Category Archives: Act 1

Canto 32: Imperatrices

We have Napoleon to thank… that a couple of warlike centuries can now follow on one another which have no equal in history, in short we have enter’d the Classic Age of War

Frederick Nietzsche


Having reached life’s hilly stages,
Hemmed about with sleet & snow,
On a drift the swain now seated
Magnus Stefansson

The poet’s task to glorify the page
With stories richer than the Golden Fleece;
Come stand upon the threshfold of an Age
Peace-loving doves flock chirping for release;
Yet men bewitch’d
By warfare yet to come,
When antique pibrochs pitch’d to thund’rous battledrum.

Napoleon feels life’s fierce strain
Steel chains round sad soul wreathing,
Him stood upon the Trojan plain
When demi-gods were breathing,
Hot blood pulsed thro his temple’s vein,
Angry, proud & seething –
If Ishtar brings us empire, she’ll bring fall,
Across each tyrant’s dreams Fate hauls her wall.

Held by mercy & his victor,
Like some Sinean King,
Thro’ Mombaza, Montezuma,
To Charlie’s highland fling –
Forced to flutter – an Emperor made putty schmetterling.


Death of Napoleon

Folly is built on pride, on pride & power,
& power ends in weariness & duty :
Even the hooded eagle cannot soar to heaven
Michael Roberts

Stranded on an unhealthy, sea-girt isle,
The arch-felon of Europe stands alone,
Bored of his garden, whiling every while
With white sea-foam & counting skipping-stone;
That pain again!
His belly seems aflame!
Poison in every vein he screams his doctor’s name!

He woke up in a fev’rish state,
Heard wailing in the ocean,
Tempest thunders without abate,
Soul pouring out emotion,
More than Alexander the Great
Command ye devotion!”
Til settl’d by the war-song of the sea
He drifted, whispering, “Where is Grouchy?

In this his final dream he saw
Happy Italians,
The Kentish shore, long days of war,
Men, horses, flags & guns,
Then dies & joins his golden soldiers shouldering weapons.

Saint Helena

Ottoman Decay

I am older & have been far away
In different corners of the world –
I have seen all that I expected
KC Steven

Choicest heroes raise the race of empires
Heavenward, Jove shall learn a mortal name;
One sets great sceptres, wasted, midst the pyres,
Handsomely brandishing his famous flame
Lord Byron stands
For Hellas & her sons,
Landing upon white sands guides, horses, gold & guns.

Having lived with the Venetians
Under vile Austrian yoke,
Having ridden with Albanians,
Singing songs thro’ campfire smoke,
Oxenheart spreads out ambitions
Thro eager Grecian folk,
Inspiring them to seize their native soil –
But one mosquito-bite sets blood aboil.

& tho’ the spirit of Romance
Fell at Missolonghi,
Greecians advance, seizing their chance
To win back Liberty,
Casting the ageing Ottoman scuttling across the sea.


Year of Revolutions

O tranquil minds who contemplate the pain
& shipwreck of your brothers’ batter’d forms,
&, hous’d in peace, debate the cause of storms

Like little catalysts do acorns grow
Into great oaks, as conflict turns to wars,
The German nations promise to bestow
Her speech upon the Hanseatic shores;
Spreading the bind
To Sleswick & Holstein,
From now ohe Elbe shall find a sister in the Rhine.

Those wars spread mighty rapidly;
A fresh French Revolution,
Venetia, then, & Lombardy
Pommel out the Austrian,
Seeds of a modern Italy;
A new Napoleon,
Far from Metternich & old Vienna,
Decrees himself, “Guardian of Order!”

As the Russians saddle horses
The British grow concern’d,
Her arm’d forces & resources,
Have many times return’d
Across the straits & still a peaceful Europe rudely spurn’d.


