CHRONICLES OF HALDEN, IV
Part 4: The Battle
- Auksford, 2015 -
© Robin Gordon 2015
The moral right of
the author has been asserted
Whom the gods would destroy
they first make mad
As flies to wanton boys
are we to the gods,
they kill us for their sport
(Shakespeare: King Lear)
In which the poet laments his incapacity for the task imposed
King turns the loss of the prisoners into a cause for invading Halden,
and Little Willie is denied his greatest pleasure
In which King discusses strategy, Willie withdraws in disgust and
Thelma sees a chance for the girls
In which King’s strategy is questioned, the girls come to see the
fun, Sid proves his worth, and the Wild Bulls are inspired
In which the two armies meet and Hotrod issues a challenge
In which Thelma takes a hand, the Furies attack and are repulsed, and
Johnny Cowan leads a charge
In which Norah takes the lead and Tommo’s ambition
In which Norah sends out messengers and Old Jake falls into
In which Old Jake gives advice, and messengers and spies are sent
In which moonlight reveals the scene to Norah and her girls, Willie
stays aloof, Sid falls into danger and Old Jake complains
In which Halden attack, Norah’s hopes rise, there is dissension
among the girls, the Engine Sheds are taken and Willie sends Pete to
In which Norah changes her tune
In which the first trousers are taken
In which Norah’s agents inflame the courage
of the boys
In which the battle gets going, Norah gains trophies, Willie falls
into peril, and Tommo is taken
In which the Wild Bulls desert their leader
In which Willie triumphs
In which Scouse makes a sacrifice
In which Scouse objects
In which Tommo and Scouse go home trouserless
In which the poet points out the moral of the story
Canto 1: In which the
laments his incapacity for the task imposed
on him, King turns the loss of the prisoners into a cause for invading
Halden, and Little Willie is denied his greatest pleasure
Ah, Muses, would you have me sing
of battle’s rage, of blood and gore?
You know that such is not my thing,
I have no genius for war.
Madness, rage and bloodlust wild
are not my business. Like a child
I take no pleasure in such things.
They give my Pegasus no wings.
Oh, would you have me sing of death,
of battered bodies, severed limbs,
of corpses lying without breath
or life. This surely dims
my talent, for my verse should skip
and tell of funny things, not tip
over into tragic plaints –
my heroes boys, not martyred saints
or warriors who seek to kill
or maim and mutilate their foes.
Debagging is their greatest thrill,
not bringing life to violent close.
You know, o Muses, that I write
of lads and girls whose deepest spite
is not expressed with sword or gun,
but taking trousers off for fun.
My heroes never lose their lives
to warriors who brandish knives,
they lose their dignity and kegs
while other mock their naked legs.
Nonetheless I heed your call.
To war-like writing I now fall,
but you’ll excuse me, I’ve no doubt,
if mock-heroic it turns out.
King, you will remember, called
from far and near in Swarrell town
all other gangs to see brought down
the prisoners that his gang had walled
in durance vile, in dungeon deep,
for safely he had meant to keep
his captives till their time of doom
within what seemed a living tomb.
The best-laid plans of mice and men
gang oft agley, as Burns has told,
for by some stratagem quite bold
the lads escaped from that foul den.
With Effie’s help they seized the Banner,
and fled away in such a manner
as I narrated in Part Three,
thus leaving King confused, at sea.
Those ferocious gangs he’d brought
flooding in to see the Count
were now a danger to surmount.
Humiliation they had thought
to see inflicted on their foes.
King’s gang must now be on their toes
if they’d avoid the selfsame fate.
Can King exploit their burning hate?
Hear Willie sing, his thoughts take wing,
“There’s gonna be a battle!”
His gang all cheer because they hear
“There’s gonna be a battle!”
The Dragons shout and stamp about,
“There’s gonna be a battle!”
Now Willie rants, “We’ll have their pants!
There’s gonna be a battle!”
Hear Willie boast. What he loves most
is scragging and debagging,
scragging and debagging,
invasion and extermination,
scragging and debagging.
