Last year I was lucky enough to be involved in a project at the New Art Gallery in Walsall where a group of us wrote poems based on some of the pictures in their permanent collection. Here’s one of the poems I wrote based on the above painting by Frank Holl entitled “Ordered to the Front.”
The morning dispatch shook the soldiers like cannon fire
The regiment is ordered to the front it calmly said.
So despite the earliness of the hour
Sleep was quickly swept aside
As the well-oiled military machine slowly came to life.
Uniforms were quickly pulled from chests
Bearskins removed from cupboard tops.
Wives hush crying babies while quickly dressing them
Daughters wrap whatever food is in the pantry.
Before all join the slow column to the station.
As young soldiers trade quips
Where the clock slowly counts down to departure
Casual bravado hiding nerves.
A shaking hand adjusts a hastily dressed uniform
Or tightens a rifle strap.
Unsure what is worse, the order to the front
Or a surprise inspection from a grizzled sergeant.
The older Men clasp a hand with their silent wife
While holding their rifle tight
Unwilling to let go of either.
Children instinctively know to be quiet.
Remembering their friends, who also saw their fathers off
But never saw them return.