Friday, 25 January 2013

Of all other men / But five and twenty

For Frank Mayne 1955-2008, A lovely man who I didn't get to know enough.

From Halidon Hill to the far Pyrenees,
We bring kingdoms and emperors down to their knees
And all across Europe, we march, we bring fear
For God and for Harry, for loot, and for beer.

This bow may seem simple, a toy or a trifle,
But in our hands, it's as good as a rifle,
And with the right training, with years of persistence,
We're the best in the world, dealing death from a distance.

So if you're a Frenchman, a Scot, or a Breton,
Meet us in the field – one thing you can bet on:
With this sword and this buckler, this bow, and this mallet,
We'll shoot through your armour and fuck up your sallet.

Our birth may be low – no breeding have we –
But we'll still pluck the flowers of your chivalry
And strew them on fields, all bleeding and messy,
At Agincourt, Poitiers, Dupplin and Creçy.

And when there's no foreigners willing to fight,
We'll battle for York, or for Lancaster's right
And slaughter each other all day by the thousand
At Bosworth, St Albans, at Losecoat and Towton.

And centuries later, when fighting in Spain,
Be thankful that Wellington called us in vain,
'Cos we'd have made sure that old Boney was beaten
Without going near the fields of Eton.

So shove all your cannon and guns up your arse – 
Remember the battles we won in the past:
The glorious victories, stamped on the years
As the Devil's harp-music still rings in your ears.