Boadicea stands now as statuesque Queen,
At Westminster bridge in old Londinium,
Her image emblazons the penny, now unseen,
Her like won’t be met in another millennium.
But though we live the here and now,
It’s to the past that we must look.
So remember, and learn, as I tell you how,
The Iceni legend came unto our history book.
In the ivory towers of ancient Rome,
At the corrupted hub of a sprawling Empire,
Was the licentious Nero, who lay at home,
Dreaming, unwittingly, of funeral pyres.
Far away, on the edge of Empire grand,
The Cohorts and Legions, who as invaders had marched,
Swathing across such green and pleasant land,
Now policed a nation now of freedom parched.
In one great domain of true Celtic blood,
Death deemed it due, to sup on Prasutagus’ soul,
And thus created opportunity, for legend to flood,
Through Boadicea, to embody her fated role.
For Prasutagus had acquired a vast treasure hoard,
But had failed to produce an heir.
So in order to protect the family he adored,
He foolishly willed Nero, an equal share.
Roman eyes glinted with malice and greed,
And sacked the estates of the belated King.
Countless Centurions on criminal deed,
Obeying immoral orders, sealed by Nero’s ring.
And thus came the villains to palatial abode,
And took brave Boadicea and her daughters, two.
The palace was pillaged as Nero crowed,
And the women were subjected to improper imbrue.
The sweet apples both of Prasutagus’ eye,
Were cruelly stripped and brutally raped,
Whilst Boadicea was beaten `neath darkened sky,
At which her wounds wept, and openly gaped.
Her body thus battered, but not her womanly resolve,
She rallied the Iceni of the Anglian folk.
With a cry that none, could from their duty absolve,
Follow me or submit to the Roman yoke!
Twice hundred times a thousand men of steel,
Marched for vengeance and Iceni pride,
And justice and freedom from invaders heel,
And the memory of their brethren that had died.
The fist of Rome, Nero’s right hand,
The governor Suetonius Paulinius,
Was away on business across the land,
And of these events was somewhat oblivious.
And thus to Camulodunum, they came unchecked,
And mustered without of the decadent nest;
Then Boadicea, whom with Roman scars was bedecked,
Incited the Iceni with her bloody request.
Tis I they beat and whipped and scarred!
Tis from I they looted and stole!
My family’s lands lay sacked and charred,
And Iceni blood runs down gibbet pole!
My daughters innocence was bestially defiled,
By the wicked contempt of Neronian lust!
Prasutagus was by treachery beguiled,
Forward Ecene! Grind the tyranny into dust!
Warlike Brittannia, grasping trident aloft,
Charioted led the ranks to the affray.
At pleas for mercy, the warriors scoffed.
For no prisoners they took on this vengeful day.
Death gloated and reaped his ripened harvest,
As the Iceni tribes continued their work of slaughter.
And Boadicea’s fury was vented by her bloodquest,
Screaming, Revenge! For me and my daughters!
Camulodunum fell, and Rome winced in pain,
For no one was spared from Iceni hate;
By the torch or the cross, their presence would stain,
No longer, nor bridle, Britain’s fate.
Boadicea’s wrath was still not abated,
And she rallied once more the men,
Camulodunum is taken, too long it waited,
“Onwards to Verulamium, to victory again!
This, my friend, is the stuff of legend.
The spirit of rebellion for what is right.
The snarling underdog, turns to send,
The evil marauders back to the night.
Verulamium too, fell to the sword,
Its Roman denizens put to death,
And still the battle drunk Celtic horde,
Were urged to smother every last Roman breath.
South they turned to Londinium town,
Their fury and impetus still not spent.
And plundered the jewel of Rome’s English crown,
That the might of Empire was buckled and bent.
Paulinius, from Mona, at last sallied forth,
To quash the infractious uprising.
Reinforcing his troops with Legions from the north,
He deployed his strategy with a speed surprising.
At Fenny Stratford, on Watling Street,
The Empire’s finest, the Roman foe,
Invoked the Iceni legend with a crushing defeat,
Of the rebel band, inducing Boadicea’s woe.
The disciplined engine of military might,
Advanced in unison to the fore.
