone.

London
1688


Alexander MacDonald

children of forest & mountain,
with their eyes they could behold themsleves,
their voices named the animals
Homero Aridjis

Tho’ lurkest one great novel in us all,
Most author’s thoughts are raided by despair,
Whose masterpieces never start at all,
While others grow too dull to sit, & bare;
Only the keen
Struggle with conviction,
Feeling each earthly scene perfect for non-fiction.

In Glen Etive was born a boy
To walk my poem’s pages,
Heroism akin to Troy
Shall echo down the ages,
Man’s foremost skills his to employ
Cross life’s varied stages –
Calamity strikes this wee MacDonald,
Witness to screaming clansmen being cull’d.

His mother hid him in a tree
& finger-hushes lips,
She turns to flee, sharp musketry
Thro’ back & bosom zips,
Tho’ orphanized ‘fore teary eyes him to safe silence slips.

Glencoe
1692


Blenheim

Lord, these are Thine! With soldierly tread
Without a tremor they go their way,
Singing a hymn they march ahead
Lucian Watkins

King William conjures an alliance,
Boring the flesh of Louis to the bone,
His sea-lions scuttle the fleet of France
& cut the fuming Stuarts from the throne;
Now Scotland’s kings
With England entangl’d,
Whose majority brings matters Saxon-angl’d,

For politics do prosper well
Courting the royal ego,
When loyal kinship casts a spell,
Rarely letting fetters go –
But on digress my verse has fell,
So on, on with the show!
Marching along the sandy Danube shore
The Sun-King sent fresh conscripts to the war.

Behold the Duke of Marlborough,
John Churchill him became,
Faithful leader of firm vigour,
Putting the French to flame,
Forever his descendants leaves a very famous name.

Germany
1704


Treaty of Utrecht

Woe to thee, wild Ambition! I employ
Despair’s low notes thy dread effects to tell;
Born in high heaven, her peace thou coulds’t destroy
Maria Brooks

As Peneus & Alpheus combin’d,
England & Holland wash the wound of France,
Pour thwarting salts within; bloodthirsty, blind,
Into his dotage Louis did advance;
Dictating still
Quarrellings of nations,
Arse far from battle’s thrill & war’s degregations.

Then… what has France gain’d from his war?
Her towns depopulated,
Enemy pirates at the shore,
Her fields uncultivated,
Her country houses wick with Poor,
Death unsatiated –
At first, with Warfare men, say tis a sport,
But by the end just horrors they’ll report.

At last the Sun-King sues for peace,
His paradise preserve,
By this increase Europa’s police,
Great Britain & her verve,
Possess Pillars of Hercules thro’ which all sealanes swerve.

Gibralta
1713


One Woman’s War

Her suffering ended with the day,
Yet lived she at its close,
& breathed the long, long night away
James Aldrich

She met him, in the hot flush of her youth,
Working the lobster-pots of Port Appin,
’Tween creamy kisses lips scream passion’s truth,
So wed for love, her kinsmen took him in;
She bore three sons,
Each wore her husband’s name –
The sounds of pipes & guns towards their idyll came.

Alexander away did ride,
Joining with the Jacobite,
Tho’ calm she seemeth, the outside,
Tears drench her pillow by night,
& trembling all her time did bide
For news of distant fight,
When certain words within her soul would burn,
“O mother, when will father dear return?”

Her prayers answer’d happily,
He strolls in with the mail,
Balances three sons on each knee,
Told them a stirring tayle
Of Highlanders proud marching for a cause that must prevail.

Scotland
1715


Peter the Great

In church the bell is tolled,
In barracks at the last bugle note
Soldiers like ants file
Stephen Lubega

As nature shapes races, races nations,
Nations shape kings & these kings shape our lives,
The Tsar commences co-operations
Cutting thro’ coccoonings with psychic knives;
As catwalk craves
Corrective surgery,
This brave reformer waves wands of futurity.

His armies guarantee his fame
& russify the Baltics,
Now ready for the global game,
Tri-fleeted imperatrix,
Rival Sweden retreats in shame,
Licking her cicatrix,
Stockholm’s ambit deflated by his lance,
In coming wars she’ll keep a neutral stance.

City meant to last forever
Uprose with his ego,
Marshy Neva’s magic river
Provides her vital flow,
So she can match his majesty, watching from the window.