Death of the Cavalry Charge

Who will stir up whirlwinds of furious fire
If we do not, & those whom we call brothers?
Join us, Romantic friends! Forget all others!
Arthur Rimbaud

This pacrimonic peace shows heavy strain,
The saltant Sultan rushes off to war,
Their fleet unsallied from the glassy main
By Russia, off the Sinopean shore;
Sending a surge
Thro the power balance;
Paris & London merge; ‘Pachalic Aliance!’

Landing on the peninsula
Facing the Russian onslaught,
Schooly skirmishes at Alma,
Inkerman brutally fought,
Then the battle Balaklava
Becomes a bloody sport,
The glory of the goriest attack,
Of six hundred but two hundred came back.

It was a charge to inspire men,
Honour the Light Brigade!
Never again, thro’ ink & pen
Mistake so bad was made,
While step-by-step, thro war’s black net, watch horsey hoofsteps fade.


Florence Nightingale

God’s blood is shed.
He mourns from His lone place
His children dead.
Isaac Rosenberg

Sebastapol entrapp’d on every side,
Beseig’d by land, bombarded from the seas,
Five hundred thousand men from life divide,
Some battle-fell’d, most swollen by disease;
Now redcoats rush
To seize the citadel,
With one Brittanic push the Russian kudos fell.

She tread thro’ battle’s detritus,
The bleeding & the brittle,
Convers’d with dying warriors
Coughing bile tincted-spittle,
Delivering a tenderness
Where man’s lot meant little
To poker players of the Greatest Game,
Willing to gamble men to further fame.

She left behind those days of war,
Thanking the gods that be,
Resumed her tour, beside the shore
Of sheer Gallipoli,
She sketch’d a scene so picturesque to please her family.


Japanese Renaissance

Like a long, long journey
on a flax-pale steed
is man’s life
Steinn Steinarr

They watch’d them steam into the Edo Bay,
Grey smoking dragons, whose guns numerous
Serv’d the querelous Shogunate’s dismay,
Saying, “This matter does not concern us!”
White faces made
Fair sail across the sea,
Bringing the global trade of Commodore Perry.

Sensing the world had pass’d them by
Japan opens up her quays,
World influxes revivify
Evolution by degrees,
Nippon’s old masters this defy
To be dragg’d to their knees,
As bold Mutsuhito replaces school
With palaces & his ‘Enlighten’d Rule.’

Directly from Yokohama
The nation’s first train flew,
What calibre of Emporer
Into the station drew,
Inspiring such devotion as the lilies drink the dew.



But thy sounds were sweeter
Than the dome of Peter
Flings oer the Tiber
Father Prout

No longer the montage of petty states,
Spiritus uprisen thro Italy,
Austrians driven from the city gates
By the stoic will of Garibaldi;
Bravely fighting
Where e’er his thousand ride,
Beneath a native king the North now unified.

The Kingdom of Two Sicilies
Rejects unification,
Soon subject to hostilities,
With grim determination
Palermo lost her liberties
& Naples her station,
As with one fierce, jingoist show of force
He enter’d Rome upon a flame-red horse.

From Brindisi to Lake Como
A country re-appears,
The foreign flow of soldato
Lasted a thousand years,
Now cast forever to the past by dashing cavaliers.


Steadying the Ship

settled on
the temple bell
a sleeping butterfly

Conscious of a manifest destiny,
Tho’ barely yet a pawn of the great game,
The fledgeling wings of eagle of Liberty
Spread oer the world, fanning the flames of fame;
Yet, southern states
Fat on their their slavish fee,
Form bands of vicious mates led by courageous Lee.

Theirs was a very bitter war
Where nobody was thinkin,’
But for the great conquistadour,
A Yankee call’d Abe Lincoln,
Who won slave freedom from the gore;
As his toasts were drinkin,’
Assassins took his life & left a ghoul
Singing the national anthem every school.

A continent is set to go,
Its vast resources spend,
As Alamo quell’d Mexico,
With Canada her friend,
America shall prove the key as did the Gods intend.



