Much of the history of modern Europe,
from Agincourt to Mariupol,
seems to comprise ignorant, arrogant
purportedly Christian armies – some ragged,
most well financed – advancing, retreating,
slaughtering innocents, telling lies,
with brief respites for rearmament,
and victory’s parades and revenges.
Even respectable men who should know
better, scholars and poets, politicos
and hacks, pretend to be soldiers, to ‘Hear
the drums of morning play. Hark the empty
highways crying “Who’ll beyond the hills away?”‘
They broadcast the recruiting sergeant’s drum roll –
for volunteers to step up and play
one of humankind’s most ancient games,
border disputes and the massing of troops.
The Soviets created the famine
in Ukraine, as the British did in Ireland,
to chasten the natives, remove them.
Such holodomors need not just a Peel,
a Russell, snug in 10 Downing Street,
or a Stalin, secure in the Kremlin –
choosing which omelettes are on the menu,
which eggs, and how many, should be broken –
but hierarchies of aiders and abetters,
dutiful enablers of iniquity.
'Reveille' A.E. Housman10 Down StreetAgincourtBritishholodomorsIrelandJohn RussellKremlinMariupolRobert PeelSovietStalinthe Great HungerUkraine‘The Shropshire Lad’