Category Archives: Act 1

Canto 22: Ascension

Forsooth the men ye buy
Will come back better soldiers

Horace


Arthur Wellesley

To be yourself not who you were taught
Not the shell in which you are caught
Not the trivia in which you are embroiled
Sudi Nshimiyimana

How noble is the English sense of war
Embodied in this headlet of the realm,
From taming, fresh, the Tyger of Mysore
More heroes push’d he at the heated helm;
Aiming their guns
Aswathe the sable hordes,
What blasting hot death stuns those elephant & swords!

What brought him to this victory –
Celebrated with French wine –
Was a sense of common decency,
The command of details fine,
The securance for his army
Of vital supply line,
& stood upon unruly battlefield
What cool head & intelligence revealed?

Maratha Rajas & their shield
Melt to a mind’s mirage,
Since Plassey’s field all classes yield
To this new rising Raj,
Where skirmish after skirmish natives fill the repercharge.

Assaye
1803


Emperor

The corners of your eyes
sparkle and they glisten
when you speak your solid words
Kunanbaev Ibragim Abai

Upon a wrathful path of senseless pain,
Napoleon dares London to oppose,
His flourit an Estrildis to obtain,
As on all sides his gaudy glory grows;
Around his bride,
Radiance rarely seen,
Beloved by his side the fairy Josephine.

A pious Pope appears from Rome
Midst pompous celebration,
’Neath Notre Dame’s delicious dome
Performs the coronation,
With mumbling words crumbling sandstone
Waning hesitation,
“Worry not, for I shall do it instead!”
An emperor crowns his own well-comb’d head.

“Rejoice! Rejoice!” from town to town
Flutters festivity,
His purple gown & sparkling crown
Carried to Italy,
“Long live the King!” a call to fill the halls of Lombardy.

Milan
1804


Invasion’s Verge

I have lived in the ecstasy of battle.
The throbbing of guns, growing yearly,
Had been drum music to my ears
Herbert Read

The conqueror chokes up the Channel coast
His Grand Armee’s grand camp, & grander still
The ambition to sail this eager host
Across the tide to execute the kill;
Two thousand boats,
Two hundred thousand sons,
Twenty-five thousand goats with countless swords & guns.

Ambition turns to thwarted dreams
For fishes out of water,
Who thought naught could avert their schemes,
Britannia saved from slaughter,
Her Nelson steering steely beams
Frown-afraid to fight her,
Villeneuve diverted from the myrtle seas
Into Cadiz, via the Antilles.

As dispatch reach’d the Emperor,
This is gross betrayal!”
With, “Sacre Bleu!” with “Merde! Mon deiu!”
He curs’d his admiral,
“Then let us march to Austria, I must have my battle.”

Boulogne
1805


Glorious Autumn

No mortal knows what he will earn tomorrow;
No mortal knows where he will breathe his last.
Allah alone is wise & all-knowing
Muhammad

The continent of Europe is athrive,
Three man-mass’d armies marching to fates,
Only the keenest marksman may survive
The death-wish of this warfare which awaits;
The Grand Armee,
Stood ready on the wing,
Opposing Muscovy & auld Vienna’s King.

While Russia cross’d the Polish plains
Austria grew foolish brave,
Facing the French in Autumn rains,
Cavalry, wave-after-wave,
Made crippl’d heaps of screams & pains –
The Wurttemburger grave –
Where now the pale, drawn face of gen’ral Mack
Grows moody as more marshalrie attack.

Within the hour this Austrian
Garbles forth, “Surrender!”
Napoleon, the day well won,
Says, “You have saved honour
& may go free, there give my thanks unto thine emporer.”

Ulm
October 19th
1805


Trafalgar

Sailors, drag your anchors out
from their harbour hideaways
& coil the dripping hawsers in
Antipater of Sidon

A fleet departs Portsmouth in stately flow,
Nelson’s sword-heart-beat pulsing for the game,
Transglobal oars his name all slowly know,
Setting so many foreign flags aflame;
Up in the van
Signals the Victory,
“England expects each man enact his own duty!”

Athwart all current theory
Devlish line has cross’d the ‘T,’
Divvying up the enemy,
Private conflicts in the sea
Conducted with cool energy,
One-sided killing spree,
“Nous surrendons!” as French, half drench’d in gore,
Kneel ‘neath the Spartan Sea-Lion of war!

“Kiss me Hardy!” Lord Nelson croaks,
“Kiss me my dear old friend!”
Amid the smokeswept, creaking oaks
England’s angels descend,
For death & heroism are companions to the end.

Atlantic Ocean
21st October
1805


Glorious Winter

A deadly silence step by step increas’d,
Until it seem’d a horrid presence there,
And not a man but felt the terror in his hair.
John Keats

How many miles had Stefan Stiltski march’d,
Step-after-step, harsh-blister’d, ankle-sore,
Flea-bitten, sunbaked, freezing, flogg’d & parch’d,
Then rises random slaughters of real war;
Frozen musket,
Caked head to toe in snow,
Fixing his bayonet, his unit next to go.

He left the crucial Pratzen heights
With lads long time befriended,
The French look weaker on their right,
By them this was intended
Behind him marching Gallic might
Claims heights undefended,
Whose cannon murder thunderous wide spread,
The Russians soon outnumber’d by their dead.

As rounds are pounding thro’ the ranks,
Gouging a trench of pain,
France crowding flanks, old comrade yanks
Stefan’s arm in disdain,
“The battle’s lost, come brother, let us fly back to Ukraine!”

Austerlitz
December 12th
1805


Jena

What will we do
when there is nobody left
to kill?
June Jordan

Formidab’ly defying sixty years
Blucher leads smoke-brave soldiers from the front,
All thro’ the night his enemy appears,
But thinking Bonaparte a little runt
He blows his horn,
Orders a proud advance,
Of sons proud Fred’rick born, into the flanks of France.

Feems history this not his day,
His foeman’s star still rising,
The Prussians push’d out from the fray
With deadly art devising,
Losing the battle in dismay,
Death unappetising,
Disorderly the panic-stricken grows,
Behind, two dozen thousand for the crows.

Come aftermath Blucher aghast
As captains of his state
Sycophantastic’ly outcast,
Meekly capitulate –
Defeated, aye, but deep down felt he different for fate.

Berlin
1806


Tilsit

We dream of being a ship,
Anyone didn’t think what wood we’d raise,
We intended to build it with vine branch
Dritëro Agolli

Like some black hole in Europe’s heart aswirl
The love of conquest draws the best men in,
Two years of battle prattle with a whirl,
Tsar Alexander knows he cannot win;
Facing defeat
Since Eylau & Freisland,
The patriarchs shall meet across the Niemen strand.

Upon a little river raft
All Europa torn in two,
Where godlike signatories craft
Warsaw’s freedom, won anew!
They after dined & drank & laugh’d
Til evening’s twilight drew,
& parted as the firmest of firm friends –
Of course this is not how their story ends;

But that is for another time
For now let us suffice
With this sublimely fashion’d crime,
Daring to roll the dice –
The World was stolen by one man, a tiger amid mice!

Poland
1807


Peninsular Activity

Woe to the one who decries music & war-march,
to mighty heroism inciting hosts;
great pipe that inspires all courage
Gilleasbaig na Ceapaich

By following his own soul’s lonely lead
An empire won yon Corsica’s young dreams,
But restless minds beset by bursts of greed
Oft senselessly commit to tempting schemes;
Vainglorious,
Like seagulls aquiline,
Their gullets ravenous as gadarean swine.

For not contented with Paris
& a kudos gaining Rome,
He grew determined to harass
British queenship oer the foam,
Impresses on Europe’s powers,
“Send English produce home!”
But Portugal would always court London,
& so Napoleon laid low Lisbon.

Then on the ramble back thro Spain
Its weakling king deposed,
That Bourbon reign, that ancyent vein
Forever shall be closed,
& on the throne his brother placed, the moment unopposed.

Madrid
1808

Canto 23: When Tyrants Fall

‘A soldier’s life is terrible hard,’ says Alice

A.A.Milne


House of Bonaparte

As up he mounts, and each with wonder sees
His speed and godlike grace. He seems to them
No more an Angel but a flying fire
Joost van den Vonde

As Josephine the Childless weeps for life,
Tempestuous stormslash Vallombrosan
Erupts, her husband took another wife,
Some chubby, buck-faced, princess Austrian;
For seven years
Her table reign’d supreme;
Drying her noble tears she toasts the dying dream.

From Holland to Etruria
Via stately Germany,
The zenith of an emperor,
March’d in brazen majesty,
Valencia, Westphalia,
Frankfurt & Tuscany
Pray for his new-born heir, the King of Rome,
But… looking at these hairs upon his comb,

He knew that he might conquer kings
But never conquer time,
The flutterings of eagles’ wings
Drown out the churchy chime –
Bells welcoming the evening like a Languedoccan rhyme.

Paris
1811


A New Frontier

After them came the soldiers
With rifle & bomb & gun,
Looking for the enemies of the state
Charles Causley

Scarlet redcoats rampage thro’ Portugal,
Safeguarding Lusitania’s treasures,
Alas, events unfolded typical,
The sorry state of British half-measures;
’Send Wellington,’
Rising reputation
Blows into old Lisbon… without hesitation

He wedges French forces between
His hammer & his anvil,
The first, fighting for King & Queen
Galway, Glasgow, Leeds & Rhyl,
The second patter forth unseen
Darting from kill to kill;
Dashing & daring Spanish guerrillas
With Portugal’s intrepid militias.

From storming Badojozan walls
To wild Vimeiro,
The Duke controls the hapless Gauls,
Iberian hero,
Securing Salamanca’s ridge & bridges wide Ebro.

Spain
1811


A New War

When I remember with what buoyant heart,
Midst war’s alarms and woes of civil strife,
In youthful eagerness, thou didst depart
Amos Bronson Alcott

Napoleon’s embargo at full strain,
Belittled by those Peninsular ports,
While England gains good victories in Spain,
The Bourgeoisie crave tea & petticoats;
Alexander
Opens the door to trade,
His fellow emperor launches a hot tirade.

How dare this peasant Muscovite
Deny my sacred orders,
The time has come for France to fight,
Men move up to the borders!
We must avenge this selfish sleight,
Satisfaction owed us!”
Two purple brothers, friendly once, with wine,
Hurtle to war like Guelf & Ghibelline.

