The Angels of Mons

(Flanders, Aug.23-24,1914)

And those who awoke upon that field and knew that they were broke
       and close to death
perceived that an evil angel stood astride them, to inform them,
       from a gore-stained scroll,
that they had fought and bled and died for naught;
that they were but victims of ambitious and deluded men
whose certitude that they themselves and no man else was right
was so deep-graven in obsessive minds
that their word became for all the land a fixed law and an oracle;
that to such errant ends, and for such blinkered men
their good life’s blood was spilled unjustly and as sacrifice.

And there upon the bloodied field those souls had left
there lay a single huge black feather,
fallen from the clouds up-piled above the carnage
from the great dark clapping wings of Lucifer.

Excerpt from ‘The Apocalypse of Gwair’

9 thoughts on “The Angels of Mons

    1. Thank you, Jacydo. Your comments are always appreciated.

      General note for all viewers: Mons was the first engagement of British and German forces in the Great War. A story spread among the home public that ‘angels’ were seen among the British on the battlefield, and took a strong grip, even a general belief, in the public mind. All this was misconstrued and metamorphosed in the mass imagination from a short story, ‘The Bowmen’, by Welsh writer Arthur Machen, in which he had ghostly mediaeval archers appear upon the field at Mons. It was not specifically ‘billed’ as fiction, but still … ! The title of my poem is that of the myth, and its thrust to transform the nature of the ‘angels’ to reflect the hostile stupidity of those who choreographed a war in which millions of young, unknowing lives were used as pawns.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Roma. Yes, countless young lives sacrificed to satisfy the egos of the ruling families of Europe and the ambitions of their subservient statesmen and generals. All, sadly, close enough to be remembered by family members here today.

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  1. I don’t speak Welsh… I looked up Gwair online, it translates to hay or grass. Is that in reference to people being mown down like grass, or reaped like hay? Maybe I’m overthinking things.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your interest, ‘Journeys on Quest’ (that’s a lovely name!). Gwair – The ‘Apocalypse of Gwair’ is a long (800+line) poem of mine. The ‘Gwair’ of the title is taken from the Middle Welsh poem, the ‘Preideu Annwn’ (‘The Spoils of Annwn’), which tells of an expedition of Arthur to the Otherworld (‘Annwn’ or ‘Annwfn’ in Welsh). The name is rendered as ‘Gwaer’, or ‘Gweir’, but my preference is to a reference (‘preference to a reference’? 🙂 ) to Gwair, one of three famed prisoners named in ‘Trioedd Ynys Prydein’ (the mediaeval Welsh ‘Triads’ – a collection of heroic verses arranged in groups of three). The ‘Preideu Annwn’ has been translated – and variously interpreted – many times, but following Alun Llewellyn’s interpretation I’ve taken its ‘Prisoner Gwair’ to represent the planet Earth (as eternal prisoner within ‘Carchar’, the ‘Closed Circuit of the Sun’). So ‘The Apocalypse of Gwair’ is a poem about the last days of the Earth. ‘The Angels of Mons’ is lifted, in a condensed form, from it. Thanks again!

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