Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

Two poems by Bob Beagrie


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.



    Lyke Wake


“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.