OF HALDEN, II
in which the author confesses his limitations
author who would boldly go
where none have gone before,
and sun himself in Phoebus' glow,
and think he knows the score,
knows how to mount Parnassian heights
and Pegasus to bridle,
may find his genius is slight
and all his hopes are idle.
Alas, the bourgeois poet meets
the scorn of artists true.
He may have talent for quite sweet
verse, but it won't do.
A poet must be born, they say,
receive grace from the gods -
and those, who, after work all day,
compose, are odds and sods
who lack enthusiasm's breath,
consign their lines to certain death,
and waste their lives in futile strife.
Their verses never can have life.
The artist knows there's nothing worse
than bourgeois people writing verse.
We read the views of many masters
who all condemn as poetasters
those who try to write in verse
without the blessing - or the curse -
of heavenly inspiration which
alone can save us all from kitsch.
At least, say Boileau and Racine,
an author really mustn't preen
himself on genius he lacks,
but choose with care among the tracks
that lead to Mount Parnassus' peak:
in other words, that he must seek
a subject fitting to his skill,
and, if he be but run- o'-t'-mill,
he shouldn’t try his hand at tragic
history, for, lacking magic,
his verse will slump along the ground
instead of soaring. No profound
sentiments expect from me,
for I shall stick, as you will see,
to my last, like any cobbler -
my Pegasus is quite a hobbler -
and tell in my familiar manner
the further happenings round the Banner.
The story so far, you’ll recall,
was that Nails Palmer chanced to fall
as prisoner to the Swarrell gang,
who grabbed him quickly and all sang
the praises of Sid Thatcher, who,
it seemed, had captured him – not true
for accidents had brought him down.
They sent poor Nails back through the town,
as climax to their little game,
trouserless, to his great shame.
Not often can a gang debag
their rivals’ leader, so as flag
they kept his trousers and proclaimed
that Halden’s honour had been maimed.
Then Nails, instead of venting rage
in battle, quietly left the stage
and skulked in shameful and discreet
hiding, till he chanced to meet
a Christian girl, who saw her chance
to make him join her Saviour’s dance
and meekly turn the other cheek.
His gang just thought that he’s turned weak.
in which Nails professes his faith
Halden’s streets comes Nails,
Tommo never fails
catch the breeze,
to his ears it whispers, “Nails is done.
Swarrell lads have had their mocking fun
him. He is disgraced,
should have turned and faced
hiding has besmirched the Halden gang,
cowardice become a poisoned fang
numbs his Halden chums,
Swarrell jeers and hums
song that tells so mockingly the manner
trousers had become the Swarrell banner.
Tommo is a cautious sort of lad
never risk his life upon a single
of the dice, and so he lets commingle
his words to Nails more than a tad
loyalty, encouragement, support,
if not quite believing that report.
can’t be true, his manner seems to say,
Nails, the greatest leader Halden knew,
stripped by Swarrell, let them get away
it, and, like a coward will eschew
just revenge, all for religion’s sake.
plot to lull them, then he’ll vengeance take!
Nails replies with Bible quotes and verses,
says he should be grateful to the boys
stripped his pride. What others count a curse is
him the road to all-consuming joys:
hour’s humiliation led to love
Janice, and, through her, to Heaven above.
Scouse, best friend of Tommo, has his say.
grasping yet his leader’s stratagem,
urges Nails to act and seize the day,
the Swarrell lads and batter them,
back the trophy that had marked his shame,
make the Swarrell leaders’ trousers now fair game.
Roman times it was a dreadful blow
deeply felt if standards should be lost.
legion’s pride would thereby be brought low.
men would strive and never count the cost
their noble eagle they had won
nor pause till it was done.
Crassus fell on Parthia’s distant hills
lost his eagle standard in the strife,
Roman Senate thought, of all the ills,
standard’s loss the worst, far worse than life
many men. It meant humiliation,
slur, a blot, dishonour to the nation.
Halden is dishonoured by the loss
Nails’s trousers. He who was their boss,
leader and their general in strife,
would far rather see bereft of life,
honoured martyr for the Halden side,
stripped of honour. Better far he’d died.
seething hot in Scouse’s breast there raged
feelings of dishonour and of shame,
inexpressible, they stayed, all caged
him, for no silver-tonguéd fame
his, no muse had opened up his heart
teach him any great rhetoric art.
as for Nails, he will not deign to hear,
he’s convinced himself that it’s not fear
ridicule that holds him back from war
love, that’s won his heart as ne’er before:
love of Janice, then his love for Christ,
which above all honour he has priced.
spake to them their former leader Nails:
left the things of earth behind.
all corrupt, and even honour fails.
see where once I was but blind.
speak of shame?
just a game.
name’s now entered on the heavenly roll.
better lose my pants than lose my soul!”
laugh at us forever.”
higher than a house
favour his endeavour.
the cowardice he’s shown
Nails be overthrown.