“Bring out the prisoners!” Terry calls.
King talks about invasion.
“Where are the prisoners?” Terry bawls,
While King attempts persuasion.
“Now we’re all here
we shall invade,
for they all fear
a Swarrell raid.
Our gangs unite,
and we’ll attack!
Won’t hold us back!”
“Where are the prisoners? Bring ’em out!”
now Terry and some others shout,
and now at last King must explain
that the triumph he’d predicted
had vanished like the dew or rain,
that fate upon him had inflicted
a disappointment, “But,” he cried,
“let us now not be dismayed!
Swarrell gangs from far and wide
are here together: let’s invade!”
Now Willie and the Dragons cheer.
The longed-for war at last is here.
Invasion and pursuit will win
trophies that will spread a grin
of triumph over Swarrell faces:
trousers, pants and belts and braces.
Around the gangs the words are spread:
“We shall invade, and Halden’s dead!”
The prisoners now can be forgotten,
although their loss was felt as rotten,
for Swarrell sees a chance to score,
win final triumph in their war,
so cheers and boasting win the day.
King doesn’t fall but has his way.
Little Willie is delighted,
he dances up and down.
He really is far too excited,
bouncing like a clown.
“We’ll have their pants off!” Willie calls.
“Debag ’em! Kick ’em in the balls!”
The others all hear Willie bragging
and singing songs about debagging.
This does not suit the Mad Dog gang.
“This ain’t no kids’ game!” cries their leader.
He turns to King, and his harangue
ends with, “Tell that little bleeder
that we’re not poovy undergrads.
We are the boldest of brave lads.
From blood and wounds we do not shrink,
or broken bones, but if you think
that we’ll take part in silly pranks
like pulling pants off – well, no thanks!”
King looks into the Mad Dog’s eyes
and thinks he sees where wisdom lies.
Those big fierce lads are what he needs,
not Willie’s little boys. Their deeds
are necessary, for they’ll bring
a victory that men will sing
about for many generations,
remembering in celebrations
and glorifying Ernie King.
That’s why King turns to Willie then
and says, “I need these warrior-men
far more than all your little boys.
If you would share our battle joys
just remember: no debagging!
That’s not involved in this great scragging.
Blood we’ll have, and broken limbs –
a victory to praise in hymns
of triumph and in celebration
of heroism.” Perturbation
overshadowed Willie’s brow,
for his triumphant moment now
was turned to ashes and to dust,
for King forebade his greatest lust.
Not only that, but King in fury,
acting both as judge and jury,
and prosecuting counsel too,
says, “Willie is the one to blame
that Halden lads escaped our game,
and fled away with Effie, who
had taken also Swarrell’s flag
while Willie set out to debag
a Swarrell kid, no Halden lad.”
The Mad Dogs scowl while King thus rants
and grabs from Willie poor Jim’s pants.
No wonder Willie’s feeling bad.
Canto 2: In which King discusses
strategy, Willie withdraws in disgust
and Thelma sees a chance for the girls
So, while the older lads are making plans,
Willie and the Dragons mooch away.
Faced now with this … this most unjust of bans,
the Dragons will not enter in the fray,
for Willie says the older lads are scared
that they might lose their pants and would look silly,
afraid of having legs and privates bared.
“We’d strip the
Halden lads!” cries Little
“This strategy they
talk of, it’s just balls!
A quick strike’s what this situation calls
for. I’d have been already fighting there
in Halden’s streets and in the town hall square,
and trousers by the dozen I’d have taken,
and Halden’s pride forever would be shaken –
but now, lads, now we shall await our chance,
and, when they’re all exhausted by the dance
of changing fortunes in their solemn
we’ll sweep right in and even up the score!”
Just then there passed by chance
a lass whose beady glance
oft sought out Willie’s game –
and Thelma was her name.
“ ’Lo, Willie. What’s gan on?” she smiled.
“All those lads beyond the tracks
of the railway? Hunting packs
is what they look like,
fierce and wild.”
“Gonna be a battle,” answered Pete.
Thelma smiled a smile so sweet.
