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


 

Downfall!

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 –
As Ishtar brings us empire, brings she fall,
Three long hurrahs huzzah’d by one & all.

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.

Plymouth
August
1815


 

Death of Napoleon

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
1821


 

The Ottoman Decay

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.

1832
Greece


 

Year of Revolutions

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.

Europa
1848


 

Death of the Cavalry Charge

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.

Crimea
1854


 

Florence Nightingale

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.

Dardandanelles
1855


 

Japanese Renaissance

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.

Tokyo
1872


 

Risorgimento

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.

Rome
1864


 

Steadying the Ship

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.
USA
1865

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