St Petersburg
1720


The Great Awakening

And in the Squire’s hall its all riotous fun;
Not like the peasant living by the toil of his shovel,
With a lukewarm vinegar wine to wet his whistle
Shih Chun-pao

Halfling, hedonistic America
Suckles herself on Europe’s throbbing vein,
Vast heaven-sent land to tempt the settler
Of Italy, Germania & Spain;
Wee green towhee
Love luminary dawn;
Both fetterless & free, by breezy morning bourne.

But when rocks by loose pebbles paved,
In a time to try the soul,
The groaning of the damn’d & saved,
Encompass our very all,
When voices raise for the enslaved
& wages rise & fall,
Where Indians push’d into wilderness,
Land of plantations, politics & press.

As from slime crawl lizard-fishes,
Whitfield makes his voice heard,
Modern Jesus coryphaeus
Stability has stirr’d,
Entrench’d in th’indestructable good-ground of Heaven’s word.

North America
1740


Frederick the Great

They held a great prayer-service in Berlin,
& augured German triumph from some words
Said to be spoken by the Jewish God
Karle Wilson Baker

As poet-kings by growing nations crown’d
& expeditions gravid to expand,
A modern grandmaster Teuton has found,
Sweeps thro’ Silesia & Sudetenland;
“Save Austria!”
Empress Maria screams,
All thro’ Bohemia her well-train’d army teems.

Vienna treats with Downing Street
As young Potsdam Paris charms –
With European war complete
Man’s brutality alarms,
As children orphan’d in the street
& snipers strafe the farms –
Since Mollwitz & the Chotusitz affrays
Europa plunged deep in death-hungry days,

In which this Brandenburger shines,
In open glory tore,
Lover of wines, libretto lines
& genius for war
Bringing Prussian policies to the European fore.

Berlin
1744


Culloden

The grim, grey fathers, bent wi’ years,
Come stridin’ through the muirland mist,
Wi’ beardless lads scarce by wi’ school
Charles Murray

From frilly sleeves France slips the Stuart sword
& plays it like a Pittsburgh poker ace,
Imperial wars being fought abroad
To Inverness embattl’d armies race;
Alexander
Ran with his manly sons,
Yelling altogether toward the English guns.

Clan Appin on the right flank fell,
Questing for King & country,
Eye-slicing claymores faced Burell,
Gruesome ends of ancestry
Where Haelan’ hopes turn into hell,
Cumberland butcherie
MacDonald fled, thro’ all the fire & noise,
Heart haunted by the death-screams of his boys.

He comforted his grieving wife,
O my darlin’ Clara,
We’ve too much strife, a better life
Awaits America,”
So sail’d, with their sons’ families, from Scotland… forever!

Oban
1746

Canto 19: Seven Years War

The most persistent sound which reverberates through man’s history is the beating of war drums

Arthur Koestler


Colonial War

Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour & the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth
Arthur Hugh Clough

Europe shapes peace at sleepy Aix-Chapelle,
Paris & London, locking niggle-horn,
Shall sheathe their fencing rapiers a spell:-
One drawn by those by Mayflower bourne;
Americans –
Pride & guts & battle –
Point their English guns at the Redskins rattle.

Franklin’s squadron shall slowly push
Thro’ legendary greenwood,
A whoosh of tomahawk, ‘‘Ambush!”
As sickening slices thud,
On ancyent soil did gloop & gush
This sacrificial blood,
& hope the warring spirits to appease –
Young Washington to Fort George ducks & flees.

The French are sitting on Quebec,
The British in Boston,
But both a freckle’s freckl’d speck,
Or stride whose marathon
Runs where exists the ancyent six nations of Indian.

Ohio
1754


Earthquake!

Out-worn heart, in a time out-worn,
Come clear of the nets of wrong & right;
Laugh, heart, again in the grey twilight
WB Yeats

Old Portugal still European prince,
Lord of diamoniferous Amazon,
Capital rarely match’d before or since,
Watch’d golden sunrise, but by nightfall gone;
Under the sea,
Ground would groan & bellow,
Sending the Tsunami to lay old Lisbon low.

First her famous towers topple,
Now the flames follow the flood,
Legacies lost in the rubble.
Mass’d thousands slain where they stood,
Bursting man’s beautiful bubble
As only nature could,
Her message deliver’d with a shiver,
From Rochester to the Guadalquivir.