Tommo can foresee,
full of glee
says to Scouse that Nails is finished.
can’t be leader when he’s so diminished.
Tommo sees his chance
win himself the throne.
feels that Fortune’s glance
made of him her own
must be done
clear Nails from the scene?
him to Marlene,
reigning leader’s moll,
win both crown and doll.
in which Nails’s faith is put to the test
now must turn to thoughts of love,
Nails,our hero’s on his way to meet
See, he lurks around to greet
when she leaves the library. His dove
when she sees her faithful escort there,
when he tries to kiss her she adjusts her hair
skilfully obstructs his longing lips
tresses, comb or clips.
honeyed smiles she binds him to her fast,
him to a dance that very night
meet her friends, the Fellowship, at last,
put his life upon the road to right.
Hotrod passes, whistling John
Nails. Forgetting God he
round to attack, remembers then
and controls himself again.
puzzled, but he can’t tell her his shame.
invite he accepts. His hopes are high.
pats her hair, continuing her game.
curious, but still he won’t say why
tune should anger him. He vows he will
his passion, and, for good or ill,
join the Fellowship. To win a bride
leader of the gang forgets his pride.
the YPF there’s dancing,
boys and girls together prancing,
doubtless also some romancing
as they move around the floor.
and Janice enter gladly,
look around at all the madly
dancing couples and those sadly
partnerless, none to adore.
in doubt, is hesitating
like a bather on the shore,
vacillating at the door.
takes him by the hand,
pulls him in among the band,
dancing all to music canned,
he stumbles like a Dumbledore.
he hears the whispers rising,
for they all find it surprising,
and at once fall to surmising
why it is he’s come, what for.
embarrassed, blushes hotly,
feeling bashful to the core,
and tries to edge towards the door.
heads towards the Curate.
Nails, unwilling, must endure it.
Janice grips him to ensure it,
drags him forward evermore.
gives him a friendly greeting,
pleased that once again he’s meeting
another soul who in this fleeting
life has found the narrow door,
only door that leads to Heaven,
that so many souls ignore.
But Nails is feeling pretty sore.
has heard across the room,
like portents of impending doom,
their tongues, like shuttles on a loom,
wagging as they spit their store
gossip, tittle-tattle, tales,
two girls who weigh in judgement’s scales
Janice, how she captures males
with cunning wiles to bring some more
to church, not out of love
for them but just as presents for
the Curate, Mouse, she did adore.
Victor Mouse calls others to
converse with Nails, the stranger who
is in their midst and looking blue;
but conversation proves a chore,
Mouse suggests it would be good
that Janice to the dance floor should
lead Nails, but she does what she would,
drags Mouse onto the dancing floor.
is left alone, bereft.
He tries this insult to ignore,
though sweating now from every pore.
dancers once again are whirling
to a sound like bagpipes skirling,
and Nails within himself is curling,
worse than ever heretofore.
now come to his ears,
confirming all his darkest fears,
and almost he’s reduced to tears
alone upon that hateful floor.
them whisper words like trousers,
describing how his captors tore
from his limbs the jeans he wore.
there comes to him one Julie,
slipping snakelike through th’ unruly
throng, and she surveys him coolly
as though he were an alien spore.
you’re the trophy Janice brought,
the little gift with which she’s bought
Victor’s favour. Bet she thought
she’d really make a score!”
now stands Nails Palmer,
alone upon that hostile floor,
with insults that he can’t ignore.
and Janice disappear
into the office. Nails’s fear,
increased by what he’s forced to hear,
propels him to the door.
you cannot be leaving?”
Julie calls, quite falsely grieving.
she think she is deceiving?
“Come dance upon the floor!
promise me you will come back,
for ever open is our door!”
Quoth Nails Palmer: “Nevermore!”
which we learn of Marlene’s sorrow and Tommo’s joy
once again I call on you
lend your inspiration to my pen,
now we turn to womanhood again,
cheeks are mantled with a saddened hue.
far from where the lofty spire of Sweyne’s
juts up towards the lowering skies,
if its top would pierce the clouds, bring rains
like tears from Heaven’s eyes,
walked two maidens. deep in conversation,
one spoke of her boyfriend’s curly hair.
other mutely stood in desolation
if weighed down by some oppressive care.
haven’t heard a word I’ve said, Marlene.
take no interest in my boyfriend, Keith,”
Claire, but Marlene ground her pearly teeth
silence, wondering where Nails had been.
bet,” said Claire, “you’re mooning over
him! He’s a goner, just a nowt!”
not!” said Marlene. “I have thrown him
better things to do than sigh for males.”
