BBWB 9: Enlisting

Posted on Updated on

THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 9

Enlisting


Well… never since Napoleon
Were days seen such as these
With all of Europe fallen in
To warfare, by degrees

Defiant pledge from the Kaiser
Of triumph before the leaves
Fall from the trees, Lord Kitchener
Such prospects disbelieves

& tells Great Britain’s cabinet
This will be a long, long war
As when Rome battl’d Mohammet
& a million men & more

We’ll need at once, at least three years
But probably much longer,
The Empire shall shed blood & tears
But end the war much stronger

The Cabinet, tho shock’d, agreed
& off the posters printed
That every street became a seed
For patriots unstinted

Kitchener’s finger pointed down
Accusing catalyst
“Your Country needs you” every town
Made ready to enlist

& Arran witness’d posters splash’d
On walls urging the same
Where many to the colours dash’d
From routine, on to fame

By Brodick castle oer the bay
Beneath the forest groves
By barns of rafters fill’d with hay
The ‘staters shar’d their loaves

By Autumn fruits flared up, alive
Where once was wither’d, barren,
On thorny branches brambles thrive
Those juicy jewels of Arran

The older sort prefer to bake
A pie, but then the younger
Potent potions prefer to slake
Itchy, drunken fun-hunger

Malcolm McArthur pour’d the brew
While it was still fermenting
A captain to a pirate crew
He stood up life lamenting

“A month, a month we’ve been at war
While over there in France
Braw lads o’ Scotland stand tae fore
Abar the Bosche advance.

So shame on you, on me, on us
For sittin’ on us arses
The coward waits while brave man does
Lets be a Paul of Tarsus

For in the name of Jesus Christ
We’ll fight for truth & goodness
Halting the Kaiser’s unwise heist
That curse on honour is

Those cruel ghouls gather’d at the gates
They call apalling Huns
Lets halt for all our childrens fates!”
“They’re even raping nuns!”

Shouted William McIntyre
“Let us no deaf ear turn
To Liberty! In their own fire
We’ll make those bastards burn.

The company was quaffing hard
& so, inebriated
Like school pals huddl’d in the yard
They chose the game ill-fated

When side-by-side; the same, same day
They’d go & join the army
Some said them heroes – old cliché –
While vet’rans call’d them barmy

“For if the Boers & Dervishers
With weapons primitive
Fought so long, fought so tenacious
How could anybody live

Thro’ war made by industrial
& mighty global empires”
To Arran came an Azrael
Inspecting Brodick’s pyres

Dreamt George until his shoulder shook
By hand mair white than milk
His heart there stolen by one look
From Sarah, soft as silk

My love, she sighs, they kiss, embrace
But something’s up she senses
That nervous palour in his face
Reflects psyche’s defenses

“What is it doll?” she purr’d, a pause,
A cough… “I’m off t’ Black Watch!”
“You’ve what! but George, what pain you’ll cause,
Ya numpty, lumbering sasquatch”

“The Germans are a splendid lot,
The Austrians gave Mozart
& all for what, if you get shot
You’ll break my bloody heart!”

“My love, you know I have to leave,
For Liberty, for Belgium,
As I for proper right believe,
Improving antebellum

We’ll put down Prussian milit’rists
With crested retribution
So future anthropologists
Conclude with one compution

This war was good!” Sarah gave in,
She lov’d her man so much
& hugg’d him, kiss’d him, fondl’d skin
With the want of a lover’s touch

END OF BOOK ONE

BBWB 8: Peace Rally

Posted on Updated on

THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 8

Peace Rally


The fireworks did swoop & soar,
Each spark a supernova,
“’Tis War! War! Glorious War!”
Uproar’d the world all over

“For God, for Kingdom, for Country”
Urge the churches gladly,
“Go sacrifice, win victory!”
The masses clap back madly

A beacon on the edge of night
A lighthouse in rough weather
The fiery cross is burning bright
Across the Scottish heather

On Arran isle the government
Explores the horse resources
Finds eighty’s worth o’ procurement
Their fate the auld arm’d forces

As farmers to the piers convey
This cavalry compile
It felt just like a market day –
The Duchess of Argyle

Fill’d up her decks, the horses hooves
A solemn dirge did beat
With neighs & whinnies in the grooves
Til boarding was complete

Then off they steam’d to fight the Hun
Far from their gentle grazes
To face grim shellfire & the gun
That at their gallop blazes

& Sarah Fullarton was there
Sensing she’d no more see
Those horses roaming here & there
Oer moor, field, glen, freely

& she remembers Sylvermane
From up East Mayish Farm
That took eternal time to time
Thro’ bruise & broken arm

How she stood out, that grey steed scout
With sylver mane down streaming
With bonnie eyes & topaz pout,
& nostrils jazzbeat steaming

Now Sarah caught the next boat out
& eighty minutes later
The Glasgow Central station shout
Sparks movement activator

She sprinted to the meeting place
Dismissing all decorum
& swore & elbow’d thro the race
Not caring if she’d floor ‘em

She reach’d the rooms, but not too late,
She’d even got a greeting,
Then listen’d to the stern debate
Of Suffragettes unmeeting

As Helen Crawford led one side
Claiming war cruel & crude
Tough Helen Fraser signified
A polar attitude