The world wilts beneath the pressure,
Doom-stricken with intent,
France, Austria, Britain, Prussia,
A brooding continent,
All waiting for war’s catalyst or one they would invent.

Europe
1755


Pre-emptive Strike

Mark now the proof I give thee, that the brave
Need no such aids as superstition lends,
To steel their hearts against the dread of death
William Cowper

Musing at the Sans Souci, free from care,
Fred’rick shall contemplate his nation’s fate,
A friend & confidente of Herr Voltaire,
Thinks deep into the future of the state;
The answers come,
Great powers on each side,
To solve the conundrum to warfare all must slide.

If he who laughs last laughs longest,
Those striking first strike strongest
Facing the self-inflicted test,
Fred’rick proclaims the contest,
Now men in battle must he best,
No momentary rest
For Russia, Austria & France allied –
Only Great Britain tends the Prussian side.

He proves once more that genius
Exists in martial arts,
His warriors victorious
For battle’s many parts
Like children kept; from ammo carts to patriotic hearts.

Saxony
1756


Struggling For Existence

Owl, owl,
You’ve already taken my chicks:
Don’t destroy my nest
Trad. China (Pin)

Europe’s Princes provinces overwhelm;
Sweden possesses Pomerania
France mops the British from each German realm
& Russians rules the roost in East Prussia;
As Berlin falls
To lion Budapest,
The butchery appals a new enlighten’d west.

Both Paris & Vienna slack,
Thinking the war completed,
Feeling Fred’rick would not attack
With provisions outpeter’d –
Such flash of lightning at Rossbach!
Totally defeated,
Escaping thro’ Thuringen forestry –
A clueless, cannonless calamity.

The clawing winds of winter bite
For warm climes birds are fled,
Six hours of light, a stunning fight,
Another field of fight,
But for thick-feather’d carrion so viscerally fed.

Leuthen
1757


Birth of the Raj

The world is changed with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
GM Hopkins

How arrogant is man that thro one war,
Thinks peoples will subdue, but do indeed,
When charismatic leaders to the fore
Have work’d upon the natives private greed;
Sir Robert Clive
Leaves the Madras clutter –
How many would survive the Black Hole of Calcutta.

The Nawab left Murshidbad
With the barons of Bengal,
They thought that Clive was raving mad
To pitch camp & fight at all,
Vastly outnumber’d, but he had
The luck of that dice roll,
The barons knew the balance of power
Had shifted to the white man that black hour.

Commemorated victory,
Mumbai renamed Bombay,
Pondicherry storm’d from the sea,
The French fled in dismay,
From Ramadan to Diwali for peace the peasants pray.

India
1758


Conquering Canada

We buried him darkly at dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning,
By the struggling moonbeam’s misty light
Charles Wolfe

The global visions of William the Pitt,
See certain sections shaded Preston red,
A puzzle with one piece struggling to fit,
Like racing gates with horses poorly bred;
Chess-player sent
To North America,
With one present intent, to conquer Canada.

Beyond my triple metaphor
Sit the pretty English fleet,
Spit-snarling like the dogs of war,
Quebecois quake in the street,
Night helps slip silent boats to shore,
Outflanking move complete,
Stood with his officers at break of day
Chiaroscuro on a page of Gray…

“I would rather have that composed,
Than gain the hot day’s fame!”
The armies closed, all problems posed
Brought down with shot & flame,
“They run, they run!” tho’ dying his checkmate had won the game.

Quebec
1758


Sumner & Stemmler

Clamour raised upon clamour
Rattle of armour, death squeals,
A mind, erratic within
Burns Singer

The Britons bless their miraculous year,
When empire many hectares did increase,
Upon the continent her troops appear
Set to remove France from her German lease;
With Prussian friends,
Sharing a common blood,
March where the Weser wends thro wheatfield & wild wood.

“This is fuckin’ killin’ mi feet,”
Jeff Sumner moan’d on the road,
Once press-gang’d from a Preston street,
Now a well-paid blade abroad
Helps to pursue the French defeat,
The borders are restor’d
As lines of allied cavalry enshock
Cuirassiers, as waves break on the rock.

While trawling thro those wheat-fields won,
Jeff saw a French ‘corpse’ move
& point a gun at some Prussian –
This threat Jeff did remove
Death-shot that saved Paul Stemmler has commenc’d the Karmic groove.