Tommo comes upon this fateful scene,
he brings news that Nails has found a new
and he sticks to her like glue.
that to do with me?” blurts out Marlene.
thought you’d like to know how things now stand,”
Tommo, “cos you know he lost his kecks
Swarrell when we had the battle, and
lost his head now for the fairer sex.
Janice Greenwood from the church he loves.
honour and his pants to him mean nowt.
like a pair of spooning turtle doves.
look at them together. There’s no doubt.”
thanks for telling me,” said Marlene coldly.
got no further interest in that lad.
he’d invaded Swarrell and had boldly
his trousers back, and if he had
other trophies too, and been a hero,
might have thought that he still had some charms.
me his value’s something less than zero.
not be held by any other arms
those of him who leads the Halden gang.
even you I would prefer to Nails
you can lead. I’d come without a pang.
nothing in my heart for one who fails!”
Marlene flounced away,
Tommo’d won the day,
so he turned to Scouse.
that’s the way to douse
flames of love,” he said.
is as good as dead.
victories are mine,
along the line.
leader I shall be,
Marlene will kiss me,
do for me the things
queens all do for kings.
stay with her all night –
pants are getting tight
at the very thought!”
Scouse said that they ought
take a saner view,
others would try too
win the leader’s throne
Tommo thought his own.
Tommo, “I don’t care!
none of ‘em will dare
do what we will do –
few, we happy few –
in the gobbin’ bag.
made off with the swag.
see, I’ve got a plan,
I will be the man!”
which Tommo suffers a reverse and devises a plan
set for Tommo’s triumph now?
think so? Let us see.
must remember that I told you how,
the end come many great reverses,
songs of praise give way to desperate curses,
so it is in these poor humble verses.
Nails now rushes up. He’s in a rage,
“Where’s the gang?” he cries.
that to you?” sneers Tommo, who can’t cage
ambition in his eyes
in his voice and manner. Then he quails.
sight of Nail’s fury his
anyone is leader it is Nails.
me like that, by Hell they won’t!”
think that I just take it. Well I don’t!
give her such a clout!
use me as a trophy? Well, they’ll find,
we invade the YPF, I’ll grind
all to bloody bits. I hate that kind!
posture and they primp, look down on me!
kill the gobbin’ lot!
after that I’ll lead the gang – you’ll
into Swarrell, where we’ll fight a war,
trample all the Swarrell lads in gore,
win a victory like ne’er before!
blood is up! I’ll never let them rest!
have the gobbin’ pants
every Swarrell lad, cos I’m the best;
at all gets in my way:
YPF, the Swarrell lads. Today
find I’m back as leader – and I’ll
and ashes, dust and ashes!
glory downward crashes.
his hopes are sadly shaken,
once more the crown has taken.
wormwood, bitter gall!
soaring hopes all fall.
woe was felt so keen:
the crown, and lost Marlene.
cast out from his dreaming,
brain now turns to scheming.
he knows just what his plan is:
he’ll trick by using Janice.
says, “What we must do
quickly warn the Christian lot,
them Nails is someone who
his vengeance like a shot,
them Nails was dead offended
the way they treated him.
his feelings can’t be mended
attack with might and vim.
them that the gang are coming
attack them in their hall,
when we have set them humming,
the time when we will call
Janice Greenwood, and we’ll say
she alone can change his mind.
tell them that’s the only way.
d’you bet? I think you’ll find
brave the gang and risk her neck –
something Christian people do –
that’s the way that we will wreck
gang’s attack – Nails Palmer too!
slobber on him, kiss his cheek,
stroke his hair and call him sweet.
you know it he’ll turn meek,
all the gang will lose their treat.
YPF he won’t attack.
Swarrell? What a thought!
follow her. She’ll lead him back.
have him tamed. She’ll have him caught.
gang will need a leader then.
won’t be much dispute or quarrel.
and his merry men
lead th’invaders into Swarrell.
which Tommo makes new friends
Nails prepares his revenge
off as Tommo said.
YPF was filled with dread
they saw the lads appear,
the reason for their fear
that they knew that their behaviour
far short of what the Saviour
expect. It would have earned
rebuke, for they had spurned
eager soul and had subjected
to scorn, so they expected
be punished for their action,
Nails would want some satisfaction.
no, their expectation’s overturned.
visitors have come with friendly smiles.
claim in conversation they have learned
YPF’s the place for juveniles
want to pass their time in innocent
with good friends. It’s time well spent,
so they’ve come to try out what they’ve heard
much about. That’s what they both averred.
was to Mouse they said all this, and he
in what they said and was quite free
easy. He bade welcome to them both
if their statements had been made on oath.
boys, however, were much more suspicious,
to Tommo some malicious
Was it vengeance that he sought?
curate should be warned was what they thought.
as for Julie, well it made her sick
think that Janice, by her little trick
bringing Nails to Christ with sexy smiles,
brought in converts by her wiles.
meanwhile, thinks it’s time to go.
