Canto 3: The Great War


There will be wars such as there have never been on earth… an eclipse of the sun such as there has probably never yet been on earth… I greet all the signs that a more manly, warlike age is coming, which will, above all, bring valour again into honour.
Frederick Nietzsche


 

Hakenkruz

As little boys listen to their mothers
With dewdrop eyes, an Austrian sat down
Above his home, “Quite unlike the others,”
Schoolmasters said, as now, far from the town,
Mind-implings soar,
Flame-licking phantasie,
What momentary awe, when on the monast’ry

Rose Benedictine coat of arms,
O salient swastika!
Draping an artist in its charms,
Such enigmatic aura…
Alarum wildfires thro’ the farms,
“Alois needs a doctor!”
His son runs home… stunn’d & numb from crying,
Adolf Hitler watch’d his father’s dying.

The haemorrage was flowing fast,
The doctors did no good,
Breathing its last a body cast
Its soul to fiery flood,
The daddy of a daemon-child besotted by fresh blood.

Linz
1903


 

Death of Innocence

A century of blood-stench drags the breeze,
Annals of Empire quiver to a close
Like some rogue priest bent double with disease,
Still quaking from those cataclysmic throes;
One hundred years
My tempers train shall delve,
Thro’ all the blood & tears… Nineteen Hundred & Twelve.

The Kasier calls a konferenz,
Large maps besprawling table,
“As Russia, with the funds of France,
Shall soon become full stable,
I wish the borders to advance
As prompt as is able –
Dark clouds have gather’d yon the Vistula,
It must be war… & sooner the better.”

Faint rumbles on a stormy night,
Harsh whispers in the trees,
As grainy light illumes the fight,
INNOCENCE slumps on knees,
Her hump-back’d murderer administ’ring the final squeeze.

Europe
1912


 

Assassin!

The Crown Prince peers out from the motorcade,
His House of Hapsburg gorging on conquest,
Whose tall, broad-chested soldiers on parade,
Hold back the Slavic peasantry oppress’d;
Soft eyelids close,
Flora fills his vision,
Song-maiden sniffs her rose in her secret garden…

…She laughs & they laugh together,
Rows of roses grow & bud,
Redd’ning fields stretching forever
In a wave transform to wood,
Flaming crosses in the heather,
Names crudely ink’d in blood –
An orphan girl chokes on her rose & dies,
Snakes slithing from the sockets of her eyes.

Stagling slips from silent shadows,
His stern lips firmly curl’d,
The hammer blows, the bullet glows,
A blast of black doom hurl’d,
A shot to slay an Arch Duke, heard in echoes round the world!

Sarajevo
June 28th
1914


 

Imperial Decree

There was a sense of something in the air,
Of great events & him stood at their heart,
Aye, he could feel the fever everywhere,
Tho’ from that spirit stood his soul apart,
Was this the stage?
When long-felt destiny
Could burst upon the age in perfect clarity.

The Odeonsplatz, glorious,
Cheers at the declaration,
Upon all sides the envious
Surround our precious nation,
But we shall be victorious!”
Roaring congregation
Sway’d with sheer bliss, up went a thousand hats
As if the daytime sky flew thick with bats.

Young Adolf Hitler, dour-faced, short,
Falls gloating to his knees
In spacious thought, this day long-sought,
“The world has heard my pleas,”
Beside him stood a woman gazing on him with unease.

Munich
August 1st
1914


 

All Quiet on the Western Front

Twas just another day in the trenches,
The ‘stand to’ bugler blew before the dawn,
A man from heatless zee-catching wrenches;
Slugs, frogs, bats, rats & beetles flee his yawn;
Breakfast before
Shelling begins at eight,
Less murder, more the bore men call the ‘Morning Hate.’

Those walking with the Lord worship’d,
Others played or talk’d instead,
The gaunt are by despair oft gripp’d,
Some stand up & lost their head,
The ‘stand-to’ call’d as sunshine slipp’d
In bed of rosy red;
The ‘Evening Hate’ has cool’d as fades the light,
Both sides prepare patrols to pass the night.

