The Banner

The Banner: a pair of jeans on a pole

verse epic


Part 4: The Battle

4: Cantos 16-20

Auksford crest: a great auk displaying an open book with the words "Ex ovo sapientia"
-  Auksford, 2015  -

© Robin Gordon 2015

The moral right of the author has been asserted

Canto 16: In which Willie triumphs

Meanwhile back in the old goods yard
things have gone impossibly hard
for King and the lads who make up his gang,
for fate once again is a sly boomerang.

Leaving the Sheds they are very subdued,
and one of those lads is perfectly nude.
He’s lost all his clothes except for his socks,
and wears round his middle an old cardboard box.

Now King has a great bloody gash on his head,
and he’s reeling about and looking half-dead,
and Ronno has lost one leg of his jeans,
and his clothes are all torn, and he’s not full of beans,
but Sid, now, and Jake, his old father, are fine,
with their clothes just as clean as if fresh from the line,
while Terry, it seems, has surrendered his kegs,
for he’s untouched on top, but bare round the legs,
and the rest of the gang are all tattered and torn
as they slink off together, all weary and worn.
The Dragons have taken the gang’s old HQ,
with cheering and jeering and hullabaloo.

Past tumbledown buildings now
        someone comes creeping,
past walls that are crumbling and panes that are broken,
past old piles of rubble – I think he is weeping –
it’s Scouse for at last his courage has woken.

Then all round the yard in high jubilation
the Dragons are surging and cheering like mad.
They’re waving a banner in wild celebration,
and bear on their shoulders a trouserless lad.

They’re drumming and rattling, and one has a horn.
Their banner is made from the trousers they’ve torn
from the limbs of poor Tommo, who’s carried on high,
so shamed that he wishes that he could just die.
The girls up above are all screaming and squealing,
so can you imagine how Scouse must be feeling?

Do you hear the Dragons sing?
It’s the song of joyful boys,
as they make the whole night ring
with their wild triumphant noise.

“Tommo is a poof,
Tommo is a poof,
Tommo is a poof.

We got his trousers off,
we got his trousers off,
we got his trousers off!

Tommo came to Swarrell with a million boys or more,
Tommo came to Swarrell with a million boys or more,
Tommo came to Swarrell with a million boys or more,
but we took his trousers off!
Glory, glory, Swarrell Dragons,
Glory, glory, Swarrell Dragons,
Glory, glory, Swarrell Dragons,
we took his trousers off!”

See Norah leer
and hear her cheer
She calls out loud.
“You’re not so proud
as once you were,
you cringing cur.

You’ve lost your kecks,
pride of your sex,
and we have seen
how you have been
first caught and scragged
and then debagged.

Oh we’ve enjoyed
with unalloyed
delight the sight
of your sad plight,
and now we wait
to see your fate,

as home you’re sent
in discontent,
without your kegs,
with naked legs
and other things.
Our pleasure sings.”
Then Willie said, “He’s not released.
We haven’t finished with him yet.
His shame is gonna be increased,
because now Tommo’s gonna get

dumped in Swarrell market place,
tied to railings, and at dawn
he’ll have the morning rush to face,
and then he’ll wish he’d not been born.

He’ll get his photo in the papers,
they really like these sorts of capers,
perhaps appear on television
and suffer nationwide derision,
but first we’ll hoist him up on high
to show you girls – although he’s shy.”

To the roof they swiftly haul
Tommo, forcing him to mount
upwards.  Now hear Norah call:
“That’s where they should have done the Count!”

“That’s right!” cries Willie, “P’rhaps we should
do the Count up here again.”
Well now, the faintest likelihood
of that would terrify most men.

With fiery cheek and streaming eye
Tommo could do naught but cry.
Shirt-tails flying, naked legs,
he sobs, “Please give me back my kegs,”
but Willie swiftly turns and hurls
the trousers over to the girls.

Then Norah calls, “Give us the boy,
and we’ll find new ways to annoy
him and make him blub and cry.
We’ll mock him, until by and by,
when we are tired, back to his mum
we’ll send him with his naked bum!”

Then Willie said, “You didn’t hear
what I said before, I fear.
In Swarrell town he will be dumped
so the last drop can be pumped
of joy from his humiliation.
See, that’s a cause of celebration,
for all the gangs from all around
will see him, and it will astound
them that the Dragons can inflict
such punishment, and I predict
they’ll all queue up to join our gang.”