“To arms!” six hundred thousand sons
March up thro’ the Empire,
The vista stuns, so many guns,
Some vasty field of fire,
Arrives an aide-de-camp, “Thy Grand Armee awaits thee, sire.”

Poland
June
1812


Battle of the Moskva

They were our comrades
Crowned with their youth;
See what they gave!
Tancred Agius

As bayonets bounce buoyant to the east,
& mile-on-mile enemies defeated,
Gone step-by-step their numbers are decreas’d,
Diseases & desertion depleted;
Even Smolensk
Holds back, hardly, the flow,
The mood grows daily tense until Borodino.

Muscovy’s aristocracy
Combine for Alexander
With all their stalwart peasantry,
The miracle of Russia,
Scouts shouting out, “The Enemy!”
Whose feverish leader
No stomach shows for such desperate fight,
Day terrible ‘til tolstoyan twilight.

As Kutuzov sounds the retreat
Fatigue flounds pandemic,
“Let us not treat this as defeat,
Deem us victors Phyrric,”
The Tsar declares, “their armour wears, their prowess growing sick.”

Borodino
September
1812


Turning Tide

But her children are in a marsh
Bogged, they have gone wild.
Yet, no one should worry
Susan Griffin

The path to Russia’s heart hack’d Cossack clear,
It’s conqueror trots thro’ the old city,
But Roman triumph does not wait him here
Just ghostly streets salute his ‘victory;’
What is that smell?”
Flames flicker candlesque,
Soon burning, fright’ning Hell surrounds his writing desk.

A score of letters reach the Tsar,
None in reply forthcoming,
His wily foeman’s rising star
Is from the ring retreating,
“This is no way to conduct war!
What will this madness bring?”
On every side his ‘far-from-grand’ Army
Live days like dying men – desperately!

Rapine & riot ransack wild,
Short autumn swiftly spann’d,
One meek & mild abandon’d child
Holds out her little hand;
A pretty snowflake melted there (as Alexander plann’d).

Moscow
October
1812


Retreat from Moscow

Their shoulders held the sky suspended ;
They stood & earth’s foundations stay ;
What God abandon’d, these defended
AE Housman

At rumours of gross treachery at home
By dog-drawn sledge the Emperor winds west,
His soldiers wilting in the wintry gloam,
New Bonnie Ruthven Prince; “Men, do your best!”
Namore the French
Dictate, shall, Europe’s show –
Thro’ thick unburied stench back, by Borodino,

The remnants of the legions track
The ruts of that royal sleigh,
Assaulted by vengant Cossack,
When only brave Marshall Ney
With one thousand fends off attacks,
Full fighting night & day,
Winning the Grand Armee a single chance –
To save themselves before the fall of France.

Ordeals only ten thousand last,
As silent in the street,
Crowds look aghast on phantoms pass’d,
Frost-bitten black the feet,
Those kings that conquer’d Moscow humbl’d cripples in defeat.

Paris
December
1812


Eternal War

We shall go along roads beneath the stars,
so that Plotsk straightens its shoulders,
so that Poznan shall know freedom
Sergei Narovchatov

To North America these wars are spread,
Great Britain drawn into a needless trial,
Granting the French a chance to count their dead
& find more fools to fill the rank & file;
& not too soon,
For Russian recompense
Sens’d moment opportune, throws all into offence,

As tricolors from masts far torn,
Bourbon banners form a band
Bids Muscovy ‘ride not alone,’
Together these nations stand,
Ready to claim revenges sworn,
Men from many a land,
Determin’d on Europa’s liberty
Advance against this latest Grand Armee.

As tough, old grognards drown beneath
The weight of countless foes,
From sheath to sheath is pass’d a wreath
Of ivy & black rose,
Disaster’s bouquet’d imminence haunting the night’s repose.

Leipzig
1813


Swan Song

shall it be so again?
call not upon the glorious dead
to be your witnesses then
Day Lewis

Napoleonic necroambience
Besieges each Departmente of the French,
Enthralling gall pervades his arrogance,
The whiff of grapeshot now some rapist stench;
Still cannons pound,
Still men in lines advance,
Still blood spills on the ground, the mortal wound of France.

But flair is flair, elan, elan!
Fronting seventy thousand
Protects the vasty border span
In his noble swansung stand
Blucher is met in Prussia’s van
& beaten out of hand –
From Champaulert to Chateaux-Thiery
The Gods of War still toast his victory!

“Bring me more men!” for him, alas,
The well of conscripts dry,
Front fragile glass, thro’ Alpine pass
Fresh Austrians shall fly,
To march on Paris, “All is lost!” the old romantics sigh.

France
February 1814


Crossing the Pyrenees

All day; in troops they pursued the hostile people.
They hewed the fugitive grievously from behind
With swords sharp from the grinding
Egil Skallagrimsson

The age of the Corsican is fading,
The cage he built ripp’d steadily apart,
The stage grown sick of his masquerading,
The page pick’d clean of ev’ry Bounaparte;
His parting shot,
“Without Napoleon
You certainly would not have Dukes of Wellington!”

The name of this aristocrat
Dours his days as does disease,
Both Marshall Soult, Monseuir Murat,
Bundl’d oer the Pyrynees,
Across the Bidasuan Ghat,
Unstoppable, his breeze
Pierces soft underbelly of empire –
Thro’ modernist manouvres, shock & fire.

Puff’d-up beside the fierce flocks
Of Spanish falconry
& Lisbon’s rocks, the fighting cocks
Of England’s king’s army
Brings battle onto Gallic soil, how soon the victory?

Orthez
February
1814

Canto 24: Nostoi

Though Mars himself, the angry god of arms,
& all the earthly potentates conspire
To disposses me of this diadem,
Yet will I wear it in despite of them

Christopher Marlowe


Fontainbleu

O how impossible it is for the ill-fated
Poet to know his destiny. How can he say
By whom he will be slandered, hated
Yuli Daniel

Armies Allied surround the Paris wall,
We must fight on!” rallied Napoleon,
Fluster’d with his unfathomable fall,
“But sire, all hope in victory is gone!”
Dispirited
The Marshalls gather round,
On one point united… a solution is found.

“Never…” & yet, to save his face,
He an abdication sign’d
In that morgue-like, ghost-stain’d palace
Where the Court of Love once dined,
“You must exile, there’s no disgrace,
Be in comfort confined…”
London’s dictating to a dictator –
“Where shall I reside?” “Rot upon Elba!”

The Grand Duchess of Tuscany,
Dejected & alone,
The family greek tragedy
Rejects them from a throne –
As with her cuckoo-siblings she from eagle’s nest hath flown.

Bagni di Lucca
1814


Canadian War

Les morts sans haine et sans drapeau
Cheveux plaques de sang caille,
Les morts sont tous d’un seul cote
Rene Arcos

Conscious of a manifest destiny
Tho’ barely yet a white pawn in the Game,
The fledgeling wings of precious Liberty
Span oer the world, fanning the flames of fame;
America!
With freedom not content
Strikes vasty Canada to claim the continent.

As British redcoats ride upon
The soil their soldiers died for,
Into the streets of Washington
They carry hot shots of war,
A little spot of vengeance won,
Torch-flames settle the score,
& when the battle pass’d, to hide the fight,
Those Kloof-black scorch-marks painted oer with white.

As blood-lust simmers off the boil,
Good-feeling, peace-eager
Men share the spoil, divide the soil
Of North America –
Two cousins touching blood-stain’d fists, friendship seal’d forever.

Ghent
1814


The Challenge

Incense and Splendor haunt me as I go.
Though my good works have been, alas, too few,
Though I do naught, High Heaven comes down to me
Vachel Lindsay

Once, romance, regent ruler of an age,
Dwelt deep in the beatings of great men’s hearts,
Conjuring the captain that help’d to cage
The grand thief of Europe, as woodland parts;
He halts his ride
At the edge of tall trees,
Surveying countryside of swaying yellow seas.

With knowing eyes he scann’d the scene,
I have seen its like before,”
Then spurr’d his mount, the moment keen,
& pauses on the contour,
Thereby thro’ blue sky flew, serene,
Doves from a lovely shore,
Upon which Wellington, warlord of men,
Says, “Swiftly, De Lancey, pass me my pen!”

To downwing dove the Duke did call
While scribbling down one word,
White wings in fall, how soon the scroll
Tied to that gentle bird,
Which flutter’d up to lofty heights where nothing mortal stirr’d.

Mont Saint-Jean
1814


Messengers

A pleasing idea
is hiding
behind my lips
Dina Posada

Fair France rolls restless ‘neath an eagle’s wing,
As gaylie De Dalibray’s sonnets,
Rippling over the realms of a Bourbon king
Imposed by those Great British bayonets;
Oft times sighing
Before the memory
Of her brothers flying thro’ stunning victory.

With hawkish eyes it spies its prey,
Swoops down from Appenine peak,
Thro’ ocean clouds bedabbl’d grey,
Wings elegantsky-carve sleek –
Til with one hurried, flurried fray,
Dove gored by bloody beak,
Clutch’d tightly by imperious talon,
High oer the lush Meditterranean.

Our ‘Little Island Emperor,’
Came brooding into view,
Sea-lock’d on the rock of Elba,
With nothing much to do –
Til dove’s death-fall, its scroll unroll’d, there scrawl’d was ‘Waterloo.’

Elba
1815


Imperial Return

My mind to me a kingdom is;
Such present joys therein I find,
That it excels all other bliss
Edward Dyer

Three sailing ships swept thro’ a sunsunk sea
Then drift amid a mountain-armour’d bay,
Flying flags studded with the honeybee –
From anchors splash how calmly there they lay;
Unsheath’d the sword!
This thousand men of war
Rejoice as they are row’d toward the stony shore.

Stoic, upon the scything stern,
Stood the mortal soul of France,
Whose soldiers sing for his return
With an awesome reverence –
Whose choric voice & eyes that burn
Commands them to advance,
Each rough cheek pinching as they pass him by,
Adoring adulation makes them fly.

They march’d, a musical parade
Cheer’d by the underclass,
While north they made a white cockade
Silently watch’d them pass,
Then raced away to warn the royalists who slept in Grasse.

