Monthly Archives: June 2014

On the Sustenance and Spoils of Crusading Armies

They crush the shrivelled brush, they champ and chew on that

Cud of their labours, brush, thin spindled brush, consumed

By fire and ravage, great stampede compacted it,

Ravenous, raving, raping fertile land. The arid

Arable land is plundered, mud soiled, once again.

 

And should they sit at fires and sing, “a barren mess,

For unsuspecting baron and his baroness”

Or squat down on their hams, and cram their guts, and chew

Cud of their labours once again, and say, “Amen.”

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Vincent van Gogh

There an arthritic bullet lay, was stopped,

By bone, and blood encrusted wounds unchecked.

He stumbled, staggered back, was stamm’ring, wrecked,

Lurched without want, as though by drink was hopped

 

In fields where rushes crushed beneath him, cropped

And ripe, but brown, produced a dead effect.

His room, with canvas, colours-clothed, bedecked,

From pots of inks and tinctures, stoppers popped.

 

The drunkard drained of dignity, and painted

Portent of peril, spiralled into madness

Flowering, blooming in his starry eyes.

 

Clutching colour, face and field, but tainted:

Strains of a plague, a harsh and harried sadness

Blossoming black, ingrained, and Vincent dies.

Thomas Rainsborough

That rain in all its cleanliness befell

These lands of England, glen and glade redressed

With water clear, dilutes to cordial soil

As flaked or flayed from fair, white England’s back,

Dissolute flows, ingrained, and broke to flux

As pain in strains, in creeps, as though from breath

Of breeze, its touch of kin, not brute, and light,

Lighter than blessings blow. So purity

Like lambs’ hair irritates, inflames. The rain

Washes away not that. The fallow maids,

The plough that soiled the virgin queen, and then,

The unicorn, with crooked horn, the foal

Or fool, and now, the clean rain runs, like men

At work, then scattered fast as ants, whose strength

Not feared, is deathly, men storm scatters. Rain

Down on the working train, who dig and quake

For soil. Then comes, they hope, the final rain,

Rightful, torrential, pouring on the princes,

And with new-beaten ploughshares, honest men

Crop the crop-tips, and lop them off at collar.

From high sea borne and stern long siege, fleet rises

Rainsborough, he, the English soldier true,

He, England’s swordsman lived and died and he,

The worthy martyr, slain by intrigue sly.

This English rain had washed the flesh in pain

Fresh rain had cleansed the clouded minds enmeshed

In popish wishes plain. The tyrant that

Had broke this English truce, his sceptre planted

In French and Irish, now by sword is smote.

Rainsborough, English spirit, hilt uncloaked,

Presides unseen, and foe and friend unseeing.