April, the last full fixture of the spring:
‘Feet, Scottish, feet’ – they rucked the fear of God
Into Blackheath. Their club was everything:
And of the four sides playing that afternoon,
The stars, but also those from the back pitches,
All sixty volunteered for the touring squad,
And swapped their Richmond turf for Belgian ditches.
October: mad for a fight, they broke too soon
On the Ypres Salient, rushing the ridge between
‘Witshit’ and Messines. Three-quarters died.
Of that ill-balanced and fatigued fifteen
The ass selectors favoured to survive,
Just one, Brodie the prop, resumed his post.
The others sometimes drank to ‘The Forty-Five’:
Neither a humorous nor an idle toast.
The Lost Leader (Faber & Faber, 2008)
Poem supplied courtesy of the Scottish Poetry Library