The Whistle Blows

A Poem

Moshe Forman
Aug 10 · 2 min read
Chateau Wood, near Hooge in the Ypres salient, 29 October 1917. Public Domain.

Across muddy fields, the whistle blows,
calling men to the mill, withered by hunger and toil,
shuffling along the rural town’s shabby streets,
the nations claws pulled by nutrient’s lack.
Working men whose lifeblood ebbed,
in darkened workshops under smoggy skies.

Across muddy fields, the whistle blows,
calling fighting men of England, their bayonets to fix,
firm muscles to gird on the African veldt.
The morsels on their plate shall England’s worldly portion secure.
Nourished to disperse Dutchmen from the black man's abode,
enslaving those who, by their blackness, they are destined to rule.

Across muddy fields, the whistle blows,
calling men to the scrum, shoving, grasping the ball.
On the rugby field, the prowess of England’s gentry fails,
crushed by colonial rivals, England’s game is lost,
the vigour of its elite manhood decayed, casting doubt;
upon the sports fields of Eton, will England's wars be lost?

Across muddy fields, the whistle blows,
calling men “over the top” from a Ypres trench,
bodies, well-nourished, yet no better fare,
as the shrapnel shreds their muscled limbs,
healthy lungs ripped by the poison gas,
never again to savour the bounty of Empire’s fertile fields.

A Rugby Football Match. Artist Unknown. Public Domain

Historical Note: The British army recruiting for the Boer War at the end of the 19th century found that nearly 60% of young working-class recruits were so malnourished as to be unfit for service. The government set up the Committee on Physical Deterioration and in its 1904 Report emphasizing the need to provide school meals for working-class children. In the coming years, a series of highly publicized colonial rugby tour defeats spread panic in the British public, for this showed that the decline in British manliness had spread to the upper classes. The improvements to the nation's nutrition may have had a significant impact on the nations ability to fight the Great War that was to follow. It may have also undermined forever the doctrine of Laissez-faire capitalism, for it proved that government intervention was necessary to maintain the country’s health, military prowess and, as a consequence, Empire.

Resistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary

Moshe Forman

Written by

When I’m not a poet, novelist, or writer of short stories, I’m a writer of creative non-fiction exploring Self, Food, Society and History.

Resistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary

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