The Banner

The Banner: jeans on a pole A
verse epic

Part III: Effie

Auksford crest: a great auk displaying a book with the words "Ex ovo sapientia"
-  Auksford, 2010  -
©  Copyright Robin Gordon 2010

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God
   --  Jesus Christ:
                             Sermon on the Mount

Edel sei der Mensch, Hilfreich und gut
(Noble let man be, helpful and good)
    --  J.W. von Goethe:
                        Iphigenie auf Tauris


Canto 1:
in which the warriors of Swarrell challenge their foes

Canto 2:
in which peacemakers are called blessed

Canto 3:
in which King turns aside the wrath of his warriors to please Effie

Canto 4:
in which King’s word is seen to be law, and Tommo undertakes an expedition and assumes a new name

Canto 5
in which Effie and Sandra are disappointed, Jim pursued and King rejected

Canto 6
in which Ken and Stan bring news of captured spies, Willie senses triumph and King takes control

Canto 7
in which Tommo, Scouse and Effie languish in their dungeon and await their dreadful fate

Canto 8
in which Tommo, Scouse and Effie are taken from their dungeon

Canto 9
in which the Quest for the Banner is interrupted by the Black Dragons, Sandra is knocked off her feet, and Ronno searches for King and finds Sandra’s tale confusing

Canto 10
in which Tommo persuades Effie to help the Wild Bulls escape, she discovers his duplicity and calls the Black Dragons

Canto 11
in which Effie regrets her wild impulse, King falls into danger, the Dragons strip their victim, and the Wild Bulls are captured

Canto 12
in which the Wild Bulls escape, the Banner is captured, Willie’s error puts King’s gang into danger, and war is declared

Canto 1:
in which the warriors of Swarrell challenge their foes

It’ll come as no surprise to find your Robin,
whose Pegasus is just a plodding dobbin,
telling in his old accustomed manner
more about the story of the Banner.
This time I think I shall not take the bother
of troubling you with theorists and their pother,
but leap straight in and start upon the story
of Tommo and his quest for power and glory.

You will recall how Nails, in battle taken,
alone, and by his fleeing friends forsaken,
was stripped of trousers and of dignity,
and how, thus shamed, humiliated, he
had lurked apart, until he chanced to meet
a Christian girl, and, thinking her quite sweet,
abandoned leadership, and all for love,
and for the hope she gave of Heaven above;
how Tommo saw in this his chance to take
the crown from Nails, and thus ambition slake.
So Nails again had ended up dekegged,
depantsed, debagged, detrousered and bare-legged.
But here we find that Tommo’s plan quite fails:
Marlene, the leader’s moll, has chosen Nails,
and Hotrod leads the Halden gang to war.
So Tommo lost, and now plans to restore
his claim to lead in some surprising manner:
he’ll make himself the master of the Banner.
Beneath the tall and grim and stony city
walls of Halden, frowning without pity,
open to autumnal stormy skies
and summer sun and winter sleet there lies
the Alebeck, which meanders through its marsh,
and there from time to time the loud and harsh
calls of warlike youths in challenge sound,
and, as we look, we see some lads who bound
about, obscenely gesturing and jeering,
and waving trousers on a pole and sneering.
Now most of those young boys were dressed in black,
and each of them had painted on his back
a scarlet dragon, symbol of their gang,
and while they jumped and jeered this song they sang.

“What have you got there?” said Milder to Malder.
“We may not tell you,” said Festle to Fose.
“It’s our flag of battle,” said John the Red No-ose,
“It’s our flag of battle,” said John the Red Nose.

“What is it made of?” said Milder to Malder.
“We may not tell you,” said Festle to Fose.
“It’s Nails Palmer’s trousers,” said John the Red No-ose,
“It’s Nails Palmer’s trousers,” said John the Red Nose.

“Where did you get them?” said Milder to Malder.
“We may not tell you,” said Festle to Fose.
“We debagged Nails Palmer,” said John the Red No-ose,
“We debagged Nails Palmer,” said John the Red Nose.

An older boy, who wasn’t dressed the same
as these, still joined with vigour in their game,
for he it was who bore the wooden pole
whereon there hung the trousers that they stole
from Nails: the Banner – and his name was Sid.
Nearby there lurked the father of this kid,
Old Jake, and round about there stood
some older youths who mocked the hardihood
and boldness of their juniors, for they claimed
the Halden lads, at whom their shouts were aimed,
were far away and hadn’t heard a word.
This posturing, they said, was quite absurd.

“Little maddos jeer at shadows!
Wouldn’t dare if lads were there.
Sid would flee if he should see
anyone come near.

“All their sneering and their jeering,
banner-waving – they’re just raving
It’s all a dream: beyond the stream
there’s no-one there to hear.”

Whether they are right or wrong,
the Dragons start another song.

“Nails Palmer came to Swarrell
    with a million boys or more,
Nails Palmer came to Swarrell
    with a million boys or more,
Nails Palmer came to Swarrell
    with a million boys or more,
but we got his trousers off!
Glory, glory, see our Banner,
glory, glory, see our Banner,
glory, glory, see our Banner,
we’ve got Nails Palmer’s pants!

Nails Palmer’s gang went running
    for to save their yellow skins,
Nails Palmer’s gang went running
    for to save their yellow skins,
Nails Palmer’s gang went running
    for to save their yellow skins,
and we got Nails Palmer’s pants!
Glory, glory, see our Banner,
glory, glory, see our Banner,
glory, glory, see our Banner,
we’ve got Nails Palmer’s pants!”

Now, quacking like some ancient drake,
forward steps Sid’s father, Jake,
who’s basking in the borrowed fame
that Sid has won, so joins their game.

Across the marsh, devoid of boys,
he bellows out this hostile noise:

“We’ll be coming for your trousers when we come,
we’ll be coming for your trousers when we come,
you’d best run to your mums,
before we bare your bums,
cos we’re coming for your trousers when we come!”

Now Sid himself, who will not be outdone
in poetry, steps out to join the fun.
Just hear his loud and joyful voice take wings
as thus across the empty marsh he sings:

“See our Banner,
watch the manner
that I wave it up and down,
for we stripped Nails
to his shirt tails
and we drove him out of town!”

Then, as they praise this great poetic feat,
they hear a warning cry.  It comes from Pete,
for, lurking by the bridge’s massive column,
unwilling to be seen as any Gollum,
his keen eyes have perceived – a Halden youth,
or so he says.  He thinks it is the truth,
and Willie, full of vigorous intent,
and willing to pursue, where’er they went,
his foes, now calls the company at large
to rally to his side and then to charge.

Sid, however, hesitates and quails,
the boy who holds the trousers stripped from Nails.
He claims the trophy, which he’s wont to whisk
and wave about, should not be put at risk,
and Jake, his father, says that he is right,
for, like the Japs in jungle war at night,
the Halden lads may lie in wait for them,
and charging off in haste would just condemn
the Banner to be lost, and Swarrell’s glory.

La’al Willie will not listen to this hoary,
vainglorious, ancient cretin, so he snatches
the flag from Sid, but Ken then catches
him and says the Banner isn’t just
the Dragons’ property, and so they must
not take it into battle lest they lose
it to the foe, but if they choose
to rush into an ambush where they might
all forfeit trousers of their own – all right!

Now Willie grasps at last what Ken has said.
The notion ambush now is in his head,
and he agrees with Ken what they must do:
continue chanting, challenging those who
are trying to lead them into trouble and
meanwhile Ken will round up all King’s band.
The Halden ambushers will be flushed out,
and maybe lose their trousers in the rout.
So Ken went off to round up all the gang,
while Willie and the Dragons loudly sang
and jeered and gestured at their unseen foes,
and waved their arms and pranced upon their toes.

Then, while they worked themselves up to the fray,
behind them Sid and Jake both slipped away.

Canto 2:
in which peacemakers are called blessed

As you know I always call
upon the Muses’ help for all
the scenes that have to do with girls,
for in those brains beneath their curls
their thoughts are strange to man and boy.
Somehow we seem just to annoy
them most when we set out to please.
At other times they want to tease
but we don’t understand their plan.
Their thoughts are strange to boy and man.

“Oh Muses, help!” the poet cries,
for in those bright and shining eyes,
for in those luscious cherry lips,
for in their curves and breasts and hips
what mystery and pleasure lies
to make the dullest male arise
and with his fellow men compete
to win himself (oh goal most sweet)
the favour of the female sex –
what magic charm, what spell or hex?

Far high above the Alebeck meads,
upon the viaduct which leads
from Swarrell into Halden stand
two girls we’ve met before: there’s Sand
and Effie by her side.  They stare
down upon the boys below,
and Effie, with a furious glare
says she had hoped that they would grow
more mature, be man not kid,
under leadership from Sid.

