A British Soldier in Zululand – fantasy poem

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A British Soldier in Zululand – fantasy poem

A British Soldier in Zululand – fantasy poem

If you love the poems of the master English poets of the late 1800’s — Tennyson, Byron, Kipling.  If you can hear and feel the Charge of the Light Brigade when you read Tennyson’s poem, or are amazed every time you read Kipling’s Gunga Din — then you will love this high adventure narrative fantasy poem describing from the standpoint of a single British soldier, a blow-by-blow battle between the British and Zulu Nation during the Zulu Wars.  From comments by readers, the poem will actually put you right in the middle of a battle you will never forget! Dedicated not only to the amazing narrative poets of that time, but to the bravery, tradition, and sheer guts of the British soldier back in Colonial times.  This poem actually started out in the Afgan Wars, but somehow morphed into the campaign in Zululand where the Zulu’s not too infrequently won the battle, even against then modern cannon and arms of the British.  The Zulus were incredible warriors, and their bravery was unequaled.  

If you hear can hear a drum cadence in the back of your mind as you read this poem — then you know exactly what I am talking about.  The poem was written with a British Colonial drum cadence in mind, and would be a “slow march” if you know British march speeds.  You can actually play pipes and drums to it, and it fits the tempo of the poem perfectly. Quite frankly,  while this is not my favorite of all my poems,  it still is probably the best narrative war poem I’ve ever written, and is my  number one top pick  for “best narrative poem” on my website.   I think if Kipling was still around,  he’d give me a wide smile and thumbs up!

A British Soldier in Zululand – a narrative poem of a battle between the British and Zulus during the Zulu Wars
copyright 2018 by jon gutmacher

So, he woke up in the morning
had a cup of steaming joe
put his rifle on his shoulder
and was ready then to go
to battle if there was one
to war if need would be
to ends of earth
or ends of time
t’was the British infantry

And he remembered all his loved ones
and the wife he hardly knew
and the times before he took up war
as soldiers sometimes do
and he didn’t really know it
and he really didn’t care
for the army was his master
and the war was
always there

Then he got into the wagon
the hundredth man in line
then he checked his pack
he checked his bags
and all that he could find
The 60th Royal Rifles
the pride of British war
all decked in fine regalia
for whatever was
in store

Now the pipes and drums were playing
a thousand men advanced
in perfect step and union
their bayonets stood fast
with the British Jack ah flying
not a man did miss a beat
their lines were fast and ready
their uniforms kept neat

And he took up his position
and then he took a knee
he saw the tribesmen coming
as far the eye
could see
then his sergeant screamed an order
as they hit a hundred yards
and the first of several volleys
cut them down like
so much chard

But it didn’t stop them coming
it didn’t stop their charge
they ran as fast as leopards
would they make the final yards?
he could make out each their features
the markings on their shields
the glint of spear
their shouting
as the two lines came so near

Then he fired another volley
as he saw the Zulu drop
he heard the screams as men fell down
the constant awful pop
from the rifles all around him
and rifles from behind
the shout of tribesmen sounded
while their charge did
shake the ground

Then, far off in the distance
saw their chieftains raise their spears
and another wave began to come
although the first was near
and he stood as straight as iron
and with a bloody shout
drove a bayonet in and thru a man
and then he pulled it out

Now the first line was upon him
the melee all around
his rifle butt and bayonet
drove men dead to the ground
and the slaughter all about him
the blood upon the ground
his uniform now tattered
as he loaded another round

Now the battle finally over
amazed was still alive
they pursued the remaining Zulus
watched them struggle
as they died
and he saw a glint of sabers
in the early morning sun
as the officers held a parlay
it seemed that all was done

Now he marched to drums and bagpipes
back to where there was a fort
and he joked with lads beside him
bout war and all it brought

And the stars shone
bright above him
across the Zulu plain
as he lay back down
upon his cot
the war now
just a name

So, I review my notes of battles
my grandson on my knee
the medals there upon the wall
for anyone to see
and the regimental colors
the tunic that I wore
now memories
just memories
of a long gone
Zulu War

The background image is “The Defence Of Rorke’s Drift” by the famous French oil painter, Alphonse de Neuville, and portrays the remarkable battle between a vastly outnumbered British outpost and the thousands of Zulu Warriors who attacked it.  A video of part of the movie plays below.

Zulu hand to hand fight
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