Iceni hearts trembled at the doom laden sight,
And the ground turned to quagmire from Ecene gore.
Once more victorious, the Roman eagle flew,
“Veni! Vidi! Vici!” still held sway.
But from that loss the legend grew,
And lives among us still today.
Boadicea, with her heart so full of pain,
Imbibed of poison to quell the ache.
Her spirit and soul still live again,
Seeking Shackles of Injustice which to break.
For this you must know is the lesson learnt,
To be shouted loud throughout the land;
Though Liberty, at the stake, may be burnt,
Against wrong-doings, Britain must stand.
Boadicea’s bones are long since dust,
But like a Phoenix, she arose anew,
Rule Brittannia! Yell with a patriots lust!
Boadicea and the Iceni, were Britain’s true!
KEY: English Officer – English Ship. French/Spanish Officer – French/Spanish Ship
The Franco-Spanish fleet blockaded at Cádiz,
On September Sixteenth, Eighteen-ought-Five,
Heard orders from Napoleon for the moment to seize:
“Set sail for Naples and conquest there contrive!”
But Admiral Villeneuve, the leader of the fleet,
Gathered his captains to a war council,
Where troubled by visions of previous defeat
Cohesion and obedience stayed somewhat doubtful.
The council sat on the flagship Bucentaure,
And although there was dissension, Villeneuve held sway
As the orders from his Emperor he chose to ignore
And, anchored in Cádiz, the fleet would stay.
But on October Eighteenth he changed his mind
And ordered the fleet to sail
For Rosily, now his successor, was with new orders signed,
En route from Madrid, his command to curtail.
Not wishing the prospect of ignominy and shame
Anchors were weighed and the fleet put to sea;
With the English docked at Gibraltar he could claim
This as reason for his new found urgency.
Villeneuves’ haste overlooked the weather,
As a sudden calm slowed their egress,
And plans of formation couldn’t bring together
A strewn out fleet and disorganized progress.
By evening of the Twentieth, three columns were set,
And for Gibraltar they steered to the southeast;
Until Achille sighted a pursuing English threat,
So single line was ordered and battle readiness increased.
At dawn the English closed from the northwest
And Villeneuve ordered three columns once more,
But again changed his mind to what he thought best,
To single line return and integrity restore.
This caused without doubt many a mariner to frown,
Its consequence being felt throughout the day,
And at Eight o’clock with the English bearing down,
“Wear together, and to Cádiz!” the Admiral was heard to say.
With the fleet drawn out in an uneven crescent,
The stage was set, and the dice were cast,
The English war cries echo to the present,
The Cape of Trafalgar on the horizon at last!
Flying high on the Victory’s mizzen mast
Was Nelson’s signal – a message of patriotic beauty,
A fluttering inspiration to the fleet amassed,
“England expects every man will do his duty!”
By Eleven Forty-Five the fleets were arranged;
Nelson’s unorthodox twin parallel columns,
Converged midpoint with the enemy and exchanged
Murderous cannonades of deathly gunpowder blossoms.
Collingwoods’ Royal Sovereign led the column at the south,
Full sailed and sleek, she was first to the affray,
And at Villeneuves’ command from Fougeuex’s cannons mouth,
The Sovereign took receipt of the first shots of the day.
San Justo, San Leandro and Indomptable too
Spat their hate at the Sovereign’s prow.
Bloodied but unhindered she fought on through,
To astern the Santa Ana raking a broadside to her bow.
Behind the Royal Sovereign came the brave Belleisle,
By L’Aigle, Achille, and Neptune she was engaged,
Until, dismasted and drifting, she was no longer hostile,
Splintered by the barrage, which against her had raged.
To the north Victory, too, came under intense fire,
Héros, Sanitisma Trinidad and Redoubtable had her outgunned!
Forty minutes she endured, her silent guns could only aspire
To respond with vehemence, to see their enemy shunned.
With many crew dead or maimed, and her wheel shot away,
The Victory still steered from the tiller below decks.
Then she breaks through! Victory breaches the line in disarray;
Between Bucentaure and Redoubtable she cuts, and havoc she wreaks!
At Twelve Forty-Five, to Bucentaures’ stern she nears,
And a full volleyed broadside decimates the Frenchmen.