“Ooh, lots of trophies for our lads to win,
and we’ll look on – it really is no sin,
’cos natur’lly we girls, the fairer sex,
like to see you boys without your kecks.
You all come out with all those claims so bold,
we’d like to see the goods we’re being sold.”
Now Willie grinned. “You’d get an awful shock
if you should catch a glimpse of my
he said. “you’d long for it to penetrate
your body. You could hardly bear to wait.”
Then Thelma said, “Your very silly.
We know why you’re called Little
Willie frowned. “Hey, what’s your game?
I’ll tell you how I got my name
My surname’s Wilson, I’ve a brother,
and that’s the reason, and no other.
Because he’s older he has kept
the name of Willie. I’m yclept
Little Willie. That is why.”
Thelma heaved a heavy sigh.
She said, “I’m sorry, and I know
I shouldn’t goad you, tease you so,
but tell me, what’s going on tonight.
You say there’s going to be a fight.
So lots of trophies will be taken.”
“The old traditions are forsaken,”
said Willie, sinking into gloom.
“King’s made his choice. There is no room
for me and all my merry men,
so we’re withdrawing to our den.
King’s listened to the Mad Dogs bragging.
They’ve all decreed there’s no debagging.
Instead of us he’s got Mad Dogs
who like to use their steel-tipped clogs
to kick their enemies to death
and glory in their dying breath,
the sort who get a sexy thrill
whenever they have chanced to kill.”
“It’s a pity,” Thelma said,
“no trophies will be seized.
We really don’t want people dead,
and Norah won’t be
Although no further word she said,
she thought inside her pretty head,
“Now Norah won’t be pleased to hear
tonight no trousers will be taken,
no opportunities to jeer
at bare-legged lads, all quakin’,
no lads debagged, bare legs, bare knees,
their boy-bits dangling in the breeze,
their eyes o’erbrimming with salt tears.
That’s what we girls all like to see.
It fills our hearts with scornful glee.
We’re always ready with our jeers.”
All this she thought, but did not say aloud,
for it would never do to let a crowd
of boys know just how she and certain friends
regarded them. It would not serve her ends.
“Who’s this Norah?” Willie said.
“Oh, she’s a girl boys really dread.
She’s my cousin and she lives
in Halden, and it really gives
her pleasure when a lad gets scragged,
especially if he gets debagged.”
“If lads from Halden started kegging,”
said Willie, “King would come a-begging
and plead with us to join the fray –
and then we’d make them rue the day.
We’d take so many trophies that our glory
would live for ever more in song and story.
You girls can go about from town to town
and never fear that you might be brought down,
but any lad who ventured over there
would get himself beat up and come back bare
below the waist, if he came back at all,
so, Thelma, you could go and quietly call
on cousin Norah, and get her to tell
the Halden lads they’ll have to say farewell
to trousers and to honour if they’re caught,
to tell them that this battle will be fought
for trouser-trophies, all to make new banners
to wave as we sing victory hosannahs!”
“I’ll do it,” Thelma cries, “for love of
A victory of ours will end the quarrel.
You, Willie, will be leader! You’ll be king,
and generations yet to come will sing
of how you overcame the Halden boys
and took their trousers, jeans and corduroys.”
Thelma then departed,
and Willie looked with scorn.
The battle hadn’t started,
though battle lines were drawn.
“I’d have gone right in
an’ took ’em by surprise.
It really is a sin
King thinks he is so wise.
Come, Dragons, let’s withdraw
beyond the railway track,
and quietly wait there for
old King to call us back.”
So Willie, like Achilles in his tent,
sulking all alone for loss of face,
took his fierce Black Dragons and he went
and set outside the battlefield his base.
Canto 3: In which King’s
strategy is questioned, the girls come
to see the fun, Sid proves his worth, and the Wild Bulls are inspired
While Willie and the Dragons moved,
and Thelma off to Norah sped,
King really thought that he had proved
the strategy within his head
to all his gangs, that it would work.
Objections rose, and with a jerk
he found that he was facing questions.