This was no time for calm discourse
The women firm divided
To offer flowers, offer force,
Each others’ cause derided

When Helen Fraser led her half
Out of that bubbling hall
The Suffragette flag, badge & scarf
Were scrunch’d into a ball

To be unfurl’d some future day
When all of this was over
“By Christmas” all the folk would say
Clutching a lucky clover

But Sarah Fullarton remain’d
A friend to Helen Crawford
& thro’ the Glasgow streets explain’d
Alternate visions offer’d

By Glasgow’s Peace Society
Condemning profiteers
Wide posing patriotically
Always stoking pride & fears

For war means money to these men
& loss of life means nothing
(Like Christian & Saracen
Never heard the angels sing)

Five thousand flock to Glasgow Green
At twenty four hours’ notice,
“This war disgusting & obscene!
Vigour not rigor mortis!”

“Imagining’s impossible
The miseries of some
But those we’ll count responsible
Untouchable become

The rally-gather’d all agreed
The people merely pawns
To feed the perfum’d pedigreed
With suppliance & fawns

But as pressmen akin with those
Whom from the wars make fortunes,
Knowing vast sales always arose
From dashing tales of dragoons

The congress ignor’d totally
Its sentiments disregard
Of sharing Earth in harmony
Humanity’s lifeguard

Prefer’d instead to promulgate
Destruction of the species
The foreign friend you’d once call mate
Now hate as stinking faeces

Upon the train to Ardrossan
Sarah flick’d thro the papers
& found no stories, no, not one,
“With gags they’ve tried to tape us!”

BBWB 7: Outbreak

Posted on Updated on

THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 7

Outbreak

Gavrilo Princip left the stand
Enraptur’d by the football
The little pistol in his hand
Glew golden with the goal

To slay a Prince of Austria
Whom evil represented
Prime Serbian oppressor!
With independence scented

He rode the railcars to Belgrade
& paid for every ticket
Then waited for the motorcade
In a Sarajevo snicket

Clouds crowd oer Treskavica dark
Thro’ which the day pours burning
When all the world awaits the spark
In seething turmoil churning

Franz Ferdinand & his fair wife
Came trundling to their doom
A bomb was flung to silence life
& then the bomb went BOOM

The Viennese revile in shock
Their brutal ultimatum
To Belgrade sent, who beat the clock,
But not ad verbatim

Unloosing calls to mobilise
Carousel dominoes
Alliances to amitize
Against the common foes

The Kaiser, Wilhelm, rubs his hands,
The test of mettle come
Whose Vaterland sees marching bands
Beat loud the martial drum

Whose echoes drift across the sea
To Britain & her empire
Belgium’s gallant neutrality
The canister in the fire

Exploding as the Hun advance
Beyond the Rhine’s meanders
For practical paths into France
Beforg’d through Belgian Flanders

The Dogs of War unleash’d have been
The Carsija are closing
The Matter of Serbia seen,
All sides, war’s plosive causing

Sir Edward Grey address’d the House
For Liberty’s protection,
These are no days for timid mouse
No tender circumspection

Great Britain could not idly by
Await the wrack of Brussels
& ultimatum sent, hereby,
But Berlin bares its muscles

& sits in silence at the brink
Of European war,
To violence doth slither-sink
Drinks glory from the gore

But Britain stands for moral right
& if ignor’d our protest,
The one recourse must be to fight
With France all strength invest

& so His majesty’s request
Was solemnly rejected,”

A state of war made manifest
As everyone expected

For Europe was a cauldron pot
Of vanity & egos
War fever bubbling far too hot
Over the top it flows

Twas on a bright Bank Holiday
Warm sunshine, skies cloudless
When Britishers found easy play
Mixing with high crisis

Banners & bunting street-to-street
The heat as hot as Dallas
The Monarch duly went to meet
His People at the Palace

Trafalgar Square the news receives
With patriotic roar
But not quite everyone believes
The war’s worth fighting for

A lone voice moved about the crowd
Cried, ‘peace at any price!’
At-spat, thump’d, heckl’d lewd & loud
“Who ask’d for your advice?!’

“We must stand by our Belgian friends!”
Parrots the phrase of statesmen
Sent out by news-stands to all ends
Of ever malleable Britain

Who trust their ‘masters,’ as ingrain’d
Are feudalisms ancient
Who’d happy enter schemes hare-brain’d
If order’d they’ve been sent

The lone voice shrugs the thug-hands off,
“If emperors wish war
Let Kaiser, King & Romanov
Be shown the tyrant’s door

& be replac’d by citizens
Like the Plebiscites of Rome
Thro’ palatial dev’lish denizens
Our chief enemies are at home!”

“SHUT UP” with angry comeuppance,
Crowd drags him to the ground
Kicks of cognitive dissonance
Silence’d his obtuse sound

For they were right & he was wrong
Back’d up by massive numbers
Erewhile DEATH’S DAUGHTER roam’d the throng,
Rose SLAUGHTER from her slumbers

BBWB 6: The Budapest Cup

Posted on Updated on

THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 6

The Budapest Cup

21-5-1914

Celtic FC 1 – Burnley FC 1
Budapest

Ulloi Uti Stadion (Ferencvaros)
Attendance 10.000

Burnley: Dawson, Bamford, Taylor, Halley, Boyle, Watson, Nesbitt, Lindley, Freeman, Hodgson Grice.

