The below poems are taken from Bob Beagrie’s new collection Civil Insolencies (Smokestack), which tells the story of the Civil War battle of Guisborough in North Yorkshire on 16 January 1643.
“Where am I hurried! What sanguine place Is this I breathe in, garnished with disgrace?”
John Quarles – An Elegy upon that Never to be Forgotten Charls the First, 1649
The broken men yield, after the blizzard's rage, to the scandal of disorder, tainted by the taste of this new age and grub about for tales to give account for their phantasmagoria from ordinary house-holder, groom, apprentice, tinker, gent, undisciplined idler rendered citizen-soldier, hystericals, histrionics, mama's boys, bastards, brewers, patricides – although there is so much they'll not meddle with, including themselves, having been shunted out of grammar’s backdoor into the vulgar dirt of unpronouncables, the fylth- riddled freedom of formlessness, succoured on an homeopathy of killing. Their dark nativities bubble with ramblings to take back control in defence of the state as Cartemandua, Frigg Britannia, safe-guarded, wearing the familiar mask of mother, sweetheart, favourite whore – each of them a springhead of fresh anxieties, labour pains for a post-term Kingdom Come.
“Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” Matthew 3:7
Sir Hugh lets his rabble of ironsides blow off steam numb the brain and raw nerves with cheap liquor give thanks they’re not numbered among the dead - time to scrutinise victory, survival and sacrifice. Tinker John wracks his fuddled head for an antiphon to things he witnessed within the thick of the push - a thing that knelt in gore, fish scales, dragon wings bear paws, a lion’s maw, its umbilicus squirting fire dowsing him with the grace to damn or bless. It comes again as he struggles with sleep: “As stones shalt cry, thou hast drunk and eaten of war’s meat and by its taste shall upturn this time and times and half a time from the roots of grass, and know that all poor are one, and he is flailing amid the miraculous dust and cannot find the door, although should he exit, poured out like water, he, as multitudes, shalt find himself unbound and be a judge to all - I have seen this before, thou too, having seen all at a time when seeing at once; having spoke all at a time when speaking at once, gaze upon me, rejoice; sing out with thine voyce and unvoyce.” Next morning Cholmley leads a prayer to The Lord before ordering the prisoners released to disperse in peace, to go home or join their righteous cause, “So together we may turn our sovereign’s heart!” Most drift off up onto Eston Hills, a few remain realising as Upright Men - the sons of landless waifs what’s at stake, what must be done to displace a king.