Minden
1759


Martial Romance

I am maddened with words
and no-one has managed to tell me
why the men are killing each other
Lucia Sanchez Saornil

Paul call’d upon his cousin at Colditz,
To pass the weeks that were his precious leave,
To meet a woman having hissy fits,
More beautiful than his heart could believe;
With just one kiss
He caught her flailing soul,
A wooing world of bliss, a cooer to his call.

When he went off to the muster
She was pregnant with his seed,
“I am in love,” he told Blucher,
Many soldiers we shall breed
To maintain beloved Prussia!”
“By god, them do we need,
So many paid the full price at Zorndorf,
Hochkirch, Maxen, Dresden & Kunesdorf.”

Tho’ men exigious, Frederick
Puts Prussia on a par,
But stream of victory phyrric
Has dull’d his warring star,
Just ten thousand brave hearts await the martial coup de gras.

Torgau
1760


Exhausted Peace

Blissfully lying
Under the falling blossoms
A skeleton
Enomoto Seifu

The spring blooms of a generation gone,
Some daisy-beds, some lucky to grow old,
How many names bore ‘La Guerre de Sept Ans,’
How many famous stories to be told?
As lovers rest,
Ladies tire of legend,
Economies depress’d, folk will the Wars to end.

Deft as gliding ballerina
Sweden sidesteps the conflict
With the new Russian Tsarina,
This war too hard to predict
For Tom Thumb & Thumbelina
In thumb war cramp have click’d –
Even Great Britain from the fight dost flit,
Her new clown king closing the age of Pitt.

Loquacious diplomatic spree
Warms up the winter hours,
An unfriendly hostility
Presses down the powers,
Scratching their caps oer global maps as monkeys inspect flowers.

Paris
1763

Canto 20: Revolutionaries

If they would meet us now for our kinsfolk
High on the hilltop lets raise our ramparts
Carry out faces over the shield rims
Raise up our spears, men, over our heads

Taleisin


Catherine the Great

while im being watched
its hard to spit out
watermelon seeds
Inahata Teiko

Namore should Europe fear the Muslim march,
The dreaded dengue Istanbul beswoons,
Her ageing & plague-drench’d triumphal arch
More insubstantial than a shift of dunes;
The crescent furl’d,
Conquest consign’d to shelves,
Leaving the western world to war among themselves.

But first an empire must dissolve,
As the days brown orange peel,
Tsarina shows Ceasar’s resolve
With a Cleopatran zeal,
Her Turkish question bids to solve,
& territories steal –
But first her navy to Chios would flow
& seize Aegean harbours from the foe.

Russia rose in gargantua,
Walks a world collossus,
Moldavia, Wallachia
Annex’d victorious,
“Fight for your land,” chants Catherine chants, “& make us glorious!”

Russia
1774


American Revolution

Haste, therefore, each degree,
To welcome destiny.
Heaven is our heritage
Thomas Nashe

Liberty is the watchword of the wise,
Breeding-ground of modernist progression,
But skeleton keys fall not from the skies,
Freedom’s rarely won without aggression;
Paul Revere peers
Thro’ hazy salmon sun,
The enemy appears, rebellion begun.

“… are coming, the British are coming!”
As militiamen bare arms,
They run t’wards rhythmical drumming
Thro’ the thickets & the farms,
Soon the Redcoats boasts sent shtumming
& when the battle calms,
The township of Concord all smoke & flame –
Old world, new world, its all the bloody same.

As Fort Ticonderoga falls
& Bunker Hill was fought
The fight appals, hot musketballs
Break bones & pierce the throat,
The ‘Continental Congress’ calls Europa for support.

Philadelphia
1775


Declaration of Independence

It’s not the pack who were the stronger,
Smaller beasts beat you to tatters –
And who fights now over your carcass
Frigyes Karinthy

As congressmen in converse shall resume,
Whose raison d’etre citizens shall free
From frightful servitude, in this assume
The right to forge their own identity,
Jefferson drafts
Demands, them soon endorsed
By squiggly autographs, King George abjur’d, unhors’d!

‘We hold these truths self-evident
All men created equal,
Our great Creator on them meant
Rights unalienable
That, with community consent,
Upon this principle,
All governance men may freely alter
When, in government, their leaders falter.

Such is the state these Colonies,
Suffer ‘neath Britain’s King,
Whose injuries, usurperies,
Wide tyranny dost bring,
& all protest dismisses, let us fight, unite, & sing!’