Claggy, Wank and ‘Utch could slow
Palmer’s gang a bit but not all night,
he addresses Mouse in tones polite:
had a great time here, and we’ll return
week, for that you need have no concern.
bring our friends as well, but just at present,
got to go. Goodbye. It has
sing of female ecstasy. Marlene
joyful visage come upon the scene,
rushing up to Nails, asks if it’s true
she has heard that he’s about to do.
tells her that he’s going to attack
YPF, then get his trousers back
Swarrell and retrieve his honour,
as for Janice, well, he’d spit upon her.
nothing now to him, less than the muck
his shoes. He doesn’t give a fuck
her. Now that’s what Marlene wants to hear.
throws her arms around her darling dear.
Tommo, seeing this, is quite put out,
interrupts them with an angry shout,
swiftly turns it to a question bland
Nails will wait while he collects his band.
then!” cries Nails, who’s altogether
to be gone and slip the tether
held him back from vengeance for so long.
iron’s hot. He’ll strike now while
which Tommo carries out his plan
Janice agrees to become a heroine
hall the music’s playing,
dancing, gently swaying
the rhythm of the record.
not simple, always chequered.
the door now Tommo comes.
cheerfulness he swiftly numbs.
is coming to attack!
gang have somehow won him back.
called him coward, yellow, chicken,
that you lot made him sicken,
him turn the other cheek,
the honour he should seek.
goaded him and made him turn
to violence and burn
lead them furiously to war
fierce as a tyrannosaur.”
what has this to do with us?”
Mouse, bewildered by the fuss.
go right past us into Swarrell,
we’ve no part in any quarrel.”
cried Tommo, loud and clear.
think that you have nowt to fear,
lads blame you for Nails’s failing.
say that Christians set him ailing.
say that you
made him forget,
turn from violence and fret,
of fighting to retrieve
honour. That’s what they believe.
why they’re going to beat you up.”
God,” prayed Mouse, “please take this cup
from us, as just reward
those who trust in Christ the Lord.”
cricket bats and other gear,”
Tony. “We could meet them here,
many a skull we’ll bravely crack
driving those invaders back.”
boys rushed forward all to get
Mouse cried, “I can’t let
fight, for violence is wrong.
I fear the gang’s too strong.”
right,” said Tommo. “They will slay
if you fight. There’s just one way --
chance that you may think’s quite slim –
got to send his girl to him!
Janice goes and seeks out Nails
bring him back. He never fails
listen to his loved one’s voice.
think that that’s
your only choice.”
Janice pales and hides her face,
Mouse sees here the work of grace,
love can bring the sinner back
guide him to the narrow track
leads us up to Heaven’s gate;
Janice would avoid her fate,
weeps, and begs for mercy here,
Julie cruelly mocks her fear.
torn twixt fear and warm desire
Victor should at last admire
Janice, hold her in his heart,
she’d designed with female art.
go,” she cries, “if Julie comes,”
she has quickly done her sums
reckoned that this way she’ll throw
blame on Julie, who’ll say “No”.
Julie won’t be bested by
rival. She would rather die.
course I’ll come with you,” she shouts.
could you ever have had doubts?”
YPF all hail this dawning
hope, but Tommo gives a warning:
try to leave till we get back
you may trigger swift attack.
now you need to take good care
don’t find out that you’re aware
they’ll come down upon your head
make you wish that you were dead.
music. Do not lock the door.
normal, do not change before
all come back and bring good news,
its battle that you choose.”
Janice meets Marlene
them to the corner
the street where Nails’s gang,
like the wildest fauna,
mocked and jeered and sang.
can’t face them,” Janice wailed.
if you don’t, our mission’s failed,”
Julie, with determined air.
promised Victor. Would you dare
him, flee the scene?
a moment, there’s Marlene!”
who,” said Janice, “might she be,
what has she to do with me,
I with her? She looks a tart.”
Julie said, “If Nails’s heart
to anyone, it’s her.
you see? She’ll be the spur
we can use to change his mind,
men defer to womankind.
think that it’s quite likely she
grant to him the favours he
and let him worship Venus
offerings made by his penis.”
Julie, don’t be dirty!” cried
who felt cold inside.
talk to her, as you suggest.
it’s really for the best
I resign to her my Nails
vicious plan derails!”
the café Claire and Marlene smoke,
Marlene talks about her bloke.
time she knows that Nails will never leave her,
part from her or grieve her.
by the pricking of her dainty thumbs,
feels that something wicked comes,
looking up, to her dismay she sees
Greenwood buying teas.
and her friend now walk across the floor.
prepares for war.
bristling to the core.