Some flick thro’ books, some capture mice,
Some requisition rest,
Some pick at lice, some lose at dice,
Some gaze out to the West,
Watching a crimson streak that might have issued from Christ’s breast.

France
April
1916


 

Passcheandale

ulcers of mustard gas, a rivet in the lung
from scrappy shrapnel,
frostbite, trench-fever, shell-shock
Basil Bunting

Sallow soldiers splash thro’ boot-sucking mud,
Clinging like poor relations, twice as fast
It breeds, each shell-hole nauseate with blood,
Swollen black lads bolt upright in repast;
Still falls the rain –
An English Pioneer,
Slow-walks the wooden vein, two German scouts appear…

…One blasted dead, aim switch’d sharp right,
Max dodg’d the angry bullet,
Thick slipping into slime & shite,
Duckboard tilts Charlie in it,
Both surging in a mucky fight,
Gasps, grappling, grasping, grit;
KARMA appears, the convertite goddess,
To part the duel, men break in weariness,

Two warriors from fight withdrew,
Exhausted breaths extrude,
Soak’d thro’ & thro’ & filthy too,
Both stalk’d off unpursued,
Waking from death’s dalliances wrack’d with disquietude.

Flanders
November
1917


 

Armistice

The War is over, namore the killing,
Meek Franciscans move thro’ many nations
HOPE mops blood-sodden brows, when, god willing,
All creeds & contrees breed good relations;
Order’d to yield,
The Wehrmacht leave the trench,
Behind, a bitter field & the ecstatic French.

Corporal Hitler struggld thro’ pain,
Rushing by shell-shock’d patients
Into an evening’s winter’s rain,
Cursing enemy nations,
Is all our sacrifice in vain?
All our bleak privations?
How could this be!?” he’d sens’d it in his core,
Herr Hitler was a superman of war.

Slump’d by rain-swept roadside peter’d,
Sobbing for Germany,
His dejected & defeated
Yet wunderbar contree,
He felt brave futures strain imprimis to his destiny.

Pasewalk
November
1918


 

Homecoming

At the Douamont fort, by sunset shades,
A vet’ran lays a wreath to heal Verdun,
Melancholic souls of fallen comrades
Escort him on the tracks to Briancon;
Two hundred francs,
Two shirts, suit, shoes, no more;
With all a nation’s thanks for winning them the war.

Click-clack’d the slowly sloping train
Up thro’ the Alpine passes,
Attack’d by shawls of driving rain,
He wipes his misty glasses…
“At last! Mon coeur sees home again!”
Light & glossy lasses –
Like flutes, dribbling jubilant glucose –
Applauding nostoi of their handsome heroes.

He heads for home, he sheds a tear,
A gasp! “C’est Jean-Francois!”
Who, halting cheering, jolts back beer,
Drenching thirst in nectar,
“Deux francs,” “Deux francs! C’est ridicule pour une Stella Artois!”

France
1919


 

Baby Boom

Charlie Sumner stagger’d down Accy Road,
Hit Havelock’s lock-in, a quick whiskey,
Then thro’ his crude two-up, two-down, tiptoed,
To pounce upon his wife, drunk & frisky;
“Gerroff!” a clout,
His silent smile’s intrigue
Bends to triumphant shout… “We’ve won the blummin’ league!”

How rare is it to find true mate
To share thy meagre ration,
Youths rush upstairs to celebrate,
Indulging perfect passion
Without a jonny, for, of late,
Babies are in fashion:
He gasps as he sighs as his seed slips in,
A cry! Rose rises, “Our Jack needs feedin!”

His wife away…. some charabang
Lets off a lively BOOM!
With barren pang the clammy clang
Of battle claims the room,
While friends that fell at Passcheandale wail, “Charlie!” thro’ the gloom.

Burnley
1921


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