Cannes
March 2nd
1815


To Arms!

Daybreak’s orioles yellow
With turquoise eyes, began solo
Dances of lightning honeybee
Homero Aridjis

Thro’ the verdant Provencal mountain mass
Wound a mile long, e’erclimbing martial train,
Thro’ the great, green gorge of the La Faye Pass,
Past the chapel-capp’d crag of Castellane;
In constant cheer,
Tho’ weary leagues pass by,
Like tireless Gondolier neath a Venetian sky.

A fat Provencal family
Sat gather’d & set to eat,
Heard clattering cacophony,
Swift uplifted from their seat
They leapt outside, strange sight to see –
Cavalry throng’d the street;
Tall Polish horsemen with long, lavish lance,
The vanguard of the fallen sword of France.

Her husband’s loving breath was done,
He donn’d the dusty blue,
Her darling son, his little drum,
& father donn’d them too –
Thro’ tears of pain & tears of pride she watch’d them glide from view.

Barreme
March 4th
1815


Startling News

And the days grow stern, & the lights grow pale;
And the night comes down when faith goes out,
And the soul gropes blind in a maze of doubt.
DL Durkin

He who adventures tastes life’s richest fruit,
As do the kings, who, of the seven sins,
Choose glutinous luxury as their suit;
The fat King Louis’ seven wobbling chins
Settle to eat
The peasantries long day,
Fine platters of sweet-meat swill’d down with Chardonnay.

Clutching a despatch from Digne
The blustering messenger
Burst the royal serenity,
“The monsters escaped Elba!”
“Has he landed in Italy?”
“Non! On the Cotes D’Azor!”
Thro’ the bay window the fluttering wing,
Eagle’s grim shadow cast across the King.

“Go bring me Ney,” the Coquin said,
Away scuttl’d the page,
How soon that head ablaze with red
Strode warlike to the stage,
“I shall drag him back to Paris, sire, within an iron cage.”

Tuilleries
4th March


Soldiers’ Passions

Hail, beauteous stranger of the grove !
Thou messenger of Spring !
Now Heaven repairs thy rural seat
John Logan

The violet pepper’d mountains turn’d to snow,
In single file travers’d the icy track,
Til at the pass an army stemm’d their flow,
Five thousand Frenchmen pois’d for the attack;
The royal corps
Led by the loyal Ney,
Who trembl’d as he saw that overcoat of grey.

He strode alone to meet the gun
& face that fateful order,
One bullet from oblivion,
“Will you shoot your Emperor?”
Great silence deafen’d ’til someone
Bellow’d an echo “Fire!”
He breathes in relief, the beautiful sound
Of five thousand muskets meeting the ground.

Pledging eternal devotion
Surged the salutant wave,
Ney’s sword motion pierc’d the ocean
But back the blade he gave,
“I salute thee, Prince de Muskova, bravest of the brave!”

Laffrey
March 7th
1815


Grave News

It was so old a ship – who knows, who knows? –
And yet so beautiful, I watched in vain
To see the mast burst open with a rose
James Elroy Flecker

Beneath the ancyent moon of Austria,
Generals, emperors, statesmen, royals,
Gather’d ’round the grand map of Europa,
Are wolves who wait the diseas’d eagle’s spoils;
Squabbling rabble
Discuss incessantly
The murmuring babble of high diplomacy.

All talk cut short as from outside
There peel’d a thundering boom,
The doors dramatic’ly flung wide
By the soul sunken in gloom;
Twas Metternich, whose slick, slow glide
Now claim’d the centre-room.
Gentlemen, Genova sounds warning grave,
The Corsican Ogre has rode the wave!”

As the atmosphere grew colder
The hand of Russia’s Tsar
Grasp’d the shoulder of his soldier,
Britannia’s battlestar,
Tis up to you to save the world – once more, m’lord, to war.”

Vienna
March 7th
1815

Canto 25: Stormclouds

The great mistake I made was in leaving Elba six months too soon.

Napoleon Bonaparte


British Reaction

I am already on the way,
& follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make, or sorrows breed
Henry King

The morning sun scatter’d cross the Solent,
A tranquil & yet deadly waterway,
Where slept the ever watchful instrument
That kept the Gallic conquerors at bay;
Ye mighty fleet,
Queen of the oceans vast,
Thy duty ne’er complete while France still decks a mast.

In the barracks mess at breakfast
Sat the half-dress’d soldiery,
Freddie Johnstone yells joyous blast
Tosses broadsheets flying free,
“Old Boney has broke free at last,
Fink he’ll face our ‘ookey!”
As the room rose the whole company roar’d
With thoughts of gaining glory by the sword.

The word spread round like raging fire,
Great & glorious news!”
Time to retire thoughts of empire,
Pack up those marching shoes,
For once again brave Englishmen must battle with the blues.

Portsmouth
March 10th
1815


Return of Napoleon

One flower
on the cliffside
Nodding at the canyon
Jack Kerouac

Swept from the throne by mystical forces,
On gouty legs King Louis lugg’d his frame,
Shuffl’d out toward the waiting horses,
His ancestors all clamouring in shame;
Like bulging banks
Pockets stuff’d with riches,
With oer four million francs cramm’d in ammo boxes.

They fill’d the stony city square
With many a tricolour,
Seeming to flock from everywhere
To witness their emperor,
Who shush’d the cheers with one long stare,
“I’ll restore our honour!
Stolen by those nobles who kept their head,
Gorging on thy back-break & barley bread.”

To an ancyent saint’s tall steeple
High oer a Paris street
The first Eagle of the people
Observes the march complete –
Without bloodletting France’s Ceaser seizes back his seat.

Tuilleries
March 19th
1815


Portent of War

Not far or near
Can mounts or rebel waves
E’er make me full of fear
Paramahansa Yogananda

The winds of change have dwindl’d to a breeze,
The first Napoleon resumes his reign,
Renounces the lawless Bourbon decrees,
A man more powerful than Charlemagne;
Surrounded by
A court of men he made,
Who with a weary sigh prepare for war’s parade.

“All Europe declares war on you!”
“One man becomes one nation!”
“So be it! If peace shall not do
Increase the realms taxation,
A million muskets, Marshall Soult,
Treble the conscription,
Arm all the gendarmes, secure the borders,
Allez mon marshalles, await my orders.”

The city cool’d as blue moonlight
Shone with the tinkling stars,
The eagle’s flight span cross the night
To sweep across old Mars,
Who shone a little redder with the blood of coming wars.

Paris
March 22nd
1815


Blucher

I stand silent, waiting
until a warm wind blows,
bringing youth and vigor
Lauren McBride

Of a spring-time morning Silesian,
Midst the seedlings that sprout au naturale,
A deep-snoozing septegenarian
Retires into his calm idyllic shell;
Yet one eye strays
From his twilight slumber,
For thro’ the distant haze pricks a despatch rider.

The old man clasps the young mans hand,
Vill you haf sausage or vine?”
“Nein, mein prince, for the Vaderland
Faces a perilous time
& in your hands total command,
Our army of the Rhine.”
“Vat is the reason behind this request?
“NAPOLEON has return’d to the nest!”

The fresh flight of that fearful bird
Wings deep into his core,
With but one word his mojo stirr’d,
The great, unsettl’d score,
How bloody shall the battles be in fields of mud & gore.

Prussia
March 24th
1815


War’s Sinew

But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made
Denise Levertov

Behind the hustle of a bustling street
The anglicis’d head of Europe’s Jewry
Invites his dinner guest to a retreat
An aperitif of ten-year brandy;
Midst rich décor
The niceties dissolve
Into stern talk of war’s most delicate resolve.

“Bonaparte must be defeated
To ensure a friendly France
& the German states united
Shall hold Europa’s balance…
My cabinet has requested,
Small matter of finance,
That is to say, five millions in specie,
Be handl’d by the Rothschild company”

“My firm accepts, the terms m’lord
Are two percent interest…”
The golden horde sharpens the sword
Plung’d in the Belgic breast…
Upon a sure-fire favourite do true gamblers invest.

London
March 27th
1815


Wellington’s Return

The dead spake together last night,
And one to the other said:
“Why are we dead?”
Joseph Lee

Kiss’d by the fair ladies of Vienna
With calm countenance he waves them goodbye,
Departing on another adventure,
To claim a victory, defeat, or die;
Young Lord Lennox
Perch’d proudly by his side,
While plush-skinn’d carriage rocks beside the Danube’s glide.

The Duke spoke of his duel with France,
From the battle of Assaye,
To the Peninsular advance,
How many a bloody day?
As talk drifted toward the chance
Of him marching in May,
“I feel that month would be a month too soon,
One would imagine the middle of June.”

In famous fields they paused for gin
Where ribald Redcoat wit
Effused like sin, “Sir, shall we win?
The duke observ’d them spit,
“Give me enough of those men there & I’ll be sure of it.”

Blenheim
March 31st
1815


William DeLancey

The circling buzzards are
interested in the sudden increase
in population beneath
Katrin Talbot

As step-by-step they paced between the aisles
Of Greyfriars Kirk – him buck, she bonnie lass –
Memories melted in those passing smiles
To when they walked the gorge down to Dunglass;
No fairer rose
Could e’er this love entwine,
The perfect, “I am yours,” the spotless, “you are mine.

He was the quintessential breed,
Lord of an Age’s passions,
Beknighted, gallivanting steed
Spritely in brightest fashions,
All England’s soldiers his to feed,
Distributing rations –
An army marches, bully-beef & rum,
By inky blots of Quatermaster’s thumb.

Into the Belgic heart of hearts
The Iron Duke did steer
Twyx crows & carts, “Before it starts,
I want my best men here…
Yes, especially DeLancey, for him France holds no fear.”

Brussels
April 4th
1815


Marital Bliss

they float on foam
and lay themselves down in the sea,
they’re loyal to the deepest reason
Rafael Felipe Oteriño

What dost thou do when one engorg’d with love
& that love’s source enarmour’d overseas?
‘Follow the Drum!’ lass be a little dove
& join those eagles swarming on the breeze;
As love demands
Such pangings to suspend,
Mrs DeLancey lands with luggage in Ostend.