Willie’s now in full harangue.
He foresees initiations,
trouserless humiliations
for all who want to join the Dragons,
and thousands boarding new bandwagons,
and queuing up to lose their trousers.
How this prospect now arouses
Willie, to what heights he scales.
He’ll be the master of all males
throughout Halden, throughout Swarrell,
and none at all will dare to quarrel
with Willie’s fierce and stern decrees.
They’ll all submit to him, for he’s
the winner of this long-fought war.
La’al Willie’s word will now be law,
and at his words the Dragons roar.

“Apprentices at all the works,
well, we’ll debag the silly jerks!”

“We’re going to take their trousers off!”
the Dragons roar, the Dragons scoff.

“And the students at the college,
we’ll certainly make them acknowledge
that we’re the greatest and the best.
They’ll be debagged with all the rest!”

The Dragons cheer, the Dragons scoff:
“We’re going to take their trousers off!”

Now Willie’s getting really mad,
he wants the trousers off his dad,
then ranting like a maddened preacher,
he shouts out, “Let’s debag our teacher!”
Then gabbling faster, faster, faster,
he yells, “We’ll get our school’s headmaster!”
Now he’s really too excited:
“We’ll detrouser Man. United!”

The Dragons now, inebriated,
by his verbosity elated,
shout and cheer until they cough,
“We’re going to take their trousers off!”
Now other Dragons do not drag
their feet or in their chanting lag
behind.  They shout, “Debag!  Debag!
Debag! Debag!  Debag!  Debag!”

Canto 17: In which Scouse makes a sacrifice

Just then a movement caught the eye
of Norah as she stood on high,
a furtive shadow in the murk
down where some Halden boy must lurk,
and so she cries out, “I espy

a lad from Halden in the gloom,
a lad who’s going to meet his doom.
Go on, you Dragons!  Go and catch him!
Seize him, snaffle him and snatch him!
He’ll try to run!  Don’t leave him room!”

Scouse it was.  He’d come to see
if to rescue Tommo he
might spot a chance, but hearing all
the cheers and watching Tommo bawl,
he thought that it was time to flee.

They swarmed around and he was grabbed.
He struggled and was cruelly jabbed
by fists and elbows and by sticks,
so Scouse was really in a fix,
for he was well and truly nabbed.

He should have left.  Too long he’s lagged.
Now he’ll be bullied, stripped and scragged,
and Norah cheers in great delight
to see another in this plight:
another boy to be debagged!

But Scouse, it seems, has now turned silly.
Insane, he cries, “Take me to Willie!”
Of course the Dragons grant his wish.
He’s dragged up to the roof, poor fish.

Now at this sight the girls all scream,
for Norah a delightful dream
come true, because before her eyes
guys are stripping other guys.

There’s only one way this could be
better and that is if she
instead of watching could join in,
but never was there better sport
than watching how these boys all fought,
for they’d all lose, and she would win.

Now Scouse is in front of La’al Willie,
and droops like a woebegone lily.
Says Willie, “Now speak!
Well speak up, you freak!”
Scouse shivers as if feeling chilly.

How saggy in the evening light
the lily droops, how sad his plight,
while Norah cackles with delight.
She knows he’s going to be debagged.

How sad the wind beneath the moon,
whistling slightly out of tune,
while Norah starts to quietly croon.
She knows he’s going to be debagged.
For Scouse it’s not a happy day,
as all around the Dragons bray,
while Norah sings, “Calloo callay!
This boy is going to be debagged!”

Then Willie, master of the riot,
claps his hands and calls for quiet.
What is it Scouse will want to say?
Is he going to plead and pray,
and moan and groan and weep salt tears,
expressing all his deepest fears?

Well, no, he’s not, for Scouse calls out
so loudly that I could say “shout”.
He says, “We want to join your gang.
Now Halden’s finished we would hang
out with you.  We think you’re great,
and we would like to join our fate
with yours.  We would make you our leader.
You stand as tall as any cedar,
for you’re the one no-one can beat.
You’ll bring the whole world to defeat,
and that is why I say to you,
the Wild Bulls want to join your crew.”

