Tag Archives: British history

Fleeing the Scene

Heart and lungs ached beyond mortal endurance as he fled, and heard with dread the footsteps behind him,seemingly chasing after him on the dark country lane.He cursed his own folly for having given in to a panic which as a veteran practitioner of the dark arts of espionage and assassination he ought not to have experienced let alone given into so cravenly.

He’d gotten there late in any event,long after the three others had commenced partaking of the sumptuous repast.And natural inquisitiveness,especially from Marlowe, had caused him to recount as plausibly as he was able the reasons.He realised this was more to put the other two, Poley and Skeres at their ease,for they too were more than a little anxious at his, Ingram Frizer’s tardiness.With formal,gentlemanly apologies now aside,he partook of the repast with uncommon relish.

His ride from Walsingham’s residence out here to Eleanor Bull’s reputable lodging house here at Deptford was far too hastily arranged and improvised for Frizer’s own professional liking.Scant planning and the gift of one of Walsingham’s own blades that had seen action across the water in Holland were hardly compensation enough for his disquieted demeanour. What was asked of Poley, Skeres and not least himself would  under more reflective circumstances been rejected as too hasty and open to failure.

But Marlowe the scribbler. the critic nonpareil,the one who shared his outrageous opinions with all and sundry;those who would listen and many more who heard them because of the timbre of his prevailing larynx,proved alluring enough for the three of them to go ahead with the bare bones of Walsingham’s idea

.With the sumptuous repast coming to an end and their bellies and spirits satiated with Mistress Bull’s copious wines and ales;the boisterous exchange of opinions both large and small took an inevitable turn,one that Frizer was alerted to wait for as patiently as need be by Walsingham himself. The turn that came when Marlowe, ever the disputant, could not hold himself or his temper so fused by imbibing,back from the precipice he himself was allowed to carve.

 Afterward,standing in front of their Master Walsingham ,they would all remark how so like one of Marlowe’s or indeed Master Shakespeare’s stage plays with its own cunningly crafted directions for the players it all seemed to unfold at the time.Which of course was a lie,as Ingram Frizer, his heart and lungs fit to burst on this deserted country lane in the pitch black with hell hound footsteps behind him,knew perfectly well.

He had to come out of this mise-en-scene more alive than that poor sod Marlowe whose last look in this passing mortal sphere was one of sublime incomprehension.And as his loping strides brought him ineluctably to the stables at the rear of the tavern by the bridge and his silken tradecraft let him deftly unhitch and ride off on a stolen steed back to Westminster with his report of mission accomplished- his mind conjured one more illusion.

What would Christopher Marlowe write of this night in one of his plays?With the footsteps heard on a dark country lane receding far, far into the background Ingram Frizer let his imagination roam thus:-

 ” Four figures in a room darkly conclaved,hushed breaths escape from the mirrors’ taut embrace.Leaving no trace of having been expelled from any mouth nor orifice so plain that might betray the breather’s fear.
Malice aforethought alone leaving imprints in the air amid this spectral scene. A coven’d place where meaning and word
intertwine where shadow and light danced their furtive Pavane,
Swirling about,word without meaning,meaning without form,form without content into an empty shapeless void.And in the dimness of guttering candles, the trails of reason evaporated and in the morning to come a new naive horizon bearing a false dawn. “

Days of Hope

Smoke-towered horizons burn
into morning over mill-towns,
steel towns,coal towns
shut and shattered,
their shopping malls and terraced
streets gaoled in ambered time,
the busy-ness of their
busy days poised at a
point that once was,
washed over by faint hallelujahs
fading amens from choired congregations,
church and chapel echoing down
dust filled years of better days,
when a nation was catching up
to its future,yesterday’s tomorrow;
the Now that is becoming
chrysalised as not far not yet,
tactiled anticipation of an opening,
gleaming mirrored strand of continuity,
its promise appropriating this space,
this time,this Forever,
becoming real.

Warriors

Running. Days spent running. Long days running away. Far, far away from that Hill. Senlac.Where Harold Godwinson fell. All that remained of his Housecarls, all that evaded the keen eye and whetted blades of those Normans was here in this rout.

They are seized by fear as they broach the deep autumn green of the forest with the day darkening about them. They trample into the swirling grey and brown. Heaving past trees so gaunt, so erect everywhere flecked with its shadows.

They feel feral eyes lurking, they smell that stench only warhorses make; the tang of their salivary breath as their stalking footsteps are tramping heavily on foliaged ground.

Warriors, masterless curs with their master dead, are breaking, staggering into a run. The run of hearts and minds now fleeing and pounding all at once as if seized by a madness. Their fevers fired by diagonal shafts of sunlight and arrows. Threading and piercing. Whispering their death, clattering and cutting.

Bone bared, sweat-browed fighters are now falling amid the dense. And of all the summers that are to come, those summers no longer are theirs but the forest’s.

