(for Arthur Rowley Heyland*)
There is no glory in death.
This is no feature film.
Dying is death … is dying
in muddied boots and pain.
Where is the justice then,
to help us reckon with those
who would put out the light
that always shines bright.
It is here …
And the years shall not dim
a vision of him in gold and red,
on the battlefields of Europe,
the pride of the Fighting Fortieth,
the honour of his men,
the depth of his loyalty,
the colour of his blood …
unswerving from the truth,
the kind of truth revealed
in poverty and poetry … and death,
whose messenger, a musket ball,
cut short his breath, but not his words;
words that give context to his life:
On the night before the battle,
a letter to his wife still wets the eyes
and we shed tears two hundred years on.
Brightest of all, his words set fair
to illuminate his love and care
for ‘my Mary’ and ‘my children’,
whose future changed forever, when
the bugler’s victory fanfare blew,
and tyranny met its Waterloo.
© 2015 John Anstie
*At the time of his death, Major Heyland was Commander of the 40th Regiment of Foot at The Battle of Waterloo, on the 18th June 1815. The author is the Major’s Great-Great-Great-Grandson.