Canto 5: Rubicon


There is now once more a Germany with which England must reckon as an important member of the European family of nations… let us march together, not against each other, into this new future for the benefit of our two great countries, for the benefit of Europe, for the benefit of the world
Freiherr von Reheinbaben


 

The Question of Versaille

Churchill lurch’d from his back-bench wilderness,
Round thick’ning neck dangl’d the Dardanelles,
Deep resonance projecting to impress
On Parliament of dire Fascist perils!
“I prophesise
That Berlin maniac
Has fool’d us to the wise, this man must soon attack!

Let us urge the world to rally
Against this cruel dictator,
How potent the deterency
If we should pool with Russia,
So let us rouse our own country,
Raise her aulden vigour,
Germany is re-arming at a pace,
We must build air fleets to stay in the race!”

The House laugh’d an indignant laugh,
Chamberlain sat him down,
The Berghof’s nettle telegraph
Pluck’d from his stately gown,
“Mister Hitler is all for peace!” cheers drown the single frown.

London
March
1938


 

Nazi Party Rally

The moment Max Stemmler stept from the train
Him thrust into an echoistic sea,
Religious fervour proscribing his brain,
Heart leaping up to all the pageantry;
Bold church bells cheer,
“O lord, tis glorious!
Der Fuhrer, he is here! He has come among us!”

Neath nympholepsic fawn fanfare
& eagle-mantl’d banner,
Each dreamy, acolytic stare
Of uniform’d stormtrooper,
Paces fulgurant, flament, flair,
Figure-heads together;
Pass the Kongressbau: pulsing; hypnotic;
For the Zepp’linfeld: writhing; erotic…

…Where oratory masterful
Draws the crowd to climax,
His beautiful, triumphant will
Spits venom at the Czechs,
“Justice for the Sudetenland!” Max faints, his heart’s reflex.

Nuremburg
June
1938


 

Conquest of Czechoslovakia

The famous Ides of March, der Fuhrer acts,
Imperial intentioning reveal’d,
Tastebuds whetted for better Tscheschienne trachts,
He summons Hascha to the battlefield;
“Your poor country
Stands friendless & alone,
You MUST sign this decree lest we attack at dawn!”

Von Ribbentrop shaking his pen,
Goering bluffing for the pot,
Hascha dog-hounded round the den,
His temp’rament tired & hot,
He faints, but is reviv’d again
By Morrel’s morphine shot…
Thus, half adream, in the first flush of day,
This broken spine his country signs away.

Hitler climbs the Mala Strana,
Ocean of swastikas;
Bohemia, Moravia,
His newest provinces,
Gladly kingleading Germany’s rejuvenescenses.

Prague
March
1939


 

Providences

As distant peals of thunder drew closer,
About the Kehlsteinhaus tough Zephyrs swirl’d,
No wonder, here, delusions of grandeur,
An eagle’s nest perch’d high atop the world;
Whose lord commands
They’ll drive below the snow,
Wringing his clammy hands, singing, “Bring on the foe!”

“I reckon world needs sortin out!”
Says good ol’ Charlie Sumner,
Sipping a thick, black pint of stout,
Sat in ‘tat room o’ Mitre,
“Gerrys fer feyting, ‘ave no doubt,
It sez so in paper…”
We must finish off Nazis fer them Jews.”
“Aye!” sniff’d the barman, “& we’d best not lose!”

Pierre embraced his sweetheart’s glow,
Kissing her salty cheek,
“Alas, I go to Maginot,
Shed no tears Veronique,
Ah! Partir c’est mourir un peu…” she wept but would not speak.

Paris
August 24th
1939


 

& Wars Begin

Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth
WH Auden

Dawn’s grey warning creeps cross the Baltic Sea,
A silhouette slow forming on the line,
Rough broadsides disturb the serenity,
Belching from Krupps of the Schleswig-Holstein;
Each solemn thud,
Peppers the Polish shore,
Earth shatters, scatters mud – the first shots of the war!