Celtic: Shaw, McGregor, Dodds, Youngs, Johnstone, McMaster, McAtee, Gallagher, McColl, McMenemy, Browning.


O! to be a buzzy Burnley boy
Leaving the Crystal Palace
With loads of Scousers to annoy
As cocky as a phallus

For down the Royal Capital
Burnley’s beat Liverpool
A victory to catapult
Their statuses to cool

Stratospheric Olympians
Invited to renew
Tests of the best Hungarians
Austrians, Germans too

As have that famous football club
Supremely catalytic
Team colours daubing home & club
Ardent for Glasow Celtic

Platoon of hoop-green Bhoys & men
Ninth national title win
Up raise the cup, the league makes ten
The Double’s soak’d in gin

So off they went by train & port
To Europe’s heaving heart
The best of British to promote
With skill, with style, with art

As Burnley won the Berlin game
Celtic play’d Ferencvaros
& won two-one, the scoreline same
For Clarets, who now cross

The border into Hungary
Where they quickly caught the catch
They were not to play a friendly
Against Celtic, but a match!

Whose victors would be duly crown’d
Champions of the planet
A tall, gem-studded cup was found
& proper refs to man it

The day was hot, the Danube spun
A gust across the stands
Of Ulloi Uti Stadion
As players all shake hands

The anthem plays, the whistle blows
Firm tackles flew in thickly
McGregor gets a bloody nose
The needle sharpens prickly

The Celtic get the upperhand
The wind & sun behind ‘em
Thro’ Claret lines the forwards fann’d
Found passes meant to find ‘em

A penalty! Celtic shoot sweet,
Lancastrians retreated
Into a huddle, “Play to feet!”
Sweat urgently secreted

Saw battle surge on bare a blade
The pitch was baked unsodden
Like Stirling Bridge the Scot’s blockade
Like Flodden & Culloden

The Thistle & the Thorny Rose
Make war about a ball
When Saxon stridence for the cause
Bounc’d off a schiltron wall

The ball did swing from end to end
The crowd did cheer & yell
As reckless tackles fly, upend
Men crying as they fell

The Bhoys hung on until half-time
The crowd enthusiastic
The whistle blows, to cheers achime
The match renews fantastic

A handsome soldier in the crowd
Felt grim foreshadowings
Saw how each Briton fought full proud,
‘If ever,’ he thought, ‘fate brings

Our empires into open war
Pandora’s Box of pities
For tigers pace their island shore
& lions patrol their cities…’

A penalty, how Tommy Boyle
So slickly equalises
The temp’rature begins to boil
The heat of battle rises

The Burnley lads were now on top
All out attack, no cautions
Their play restrain’d, a train sweatshop
Will’d on with loud exhortions

As Trojans held the Scaean gate
As Spartans guard the Hot Springs
Attacks push’d back without abate
Crosses stream in from both wings

Both sides began to argue more
While cool heads on the sidelines
Shouted “its football lads, not war!”
Glory ignores all guidelines

& from rough tackle resolute
Celtic explode in numbers
McMaster pass’d a ball to shoot
By tired defenders’ slumbers

But Jerry Dawson palms away
That shot by McAtee
Burt Freeman winces as his day
Saved from calamity

A whistle blows, the ninety done
“Another thirty!” Burnley cries
But Scots & European sun
Cattle rattl’d by gadfly

Nobody won, nobody lost,
Thro’ handshakes grappl’d firmly,
The replay call’d, the pengő toss’d,
The next one’s set for Burnley…

BBWB 5: Suffragettes

Posted on Updated on

THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 5

Suffragettes

This was a most ‘immoral’ age
Dancing new-fangl’d tangos
Eliza swearing on the stage
Catwalks of risque clothes

An age it was of civil strife
Trade Unions upstirring
As strikes in every walk of life
Halts empire’s engines’ whirring

& bless the brazen Suffragette
That patriarchy smothers
“We’ll all get to the hustings yet
We sisters, sweethearts, mothers!”

Among whose thriving militants
Stands Sarah Fullarton
Emitting clear omnipotence
Until the vote is won

She was the fairest e’er to walk
The fragrant curves of Brodick
A lily on a fillystalk
But ‘tricky’ as a chopstick

For in an age of man & wife
When wives were more like servants
She’s chose to forge a finer life
‘Spite disapproving parents

In Glasgow there’s a rally sworn
All in Saint Andrew’s Hall
From Brodick, by swift steamer borne,
She’ll answer Pankhurst’s call.

Where if the Police did barge inside
Misusing all their powers
The speaker’s platform fortified
With barbwire mask’d by flowers

The room erupts, queen Emmeline
Captures the room starstatur’d
This is the season aquiline
When hearts by reason raptur’d

“Good morning sisters of the world
For future time each fights
When every little new-born girl
Shall share her brother’s rights

My promise kept, I’m here my friends
Despite our Kingship’s serpentin’d
Government’s inord’nate spends
To silence womenkind

But wit and ingenuities
Of women overcome such
Disgraceful elitist committees
That jaded aegis clutch

& come the change to surely come
That only time hold’s back
We’ll bang the democratic drum
Out of the cul-de-sac

Of our dead nation that ignores
The honest protestations
Of women knocking at all doors
Of legal delegations

Archbishops and the King himself
Dismisses each petition
Places them unread on a shelf
& calls its text sedition

How can one assume seditious
Equality twyx sexes
& socio-political justice –
Instead they avoid or vex us!”

