The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #125084   Message #4035306
Posted By: cnd
21-Feb-20 - 12:44 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Mass for a Fallen International Brigader
As printed in The Penguin Book of Spanish Civil War Verse, Ed. Valentine Cunningham, pp. 179-183.

Requiem Mass for the Englishman fallen in the International Brigade

Call out the roll call of the dead, that we,
the living may answer, under the arch of peace
assembled where the lark's cry is the only shrapnel,
a dew of song, a sky wreath laid on earth
out of the blue silence of teeming light
in this spring-hour of truce prefiguring
the final triumph, call upon them proudly,
the men whose bones now lie in the earth of freedom.

Stand out on the crag of the morning to sound reveille.
Hark to the peal of silence, remembering.
This moment of honour claps our hearts with the future,
and already we taste, like wedlock in a first kiss,
the hour when the last barricade of estrangement
falls and the roaring night is warmly beaconed
with pledges of kinship, the peoples world-united,
world without end, the dawn on the earth of freedom.

Ask of the eagle that yelped overheard
where in the blaze of death the Spanish workers blocked
the Guadarrama passes with their dead.
Eagle of Spain, from your eyrie of the skies
answer, Where are they now, the young and the brave?
The brotherly dead pour out of the bugle-call.
Where are the faces we seek, the English faces?
Let the living answer the roll-call of the dead.

Where now is he, gay as the heart of spring
rich with the world's adventure, wandering from where the moon
hands in a crooked willow of Samara
to where congested London clots with a toxin
England's aorta vein? In strength of pity,
as he had lived, he died, and the bullets whined
through boughs of winter over his broken face.
Where is Ralph Fox of Yorkshire?

Where now is he, the eager lad who beheld
England's fate whitening under Huesca's moon?
Where the shells splash enormous flowers of destruction,
flame-gawds of madness, fountain-plumes of terror,
there must freedom walk or the earth is surrendered
to these her ravishers, so I shall walk with freedom
and after the agony you will pluck fruits in the garden.
Where is John Cornford of Cambridge?

Where now is he, a voice among many voices,
who said: 'In poverty's jail are bolted the guiltless,
the thieves lock up their victims.' His voice protested.
Sentenced, he saw, through a stone wall, the truth.
Clearer that wall of privation than any arguments.
He struck his hand on the stone and swore he would break it
he took a rifle and smashed through that wall in Spain.
Where is Wilf Jobling of Chopwell?

Where now is he, who amid the grinding of plates
in the tramp steamer's fo'c'stle, listened. The waters
streamed through the hawsepipe, and the ship dipped shuddering.
He learned who was racketing, who had rigged orders to gain
the world's insurance money while drowning the crew.
Bearing an ambulance stretcher among the trenches of danger,
I have found my way home, he answered, before Madrid.
Where is Davidovitch of Bethnal Green?

Where now is he that came early to fighting?
In Sydney, while gulls screamed around Pinchgut, he learned
resisting evictions, that the people were all evicted
from the world of their making and stamped into hovels of hardship.
He came back, a stowaway, to Edinburgh--
but cried: 'I stand in the open bows of purpose
journeying to Spain where the people claim their birthright.'
Where is Jack Atkinson of Hull?

Over the faint blue streak of sierras,
the bare scarps heaving ribbed and flattening-vague
where noon scoops out the shadows from the ravines
rasped the Caproni planes. Is this a strange country,
you Scotsman? No. I have recognised it. See,
the village children clench their firsts in welcome.
For we are they in whom love becomes justice.
Where is James Wark of Airdrie?

Where now is he, that leader of London busmen,
in a ragged olive-groves on the Jarama sector,
a company commander? Wiping grit from his eye,
he laughed, and swung his machine-gun at the ledge
of toppling fascists, then to the higher ground
ordered his men. The fiery rocks split flailing
and the barrage shogged battering up the hill.
Where is Bill Briskey of Dalston?

Where now is he, that comrade quick with laughter?
Behind the sandbags he crawled with bleeding knees,
sweat blurred the pounding distance, still he fired,
the claws of heat were fastened in his arm
that scraped along the stone. A wallowing roar
fire-drenched, billowed. As he was borne away,
dying, he sang the International.
Where is Alan Craig of Maryhill?

Tanks lurched up over the rise, and men from their hands and knees
flung forward on the gust of attack staggering
head-down. Our rifle fire's long crackle was drowned,
the booming racked and rocked the earth, but wavering
the crumpled line stumble on the grass-tussocks,
clumsily pitching. Out of touch we rushed,
the tanks heeled crunching but where is he that led us?
Where is Robert Symes of Hampshire?

Where now is he, that tramping on means-test marches,
knew that the road he had taken against oppression
led to the front in Spain? For he was marching
in country lined with harlot-hoardings of menace,
England seared into slums by the poison-bombs of greed.
That road of anger and love must lead to Spain,
the shouts in Trafalgar Square to No Pasaran.
Where is Tommy Dolan of Sunderland?

Where now is he that sold the 'Daily Worker'?
The poster waved from his hand was a red flag
hoisted on the barricades of choice.
I have seen the world dividing at the voice of truth,
so there is nothing strange in the clang of this war.
I have seen its first skirmishes when the police drew batons
and charged my friends, and so I shall go to Spain.
Where is Jock Tadden of Dundee?

This war has roots everywhere, in the soil of squalor.
He watched on the tarnished slates the glistening moon,
a milky drip of light mocking the mouth of hunger,
a promise of cleansing beauty, a pennon of freedom.
and midnight, yawning, creaked with the ghosts of old pain,
till resolution regathered like the moonlight flowing
in through the cast iron bars at the end of the bed.
Where is T. J. Carter of West Hartlepool

As summer is plighted in the little red comes of larch,
so will the fullness of freedom unfold from these,
our comrades, in its hour. For unless the onset
of spring was here in the spears of the daffodil
and eyes of stickleback emerald in water-darkness,
no summer breath would gloss then plum ruffle
the hill's gold harvestfur. And so we cry:
Where is Syd Avner of Stoke Newington?

These men as types of the English dead in Spain
we summon here in the nested hush of the Spring,
rising amid grey clouds of travellers-joy,
with marshgold smouldering in the hollows of sunset,
and sweetness plaited in the hazel catkins.
Here in this green hawthorn moment of England,
we conjour them, brief as an azure drift of windflowers
and lasting as the earth of unity.

1938 - Jack Linsay