BBWB 12: The Christmas Truce

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THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 12

The Christmas Truce


BOOM! BOOM! Began the battlerace
To seize the Channel ports
Leaving a rugged, well-dug trace
Of trench lines between forts

A very static war ensues
When great gains gaug’d in metres
“The other side, of course, must lose
For how could they defeat us?”

As Winter knocks upon the door
Of Autumn, equinoctal
The rough winds rush, the tough rains pour
Sidewaysley horizontal

Thro’ dug-outs sagging and aflood,
December does its worst
On stretchers stiff and blear’d with blood
The wounded bawl “I’m curs’d!”

Oer Christmas Eve crept sharp white frost
Bit fingers kept them warm
No shells atop the dead waste cross’d
All fog & strangely calm

Enburrow’d soldiers crouching low
All in a foot of fluids
Coats of skinned goats, like eskimo
They look’d, with beard-droop druid

Teeth chatter’d thro’ midwinter’s day
Pale faces burning blue
The moon uprose, out came to play
Bright stars whom old myths drew

The Christmas cards pass’d round like hope
There’s one from the King & Queen
All in a special envelope
“Best wishes, Christmas Fourteen”

It said, “& may God protect thee
& safely home thee bring –
Mary & George,” & all agree
Twas something worth keeping

With that & this brass Christmas box
By Princess Margaret sent
Plus, from the stores fresh-knitted socks,
A festival event

Life seem’d for once, the thick barb’d wire
Glitters tonight with tinsels;
Some roasted chestnuts by the fire
Some bingo play’d with pencils

Then with a bloom of human love
Both sides exchange in song
Sweet carols sung for him above,
Who set his son among

“Tomorrow,” shouts stentorian voice
“No shoot, we no shoot you!”
Men mused, “Why should that be a choice?
What a bloody ballyhoo

This dragging war, in misery
We’ll spend our special day,
Quite frozen from the family
& caked in mud & clay

Up came the sun, up bobb’d a head
No shots did it dismember
Up parapet somebody said
“The twenty-fifth of December

The day of baby Jesus birth
In Bethlehem, elates
Goodwill to all, sends peace on earth
Come meet us, let’s be mates

Two sets of humans set aside
Their monarch differences
For them the only real divide
Was physical distances

There’s butchers here, there’s bakers there
There’s even paid ballplayers
Who fetch out footballs everywhere
While padres offer’d prayers

In Latin’s universal tongue
As groups for photos pose
The only conflict’s now in song
Or tailoring of clothes

Round swept the booze & cigarettes,
Milk chocolate bars were broken;
Of home towns, girlfriends, work & pets
Many a chinwag spoken

As bully beef & sausages
Were swapp’d, & biscuit tins,
Regimental crested badges
On each other’s breasts were pinn’d

For flew the true fraternity
That makes all Mankind brothers
Each cradl’d by maternity
& all the sons of mothers

Whose only wish was to finish
This war & to return
For their parlour & their parish
& their pretty girls, they yearn

Cursing the gen’rals in big cars
Round Flanders gallivanting
Offensives plann’d in private bars
While brandy’s de-decanting

These generals soon caught the wind
That peace did ply & ponce
Informal truces soon rescind
“Resume the war at once!”

It took a while, for makeshift spits
Were cooking Christmas geese
Plum pudding full of fruity bits
Delay’d insane caprice

But by the night of Christmas Day
Again the fight upstarted
The sniper shots, the shrapnel spray,
The murdercurse hardhearted.

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