He found that, when he made suggestions
which he had thought strategic, tactical,
that others cried they were impractical.
He thought that he would send two groups
around behind the Halden army,
so they’d be trapped, like hens in coops.
The Mad Dog leader thought it barmy.
“We want,” he said, “a single thrust.
These other plans of yours are just
a waste of time. The clunking fist
is what they never will resist.”
Up popped once more that lad named Terry,
and he was very, very, very
nervous. Though he’d hoped to see
helpless victims stripped of jeans,
now he knew that there would be
a battle with all that it means
his courage ebbed away quite quickly,
and so he spoke – his voice came thickly –
and said, “Far too much time we’ve spent.
We should have used surprise attack
and unexpected fierce descent,
so that by now we would be back
loaded up with trophy prizes,
scarves and belts, jeans of all sizes,
but now they know that we are coming
they’ll be ready and we may
find ourselves within a humming
swarm all ready for the fray.”
“Thump him, someone!” cried out King.
“The boy’s a coward sniveller,
and when our back’s turned, he’ll take wing.
Don’t listen! He’s a driveller!”
Then up spoke Sid, “Don’t let him rattle
your nerves, although you’re sick of it.
I’ll keep him by me in the battle,
make sure he’s in the thick of it.”
“Well, good old Sid!” they cried, “Hurrah!”
Terry won’t be going far,
for Sid will watch him like a hawk!”
Then Sid to Terry muttered next,
“With you to watch – oh how I’m vexed –
I cannot fight. Let’s take a walk.
We’ll find a quiet place beside
the Engine Sheds where we can hide”
Thelma meanwhile had departed
for Halden, where she hoped to meet
Norah, but when in the street
she saw some boys she said, “It’s started.
The long-awaited battle’s here.
Now we need every volunteer.
Round up the gangs! Bring every boy
who might indulge in battle’s joy.!”
Then, finding Norah, she explained
just what had happened, and she gained
enthusiasm and support,
for Norah saw that this onslaught
brought opportunity to take
trousers from the males and make
them suffer such humiliation
as gave her cause for celebration.
Her girls she sent out far and wide
to call the boys to come on-side
and join the army, and girls too
were called to come the strife to view.
King meanwhile, with all his troops,
felt as if through flaming hoops
he had to leap to satisfy
the mutinous leaders standing by,
who all came up with different schemes.
It seemed the victory of his dreams
receded faster every second.
As commander he’d not reckoned
that all the other leaders would
each have his own ideas. He could
never get them to obey
as each one went his own sweet way.
He tried cajoling and persuasion –
then heard the news of an invasion.
The Halden lads were not concerned
with strategy, for each one burned
with overwhelming, harsh desire
to punish Swarrel, vengeance dire
to make them pay for this new threat.
Too long delay: they were beset,
for strategy had held them back
till Halden came in hot attack
Across the Alebeck Marsh they came,
a host of Halden lads, a swarm,
as cheerfully as to a game,
as fierce as an approaching storm.
The Swarrell lads all quickly turned
to meet the onslaught of their foes.
High in their breasts their courage burned.
It wasn’t just a put-on pose.
Then Ken looked up and saw above,
high on the viaduct, a crowd
of girls, and then he said, “I’d love
to get those Halden lads, so proud,
capture them and then debag them,
then hand them over as a treat
to the girls, so they could scrag them.
We’d be top gang. That would be sweet.
The girls would think that we had earned
the best rewards the fairer sex
can give to males, for I have learned,
by proving other males are wrecks
you prove yourself a fitting mate,
and all the greater your reward
the more degrading is the fate
of those who’ve fallen as you’ve soared.
But still,” he said, as catching sight
of Mad Dog warriors in pride,
“we’ll score by putting them to flight
and being on the winning side.
The Mad Dog leader is quite right:
debagging isn’t dignified,
and childish games won’t win a bride.”
“Besides,” he thought, but did not say,
“if I should lose my pants today,
them lassies all would jeer at me,
and that is why it’s best that we
obey King’s rules and don’t debag
the victims whom we catch and scrag,
in case its our lads that get kegged
and have to flee the field bare-legged.”
Now, meanwhile, Ada Biggs, alone,
beyond the muddy Alebeck walking
had set herself to sharpen, hone,
the courage of each Halden fighter,
and to the Wild Bulls started talking.
Of their resentment the igniter,
to combat was she their exciter.
“We girls, we really do admire you,”
she said, and gave a sexy smile.
“Oh, let our favour now inspire you
to deeds of valour, bold and strong!”
With wingèd words she did beguile
Tommo and his eager throng,
urging them to plunge headlong
into battle, and to take
trophies from the Swarrell boys.
“Scarves and colours,” Tommo cried,
“That’s the way their pride to break.”
Ada frowns, then she deploys
cunning: “Let me be your guide:
a lad cannot be dignified
if trouserless – so strip their pride!”
Canto 4: in which the two armies
and Hotrod issues a challenge
Look! Now at last the battle line
is drawn up on the field of war.
The Halden lads strut, pavonine,
the Banner, brandished, goes before.
Between the Alebeck and the tracks
in military pride they stand,
gesturing like maniacs
towards the mighty Swarrell band,
as these come forth to meet their foes
from behind the engine sheds,
and each of them with courage glows,
for lads who now lie in their beds
will count themselves accursed that they
did not join in the battle’s fray.
Swarrell then begins a chant:
“Halden wankers!” hear them cry.
They try to drown out, but they can’t
the chant with which their foes defy
them as in triumph they all shout:
“We’ve got the Banner. We aspire
to win some more, so come on out!
A battle’s what we all desire!”
Swarrell now set out to scoff,
“Nails Palmer was the leader of the mighty Halden gang,
“Nails Palmer was the leader of the mighty Halden gang,
“Nails Palmer was the leader of the mighty Halden gang,
and we took his trousers off!”
They sing, but in half-hearted manner
as Halden chant: “WE’VE GOT THE BANNER!”
“Halden wankers!” cry the Swarrellers,
(the last retreat of failing quarrellers),
and Halden’s chanting grows still louder,
as Tommo, strutting ever prouder,
flourishes the pole beflagged
that Swarrell won when they debagged
Nails Palmer, but which Tommo seized.
While Swarrell groans, his men are pleased.
Now Hotrod, who’s a little runt,
comes strutting right out to the front,
and cries, “I’ll take on six of ’em.
I’ll beat ’em up and make a bloody mix of ’em!
With one arm tied behind my back I’ll
take on six of ’em and tackle
the biggest and the boldest of ’em all,
if any of ’em dare accept my call.”
Now Hotrod was the leader of the Furies,
who cried with one accord that Swarrell boys
were useless wankers. How that cry annoys
King and Ronno, who know what the cure is.
Bold Hotrod had relied on all the noise
to drown out all his ranting and his threats,
and so, in sudden silence, how he sweats.
When Ronno now steps forth he loses poise,
and is so frightened that he nearly wets
his trousers as he dives back out of sight,
hoping to escape his foes by flight;
but before the frightened boaster gets
to safety, to the Swarrell lads’ delight,
by Tommo and the Wild Bulls he is grabbed,
and turned around and pummelled, punched and jabbed,
and told that, as he’s boasted, he must fight.
Hotrod was sorry that he’d loudly gabbed
and boasted of the deeds that he would do,
and pleadingly admitted, “It’s not true.
Please let me go!” But he was truly nabbed,
and pleading’s useless with the Wild Bulls, who
all say that he is just a yellow punk
who hasn’t any balls or manly spunk.
“Get out and fight, or we
will dekeg you!”
So Hotrod is forced out and, in a funk,
attempts to dodge from Ronno’s powerful hands.
He’s grabbed, and, sprawling in the dust, he lands
a lucky blow on Ronno, with a clunk.
A gasp goes up from all the watching bands.