“How many lads you got?” asked Willie.
“Six,” said Scouse.  “Well don’t be silly,”
the leader of the Dragons yells.
“Six lousy boys won’t ring no bells!”

“But in Halden we’re the top.
When we say jump, the others hop.
If we say, Come with us, it’s fated:
they’ll queue to be initiated.”

Now you may think this quite absurd,
but don’t forget that every word
that Willie ranted Scouse had heard.

It’s Willie who now takes up the call.
“We’ll give him the Count!” they hear him bawl.
“Yeah!  That’s what we’ll do
in our own gang’s HQ!”
Then he grabbed Scouse and started to haul

him down, and the Dragons all picked him
up and then somebody kicked him.
Scouse started to yell
as if dragged down to Hell.
To the turntable they took their victim.

Norah was quite furious,
for she was really curious
to see just what the boys would do
when they had a victim who
they thought in truth deserved to get
the Count, so she was quite upset.

Just then into her sight there came
another prospect for her game.
The Mad Dog gang, all looking battered,
and with their clothes all torn and tattered,
with bits of jackets on their bodies.
Their shirts are torn, but what is odd is
the collars, spiked, around their necks,
were still in place, but not their kecks,
for some were totally bare-legged,
’cos in the battle’s scrum dekegged,
while others had their trousers torn
along the seams, as if they’d worn
loose skirts made up of separate strips.
Then Norah to them swiftly skips,
accompanied by other girls,
and then at them her scorn she hurls.
“These boys,” she sneers, “are silly babies,
behaving as if they had rabies,
snarling, snapping, trying to fight.
Well, look at them.  It serves them right.
I tell you girls, I never did
see such a silly looking kid.”

“We ain’t kids,” the leader barked,
feeling foolish, cross and narked.
“We are killers!  We are mad!
We can beat up any lad!”

“But not us girls,” hear Norah scoff.
“It’s us that’s got your trousers off.
We’ve got them lying here in heaps.
You’ve lost them and they’re ours for keeps.”

“Give me them pants!”
the Mad Dog rants,
as Norah jeers
and sneers and leers.

The Mad Dog snatches.
Norah catches
his jeans and heaves.
The panel leaves
him bare and that surprises him.

The other girls
swarm round in whirls
and rip his jeans,
and he careens,
for that destabilises him.

He trips and falls,
and bare-legged sprawls.
The girls all jeer
and call him queer.
Debagging neutralises him.

So off he slinks,
while Norah thinks
what she has done
was super fun,
for this desexualises him.

Canto 18: In which Scouse objects

Meanwhile behind the Engine Sheds,
all shouting as if off their heads,
the Dragons in triumphant joy,
like Greeks, who at the fall of Troy
sang to the gods the highest praise,
now with one voice their anthems raise.
They sing the Cucaracha tune,
and raise their howling to the Moon.

“We’ve got their trou-sers!
We’ve got their trou-sers!
We’ve got their kegs off!
We’ve got their kegs off!

While Scouse and Tommo suffer trouble,
Willie, on a pile of rubble,
brandishes the pantaloons
of Scouse, while he conducts the tunes.

“We’ve got their knick-ers!
We’ve got their knick-ers!
We’ve got their pants off!
We’ve got their pants off!

At his sign they cease their bawling.
Scouse and Tommo are dropped sprawling
on the ground in front of Willie,
cheeks aglow, legs white and chilly.

Willie says to Scouse, “You chump!
You will find we’re gonna dump
you in Swarrell at the station
him at Miltons.”  Perturbation

overshadowed Scouse’s brow,
and he said, “You can’t, ’cos now
we are Dragons, just like you.
You cannot dump your loyal crew.

After our initiation
we are members of your gang.
Public shame, humiliation,
rebounds like a boomerang,
showers the Dragons all with shame,
and they fear you’ll do the same
to any if it suits your game.

Don’t treat a Dragon like a fool,
for Dragons are the very best.
We are top gang, for Dragons rule
from north to south and east to west.
To no-one will we bend our necks,
for we’re the ones who take the kecks
of all the members of our sex.”

Some Dragons call out, “Scouse is right.
Dragons rule, and Dragons fight
together, and it’s one for all
when we hear the clarion call.
Dumping Dragons isn’t right

It’s other gangs we ought to strip.”
Then Willie yells out, “I will rip
the pants off anyone I choose.”
Angry clamour!  Will he lose
his grip upon the leadership?