Canto 33: Imperial Scramble

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

Rupert Brooke

Otto Von Bismark

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

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

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

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


March of Moscow

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

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

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

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


European Struggle

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

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

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

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


Defeating France

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

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

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

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


African Scramble

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

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

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

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

Cape Town


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

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

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

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


War’s Progress

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

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

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

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


The Boer War

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

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

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

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


American Empire

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

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

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

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


Canto 61: Stand-Offs

No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country

George Scott




Three hosts combine to offer sacrifice;
Three tongues prefer strange orisons on high;
Three gaudy standards flout the pale blue skies
Lord Byron

An old man drags his bulk across the sands,
Off-breaks beside the barb’d perimeter,
& clambors over, sharp wires dig in hands,
At once he’s accosted by a soldier;
“Hold it right there…
O my god, you’re Churchill!”
The P.M. gave his stare, the M.P. freezes still.

By Rooseveldt he takes his seat,
Discussive for the future,
To German cities we must mete
The full wrath of the bomber!”
“Aye, until Germany’s defeat
& total surrender,
By Europe’s freedom all deeds must measure –
Japan may be destroy’d at our leisure.”

They left the villa for the sun,
Found soldiers to review,
Nigh ev’ryone American,
The fighters Yankee too,
That oerhead roar’d, defenders of the world’s most crucial two.

January 27th

Pendulum Turns

And there before the night, he was aware
of the flayed fields of home, & black with ruin
The helpful earth under the tracks of tanks
Sidney Keyes

From the depths of a tractor factory
Rose a crackling corp’ral’s rattling broadcast,
Reaching within each German eaterie,
“Der Fatherland, der Fuhrer to the last!”
Lost & alone,
“Why are we forsaken?”
All animals hath flown, endure here only men.

Ivan came in ev’rywhereness,
“Hund wollt ihr ewig leben?”
In kingly, heroistic dress
Willie urges on his men,
Thro’ daunting danger & duress
Til all quell’d well, & then
He sits with his wife’s photo one last time,
Last round blows out his brains, walls coat with slime.

Paulus grappl’d with cruel conscience,
Cow’ring in the corner,
Christian sense curtails defence,
Consenting surrender,
How glad that captured mass of men meant for Siberia.

February 2nd

Death of Jack Sumner

The rage of armies is a shame of boys;
A hero’s panic or a coward’s whim
Is triggered by nerve or nervousness
Louis Simpson

They rais’d their spirits with an old sing-song,
Soon silenced by surfacing submarine,
At once old sailors knew something was wrong,
Those long, square-jaw’d faces far too serene;
Cold reasoning,
Der Fuhrer’s directive,
“Pity is burdening, let no opponent live.”

Sighting muzzles upon them aimed
Fuel enough for frighten’d flap,
We are unarm’d, ye not ashamed!?”
Blonde rating straighten’d his cap,
Took four bullets, bloody & maim’d,
Croak’d, “Cheerio old chap!”
To this miraculously unhurt Jack,
Led breathless, daring not to answer back…

As Xaver survey’d the murder
He caught a faint movement…
As a Stemmler slays a Sumner,
Now unambivalent,
The goddess KARMA flit the scene & to another went.

Atlantic Ocean
February 3rd

Death of Xaver Stemmler

Between the gem-hung velvert of the waves,
Our sires & grandsires in their green flesh start,
Bend skinny elbows, warn: “We have no graves…
Roy Fuller

E’er since the battle of Trafalgar Bay,
Those vigilant, oak-hull’d leviathans
Have held the Oceans in an Island’s sway,
“England expects!” ev’ry battle stations;
Night turns to day,
Depth-charge splash each quarter,
The decks awash with spray as under the water

Wee submarines are toss’d about,
Some sub-aquatic boxing bout…
Like fountains in a garden
Seawater spouts fill with grave doubt
Entrapp’d & frighten’d men…
Men coat their trousers in a cruddy goo,
As ships ripp’d up & simply flipp’d in two.

