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Date: 11/04/18

"A State Of War..."

Lazarus Long - the sententious old goat in some of Robert A. Heinlein's more tedious novels, who now appears to be a sort of missing link between Ayn Rand and Rand Paul - stated that:

"A poet who reads his work in public may have other nasty habits"

In a moment, I will avoid committing the same offence by the simple expedient of getting you to read it instead. But first, some background:

I had written a fair bit of poetry - or, to avoid giving myself airs, I should better describe it as 'verse' - from the age of fifteen to the age of twenty-one. I stopped at that point simply because it just wouldn't come anymore.

A State Of War was originally written in January 1983 as a belated reaction to all the Malvinas bollocks of the year before, the complicity of the supposedly 'free' and 'independent' media with the propaganda barrage and the effect of it all on real people. I made a small number of amendments some eight years later and a few more tweaks today, but what follows is more or less as it came to me at that time.

I make no claims for it being art, or even 'poetry' [definition needed], but at a time when we are being suckered into open conflict with another convenient Official Enemy, and when 'the most deadly biological weapon' turns out (thankfully) to be more than somewhat survivable; where said weapon was deployed - seemingly in quick succession if not simultaneously - on a car door handle, in the same car's ventilation system and on the victims' front doorknob (which explains why a completely unprotected Plod was standing right in front of it for days - there are, after all, degrees of expendability); where the source of the attack is deemed to be that nasty, beastly Hitler-On-The-Moskva despite no evidence being brought to that effect; and where the media, neither for the first nor - alas - the last time, are not merely following but actively promoting such false narratives (and see this clip for what happens when the State Broadcaster inadvertently gives air time to someone who knows what he's talking about); then this verse may once again have become sadly relevant.


Week One: A War Has Been Arranged...

"Here is the news...
As from ten o'clock, our time, today,
(Or so our valiant, noble leaders say),
A state of war exists between our nations,
And soldiers are already at their stations.
Our leaders say that they are quite unable
To reach a lasting peace around the table.
All able men, eighteen to thirty-five
Will be called up to fight, and give their lives
For our great land..."
"What's that nasty noise, Mummy?"
"Don't worry, darling, just a little warning
That we will all be safe this rainy morning
If we go to that shelter over there,
While horrid bombs are falling everywhere."
"Mummy, why is Daddy dressed in brown?"
"Hush, my child! Don't fret or fear or frown.
Daddy has to go away to fight
To keep our towns and cities safe at night.
And when he goes away, don't cry, just smile,
Because we will not see him for a while."
"Hurray! It's war! Let's splash it on our pages!
Reporting war means we get higher wages.
We can all afford to smirk and smile;
It'll keep our circulation up a little while
As we extol our Nation and its joys,
And be "The Paper That Supports Our Boys!"
And we'll make sure the public never sees
Our gallant men commit atrocities.
We'll all remember what our owner said,
And play bingo with the numbers of their dead!

Week Two: The Front Line

"As we sit in holes dug in the ground
And shells and bullets hurtle all around,
And wait until a rifle's noisy breath
Delivers us into the hands of Death,
We will show no mercy, boys, nor fear,
As God is with us and our victory near.
Although we do not have a happy lot,
Those who run away will all be shot.
We'll kill them all, and then we'll all give thanks
To God, for finding traitors in our ranks.
And we don't care if we all have to die
To keep our glorious banner flying high.
It's time for us to move ahead now, men -
Let's go, let's "up and at 'em" once again."

Week Three: The Home Front

"Our correspondent in the field
Maintains Our Boys will never yield.
And though they battle day and night,
And each hour brings a brand-new fight,
The casualties are very light.
By now, six hundred men are lost
Which, our leaders say, is no great cost.
From their bunker in the city
Our leaders say that it's a pity.
But the families of the dead
Have their sympathy instead."
"Come on now Mrs. Carter, push!
Don't fret or cry or scream, shush, shush!
Here's the baby's head, look! Here it comes!
Soon you'll be the proudest of the mums!
Here it is! Oh, isn't it a joy?
My dear, you have a lovely baby boy!"

Week Four: The Letter

"Dear Mrs. Carter,
It is our duty, sad to tell,
That your young husband bravely fell
In defence of our front line,
When he trod upon a mine..."

Week Five: The Lull

"It's quiet now, the men have all stood down,
The Observation Post has been closed down.
We're waiting for the order from on high
To tell us what to do, and when to die.
If they come and tell us it's all over,
And march us all the way back home to Dover,
God rest all those who fell, comrades departed,
And their wives and children back home, broken-hearted.
Their gallant men, their sons, died on this spot.
They fought and gave their lives; for whom? For what?"

A Moment To Remember

"Here they lie, our gallant men
In this, their final resting place.
They have not three score years and ten
To live in dignity or grace.
They rest here, taken in their prime
By the spirit of their time.
Let us recall our brave young men,
And hope War never calls again."

Week Six: Peace Breaks Out

"Here is the news...
As from ten o'clock, our time, today,
(Or so our valiant, noble leaders say),
A state of peace exists between our nations,
And soldiers are withdrawing from their stations.
Our leaders say that they will now be able
To reach a lasting peace around the table.
All serving men, eighteen to thirty-five,
(At least, all those who managed to survive),
Will be home soon..."
"What's that funny noise, Mummy?"
"It's just to tell you, little one,
That you can play now in the sun."
"Mummy, where's our house gone?"
"Hush, my child! Don't fret or frown.
Some horrid bombs have knocked it down."
"When is Daddy coming home?"
"Hush, my child! Don't try to be so clever.
Your Daddy's never coming back; not ever."

(© Nigel Stapley 1983, 1991, 2018)