Janice tries to smile,
all the while
thinks Marlene’s a whore.
we sit here?” asks Janice, so politely.
country, innit?” answers Marlene brightly.
wonder if you know just who I am,”
Janice. Marlene says, “Don’t give a
Janice Greenwood,” Janice then continues,
up the blood and stiff’ning sinews.
the girl that Michael Palmer loves,
fact we two are close as hands and gloves.”
yeah,” says Marlene, “well I never knew
you posh girls would let the fellows do
they want to make them with you linger.
he put in your glove was not his finger!”
flushed, and Marlene blew some smoke
her face, and made her cough and choke.
Janice once again tried to appeal
Marlene’s better nature and conceal
fact that she detested and despised her
couldn’t see why Nails had idolised her.
hark to me,” she said,
hung her pretty head.
girls must stick together,
rivals for a man.
got to stop the boys!”
really thought her poise
such a situation
rival I am not.
I’m the one that got
prize, I will release
man to you and cease
love him right away
all I ask of you
cause him to eschew
give us a reprieve.
Marlene, what d’you say?”
look at that!
Marlene with a sneer.
give him up
like a pup
you don’t want. Well here
where you learn
you don’t spurn
Palmer, cos he’s mine.
won him back,
I say – don’t you whine.
think you’re great,
so you prate
preach at girls like me,
I have won,
you’ll be done
just you see.
all your fault
enemies and gain
courage and the brain
fight the war,
I have made him see
might is right
he must fight
win a girl like me!”
as she spoke,
Janice, made her splutter,
off she strode
to the road.
what did Janice mutter?
sit there dumb!
looking for Nails Palmer.
think she’ll find I’ll change his mind,
I can be a charmer.”
nerve had failed.
sat there turned to stone.
just go on alone!”
which Janice confronts Nails
faces all around her,
breath and jeering hound her,
she bravely pushes through,
what she has to do.
a pace, half a pace, half a pace onward,
volleys of bad breath strode Janice Greenwood.
lads are pawing at her.
tries to think it doesn’t matter,
through the crowds to Palmer.
he won’t let them harm her.
a yard, half a yard, half a yard onward,
the alley forced her path and pushed Janice Greenwood.
cries, “Come on! Let’s rape her!
her knickers! What a caper!”
thus, the lads grow bolder.
grabs her by the shoulder.
grabs her round the hips
plants a kiss upon her lips.
cheer goes up, and all the rest
groping at her waist and breast.
can she do? Her dearest treasure
be defiled to give them pleasure.
she screams and wails,
Tommo cries, “Bring her to Nails!”
says, “This girl was Nails’s tart.
she gets raped, he’s got to start.
come on lads, let’s drag her to
so he can tame the shrew!”
Hotrod’s gang don’t want to lose
prize they’ve won, so jeers and boos
launched at Tommo’s luckless head:
to stop us and you’re dead!”
Nails has heard the wild commotion,
like a liner through the ocean,
ploughs his way to where they stand,
Janice grabs him by the hand.
Nails arrives, the lads retreat.
left with Janice – bittersweet:
once he loved her to distraction,
now he is a man of action.
cast her off. He won’t be fooled.
ardour’s definitely cooled,
though she wheedles, pleads and sighs,
her he loudly cries:
treat me like some sort of child again.
bothered and bewildered
cling to me,
sing to me.
caresses don’t mean a thing to me.
bothered and bewildered
lead her down the aisle.
bothered and bewildered
wants you for His child again.
bothered and bewildered
wing to Him,
cling to Him,
soul you must faithfully bring to Him.
bothered and bewildered
that Nails will change his mind?
bothered and bewildered
yearn for her,
burn for her,
Christianity return for her.
bothered and bewildered
which Nails is bewitched, bothered and bewildered
stroked his hair, she stroked his lips and cheeks,
all the while she softly, sweetly speaks
of love, then gently paws his chest,
makes him feel that he’s the very best
men for her, then slyly strokes his leg,
even touches … what? … some sort of peg
were better that we shouldn’t even mention.
it was, it sprang up to attention,
Janice let her fingers linger longer,
his desire for her grew ever stronger,
when he tried to throw his arms around her
press her to him, suddenly he found her
From out his grasping hands she’d slipped away.
time for love and sex was not that day.
now,” said she.
reputation’s very dear to me,
I’ll give thee my very life
we two are man and wife.
want to make it crystal clear to thee
thou shouldst never ever fear to be
man who only does what’s right,
turns aside from violent fight
do not think that it is queer to flee,
though some boys would always jeer to see
you will always choose the better part,
that’s the way to woman’s heart.”
so she plied her guileful art.
yearned for her,
burned for her,
leadership he even spurned for her.
bothered and bewildered
joyfully his heart takes wing,
bothered and bewildered
detrouser him just like a child again.
bothered and bewildered
had his fling,
I will sting
my sting’s a deadly thing.
bothered and bewildered
gang now stood aghast,
by Fate’s blast,
Nails, who was to lead them,
now contrived to bleed them
and leave them lying,
fallen leaves a-drying
crumbling into dust.
thought it most unjust.
recalled to him the quarrel
they all had with Swarrell,
cried out for invasion.
vain was their persuasion,
Nails would not be moved,
thus his love he proved.
of this at last,
gang all stood aghast.
which Marlene learns of this reverse
murmur’s running through the crowd,
at first, then getting loud,
louder as they vent their rage.
