The Major

(for Arthur Rowley Heyland*)

There is no glory in death.
This is no feature film.
Dying is death … is dying
in muddied boots and pain.

Where is the justice then,
to help us reckon with those
who would put out the light
that always shines bright.

It is here …

And the years shall not dim
a vision of him in gold and red,
on the battlefields of Europe,
the pride of the Fighting Fortieth,
the honour of his men,
the depth of his loyalty,
the colour of his blood …
unswerving from the truth,
the kind of truth revealed
in poverty and poetry … and death,
whose messenger, a musket ball,
cut short his breath, but not his words;
words that give meaning to his life:

On the night before the battle,
a letter to his wife still wets the eyes
and we shed tears two hundred years on.

Brightest of all, his words set fair
to illuminate his love and care

for ‘my Mary’ and ‘my children’,
whose future changed forever, when

the bugler’s victory fanfare blew,
and tyranny met its Waterloo.

© 2015 John Anstie

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*At the time of his death, Major Heyland was Commander of the 40th Regiment of Foot at The Battle of Waterloo, on the 18th June 1815. The author is the Major’s GGG Grandson.

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About PoetJanstie

As a young man, John was fit and sporting. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines as Gordonstoun, giving shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. This fitness was enhanced by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, by selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family and pursuing a career, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a blogger and poet. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a forty-five year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three singing groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices; a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club) and a mixed barbershop quartet, Needle & Fred. He is also a would be (once upon a time) photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is autobiographical and very often pins his colours to the mast. In 2013, he completed an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of nine poets, who met on Twitter. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle.
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3 Responses to The Major

  1. Jamie Dedes says:

    A wonderful homage. Discussions of war are so difficult, but it does seem to me that there was a time when people know what they were fighting for. I think that may have passed and – at any rate – the world has grown too small and the weapons of war too powerful for us to continue to be a warlike race of humans.

    Well done, John.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great verse!

    What jumped at me were your closing lines:

    “…the bugler’s victory fanfare blew,
    and tyranny met its Waterloo.”

    The very aspect of a victory proclamation does point to tyranny, does it not? For war, in whatever shape or justification it may appear, is at its heart tyrannical.

    Shakti

    Liked by 1 person

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thank you Shakti. Yes you have a good point. Above all this poem was about an individual story as well, of a man who happens to be my great great great grandfather! War is not romantic, be it the result of the aggressive actions of an individual tyrant or a disputed boarder conflict … it’s just very bloody, but only for those who don’t wage the war in the first place!

      Liked by 1 person

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