Almighty Ocean rushes in,
Thetis astride the bull,
Cat’clysmic din, Xaver aspin,
What weight crushes his skull,
To sleep the deep forever in the cold crypt of that hull.

The Atlantic Ocean

Scented Roses

But the sunshine aye shall light the sky,
As round & round we run;
And the truth shall ever come uppermost
Charles Mackay

Plunge German spirits by Stalingrad’s wall,
Male students branded ‘coward dogs askulk,’
The White Rose blooms once more its glinted call,
Printing its stand against the heathen hulk;
‘Our dead adjured!
We Deutsche have ne’er endured such tyrannies & sin!’

Willi Graf splashes graffiti,
Painting tin stencil slogans
All round the university –
Where its students versus shoguns
As thro’ each corridor empty
Trail the leaflet weapons
Of true friends of wisdom, lovers of truth,
Under a deadly, mad dog’s rabid tooth.

Sophie has join’d the Rose with pride,
To break the Nazi thrall,
Push’d oer the side a leaflet tide,
Like snowflakes soft they fall…
Between the gaps he saw her face, that man against the wall.

Munich University
February 18th

Penalty Shoot-Out

It wasn’t history but memory
the day the township’s warriors stood
on the banks of the glen river
Aonghas Macneil

Partisans attack the camp at Siretz;
To avenge this impertinent action
Make answers for their grotesque karmic debts,
Every third prisoner faces the gun;
When name-by-name
Brave men of FC Start,
Have play’d their final game, plonk’d three persons apart.

Kuzmenko is the first to cry
Bull-clubb’d to the ground & shot,
Around Klimenko nail-fists fly,
By bulletstorm let to rot,
Shouting, “Red sport will never die!”
Trusevich marks his spot,
Stood proud & tall in a goalkeeper green,
Soon blood-stain’d in the Babi-Yar ravine.

The news filter’d back to the street,
Dishearten’d Konstantin,
Sick with defeat he went to meet
His mother in an inn,
“Worry not,”  Christina whispers, “The final we shall win.”


Black Roses

It stuck in barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
Sylvia Plath

As February sun deludes with Spring,
The pin-precise Gestapo get to work,
Grim narcomaniacs of torturing,
Brains mythomaniacally bezerkl
The ‘People’s Court,’
Judge Friesler at his head,
A traitor’s fate has sought, this day shall strike them dead.

As to the jackals they were toss’d,
For ‘sabotage’ & ‘treason,’
They form’d a holy pentecost
To interrupt with reason,
You know as we the war is lost,
Cowards are in season!”
“Enough!” scoff’d Friesler, venemous & vex’d,
“I’ve found them guilty, guillotine their necks!”

This winter’s sunset is their last,
& this their final night
On Earth upcast, strength unsurpass’d,
Es lebe die frieheit,
For knowing freedom fought for sheds eternity’s delight.

Stadelheim Prison
February 22nd

Russia Rises

For right is right, since God is God,
And right the day must win;
To doubt would be disloyalty
F.W. Faber

The pendulum commences western swing
The Wehrmacht thro’ thinwaist-high, wet snows wade,
The stench of death & swamp-thaw commingling
& Ivan seeming less of them afraid;
Their horses blown,
The battle-charge all spent,
A bitter spite is shown by every regiment.

As Buscher reaches Nastenka
As one the peasantry freeze,
Spying lovely Anastasia,
“Bring her here!” she turns & flees,
Soon captured by swift stormtrooper,
Soon naked on her knees,
She shivers as she’s dows’d in parrafin –
A match, a scream, hot hellfire strips her skin.

The thousand-year Reich in Russia
By the moment is reduced,
Each swastika, with hot anger,
Is ripp’d down from its roost,
As everywhere the liberated Stalin’s armies boost.