Tag Archives: historical narrative

Shackleton’s Christmas Dinner

        Shackleton’s Christmas Dinner

Grey and white and

White and grey

ad infinitum



day ;

Scouring faces

battering bone

the ceaseless howl

of the bleak unknown ;

Across the Weddell Sea ice pack

driving the dog team

hauling three boats ,

trudging trudging

seven and a half miles ,

a week’s work ;

White and grey and

Grey and white

ad infinitum






December 22 was kept as Christmas Day, and most of our small remaining stock of luxuries was consumed at the Christmas feast. We could not carry it all with us, so for the last time for eight months we had a really good meal - as much as we could eat. Anchovies in oil, baked beans, and jugged hare made a glorious mixture such as we have not dreamed of since our school-days. Everybody was working at high pressure, packing and repacking sledges and stowing what provisions we were going to take with us in the various sacks and boxes.


Sarajevo :1914

Lurking in the shadows

of ephemeral alleyways ,

a cipher ,a chimera flitting

between disillusion and disappointments ;

Nondescript , commonplace ,19 years old ,

a refugee fleeing from the earlier

failure to bestow a kiss of death on his intended ;

Along the route ,

bustling streets and boisterous thoroughfares gaily bedecked

with flowers and flags welcome the Royal motorcade ,

resplendent in their plumed cocked hats ,epaulettes and braid ;

A time , a chance , a kairos moment

that was lost re-emerges to be

re-taken ,ventured anew

grasped with both trembling hands and

a desperate heart ,its consequences unforeseen ;

The smashing of Stephen’s Crown ,the fall

of Angels ,the ruination of Eagles amid

infernoes yet to be stoked ,yet to be lit ;

A nondescript commonplace 19 year old

hefts the pistol ,a Browning .380 Model 1910 ;

He is standing some five feet away from

the reversing now stalled motor car ,

He is facing Ferdinand and the beloved Sophie ;

then the shots ring out ,


( Footnote : On June 28,1914 ,19 year old Gavrilo Princip,a Serbian nationalist fanatic
shot and killed the heir to the Austrian Throne,Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie.)

Battle of Lutzen 1632:The fate of Von Pappenheim

The fading salvation of the skills of a surgeon,
too far away for this desperate carriage,
a funeral without cortege to reach ;
Far away from fading grey tatters
of evening and battle’s stench,
How sweet the singing of “Te Deum”
for Hapsburg Imperial Eagle ascendant,
yet no bandages for staunching only
slivers and rags of your general’s coat;
drenched in a fever that wrenches “Santa Maria”
from your once reticent lips;
as numbness encroaches and blankets
you with the frost;
The adrenalin rythm relentlessly beating
as your Eagle’s wings once did ,
soaring across haunted fields of ripening corn
casual pillage for the eagles and their young;
soaring above firestorm gutted
churches ,barns and ricks,
the wretched poor succumbing to the
penance of your Imperial steel crucifix;
soaring over a catechism
of hooves clattering in courtyards,
impatient for you to recite orders demanding death;
The Eagle’s rythm frantic’ly beating
over this desperate carriage ,
like the wings of the angel of death;
reciting with you the Final Absolution,
as you succumb to its penance,
demanding your life.

The Unknown Trojan

The Anatolian sun shone bright
over Troy’s topless towers,
far from whose watchful gaze
you clashed with a foreign
soldier on that day;
Gleaming flashing blade thrusts
parried clashed and tore away
that stranger’s veil of immortality,
as your prowess sent him sprawling,
sprawling into Morpheus’ arms;
You made to bear away his
gilded helmet as a trophy,
it was Achilles there at your feet,
though you never even knew
as you fell into the
same forgetful sand;
your life-force soaking and blending
where later a braggart would stand,
on whose head Homer would place
his garlands of poetic praise
and save none for you;
Anonymous eidolon expiring,
you lie but cannot hear
Andromache lament nor Priam the gods berate,
as your life’s coin was spent
in unequal exchange of fate.

(an early work which I wrote around the same time as “1066 and all that”(originally “Norman Footslogger”) and “Marston Moor”,the common theme being,the participation and fate of the common soldier in what some view to be among History’s significant military encounters)

1066..(And All That)

Norman Footsloggers wading ashore
your boots brine-stained
your fears lost in the roar;
You’ve seen the Saxon high upon
the cliffs gazing down at
strangers in this strange land,
Norman Footsloggers malevolent
flotsam on deadlier sand;
Norman oaths shall carry this day,
it’s spillage of blood will verify
Duke William’s claim,
sanctify his deeds,
then a new history,
his story
will record the glory
and mark your graves
with a Norman Cross;
Norman Footsloggers aim your crossbows
like your serjeants taught you,
aim high at the Saxon and
though few of you’ll ever know it,
your Duke’s hybrid-speech
will become revered,
his codefied injustice
will be a model of Law
and the accounts books
of his army’s looting and theft
will sit alongside leatherbound
Histories of Rome on library shelves;
Norman Footsloggers wading ashore,
your boots brine-stained
and your fears lost in the roar.