Poem: Hubris at Waterloo

Unsparing of his soldiers killed,

Yet loved by them in every way.

Oppressed folk all around he thrilled

As Europe’s monarchies he flayed.

 

‘Upon their stomachs, armies march,’

Said Bonaparte the Corsican.

Europe and Asia, he almost grasped!

That ego said, ‘of course I can’.

 

A wild adventure drew him east

To fabled Sphynx’s quizzic stare;

But Horatio sank his fleet

And left his army stranded there.

 

Then east again to Moscow’s gates

With half a million of his best,

The great retreat was left too late:

With winter came that grimmest test.

 

An island race stood in his way

While others trembled at French might;

To field their armies it would pay

And lead them in a daunting fight.

 

Through two decades it fought it out;

Old liberties were put on hold.

To drive France from its last redoubt

It knew it must be hard and bold.

 

Prussians, Russians, Austrians, Dutch,

Belgians and Swedes joined in the cause;

No one thought of the future, much,

Just to survive those endless wars.

 

At Waterloo the dye was cast;

Sad soldiers penned their final wills.

Those British squares, they must stand fast,

And Frenchmen by the thousand kill.

 

Cavalry charged against the squares:

Sharp sabres aimed at British breasts.

How would those lines of redcoats fare?

How would they meet that fearsome test?

 

Volley on volley they must shoot,

‘The closest thing you ever saw…’

‘Hard pounding!’ balled the Iron Duke,

Till Boney’s men could take no more.

 

To save the day, an Army Corps!

The Emperor’s Imperial Guard:

Unbeaten in a foreign war,

The hardest of the very hard.

 

In silence and in fearless line

They bore down on their British foe;

But raked by fire ten thousand times,

They did yet make an awesome show.

 

At last the fates smiled on the reds;

Their musketry was so intense.

Sad doom came in a storm of lead:

‘Now was the game up,’ Boney sensed.

 

But Allied lines were fading fast,

Exhausted from the nine-hour fight,

When in the distance came at last

Old Marshal Blücher’s Prussian might.

 

The fearless Duke maintained morale,

Galloping round those battered squares;

They stood there fixed like Zulu kraals,

One and all did that peril share.

 

The day was clinched, at fearful cost,

With corpses measured by the ton.

‘The next worst thing to battles lost’

‘Is surely that of battles won.’

Advertisements

About tomhmackenzie

Born Derek James Craig in 1939, I was stripped of my identity and renamed Thomas Humphreys in the Foundling Hospital's last intake of illegitimate children. After leaving the hospital at 15, I managed to find work in a Fleet Street press agency before being called up for National Service with the 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars who were, at that time, engaged with the IRA in Northern Ireland. Following my spell in the Army, I sought out and located my biological parents at age 20. I then became Thomas Humphrey Mackenzie and formed the closest of relationships with my parents for the rest of their lives. All this formed the basis of my book, The Last Foundling (Pan Macmillan), which went on to become an international best seller.

Posted on June 18, 2015, in history, poetry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: