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The Civil Wars ©

Gordon Fjaelberg
Bridgend, Wales
1980

"Stop, please stop", the beggar went,
"I'm a King's spy, in disguise,
And I've seen in this land
A well-led rebel band
Which would revel in the glory
Of your Colonel's overthrow."

Taken to the Colonel's tent;
"Here's a fig, sir, for your lies!
The reports of all my Scouts
Have left me with few doubts
That the fabric of your story
Does not fit with what I know."

The beggar said: "I'll wager
One bare dozen of your men
Shall see another dawn
Once Ezra Bassingbourne,
As he will do, gives you battle
If you hear my words in vain."

Up sprang an obese Major:
"Let us thrash him three times ten,
Then find some local tree
To end the likes of he;
That will cease his lying prattle -
No more words, ere you are slain."

Oh! Colonel Gates, small wonder
That among your regiments
Of semi-trained dragoons
And infantry platoons,
There were many thinking deeply
On the rightness of their cause.

So on that day of blunder
With their fifes and drums they went,
Soon leaving far behind,
Slow rocking in the wind,
Yet another pawn lost cheaply
To the endless Civil Wars.

And thus it was eight hundred men
Both ill-equipped and led,
Departed for obscurity,
Their Colonel at their head.
Enrolled at point of pikeman's shaft
To serve the Royal cause,
With God's name as legality
They fought the Civil Wars.

For Oxford they were heading
To help reinforce the King,
And riding in the van
A peacock of a man
Filled with dreams of martial glory
By the tunes his fifers played.

The roadway it was leading
To a forest, which would bring
The end of Colonel Gates,
For Bassingbourne he waits;
Aye, he's planned a different story
As he lies in ambuscade.

Aye, Ezra, you're a stranger
And a cool one, no mistake;
The enemy's amount
Had been noted in account;
Once you'd guessed their destination
You then swore they'd not arrive.

You little dwelled on danger
Or the chances that you take;
A job had to be done,
A war had to be won,
For an end to devastation
Was the goal for which you strive.

Envisaging promotion
Colonel Gates did proudly ride;
Soon everyone would see
His place in history;
Hurling dire retribution
At the King's sworn enemies.

His singular devotion
Was to make his fame spread wide,
Not thinking any man
Had knowledge of his plan,
Nor yet meant his execution
'Neath those English oakwood trees.

And thus it was eight hundred men
Both ill-equipped and led,
Departed for obscurity
Their Colonel at their head.
Enrolled at point of pikeman's shaft
To serve the Royal cause,
With God's name as legality
They fought the Civil Wars.

Gates spurned his Major's pleading
To avoid the forest track;
"A detour means delay
And will add another day",
So the Colonel thus commanded:
"Through the greenwood we shall go!"

The distance, now receding,
Meant there was no turning back,
And as the forest glade
Embraced them to its shade,
All eight hundred men were stranded
At the mercy of their foe.

Then Bassingbourne aimed one shot,
Saw the Major twist, and fall;
Prostrated on the ground
He died without a sound,
As Parliamentary forces
Rose, to join in the affray.

Eight hundred men, unproudly,
Didn't make much of a show;
Through inexperience
They offered small defence,
War now seemed less exciting
And the King far less a cause.

So Bassingbourne called loudly:
"Put your weapons down, and go!"
On witnessing their dead
Good sense prevailed instead;
Young men pressed into fighting
Gladly quit the Civil Wars.

And thus it was eight hundred men
Both ill-equipped and led,
On hearing battle's clamour did
The wisest thing, and fled.
Enrolled at point of pikeman's shaft
To serve the Royal cause,
They played no further part toward
The endless Civil Wars.

Aye, Ezra, you're a stranger
And a cool one, no mistake.
You welcomed not the rage
So common to the age,
Though some of your generation
On such madness did well thrive.

You little dwelled on danger
Or the chances that you take.
A job had to be done,
A war had to be won,
For an end to devastation
Was the goal for which you strive.


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