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A few fine words
In "honor" of the end of World War I, 11/11/1918.
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At the bottom will be a piece of flash fiction, sometimes mine, sometimes not.
The Somme at 100
On a summer day a century ago
As the lark flew overhead and
Lush grass waved in the soft breeze
The thunder of a thousand cannon
Rent the virgin air then fell silent so
Bugles could raise their strident call
Over the Top went the product
Of Eton and Oxford, those sons
Who recited Homer and Virgil,
Tennyson, and Sir Walter Scott.
Confident in their own superiority;
The inevitability of English Colonial
Rule; King, God, and Country.
While the smoke wafted over
Distant ground and curled quietly
Up, like a contented Cheshire Cat,
Spandaus and Mausers chattered to life.
Row after row of the cream of English
Society fell before the unnatural storm
Lifeless on the flattened grass.
No poet’s recitation, nor ancient’s
Wisdom could save the scions from
Cold mechanical industry’s unschooled
Killing power. No general far away
In comfortable chateaux understood
His books and learned lectures
Meant nothing in the new reality
The young school boys died and with
Them, the Empire that was England.
I shan’t forgit the night
When I dropped be’ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should ’a’ been.
I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An’ the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din.
’E lifted up my ’ead,
An’ he plugged me where I bled,
An’ ’e guv me ’arf-a-pint o’ water green.
It was crawlin’ and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I’ve drunk,
I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
It was 'Din! Din! Din!
‘’Ere’s a beggar with a bullet through ’is spleen;
‘’E's chawin’ up the ground,
‘An’ ’e’s kickin’ all around:
‘For Gawd’s sake git the water, Gunga Din!’
’E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.
’E put me safe inside,
An’ just before ’e died,
'I ’ope you liked your drink,’ sez Gunga Din.
So I’ll meet ’im later on
At the place where ’e is gone--
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen.
’E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!
Age comes to us all, she said, in a voice barely above the sound of the dry leaves cast about by the fall winds. With it, the burden and joy of memory. Both increase, she said, with the increase in years, direct proportion, as the mathematician would say. Bask in the joy and use well the burden, for when the years stop, so will they both.
Unpublished, by Greg Schroeder