A Brief History of Britain

Faded, forlorn

the banners of our memories

once held high now cast aside,

cast down,

trodden into the dust

by legions of those

who came after in ignorance;

Even the ghosts have departed

this empty husk

of a once was Power

this paralysed parody

of those Sceptered Isles,

that seat of Mars crumbled

overwhelmed by the deluge

that took from our hearts

those Heroes whose deeds

validated all that we stood for;

All that we ever believed in

is now counted as the small-change

amongst market traders

whom we let barter our very souls

for a mess of pottage ;

Whilst entombed in our sonorous sloth ,

they took from us all that had once been

vouchedsafe by Viking ,Saxon ,Norman

for so long so very long an Age;

In our belated awakening

we find ourselves naked,

caught in the glare of a history

which no longer recognises

nor has need of us

in this our unkempt beggarly state,

of which those who once fought for us

would be ashamed

that all their sacrifice

all their pain

had yielded such a paltry gain.

Dunkirk

Time stretches

taut as

a drumskin,

each passing syllable

a vibrating membrane

with the,

longed for

hoped for

prayed for..

Time stretches

beyond the horizon

each immeasurable step

further from

the vanishing point

of the,

longed for

hoped for

prayed for..

Time stretches

until,

until,

looping in

on itself

deus ex machina

the longed for

the hoped for

the prayed for..

Deliverance

FOOTNOTE:
In May 1940, Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated.

Waterloo

Two and a half miles square ,
five hundred Guns ;
the Black ,the Red ,the White,the Blue ,
sixty thousand Horses ;
bloodied ,torn and tattered ,
two hundred thousand Men ;
gouged by grapeshot ,gored by bayonet ,
fifty-five thousand killed or wounded ;
Their calvaries caused one-fifth from cannon-fire
one-fifth slashes from sabres ,
three-fifths due to small arms fire ;
Amid the visceral deluge ,
one hundred and eighty field surgeons
cut flesh with large capital amputation knives ,
divided bone with a saw
then tied off individually all the arteries ,
all in a few minutes,fifteen at most ;
Eager to forestall the inevitability of gangrene ,
innumerably they waited in line ,
some assuaged by small doses of cordial of spirits and water ,
and if lucky some opium or laudanum ;
though often ragged Redcoated Hector and Achilles
gouged by grapeshot ,gored by bayonet ,
fainted from the sights of that Abattoir ;
Two and a half miles square ,
fifty-five thousand men
tattered ,torn and bloodied and
flesh cut with large capital amputation knives.

Scotland Won

Northward the train speeds

hearthward bound to Kith and Kin ,

to calmer climes ,bolder climes ,

surer days , surer airs ,

wrapped in their firmness of a

promise made long long ago

before the Stuarts failed and hearts waned ;

Vision now restored ,expectations unsheathed

not by heroes nor by warriors

nor stentorian oaths ,

but by quiet confidence woven

of steadfast certainty that when

all seemed lost forever mired

in betrayal and compromise ,

there would again come such a day ,

as this

here and now

and

forever.

( footnote :- I composed this around 9 p.m. on Thursday 18 September )

Viking Longboat

Ancient timbers

cry out mutely

with their ancient voices ,

re-telling tales of earth

and of fire and of water ;

Their hand hewn craft

emissaries of the Fire

that sped long ago

southward and westward

carrying the Will to wield

without mercy the visceral

vengeful terror of Ages ;

Slaking the insatiable thirst

of mysterious deities

who supped on earth

the fire and the water ,

amid cacophonies of ancient oaths

in the re-telling of tales

whose ancient voices

cry out mutely

amid the ancient timbers.

Jutland :1916

Gray dark ,darkling gray
sky and sea both winding sheets
for the long departed ;
Nature’s coincidence calibrated
longitude and latitude lapsed
into the fury and the sound and
the sounding fury of foreboding fate
to drown,drown and never to escape ;
Coal-shovelled ,steam-belched,pistoning
leviathans ,steel-plated icons of
Empires ranging and roaring where
Vikings once navigated by sunstone ;
No Valkyrie rescue of warriors slain
when Harrison’s chronometer pinpointed
parameters for steel-trimmed corteges
might and wrath bristling ,danced their
predestined Pavane amid the
flashing flames of glory ;
Oratorios of brilliant ordnance
breaching invincible carapaces ;
Marble memorials may recount the fallen ,
historians’erudite treatises the facts ;
On the last day in May ,
Europe’s pride and manhood bled
though without knowing it ,
into the void their Empires were shed .

Footnote :- 31st.May 1916 ,the forces of Albion under Jellicoe lost 8 destroyers,3 battle-cruisers,3 cruisers with 6,100 lives.Von Scheer’s Hohenzollern hosts , lost 4 light-cruisers,3 destroyers ,1 battle-cruiser,1 battleship with 2,550 lives.

Belfast:Traditions

As he waits,

the grey-haired man

smiles at his grandson

practising marching in step,

clouds prevent the sun

from gleaming on silver trumpets,

drums stay mute,

banners remain furled,

shoulders shrug

and the grey-haired man

waits

to get the bus home.

(written around 1998,previously unpublished;Louis Kasatkin has asserted his Right to be recognised as the author of this work)