But, far from being a force for good,
as she had really hoped he would,
Sid had turned out just as silly,
in fact encouraging La’al Willie,
the leader of the dragon boys,
in filthy habits like debagging,
and that is something that annoys
Effie, sets her tongue a-wagging
in condemnation of their game.
To Sandra she reveals her aim.

It seems that on the Sunday last
her aunt had felt the cruel blast
of flu, which made her sadly lurch
when walking on her way to church,
and so she claimed her niece’s aid,
and Eff, though not of pious bent,
had, under protest, then been made
to go with her, and thus had spent
an hour’s reflection in God’s house.
The preacher there was Victor Mouse.

Now what he preached had much impressed
Effie, and within her breast
there beat a heart quite filled with love
for Christ, for Mouse, for Heaven above.
Bless’d,” said Mouse, “are those who seek
the ways of peace, for they shall be,
just like the pure and holy meek,
God’s children for eternity.”
So Effie vowed she’d never cease
until to Swarrell she’d brought peace.

Now to join these female chums
King’s lieutenant, Ronno, comes.
“Ooh, look at what the cat’s dragged in!”
cries Sandra, lifting up her chin
and sneering down her pretty nose.
Disdain like this is just a pose,
for, as I’m sure you will recall,
Ronno, King, the two girls, all
were best of friends who liked to meet
in private and enjoy the sweet
exploration, furtive joy,
of their young bodies, girl with boy.
But things have changed since last we met
these four, for King his heart has set
on winning Effie for his own,
his lass, his queen to share his throne,
and Ronno loyally has heeded
his chief’s desire and so has ceded
his claim to Effie’s heart and hand
and built instead his hopes on Sand.

Love is a virtue untainted by vice,
it comes in various guises.
Love of man for a woman is nicer than nice,
but love also fitly comprises
the love of a man for his friends, for his mates,
a loyalty binding together their fates,
and this was the love Ronno felt for his chief,
a love that was aching beyond all relief,
for King thought that Effie’s disdain, cold and hard,
was pref’rence for Ronno, an error that marred
their friendship which dated from primary school.
So Ronno begged Effie to stop being cool
and welcome King warmly with many a kiss,
so love, being shared, would bring them all bliss.

But Effie was scornful and said that she meant
to do what she could and not to relent
till King had brought peace to the youth of the town.
Till then she would greet him with coldness and frown.
At that very same moment King came into sight,
and when he saw Ronno he felt full of spite,
for he thought that his friend was his rival in love,
and so in the chest he gave him a shove,
and growled in his face and asked him a question
just what he was doing, but more a suggestion
it seemed to poor Ron as he backed away quickly,
for King was suspicious and sulky and prickly.

How splendid on the bridge stood King.
The sight made Effie’s heart quite sing.
She longed to run to him and cling,
if he would only bring them peace.

Now when the golden eye of day
bathes in its light the great highway
that leads to Halden, who can say
how any man can bring them peace?

Or when the wind beneath the moon
blows over battle’s fierce typhoon,
could any man grant Effie’s boon
and end it all with peace?

Now King stood there, his face flushed red.
He spoke, and this is what he said:
“I long for you to share my bed!”
“But first,” she said, “you must bring peace!”

King cried, “It isn’t any more
like it was when we as four
went out together.  When we kissed
I’ve never known you cry Desist!
And sometimes it was Ron with you
and me with Sand, and then we’d do
a swap and you would go with me
and Ron with Sandra, and we’d be
happy as the day is long,
but now, it seems, it’s all gone wrong.
“Perhaps it’s me.  It seemed to start
when I had truly set my heart
on you, my Eff, my sweetest dear,
for then it was that things turned queer.
The fire is in my heart and loin.
My body yearns with yours to join.
Your every touch upon my skin
sends electricity within
racing round my limbs and veins,
and songs of love consume my brains.”

“That may be so,” cried Effie next,
“but you will find I’m rather vexed.
It’s all your fault that things went wrong.
I know that you and I belong
together, but I will not be
yours unless you now agree
to my demands, and what I say
is Fights must stop! You’ll find a way,
and when you’ve done it there’ll be bliss
for you, embraces, many a kiss.”

Then King cried out, “I’ll fight no more!
If you’ll be mine I will adore
you, and no longer will I lead
the gang, for now it’s you I need.
My crown, my sceptre set aside
if you will only be my bride.
Oh let’s be wed.  I cannot wait.
For you, my Eff, I’ll abdicate!”

“That’s not,” cried Effie, “my desire,
for naught is solved by abdication.
A peacemaker must quench the fire
and by imperious promulgation
seek to guide to ever higher
thoughts the minds of all his nation.
He must subject to his instruction
the evil face of mass destruction
and force his warriors to cease
their struggles and to be at peace.

“Noble must all great men be,
eschewing personal ambition,
for only thus can they be free
to bring their greatness to fruition,
cut off the Devil’s source of glee,
and bring an end to old tradition
that calls on men and boys to fight,
reducing all the world to spite,
for only then can he decrease
the sum of hate – by bringing peace.”

Scarce had Eff proclaimed her lore
when Ken arrived with news of war,
for Willie and the Dragons had
down by the Alebeck seen a lad
from Halden, who, it seemed, was sent
to tempt an ill-advised descent
into battle, where they’d be
lured into hostile territ’ry,
and, ambushed in this treach’rous manner,
deprived of honour, pants and Banner,

Then, recognising Willie’s lack
of common sense, they’d held him back
 – by they he meant himself and Stan –
then left at once to find the man
to whom the leadership belongs,
and left the Dragons chanting songs.

“You’ve got to come at once,” said Ken,
“and take command of all our men!”

King looks at Effie, hesitates,
but he it is who holds their fates
within his hands, and so he turns
and strides away.  How Effie burns
with fury at this base deception.
Her sermon’s met a poor reception.

Canto 3:
in which King turns aside the wrath of his warriors to please Effie

Down by the Alebeck hear them scoff,
“We’re going to take their trousers off!
We’re going to take their trousers off!”

Willie and the Dragons sing,
and make the Alebeck marshes ring:

“We sent Nails Palmer running back
            to Halden in his shirt,
we sent Nails Palmer running back
            to Halden in his shirt,
we sent Nails Palmer running back
            to Halden in his shirt,
cos we took his trousers off!

“Now Swarrell’s going to strip the pants
            off all the Halden lads,
now Swarrell’s going to strip the pants
            off all the Halden lads,
now Swarrell’s going to strip the pants
            off all the Halden lads,
we’ll take their trousers off!

“We’re going to take their trousers off!
We’re going to take their trousers off!”

Then Willie cries, “The time has come!

Follow me and let’s take some
trousers as our battle prizes!”
It’s clear that Willie now despises
the foe that lurks beyond the beck,
but Stan has grabbed him by the neck
and tells him he must wait for King
and reinforcements that he’ll bring.

Then at that moment King appears,
greeted by such loyal cheers
that hardened eyes would weep salt tears,
a sign of great emotion.

He climbs upon a rotting pile
of rubble with a happy smile,
his hand held up, he waits a while,
calming their commotion.

The gang acclaim him as their lord,
the man they’ll serve with heart and sword,
for he had led them when they’d scored,
earning their devotion.

Now Willie and his Dragon band
come flocking forward and all stand
round King and cheer him loud and long,
while Willie sings his warlike song.
“We’re gonna thump ’em, gonna smash ’em!
Gonna spifflicate and mash ’em!
Gonna kick ’em in the heads –
they’ll be cripples in their beds!
There’ll be murder, there’ll be mayhem!
We will round ’em up and slay ’em!
We will punch ’em in the guts,
and we’ll kick ’em in the nuts,
we will roll ’em in the mud,
and we’ll drink their foaming blood.
We will hang ’em and we’ll quarter ’em,
and liquidate and slaughter ’em,
put thistles down their necks,
and then pull off their kecks!

We will beat ’em, we will thrash ’em!
We will kick ’em and we’ll bash ’em!
We will cut ’em and we’ll rip ’em!
Of their trousers we will strip ’em!
We’ll annihilate and thwack ’em!
We’ll exterminate and hack ’em!
All in pieces we will cut ’em,
we will charge right in and butt ’em!
We’ll fill buckets, foaming red,
with their blood and leave ’em dead!
We’ll garrotte ’em and we’ll scrag ’em,
then we’ll grab ’em and debag ’em,
and their trousers we will hang
as banners for our gang!
So come on lads, let’s go!
The gang’s all here, and so
let’s form our charge and run
into battle and have fun!”

Their leader, King, surrounded by this riot,
raises both his hands and calls for quiet.
Then Ron cuffs Willie and the chants subside.
Bold King then hails the gang, exalts their pride,
reminds them of their triumph and the manner
they overpowered Halden, won the banner.
It was a famous victory he’d led.
The gang had charged, and all th’invaders fled,
driven from the sacred ground of Swarrell
to brood in sullen silence on their quarrel,
while Swarrell seized Nails Palmer to debag,
their chief, and took his trousers as their flag.

“This flag,” he cried, “now symbolises honour
the which my gang has won, and no-one’s gonna
risk it in an ill-considered fight.
The Banner’s ours, and no-one has the right
to take it for his own and try to use it
for himself, for, if he chanced to lose it,
he’d lose for us the honour that we’ve won,
and do to us what Nails to Halden’s done,
for though it was just Palmer got de-kegged,
though he alone it was went home bare-legged,
the whole of Halden shares in Palmer’s shame
and Swarrell are the winners of the game.

“My gang’s the greatest as we all can tell
Just listen, if it wasn’t for the smell
We wouldn’t even know that Halden’s there,
but they, I think, are all too well aware
of us, for we have reason to deride
them all as useless cowards.  We decide
when battle’s to be joined.  It’s nowt to do
with them!  Ignore them when they challenge you.
It’s ambush that they mean.  How underhand!
You’re lucky you’ve got me to understand
their sneaky strategy and their deceit.
I’ve come up with a plan that’s rather neat.

“They think that you’ll go charging in and lose
the Banner in their ambush, then they’ll choose
their victims as you straggle back across
the Alebeck, losing courage by its loss.
Then those they’ve chosen will be swiftly gripped
and tumbled to the ground, where they’ll be stripped
of trousers, which the enemy will take
and fix to poles and into banners make
to challenge us and jeer at us, for we,
as they are now, will sadly vanquished be.

“That’s what they hope, but now they have to deal
with me, and I say that we steal
quietly away and leave them waiting
in their hiding place, anticipating
some attack, but unsure where or when,
from what direction or how many men.
They’ll be too scared to move, lest they reveal
their ambush.  Every shadow they’ll think real.
With luck they’ll stay in hiding through the night,
and catch their deaths of cold – and serve ’em right!”

Thunderstruck the gang all stood.
They had expected that he would
lead them all to marmelize their foe,
instead of which he sent them packing,
retreating as if they were lacking
courage – and they felt it like a blow.

“Is King afraid?” he heard them mumble.
He heard them grouse and moan and grumble.
On every side he heard their mutinous murmur,
but he stood firm and made them leave,
insisting that they must deceive
their foes.  They grumbled still but he stood firmer.

They slunk away and left him there.
The battlefield, deserted, bare,
was his, and there he stood like conquering Caesar.
To Ronno now he turned and said,
“The battle’s cancelled.  No-one’s dead.
It’s all for Eff.  D’you think that that will please ’er?”

Canto 4:
in which King’s word is seen to be law,
and Tommo undertakes an expedition
and assumes a new name

Ken and Stan now find it hard,
standing in the railway yard,
to understand what King has done.
Why stop the gang from having fun?

Does every lad grow soft with age
and find his boldness and his rage
die away because his heart
is captured by some pretty tart?

Does every lad find that a girl
will make his fighting spirit curl
up and die?  Or did king know
of stratagems used by the foe,

a plan to ambush and debag
the Swarrell lads and seize their flag?
Had King averted this sad loss,
or just shown Willie who was boss?

They spoke of Willie, and they saw him come
sneaking back towards the beck with some
mates of his, intent on disobeying
King’s instructions: he would not be staying
well away from fights and battle’s noise,
but longed to come to grips with Halden’s boys.

“Hey Willie!  What’s all this, and where’s thou gan?”
cried Ken, while he and Stan
moved to confront the Dragons, all in black.
“King said you must stay back!”

“And who is gonna stop us?” Willie said.
“You try it and you’re dead!
Just cos you’re big you throw your weight around!
We’ll have you on the ground!

“Don’t talk to us in that superior manner
and keep us from the Banner!
You may be big, but there’s a lot of us!
We’ll have your pants – no fuss!

At this the Dragons moved towards the pair,
who wondered if they’d dare
attack, and so with friendly smiles they claimed
that they had only aimed

at saving all the Dragons from a fate
that they would really hate
of being overpowered by greater force,
whose triumph would, of course,

involve the Swarrell lads in public shame,
for ambush was their game,
and ambushed lads would quickly be dekegged,
and sent off home bare-legged.

La’al Willie, hearing this, began to scoff:
We’ll take their trousers off!
Those Halden lads are gonna all be scragged,
and then they’ll be debagged!”

“All right,” said Ken, “if that’s what you believe.
I hope that you won’t grieve.
It’s not for us to try and hold you back.
Go on!  Go on!  Attack!

“Just don’t expect the gang to come and save
you.  Go on if you’re brave.
But when you’re ambushed, stripped, and when you lack
your pants, how’ll you get back?”

“We’ll win,” said Willie, “and we’ll strip the lot
of them,” but not so hot
were all his Dragons now to start a fight.
Just then there came in sight

Jim Gormley, puzzled still by what transpired,
why Sid was so admired;
and so he wandered, lonely as a ghost,
but when he saw the host

of Dragons turn towards him, then he fled,
and fearfully he sped
for the road, while they all cried, “Let’s scrag him!
Come on, lads! Debag him!”

“Well,” said Ken, “it seems King’s word’s still law,
just like it was before.
There’ll be no fight, cos Willie doesn’t care
just who he gets stripped bare.”

You may have wondered why I’ve made no mention
of Tommo yet, because this is the story
of how he hoped to gain himself some glory.
To seize the Banner was his firm intention.

D’you think he wants to see his old pal, Nails,
retrousered and equipped once more with honour?
Then think again, for Nails is now a goner,
and Tommo sees his chance where Palmer fails.

Those kegs which Nails once wore are now the prize
that tauntingly is wielded as a flag
as Swarrell crow they’re able to debag
the Halden leader – and his gang likewise.

The rules of battle by these deeds are altered,
for he who holds the trophy holds the crown.
Ambitious Tommo hopes to rule the town
and reign in triumph now that Nails has faltered.

He’ll lead the Halden gang right into Swarrell,
the Banner flying boldly at their head,
and Tommo, as their leader, spreading dread.
His triumph comes as climax of the quarrel.

“Wassamarrer, Scouse?  Are you afraid?
Aren’t you enjoying our bold raid?
D’you think the Swarrell lads are gonna catch you?
Pop up behind the wall and rudely snatch you?”
said Tommo, with a grin upon his face.
“Look out!  They’re here! – I nearly made you race
off home, just like a little scaredy-cat.
Don’t be scared of any Swarrell rat!”

“I think,” said Scouse, “ that we are better off
all six together.”  Now hear Tommo scoff:
“Wank and ’Utch have got to guard the van.
Don’t you ever listen to my plan?
We’ve split in twos to cover twice as much.
There’s you, me, Nelly, Claggy, Wank and Hutch,
and near the van the last two named will stay
while we scout out.  We’ll find the flag this way,
and when we do, our gang will be the top
and conquer all of Swarrell ’fore we stop –
but while we’re here, I think I’ll make my mark,
and when they see it, how their rage will spark.”

Upon a nearby wall he painted T,
then O, then R, and then another O.
Scouse saw it, was bewildered, and then he
said, “What is that?”  His friend said, “Don’t you know?
It’s my new name.  We’ve got to have a name
if we are ever going to be top gang.
Wild Bulls is just the name to spread our fame.
I’ll paint it now.”  But on him then there sprang
some Swarrell lads, who overpowered him quickly,
and Scouse as well was swiftly overcome.
Now both those Halden lads were feeling sickly.
Their captors jeered and treated them like scum.

Canto 5: in which Effie and Sandra are disappointed,
Jim pursued and King rejected

Two wilting flowers now we see, both moping,
for Eff and Sandra, at the corner waiting,
have turned towards despair, no longer hoping
that King, his love and ardour demonstrating

will turn his eager lads away from battle
to peaceful ways, abandoning their quarrel,
that, just as in the quiet fields the cattle
all amble undisturbed, so too in Swarrell

the streets, the alleys and the goods yard too,
no longer troubled by the hullaballoo
of fighting youths, will rest in quiet peace.
Yet still he comes not, and the girls are worried.
If all were well he surely would have hurried
to bring the news.  They wait.  Their fears increase.

A noise – and they are hurled apart.
A fleeing boy runs past,
speeding like a skimming dart.
The girls are quite aghast.

Then other boys come crashing through
and knock the two girls sprawling.
The first was Jim; the other crew
the Dragons in their brawling.
They’re after Jim, his chance is slim,
he can’t escape a scragging.
They’ve captured him and now with vim
and vigour they are dragging

him back again, back to their den,
with mocking and with jeering,
and Willie then cries, “Come on, men,
debag him!”  Hear them cheering.

Now Eff and Sand don’t think it’s grand
Jim’s trousers should be ripped
right off, as planned by Willie’s band,
and boys debagged or stripped.

Their faces burn as they both spurn
Willie’s invitation.
Though taciturn, their feelings churn
in angry agitation.

Then Willie and the Dragons storm away,
and with them, in their clutches, goes their prey,
Jim Gormley, to his doomed humiliation,
which Effie thinks a vile abomination.

Then round the corner comes the errant King,
who’s found at last his love, to whom he’ll bring
the offering she craves, the news of peace
which, when she hears it, surely will release

warm floods of love, caresses sweet, and tears,
for what is sweeter to a woman’s ears
than hearing that her man has done her will?
But Eff’s demeanour is most strangely chill.

“Don’t you believe,” he cries, “what I have done?
I’ve stopped the battle, turned them from their fun.
Tell her, Ronno!  Tell what I achieved!
It’s hard for heroes not to be believed.”

Then Ronno cried, “It’s true what King has said.
I thought his hour had come as, filled with dread,
I watched him facing down the mutinous throng.
No other lad could ever be so strong

as Ernie King.  No-one could be so brave
in standing up to them, and all to save
them from themselves and what they planned to do.
He risked his leadership, he did – for you!”

“Where are they now?” cried Effie.  “I don’t know,”
said King, and shrugged, “but not a single blow
in battle has been struck.  They’ve left the scene.
There’s nowt but empty space where they had been.”

“I’ll tell you what they’re up to,” Effie cried.
“Debagging Jim!”  “Well, so what?” King then sighed.
“It’s got to stop!” said Effie.  “This whole thing!”
“I can’t be everywhere at once,” said King.

“D’you think that I
can keep my eye
on everything
that time may bring?
D’you think I can
keep every man
within my sight
all day and night?

“Reign in the boys
from all the joys
you disapprove,
and then remove
them from the street
by some deceit,
make them obey
whate’er you say?”

“There’s no need for you to be
so loud in your complaint of me,”
said Effie, “for I’ve made it clear
just what I want from you, my dear.”

“And I,” said King, “have made it plain
as well: until with you I’ve lain
I’ll feel some demon’s stole my luck,
’cos what I want from you’s a fuck!”

“Please mind your language!” Effie wailed.
“I really think I must have failed
to get my message through to you.
I thought you knew what you must do.”

“I know just what to do,” yelled King.
“No need for priest or wedding ring.
Come here and give your King a kiss,
then let’s get down to sexual bliss.”

“Help me!” cried Effie.  Sandra sprang
hard at the leader of the gang
and clawed at him, till Ronno came
at her and heaved her from the game.

“Well, I’ll give in,” sighed Effie then.
“We girls are no match for you men.
If you want sex, I’ll not resist.”
King took her in his arms and kissed

her firmly on her ruby lips.
His hands then wandered to her hips.
He pressed her up against a wall,
his hands exploring her, and all

his body pressed against her, hard.
Sagging like a sack of lard
and heavy as a lump of lead,
she slumped, did not respond, played dead.

Then King, disgusted, threw her down
and cried, “You treat me like some clown!
You say that you’ll submit to my
desires, then, like a corpse, you die.

“I might as well embrace a sack
of coal as you.  A natterjack
toad would be a better mate.
I think I’d rather meditate

on universal mysteries,
the saints of God, their histories,
secluded in a monkish cell –
for life with you’s a living hell.”

“I said that I would not resist,”
said Effie, “but I still persist
in saying I won’t love you till
you cause hostilities to still.”

Canto 6: in which Ken and Stan bring news of captured spies,
Willie senses triumph and King takes control

Now Ken’s here, and Stan
comes hard on his heels,
and King is the man
to whom Ken reveals,
“Two prisoners we’ve caught,
those two Halden Boys
who till then had thought
naught would trouble their joys
as slogans they sprayed
on fences and walls.
They weren’t afraid,
you could hear from their calls.
They thought they had made
it right to the top,
that we’d be their thralls,
that nothing would stop
th’ advance of their gang –
and then, with a whop,
and a thump and a bang,
we collared the pair
as on them we sprang.

“Tommo fought like a bear,
but Scouse just gave in
and wailed It’s unfair!
So they’re both in the bin
by the old engine sheds.
Tommo’s swearing like sin,
and they’re both off their heads
with their fears and their dreads.”

Classical scholars among you will know
that this is a scene that the Ancients much prized:
a messenger comes on the stage, all aglow;
events are not shown but just verbalised.

Though this is a poem instead of a play,
the technique is the same, for our characters are
apart from the action, which takes place away
from their presence, though not very far.

But Ken hasn’t finished.  There’s more yet to tell,
for Willie got wind of the capture of boys
from Halden.  His gang then came with a yell,
and called, “Let’s debag ’em!” – for such are their joys.

“We told him,” said Ken, “the prisoners are King’s,
not yours, and we thought him about to attack,
but the lad they’d debagged then all suddenly flings
himself at La’al Willie and grabs his kegs back.

“Then he’s off lie a rocket towards the main gate,
with Willie and all of them hard on his heels.
Jim Gormley it was, but what was his fate
we really don’t know, though we heard his loud squeals.”

Well, just then they heard some loud chanting draw near,
and Willie’s Black Dragons came marching along.
They wanted the captives, that much was quite clear,
and planned a debagging, for this was their song:

“What’ll we do with the Halden prisoners?
What’ll we do with the Halden prisoners?
What’ll we do with the Halden prisoners?
Strip them of their trousers!

“What’ll we do with the lads from Halden?
What’ll we do with the lads from Halden?
What’ll we do with the lads from Halden?
Strip them of their trousers!”

Now King calls to Willie and bids him draw near.
He asks what he’s doing and why he is there.
“We’ve got Halden prisoners!”  His gang gives a cheer.
“We’ll tear off their trousers and strip them both bare.

“It’s time for some torture: put grass down their necks,
we’ll give Chinese burns, stake ’em out for the ants,
we’ll scrag and debollock the pitiful wrecks,
we’ll kill ’em and skin ’em, and take off their pants!”

Here Effie intervenes once more
and calls on King
to stop the thing.
She throws herself upon the floor
and grasps his knees
with wailing pleas.
Willie watches with alarm
and mutters to his sidekick, Pete,
promising that he’ll do harm
to anyone who cools his heat.

If anyone tries to prevent
what he intends,
there’s no amends
will stop his vengeance.  He’s intent
on baring legs
by seizing kegs.
and if the prisoners are protected
by King at Effie’s loud insistence
King’s leadership will be rejected,
his pants removed despite resistance.

Now Ronno hears what Willie mutters,
and grabs the lad.  
He thinks he had
better stop them, ’ere the nutters
get ideas,
for Ronno fears
that Effie’s influence will bring
a crisis in the gang-war game:
the Dragons may revolt, and King
may be deposed in bare-legged shame.

So wrathfully he seizes Willy
and cuffs his ears,
ignoring jeers,
and shakes the smaller boy until he
agrees that he
will loyal be.
Now King is free of Effie’s grip,
but still she pleads with him to halt
the gang before they go and strip
the prisoners in a crude assault.

But King has had enough
of girls who plead for peace.
He’s going to get tough
and bids poor Effie cease

her clamour and her noise:
she’s had her chance and lost.
It greatly cheers the boys
that King will not be bossed.

Now Willie cries, “All right!
Let’s bring the prisoners here.
They’ve lost the glorious fight,
and it will cost them dear.

“We’ll strip their trousers off
and send them home bare-legged,
and everyone will scoff
to hear how thy were kegged.

But King will not be bossed
by Effie or by Willie,
and so makes this riposte:
“Don’t be so bloody silly!

“This time we’ll do it my way.
They won’t get off so easy.
Humiliation’s highway
will make them feel quite queasy.

“Get all the lads together,
our gang and all the rest.
We’ll strip ’em of their nether
garments, but the best

“is still to come: their fate,
humiliation’s fount,
will lastly culminate
in suffering – the Count!

“Before th’ assembled throng
we’ll put them to the Count.
’T will make a pretty song
that certainly will mount

“to slopes of high Olympus,
where Grecian gods once dwelt,
conferring thus a nimbus
on those of us who dealt

“such great humiliation
on our long-standing foes.
So sing our jubilation,
while they lament their woes.