Eagle aloft, ready to tranship, to combat his boarding fears
Villeneuve readies his crew, to repel the Englishmen.
Victorys’ impetus carried her past and into a general melee,
Leaving Bucentaure to the wrath of Conqueror and Neptune.
When Redoubtable and Victory collide and locked masts with dismay,
The French infantry crew prepared to board the Victory soon.
French muskets and grenades dealt death and despair.
Then alas! Nelson is shot and to the deck is laid,
And through smoke from the starboard stormed the Temeraire
And annihilated the boarding party with a vengeful carronade.
The bullet hit Lord Nelson in his left shoulder.
Passed through his lung and severed his spine;
Famous words he uttered, injured supine, increasingly colder,
“They finally succeeded, I am dead!” was one doom-laden line.
Still clinging to life, below decks he was carried,
Where Ships Surgeon William Beatty tended his need,
As about, in the maelstrom, his fleet fought and harried
The French and Spanish, through England’s greatest naval deed.
At Five before Two, Lucas of Redoubtable offered surrender,
Wounded himself, and over five hundred of his crew dead or unfit,
His once proud ship now no more than driftwood contender
To the Britannic onslaught he was forced to submit.
Bucentaure’s fate was the next to be sealed,
Subdued by Victory and Temeraire and then, blown asunder,
By Neptune and Leviathon made to yield,
Like Trinidad, beaten, by three hours of Conqueror’s cannon thunder!
More and more English sallied forth to the action,
A smoky pall of gunpowder death hung heavy in salty air,
As Mars, desailed and uncontrollable, sought opposing faction,
Till Captain Duff was decapitated by shot from Plutons’ cannon’s stare.
Hitherto quiescent, the allied vanguard finally awoke
And tacked back to attack the rampaging English foe,
But Dumanoir’s late gesture, of desperation spoke,
And Formidables’ futile fusillade was all he had to show.
Of the vanguard, only Neptuno and Intrepide came to Villeneuve’s aid
Others struck their colours and one by one they sailed away
The allied fleet, for their inadequacy, dearly paid:
Thousands dead and 22 ships lost, on that bloody day.
Among French ships captured were Berwick, Intrepide and Swiftsure,
With Bahama, Monarca and San Augustin a few Spanish prizes.
Achille exploded, Redoubtable sank and Argonauta was scuttled to the seafloor
As Nelson, pyrrhic in victory to death surrenders, a legendary hero arises.
“Thank God I have done my duty” Beatty had heard him say
Then Chaplain Scott, who stayed at his side, heard him murmur more;
“God and my Country” as death claimed him and took his life away
Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, at Four Thirty, breathed no more.
They preserved his body in a barrel of rum for the voyage back
To Gibraltar first they set, to Rosia Bay for repair
Then to England, and a hero’s funeral draped by Union Jack
And immortality in stone atop his column, in Trafalgar Square.
In slumbers induced at Somnus’ whim,
Carried and caressed by Zephyrs sigh,
Through midnight drowse and moonlight dim,
I am borne in dreams, to Helicon high.
And there on the Mount that kisses the sky,
I meet the Nine daughters of Mnemosyne.
Sweet apples all in Jupiter’s eye,
Yet one Muse only, can be mine.
To tables of Ambrosia and Nectar wine,
I’m led, through halls of golden décor,
Where the Graces, Aglaia, Thalia and Euphrosyne,
Provide for all, their pleasing succour.
Guided to a throne, bedecked in jewelled splendour,
And bade to sate my hunger pang,
When unto my ears, a glorious sound does render,
Lilting sweet harmonies, as Mercury’s lyre sang.
Through the great hall, soft the melodies rang,
Divine aural offerings from tortoise shell case.
Notes entwining, as to the air they sprang,
Embodying my visions of beauty and grace.
But then alas! Abruptly halts the music’s pace,
And silence descends, to accompany my tears.
Then Mnemosyne enters, studying my saddened face,
Foretelling wondrous tidings and allaying all my fears.
Enraptured, I listen, ‘til Jupiter appears.
Then together they speak, with one resonant voice:
A warning to you mortal, Atropos readies his shears,
Yet must you now decide – Make your Musing choice!