While Ronno reels, young Hotrod slips away,
but schemes of mice and men gang oft agley
for Ronno lumbers after him, demands
that he should cease his flight and boldly stay
to fight as he had promised. Ronno catches
him by the arms, is shaken off, then snatches
his cycling helmet, claims that he will slay
him. Hotrod, when he feels it pulled, detaches
the buckle, and he flees right up the stairs,
but that is not the end of all his cares.
We’ll see what next this situation hatches.
Upon the viaduct the girls all cluster
round Hotrod, but he lacks heroic lustre.
“Aw, did the nasty boys all frighten him?”
they trill, “and were they going to lighten him
of all those heavy clothes boys like to wear?
Aw, diddums, diddums, poor kid, there, there, there.”
Ah, Muses, what is this I see?
Are you playing games with me?
Though I am your amanuensis
you’re trying to confuse my senses.
Among that crowd of milling boys,
all keyed up for the thrilling joys
of battle, surely there is one –
oh, this must surely be a con –
there is one all bent by age,
and he it is takes centre stage.
Ah! Now I see! There’s no mistake.
This ancient fellow is Old Jake.
It is Old Jake, and loud he claims
that Ronno has achieved his aims.
If Hotrod fled and left the field
his comrades should his colours yield,
for Ronno won them fair and square.
Now Tommo cries out, “That is fair!”
“Where is Hotrod? Where’s he gone?
Up to the viaduct he’s fled,
and he’s still got his colours on,
though, by the rules of war, he’s dead.
Come on, Hotrod! Hand them over!
Don’t just lurk there, up in clover
surrounded by the girls,” they yell,
“for by the laws of war you fell!”
The Furies all are furious.
“The Swarrell claim is spurious,”
they yell, “so don’t surrender
our colours, they’re our splendour.
To do so would be curious.
The Wild Bulls must be traitors.
They’re all collaborators.
With us they picked a quarrel,
allied themselves with Swarrell,
the useless masturbators!”
Just as the gods on high Olympus look
down upon mankind upon the earth,
so Norah and her girls looked down and took
note of what went on and saw a dearth
of action of the kind they’d come to see
for Tommo cried, “Let’s take a vote,” and he
thereby had brought the fighting to a halt,
which Norah thought in him a grievous fault.
“Grab that little runt!” she cried,
“and throw him down the stair.
My desire won’t be denied.
I hope they strip him bare!”
“No-o-o!” cried Hotrod, as he fled
from the threatening girls.
Instead of facing what he’d dread
he swiftly turns and hurls
his Furies jacket to the mob,
all milling down below,
hoping that thereby he’ll fob
them off and swiftly go
and find a place of safety where
he will not need to fear.
Meanwhile Norah, full of care,
hears a mighty cheer.
Over the parapet she looks,
sees Tommo give the jacket
to Ronno, and she then rebukes
her girls: “It’s peace! Attack it!
We’ve come to see some action here.
They’ll posture till too late
unless we get them into gear.
Go down and seal their fate!”
Canto 5: In which Thelma takes a
the Furies attack and are
repulsed, and Johnny Cowan leads a charge
Rita nodded. Down the steps she ran
to find the Furies, and at once began
telling them it was a black disgrace
that Halden should, through Tommo’s act, lose face.
There must be something Halden lads could do
to undermine the traitor and his crew.
The Furies were the victims of foul tricks.
“If I were you I’d go and throw some bricks
at Ronno, shower him with rocks and stones,
the only way to see that he atones.”
“Right!” said a Fury, stooping down to pick
from off the ground a suitable half-brick.
“Not here! Not here!” now Rita cried.
“They’ll see you! That is suicide!
What you must do’s go round the back
of Halden, make concealed attack.
No-one will know who threw the stones
that cause so many moans and groans,
such yells and curses, and such screams.
It is the vengeance of your dreams.”
What showers of missiles and stones,
that call forth such yells and such groans!
It’s Ronno whose luck
has departed: he’s struck.
If a wasp he’d exude pheromones.
He’s supported by Ken and by Stan,
and Rita now sees that her plan
is working, for Swarrell
returns to the quarrel
and charges, King’s gang in the van.
Now Halden are taken aback
by the violence of the attack.
