Poor Bloody Infantry
There’s a crack and a crash
And curses and a frantic rush
“Get down! Get DOWN!!”
And the dust blows again and the sun
Is dulled by another flaring flash
And they look for where the shot came from –
We know where it went
And that it will take the one who saw it last
to a small Wiltshire town
and the watchers who mourn someone else’s son.
But then, in muddy French fields
They walked, ordered not to run,
(to this day, who knows why?)
Through the drifting gas
Into a storm against the uncut wire
And two million were killed
So many that in the serious cold
Bodies were piled to fortify the trench
A notice hung on a frozen leg.
Further back still in time
They faced the Scottish rain
Shivering with the cold steel waiting to be told
What next to do and felled by the cannon,
facing the mercenaries and their own kin,
enfiladed in their charge
And pursued to the scaffold or,
If lucky to the stinking ships and
A death in life.
What’s it all for?
It happened that’s all
Would the world have changed
had it all gone the opposite way?
Would we have had peace
Would the other victors have been more awful
Would the Scots have ruled better than the English
The Krauts better than the Poms
Would fewer die of cholera or the plague
Would the sun have gone round the earth?
And when the dust is laid,
and the wailing prayers loud again
will the streets be full of ragged men
and the women still in thrall
and the graves still speak of nothing
but the PBI, who always fall?