With angry shouts & whistle blows
A storm of surging policemen
Surge thro’ the hall, a pure storm rose
Of women fighting men

Towards the stage the Police advance
With batons drawn for battles
Hail-dodging in a weird wardance
Chairs, boxes, buckets, bottles

A confus’d scene of bloody streams
& violence erupted,
The reckoning of dark regimes
By wickedness corrupted

A tornado’s worth of odium
All round the stage congeal’d
The Policemen reach the podium
Paus’d by barb’d wires conceal’d

Then stabbing pincers crab on crab
Hands lunge at Emmeline
Men drag her to a waiting cab
Some shameful concubine

She’s tossed inside a mouldy cell
Refuses bread & water
For you she’s done it, damoiselle,
For your mother & your daughter

All night the hungerstrike she kept
In noble spirit springing
Erewhile the streets of Glasgow slept
The Suffragettes were singing

Next morning she was roughly strapp’d
To stretcher & then driven
To Central Station, how they clapp’d
Those women who had striven

To line the route from cell to rail
Conjoin’d in common chorus
A movement that must never fail
Against the dinosaurus

That is the patriarchal beast
As down to Holloway
Goes Mrs Pankhurst whose increas’d
Her cause that awful day

When politics & ministers
Spurn basic Human Rights
& sends in strong-arm sinisters
Those ant-farm saprophytes!

BBWB 4: A Fresh Start

Posted on Updated on

THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 4

A Fresh Start

George Goldthorpe stroll’d about Carlisle
Last realm of Rome & London
Like Arno, Ganga & the Nile
Glitters the River Eden

By Solway Firth the border cross’d
Thro Gretna Green & Annan
The railcar ran, the day emboss’d
By Destination Arran

Kirkconnel, Sanquhar, Kilmarnock
He took the rest on foot
What salve, what trophy & what shock!
When savage Goat Fell cut

A loveshape in his psychic sail
When dreams them night-time drifting
To Arran’s massive massif graal
Outstandingly uplifting

He bought ice-cream, Ardrossan beach
Was ripe with Weegies pink’ning
A new life chapter nigh in reach
A boxer by the ring

The jetty left, a flood of waves,
An island life grows near
Within an hour the gangway paves
A pathway to the pier

This is an ornate stomping ground
For George ‘fresh-starting’ Goldthorpe
Of stunning scenes whose folk redound
Thro’ quaintly queer timewarp

He found a room for seven bob
& settl’d in quite quickly
Then set off searching for a job
With brylcream smoothback slickly

Trekking one day Cnocan Gorge
He met a local cutie,
“Hello there lass, my name is George
& yours, I’ll guess, is Beauty?”

“My name is Sarah, how dya do
& where’s it fae, yer accent?”
“I’m Yorkshire born,” “English?” “That too,
Whose been to Scotland sent

By Destiny, Fate, what you will,
I’ve made it after all,
Now where dwa find the frothing thrill
Of yonder waterfall?”

“Why sir, I’m going there myself!”
So off they went together,
Sat side-by-side on rocky shelf
By cushion moss & heather

Watching whitewaters leap & dash
Like bouncing boiling kettles,
A pool of crystal steals the splash
That in a second settles

Lit by a sunbeam thro the trees
Two sets of eyes meet dreaming
Upon the outside faces freeze
But inside souls were screaming

‘Kiss me!’ ‘Please Kiss me! Kiss my lips’
Each heartbeat brought them closer
He held her gently by the hips
“Come, girl, come stroll Glen Rosa.”

She bounden back, a broken trance,
‘Some other day I might,’
Her head entipsy with romance
She thought of George all night

& so did he, he thought of her
That lovely lass call’d Sarah
With aura soft & floral burr
& auroral eyes none fairer

Dawn broke & George again went out
He’d never been a shirker
Amang all crews & gangs no doubt
He was the hardest worker

The Marchioness of Graham sens’d
The same, thought George first rate,
& so his services dispens’d
All over her estate

Who swept a whistle round the grounds
& up & down the castle
The porter & the postal rounds
& none of it much hassle

With time enough unoccupied
So book’d the village hall
To form a game & vibrant side
To battle at football

As word whirls round the whole estate
‘He’s keen is English George,’
‘Ah ken the lad,’ ‘Aye, he’s mah mate,’
‘Lets help the lad to forge

A decent village football team
To claim the island cup,”
So out came all the local cream,
Old pros to schoolboy pup

William Taylor McIntyre
& John McAllister
Both show’d fine skillsets & desire
Each midfield terrier

Malcolm McArthur chosen too
Of Merkland, & all three
Contracted to the Castle Crew
Less workforce more family

They took the trophy from Pirnmill
A year to rile & rankle
Despite MacArthur – trip & spill –
S’gone over on his ankle

They held the trophy one more year
The next, tho, things were different
As an insidious atmosphere
Crept oer the continent

