The historian Norman Davies noted in the introduction to his The Isles A History that "Everyone has heard those stories about supermarket attendants who see a total of £10.66 on their check-out screen and who remark "There we go - The Battle of Waterloo.' " Fortunately, none of them entered our June competition.
Stormed at by shot and shell . . . Er, wrong war. In Competition 30 you were asked for a verse contribution marking the bi-centenary of Waterloo. The assignment stimulated a variety of approaches to the battle and its aftermath. It involved personages as diverse as Frank Sinatra and Alfred Lord Tennyson, in addition to the usual historical suspects, and the eponymous station played a greater or lesser role in three of the successful entries.
Commiserations to Geoff Lander (‘for six years upon St Helena/he sharpened his hatred of mud.’) and Mick Thomas, and congratulations to the victors of the anniversary engagement drawn up for review below in no particular order, as well as thanks for Thomas Hood 's decorations.
Oh, how I love to hear the tale
About the English battling
With Bonaparte at Waterloo
His pride and soldiers rattling
And how they saw the scoundrel off
And saved the world forever
From the French with all their horrid ways,
Oh, we were really clever.
Of course the Dutch were there as well,
And some Belgians may have fought there
And the Germans may have played a part,
With troops of every sort there.
But the English were the ones in charge,
And thus as leading nation
It’s only right the French should bear
Us glorying in our station.
The Battle of Waterloo
(AfterThe Shooting of Dan McGrew by Robert W. Service )
A proud be-frogged army was whooping it up on the waterlogged Waterloo plain;
They were proud of their might and were rarin' to fight, and cause all their enemies pain.
In command of them all, the great and the small, was Napoleon Bonaparte;
A Corsican squirt whose haemorrhoids hurt every time he emitted a fart.
A commander of course, should straddle his horse, the better the battle to view;
But a flare-up of piles adds to tactical trials an ordeal endured in the loo
And when he dismounted, Napoleon counted far fewer of Wellington's men
Than the Duke had amassed; and frankly outclassed what the Frenchman had under his ken.
Nor could he direct, with this anal defect, the movements of thousands of troops;
Since how could his mind ignore pressure behind in the part of his body which poops?
Soon Napoleon found that he sacrificed ground to Wellington's grapeshot and balls;
When the fighting was done, the Allies had won one of history's bloodiest brawls.
By this tragic mischance was the status of France degraded in 1815
Though she's waxed and she's waned, she's mostly remained runner-up on the great global scene.
Here, two centuries since, no words shall I mince as I prattle this hoary old tale;
And repeat it’s no fiction that Boney’s affliction left his plans almost certain to fail.
Douglas G. Brown
The Duke of Wellington Reminisces
So there I was, awaiting news of Blücher,
Supposed to join the field at Waterloo.
Got lost again, no doubt, the stupid fücher,
Or had a bad attack of Prussian blue.
The French were getting cocky all around us;
Napoleon began to sneer and scoff.
But then at last, the tardy Blücher found us,
And helped me see the garlic-eaters off.
With brilliantly-directed troops attacking
On every side, they ran away in fright.
Napoleon? The fellow was sent packing
To some benighted island – serves him right!
I’m told they’ve built a splendid railway station
Called 'Waterloo'. The idea is sublime,
My tribute from an ever-grateful nation −
Though trains, like Blücher, rarely come on time.
Francis Albert Sinatra at Waterloo
(An anniversary poem)
There ain’t no-one in the field
Except him and me.
So set ’em up, Joe* –
I’ve got a little army that’s ready to go.
I’ll have it stand in line
Until he thinks to give a sign;
We’ll be making war before the day is through.
1815. It is a very good year.
And although this is a gun thing,
It is the nearest run thing,
While weather-wise, it’s such a filthy day. Doobie
Doobie Doo. Don’t you know,
Little fool, you never can win –
Brevets, there’ll be a few. Make it
One for my Boney.
*Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Muter, 6th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Dragoons
The Waterloo Dance
Come, let us reprise the old Waterloo dance.
Bow to your foe as was custom in France.
Advance and retreat, then regroup and advance,
along to the tune of the Waterloo dance.
Astride Copenhagen, the Duke takes a chance
and is nearly brought down by the seat of his pants.
Josephine wails at the lack of romance
but Boney is hooked on the Waterloo dance.
The cavalry looks at the bedlam askance
as the British square baffles the sabre and lance.
Bodies lie broken like thousands of ants
all crushed in the rush for the Waterloo dance.
The ten thousand Prussians as if in a trance
invade the huge dance-floor with no sideways glance.
Boney’s lamenting the sad circumstance
but turns tail and flees from the Waterloo dance.
I slipped inside the world-renowned auberge.
Disguised with beard and hat, and glasses too.
(Don’t let your real identity emerge
When writing for The Gastronome’s Review !)
Assisted by a swig of wine, house red,
I quenched desire for meat of the same hue
By ordering le plat vedette outspread
Upon their ‘Battle -18th June’ menu.
Entrée, I chose rare Wellington of beef,
Then with a puffed Napoleon, adieu.
Which dish had won? The conflict caused me grief.
Good Lord! I think I’ve met my Waterloo!
Great Duke, commander in the fray
Which caused Napoleon’s complete deflation,
The downfall of the man in grey
Igniting hectic scenes of celebration
But with a heavy price to pay
In loss of life, and wounds, and amputation,
What is your legacy today
Two hundred years from Bonaparte’s frustration?
One NZ city, far away,
The boots, now rubber, worn by half the nation,
Statues, a fountain in Bombay,
A college’s memorial foundation,
And Apsley House and Stratfield Saye,
A bridge, a title, streets, a railway station,
Pub names, a Goya on display,
That ode (so long!) of Tennyson’s creation.
* indicates required
Brian Bilston is a poet who knows it. He writes about the human condition, relationships, and buses; with the emphasis being predominantly on buses. Brian runs a specialist Poetry Laboratory at brianbilston.com where he takes verse from the ideation stage right through to final poemification. In his spare time, he enjoys pipe-smoking, pipe-playing and pipe-fitting. He is mostly made up