Marlene comes upon our stage,
she at once sees what’s the matter,
Nails with Janice, and spits at her,
cat doing here?”
Janice says, in tones so clear:
Marlene, thank goodness you’ve come
share in my wondrous delight,
Michael has had to succumb
Christ and to reason tonight.
given up fighting, you see –
all just to please little me.
Marlene, I’m brimming with pleasure
all my achievements tonight,
now I am Michael’s dear treasure.
darkness I’ve brought him to light.
coming with me to the church
leaving his past in the lurch.
Marlene, the winner am I.
darling, you’ve lost him again.
spirits are soaring on high,
I’ve conquered the best of all men.
Marlene! It’d such an ordeal.
know in my heart how you feel.”
cried Marlene. “Is this true?
back there you said that you
going to lead the gang to Swarrell
get revenge – and now all moral
become. What’s going on?
lads are standing woebegone.”
battle’s off, I think you’ll find,”
Janice. “Are you deaf and blind?”
true,” said Nails. “I’m off
to church, and you’ll incur
anger if you interfere
them at all. Is that quite clear?”
Marlene in despair was plunged.
fury burned, and then she lunged
Janice with the clear intent
scratching her. She was hellbent
her revenge, but Nails threw out
arm and gave her quite a clout.
it intended, or perhaps
one of those ill-chanced mishaps?
saw it, was appalled,
Nails and loudly bawled,
coward! Hit a girl would you?
fight you, beat you black and blue!”
raised his fist at him and scowled,
Marlene wept and sobbed and howled;
Janice, taking Nails’s arm
him quietly out of harm.
on,” she said, and leave them be.
street brawl’s not the place for me.
louts and tarts be blind and deaf
come back to the YPF.”
was howling, and the gang
to her next harangue.
want them killed, want blood and slaughter!”
Tommo said, “We’ll give no quarter.
on lads to Marlene’s aid.
Marlene we will first invade
YPF and beat up Nails,
then – oh holiest of grails –
go to Swarrell and we’ll take
banner back, and then we’ll make
pants the flag of Halden’s mob –
I will lead you on this job!”
Tommo speaks the gang around him cluster,
Marlene stands alone and sobs and cries,
bitter tears bedim the peerless lustre
those twin orbs, her pretty, shining eyes.
pity, pity, pity poor Marlene,
in the age-old tragedy of love,
situation worthy of Racine:
Nails she hates is her own turtle dove.
Marlene Tommo now has set his heart,
she loves Nails, who by the guileful art
Janice and her simpering deceit
love’s entrapped, while she presents the feat
winning him for Christ to Victor Mouse
hope that he’ll choose her
to be his spouse.
hope is there? What will the outcome be?
on! Read on, and you will quickly see.
which Tommo makes his demand
news! Cry jubilation!
and Nails have brought salvation.
YPF, from fear set free,
round and all agree
Janice and Nails are jolly good fellows.
clap their hands, and Tony bellows,
on, you chaps, let’s give three cheers.
hip…” “HOORAH!” for
and the night is quiet
free of every sign of riot.
Julie must confess
Janice is a hero-ess
proved herself extremely brave
doing what she did to save
all, and Janice simpers shyly
they praise her, watching slyly
see how Mouse
is taking it.
modesty! She’s faking it.
heroic Janice stands
and clasps in both his hands
of hers, and whispers to her.
a shudder’s running through her.
she says. “Don’t tell them now.”
on she goes, describing how
great desire has always been
be her lover’s secret
they’re all much too excited
take it in and be delighted.
it properly – next week.”
pecks him quickly on the cheek.
Mouse calls, “Let’s bring out the chairs
Quiet Time!” That’s hymns and prayers.
YPF all quickly dash
get the chairs – but then a crash,
through the window pane is thrown,
somebody outside, a stone.
lies shattered on the floor,
somebody kicks in the door.
Tommo and his gangster chums,
stand there boldly with their thumbs
cowboy-fashion in their belts.
Christians look. Their courage melts.
faith in Providence quite fails.
one stands forward – who but Nails?
Tommo! What is going on?
you lost your gobbin’ mind?
told you once! You’d best get gone,
I think, you’re going to find
bitten more than you can chew.”