In exquisite elevation
Over trees so fair & fine
Aided she the conversation
With proud cookery & wine,
“Polyglot conglomeration!”
“An overstretching line!”
Sensing death haunted every statement said,
She drove uncertain futures from her head.

That night they let desire reign
& fell, immesh’d, adream…
She felt his pain, him knelt, him slain…
She woke him with a scream,
“Tis just a horrid nightmare, love, biting on a moonbeam.”

Brussels
June 9th
1815


Gathering the Guard

I shall make myself spruce
Be a blade again,
I shall make a fine show
Alexey Koltzov

The Marshal notices his thinning hair,
“Napoleon, thine Armee de la Nord,
Awaits thee sire, the Guard is gather’d there;”
Up to the stars he thrust his glinting sword;
“Within one week
My seat I shall secure,
Roast all that rooster meat upon this deadly skewer.”

He left fair Paris that hot June,
Went breakfasting at Soissons,
Then fell asleep beneath the moon
That glower’d light on Laon,
Another day, another swoon,
Then on into Beaumont,
This was the day, the day of destiny –
That evening saw him with the infantry;

To them a God-on-Earth return’d,
His glory theirs to gain,
Minerva churn’d, what fervour burn’d…
‘I hope you wont be slain,’
He thought, pinching a soldiers ear, devotion to obtain.

Beaumont
June 14th
1815

Canto 26: War Roads

The harder match’d, the greater victory

Shakespeare


Romantic Interlude

By now my man is frank & hearty grown,
& travels out & in about the town ;
& by degrees begins the leed to learn
Alexander Ross

Embraced by such a lovely summers day
Brilliant Brussels sparkl’d in the sun,
Along a gentle, tree-lin’d parkland way
The doting De Lanceys, arms lock’d as one,
Walk’d lost in love,
Empassion’d feeling true,
While lazily above clouds drifted cross the blue.

She whisper’d softly in his ear,
Darling I am so happy,
The city seems so far from here
Midst this idyllicity…”
With one long velvet kiss so dear
United heart flies free
For one perfect moment of happiness –
Pierced by the gruff voice breathless with distress.

“Sir, you’ve been summon’d by his Grace.”
Her pretty heart’s flurry,
With skin like lace she strok’d his face,
Wash’d away all worry,
“Swift my sweet, I’ll brew some tea & ink thy quills, now hurry.”

Brussels
June 15th 1815
15:00


Pawn-Push

Here is no cruel Lord with murderous blade,
No woven web of bloody heraldries,
But mossy dells for roving comrades made
Oscar Wilde

As from Night’s throne delicious dawn-nymphs crept,
Across the Sambre cherish’d eagles flew,
Or rather waded – as they did men wept,
They’d dared to dream these dreams becoming true;
Beyond frontiers,
Marching thro’ man-high rye,
While morning slowly clears brash pit-murk from the sky.

Across the bridge Napoleon
Penetrates the Belgic lanes,
On every side a veteran
Strongest of his long campaigns,
Ahead the place of Laekan
& with him what remains
Of this best army, whom with phrenzied heart
Surge forwards, urging murdering to start.

Ney gallops thro the old Empire
As sunlit skies open,
“My orders sire?” “With fight & fire
& forty thousand men
Seize Quatra Bras, from there we’ll bar conjunction… WELL! GO THEN!”

Charleroi
June 15th 1815
14:30


A Very English Affair

at that very first hour
the destiny of us all
began to be fulfilled
Jorge Barbosa

The Duke of Richmond look’d down on his ball,
A fete of English suave & gaiety,
Ladies holding darling captains in thrall
Amidst a swirling, twirling company;
Fast thro’ the door
Burst the Prussian Muffling,
To struggle cross the floor huffing & a-puffing.

Wellington took him to one side
& frown’d as the Prussian spoke,
Then an aristocratic glide
Swept them thro’ the dancing folk,
Deepest anxieties did hide
Neath noble, smiling cloak…
“Richmond, do you have a map anywhere?”
“Yes I do…” They stole up the ballroom stair.

“By Gad! That man has humbugg’d me!
What nerve to choose Charleroi –
Thus the army must speedily
Converge on Quatra Bras…
& if not there then Mont Saint-Jean must dowse his martial star.”

Brussels
June 15th 1815
22:00


Constant Rebeque

For after towns & kingdoms founded were,
Between great states arose well-ordered war,
Wherein most perfect measure doth appear;
Sir John Davies

Rebeque receiv’d his orders from the Duke
To concetrate all forces at Nivelles,
But feels this flaw’d, & open to rebuke,
Transfers his lads to Quatra Bras pell-mell;
Out of the wood
Advance first French patrols,
Shots fire – men drop – spills blood – O murd’rous musketballs!

They’d stood alone all thro’ the night,
Well into morning also,
Five times their strength beset to fight,
Pericolosa corso,
But Ney has lost his appetite
For brave deeds & more so,
Since Borodino’s meat futility
Less reckless, ever hesitatingly.

An artery remains in place
Between the Allied hosts,
A final race, the vital chase
As laces pass the post,
Those possible apologies Rebeque transforms to boasts.

Quatra Bras
June 15th 1815
23:00


A Tense Affair

I see you boys of summer in your ruin.
Man in his maggot’s barren.
And boys are full & foreign in the pouch
Dylan Thomas

Wellington rode along the paved chausee,
Cramm’d with each companies hot-marching crunch,
By wagons jostling with artillery,
Head smarting from the party & its punch;
At Quatra Bras,
With one wide, sweeping glance,
He wills his men to bar the swarming hordes of France.

On he rode to meet old Blucher
Below the Mill of Bussy,
There, survey’d the panorama
About the spire of Ligny,
As horizon fill’d with soldier,
The ancyent enemy
Manouvering guns into position,
Your Highness, I sense thy disposition

Will receive a damned good licking,
Your forces too exposed…”
Time tick-ticking, horses kicking,
The conversation closed,
He left the scene to solve whatever problems Ney had posed.

Brye
June 16th 1815
13:00


First Blows

This was not home, & you were far away,
& I woke sick, & held by another passion,
In the icy grip of a dead, tormenting flame
Henry Reed

With the ‘Pas de Charge’ a year of peace dies,
Four hundred cannon sound the roar of Mars,
Grey clouds of smoke darken the summer skies,
Once more to battle, once more to the Wars;
“Vive l’Empereur!”
The fanatical scream
Along the meandering, marshy Ligny stream.

All day beneath the seering sun,
Round the villages & plain,
Reverberating shout & gun
As Death deals slaughter & pain,
All for holy Napoleon
Ten thousand now lie slain –
As black flags flutter, no quarter given,
Backwards, slowly, the Prussians are driven.

The old Mercurial gusto
Observes the hour-glass sands,
D’Erlon must show the killer blow
Upon the Saint Amands,
While Ney must know the Fate of France lies firmly in his hands.”

Fleurus
June 16th 1815
15:30


Fog of War

Where are they all, the men,
The old mates & the new,
Who crouched panting here beside me then?
Harley Matthews

Whilst two mighty battles raged & thunder’d
D’Erlon march’d his corps thro’ pleasant verdure
T’ward the long, straight Roman road that sunder’d
The Belgic plain twixt Nivelles & Namur;
Ready to fall
On the flank of the foe,
But some panicky Gaul prevents the killer blow.

From the farm at Gemioncourt,
Lust drenching his Gallic blood,
As tho’ he rode at Agincourt,
The battle misunderstood,
Ney gazed into the fog of war,
Saw men in th’empty wood;
But five thousand Belgians held the crossroads
While his twenty-five stood sharp’ning their swords.

D’Erlon dropp’d the marshal’s order
Cursing the confusion,
So to answer his emperor
Despatch’d two divisions,
Then wheel’d West to Quatra Bras with the mass of decision.

Marbais
June 16th 1815
17:00


A Vital Battle

How fleet is a glance of the mind !
Compared with the speed of its flight,
The tempest itself lags behind
William Cowper

The Duke mull’d by the inn at Quatra Bras,
The sweet skirl of pipes spun his thoughts around,
A dusty cloud, a flash of red, Huzzah!
The Highlanders have reached the battleground;
To war at once!
For thro’ the sky high corn,
The first assaults of France by pounding hoofbeats borne.

With blue cloaks streaming thro’ the air
They charged for death & glory
To slay these Amazons who dare
Challenge their supremacy,
Smashing against each bristling square
Slashing malice & fury –
Green young recruits put to the sternest test,
Boys become men within the wylde tempest.

Calm upon his chestnut charger
The Duke espies a threat,
By clouds of murd’rous canister
The French columns hard met,
& driven back towards their lines at tip of bayonet.

Quatra Bras
June 16th 1815
17:30


Purgatorial Pauses

Nature I loved, &, next to Nature, Art!
I warm’d both hands before the fire of life ;
It sinks, & I am ready to depart
WS Landor

The march of death made progress sure & swift,
A mass of bodies furl’d across the line,
Pastorals patrolling thro’ the smoke-drift,
A contest inexplicably divine;
It seem’d a saint
Had sprinkl’d Ney with salt,
Some maiden at the faint before her lover’s vault.

Night fell, the moon drips from the sky,
On dead & wounded scatter’d
Between the lines, still tall flags fly,
Tho’ straggly, torn & tatter’d,
For those, that night, who did not die,
Only one thing matter’d:-
Find an unpierc’d cuirassier’s jacket
To fry up bully-beef from the packet.

Men put to bed their appettite,
Touch their pipe tobacco
From tinder light flames in the night,
Smoking for Morocco,
Exchanging tales of dangers at the Heights of Busaco.

Quatra Bras
June 16th 1815
23:00

Canto 27: Waterloo Dawn

Oh, more or less than man – in high or low,
Battling with nations, flying from the field;
Now making monarchs necks thy footstool, now
An empire couldst thy crush, command, rebuild…

Lord Byron


Miss’d Opportunities

So much can happen
every day.
Let morning come
Lana Hechtman Ayers

Dawn illumed the carnage about Ligny,
Napoleon stood proudly at it’s heart,
Discussing his strategy with Grouchy,
The finest master of the martial art;
“You must now keep
A sword in Blucher’s back,
Seldom relax nor sleep & keep on the attack.”

Aft’ one last glance he rode away
From the smoky rubble-town,
Hard gallop’d west to Marshall Ney,
Vicious was his dressing down,
You should have took this yesterday,
Fucking moronic clown!
Wellington’s been retreating all morning,
France may be ruined thro’ your dithering.”