Philadelphia
1776


American War

Every one feels dread;
Every bird wings to its mate.
Every thing springs through the earth
Aneirin

Britannia is bullied into action,
Sails off her men to fight three months from home,
& furnish their king with satisfaction,
Cornwallis views Virginian seaboard;
“Tax dodging scum!
Sons of gin-soak’d bitches!
Their time for payback come, be it blood or riches.”

Regular Redcoat regiment
Reach’d the creek at Brandywine,
As per se rules of engagment
Devastates the rebel line –
France offers timely refreshment,
Treaties of friendship sign,
Resumes the death match of those sister thrones
Sending a fleet to bolster John Paul Jones.

The purr of the Parisian
To Saratoga flies,
American, Shakespearean,
The day dramatic dies,
When British masters felt defeat, her rebels on the rise

West Virginia
1777


The Last Jacobite

I ask the just Creator
so much refuge from Time
that a tale of mine may remain in the world
Ferdowsi

Alexander commands a private clan,
His wife & three gorgeous daughters-in-law,
Each one a mother to a strapping man,
Gone with granpaw to patriotic war;
“Let none survive,”
The old man hiss’d his hate,
“Ah maybe eighty-five but I can still shoot straight.”

Washington launch’d verbal attacks,
Men of our wond’rous nation,
Should we suffer a tyrant’s tax
Without representation,
Fight for your flag, both whites & blacks,
Suffer depravation,
For in the end it is our destiny
To carve a contree fit for liberty.”

Each night ‘Mac’ told the famous tayle
Of Bonnie Prince Charlie,
‘Twas never stale, did never fail
To rouse excitedly
His proud grandsons, tho’ them now men, perch’d on his pension’d knee.

West Virginia
1778


Britain Determin’d

So desperately
The leaves cling
To the departing fall
Shiki

As the Sun-King stopp’d by coalition,
Europe combines to smite man’s arrogance,
The British Empire in opposition
To Prussia, Spain, the Netherlands & France;
That mighty fleet,
From carv’d myriad trees,
Grown able to compete with London’s private seas.

Elsewhere, that sun of India’s
Rises with an angry shine,
As the Maharatta Rajas
Stiffen independent spine,
Raising flags against their ‘masters,’
Britannia forms a line
Sensing Delhi vital to her empire,
Brings down the rebels with unholy fire.

Ten thousand ships besiege the rock,
To beat her to the knees,
Their cannons knock, such red hot shock,
But futile days are these –
The Briton pins defiance to Pillars of Hercules.

Gibralta
1782


Independence

Behold the sun, which seemed but now
Enthroned overhead
Beginneth to decline below
Panini

As Essex battl’d Tyrone’s Ulstery,
When chivalry was bogg’d down in the peat,
Cornwallis seeks American mercy,
Yorktown’s surrender rendering defeat;
British Empire,
Pitt’s darling, lying wreck’d,
Gunn’d down in hatred’s fire, a time for retrospect.

The news whisper’d to MacDonald,
Half-flickers of emotion,
Tho’ body limp a mind so old
Still swam across an ocean,
Saw Glencoe’s massacre unfold,
As he, in slow-motion,
Drops chin to chest as poppies plush with rain
Decline their heads & drooping kiss the plain.

George Washington first president,
E Pluribus unum,
His government shall re-invent
The Grecian theorum,
Grand sentry of man’s liberty from now ‘til kingdom come.

The United States of America
1783


Convicts

What waefu’ news is this I hear,
Frae greeting I can scarce forebear
Folk tells me, ye’re gawn aff this year
Rabbie Burns

As old soldiers earn a thievish living
One sails home to Blaneau Ffestiniog,
Defeated fates often unforgiving,
Arrested for robbing bottles of grog;
Transportation
An endless, restless sea,
Empire’s new direction – the penal colony.

Thro’ the sea-whiff in his nostrils
How rough perfume pierc’d his heart,
A buxom lass from Buxton hills,
Who’d stole from an apple cart,
Sea-nights their grunting passion fills
& then new life did start –
For Pam was pregnant when they disembark,
As when Mount Ararat received the Ark.

They moved up from Botany Bay,
Found a better harbour,
Upon the way young Maggie Grey
Marries Thomas Slater,
Then on the beach at Sydney toss’d into her hard labour.