Tommo answers, “Tell me who
think you are, and where you’ll get
to help you. Black as jet
Nails’s brow as he cried out,
the leader! Those who flout
orders find themselves in trouble.”
stroked the dawning stubble
his chin and gave a sniff.
wonder what would happen if
started giving orders to
lads. I wonder what they’d do.
had not the slightest doubt.
him, lads, and throw him out!”
the Halden gang he yelled,
him to be expelled.
they looked with insolence.
realised his impotence.
grinned and said to Nails,
reached the point where your
our eyes we’ve dropped the scales.
wouldn’t fight to keep your honour,
found yourself a bella
fastened all your hopes upon her.
we all fought and risked our necks,
let the enemy take your kecks.
of vengeance you sought sex.
now’s the time that we want payment,
each and every one’s a claimant.
honour’s lost, now lose your raiment.
you thought you hadn’t heard
so I’ll repeat the word:
and you’ll feel absurd,
no longer I’ll disguise
intent, or euphemise.
want your trousers
as our prize.”
which Nails must make his choice
Mouse, “I don’t know what is going on.
tell me what he’s done so to offend.
it may be, I think you’ve gone
bit too far. I really ought to send
the police, or Canon Tollgate, who
swiftly turn you out into the street.
listen, chaps, it really isn’t meet
you should shame him as you plan to do.”
words were met with scowls,
the gang broke into howls:
want his pants! We want his knickers!
stop us, or we’ll have the vicar’s!”
Tommo yelled that Nails was just a traitor,
useless coward and a masturbator.
word he used, of course was rather shorter,
sort of word a poet didn’t ought to
use of in a poem such as this,
sort of dirty words like f--- and p---,
while some authors think it very bliss
use them, they are not the words for me).
doesn’t matter if we have to scrag
lot of you, we’re going to debag
to teach him that he can’t ignore
honour of the gang. You know the score,”
Tommo, with a sort of wolfish grin.
Nails gives us his trousers, well that’s fine,
if he doesn’t, well then, we’ll begin.
hand him over. Don’t be asinine.”
is now alone and fearing
that the whispers he is hearing
are more hostile than the jeering
that he heard when stripped before.
the end of Tommo’s game
cast him into bare-legged shame?
He’s very sorry that he came
and followed Janice through the door.
he fight to save his trousers,
throw the place into uproar,
or surrender and withdraw?
is ready for the fight,
in his eyes pugnacious light,
he will uphold his honour’s right,
and, if they challenge him, it’s war.
hooks on to his arm
and cries, “Please save us all from harm,
if in your eyes I’ve any charm,
the promised one, whom you adore.”
struck dumb, is hesitating:
surrendering he does abhor,
love for Janice is his law.
his choice, and what’s his fate?
Take Janice as his promised mate,
and so let Tommo confiscate
his trousers and his honour, or
boldly to a swift attack,
punching like a maniac,
and give that Tommo such a crack
with both his fists upon the jaw?
Janice, who is whimpering,
begins against his arm to claw,
and promises him more and more.
Michael, please, just let them take
your trousers off, for Jesu’s sake.
Oh save us please. Do not forsake
your friends to welter in their gore.
think of your immortal soul,
and add your name to Heaven’s roll.
Just get us all out of this hole
and you will be rewarded for
kindness and your bravery,”
she whimpered, and began to paw
his body like an eager whore.
it hope of Heaven’s splendour,
attraction to the female gender,
or something else made Nails surrender,
which he’d resisted heretofore?
sighed, and then took off his jeans.
They swarmed around him like sardines,
hostile all as wolverines.
This time he knew he’d not restore
claim to lead the Halden gang.
He’d lost his chance to overawe:
trouserless for evermore.
which Nails proclaims himself the winner
trousers, lost his honour,
is surely now a goner,
he holds his head up high,
“I’m the winner. This is why!
lot think of nowt but fights,
other things bring me delights.
is the girl I love,
I swear by Heaven above
she and I will soon be wed,
in our marriage bed.
can battle in the streets,
for me holds other treats.
lot really ought to grow up.
you make me want to throw up.
you think I care a jot
the Swarrell lot have got
old trousers as their banner?
for the best. I’ll shout Hosannah!
found my girl, I’ve found religion.
Swarrell’s not my
just leave all that to you,
I’ve got better things to do.
he turned to Janice and
her warmly by the hand,
her he would belong
her forever, with this song.
baby, you will stay beside me.
won’t care if they should dare deride me.
build a home for two,
me and you
then we will
in perfect harmony,
you and me.
even planned a
we two can sit and think,
maybe take a drink
we enjoy the view.
when the night will fall,
owls all call,
the light has completely fled,
snuggle up in bed,
there we’ll kiss
we two are really wed.”
central on the stage,
of helpless rage.
to Nails Palmer?
would rather die.
he would only shut his trap,
would tell him why.
turned to embrace her.
couldn’t get away.
by him so firmly,
simply had to stay.
as he bent to kiss her,
kneed him in the balls.
now overcomes him.
staggers and he falls.