Clutching his gut he scream’d in pain,
Snuff’d from box of silver,
Purest cocaine sped to his brain,
Firing fading ardour –
& galvanised to action pursues with renewed vigour.

Quatra Bras
June 17th 1815
13:00


Wellington’s Withdrawal

Patience
turns water into wine
through the grape vine
Michael Shepherd

The Duke observes his army pass him by,
Grumbling defeat, retreating from ttack,
Then took a longfull look upon the sky –
His heart leapt up to see large clouds loom black;
Bright summer’s day
Transfigured by the rain
That wash’d the blood away from the skin of the slain.

Just like the Salamancan storm!”
Said vet’rans of the army,
By dripping woods & sodden corn
Tramping disconsolately.
In life’s last moment, left alone,
Writhing in agony
Died vast numbers of sad, gallant fellows –
Some shall be buried, some food for the crows.

“Muffling, I beg thee, ride once more,
Ask Blucher to provide
A single corps to end the war
& fall upon his side!”
“I shall, my grace, I go straightway!” “Godspeed, my man, safe ride.”

Genappe
June 17th 1815
16:00


Rear-Gaurd

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die
Robert Louis Stevenson

From ridge to ridge they cover’d the retreat,
These cavalry disguised as an army,
Blocking the passage of the Genappe street,
Flank’d by the Royal Horse Artillery;
So beautiful,
Along the long slopes length,
The Chasseurs de Cheval came charging in great strength.

Like some great river’s tidal flow
The contest raged in the rain,
The pendulum swung to & fro
As the campaigns fought in Spain,
Each charge would blow, & then follow
Counters with equal mein,
& with each skirmish fought, all the while,
Wellington’s army retreats one more mile.

How soon have roads churning to ooze
Delay’d the French advance,
Allow’d to choose, thro’ rain & ruse,
The field to fight with France,
Smiled Wellington, as Mont Saint-Jean appear’d in his distance.

La Belle Alliance
June 17th 1815
18:00


Battle’s Eve

that is why you remind me of music
If this song were to end
I’ll continue marching, leaving sound-tracks
Kyle Louw

The Emperor reach’d the inn tward sunset
Lord of a footsore, rain-sodden army,
Viewing lush fields he never would forget
Rippling yellow in the shallow valley;
Dare he stand here?
The battlefield so small!”
A stench of secret fear now permeates his soul.

Thro’ Heaven waltz’d the Evening Star
As four French cannonballs fly,
The grand, full-throated voice of war
As sixty roar in reply,
Thick blood puls’d thro’ his throbbing scar,
“These English want to die –
Have the troops bivouac here for the night,
First light shall prove their stomach for the fight.”

Thro’ starry climes the Eagle flew
Oer each moon-sprinkl’d cloud,
Then swoop’d down to the farm Caillou
Close to the cheering crowd,
For thro’ them rode an Emperor, the father of the proud.

Maison du Roi
June 17th 1815
21:00


Restless Night

A great silence weighed on his head.
He opened and closed his sunken eyes
and glanced upwards occasionally
Francisco Pérez Perdomo

Two blazing fire trails lined the vault black vale
Where men sat cooking their meagre ration,
Whiling the while with a glorious tayle
Or some camp follower’s lurid passion;
The wind whipp’d rain
Still slipp’d down in splashes,
Drenching all in disdain, fram’d by lightning flashes.

The soldier slipp’d into a dream;
Stood face-to-face with the foe,
The sunglint of his sabre’s gleam
Blinds his target to the blow,
Who ripp’d his dreamspace with a scream –
Is this truth tomorrow?
Flowing deeper thro’ sleep’s soft sanctuary,
He finds no fearful mind nor enemy.

Strange nightmares stalk Napoleon;
Some monstrous cannoneer
Fired one great gun at Wellington
Who held a burning spear,
& hurl’d it down the cannon’s mouth… he woke awash with fear.

La Ferme de Caillou
June 18th 1815
01:30


Busy Night

All have become so nervous and so cold
That each man hates the cause and distant words
Which brought him here, more terribly than bullets
Stephen Spender

All thro’ the night the ammo carts trundl’d;
Thousands of rounds of grape & canister
With the black mountains of shot were bundl’d
For to slay with musket, blade & sabre;
O deadly sword,
With edge as sharp as breath,
Rough sharpen’d to accord the victims bloody death.

Wellington watch’d his Hussars que
To send their sabres sharper,
Then rode the road to Waterloo
To try a little supper,
Paced round the halls of his H.Q.
Waits for word of Blucher –
Til Muffling enters, fresh from the saddle,
“Good news, your grace, you may fight your battle!”

All thro’ the short midsummer’s night
Horizon’s murky zone
Shows hints of light, a tint of white,
Faint traces of the dawn,
That grew in strength, until, at length, the day of battle born.

The Fields of Waterloo
June 18th 1815
05:00


Waterloo Dawn

For the bright firmamant
Shootes forth no flame
So silent; but is eloquent
William Habington

A soft sun crown’d the yonder eastern height,
Gave birth to a dirty & dulsome dawn,
Casting her blanket of watery light
To wrap up the dismal & dreary morn;
Some secret tear
From sleeping tearducts pass’d,
For many who are here this day shall be their last.

The eagle’s golden gilded glide,
Sweeps majestic thro’ the sky,
Surveys this stretch of countryside,
Rolling seas of rippling rye,
Brash bugles blared out far & wide,
From woods the birds outcry –
The clashing clatter of fluttering wings –
Two armies wake to fight the fight of kings.

Unshaven & shivering blue,
Depress’d the darkling mood,
Soak’d thro’ & thro’ & filthy too,
His hunger unsubdued,
Freddie Johnstone search’d high & low for water, fuel & food.

Frischermont
June 18th 1815
07:00


Imperial Breakfast

you have so much of confidence
and trust it with a brilliance
you are kind-hearted
Hasmukh Amathalal

The Marshalls receive the summons to dine
Breaking the night’s fast with Napoleon,
Whose smile, as soft as Corsican sunshine,
Settles their spirits, they know they must win;
“Still he stands fast,”
Spew’d thro’ some chew’d-up fish,
“Then I have them at last, these whore’s bastard English!”

Attack at nine!” “It can’t be done,
The ground is as a quagmire.
I cannot move all my cannon
To the open fields of fire.”
“What do you think of Wellington?”
“Strong when well posted sire.”
“Nonsense, you’ve all been beaten by a dick!
This battle shall be but a child’s picnic.”

With certain generals he did meet,
Then parles with his colonels,
For something sweet he sate to eat
Plates of sugar’d mussels –
Guzzl’d down, gracef’ly upstood, “Tonight we sleep in Brussels.”

La Ferme de Caillou
June 18th 1815
08:00


French Optimism

The eyes of the owl
closed on the plain
of death
Juan Sánchez Peláez

How they march’d onto the field of slaughters
With music & banners to daunt the foe
As the Emperor’s beautiful daughters
Wheel’d into position, row after row;
Plush cavalry
Mounted on fine horses –
In sight for all to see, the mighty French forces.

Along the front their leader made
The grand tour of inspection,
As tho’ his men were on parade,
Abundant with affection,
Steeping upon his cavalcade
Rapt’rous salutation,
Before the sun sets we shall, together,
Help France rise more glorious than ever.”

He sat at a small deal table,
Down shone a burning sun,
By a brutal assault frontal
We must take Mont Saint-Jean,
But first, to draw the reserves out, let us tease Hougoumont.”

La Belle Alliance
June 18th 1815
11:00

Canto 28: Mont Saint Jean

Grim was it in that dawn to be alive
Except to those who like their mornings bloody

Sagittarius


The British Lines

But by the Chieftain’s look, though at his side
Hangs that day’s treasured sword, how firm a check
Is given to triumph and all human pride!
William Wordsworth

Escorted by officers & troopers
Down the length of an infamous army
Of thieves, curs, scoundrels, blaggards & beggars,
Rode the giant, great warrior Wellesley;
As tho’ men were
In England with the hounds,
Chasing the foxes fur across the chalky Downs.

Artillery mounted the crest
Where the Chemin de la Croix
Held forces fast from East to West
Like some scarlet scalding scar,
Against the rearward slope hard-press’d
So cannon would fire far
Above their heads & safely out of harm –
The bugles hum, the time has come to arm.

Cloud castles drifted lazily
Over massive silence,
The gravity of death-to-be
Fills men’s minds with violence,
‘Til single shot cuts thro the knot of youthful innocence.

The Fields of Waterloo
June 18th 1815
11:30


First Skirmish

How slowly they die
as we kneel beside them, whisper in their ear.
And we are too late. We are always too late
Eavan Boland

Wild flowers swayed in the soft sommer breeze;
Cloak’d by clouds of skirmishing Tirailleurs
Columns of infantry aim for the trees,
Toward pois’d troops of red-coated soldiers;
Battle baptis’d,
A hail of musket-balls,
The blue-coats halt surpris’d, a whirl of wounded souls.

From tree to tree thro’ that dense wood
Jerome’s dashing swordsmen surge,
Soil saturated with the blood
Of many a murd’rous urge,
The first Frenchman spat, sniff’d & stood
At the foliage verge,
Where the rickety chateau of his goal
Loom’d large behind it’s gun-lined garden wall.

L’Enforceur burst thro’ the North gate
With four & thirty men,
Death dealt by Fate, before too late
The gate was closed again,
Sharp bayonets dealt to those few trapp’d in the Lion’s den.

Hougoumont
June 18th 1815
12:00


Cannonade

I knew you were
mortally wounded
that I was too
Claribel Alegría

With the sultry blaze of the mid-day sun
Came the barrage of the Grand Battery,
Shot & shell hurtl’d from a hundred gun
Cross the vale with a volumous volley;
Iron shower,
Dealer of destruction,
Falls to slay the flower of the Belgic nation.

Expos’d upon the forward slant,
Close by the Papolette farm,
The anguish’d moans transpose to chant
As the devlish shells reek harm,
Whilst some poor dashing Lieutenant
Clutches his sever’d arm –
Time abandons this terrible limbo,
This howling hurricane’s booming bellow.