The Reichstag sit, silent, subdued,
Observing their leader jeer,
“The Polish race, backward & crude,
Violates our dear frontier!
Bombs shall meet bombs in bitter feud,
Your first captain stands here –
In ‘fourteen I offer’d my dying breath,
I don my coat ‘til victory or death!

If England dares to test our might
In battle once again,
Then let us fight, our Eagle’s flight
Surpasses her fat hen,
We all the way shall war, be it a single year or ten!”

Berlin
Sept 1st
1939


 

Diplomatic Formalities

A telegram left the lap of London,
Bound for a distant British embassy,
Whose ambassador, thou suave Henderson,
Delivers to the Reich-chancellery;
At daggers drawn
With sly Von Ribbentrop,
Voice rugged as the stone found on the Spion Kop,

“I have the honour to relate
A note from his Majesty’s
Court… if Germany acts too late
In giving assurances
To withdraw from Poland, War’s state
Exists twixt our contrees…
You have until eleven to decide!”
Von Ribbentrop slithers to Hitler’s side,

There transfers the ultimatum
(His hands had dug the hole),
Hitler struck dumb, “Then war hast come,
England has serv’d the ball!”
Goering whispers, “If we lose this War, Lord God help us all!”

Berlin
September 3rd
1939


 

A New War

I have seen much to hate here – much to forgive,
But in a world where England is finished & dead,
I do not whish to live
Alice Duer Miller

The Sumner clan gathers round a wireless,
Rose fiddles nervous with ‘er wedding ring,
“Kids shhhhh!” sez Charlie, “This is serious!”
The crackling voice of their stammering king
Grave parley spoke,
An old sensation grew,
The bane of common folk, their worst fears turning true.

Freda strokes Gem, her jet black cat,
Gazed up at Hargher Chimney,
Saw ‘er grandson in an ‘ard hat
Motoring across the sea,
“Y’know ah Pat’ll be in that…”
“Don’t bi daft!” sez Charlie,
“It’ll all bi over bi Christmas grub!”
He took ‘is eldest down ter Rosegrove Club;

As cue-ball crack sank winning black,
Well son, what will it be?”
“I think…” voice slack, “Speak up our Jack.”
“…Mebbe Merchant Navy.”
“Good choice lad, nah sup up, gotta get gas mask
fer baby.”

Burnley
September 3rd
1939


 

The Agony of Poland

Most monstrously mechanized juggernaut,
Pouring in endless torrents from the West,
Seizes maladroit forces by the throat –
The Blitzkreig theorum passes first test;
All Warsaw prays,
Surrounded by the foe,
Still proud her anthem plays on ev’ry radio.

Hitler steers his half-track rumble
Thro’ the war-torn countryside,
Brandishing a single pistol,
& whip of harden’d oxhide,
His finest aide-de-camp, Rommel,
Makes studies by his side –
But coming on that first hospital train,
Refused to see his soldiers suff’ring pain.

They drove on thro’ the ghostly fog
Raking that rathole town,
A pining dog, a synagogue
Charr’d black from burning down,
Where perch’d a crow, it’s beady, yellow eyes now fleck’d with brown.

Sosnowiec
September 8th
1939


 

Evacuees

Sue caught the child-pack’d coach out of Poplar,
Such sadnesses sends tear-trachts swelling up,
Now the high-pitch’ d crowds at Victoria
Heaving like when the Arsenal won the cup;
She joined the rest,
Sobbing sweet maternals,
Prised from the suckling breast, both her little angels.

Onto a squealing train they hop,
Press noses to the windows,
Bursting young lungs at every stop,
Giggles as the whistle blows,
Down gulping sandwiches & pop,
Come Buxton’s fun repose
They saw a fresian real the first fun time,
Moo-moo?” Mavis cuts short her nurs’ry rhyme.

As tall tower lights up faces,
As sea-gulls sqawk thro’ air,
Wee suitcases claimed by strangers,
We’ll take the young lass there,”
Yelps Kenny; “No, mi mummy meant us two come as a pair!”

Blackpool
September 5th
1939


 

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