Nails now feels the pain in his testicular
so intense and all-consuming
he’s impelled to leave the perpendicular,
in her fury, still is fuming.
think I’d marry you?
if you do
must be mad!
surely better suit.
think that you can stand
hold my hand
just your shirt!
really gone and hurt
feelings to the root!
really got a nerve!
got, you beast!
at the very least
given you the boot!”
which Nails suffers and is comforted
upon the cold, hard floor,
in misery and pain.
given up his honour for
mirage. He had hoped to gain
loving bride to share his bed,
guide for his immortal soul.
all illusions he had shed.
saw her as a female troll.
still she blasted out her rage,
a parrot in a cage
at a passing cat.
poured from her tongue,
insults; all were flung
on Michael – ratatat!
the YPF were huddled,
feeling puzzled and befuddled,
for the sense of this seemed muddled.
Nails Palmer lay upon the floor,
his gang stood all around him,
eager all to jeer and hound him,
now that Tommo had uncrowned him,
like dogs that snarl around a boar
wounded, bleeding and unable
to charge or toss or bite or gore –
while Tommo waved the pants he wore.
trousers that he wore as leader,
when he stood lofty like a cedar –
imagine if you can, dear reader –
were brandished now in Tommo’s claw.
Palmer on the ground is lying,
in pain and disappointment crying,
while Tommo sends his trousers flying
up and down, from paw to paw.
they hear someone arriving,
someone opens up the door,
and Marlene steps onto the floor.
she sees poor Nails a-weeping
and his jeans in Tommo’s keeping,
to his aid she comes a-leaping
in the middle of the floor.
Tommo: “See how we have dragged him
from his friends and really scragged him!
To please you, Marlene, we’ve debagged him!
His honour’s gone for evermore!
in the balls has kicked him,
that is why he’s feeling sore!”
Marlene turned to him and swore.
you’re a gobbin’ bugger!”
Tommo, who had hoped to hug her,
thought she should be feeling smugger
now he’d evened up the score.
thought she should be quite elated
that Nails and Janice were deflated,
for surely this was what she’d waited,
prayed and cried and begged him for.
now it seemed, from what she shouted,
she’d not rejoice but would deplore
that Nails lay squirming on the floor.
Tommo’s hands the trousers snatching,
her fingernails his visage catching,
and painfully his cheek then scratching,
she turned to Nails, who lay before
quivering just like a jelly,
his hands still pressed below his belly,
and said, “Come on, you big, soft Nelly,
don’t just lie there like a raw
plucked and ovenready.
Put on your pants and let’s withdraw,
for you’re the one that I adore.”
which Tommo’s hopes are dashed
and Janice holds on to Mouse.
retrousered and reshod,
with Marlene. “Oh thank God!”
Janice, as she clings to Mouse.
mutely clutches Scouse
the arm, then mutters sadly,
here has gone quite badly
She should have stayed with me,
I’m the one who is to be
leader of the Halden gang.”
while he muttered, Hotrod sprang
the front of all the crowd,
his arms, and cried aloud,
we’ve finished off with Nails,
time to snatch the Grail of Grails.
follow me to win the Banner!”
poured out from the YPF,
Tommo stood there, blind and deaf,
while they sang about the harm
they’d inflict, on Tommo’s arm
laid a friend’s protecting hand,
tried to make him understand
time had come to leave the place
Nails’s sorrowful disgrace
failed for Tommo to procure
leadership or his amour.
on, chaps, let’s get the chairs,”
called Mouse. “It’s more than time for
I think that after all these scares
we need them more than e’er before.”
hooked on Mouse’s arm,
exuding all her artful charm.
She sighed, “Thank God we’re safe from harm
and our frail barque has reached the shore.”
edged away to lead the meeting,
thinking, “After shock and awe
like this, a whisky I should pour.”
Nails’s leadership is over.
The YPF all praise Jehovah,
but Tommo doesn’t lie in clover,
led the gang to war,
Marlene’s lost to him for ever,
despite his very best endeavour.
He really hasn’t been too clever.
No wonder he is feeling sore.
Swarrell gang still holds the Banner,
of further battles guarantor.
next to find out more.
The song "Bewitched,
bothered and bewildered", which I have used as the basis of one
recurring piece of verse in "Nails" is from the musical "Pal Joey",
lyrics by Lorenz Hart, music by Richard Rodgers.
I am grateful as well to the late Mr E.A. Poe, who suggested one
particularly complex rhyme scheme that I have used in recurring stanzas
throughout this work.
I am also indebted to Mr J. Racine for assistance with certain
aspects of the plot.
Banner, mock heroic epic, Part I: Sid
Banner, nick-heroic epic, Part III: Effie
of Halden: The Banner: Index
remember that this poem is copyright. See Copyright and
for permitted uses.
an e-mail to Robin Gordon