They break and they flee
as fast as can be,
and Swarrell are hard on their track.
“That’s better!” cries Norah, all smiles,
and congratulates Reet on her wiles.
“There’ll be a good fight!”
Here she beamed with delight,
but Halden went running for miles.
Not all had left the field,
for not all were surprised.
The Furies rushed to wield
their weapons, mobilised
by seeing Ronno reel
and dizzily then trip.
They see a chance to deal
him many blows and strip
his colours from his back.
They plunge in and attack.
“Oh, look girls, I think we shall see,”
cried Norah, and quivered with glee,
“some trousers come off!
Get ready to scoff,
and go down and bring them to me!”
The Furies were met now by Stan,
a lad that’s more berserk than man.
A Fury was caught,
and quicker than thought
his jacket was off, and he ran.
The Furies then fled,
all quaking with dread,
though Tommo was calling them back,
and Wank hurled a rock,
attempting to crock
Stan and to foil his attack.
Stan falls and the Furies advance,
thinking they now have a chance
to reduce Stan from hero
to colourless zero,
and thereby their glory enhance.
A Swarrell charge by Ken was led
to rescue his best friend.
The Furies then were filled with dread,
gave up their plan and swifly fled,
their courage at its end …
but then again they turn and stand,
regroup and watch their chance,
but Stan, berserk, a firebrand,
for vengeance for what they have planned
rejoined the vicious dance.
“Oh, look girls!” cries Norah, and grins.
“Stan’s grabbed one, it’s one of the twins.
His colours they’ve stripped,
but I wish they had ripped
his jeans off for that is what wins
our favour and firm approbation,
for shaming and humiliation
of arrogant boys
are my greatest of joys –
debagging’s symbolic castration.”
Alas, poor Norah. She is disappointed.
For her, it seems, the times are all disjointed.
Although she’s striven hard with might and main
to spur the boys to fight, she’s got no gain.
Some Swarrell lads are brandishing the scarves
and jackets that they’ve taken, but by halves
she thinks it’s done of no-one has been kegged
and been exposed to cheers and jeers, bare-legged.
Now Wank stood on the battlefield
whence all but he had fled,
a hero without sword or shield
where angels fear to tread.
He’d seen a Fury being stripped
of colours, all alone,
then into madness he had dipped
and hurled a vicious stone.
It missed, and Stan, the berserk boy,
picked up a massive rock,
advanced on Wank with savage joy,
who frozen stood in shock,
but then he turns, and off he hares,
escaping from his plight.
With wingèd feet he climbs the stairs,
in total screaming fright.
At the top of the steps – quelle
Tommo is taking his ease,
so Wank asks him why.
Hear Tommo reply,
“Our victory’s gone with the breeze.
Our lads have all scarpered and left,
of soldiers we’re really bereft.
It isn’t our night.
Let’s give up the fight
before we are victims of theft.
Our colours are still on our backs
depite their incessant attacks,
so I’m going home.
It’s pointless to roam
and hope we can follow their tracks.”
“Yellow” cried Norah with scorn.
“The yellowest kids ever born!
You’re all full of prattle
but flee from the battle
despite all the oaths you have sworn!”
Just then down the street there came a bonny
gang of eager lads all led by Johnny
Cowan, and so Norah said to these:
“Are you lot going home with knocking knees?”
Then Johnny said to her, “Not so! Not so!
I’ll tell you if you really want to know.
The Swarrell lads are chasing Halden’s fleeing
troops, intently, so they’ll not be seeing
what’s behind. We’ll take them from the rear
by nicking down this little staircase here.”
“Go with Johnny!” Norah said.
Wank and Tommo, full of dread,
followed Johnny down the stair.
Beneath the bridge they all ran, where,
emerging from the other side,
a shower of missiles, far and wide,
they hurled upon the Swarrell gang,
who turned about and quickly sprang
to drive away this new assault.
This caused the Cowan gang to halt,
then turn about and flee again
from King and Ronno, Stan and Ken,
and other mighty Swarrell men.
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The Battle: Cantos
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