BBWB 18: The Watchameron

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THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 18

The Watchameron


It sang in his sleeping ears,
It hummed in his waking head:
The name–Ticonderoga,
The utterance of the dead.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Impatient night before the Push
When with the Boches they’ll tangle
Cough-coughs & matches broke the hush
& nerves did jingle-jangle

“I’ll tell a tale,” quoth McIntyre,
Men to his corner beckon’d,
A tale to fighting men inspire
Of the famous 42nd,

Now hold your tongue both great & sma,’
Listen to words a-winging,
& I’ll relay a day of war,
With pegasean singing

The gallant ‘Forty Twa’ did sport
The shores of Lake Champlain
Upon Ticonderoga Fort
They’ve hurl’d themselves in vain

The earth-log breastworks of the French
Form’d abatis horrendous
Trunks monstrous large of gnarling branch
To Wiccan pits did send us

So furious, & so incessant
A fire ne’er was endur’d
Six hours of valour candescent,
Fruitlessness uninur’d

Drove on each man to bravest height
Courage unparallel’d
Alas like grass cut down, til night,
Exceeding fast them fell’d

The Black Watch obstinate remain’d
Twas not ’till that third order
To leave the field, would grievous pain’d,
Withdrew each true broadswoader!

McAllister takes up the stage
Twas like a hootennany,
Old Boney’d left his Elban cage
In combat him most canny

When on his way to Waterloo
Was stopp’d at Quatra Bras
Where Wellington a long line drew
The Grand Armee to bar

Where Marshall Ney’s fine horses fly
With barbarous bloodthirst
Where Black Watch trampling thro’ thick rye
Into a field out-burst

Where hordes of deadly Lanciers
Now with the Scots entwine
Before they might form bristling squares
They’ll decimate oor line

All chaos was, deep lances thrust
Into the old red-jackets
But bayonets & bullets bust
Those bastards from their brackets

As horses rear’d & muskets flar’d
With flame and acrid powder
At last the Forty-Second squar’d
The boys were never prouder

As well-aim’d volleys now repell’d
The Gallic cavalry
Tho’ half the Black Watch that day fell’d
What vital men they’d be

Delaying Boney’s Brussels’ march,
When forty-eight hours later
We’d e’er curtail his overarch
With Wellington were greater!”

George Goldthorpe stood, took up the floor,
He lov’d the histories
Of when the Black Watch went to war,
That such a saga is;

Before they melded with the Watch
The Seventy-Third from Perth
Whom fightin’ lov’d, who lov’d its scotch
Patroll’d the hotchpotch Earth

One day they left the Cape Town docks
On HMS Birkenhead
When with a shock, uncharter’d rocks
Along the hull did shred

Using his lifeboats Skip’ forbids,
Two gigs & one wee cutter
Preserv’d for women & the kids
Whom from the dangers flutter

“Stand firm, be still,” terminal drill,
A damn tough bullet to chew
But all must pay death’s final bill
Tho’ younger than me an you

& none did mutter, silence reign’d
But for the kicks of stallions
Those soldiers honour had ingrain’d
Hearts chain’d like fam’d medallions

The sea poured in, the bulkheads tore
The ship rough ripp’d asunder
Two hundred metres from the shore
What suction suck’d them under!”

Such tales rous’d up the Black Watch blood
All fears of dying aetherflew
As if they’d boil’d up leaf & bud
A pound of swirly feverfew

“Someone shall pay, of this I’m sure,
I’ll do my bit & plug some lout,
A Prussian pig or Saxon boar,
I’ll lay some blister’d Jerry out!”

Be quiet men,” the Captain said,
You’re best off grabbin’ rest!”
Just then Day shot an arrowhead
On sunbeams speeding west

The waking day of battle dawns
Grey, heavy, overcast,
For all those croaky, snoring yawns
This morn might be their last

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