Australia
1789


French Revolution

Who owns this landscape?
Has owning anything to do with love?
For it & I have a love affair, so nearly human
Norman MacCaig

As children change a nation’s attitudes
The rights of man give reason to an age,
When swinish lives of rough-hewn multitudes
Have toss’d a straw out of their ancyent cage;
The straw blown east
By breeze American,
What forces are releas’d by proud Republican!

Are kings chosen by god alone
Or more by human error,
The commoners seize Capet’s throne,
Aristocratic terror,
Once noble heads from shoulders torn,
Life’s fatal leveller,
For golden lads & golden lasses must,
Like chimney sweeps, return to cold & dust.

Below the Bastille soft flutes play’d
Amid the broke spears,
Thro’ death’s parade the widow made
A well from all their tears,
When born from such beginnings Liberty must bleed for years.

Paris
1789

Canto 21: Bonaparte

On dit que dieu est toujours pours les gros battallions!

Napoleon Bounaparte


Warrior Born

See, at her voice a new creation springs,
Exulting Fancy claps her eagle wings;
Swift on the clouds, by sportive zephyrs drawn.
JD Worgan

Our spirit touch’d by memories of man
& how lone man by men a legend made,
As restless time moves thro’ her milky span,
His nerve shall never from our vigour fade;
Napoleon!
Fame risen to the stars!
When all Europa won, when Eagles march’d with Mars!

As other young men of his age
Upheld the Revolution,
Aristocratics assuage
Their swift, sharp, cruel solution –
He took a step onto the stage,
Some stocky Corsican
Watching the rues run red with royal blood,
The fate of France by none more understood.

He waltzed thro’ each academy
With vision, verve & flair,
His masterly artillery
Moved with a mother’s care,
Ribalding with old warriors, of strategies aware!

France
1791


Republican Dawn

The mouldy structure of injustice crumbles down,
Crushing underneath its weight envy, enmity & hate,
The soulless canons of the cross & crown
Hristo Smirnenski

A vacuum forms where lived the lion’s pride,
Long line of Louis, lords of France & Spain,
Prostrate beneath the coming regicide,
Begs Bourbon cousins, “Pray restore our reign;
Thus Austrians,
French liberty to foil,
March, friendly, with Prussians ploughing thro’ royal soil.

One hundred thousand souls conjoin,
Gather’d neath Valmy’s steeple,
The Cock’relle cause the only coin,
This Army of the People
Draws steely barb from belted loin,
Storms up a hard, steep hill;
The spoils of victory soon theirs to wield,
The Berlin phalanx driven from the field.

The King is forced to meet his fate
With Marie Antoinette,
Minos awaits them at the gate
To answer for their debt
Gallants dying for luxury, the guillotine is set…

Paris
1793


March of Napoleon

Autumn night so cooly comes.
Lights up with stars
Above the broken bones of men
George Trakl

Promotion upon noble promotion
Napoleonic fame paints peaks & skies,
Opinion, from doubt to devotion,
Purported in the populace’s eyes;
When Heaven sent
Then Fate must surely steer,
From lowly Lieutenant to Gen’ral Brigadeer.

The Revolutionary call
Transforms to one of conquest,
Hapsburg Flanders & Holland fall
With all of the Rhine Bank West,
Now striking thro’ Cisalpine Gaul
French face vital contest
At the battle of Tagliamento –
Where genius, unbridled, runs the show.

As Austria’s retreats increase
Vienna shrinks in fear,
To sue for peace, the muskets cease,
His Aide-de-Camps appear,
To herald their great champion, by victory soar’d clear.

Leoben
1797


Napoleonica

The march gone by was glorious, this shall be
More glorious still. To one & all of ye
I speak.- Remember well what is done
JD Horrocks

How time has rambl’d on two hundred years
Since Malta & the brave Knights of Saint John
Threw back the Turkish onslaughters in tears,
Began the long decaying Ottoman;
Valetta’s chests
Bulge yet with Muslim gold,
While decadence infests their noble poise of old.

Upon his complex to the east
Napoleon here pauses,
Finds auberges spread like a feast,
Exotical roci courses,
As greed upon Malta releas’d
All his hungry forces,
The Maltese take Libertie as a wife,
A conquer’d  land without the loss of life.

As married love may turn to woe,
Cursing the romantic,
Crude taxes grow, flies death-black crow,
Futures feeling frantic,
To good Lord Nelson pleas are sent, out in the Atlantic.