“Can’t strip Dragons!” hear them calling.
“You’re right!  You’re right!” hear Willie bawling.
“We’ll have the pants off all the nation,
but after their initiation
Dragons must be safe from mauling.

But Halden took the pants off Pete.
You cannot say that I will cheat
the Dragons if I take these two
and dump them both in public view.
It’s punishment.  There’s no deceit.

They’ll have to get Pete’s trousers back,
and where are they?  The girls have got ’em,
so it would take a maniac
to go up there with naked bottom

and ask the girls, Please give to us
a pair of trousers for our friend.
Well, that’s a question to discuss
with the girls when you ascend

up to the bridge, where they all watch,
so keep your hands tight o’er your crotch!”
Then Scouse replied, “Just give him mine.
To go up there I must decline,
but I’m prepared to stay bare-legged
so your friend Pete can be re-kegged.”

“Well,” said Willie, “Pete will get
your trousers anyway, so there!
Then we will dump you down, no sweat,
in Swarrell with your limbs all bare.”

“But we are Dragons!” Scouse than cried.
“I’ll give my pants to Pete, that’s fair,
but it would be undignified
to dump Black Dragons naked where

all Dragons would be put to shame,
and others mock our Dragon name.”
The other lads took up his cause,
and all this noise made Willie pause.
“All right, we won’t dump them,” he said.
“We’ll send them home bare-legged instead.

I accept that dumping hurts
the Dragons’ name and dignity.
We’ll send them both home in their shirts,
yes, trouserless we’ll set them free.

I agree.  I think it best
the Dragon name not to besmirch,
but an initiation test
is used in gangs, in schools, in church.

We Swarrell lads all from free will
joined our gang, for good or ill.
The Halden lads, a different case,
just joined because they couldn’t face
defeat and more humiliation.
They need a harsh initiation!”

The Dragons cheered, and all agreed
that Scouse and Tommo, both bare-kneed
and trouserless, up to the street
should go, and give the girls a treat.

You must agree that this ordeal
was one to make our heroes feel
fear that they’d be mocked and thumped
on their shamefaced homeward way.
Stll, better that than face next day
publicity by being dumped
near Miltons in the market place,
or by the Swarrell railway station,
where they would really have to face
unparalleled humiliation
and mockery from all the nation.

Canto 19: In which Tommo and Scouse go home – trouserless

Now, high up on the bridge, those girls,
those rubies, diamonds, emeralds, pearls,
regretting that they cannot see
properly the jubilee
that the Dragons celebrate,
think that now it is too late
for any further chance of fun:
the battle’s over, lost and won.

It’s time to seek the homeward way
now Norah’s girls have won the day,
for at their feet are heaped in piles
the trouser-trophies that their wiles
persuaded all the boys to hand
over to this female band.

“What shall we do with all of these?”
asks Jane.  Then Norah gives a leer.
“I think that I can neatly squeeze
them in my bedroom.”  Her girls cheer.

“I’ll hang them on my bedroom wall,”
she says.  Jane asks, “But won’t your mum
ask questions when she sees them all?
Won’t she ask whence these pants have come?”

Then Norah says, “She willn’t care.
As for me dad, he wouldn’t dare.
My room will be our trophy room.
You girls can come and visit me
whenever you should want to see
the evidence of boyish doom.”

Then Thelma shouted, “Wait a bit!
Someone’s coming up the steps!
It’s Willie, and with him he schleps
another silly pantless git.

No, by George!  There’s two of them!
Look!  It’s Tommo and his friend!
Oh, what a great climactic end!
Two pantless lads we can contemn!”

Willie says, “Here’s summat for you
Don’t ever say that we ignore you,
because for you we’ve kept the best.
They’ve got to go along the street,
and you can mock them, that’s your treat.
It’s their initiation test.”

Norah’s girls all cheer and laugh
and prod and poke and jeer and chaff,
and treat those pantless boys like dirt,
and grab the tails of each lad’s shirt
to lift them up so they can try
their secret, private parts to spy.