With heavy heart, unable yet to rejoice,
I watched the Gods depart the fabled room,
When at once the hall was empty, not an echo to revoice.
‘Til, with the lyre, the Fates appeared, from the sudden gloom.
Lachesis plucked the first string, but I felt no danger loom,
And he spake out strong and loud:
Fear not mortal, we bring not your doom,
We three Fates thread your Life, for this we are unbowed.
We speak only this once, oft does our judgement cloud;
Each time a string we pluck, there shall come a Muse,
Until the one that you accept, for this we have avowed.
But beware, the string is cut, if you should refuse.
Ponder ye well, before you choose,
Nine Muses are there, thus nine strings too.
If eight you reject, then hear this news,
The last of the Muse, shall belong to you.
The Fates fell silent, imparting no further clue,
Whence Lachesis replucked the first string,-
And then I sensed, what was to ensue,
As the quavering note, a Muse, did bring.
I am Terpsichore, I wish to make you dance and sing,
A songstress of joy, or poetry in motion,-
Imagine your fame, as to your arm I cling,
Stardom beckons, through my devotion.
Wary of offending and the possible commotion,
I signal the Fates to pluck once more the lyre.
Atropos, at once, seeing my negative emotion,
Grasps his shears and severs the first strung wire.
Next came Polyhymnia, claiming to be the Poetic Messiah,
Using rhyming righteous and piety to please;
I considered her at once a possible pariah,
And urged the Fates, her sermon to cease.
Two strings snipped, gives Clotho her spinning lease,
Twining the threads of my life’s fated role.
And as Lachesis twangs the third string with ease,
There appears Melpomene, to bare to me my soul.
I am the Seer, I can reveal to you your goal,
The fruitlessness of life and circumstance of death.
Choose me now, and pay not the toll,
“ can steer you from tragedy, til your last breath.
I recoil in shock, not wishing to know death,
And frantically signal the Fates to progress.
That as the Muse vanishes, I think of Macbeth,
How he, with this knowledge, had tried to digress.
And thus came Clio, my memory to bless,
To recall to mind, days gone by.
A fine partnership, but one to redress,
For most of those times, I had lived a lie!
Sensing an impasse, the Fates cast their die,
And plucked forth Thalia, a comedienne of note.
A thespian temptress of laughter, Oh how I laugh and cry,
But knowing there is more to life, her mirth I calmly smote.
Clotho looked up, as if to freely gloat,
Five threads had she, of my life to twine.
But still I had four, on which to make a vote,
To choose the Muse, that would be mine.
Lachesis then stringed the sixth of the Nine,
And a myriad of stars, through the dark shone.
Urania was unseen, but gave an astral sign,
That I, unwanting, could be a celestial icon.
And so to the seventh, as I attempt my liaison,
As Atropos wields his shears with glee.
I clutch hand to my head in desperation,
As Lachesis, with a gesture, strums Euterpe to me.
My name is music, unfettered and free,
My lyrics invoke the Gods of song.
So hear my chant and litany,
And release your soul to my siren throng.
I shake my head, uncaring right or wrong,
As Atropos, unfeeling, severs another cord.
With choices diminishing, ’tis time to be strong,
To select a Muse, from the depleted horde.
And thus, penultimate, came Calliope to my ward,
Speaking at length, words of epic portents.
And thus I rebuked her unwarranted applaud
As in haste I dispatched her, to the Fate’s intents.
And now spake Clotho, enhancing my suspense:
Not one before you has made it to the last,
The unchosen ones, give your life no defence,
Look forward with Erato, all that is done is past.
Lo, I beheld Erato, a vision of love unsurpassed,
Imparting words of passionate rhyme.
The Poetess of Love! And thus my choice is cast,
Thankful in my heart, that I had bided my time.
The Fates gathered round, my happiness sublime,
And showed unto me, my life’s threaded braid.
With Erato’s musings, make not of life a mime,
And in expressing love for another, be not afraid.
The Fates then vanish and my dreamworld starts to fade,
And through the Sea of Destiny, I and Erato swim.
And on my return from Helicon with this lovely maid,
Such words of love shall I pen, Erato’s seriatim!