BBWB 16: Hooge

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THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 16

Hooge


As boiling sun sweeps shadows sharp
Neath dazzling skies of blue
Men set shade-spots up under tarp
For Goldthorpe’s birthday ‘do’

Who opens up his special box:
Pencils indelible
Bottl’d quinine, five pairs of socks
Foods superedible

There’s chocolate, there’s tinn’d chowder
Plum pudding like a football,
Plus lifebuoy soap, fresh tooth powder
But the very best of all…

A bottle of Lea Perrins sauce !
“O boy, George, what relief !
Namore, when hungry like a horse
Bland boring bully beef!”

The Ninth was moved to Bellewaerd
Upon the Wipers salient
The ruin’d rooves of Hooge assert
Them to Jahannam sent

Around the village raked strange lines
Within whispering distance,
Where snipers, raids, grenades & mines
Main pillars of existence

Upon the rise men swept their eyes
Low ridges dip & trail
& flatten’d piecemeal, fragmentize
The plains yon Passchendaele

To hold the ridge gives ample scope
For proper observation
The Black Watch Ninth shall guard the slope
With firm determination

Where, as a topping dogfight flows
They’ve felt up in the stalls,
Watching gut-churning perilous shows
Of turns & barrel rolls

As ye trace a meteor’s onset
By a line of silver rain
As ye trace a regal sunset
By a streak of saffron stain

Flying machines, oiseaux de guerre
In line & gaily sailing
Like geese & swan flock wheel & whirr
Oer Heaven’s wide unveiling

As fast at their formation flies
The British chevaliers
The German birdmen of the skies
Approach in circle tiers

As Hektor fought Achilles’ might
To oust Achaean host
As when a lance-assailing Knight
Did joust the quintain post

Beyond the high lane effloresce
Of archibald concern,
Two bi-planes meet in duel noblesse;
Dive, dart & cartwheel turn

As ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-tat
& ta-ta-tat go guns
Combatants weave this way & that
Until destiny stuns

When comes the blow, a mortal blow
An airplane sways & staggers
Pointing its nose to earth below
It drops like Ceasar’s daggers

From summits in the thunderdome
Plane plummeting tailspin
Its cool assassin heads for home
Knowing his next-of-kin

Will get long letters to explain
This fight’s intracies
Meanwhile, collision slain, membrane
Of brain, the plane crashes

This show’s glorious moments
Takes the mens’ minds off of war
Brief respite from opponents
& the ruthless, smiting chore

Of grinding bone-meat, such as is
This pain-station of scrambles
Certain loss from silly sallies
Men toss’d on random gambles

By plots hairbrained & daylight schemes
Death by ten thousand cuts
If we could ever sell our dreams
War’s truth would fetch us peanuts

There’s sixteen men per loaf of bread
The tea is awful oniony
There’s hell-hole shell-holes full of dead
& mud & bloodscum runny

& swarms of little lobster lice;
Oer seams run lighted candles
When pop-pop-pop eggs pay the price
For hatching scratchy vandals

For fun summise the sound of guns
When comes the Morning Hate,
Thems’ Coal-boxes,” “Thems’ Jack Johnsons,”
“& that’s Calamity Kate!”

Or better still the trip to town
Where brothels made boys men
Where half a bob or half a crown
Gets Yvette or Madeleine

Outside, the ruin’d chapels raise
Their blackened beams against the blue –
Men leaving brothels in a daze
Chok’d with a dose or two

March back to the infernal plain
Forg’d by the Balkan quarrel
Where caustic killing’s cystic vein
Comes draining down a barrel

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