Now Tommo’s walking in a daze,
like a drunkard in a maze.
It seems he’s barely half aware
of what goes on around him there,
while Scouse holds on to Tommo’s arm
as if to keep him safe from harm.
He steers him through the girlish riot
and murmurs to him something quiet,
encouraging with words his friend
to keep on walking to the end
of the bridge, where they can find
an alley, narrow lane or wynd,
and slip away from all those screaming
girls, but still poor Tommo’s dreaming.
He walks, one foot before the other,
and sobs to Scouse he wants his mother.

They leave the open bridge at length.
Scouse pulls his friend with all his strength
into a darkish little lane,
and wonders how he will explain
to his own mother why his legs
are bare of trousers, why his kegs
have disappeared and why they’re lost.
He knows there’s still a fearful cost
that many boys will have to pay
resulting from this battle day.

Already many a Halden lad
slinking through the streets unclad,
avoiding light, by shady path,
must have reached his home and hearth.

A boy named Brian saw them slinking
and feared that he might be waylaid
in some indecent ambuscade.
Therefore he, in muddled thinking,
turned towards the Lord and prayed.

Then, when he saw they had bare legs,
he thought that God had stripped their kegs
in answer to his own petition.
Misuse of prayer!  It meant perdition.
Now he was damned, as sure as eggs.

Now how the battle, source of mirth
to Norah’s girls, endangered Earth
and almost brought eternal snow
and fimbul-winter, if you’d know,
then I think you should proceed
Brian’s Saga next to read.

Meanwhile, dear Reader, what of Norah?
The Battle’s been a great day for her.
She leads her girls along the road,
all bearing their triumphant load
of trouser-trophies that they bring
to Norah’s house, while loud they sing:

“The boys have lost their pants!
The boys have lost their pants!
Ee-aye-addio, the boys have lost their pants!

We’ve got their pants!
We’ve got their pants!
Ee-aye-addio, we’ve got their pants!

The boys have lost their kegs!
The boys have lost their kegs!
Ee-aye-addio, the boys have lost their kegs!

We’ve got their kegs!
We’ve got their kegs!
Ee-aye-addio, we’ve got their kegs!

The boys have lost their jeans!
The boys have lost their jeans!
Ee-aye-addio, the boys have lost their jeans!

We’ve got their jeans!
We’ve got their jeans!
Ee-aye-addio, we’ve got their jeans!

The boys have lost their trousers!
The boys have lost their trousers!
Ee-aye-addio, the boys have lost their trousers!

We’ve got their trousers!
We’ve got their trousers!
Ee-aye-addio, we’ve got their trousers!”

And now at last my tale is done.
Just like the Sun my course is run,
just as he sinks down in the west,
so now I too can take my rest.
What’s that, o Muses, from this quarrel
you demand I draw a moral.
Till then it’s not the end of day.
Well, if I must, I will.  OK.

Canto 20:  In which the poet points out the moral of his story.

Scouse was the noblest Halden lad of all.
All those bold warriors, save only he,
did that they did at false ambition’s call.
His motive was to set his best friend free.

Now Tommo, who had thought himself director
of all these revels and sought victory,
is now condemned to play the role of Hector,
for no-one was as shamed as much as he,
because the tribulations of this silly lad,
you see, were all inspired by Homer’s Iliad.

There’s more: that dreadful sulk of Little Willie’s
is rather like the sulk of great Achilles,
deprived of Briseis, within his tent,
while King’s decree caused Willie to resent
that boys were not subjected to abuse
that Norah would have liked.  Now she is Zeus,
for, just as gods sent heroes fighting mad,
so Norah could manipulate each lad,
and, for her entertainment, make him do
things he shouldn’t have.  Just like a zoo,
or like a circus, she looked down upon
those boys she could deceive, that she could con.

If Norah’s Zeus, why then it must be plain
the role of Hera’s taken on by Jane.
Now many other ancient names are hid.
Odysseus is acted out by Sid,
and his old father Jake, who claims past glories,
represents old Nestor’s rambling stories.

Well, there, dear Reader, I have given you
the key, or, if you would prefer, the clue.
In earlier parts you’ll find I have made hay
with a drama by Pierre Corneille,
and after that you’ll find that I have been
rather cavalier with Jean Racine.
Next came that great Olympian Frankfurter
known far and wide as author of Young Werther,
I was inspired by Johann Wolfgang Goethe.