Malta
1798


Rock of Empire

Malta we found there silent, unafraid,
Ready & steady. Fitted to be made
The bride of destiny, the hope, the light
G.R.Hogan

While Boney battl’d at Aboukir Bay
The English have enclosed Calypso’s Isles,
,Fierce ring preventing vessels, every day,
Provisioning the Gallic rank & files;
Valetta’s walls
Immune to cannon shot,
But not those hungry holes which growling stomachs knot.

To hapless, “Vive Napoleon!
The garrisons surrender,
Abandon’d on the hard ocean
To starve & scarlet fever,
Majestic London, from now on,
Malta’s first officer –
Where even Mdina’s nobilty
Happy to join Britain’s community.

This is the little butterfly
Whose pretty flutterwings
Beat in the sky to amplify
The hurricane that swings
Across the Earth – soon Peter’s isle shall sway the fate of kings.

Malta
1798


Eastern Complex

Ye surging sees, & ye Inconstant wynds
Who stayes the course of my Expecting hope
Go Calme your selfs, be constant by your kynds
King James I&VI

From Perpignan to Rheims & Brittany
Napoleon known as new messiah,
Cult acolytic of celebrity
Forever man’s endeavours to inspire;
Golden Egypt’s
Great Pyramids beckon,
With fescoe pharoe crypts beneath a seering sun.

The Tricolours at first prosper,
The coast is shrewdly taken,
When ancyent Alexandria,
To French soldat foresaken,
But cometh now the frank terror
Of Admiral Nelson;
Fleet crippled at the Battle of the Nile,
Into their prison boats the bluecoats file.

In youth being no new Pompey,
Nor Alexander’s kind,
He reach’d Marseille in dissarray,
With thousands left behind,
The oriental question milling still aghast his mind.

France
1799


Imperial Intentions

No sooner had I got back home
Than they told me straight away
How my best friend had been killed
Konstantin Vanshenkin

Needing sharp sabres civil strife to quell,
Gallic resolve promotes a Consulate,
Three lofty men French treasure-chests to swell
& stretch the Tricolor to Calicut;
Tall in their midst,
Fresh from the sojurn East,
Primal Bonapartist whose eagles climb releas’d.

Brought to war thro’ forc’d conscription,
Marching by the pretty Po,
His insatiable ambition
Men drives on to Marengo,
Lombardy rul’d by Austrian
Before this gory show:
A field of rampant battle until dusk,
When Hapsburg dreams are shatter’d, hurt & husk.

A name is pass’d about the streets
Which hug the rocky hills,
“With famous feats that man defeats
His foe, with fear all fills,
Let us admire Napoleon,” scribbl’d the burghers quills.

Italy
1800


Copenhagen

The medal is awarded
when nothing more happens,
when the artillery falls silent
Ingeborg Bachmann

Ascending in a ring of rising stars,
The great Horatio steers native bark,
From body mark’d by brutal battle scars,
His lone arm points out to stubborn Denmark;
As Northern League
Defends neutrality –
Parisian intrigue drives English fleets to sea.

Cleaving a path between the bouys,
Rare heart on a pinn’d sleeve worn,
The lads the Adm’ralty employs,
Oaks from a press-gang’d acorn,
Are draping Danes in death & noise,
From wrack’d ships sailors shorn,
Nelson’s most magnanimous ministry
Rescues so many from a crimson sea.

From port-to-port the stories flow,
Legends made of prowess!
As Consuls know their ancyent foe
Defies naval duress,
Says Bonaparte, “We must build fleets to beat the sea’s mistress.”

France
1801


Nervous Peace

It had come at last! his own stupendous hour
Long waited, dreaded, almost hoped-for too,
When all else seem’d the foolery of power
Max Plowman

When only rust could halt hegemony,
Exists a stalemate of the warring lords –
The British crown commands the rolling sea,
Impervious to sharpen’d Guardsmen swords;
As rust takes time,
A pact of peace is sought,
Good chance to swerve my rhyme from battles fearless fought.

An element of pageantry
Fills the roads to Amiens,
Upstanding cathedral city,
Hosting next the bandwagon,
His consulate arrives as three,
But truly it was one –
Napoleon snakes as Saharan ghouls,
Taking the Saxon delegates for fools.

The beaugoisie leap on the float,
With none foreseeing strife,
Drunk with devotion most men vote
Him First Consul for life –
But to succeed his succession still barren is his wife.

France
1802