“But still there’s something more
to make your neck-hairs curl:
the Count – this you’ll adore –
will be done by a girl!

“The one who’s going to do it
is Effie.  P’rhaps she’ll cease,
now she has cause to rue it,
from always preaching peace.

“So take her off and lock her
with the prisoners in the cell.
She’ll find that when we mock her
she’ll think she is in Hell!

 Canto 7:  in which Tommo, Scouse and Effie
languish in their dungeon and await their dreadful fate

Well now, at last, our curtain’s risen
to show the dungeon, cell, or prison,
wherein the captives are confined.
It’s situated underneath
a bridge, and there within its sheath,
with broken chairs and planks consigned

to rot in darkness, dank and drear,
those prisoners two, in trembling fear,
await to see what fate will bring.
The door’s thrown open, and they see
Ronno there with two or three
other lads all sent by King

to bring poor Effie to her cell.
Roughly do they then propel
her in to join the other two.
Then Ronno spoke a little speech,
hoping that their fate would teach
them all just what they shouldn’t do;

for Tommo was just treach’rous scum,
and Ronno’s glad that doom has come
so swift and sure upon the lad
who stabbed his leader in the back,
and Effie too, it seemed, did lack
loyalty – she’s just as bad.

Humiliation is in store
for them.  The gang’s loud cheers will roar
and King will triumph, as is just.
Like kings of ancient days he’ll find
men all applaud his will to grind
his helpless enemies to dust.

Now Effie’s sunk in deepest gloom,
imprisoned in that dingy room
with Tommo and the snivelling Scouse:
it’s Tommo’s fault, the dirty louse!

She weeps and sighs and tears her hair,
for preaching peace has brought her there
where she must either acquiesce
in filth, or, to her great distress,

she’ll find that she is going to be
the victim that the gang, with glee,
will take and strip for all to see.

The words that she had heard from Mouse
had brought her here, with snivelling Scouse
and Tommo, who was all to blame,
for he it was whose quest for fame

and leadership had brought him here
with Scouse, still snivelling with fear,
and undermined her plans to bring
peace by influencing King.

Imprisoned here she knew she’d be
stripped for everyone to see
or made to act on King’s decree.

Now Tommo speaks: “Untie us please,
and we will break the door right down.
You do not have to do what these
gangsters say, obey decrees
and tremble at their slightest frown.

“You and I are in one boat,
for both of us are trying to bring
peace and harmony, remote
though it seems to those who gloat
on violence and battle sing.”

“Oh shut your gob,
you filthy slob,”
cried Effie, loud and fierce.
“It’s all your fault
I couldn’t halt
the fighting and the scragging.

“You little sneak,
you came to wreak
your vengeance on our fighters.
I know your game,
to steal you came.
My heart you came to pierce.

“Well, now you’re caught,
and you have bought
yourself a fine debagging,
and I must do
such things to you
to please those little blighters.”

“Well, I admit,” said Tommo then,
“I came to take the Banner.
To save the skins of many men
I chose this sneaky manner.

“To steal the Banner right away,
that was my firm intention,
to stop the taunting day by day
that magnifies contention,

“for with the Banner lost and gone
no longer would they taunt us,
no longer would they thrust upon
us mockery to haunt us.

“No longer would there be a case
for war between our cities,
with banners flaunted in our face,
but – oh – a thousand pities:

“the chance has gone, for we are caught
and our humiliation
will surely now be vastly fraught
with need for vindication.

“If we’re subjected to the Count
the tale will quickly spread.
Of vengeance it will be the fount,
which you must surely dread.

“I don’t believe you,” Effie cried.
“I know that you have often tried
to take the leadership from Nails.
I’ve heard so many, many tales.

“I know that it was you who led
the gang into the place he’d fled
for solace after he was caught
and stripped, where peace he’d sought.

“He’d found a girl who promised peace,
and told him that all fights must cease,
and brought his soul home to the church;
but you it was led them to search
and find him there, and then confront
him as the quarry of your hunt.
Surrounded there he had to yield
his trousers, and his doom was sealed.”

“It wasn’t like that,” Tommo said,
“for Nails was once a name to dread,
and, after resting from the fight,
he would have brought his crushing might
down on Swarrell, and he would
have taken vengeance on the brood
of vipers who had brought him shame.
I understood his waiting game,
for when your lads would least expect
they’d find themselves attacked and wrecked,
their blood all spilled upon the ground,
their jeans as banners flourished round.

“I talked to Nails.  I talked of peace.
I told him that the war must cease.
I told him manhood’s not aggression.
I preached at him throughout this session,
and, then, at last, I did persuade
him, and his conscience came and made
him weep and wail, I am not worth
anything, for on this earth
I’ve discord sown, and all my pride
is now brought low, so I decide,
unworthy boy, that I resign
my leadership, and, as a sign
that I’ve misused my manhood’s flower
in seeking through aggression power,
and knowing now what manhood means,
I’ll strip myself of these – my jeans.

“That’s what he did, and stood bare-legged
before us, by himself dekegged,
and swore that nevermore he’d fight
but find in peace his true delight.

“That’s the truth I’ve told, I swear,
but even if you will not wear
my story, please look in your heart
and pity Scouse, whose only part
in all of this was just that he
believed in and supported me.
He’s just a boy who thinks it right
to help to end this age-long fight,
belief in peace his only crime.
They’ll make of him a pantomime,
a clown, humiliated, spent.
Oh pity him!  His heart is rent.”

Then Effie scornfully replied,
“Why pity him?  What’s there to fear?
Is he afraid they will deride
him when they strip him, see his gear?
What’s there to fear?  He’ll get debagged.
The Dragons hold initiations
every day, and lads get scragged
and stripped without such perturbations.

What’s there to fear?  Why be afraid?
It’s nothing new for lads to be
stripped of pants and dignity.
I’m the one should be dismayed.
I’ll have to follow King’s decree.
Why don’t you ever think of me?”

“Let us free.  We’ll break the door.
We’ll tie you up.  You’ll not be blamed.
Just say the knots were too loose for
our desp’rate strength.  Don’t let’s be shamed.”

Just then they heard a wild commotion,
like hurricanes across the ocean.
The door was rattled as if breakers
crashed on cliffs, and troublemakers
called, “we’re coming for your pants!”

The door was rattled on its hinges,
causing Tommo fearful twinges,
and Willie’s voice they heard, uproarious,
gloating over Swarrell’s glorious
victory in wildest rants.

Then Willie’s voice was raised in song
like a sounding brazen gong,
threatening that his gang would scrag them,
drag them out and then debag them
of trousers then of underpants:

“What shall we do with the Halden prisoners?
What shall we do with the Halden prisoners?
What shall we do with the Halden prisoners?
Take the trousers off them!

Hoo-ray, we’ll have their trousers!
Hoo-ray, we’ll have their trousers!
Hoo-ray, we’ll have their trousers!
And put them to the Cou-ount!”

Canto 8: in which Tommo, Scouse and Effie
are taken from their dungeon

Alas, o Muses, must I now describe
the fall of Tommo, his humiliation?
Must I now employ my pen in this,
to show that Willie and his gang have won,
that King’s deposed and Willie is the chief,
while Scouse and Tommo now will be dragged out,
subjected here to Willie’s whims and wishes,
stripped of their trousers and their dignity,
and made a laughing stock for all to see?

O Muses, queens and goddesses of art,
do you require these painful scenes from me:
that he who’s been the hero of our tale
should so dishonoured be in this his fall
that younger boys should drag him from his cell,
and some with voices not yet broken too,
to beat him up and rip his trousers off
and loudly cheer with shouts of jubilation
the sight of his enforced humiliation?

And what of Effie now, our heroine?
Must she, o Muses, fall into disgrace?
Will she too be dragged out from durance vile,
and pawed and clawed by dirty little boys?
Alas, alas for Effie now, o Muses.
Might there not be some way to set her free?
If Tommo falls, o Muses, why must she?
Why must she suffer Willie’s filthy glee?

But wait, perhaps my prayers are answered, for
the noise they heard recedes now from the door.
It seems the Dragons all have gone away.
Will Tommo live to fight another day?

“Untie us, quick!” he pleads with Effie then.
“Untie the knots before they come again.
She hesitates, then falls upon her knees,
and then with fumbling fingers tries to tease

the knots apart that hold the captives bound.
but suddenly there comes another sound,
the sound of scuffling, struggling, fighting boys.
Someone, they hear, is down upon the ground.
He’s overpowered, and fists upon him pound,
and Tommo loses all his equipoise,

for all the noise must mean the Dragons came
back to the cell to finish off their game.
King’s guards they’ve overpowered, and they will
break down the dungeon door and take their fill

of vengeful spite and evil joyous pleasure,
a memory that long years hence they’ll treasure.
The door’s flung open.  Two dark silhouettes
they glimpse, and cringe in fear before these threats.