Well, there you are.  I’ve now revealed the manner
in which I have compiled this tale, The Banner,
the story of a long and senseless quarrel,
from which, it seems, I now must draw a moral.

Those who would prove their virility
by engaging in constant hostility,
those violent abusers
will end up as losers
and victims of their gullibility.

When persuasive politicians,
for the sake of their ambitions,
tell you you should go and kill,
just say, “Don’t think I will!”
Please heed my admonitions.

Oh, they’re always most persuasive,
and, when they need, abrasive,
then they shower some place with rockets,
while at home they line their pockets,
but if questioned they’re evasive.

Do you think a revolution
should overthrow the constitution,
sweep away the men of power
in a single bloody hour
through a cleansing wild ablution?

If you think that, you’re in error.
After liberty comes terror.
Think of Lenin, Stalin, Putin,
who will always put the boot in.
You should really be awarer.

Though incompetent the Czar,
and autocratic was the Shah,
what followed both was worse.
It became their people’s curse
and was bloodier by far.

What we’ve seen throughout the war
between the boys is more and more
must be imposed on any victim
just to show that you have licked him.

King’s gang went in for minor scraggings,
and Nails was first to lose his pants,
but Willie lives just for debaggings,
as one can tell from his wild rants.

The shame, you see, must ever mount
higher, till you reach the Count.
The Mad Dogs all despise this game:
their delight is kill or maim.

Norah and her girls, meanwhile,
urge the boys to take off kecks.
She uses every sort of guile
to ridicule the other sex.

This sort of feminism is quite mad,
for if one sex is hostile to the other,
if women think that men are wholly bad,
how is it possible to be a mother?

If never male and female come together
except in violence and sneering scorn,
it would become extremely doubtful whether
succeeding generations would be born.

A man, you see, is built for strength and speed.
A woman’s body’s different, made to breed,
and though it’s right that both should equal be,
identity of roles is not the key.
No matter what the feminists may think,
a little boy likes cars, a girl likes pink.

But Norah’s role can also illustrate
the doctrines of those preachers filled with hate
who whisper in the ears of stupid boys
that if they kill they will receive such joys
in heaven as Norah’s girls all hinted at,
and this they say without a caveat.
Murder they call martyrdom.  Absurd!
Now never was so innocent a word
abused.  D’you think the God of all Creation
will be amused or feel immense elation
if in His name you should go out and kill?
I rather think that He will take it ill,
and those who say that this is God’s own dream

So when they say that you should act as “martyrs”,
just turn and ask these self-important farters,
if truly they believe in heavenly sex,
why don’t they risk their own so precious necks.

If through the prism of an -ism you
should see the world and all its bustling life,
I think that you will surely find your view
is quite distorted and must lead to strife.
You hear about equality from Marx?
His workers’ paradise is ruled by sharks.
You hear about equality from those
women who hate men.  Do you suppose
their world is any better?  Politicians
manipulate you for their own ambitions.
The liberal consensus Freedom claims,
but what is it that lies behind these aims?
All must have the right to freely speak.
They say this is the policy they seek,
but then exclude all views that they reject
and stigmatise as vile and incorrect.
Although these people won’t go out and kill,
their mindset is the same as those who will.
I sometimes think their version of democracy
is nothing but self-satisfied hypocrisy.

Well, I have slaughtered every sacred cow,
o holy Muses, so I think that now
to our muttons we should all return
and see what from our heroes we can learn.

If Scouse turned out the hero of our story,
then Effie is our heroine.  Her glory
was that she wanted senseless strife to cease.
She failed, but blessed are those who work for peace.

Muses, don’t you think that that’s enough
of all this sort of moral preachy stuff?
I’ve done your will as well as I am able,
and now must take my Pegasus to stable.

May I remind you that I did once warn
you right back at the start of all this verse,
you won’t get death.  I pray you do not scorn
my mock heroics, though they don’t rehearse
those themes you may have thought of as the true
heart of art, for that I couldn’t do.
This is, instead, a rather comic brew.

This sort of stuff won’t win me the Nobel
Prize for Literature, as I can tell,
but now, dear Reader, we must say Farewell.

Please remember that this poem is copyright.  See Copyright and concessions for permitted uses.  If you enjoyed this tale, please tell your friends about it.

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