Monday, 24 June 2013

Bannockburn

“...to doubt this truth, this awful fact, disposed
'fore God this night with head and heart exposed
to doubts and cares in woebegone array
would be to say, we have a choice this day,
(think you that's true?) I fear you'd not yet stay
and choosing lose, instead decide to stray
from path of destined fate, our purpose right,
o men of steel be true and weigh your might
against what's yours by gift and grant to hold,
defend and keep, let feudal rule be tholed,
it matters not we're here, this watershed,
where bolder now by far since Wallace led
his men; afraid? not he! (I think you know)
we are the brave, are we afeard here now?
(uncertain looks, I see) they're echoed here,
behind these eyes, my own, there lurks, not fear,
a dread perhaps? (for death think you?) this night
my friends, that altered state holds neither fright,
nor angst, a dies natalis, day of birth,
yet I retain a fearful glance (such mirth!)
it cannot be, for fear of failure looms,
it eats at me, for which my Lady swoons
lest we regret this day that's come so near,
a morn, if lose we do, when all I fear
above all else, the fact of Scotland's shame
and not for dying mind, for that, no blame,
for not aspiring high, for triumph's lack,
for stripes, the masters's game on victim's back
and murder, famine, pain all etched in gall,
in vacant eyes of villein and the thrall,
those folks for whom without we'd not survive
for whom perhaps we fight, I may surmise
(what's that my friends?) you think I rant or worse,
have lost my senses now to speak out thus?
for all ye fight for gain of land in fee,
rewarded all shall be who fights with me
and rightly so, for Norman Seigneurie,
but stop, pray think, may I suggest it be
your duty lies with you and with your tail,
for who will tend the land for whom if fail
upon this Park that stretches south to burn
with limbs agley, our blood to feed the worm,
if all that we achieve this day forsooth,
this day, this fateful day, this day of truth,
the Feast of John the Baptist, Saint of Rome,
let this be Scotland's day, let's send him home;
outnumbered by the King's men ten to one
(you hear the din, their camp's not far off, son!)
de Bohun no longer with them, headstrong lapse,
no braver, foolish knight at such synapse,
he challenged King of Scots upon the field,
yet pose yourselves this query why he failed
when mounted on a horse against my mount
and wearing helmet, steel cuirass, so stout
(ye murmur 'mongst yourselves?) I'll tell you why,
a gesture from our God, the Lord on high,
despite the sentence passed from Avignon,
declared unchurched by Clement Pope, now gone,
who has expired, while conclave ballots votes
it gives respite, a cry of hope from throats
renewed and I, that hewed Red Comyn down
forsaken I am not, by God! (ye frown?)
as yesterday upon the field I struck
and down he fell, the blow that did its work
was guided by that hand, the reaper's thief
renews our hope, restores our faith, belief
in that we're right to stand and fight, destroy,
disdain the odds that Edward's men enjoy
(and send him homeward, do you say we can?)
as well ye know, this King is scarce a man
for strife, who thinks this war's already won,
we're dealing not with father, but the son
who must avoid the shame, curtail dismay
get Stirling Castle back by deadline day,
unlike his sire, his prime ancestral light,
a man you'd underrate through oversight
or fault and peril be the consequence
of that (a fine reward ye say?) nonsense!
It's not the older Edward Rex that shines,
who led his armies north too many times,
who coaxed the fires from hell, unwelcome guest
who tore the heart from hero's beating chest,
who drove a last crusade, caused this land strife
and died campaigning, how he lived his life,
contented not with Aquitaine and Wales,
with Ireland vanquished now beyond the pale,
he sought dominion here to add to fame
as Hammer of the Scots he played a game,
direct in line from Odin, doubtless Thor,
as Normands heir, he always wanted more
and now the Hammer's son, a mallet just
who covets what he doesn't want but must,
his goal to vie, compete, with father's ire
he lacks, it's plain, the spirit of his sire
and yet beset by hazard here, one throw
is all we have, once cast, the dice will show
we trust full sure in strength, we do but seek
their doom and pray for one mistake, thou meek
and English King, esteem us false and rue
the day you challenged Scots of iron brood
(I see ye nod at that, my Good Sir James)
we fight, but not for glory's sake nor fame,
nor welfare of a nation not yet born,
the battle looms for life, for if we're shorn,
revenge endured shall cause good men to wail,
we've come too far from Methven Wood to fail,
our fate awaits, think now of honour's heights
against the wagered sums of English knights
who'll flounder ’neath the trees, a countless sum
will die upon our spears, we'll not succumb
to yoke of southern foe, we'll make him burn
his bannocks men, like Alfred whom we'd scorn,
and strive, advance, with but one hundred men
of us alive, if that's the outcome when
the day is done, declare your rights, your oath,
remember that, when next we're in Arbroath
and set your heart and strength to win the day,
await your foes that come in horse array
and ride with speed, their arms so boldly brought,
we'll wreak our mighty will, be vengeance wrought
with one accord and stubborn versus cruel,
we'll stoutly meet the first and still the fools,
the hindmost, make them tremble, have a care
to carry honour men, this day and bear
your arms with pride to gain the end I pray,
o Scotland fight with valour, not dismay,
ye might have lived in thraldom, never earned,
but freedom's not for giving up when yearned
for now's the time and now's the hour to fight,
Almighty God, we seek your guiding light.”