BBWB 3: A Royal Visit

Posted on Updated on

THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 3

A Royal Visit

‘Dame Nature in some frantic mood
Rais’d Arran from the flood
Heap’d up Goat Fell’s steep dragonbrood
Drap’d in a cloudy hood’

Mused His new Highness as he rounds
The cliffs of Holy Isle
& sees the castle from its grounds
Shoot up a campanile

The Dowager of Hamilton
Drove oer from Dougarie
& waits along with everyone
By Brodick’s ancyent quay

The Royal yacht has anchor dropp’d
& in the bay did nestle
All converse in mid-sentence stopp’d
Lungs burst to view the vessel

Out of the classrooms children pour’d
Cloth’d in their Sunday best
His majesty came in & moor’d
Big medals on his chest

Him honeymooning with his Queen
Each shone quintessence royal
Majestical they took, serene,
First steps on Scottish soil

As man & wife, as Queen & King
Then melted into pinewood
The band struck up & children sing
The anthem clear & good

All turneth happy holiday
When flash King Edward came
Kids dashing off with glee to play
In gangs of garden game

A gaggle of the Brodick boys
Race home to Douglas Row
A laughter-cradl’d nest of noise
A nursery flambeaux

Two cottages stand side-by-side
One Stronach & one Fir
Two families – heart, hearth & pride –
McIntyre, Mc’Allister

Tho’ John has almost turn’d fifteen
& Wullie barely six
They will thrice daily reconvene
For japes & scrapes & tricks

Pete Currie’s in their little gang
Ten seconds door-to-door
Today he’s made a boomerang
From a sprig of sycamore

In front of Chas Gray’s Grocer’s shop
Like rosy Rob Roy rebels
Each sucking on a lollipop
With pockets full of pebbles

A letter call’d, ‘the little S’
Off flew ballistic stones
The stanchions rang as in distress
The Grocer shouts his moans

Chasing them out of Douglas Row
Dashing like antelopes
Down to the Big Burn’s open flow
Of sloops & sails & ropes

The play’d at Captains & their crews
On the ‘Speedwell’ ‘Captain Shaw’
Knock’d back the sarsparilla booze
Laying down the Pirate Law

They scrambl’d over mooring chains
& climb’d the spider rigging
Then as a treasure chest contains
Great wealth, they started digging

But futile was that mound of earth
& so them went off elsewhere
A magical melee of mirth
A world without a care

Reach russet stones aspan the Cloy
Drochaid-nan-Cruth its name
Imagination’s greatest joy
Is when its deep in game

The boys were hidden by the bridge
Awaiting Cromwell’s soldiers
Reaching Cnocan Riach ridge
With muskets at the shoulders

Out of the scrub cries hideous,
Rushes the ambushcade
Brutal, pernicious, pitiless
The Sassenach dismay’d

Beyond Kilmichael, thro’ the woods
The boys went foraging
Where moss-green ocean flows & floods
To feed the Faerie King

“Zing – Thud” – a catapult did fire
A stone into a tree
McAllister & McIntyre,
Get off our property”

Said Sarah Fullarton, dour-faced
Ferocious precocious female
Whom panicking invaders chas’d
All the way to Ormidale

Where halteth life, a moment’s awe
The Royal Yacht was leaving
Receding from the teeming shore
A thousand waves receiving

When once again, spontaneous,
The regal anthem sung,
Blending “Send him victorious!”
Over tongues of old & young

BBWB 2: English George

Posted on Updated on

THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 2

English George

George Goldthorpe was a handy man
From Barton, Humberside
To Patagon & Pakistan
Has tour’d the Ocean tide

He has a girl in every port
& sev’ral in Ceylon
Where he must go to catch his boat
By morning he’ll be gone

‘Must you depart my heart’s own lad
My handsome Dionysis?’
‘I must! the world is churning mad
In China there’s a crisis

Whose Empress Dowager hath arm’d
Vast gangs of bandit Boxers
No Christians are left unharm’d
Like chicklets amidst foxes

The greatest Countries of this world
Conjoin in common interest
A flag of unity unfurl’d
From North, from East, from West

Austria, Britain, Germany
France, Russia & Japan
America & Italy,
We’ll do the best we can

With lingerkiss he left his love
(Until he meets the next one)
The orders come in from above
‘Men put your best effects on

& represent Britannia!
Look smart among all others!’
When boarding HMS Barfleur
George joins his band of brothers

The night was merry as the fleet
Embar’k from Trincomalee
Rum smuggl’d in a sailors’ suite
The fun was flowing free

‘I’ve got a song,’ George slowly rose
Majestic, like a Djinn,
Whoever wrote it no-one knows
& so I shall begin’

‘Fix him a drink,’ the barman wink’d,
She slumps, ‘make mine a double!’
The blaze-eyes of the firepit blink’d,
The room was full of trouble.

Three sailors from a foreign isle
Rode storms into that bar,
Not knowing that the Prince of Guile,
The Lord of the Morning Star,

Has sent a temptress succubus
& she has been my lover,
Nights long & raw & glorious
Nights one after another

Caught in the webbing of her scent
Slow lashes hypnotis’d them
Her tongue-tip tickl’d with intent
Thro’ lyrics which surpris’d them

She knew their nations & their names
Sung of their secret meetings,
Their lies, their shames, their cries of blames,
Their guises & their cheatings

She held them with a lightning eye
All they could do was listen,
The clock struck midnight, on the sly
The firepit starts its hissin’

‘Its off to Hell for you my boys!’
She heckl’d as the sailors
Heard caustic noise of torture toys
By awful, bawdy jailors!