They’re grabbed by hands and roughly pulled about.
Scouse whimpered “No,” and Tommo gave a shout
of wild despair, then hope flared in his heart:
two lads of his who’ve come to get them out.
It’s Nelly here, and Claggy, there’s no doubt.
They swiftly cut the binding ropes apart.

The capture of Tommo and Scouse they had heard
broadcast afar by La’al Willie’s songs.
They’d crept up to spy on what had occurred,
determined to right this vilest of wrongs.

When Will and the Dragons had swarmed to the prison
they thought all was lost, then their hopes had arisen.
The Dragons had gone, so they jumped on the boys
left guarding the prisoners.  That was the noise

the captives had heard as they scuffled outside,
when even bold Tommo had feared that his pride
was tumbled to dust and that he’d be dragged out
to suffer debagging with many a clout,

and shameful exposure to mocking and jeering;
but now he was free of all he’d been fearing.
His orders he gave, now completely in charge:
“Bring her!  Find the Banner!  The task isn’t large.

“If she doesn’t know exactly where they
keep it we’ll grab us a lad who’ll obey,
and when we have got it, we’ll take it away.”

They leave the dungeon.  Tommo says, “Bring in
the guards, and have them bound and gagged,
then lock the door on them.  No din
must show the others that we’ve bagged
those who were set to watch over us –
and so we’ll get away – no fuss!

Wank and ’Utch, who’d both been sitting
upon the guards outside,
dragged them in.  “Refrain from hitting,”
called Tommo,  “let them bide!”

The Wild Bulls stooped to grab the ropes,
the same that once had bound
Scouse and Tommo, when their hopes
had fallen to the ground.

Now Effie thought it most unfair
to leave the guards tied up in there,
but Tommo said, “It’s right.
We leave ’em loose and they will go
straight to King and bring him, so
we leave ’em tied up tight.”

She had to see his words were just
and that they really had
to bind the guards.  They really must.
It would have been quite mad
to leave them free to go and tell
the prisoners had escaped:
they would be caught, and Eff as well,
humiliated, raped.

Tommo led our Effie out,
still full of fears and lingering doubt,
but whispered then to Nelly.
While Nelly did what he had planned,
he turned to help poor Scouse to stand,
whose legs had turned to jelly.

Canto 9: in which the quest for the Banner
is interrupted by the Black Dragons,
Sandra is knocked off her feet,
and Ronno searches for King
and finds Sandra’s tale confusing

Now freed at last from durance vile,
with Effie as their guide,
the Wild Bulls creep in single file
cautiously round every pile,
make dashes and then hide.

Then Effie points them to a place
where lies the famous Banner,
but it’s a task they cannot face.
To search the rubble for a trace.
they’d really need a scanner.

“Who knows where lies the Banner hid?”
cried Tommo in despair.
“The boys do, every single kid.
Grab one and make him do as bid,
but not a single hair,”

said Effie, “must you hurt at all,
for you are peaceful men.”
But then, around a broken wall
comes Sandra.  “Now why don’t we call
to her, for she must ken.”

But then they heard a fearful noise,
young voices raised in song,
the clamour fierce of Dragon boys.
Their plans had all gone wrong.

“We’re going to take their trousers off!
We’re going to take their trousers off!
The Halden lads are wankers,
the Halden lads are wankers,
the Halden lads are wa-ankers:
we’ll have their trousers off!

We’ll have their trousers off,
we’ll have their trousers off!
The Halden lads are wankers,
the Halden lads are wankers,
that Halden lads are wa-ankers:
we’ll have their trousers off!

Thus sang the Dragons, and forthwith
appeared their brawling throng,
sent Sandra sprawling ’gainst a wall,
and bellowed out their song.

“You stupid sods!” yelled Sandra then,
“You think you’re all such great big men.
Why don’t you try to grow up?
You make me want to throw up!”

“Surrup, ya bitch!” yelled Little Willie.
“We’ll have yer knickers – you’ll feel silly –
then drag you to our den
to show you that we’re men!”

At this the nearest boys all sang
that she’d be raped by all the gang:

“We’re gonna have a gang-bang,
we’re gonna have a gang-bang,
we’re gonna have a gang-bang,
let’s have ’er knickers off!”

Those further off, who could not hear,
continued singing, loud and clear:

“The Halden lads are wankers,
the Halden lads are wankers,
the Halden lads are wa-ankers:
we’ll have their trousers off!”

This called to Willie’s one-track mind
his prey, and so his thoughts did grind
along their long-accustomed ways,
reminding him that of all days
this was his most glorious yet,
for he had the chance to get
the trousers off two Halden boys,
and then: the Count!  Oh joy of joys!
He called his lads to leave Sand there
and charge with him to that place where
they’d strip the Halden lads quite bare
of nether garments and subject ’em
to tortures that would long deject ’em,
as songs were sung how he’d dekecked ’em.

So off they charged and Sandra rose
once more upon her pretty toes
and spat contempt upon all those
Dragon boys who followed Willie,
her face as white as any lily,
her anger boiling first, then chilly.

Then Ronno came and he asked, “Seen King?”
but Sandra glowered like anything.
She said, “Did you see?” and he said, “What?”
She said, “La’al Willie!  He should be shot!”

“Have you seen King?” said Ronno again.
“He’s got no respect,” said Sandra, then
“If I was his mum his pants would come down!
Behaving like hooligans round the town!”

“What?” said Ronno.  “Who d’you mean?”
“I’d teach him a lesson like me Aunt Irene
did to their Maurice when he thought he was great:
staying out, swearing and throwing his weight
as if he was master instead of her son –
well he soon learned his lesson when she had done!”

“Have you seen King?” said Ronno once more.
“She made sure that he got what for,
him and that gang that terrorised school,
swaggering round like they thought themselves cool!”

“Only,” said Ronno, “I’ve got to meet
King right here.”  “It was really neat,”
Sandra continued.  “I can’t find Sid
either,” said Ronno,  “I expect he’s hid,
gone home with his dad to avoid the fight.”

“Now he’s quiet as a mouse so that’s all right,”
said Effie then.  “Not a peep he’ll raise,
not since he went to school for days,
a week or more, in juvenile shorts.”
“Who?  Sid?” asked Ronno, confused in his thoughts.
“Me cousin,” said Sandra.  “You just haven’t heard
what I’ve been saying: not a single word.”

“Have …” said Ronno, exasperated,
“you …” – his words were exaggerated –
“seen …” he bellowed, like a roaring beast,
“King?"  he finished.  Now she heard at least,
and she answered him with one word, “No,”
then she asked, “Where’s Effie, and can I go
and talk to her?” so Ronno said, “Yes.”
Then he turned away with his head in a mess,
and to bring some order to his thoughts
he asked why her aunt put her son in shorts.
“Because,” said Effie, with a toss of her head,
“he never listened to what was said.”

She left.  The Bulls in disarray
were watching in dismay.
“She’s going there.  She’ll tell ’em we’ve
escaped.  It’s time to leave,”
said Scouse, but Nelly said, “Let’s grab
Ronno, make him blab,
and tell us where the Banner is.
We want those trousers.  His
will do instead if he won’t squeal.”
“As well,” said Wank.  “The deal
will be the Banner for his jeans,
but my mind this way leans:
make off with both and leave him there,
below the waist all bare.”

Just then they heard somebody shout,
and Claggy hissed, “Look out!”
The Wild Bulls dived back into shelter,
hugger-mugger, helter-skelter.

Ronno, standing on a wall
and looking round for King,
turns when he hears someone call:
what news do these lads bring?

It’s Ken and Stan, they’re on the search
for King, and Ronno too.
Perhaps he’s left them in the lurch,
their brilliant leader who

once led them all to victory,
and took his rival’s jeans,
for now it seems to them that he
avoids by every means

the confrontation that they crave,
bewitched by Effie’s charms.
They hope that he’ll once more prove brave
and lead them out in arms,

for if he does as Effie begs
and shuns the coming fight,
both he and they may lose their kegs
to Willie’s boiling spite.

Canto 10: in which Tommo persuades Effie
to help the Wild Bulls escape, she discovers
his duplicity and calls the Black Dragons

The Wild Bulls lurk behind the shed,
as good as dead.
They cannot make a sudden run.
They might have done,
but Ronno’s up upon the top,
and he would stop
their attempt to get away
as sure as day
follows night, and then they’d be
all trapped, for he
would call the gang to come and catch
them all and snatch
from them their only hope, and then
back to the den,
the prison dungeon, they’d be dragged
to be debagged.