Waiting for war behind the hill
Men of Alban Highlands
Led statue still beneath the shrill
Each fearsome shell commands,
Awaiting to do battle, muskets clutch’d in eager hands.

The Fields of Waterloo
June 18th 1815
12:30


Deadly Wounds

They did evilly,
Beat on their palms, thumped their bodies,
Wailing to the monster who enslaved them
Book of Leinster: Anon

As Empires swell so small a plot of ground
No man alive there is which felt that noise
Whose spirit would not shudder at the sound,
An eerie onslaught, brave men wilt as boys;
Nerves jangle taut,
On the edge of snapping,
While Man’s most brutal sport throws it thunderclapping.

His belly caught wallumphing round,
His face utmost distortion,
His body floated to the ground,
His limbs ghostly contortion,
He made a brief, gut-clenching sound,
Pain laced with emotion,
When with his vital organs closing down
His face’s final grimace forg’d a frown.

At threshfolds of eternity
Embattl’d soliers stand,
Death’s legend’ry finality
No distant Samarkand,
But on this pitch today, perhaps, which never look’d so grand.

The Fields of Waterloo
13:15


Prussian Advance

Walking the mudflats,
I pass a stranger. We nod.
And leave it at that
Pat Boran

As cannonades echo for miles around,
Slowly, along those atrocious back lanes,
The Prussian hastens to the battleground
Thro’ marshland swollen by the recent rains;
Knee deep in mud
Blucher waves high his sword,
Forwards, my men, ye would not have me break my word.”

Marching on a murd’rous ordeal
Men moved thro’ glutinous goo,
Took three of them to free a wheel
As weary exhaustion grew,
But with that great Teutonic zeal
Them close to battle drew,
Emerging from the woods by Saint-Lambert,
The bloodshed spread below them everywhere.

Napoleon gazed hopefully
Along the Eastern track,
“They could well be troops of Grouchy…”
“Perhaps, sire, Prussian black!”
“It makes no difference to us now, on with D’Erlon’s attack.”

La Belle Alliance
June 18th 1815
13:30


D’Erlon’s Attack

I belong to you and call you mine
like my mother whom I did not choose
but nonetheless love
Conceição Lima

As low, dense powder clouds drifted away,
The bands struck up, notes melting the mile,
Juggernauts launch, & slowly make their way
Across the valley in the same old style;
War’s theatre
Rips with the sounds of drum;
Rrum-da, rrum-dum…rrum-da, rrubba-dabba-dum-dum!

As mile-long lines of skirmisher
Drive the keen sharpshooters back
From behind, in phalanx terror,
Five thousand from front to back,
Pass into the smoke & sulphur,
Press glorious attack
Upon the British, ignoble retreat
Must come to them & consummate defeat.

A blaze of muskets strafed the flanks
Flung out from La Haye Saint,
From cannon clanks ploughs thro’ the ranks
Screaming balls of iron,
Dreamy, regardless of their loss, men joyously march’d on.

The Fields of Waterloo
June 18th 1815
13:40


Death of Picton

Doing, a filthy pleasure is, & short:
& done, we straight repent us of the sport:
Let us not then rush blindly on unto it
Petronius

Below the ridge, in nervous ribaldry,
Gin rations allay a real human fear,
Ready to die, the Highlander stands steady,
Eyes on the crest, appears the Grenadier!
A Cymric roar
Defies the glide of France,
His tartan & claymore piped into an advance.

As driving on those men he led,
“At ’em you drunken rascals!”
What lucky shot pierc’d Picton’s head,
From his mount he slowly falls,
But still that regiment in red
Blow forwards musketballs,
As bayonets are thrust into the charge,
”Get into ‘em!” bellows their foul-mouth’d sarge.

Little do we know of courage
’Til battle’s lust takes oer,
With fearful rage our fight we rage
Altho’ we know not for,
To kill a man, or by him slain, the sacrament of war.

The Fields of Waterloo
June 18th 1815
13:45


Scots Greys

O what is Death? ‘Tis life’s last shore,
Where vanities are vain no more!
Where all pursuits their goal obtain
Leigh Richmond

Lord Uxbridge watch’d the battle’s lethal course,
Observ’d the gravitas of the melee,
Spurr’d to face his fine phalanx of grey horse,
Order’d their sabers from rest to ready;
The bugle’s peel
Cancels all distraction,
Perform’d a perfect wheel, forth into the action

The earth-thumping hoofbeats propel
Centaurs of derring & dash,
Bloodstirring the Britisher’s yell
As into the Gaul they crash,
How many a gallant foe fell
Neath scything sabre slash
& the hooves of the stamping stallion –
Grave panic grips the forces of D’Erlon.

With the capture of their standard
Brave Frenchmen fled like sheep,
Fully routed or led founder’d,
Dead or feigning Death’s sleep,
While nigh three thousand prisoners lament the lives they keep.

The Fields of Waterloo
14:00


Sanguine Stalemate

I go up onto the rocky earth-hill summit,
Till my horses are sick with the effort;
My charioteer is poorly now
Chou South

Drunk on rum & bloodshed the Grey’s charg’d on;
No voice nor blast could halt the lusty heart
Careering round each small yet deadly gun,
Wreaking revenge for those they blew apart;
Heroic fray,
Fought in that danger zone,
Safety skulk’d far away as their mounts became blown.

He watch’d as tho’ struck by thunder,
A terrible sight to see,
Then cast the Polish Lancer
Gin’ the milling cavalry,
With the promise of no quarter
They spear’d the enemy,
Slaying spent stragglers with furious zest,
Oft times twenty lances punctur’d the chest.

The plain was litter’d with the slain
Like shrapnel from a bomb,
While fresh cocaine sped to his brain
He rode back to Rossome,
Screaming, “Where the fuck is Grouchy? Where are these English from!”

Rossome
June 18th 1815
14:30

Canto 29: Battle Banners

What can these wise emperors & kings think of themselves now, for giving such a tyranny an opportunity of once more bringing misery upon the world when they had it in them to destroy him

Mary Hutchinson


The King’s German Legion

I’d like to mean as much to you
each minute of the day
As you have meant, old friend of mine
Edgar Guest

There was a time when Teutonrie, allied
With Britain, fought & died for Europe’s peace,
As when her fearsome soldiers fortified
This stocky farm, whose piggeries & geese
Now lifeless lay,
An empty pond & pen
Was pillag’d yesterday by Major Baring’s men.

As these soldiers of King Georges’
Fought the Gallic cambsuscade
Beneath blood-spatter’d moustaches
Rose a vocal barricade
Urging on their battle-brothers,
A hard defence was made,
For there is something in the German blend
That makes men fight unto a lightless end.

Under musquetry & hecklers
Came Frenchmen on again,
Railing, reckless, frighten’d, feckless
War’s work drives all insane,
As round the farm grew blue-clad rings of weapons, caps & slain.

La Haye Saint
June 18th 1815
14:45


Cavalry Duel

Their brief desire
Impossibly close
To the rich destroying fire
GJF Dutton

Somehow his horse had flown the Lancers’ net,
But now completely blown, all hoofstep still
& panting hard, its gallant seeping sweat,
Electric to the terrors & the thrill;
Tis Judgement Day,
Swollen & Appaling,
When faces, sliced away, fell like apples falling.

He heard the thud of hooves & turn’d
Unto that Lancer dashing,
In mordant instant death discern’d
So sends his sabre slashing,
His squalling foeman groan’d & gurn’d,
Rushing bloodgush gashing
Out of the stumps where steely limbs once grew,
As if, from pumpwells, water sprites outflew.

At last his blasted, moody mare
Embark’d a little trot,
A pretty pair, this sense they share
Was wholly soulsome knot,
Like cradles with a swaddling child, like ladles in a pot.

The Fields of Waterloo
June 18th 1815
15:00


Deadly Diversions

Yet this, & they, & all, will be forgot;
Why then should words challenge Eternity,
When greatest men, & greatest actions die?
Horace

Upon the conflict to the left below
Napoleon bawks with a deep disgust,
That single & moratory chateaux
Has somehow blunted every frontal thrust;
A fresh tactic,
Howitzing overhead
Flames settle in the nick of rooves & ruthless spread.

This upper oven separates
& raced off thro’ the tinder,
As rapidly communicates
Ashfallen heavy hinder,
Soul inferno suffocates
& grates soft skin to cinder –
But see, a miracle leaps thro the heat,
Flames halting in the chapel at Christ’s feet!

Unable, yet, to be dragg’d out,
Men to their fates resign’d,
With thick’ning doubt these wounded shout
Or for their mothers pined,
Or coped with death’s imminency by shutting down the mind.

Hougoumont
June 18th 1815
15:15


Wellington’s Caution

He’d dreamt he was a shaft of wood
By axehead topp’d, his foes to fight
To chop off heads & branches smite!
Jaan Kaplinski

The field lay taken by an eerie calm,
But for the musketry’s endless rattle
Rising from the blazing Hougoumont farm,
A fierce battle within a fierce battle;
Across the ground
Ten thousand corpses strewn,
Aft’ that first frightful round e’en the stout-hearted swoon.

A young ensign upbraved the crest,
Peer’d into the smoky haze,
Saw tranquil horses, riderless,
On bleeding leg-stumps graze,
Watch’d silent, white & motionless
Whilst wounded Death’s knell raise –
‘Til BOOM! thro’ air cooling cannonball cuts,
Punctures his belly, out trails white worm guts.

The ridge becomes a smoking pyre,
Armies turn to spaces,
To dodge this fire we shall retire
Back a hundred paces!”
Breathing relief, that hot-spot left, war’s pain on strain’d faces.

The Ridge of Mont Saint-Jean
June 18th 1815
15:30


Ney’s Attack

I have seen in the hunt
The pulse of rent flesh;
Seen the fingers of Time
Mary Eliza Fullerton

Half-a-mile from the eyes of his master
Ney watch’d the scarlet enemy retreat,
Giving hordes of cavalry the order,
”Come claim the glory of England’s defeat;
In consequence
The Confederacy
Must offer no defence to French supremacy.”

Tween La Haye Saint & Hougoumont
The noble Cuirassier,
His golden breastplate gleaming dun,
His horse-pistol & sabre,
Came on, came slow & calmly on,
Some sea-wave of sommer –
A long, glittering line of man & steed
Emanating granduer’s will to succeed.