With sulphur-flash they dissapear’d
Into the firepit embers,
& how each voiceless face appear’d
Nobody quite remembers.

In any port, in any age
Your fate might be my fable,
She lithe & lovely on the stage
& me sat at the table.

The klaxon blares, the rumdregs drain’d
The Navy goes to War
The Taku forts, intact, ingrain’d
Protect the Haihe shore

But Britons better battles bring
Oercoming the defences,
The roads are open to Beijing
Crawling with consequences

The Fists of Righteousness have fled
The Multination mission
At last Red Lantern Zhu is dead
The Empress begs concession

George Goldthorpe’s sailorwork was done
Long shifts of hungry violence,
Under an Oriental sun
He loves the Ocean silence

Next port of call was Tokyo
Silk fleshpot of Japan
Opium! thro’ a milky glow
He met an Arran man

They fell a-friends, soft smilings meet
A promise proffer’d quick
If George e’er moves to civvy street
He’d come & visit Brodick

Where work’s aplenty by the keep
Thro’ forestry fair teeming’
Now off he drifts off in lucid sleep
& interspatial dreaming

Of a quieter existence
On a rare & happy isle
Where at destiny’s insistence
He shall live the fond exile

BBWB 1: A Game Of Shinty

Posted on Updated on

THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 1

A Game Of Shinty

Hangovers rage on New Year’s Day
The air was ice & minty
As men & boys step out to play
The anycent game of shinty

They say King Fergus fetch’d the game,
At first, to Dalriada
That sets the Haelan brain aflame
Come on lads, hit it harder!’

Auld Scotia’s sport still grandstand mann’d
That thrill’d the Border Reiver
& on St Kilda’s rocky strand
They’ve play’d it with a fever

Down to the shore, from hill & dale
Roll players from the district
Descending on a sliding scale
The better twelves were pick’d

The captains were twa boyhood friends
Dol Homish & Laird Broon,
Who with a keen & convex lens
Their final teams fine tune

Jock Russel’s cheeks were red & ripe
The Dewar boys were freezing
& Sandy Fraser smok’d a pipe
Like whalesong was his wheezing

With ‘Bualomort’ & ‘Lecamlet’
The twenty-four were chosen
The rest slunk off, when pitchside set
They’ll spend the morning frozen

The goals erected on the plain
The level green beside
The bonnie sandsweep of Strabane
That kisses sea-green Clyde

It was the annual contest
Twyx Brodick north & south
McKay applauds the very best
While McBride’s potty mouth

Encurses scurrilous heckles
Whene’er a player flags
Cusses tosses at soft tackles
Play the game yer scallywags!’

& all the caileags roundabout
With wives & bairns & kinsfolk
Surround each cause with cheer & shout
Those roars all sports convoke

& Sarah Fullarton was there
Her daddy’d push’d the cycle
With shock of flaming scarlet hair
The darling of Kilmichael;

She wasn’t one for dolls & toys
Defining role & gender
Prefer’d instead to wrestle boys
Punch all who’d try defend her

The teams are set, the whistle blows,
The Lecamlet’s attack,
Like gallant tides the ebbs & flows
Of glorious Camanachd

The ball struck by the caman’s curl
As lads, shoulder-to-shoulder,
Do battle honour, heave & hurl,
& still the day swirls colder

The sky death-grey, the air snapp’d crisp
For heatbrief clapp’d the crowd
With each deep breath Will-o-the-Wisp
Did dance into a cloud

When from a slide of Arctic ice
The snow glides down in flurries
Soon slippy surface white as rice
Adds to the sweetheart’s worries

The keep display’d the shouts of men
The game sway’d to & fro
& up around Glen Rosa glen
The combatants would echo

Mecho-an-Laird’ the partisan
Cried, & ‘Mecho-Dol Homish’
Whene’er athletic artisan
A pauky move did finish

Somebody somewhere kept the score
But not a jot it matter’d
Tho’ on the pitch it felt like war
Each time the shins were shatter’d

But afterwards the teeming inn
All niggles would appease
By whiskey bottle & wineskin
A village at its ease

Where little John McAllister
Wee Wullie McIntyre
Pete Currie & the Minister
Were sitting by the fire

You’ll be as strong as them one day,
The Minister said smiling,
Not knowing an Appian way
Was wooden poles stockpiling

Awaiting them & countless more,
The zeitgeist lads alighting,
When first class empires go to war
Tis these who’ll do the fighting!

Lord Byron on Poets & Poetry

Posted on Updated on

Embedded in canto III of Don Juan – stanzas 78-100 – is what can be consider’d Lord Byron’s ‘Apologie to poetry.’ It is a glorious mix of acute insight & criticism that reads amongst the best of his works. In the middle of the stanzas we can also find one of his most beautful ballads – named ‘The Isles of Greece’ – which invokes & laments the freedom of Greece. The extract begins with Juan & his recently acquired ladyfriend, Haidee, are lavishly entertaining in her father’s house, who they think as actually dead. Among the entertainers there is a famous poet which becomes the mouthpiece for Byron’s panaramic exposition of poetry.


