Jonathan ROBIN

Freshman - 581 Points (22 September / London)

The Oid Contemptibles - Poem by Jonathan ROBIN

Near soldiers stacking cartridges, where once swordsmith tempered blade,
where embattled ancient ensign, all emblazoned, might have played,
pale pink and purple pennant flopped and fluttered, half afraid.
Artillery, light infantry, - no cavalry now neighed,
no green serene but khaki drab, no trees to lend their shade,
no calm was found save hole profound, - instead of silent glade
mounds splattered round, unsafe, unsound, bound bud, mud, man afraid.

There, mid tattered tent, spent truck, went General and Aide
from spy-hole posts surveyed the hosts who ghosts would soon be made,
strolled towards headquarters, where were grave decisions made
that sealed the fates of officers, despite bright burnished braid,
of sturdy NCO's, and of the sapper with his spade,
of wordy privates' cockney wit, their final roll call played.

Kitchener's 'King and Country' campaign, which few sought to evade,
called all of independant spirit who would not be dismayed.
Conscripts later served and fought, each soldier's thought to home oft strayed,
to Blighty's sights, their crops or shops, where once they'd love and trade,
to London's lights, to Piccadilly's Eros proud displayed.
Flanders' fights delights would blight, blast cast hope down, scope hell-hole laid.
Few who'd faced fire in the mire on future nights slept unafraid.

As sight shots salvoed over, scarred scared sentries who surveyed,
trenches little rest discovered as shrapnel splinters sprayed
slivered steel, taught lethal lessons to those who'd dared invade.
Tommy couldn't tip his cap to tinpot tyrant's cheap tirade,
but brave advanced, life chanced, to, through, sharp barbed wire barricade,
dodging restless rifle bullets which too often ricocheted.

Unrecorded gallantry few chronicles defrayed,
‘known unto God' anonymous from His story were greyed.
They'd courage of convictions which would never be betrayed.
Bombs burst beneath lead powder sky, men cursed when shell, grenade,
caused a cross between a thunderstorm and Satan's serenade,
as secret centres of sad Earth soared skywards in cascade,
shaking quaking caves as caverns quivered under cannonade.

Shells shattered ears, hell shuttered eyes, breath stifled, haunted, life decayed.
Shells scattered tears, fears, cursing cries, Death undaunted, undelayed.
Shells sundered dears, split sacred ties, widows' sighs made lonely maid.
Some scouts crept forward silently, as snipers to dissuade
the foe, then fell, no time to tell, the pride of the brigade
though crack, attacked with pack on back, young lives were vainly paid.
''Tain't just luck we lack' said Jack to Jim Jones as he prayed,
but, ambush trapped, none turned back, scrapped, another ill-planned raid.
Such senseless skirmishes were styled ‘unfortunate escapade'
by almoners distressed who through scarred, angry dead would wade.

One corner of encampment parked white marquee marked ‘First Aid',
in canvas cloth bright scarlet cross upon its stretched top was displayed.
Bearers brought there broken bodies, souls on stretchers limply laid,
though while privates died, some Generals tried to skip an extra grade!
In battle the guns would rattle, their metal chattered all day,
Gallipoli saw ANZAC stay confined to beach - trap made
by lurking Turks whose perks and smirks were later wiped away.
Pom mettle huns would nettle, their fettle settled fray, -
(though far from Tipperary, Irish hearts were seldom swayed) .

When Tommy'd said his piece at peace suave politicians played,
a troupe of monkeys muttering, as jaded donkeys brayed.
Versailles' Peace to end all War was worded, then railwayed
for at Tannenburg von Hindenburg had Russia's future weighed,
forced Russian bear to beat retreat, till Tsar by bolsheviks was slayed.
Though Trotsky beat his breast at Brest a treaty tough was made,
taking lands but freeing bands who burst Denikin's last stockade.
Meanwhile hoch Kaiser hid in Holland, treated as a renegade.

Then Churchill's friends created anti-soviet crusade,
with allied armies intervened, whose hand was overplayed.
attempting People to persuade, the communist forbade,
assisting Kolchak's cossack hordes to harrass, rape and raid.
Red-White's fratricidal fight fresh map of Europe made,
Finns, Litts, Latts, Czechs, Estonians were into being bade.
New President of Poland upon piano played,
Paderewski striking freedom's chords on Chopin's hit parade.

When the ‘Last Great War' was over, and tidings were relayed,
victory crowns in country, towns, cheers at Palace balustrade,
though many looked on in askance as Lloyd-George was hurrayed
while each bottled brain in Britain bragged how he had steady stayed.
But in the 'land of heroes', though the ranks well earned their accolade,
most must each meal measure while the few in leisure layed.
That some still carved while soldiers starved highlighted masquerade

Now the uniform that won fair maid is worn, drawn fringes frayed,
as if chip by chip the paint had torn from weather-worn façade.
What hair still peeked from cap that peaked showed streaks of care woe greyed.
Now, replacing fragile faces, poppies answer on parade,
unpining emblems filing in grave memory of brave slayed
lest we forget a sacrifice whose souvenir shan't fade.

Poet's Notes about The Poem

(5 November 2008)

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Poem Edited: Wednesday, June 12, 2013

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