But Tommo has a sudden thought.
Though they are caught
it seems, and cannot all escape
they might just scrape
a chance for one of them to flee.
At large then, he
would bring the van.  The Wild Bulls all
within would fall.

Away they would accelerate,
escape their fate
in a bold and daring manner.
Forget the Banner.

This to achieve is Effie’s part:
with guileful art
must she to Ronno go, and say,
she’s on her way
as sent by King to find him there,
if she will dare;
to say she promised King she will
his wish fulfil;
ending her desire for peace,
she will release
him from her everlasting plaint,
no longer taint
his ears with nagging, for she’s learned
he’s right, and earned
his love again and so been sent,
obedient, bent
to his will now in this manner,
to fetch the Banner.

“Why,” says Nelly, “would King send,
save round the bend,
Effie for the Banner, why
should he defy
reason, bring the Banner out?
Would  Ronno doubt?”

“What makes him act like this is love.
By heaven above,”
says Tommo, “doesn’t every man
obey the plan
that’s put to him by his best girl?
For in a whirl
his mind is set by hope of sex.
It puts a hex
on reasoned thinking, and she’ll claim
that it’s King’s aim
to use the Banner for a show.
He means to go
in triumph, marching in procession
to the session
that he’s planned for us, to make
quite sure he’ll take
the leadership of all of Swarrell,
so the quarrel
with Halden ends in King’s own glory.
That’s her story.”

“If you escape in this sly manner
you’ll lose the Banner,”
said Effie, “and that was, I thought,
why you were caught.”

“Well,” said Tommo, “if it’s here,
then have no fear:
we’ll grab the Banner on our way,
but we won’t stay
to fight for it by any means
and risk our jeans.
But tell me, Effie, will you do it?
You will not rue it.”

“I will,” said Effie.  Off she went.
Then Tommo bent
towards the others, and he said,
“She’d really dread
what I have planned, for when the van
comes, seize the man!
We’ll grab the Banner, and we’ll catch
old Ronno, snatch
him, go and grab him in a pack,
and take him back
to Halden where he’ll suffer what
we’d have got,
what they’d planned for us.  We’ll see
just how much he
will score in this humiliation.
Cry jubilation!
The Bulls will be top gang: we’ll rule
both street and school
through Halden and through Swarrell too.
The whole damn crew
will follow us and gladly sing
that I’m the king.

Now Hutch is sent upon his way,
and Tommo asks if Clagg and Wank,
who left tied up in that cell dank
the guards, had done as he did say

“We did,” said Claggy, and pulled out
a pair of jeans from in his shirt.
“Just like you said, we didn’t hurt
them, but ensured without a doubt

they wouldn’t go to seek their mates
if they escaped.  They’re both dekegged,
so they would creep away and hide.
I hardly think that they would bide,
thus stripped of dignity, bare-legged,
to let the Dragons rule their fates.

“Look out!” cried Scouse.  “She’s coming back,
and Ronno’s gone.  It’s all gone wrong!”
“I don’t know why you make this song
and dance,” said Effie.  “Do you lack

both courage and belief in me
to carry on in this wild manner?
Yes, Ronno’s gone – to get the Banner.
He’ll bring it here, as you will see.

“Hooray!” cried Wank.  “Four-nil to us!”
Then Effie asks just what he means,
and then she sees the captured jeans
and launches into quite a fuss.

“I see now what you had intended,”
she cries.  “I know that you’ve deceived
me.  Oh, how could I have believed
that you your character had mended?

“You mean to hustle in your van
the Banner, and our Ronno too;
and I can guess what you will do
to him.  I’ll foil your little plan!

“All I have to do is shout
and they’ll come running over here.”
Then Tommo said, with mocking sneer,
“They’ll ask why you have let us out.”

“I didn’t though.  It wasn’t me,”
she said, but Tommo laughed again.
“I think you’d plead with them in vain.
They’d have your knickers off!” said he.

She hesitated just a second,
then loudly she began to sing
the Dragons’ song and made it ring.
Bluff hadn’t worked as Tommo reckoned.

They try to hush her, but in vain,
for every time they try to hold her
and stifle her she just gets bolder
and screeches like a soul in pain.

“Glory, glory, halleluiah!
Glory, glory, halleluiah!
Glory glory, halleluiah,
we’ve got Nails Palmer’s pants!

“Nails Palmer came to Swarrell
    with a thousand boys or more,
Nails Palmer came to Swarrell
    with a thousand boys or more,
Nails Palmer came to Swarrell
    with a thousand boys or more,
but we got his trousers off!”

Just then there came an answering chorus,
and the Dragons come in sight,
which gives them all a dreadful fright.
Scouse sobs, and wails, “They’re coming for us!”

Around the bend the Dragons run,
their voices raised in rousing song.
It seems that Scouse cannot be wrong:
they’re ready for some filthy fun.

Canto 11: in which Effie regrets her wild impulse,
King falls into danger, the Dragons strip their victim,
and the Wild Bulls are captured

Meanwhile, elsewhere across the yard
King and Ronno meet.
King has news but finds it hard
to tell, for Ronno’s heat
to speak and tell what he has learned
has bubbled up and boiled and burned.
King just can’t compete.

Now Ronno calls with warning shout.
King yells, “They have escaped.
Ronno cries, “You let her out
she claims.  Oh, she has shaped
a tale with which she means to spoil
everything for us.  Your toil
is overthrown.”  King gaped.

“She said you sent her for the flag,
but I did not believe.
She’s with those lads.  They didn’t drag
her with them.  She could leave.
She’s on their side – perhaps their planner –
and what she plans is: steal the Banner.
That’s how she will deceive
us and our honour thieve.

King is convinced.  He rushes off.
“Come on!” he cries and goes.
Ronno’s dismayed.  A deeper trough
he sees.  It’s full of foes.
King there will plunge,
a rapid lunge
will see him seized and caught.
How Ronno’s mind is fraught
and weighed down by his fears,
for this must end in tears.
If King is nabbed
and roughly grabbed,
to Halden they will drag him.
There he’ll be gripped
and cruelly stripped:
they’ll publicly debag him.

But Ronno’s not aware
that Little Willie’s gang
are on the rampage there.
We’ve all heard how they sang
of their avowed intent
that trousers should be rent
from anyone they caught,
for they will stop at naught.

O Muses, we must now recount the fate
and tell what next befell the lads who call
themselves Wild Bulls.  For them was it too late?
Must they, their trousers, and their honour, fall?
Black Dragons wildly rushed upon the scene,
led by Willie, whose unquenchable thirst
for taking trousers off and stripping clean
the loins of all his foes will bring the worst
humiliation on those captured boys.
O Muses, must I sing of Willie’s joys?

No, wait!  The Dragons all went rushing past,
and Scouse, who thought his doom had come at last,
could breathe again.  Now Nelly says they ought
to rid themselves of Effie who had brought
such danger rushing down upon their heads,
but she is sorry now, for what she dreads
is violence of any sort, and so
she begs their pardon, looking full of woe.

Now Nelly says, “Let’s make a rapid dash
towards the van!” but Scouse thinks this is rash.
Then Claggy says, “It is our only chance!”
which makes poor Scouse go hopping in a dance
of fright, till Tommo tells them, “All we can
do is wait for ’Utch to bring the van.
If he gets through, then we’ll make our escape.
If not: the Count for us, for Effie rape.”

Then King appears and calls out in a rage
for Effie.  Ronno next comes on our stage.
He’s fearful lest his leader be debagged,
but will not leave him, though he too be scragged.
The Bulls have no intention, though, to snatch
at King or Ronno, for they see a catch.
These lads are not alone, it’s plain to see.
If Bulls come out, then Swarrell lads with glee
will all appear, surround them, and with joy
strip off the trousers from each Halden boy.

Scouse trembles, fumbling at his waistband, muttering,
“If we give up our jeans to them for flags
perhaps they’ll let us go.”  His heart is fluttering.
“They won’t,” says Tommo.  “It’s not just our bags
they want.  They mean to put us to the Count.
The stakes have risen by a vast amount
since we stripped Nails.  Our full humiliation
is all that they’ll accept, our desecration.
I say that we should stick to my first plan
and silently wait here for ’Utch’s van.”