And now they were diverted by their suite,
Dwarfs, dancing girls, black eunuchs, and a poet,
Which made their new establishment complete;
The last was of great fame, and liked to show it:
His verses rarely wanted their due feet;
And for his theme—he seldom sung below it,
He being paid to satirize or flatter,
As the psalm says, ‘inditing a good matter.’

He praised the present, and abused the past,
Reversing the good custom of old days,
An Eastern anti-jacobin at last
He turn’d, preferring pudding to no praise—
For some few years his lot had been o’ercast
By his seeming independent in his lays,
But now he sung the Sultan and the Pacha
With truth like Southey, and with verse like Crashaw.

He was a man who had seen many changes,
And always changed as true as any needle;
His polar star being one which rather ranges,
And not the fix’d—he knew the way to wheedle:
So vile he ‘scaped the doom which oft avenges;
And being fluent (save indeed when fee’d ill),
He lied with such a fervour of intention—
There was no doubt he earn’d his laureate pension.

But he had genius,—when a turncoat has it,
The ‘Vates irritabilis’ takes care
That without notice few full moons shall pass it;
Even good men like to make the public stare:—
But to my subject—let me see—what was it?-
O!—the third canto—and the pretty pair—
Their loves, and feasts, and house, and dress, and mode
Of living in their insular abode.

Their poet, a sad trimmer, but no less
In company a very pleasant fellow,
Had been the favourite of full many a mess
Of men, and made them speeches when half mellow;
And though his meaning they could rarely guess,
Yet still they deign’d to hiccup or to bellow
The glorious meed of popular applause,
Of which the first ne’er knows the second cause.

But now being lifted into high society,
And having pick’d up several odds and ends
Of free thoughts in his travels for variety,
He deem’d, being in a lone isle, among friends,
That, without any danger of a riot, he
Might for long lying make himself amends;
And, singing as he sung in his warm youth,
Agree to a short armistice with truth.

He had travell’d ‘mongst the Arabs, Turks, and Franks,
And knew the self-loves of the different nations;
And having lived with people of all ranks,
Had something ready upon most occasions—
Which got him a few presents and some thanks.
He varied with some skill his adulations;
To ‘do at Rome as Romans do,’ a piece
Of conduct was which he observed in Greece.

Thus, usually, when he was ask’d to sing,
He gave the different nations something national;
‘T was all the same to him—’God save the king,’
Or ‘Ca ira,’ according to the fashion all:
His muse made increment of any thing,
From the high lyric down to the low rational:
If Pindar sang horse-races, what should hinder
Himself from being as pliable as Pindar?

In France, for instance, he would write a chanson;
In England a six canto quarto tale;
In Spain, he’d make a ballad or romance on
The last war—much the same in Portugal;
In Germany, the Pegasus he ‘d prance on
Would be old Goethe’s (see what says De Stael);
In Italy he ‘d ape the ‘Trecentisti;’
In Greece, he sing some sort of hymn like this t’ ye:


THE ISLES OF GREECE.

The isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, is set.

The Scian and the Teian muse,
The hero’s harp, the lover’s lute,
Have found the fame your shores refuse;
Their place of birth alone is mute
To sounds which echo further west
Than your sires’ ‘Islands of the Blest.’

The mountains look on Marathon—
And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
I dream’d that Greece might still be free;
For standing on the Persians’ grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.

A king sate on the rocky brow
Which looks o’er sea-born Salamis;
And ships, by thousands, lay below,
And men in nations;—all were his!
He counted them at break of day—
And when the sun set where were they?

And where are they? and where art thou,
My country? On thy voiceless shore
The heroic lay is tuneless now—
The heroic bosom beats no more!
And must thy lyre, so long divine,
Degenerate into hands like mine?

‘T is something, in the dearth of fame,
Though link’d among a fetter’d race,
To feel at least a patriot’s shame,
Even as I sing, suffuse my face;
For what is left the poet here?
For Greeks a blush—for Greece a tear.

Must we but weep o’er days more blest?
Must we but blush?—Our fathers bled.
Earth! render back from out thy breast
A remnant of our Spartan dead!
Of the three hundred grant but three,
To make a new Thermopylae!

What, silent still? and silent all?
Ah! no;—the voices of the dead
Sound like a distant torrent’s fall,
And answer, ‘Let one living head,
But one arise,—we come, we come!’
‘T is but the living who are dumb.

In vain—in vain: strike other chords;
Fill high the cup with Samian wine!
Leave battles to the Turkish hordes,
And shed the blood of Scio’s vine!
Hark! rising to the ignoble call—
How answers each bold Bacchanal!

You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet,
Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone?
Of two such lessons, why forget
The nobler and the manlier one?
You have the letters Cadmus gave—
Think ye he meant them for a slave?

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
We will not think of themes like these!
It made Anacreon’s song divine:
He served—but served Polycrates—
A tyrant; but our masters then
Were still, at least, our countrymen.

The tyrant of the Chersonese
Was freedom’s best and bravest friend;
That tyrant was Miltiades!
O! that the present hour would lend
Another despot of the kind!
Such chains as his were sure to bind.

