It is just twenty-nine short years ago,
a conflict over sovereign soil; a war
we had been forced to join, and what is more
we knew him through his brother. So we know
how close we were to being there to pay
our debt, to take up arms, to test our steel
no truth was there so graphically revealed
than those who paid their ransom on the day.
We watched the daily news reports and felt
our chests fill up with so much pride, but most
of all, with choking sorrow at the ghosts
of harrowing life lost; what blows were dealt.
On the night of twelfth of June it was,
irony to say, a “silent night attack”.
But that is what they called it, no way back
for Four Platoon from B Comp’ny that does
not do retreating, second thinking, when
even tough, gut-wrenching work will cost
a life to gain control of hill once lost
that once regained, will look too low a fen…
too low a fen to ask of men to drown,
not in water, nor in bog, but hail;
a mighty storm, a holy cross of nails
that bring the mightiest men to ground;
that bring the bravest to their final test
of courage, and the currency of true
heroes, that history does our souls imbue
a view of these great men who did their best.
Whose duty in the field is marked by stope
for graves, but far too little memory
of their names, rough cut in masonry,
but for one treasure they leave for us… a hope
that every day we try to take their lead
that we may see the need for all of us
to find a little courage, and do not fuss
on things that threaten not our meagre needs.
So they, pinned down, bereft of their advance
on Longdon Mount, crucial for Port Stanley,
were threatened with an idle fate, less manly
than they would want to be. But one last chance:
Commander down, the sergeant, left in charge,
Converts reconnaissance into attack.
So he, with only three men at his back
broke cover, and enemy emplacement barged.
He had no second thought, no looking back;
no thought for safe return or fate to come;
no thirst for beer in mess when day was done.
Though he was so aware, he stayed on track
until he’d reached the offending gun position,
who, ‘till that moment, felt impregnable,
but in their well armed strength, a Tower of Babel,
a blinding sting completed their transition.
But at the moment of his finest hour
Ian McKay, lay slumped on their defences
His present, in a moment, became past tenses;
his glorious, heroic feat turned sour.
One consolation, if there could be one
that he, without a single doubt did save
many lives on route to their own grave;
precious lives were spared by deed so done.
Remember only this, that we shall ever
allow our heads to bow, and fill with tears
the cup of life’s great mercy; recall what sears
the heart and shall not dim their great endeavour.
It is just twenty-nine short years, now spent,
since conflict over sovereign soil; a war.
They, in their pain wouldn’t ask for any more
than that we will remember how they went.
(Read the author’s commentary on this poem)
© 2011 John Anstie
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The style may be reminding of W. B. Yeats but the poem’s thread is all you, Poet! It is amazing your strength of mirroring your feelings, exhausting your ideas until the essence flood the whole poem, capturing the words to rhyme ( this is my wonder!).
Where is the book of poems with your name on it???I want to feel its scent of a new born Poet book…
John, this reads so much like one of the classic hero poems of Yeats or one of those “boys.” Very well crafted and a worthy subject, for sure.
Yes I love those “boys”, particularly W B Yeats, lyrical poet extraordinaire. I admired Tennyson, whose close friendship with Arthur Henry Hallam, in turn whose premature death lead to seventeen years of labour by Tennyson, putting together the most epic of all elegies that was ever written! Hence my use of his rhyme scheme for my own elegy for a soldier. “Twenty Nine” is slightly different in its metre, however, Tennyson’s was in tetrameter, mine is pentameter. I think pentameter is better for storytelling. Thank you so much for you kind comment, Victoria.
This is masterful writing. The structure works well for your topic; I find the rhyme scheme difficult to pull off with as much skill as you show here. I found this piece painful to read, as it should be.
“…masterful” Gosh, I appreciate that plaudit, Angelique! Thank you very much for your kind comment.
very tender descriptive writing
pedestal ivory goddess
Thank you Zongrik. Appreciated.
twenty-nine…and many of them even younger…gave their life for others…we def. need to remember.. very fine write..
Thank you Claudia. I will surely never forget. I lost an Uncle in WW2, whom I know only through anecdote and his own diaries. His brother, my Father, was also in the RAF, a Spitfire fighter pilot, who was himself shot down (an account of which I just remembered I’d posted on my other blog last year) – both my heroes. I always bring them, all of those who paid the sacrifice, to my mind on 11/11 each year.
Phew..now I need to wipe mine eyes, and I shall see hehee. It’s the “small lives” sacrificed that always bring a tear, these people without great fame nor fortune who sacrificed for us. Ian McKay was one such man, not a martyr, a brave honest hard working man.
Loved the Tennyson esque rhyming scheme too, very fitting for the write John.
a touching tribute john. enjoyed the journey thru the lines. 🙂
it is def a moving account and well versed…29 is far too young, but it happens daily, sadly…i too read the commentary first which made it all the more so…followed over from Joe Hech’s place…
hey i remember this one….
A very touching piece. Having read the commentary first, it means even more.
Thanks Jess. It is a moving story and an important one too. I am now following you on Twitter, so beware, I sometimes make random responses 😉
John, this is amazing…The emotion your message evoked has me struggling to see the screen. My heart and thoughts go out to Ian McKay, and his legacy, which lives within you and your art.
Sammy, I was remiss in not responding to your comment. Thank you. I guess if it invokes your kind of response, then the poet has done his job (isn’t that cruel!). But thanks so much for popping by to read it.
Sometimes wasted lives are not wasted at all but spent in the knowledge that through sacrifice and heroism those left behind can spend a little more freely. a life that cost so much.
This touching tribute is powerful both in message and in form. The rhyme scheme and flow carried me like a song, albeit a very sad one. I then clicked over to the Wiki article you cite to better understand the references and learned so much. Thank you for getting in touch. Thank you for writing so eloquently about heroism in it’s truest form.
Thanks for your comment, John. And yes, there is that additional fact that heroic sacrifice can enable our freedoms.
And thanks too, Kim for paying me a visit. Glad you appreciate the poetic form, which was influenced by the structure of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic elegy “In Memoriam A.H.H.”. This had four line stanzas with the rhyming scheme ABBA, as does mine. The only difference is that, whilst his meter is tetrameter, mine is pentameter.