Then Effie says, “I’ll go to them,” and stands.
“I’ll keep them talking till you get away.
No longer heeding Tommo’s hissed commands
and silent gestures, she declines to stay.
“She’ll tell,” moans Scouse, and clutches at his groin.
“She’s gone,” says Tommo.  “Let her go.  We’ll wait
and see what happens next, see Effie join
the Swarrell lads and note what is her fate.
What’s more,” he says, “ I’ve got a great idea.
As soon as ’Utch brings up his brother’s van
we’ll all grab King.  Once over the frontier
we’ll put him to the Count – so grab that man!”
So Effie comes to King, who calls her “Bitch”,
reproaches her with insults and then rants
at her for her disloyal actions, which
have helped the enemy to strip the pants
off Mal and Dek, the guards, and leave them shamed,
bare-legged, red-faced, their jeans as trophies taken
to taunt the lads of Swarrell.  She is blamed
for helping them, that Swarrell’s glory’s shaken.
Thus Effie stands before him, quite forsaken.

Then suddenly she turns and at King screams,
“You foul-mouthed pig! You beast!  I’m sick of you
and all your great, imperial, conquering dreams!
It’s over now, it’s finished!  I will do
whate’er I think is right to bring an end
to all these fights, for I shall give that Banner
to Tommo and his gang, and thus I’ll mend
this boiling strife, so peace will come.  Hosannah!”

“There’s only you,” said King, “do you suppose
that we’ll just stand and let you take our standard?”
“She cried, “You are surrounded by your foes.
They’re over there.”  She points. 
            “Too long I’ve pandered
to your every whim, but now it’s over.
They’re over there, the Halden lads.  They’ll come
if I just call.  Your time as pig in clover
is finished.  You have treated me like some
filthy tart, ignored my pleas for peace.
You wouldn’t listen, now you’re looking silly.
You wouldn’t stop, although I begged you cease.
Well now you’ve lost the Banner –
            and your gang to Willie.

As Effie points the Wild Bulls duck
down and Tommo mutters, “Fuck!”
“She has betrayed us,” poor Scouse wails,
but then – oh holiest of grails –
the long-awaited van appears.
“Come on!” cries Tommo.  “My idea’s
that we grab King and take him back!”

It seems that Tommo has the knack
of seizing chances and inspiring
his gang, heroic actions firing,
for out they rush, surrounding King.
He’s forced to come with them.  They bring
him quickly now towards the van,
while Ronno runs as quick’s he can
and shouts for help to free his chief.
Poor Effie stands in disbelief
as Nelly snatches from her hands
the Banner that those rival bands
had fought and struggled for so long.

Surely nothing can go wrong
with Tommo’s plan, but now appear
the Dragons, striking awful fear
into the Wild Bulls’ trembling hearts.
They thunder past, surround the van,
thus thwarting Tommo’s little plan.

“Raaay!  Get him!” cry the Dragons all.
“We’ve caught him, now we’ll have a ball.
We’re going to strip him of his pants!”
They swarm about the van like ants
who’ve found some prey.  Their victim squeals.
Frightened Scouse knows how he feels.
The trousers fly into the air.
The Dragons cheer.  With legs all bare
their victim tries to catch his trousers
thrown about by those carousers.

Now Ronno comes, with Ken and Stan.
They seize the Banner, free the man.
They grab the jeans of Mal and Dek,
while Tommo mutters, “Flippin’ heck!”
King, now restored again to rule,
says to Tommo, “You’re a fool,
and very stupid now you look.
Once more I’ve got you on my hook.
This time I’m going to land my fish,
and then La’al Willie’ll get his wish.
You lot are all up for the Count.
Six Banners now is the amount
by which we measure victory.
You’ve lost, for now the victor’s me.
Now, as for Effie, who has schemed
to set you free, she’s never dreamed
in any nightmare that she’s had
how she’ll be raped by every lad
belonging to our gang in Swarrell.
That’s what happens if you quarrel
with King, the great, the mighty leader.
Did she think I’d always need ’er?”

Canto 12: in which the Wild Bulls escape,
the Banner is captured,
Willie’s error puts King’s gang into danger,
and war is declared

But now the Dragons surge away,
pursuing still their pantless prey.
The engine roars.  The van shoots on,
scattering the lads.  Poor Ron
is almost hit and dives aside.
The Bulls once more have got their ride
to safety, and they scramble in.
The engine races.  What a din!

Effie leaps, the Banner snatches,
flees to Tommo, and he catches
her hands and hauls her in the van.
The icing and the marzipan
are on the cake as off they roar,
leaving King upon the floor,
with Ronno, Ken and Stan all sprawling.

Up he scrambles, loudly bawling
at Willie, who, with cheerful grin,
not thinking of the fix he’s in,
brandishes a pair of jeans,
wondering what his leader means
to scowl at him with brows like thunder
as if he thinks he should be under
some cloud, committed some disgrace
instead of winning glorious face
by taking yet another pair
of trouser-trophies, stripping bare
another victim of his fun.
Why should King ask what he has done?

King yells at Willie, “Why d’you let
the driver go, you stupid boy?”
“What driver?” Willie asks.  Why get
upset?  Why don’t they share his joy?

Says King: “The driver of the van!”
“What van?” asks Willie, looking round.
“The van from Halden, and the man
you must have had down on the ground.”

“I saw no van,” said Willie then.
“There was no van, there were no men,
just us, the Dragons, and we had
Jim Gormley, whom we’d chased and caught.
Look, here’s his trousers.  I had thought
you’d laugh to see us strip that lad.

“Well, never mind.  It’s time to bring
the prisoners out and make ’em plead
for mercy, make ’em dance and sing
and try to turn us from the deed.

“but all in vain, for lads from all
over town have come to see,
responding to our clarion call,
to share in our great victory.

“They’ve come to watch us as we scrag
the Halden lads, and then debag
them, take their trousers for our banners.
Bring ’em out!  Let’s make a start!
Why look as if you’ve all lost heart?
It’s time to cheer with loud hosannas!”

“They’ve gone,” said King.  “They’ve all escaped.
You had the van surrounded.
We had ’em here.  They stood and gaped.
Their hopes were all confounded.
You let it go and up it roared.
The prisoners then all leapt aboard
while we just stood astounded.

“The Dock Street Gang, the Mad Dogs too,
have come to watch a scragging.
We’ve lost the prisoners, thanks to you.
They’ll think we were just bragging.
These lads are big and tough and mean.
They’ll turn on us to vent their spleen.
It won’t be just debagging!”

Now Willie paled, and gooseflesh rose
upon his legs, upon his arms.
He trembled, thinking what all those
fierce lads might do, what dreadful harms.
He trembled and his knees did knock.
It really was a dreadful shock.
Then, suddenly, King calms.

“The gangs from Swarrell are all here,”
he said.  “They’ve come to see
us scrag the Halden lads I fear.
They’ve gone, and therefore we
are looking stupid, but, of course,
we now have colossal force
to lead to victory.

“Forget the prisoners.  They are nowt,
merely the occasion
to bring the gangs from all throughout
Swarrell, just persuasion
to get them here, but now they’ll find
more pleasures than they had opined:
they’ll join us in invasion!”

Hear Willie cheer.
He’s freed from fear.
The lads all roar,
for this is war.

Thus poor Effie’s quest for peace,
her longing that all conflicts cease,
has come undone.  It’s not gone right,
for hundreds now will join the fight.

O Muses, ere I can dismount
from Pegasus, must I recount
the noise of battle’s din?
Would you have me tell of war,
of bloodshed, battles, and much more,
as gangs all strive to win?

Just as the poet Virgil did,
(the sixth book of his Aeneid),
I see the rivers of our city,
unless, o Muses, you have pity,
foaming red with blood,
for Effie’s efforts all have failed,
no matter how she wept and wailed.
The gangs have come from far and near.
They’re fighting mad and have no fear.
They’re ready all to flood
into Halden and to scrag
any lad they find,
to pity blind,
to thump and kick
with boot and stick
to beat up and debag.

Hear Willie sing.
His hopes take wing.
With his great force
he means of course,
as now he rants,
to capture pants.

“We’re going to take their trousers off!
We’re going to take their trousers off!”
sings Willie then.
“We’re going to take their trousers off!
We’re going to take their trousers off!”
sing all his men.

So King’s gang go
to find the others
and then, as brothers,
face the foe.

But what it is that happens next
this tale of mine won’t tell.
I’ll keep that for another text
that you must read as well.

Some time, I promise, I’ll recount
the battles, if I’m able.
But now I really must dismount,
lead Pegasus to stable.

My poor old plodder is too tired
to reach poetic heights.
We’ll leave our heroes all enmired
as they prepare for fights.
Farewell, farewell, dear readers all,
farewell to Effie too.
Some day I’ll on the Muses call
and tell the rest to you.

And much to tell, I fear there’ll be
as Mars assumes the crown,
the lord of battles, war-god, he
may bring our heroes down,
for Effie’s failed, alas, and she
has had to flee the town.

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