The Royal Horse Artillery
Hard gallop’d to the spot
There, with deadly accuracy,
Unleash’d storms of case-shot –
Carcass reduced to bloody pulp as tho’ it’s flesh did rot.

The Ridge of Mont Saint-Jean
June 18th 1815
15:45


Carvello Carnage

To see it selfe in that eternall Glasse,
Where time doth end, & thoughts accuse the dead.
Where all to come, is one with all that was
Fulke Greville

The entire army clamour’d into square,
Form’d chequer-style for fire-fields to combine,
The poignant whispers of an English prayer
As onto the ridge surged the mounted line;
Out rings the scream,
One wild “Vive L’Empereur!”
The Cuirassiers stream… Wellesley shakes off wonder,

“Prepare to receive cavalry!”
Ranks of frontal redcoats kneel,
Whose bayonets in company
Form a bristling hedge of steel,
Muzzles train’d on an enemy
Charging empassion’d zeal;
Lucid blue horde meets the red, ragged host –
A stormy ocean & a jagged coast.

Shoot at the horses!” came the cry,
Down fell many a steed,
A human sigh dwelt in the eye
Of our most noble breed,
Man’s heavenly companions dying hell-bent for his greed.

The Fields of Waterloo
June 18th 1815
16:00


Rocks of Empire

Weeping another’s death, my grief atones
No whit. All forms of human doom
Arouse but transient thoughts of joy or gloom
Jan Kochanowski

They stood about the shot-tatter’d colours,
Driven to the limits of endurance,
Defending their ground ‘gainst the warriors
Driven by the spirits of ancyent France;
Without a flinch
They took all France could throw,
Nor yield a single inch to the relentless foe.

Each wave of brave sabres withstood
By the savage squares of red,
Melting into the Belgian mud,
Courtyards litter’d with the dead,
Between each foam-fleck’d horseman flood
Descended deadly dread,
For black balls from BOOM-BOOMING batteries
Cut carnage in swathes thro’ the companies.

With each assault dwindl’d the foe,
Their dead litter’d the plain,
The weighty blow did drain & slow
Tho’ still they came again,
‘Til the last spectres of this ghastly danse macabre wane.

The Fields of Waterloo
June 18th 1815
17:30


The Wounding of DeLancey

War’s still our master, as awry
Falls everyone – friends, enemies –
Morass’d by chutzpah perfidies
Durs Gunbein

As battle sheds a voluntary truce
On soldiers roasting in exhausting blood,
Napoleon’s neck slips into its noose,
The fury of his flower well withstood;
Like Agincourt
& Crecy Frenchmen toil,
Commingling crimson gore with continental soil.

As poor Delancey dismounted
To fasten to his saddle
His purple cloak, a round shot sped
& whack’d him like a paddle
Unripping ribs that pierc’d & bled
Lungbowls, which now rattle,
Out a name, tis ‘Madelaine,’ & he flops
To earth, stands up at once, gasps pain, then drops.

All officers leapt to his aid
Like hounds at the release,
All flap & fray’d De Lancey pray’d
‘Lads let me die in peace,’
“Take him a-rear,” huff-quaff’d the Duke  as deaths on deaths increase.

Mont St Jean
June 18th 1815
17:15


Fall of a Farmouse

The two God’s creatures
Fight odiously.
They fight vehemently
Gueorgui Konstantinov

With Wellington press’d hard to distraction
D’Erlons rallied remnants swarm round this farm
In the midst of a furious action,
Show contemptuous recklessness tward harm;
From shot-pock’d walls
The Kings German Legion
Pour’d streams of musketballs into the blue ocean.

As la rage steam-soak’d in despair
Hurls men at the bold defence,
Stone, cold fire of the legionnaire
Splutters to vanquish’d silence,
‘Twas such a murderous affair
The French claim recompense –
Bayonets plunge into wounded soldiers,
“Take zat for being such good defenders!”

On the key to the position
The Tricolor waved free,
The battle won! The division
Of Wellington’s army
Must soon be follow’d by the Brussels march & VICTORY!

La Haye Saint
June 18th 1815
18:00

Canto 30: Waterloo Dusk

The next worst thing after a battle lost is a battle won

The Duke of Wellington


The Killing Time

heart is dead, no longer is there prayer
on my lips; all strength is gone, and
hope is no more
Hayyim Nahman Bialik

The French advance their cannon down the slopes
& up again, where halting they commence
A constant fire, in which hot blaze lie hopes
Of victory & tigrish recompense;
Now is the time
When England’s best are slain
Cull’d savage & sublime under a silver rain.

As canister’d shells macerate,
Pulping flesh to mushy pink,
The Iron Duke now felt his fate
A-tottering on the brink,
No further minute could he wait,
No seconds left to think,
So marshalling all forces of the line
He fortifies the vital centre-spine.

As every man, & everyone,
Was taking turns to die,
Palladian the sinking sun
Diminishes the sky,
Brave Wellington gazEd gravely on with grim, determined eye.

Mont St Jean
June 18th 1815
18:10


Human Destruction

Why are you so pale today?”
“Because I made him drink of stinging grief
Until he got drunk on it
Anna Akhmatova

“Lads go & occupy the fortress gates,
Defend them with the fury of thy clan,
Outside a brutal enemy awaits
With orders not to spare a single man,”
Such noble air
Wrung from a chieftain’s hall,
Seem’d sung, sung everywhere by soldiers in a thrall.

As men cut one another’s throats
& agitates confusion,
They wallow’d in the mud like boats
Toss’d in a stormy season,
Some tore apart their bleeding coats
Unzipping the lesion,
Erewhile blows blinding smoke, hums sulphur eggs,
& horses crawling only on front legs.

A raw youth chirps, “that ball is spent,”
Full blocks it with his foot,
His ankle bent, & off it went
As if by surgeon’s cut,
Calamitous, cantankerous, unkindly & kaput.

The Fields of Waterloo
June 18th 1815
18:20


Echoes of War

Woman has two feet
To climb toward her dreams,
To stand together, firm
Chiranan Pitpreecha

Miltering from that stomach-searing stench,
Hooves thudded by each busy surgeon’s blade,
As battle’s grisly carnage, & the French,
Abandon’d by a cavalry brigade
Quite cowardly,
Bursting thro’ those wagons
Of wounded creaking free from death’s ruthless dragons.

On bolting thro’ the Namur Gate,
Grave panic spread like wylde-fire,
Fearful of the forthcoming fate,
For troops of the French Empire
Oft wreak revenge in rabid state –
Those dastards daz’d & dire,
Spread rumors rife, “We’ve heard Napoleon
Has promised two days pillage to his men.”

She gazes toward the rumbling sound,
Saw battles in her head,
She, wistful, found a spot of ground
& helpless there she led,
Not knowing if her William was wounded, well or dead.

Brussels
June 18th 1815
18:30


Napoleonic Sunset

I don’t know if the stars rule the world
Or if Tarot or playing cards
Can reveal anything
Fernando Pessoa

From thirsty throats shot a tremendous cheer
For France, the Emperor & Victory!
Faces contorted with pleasure & fear
Like some black Parisian tragedy;
Mountains of dead,
The screams, the smoke, the smell,
The dark, Dantean red that paints this trophied hell.

Ney gallop’d to his emperor,
Prussian shells fell on Rossome,
Face blacken’d with face & powder,
“Sire the time to push has come!”
“Fool! how can I manufacture
Men, where to pluck them from?
Back to battle, there do the best you can,
Spare not the efforts of a single man!”

To secure Plancenoit he threw
The Young Guard from his hand,
Then rode back to the inn to view
The battle’s prospect grand,
Sky painted black with evenfall, by smoke & ashes fann’d.

La Belle Alliance
June 18th 1815
18:45


A Desperate Defence

I see them still, cursing the generals
who put them in this spot – the incompetent
Generals who sent them to their deaths
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell

Gazing upon gathering enemy
Wellington brav’d the cannonball shower,
Summons his last Aide-de-Camp, DeLancey,
“High crisis is on us, whence breaks the hour?”
“Nigh on seven!”
“By my bones I hope the
Holy King of Heaven brings us Night or Blucher.”

With an eye on his investment
Nathan Rothschilde quaff’d back fear,
Speaking gruff, Germanic accent
Offer’d services sincere,
With vital timely orders sent –
“What remains of us stands here!”
The white-cockade betray’d point of attack,
What thick black round ploughs thro’ DeLancey’s back!

Out to his God, screaming in vain,
It seem’d his wife did hear,
Sharing his pain her spirits wane,
This moment too severe,
Clinging to HOPE regardless of her grieving’s first shed tear.

Brussels
June 18th 1815
19:00


A Deadly Pause

The doors stay behind complaining in the wind.
Anguish stays behind with its celestial mirrors.
Time stays behind like tragedy in man
Vicente Gerbasi

Across the playne prickest the lone hussar,
Sate nobly on his magnificent bay,
Bellowing a stirring “Vive, L’Empereur!”
Holding an entire army in it’s sway;
Sleek sabre sweeps
The long length of the line,
Grim, sneering scythe that reaps grapes of a mortal vine.

He gallop’d away in a trice,
After him musketballs flew,
Such derring-do at what high price,
Soak’d in hot blood thro’ & thro,
Singing the supreme sacrifice,
“My Prince… I die… for you…”
Utter’d with a spluttering gust of breath,
The beauty & the agony of Death.

Along the line was pass’d the cry,
“Soldats voila Grouchy!”
A forlorn lie for those that die
To win a victory –
A cause clutch’d in such scrawny claws, the crows shall feast for free.

The Fields of Waterloo
June 18th 1815
19:30


Imperial Guard

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud
Under the bludgeonings of chance
W.E. Henley

He led them upon the glorious way,
His soldiers, of the Middle, of the Old,
Once more handed the Fate of France to Ney,
More precious than his weight in Bourbon gold;
The grand guardsmen
March musically as one,
“Forwards my brave children, a Bruxelles mes enfants.”

They march’d with splendour’s cool élan
Onto the field of glory,
The power surging thro’ each man
To shape Europe’s destiny,
Brave bandsmen foremost in the van
Stirring strain’d melody,
They swept in solemn & savage silence,
Th’espirit-de-corps carv’d from deadly violence.

