BBWB 23: Hill 70

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THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 23

Hill 70


Men clambor happy, full of zest
With dash, determination
Invigorated to the crest,
Surmounted with elation

At once horrendous fire they faced
On further could not drive
& every second dangers braced
Only to stay alive

An unenviable position,
All alone with flanks exposed
The 15th (Scottish) Division
Pandaemonium opposed

Dig in!” shouts corporal Connelly
We’ll hold this hill for now,
‘Til reinforcements promis’d me
Appear upon the brow.”

The Germans gather to attack
Regaining ground & pride,
The Watch fought vorpal, snicker-snack,
At every effort tried

As soldiers battling hideous
Hatreds nourish harsh & blind,
Angels compute, incredulous,
How brutal is mankind

When too excited to notice
What has struck them in the fray
Or philosophize how short is
Life, when generals guide their day

Resign’d to ‘some of us must die
Some saved by wise surrenders
& some will watch the war pass by
Wound-licking with bartenders.’

The Black Watch dwindles rapidly
There goes another one
Peter Currie’s caught a blighty
Thus for him the battle’s done

“Its just mah arm, sir, ah’ve got two
Can shoot, still, wi’ mah right”
“No, private, its an order, you
Unfit made for the fight!”

Pete Currie left that crest of woes
That heap of death & dying,
When down those hopeless slopes he goes
He broke & started crying

He’d seen a friend; an old, old friend
Shot dead before his eyes,
To in the aftermath pretend
No tears were in his eyes

But flow they now, releas’d like snows
Sun-melted on Cir Mhor,
Stream-forming from sad embryos,
Down to the valley floor.

As he went down he sens’d the tide
Of battle had highwater’d
Most pyrrhic day for those that died
For those to be yet slaughter’d

‘Our Johnny’s body! (chain brainwave)
If Jerry takes back Loos,
We’ll never mark a proper grave
In ground his mates might choose

I need to take him back today!’
Namore thought’s gremlins grapple
Assertive on a certain way
He searches for a chapel

& finds his comrade lying there
Jock’s jaded eyes were staring
At something distant in the air
But then again, past caring

Pete lifted up his flopping friend
& dropp’d him on his shoulder
A rigid, stiff’ning flesh bookend
Whose frigid bones grown colder

As rigor mortis muscles seize
In plaster cast post-mortem,
Pete whispers sacred guarantees
Of friendship, as life’s taught ’em

“I’ll get yer back, John, aye, nae bother
Like walking home from Lamlash
That time, when me & your brother,
Ken, did in the ditches crash

All drunk & funky in the dirt,
Remember, but we stood up
& carried on, hah, Ken was hurt,
Complaining he was fed up,

But then we reach’d the highest curve
& strutted down to Brodick
When into Betty’s croft did swerve
For a bottle o’ gin wi’ tonic!

Corpses were cloaking everywhere
Sepulchres of foul Fate
Contorted, twisted by its snare
When battles terminate

With haggard faces ageing years
They drifted with a rabble;
Forever, dreadful, this day sears
Anguishes unguessable

One’s hobbling on a broken knee
One dribbles deaf & dazed
Another mutters vacantly
His eyeballs bloodweb glazed

Surrounded by that ghostly pack
Of batter’d men, half-dead
McAllister upon his back
A bullet in his head…

…We’ll leave this canto with that scene,
For Goldthorpe’s still out fechtin’
Up on the hill, let’s there convene
As destiny’s expecting

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