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
On Suli’s rock, and Parga’s shore,
Exists the remnant of a line
Such as the Doric mothers bore;
And there, perhaps, some seed is sown,
The Heracleidan blood might own.

Trust not for freedom to the Franks—
They have a king who buys and sells;
In native swords, and native ranks,
The only hope of courage dwells;
But Turkish force, and Latin fraud,
Would break your shield, however broad.

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
Our virgins dance beneath the shade—
I see their glorious black eyes shine;
But gazing on each glowing maid,
My own the burning tear-drop laves,
To think such breasts must suckle slaves

Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep,
Where nothing, save the waves and I,
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
There, swan-like, let me sing and die:
A land of slaves shall ne’er be mine—
Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!


Thus sung, or would, or could, or should have sung,
The modern Greek, in tolerable verse;
If not like Orpheus quite, when Greece was young,
Yet in these times he might have done much worse:
His strain display’d some feeling—right or wrong;
And feeling, in a poet, is the source
Of others’ feeling; but they are such liars,
And take all colours—like the hands of dyers.

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;
‘T is strange, the shortest letter which man uses
Instead of speech, may form a lasting link
Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces
Frail man, when paper—even a rag like this,
Survives himself, his tomb, and all that ‘s his.

And when his bones are dust, his grave a blank,
His station, generation, even his nation,
Become a thing, or nothing, save to rank
In chronological commemoration,
Some dull MS. oblivion long has sank,
Or graven stone found in a barrack’s station
In digging the foundation of a closet,
May turn his name up, as a rare deposit.

And glory long has made the sages smile;
‘T is something, nothing, words, illusion, wind—
Depending more upon the historian’s style
Than on the name a person leaves behind:
Troy owes to Homer what whist owes to Hoyle:
The present century was growing blind
To the great Marlborough’s skill in giving knocks,
Until his late life by Archdeacon Coxe.

Milton ‘s the prince of poets—so we say;
A little heavy, but no less divine:
An independent being in his day—
Learn’d, pious, temperate in love and wine;
But, his life falling into Johnson’s way,
We ‘re told this great high priest of all the Nine
Was whipt at college—a harsh sire—odd spouse,
For the first Mrs. Milton left his house.

All these are, certes, entertaining facts,
Like Shakspeare’s stealing deer, Lord Bacon’s bribes;
Like Titus’ youth, and Caesar’s earliest acts;
Like Burns (whom Doctor Currie well describes);
Like Cromwell’s pranks;—but although truth exacts
These amiable descriptions from the scribes,
As most essential to their hero’s story,
They do not much contribute to his glory.

All are not moralists, like Southey, when
He prated to the world of ‘Pantisocracy;’
Or Wordsworth unexcised, unhired, who then
Season’d his pedlar poems with democracy;
Or Coleridge, long before his flighty pen
Let to the Morning Post its aristocracy;
When he and Southey, following the same path,
Espoused two partners (milliners of Bath).

Such names at present cut a convict figure,
The very Botany Bay in moral geography;
Their loyal treason, renegado rigour,
Are good manure for their more bare biography.
Wordsworth’s last quarto, by the way, is bigger
Than any since the birthday of typography;
A drowsy frowzy poem, call’d the ‘Excursion.’
Writ in a manner which is my aversion.

He there builds up a formidable dyke
Between his own and others’ intellect;
But Wordsworth’s poem, and his followers, like
Joanna Southcote’s Shiloh, and her sect,
Are things which in this century don’t strike
The public mind,—so few are the elect;
And the new births of both their stale virginities
Have proved but dropsies, taken for divinities.

But let me to my story: I must own,
If I have any fault, it is digression—
Leaving my people to proceed alone,
While I soliloquize beyond expression;
But these are my addresses from the throne,
Which put off business to the ensuing session:
Forgetting each omission is a loss to
The world, not quite so great as Ariosto.

I know that what our neighbours call ‘longueurs’
(We ‘ve not so good a word, but have the thing
In that complete perfection which ensures
An epic from Bob Southey every spring),
Form not the true temptation which allures
The reader; but ‘t would not be hard to bring
Some fine examples of the epopee,
To prove its grand ingredient is ennui.

We learn from Horace, ‘Homer sometimes sleeps;’
We feel without him, Wordsworth sometimes wakes,—
To show with what complacency he creeps,
With his dear ‘Waggoners,’ around his lakes.
He wishes for ‘a boat’ to sail the deeps—
Of ocean?—No, of air; and then he makes
Another outcry for ‘a little boat,’
And drivels seas to set it well afloat.

If he must fain sweep o’er the ethereal plain,
And Pegasus runs restive in his ‘Waggon,’
Could he not beg the loan of Charles’s Wain?
Or pray Medea for a single dragon?
Or if, too classic for his vulgar brain,
He fear’d his neck to venture such a nag on,
And he must needs mount nearer to the moon,
Could not the blockhead ask for a balloon?

‘Pedlars,’ and ‘Boats,’ and ‘Waggons!’ Oh! ye shades
Of Pope and Dryden, are we come to this?
That trash of such sort not alone evades
Contempt, but from the bathos’ vast abyss
Floats scumlike uppermost, and these Jack Cades
Of sense and song above your graves may hiss—
The ‘little boatman’ and his ‘Peter Bell’
Can sneer at him who drew ‘Achitophel’!