On march’d th’immortal sons of France,
Men who built an empire,
The eminence of their advance
Plough’d to a muddy mire,
Two columns paced into the fray straf’d by a galling fire.

The Ridge of Mont Saint-Jean
June 18th 1815
19:45


Routing the Gaurd

To the end they were brave
To the end they were faithful
To the end they were similar
Zbigniew Herbert

“Now Maitland! Now’s your time!” Swiftly upsprung
One long, scarlet line of grimy faces,
With one thundering volley forward flung
Murd’rous musketry at twenty paces;
Death’s wind was blown,
Driving men to their knees,
Strange field of human corn all swaying in the breeze.

Up gaurds & at ’em!” Arthur cried,
& Wellesley’d to the murder,
Where brave blues stood fresh terrified
Of death by English slaughter,
The bayonet, coldly applied,
Adds to the disorder
A cowering coward yelps a wild shout –
As one the beaten heroes turn & rout.

“La Garde recule,” ” Impossible!”
“Nous sommes traits!” the cry,
Their spirits fell, broken the spell,
To France these Frenchmen fly,
So cruel & bitter tasting tears trickle from each proud eye.

The Fields of Waterloo
June 18th 1815
20:00


Wellington’s Victory

When the lights dimmed,
his mood was mournful
as the French horn
Wilda Morris

As tho’ to some pre-destin’d harmony,
Black flags flying like vengeful, hungry crows,
The hate-fill’d horde of Prussians show pity
No mind as thro’ the ruptured right flank flows;
Sunsetting stream
Dips neath the smoky clouds,
Casting a copper beam upon the golden crowds.

The Duke shone black upon the verge,
Sky red as an evening wine,
Hat waving high his lads emerge,
As a mile-wide scarlet line,
Who with one great, glorious surge,
With fleeing French entwine –
Empassion’d by triumphant exstasi,
Architects of this gallic tragedy!

& as he watch’d his rascals run
He gave a poignant smile
Napoleon had fired best gun
At England’s rank & file,
Yet they stood firm, as had his nerve, forever France to rile.

The Fields of Waterloo
20:15

Canto 31: La Belle Alliance

But man’s pleasure is a short time growing
& it falls to the ground
as quickly, when an unlucky twist of thought
loosens its roots

Pindar


The Soul of France

Oh, noble grief in the verses free,
Which sound and resound so sincere,
Will you move the feelings of men
Migjeni

Sheltering in the centre of a square,
His loyal First view their leader blankly,
Who, with the terrible rage of despair,
Stand to save the honour of the army;
Outbreaths a sigh
Retiring in all haste,
He left his men to die as on the Russian waste.

Befitting the call of glory,
Steep’d in mystique ’til the last,
Like islands in a raging sea,
Screaming comrades streaming past,
Swarm’d by hussars & infantry
Fought they fierce & steadfast –
Freddie Johnstone pleads them to surrender,
Dead silence feeds the defiant, “Merde!”

“La Garde meurt mais ne se rend pas!”
Twelve cannon pack’d with case
Administer the coup de grace,
Death’s scythe swept thro’ the space,
The soul of the Grand Armee duly vanish’d from Earth’s face.

La Belle Alliance
June 18th 1815
20:45


Happy Meeting

Promise of hope, a bright spark for tomorrow,
That’s who the angel did say was to come;
How can this be when the world’s so uncertain
Bruce Levitan

Tho’ the battle won & Europa saved
Death doubles his efforts as night draws in,
The mortal right to mercy clearly waiv’d,
Frenchmen hack’d down in droves for kinsmen sin;
In joyous rows
Their vanquishers advance,
As Allied pincers close about the throat of France

They meet with a gladsome greeting,
Victorious embrace share,
My prince, that was a damn’d nice thing!”
“Oui, mon duke, une quelle affaire!”
Their triumphant soldiers singing
Stormblasted thro’ the air;
For twenty years the misery of France
Full twenty years of bloody arrogance.

The simple north country farmer
Heard English lyrical,
Crept in terror from the cellar,
Paced his ruin’d castle
Stood forever at the threshfold of a famous battle.

La Belle Alliance
June 18th 1815
21:00


Battle’s End

How some that have died, & some they have left me,
& some are taken from me’ all are departed;
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces
Charles Lamb

Lone rider cross’d the scene, grave duty done,
Counting the cost of his certain glory,
“Next to a battle lost a battle won
Is the worst thing any captain could see;”
The tears he cry
Whilst whispering wistful,
“I hope to God that I have fought my last battle.”

Mangl’d thousands cover the ground
Like a shipwreck’s rippling sail,
Some dreadful organ piped hell’s sound
While the wounded shriek & wail,
One stumbling, mumbling widow found
Beloved husband pale;
Shadowy ghouls sporting guns, helms & coats
Scavenge for booty, slitting gurgling throats.

Weary the Duke of Wellington,
Bright is the moon & blue,
He trotted on past La Haye Saint
Where one lone eagle flew,
Then glanced his last & turn’d his back on the fields of Waterloo.

Mont Saint-Jean
June 18th 1815
21:30


Napoleonic Fall

Lord, grant, oh grant me thy compassion,
For I in thee my trust have placed;
Display thy wings for my salvation
George Wither

An eagle circl’d La Belle Alliance
‘Fore gliding by the chausee to Charleroi,
Above weaponless warriors of France
Begging madly ‘neath the Prussian hussar;
Nowhere to hide
From Blucher’s vengeful will,
Combing the countryside for fleeing foe to kill.

Oer Genappe the Eagle’s hover
Coldly espied confusion,
An army cramm’d tight together,
Half-craz’d by fears contagion,
Sabres sweep in civil murder,
The tragic illusion
Of one bridge spanning the deep Dyle’s swift flow –
That stream’s tranquil amble, shallow & slow.

For forest flame flew the flyer
To perch by Bounaparte,
Who in the fire saw his Empire
Ashen & wrench’d apart,
Shed tears of loss pulsing from the well of his broken heart.

Bois de Gosselies
June 18th 1815
23:00


Costs of War

Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead
Theodore O’Hara

What journey for a warrior to make,
Attesting to the uttermost ruin
Of age-old foes, in whose rubious wake
Brood these roosting eagles as they come in;
A broken spell,
Pride’s votive gifts defuse,
To live their life in Hell encurses those who lose.

So fall fair France, tho’ ye shall rise
Twice more thro’ this course of wars,
When other demagogues devise
Dark empires, but these not yours,
Instead a complex web of ties
Knotted across thy shores
Shall fight for thee, fight for thy Libertie,
In fields, those keystones of our future free.

All this the Duke could never know
As drifting off to sleep
Names blow-by-blow lame griefs bestow
Him for them all did weep,
Until he sank in thankless dreams… dank, hankering & deep.

Waterloo
June 19th 1815
04:00


Broken Dreams

Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years !
I am so weary of toil & of tears,-
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain
Elizabeth Akers Allen

How strange that any man escap’d alive
This sorry scene of carnage incarnate,
An epic pool of death in which connive
The sobbing phantoms of a sword-law state;
While bedlam shrieks
Faces shine bright moonbeams
Upon subfuscous freaks erupting amid screams.

As men bellow their Christian hymns
Or beg to end pain, be shot,
Others untangle scrambling limbs
From a stinking horses knot,
The chance of night’s survival slims,
No pennies for the slot;
When one-by-one, as wounded men expire,
Fell ever, ever quieter, Hell’s choir.

As in light sunrise increases,
Unfolds a tragedy,
Broken pieces, choking ceases,
As life’s finality
Still weeps across that field of foes with woeful witcherie.

The Fields of Waterloo
June 19th 1815
06:30


Death of De Lancey

My sweet companion & my gentle peer,
Why has thou left me thus unkindly here,
Thy end for ever & my life to moan
Abraham Cowley

She sat with silence in the jolting cart,
It’s horses screaming at Death’s awful stench,
Pangs of suspense hang heavy on her heart
‘Til Waterloo, where with a mighty wrench,
Her joys outpour,
Her husband is alive!
Before a cottage door to breathlessly arrive.

She crept into the dusty room
Saw upon a simple bed,
Him waiting for his painful doom,
How miserable there he led!
Her love-light true didst pierce the room,
Bright halo hugs her head –
A feverish vision or darling true,
“Magdalene, darling, is that really you?”

She sat upon a broken chair,
Into his slipt her hands,
With kisses, prayer & tender care
Helpless she watch’d time’s sands
Trickle from life’s glass chamber to the one that Death commands.

Mont Saint Jean
June 19th 1815
17.30


Splendid News

Every church sings its own soft part
In the polyphony of a girl’s choir,
And in the stone arches of the Assumption
Osip Emilevich Mandelstam

The carriage thunder’d oer Westminster bridge –
Eagles poking proudly from it’s window,
Captur’d in the fight for Wellington’s ridge –
To wheel into Whitehall… the horses slow;
Grime-faced major
Brushes the guards aside,
Interrupting dinner, words bursting forth with pride.

“Great & glorious victory!”
Sang Percy to his Regent,
Kneeling upon a bended knee,
“My liberty to present
Twin colours pluck’d with gallantry
From a French regiment;
Representing Napoleon’s downfall!”
Three long hurrahs huzzah’d by one & all.

Trophys display’d to growing throng,
News flew round like lightning,
They skipp’d along awash with song
Singing, “God save the King!”
While wide across the countryside ten thousand church bells ring.

Saint James’ Square
21st June 21st
1815


Treaty of Vienna

The poor is no longer depressed,
See those once discarded resuming their seats,
The lost strangers soon will find rest
George Moses Horton

Once more beneath the moon of Austria,
Men gather in a mutual respect
Readdressing borders of Europa,
But this time cautious & more circumspect;
From them their lies
The fate of future days –
Some seek a merchant’s prize, some seek a monarch’s praise.

Wise Metternich takes centre stage,
Napoleon derided,
The threshfold of the modern age,
His conquests were divided
Tween signatories of this page,
Nation states decided,
& surely to some pre-destined design
The Prussian borders brought up to the Rhine.

For as the great cities of Spain
Founded by Moorish king
& howling, rain-swept hurricane
Whipp’d by butterfly wing,
Battles determine destinies long centuries shall bring.

Vienna
July
1815