BBWB 17: The Big Push

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THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 17

The Big Push


To live with death at every turn
To die that that death & all distraught
Men’s families tear-flooded yearn
For memories their boyhoods taught

To live like tramps but ne’er retire
With lives in one another’s hands
Dead bodies hanging on the wire
Like rag-sacks mark the badlands

I wouldnae wanna end my days
Like that,
” said John McAllister,
“Rotting in rain & sunrays!”
Soft whispers Peter Piper

A bugle blares, the regiment
By brave Canadians
Reliev’d, to a fresh sector sent,
Anti-Arcadians

For Lens & Loos a slag-heap realm,
But somewhere in ‘a certain place’
Down-order’d by those at the helm
To keep the secret face

For destiny was bubbling huge
Third Battle of Artois
Drap’d in a secret subterfuge
The day shall take us far

& proud behind the lines, perhaps
As deep as Germany,
When opposition must collapse
When win, we, victory!”

Every day was full of rumouring
But nobody knew nuffin
Except one thing, the Kaiser-king,
Will get a proper stuffin’

As now the cannonade did reign
The Black Watch watch’d on, wonder’d
How in that hellish hurricane
Men liv’d, each moment thunder’d

As overhead, in steady streams
The shellfire rang’d enraging
Cacophony escorting dreams
Men’s nerves by decades ageing

There cannot be a living soul”
Men said, “left in those trenches,”
As such ‘twill be no reckless stroll
Most riskless of adventures!”

& Loos was under barrage too
The town a target prime
For the army’s vital breakthrough
& war’s glories for all time

The bombadier began to close
In chains of detonations
Whose devilish arpeggios
Gruesome calamitations

Winds roll to undulating flames
Rooves vomiting hot scarlet,
Acrid, blood-colour’d, cracking frames
Fell cackling like a harlot

For when the phantom trolls of war
Hath reach’d your neighbourhood
They’ll crash & smash; wreck, wrack & roar
They’ll crack & blacken blood

As zero hour did rumble swift
Towards the living moment
Army equipment, gift-on-gift,
To every soldier sent

O what a heavy load each man
Shall into battle carry –
But it was still a clever plan –
Under the black glengarry

Off squirrel’d they seven score rounds
Wire-cutters & field dressing,
Entrenching tools – full eighty pounds
Of extra weight down pressing

When on September twenty-fourth,
All in an Autumn twilight,
At last the Black Watch marches forth
Mud-plodding, hearted light

Lissen to them barkin’ guns”
“Ave you got yer wills made oot?”
“Strike me pink, them bloody Huns,
Without a doubt, aboot

To get a proper ‘ammering!”
“Play yer mouth-organ, Ginger?”

“Right-O!” men started clamouring,
With enemies to injure

They channel tension into song
& sang, “I wanna go ‘ome!”
Don’t wanna die, this war is wrong
Won’t someone take me ‘ome,

Jack-Johnsons, shrapnel shells, oh, Lor’!
The Germans wanna shoot me.
Don’t need these trenches anymore,
Send me across the sea

To where the Kaiser cannae shoot
Those bombs that fall from sky,
O take me ‘ome by any route
For I dinnae wanna die!”

By ten PM the Black Watch stand
Along the flooded front lines
A compact sardine battleband
Bristling like porcupines

A top brass message was read out
The Germans are outnumber’d
Outgunn’d, outclass’d, there is no doubt,
You’ve heard as volleys thunder’d
,

So come the morrow, brave brigade,
When all of Scotland watches you,
Let heroes heave & legends made
Do the best, men, ye can do!”

One thought on “BBWB 17: The Big Push

    studiosbmailcom said:
    November 22, 2021 at 10:36 am

    Alright D Getting a prolific lockdown vibe ? Belfast trust all is good

    >

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