Author Archives: yodamo

Gods of the Ring: Act 1, Scenes 2-4


5th Street Gym – Foreman is training with his trainer, Dick Sadler – Enter Ali carrying a suitcase

George Foreman! George Foreman! How ya diddling

Foreman drops his mitts with joy

Cassius Clay!

That aint my name no more
That my slave name

Sorry man

Stop the press!
Muhammad Ali is in Miami
For what do we owe this cockal honour

I was down in sunny Florida boys
& boxers are the only ones who dig
Truly what its like to be a boxer –
I must admit I miss the test of mein
The sweat of competition, & the ring
Times joyful lie in graves of memories
& I must live vicariously life
So George, I hear y’ave three fights coming up
As quick as my swift left-right-left, yeah?

You hear right – on the sixth I’ve Hazelton
Then fight Levi Forte on the sixteenth
With Gary Hobo Wiler two days aft

Busy boy

He needs to be kept busy
He get nerve-edged & spleenful if he aint
All that agression & testosterone
Needs to be legally releas’d, ya dig?

You aiming for Frazier

If he’s champ, yeah

He aint that good, I’ve seen the way he fights
When coming in – he’s weak on uppercuts
True quality don’t melt down from his blood
But listen George, let me show you something
{Foreman sits down, Ali begins to open the suitcase}
Just wait until to lay your gaze on this
If ever you world champion became
Status demands you’re reach’d by one of these

Ali reveals a portable phone – Forman laughs

What’s so funny?

Thought I was gonna see
All the money in the world

You want it

Say what?

It’s yours for twelve hundred dollars

Brother, I aint got that kinda money

He will have one day, tho’

I’m sure he will
Just look at those arms gladitorial
I’m hearing good things ’bout that swing of yours
So speak me of yourself, George, where ya from
For we might have to range at blows one day

Well – I’m a Texan by birth & by girth
From the infamous, impov’rish’d Fifth Ward
The rotten, scabbing face of Houston’s filth
Got tangl’d up, too many scrapes a child
King of the Fights, Lord of all Bullies
To cheap read wine I turn’d the stolen change
Thro deviant, delinquent alchemie
My only aspiration was to win
The respect of killers by killing too
Until a flash of godly vision fair
Told me to do something, try out this life,
& when I pull’d the gloves on that first dawn
I knew ‘d won salvation in the ring

Salvation? S’that what they call a whuppin
In Houston?

My boy don’t take no whuppins
He blest with a catalogue of endowments

I see just that – to win Olympic gold
No mean feat – it was mine back in Sixty
Joe Frazier won the same in Sixty-four
& both of us went on to rule the world
Well – Joe Frazier’s only the fake champ –
But you dig my meaning, brother

I do
To be a classic in one’s own short age
Is tantamount to cosmic excellence

Your famous gift for scrying things to pass
As acccurate as when you’ve pluck’d the rounds
From living aether’s dream – my man should leap
Like you & Frazier from the rostrum’s edge
Unto the pinnacle of punch & pain,
His power grows uncanny & too much
For the very best veteran fighters
His left returns like recurring pistons
Bigger, stronger, faster Sonny Liston,
With these fists he’s dismissing everyone
Atavic to Numidian giants
Who fought off Rome upon the desert’s fringe
He like a jivehound hiving with the drones
The unearthly scourge of his division
That is the richest it has ever been
Quarry, Ellis, Oscar Bonavena,
Macfoster, Shavers & george Chavala
All steamroll’d by the Houston Tornado

He don’t scare me – you aint no monster, George
But good luck anyway in all you box –
So, do you want the phone

The what

The phone
You can have it for nine hundred dollars

I gone told you I don’t have no money

He don’t be needing no portable phone

No sweat, I’m sorry to disturb you boys
& see you both some time along the line

Goodbye Muhammad

That cat’s coming back
I can feel it & I do not like it
That alley cat Ali drives me crazy

Maybe so, but the division needs him
& if I’m ever gonna be the champ
Outright & undisputed to the world
I’ll have to fight that madman in the ring

You’ll have to down Joe Frazier first, so back
To work, come on son, let me see your jabs

George Foreman returns to training

SCENE 3: Philadelphia

The street outside Joe Frazier’s gym, 2917 N. Broad Street / Enter Ali with a rowdy crowd including photographers & a film cameraman

I want Frazier, I want Frazier, I want
Frazier, I want Frazier, I want Frazier
Come out here Joe, come out here & fight me

We want Frazier, we want Frazier, we want
Frazier, we want –

Joe Frazier & Eddie Futch appear at the door

What’s all this commotion

Man, you aint no champion of the world
We end those signal farcicals today
Swerving your curveballs back to real truth

What are you doing in Philly, Ali
This aint your town, these cats aint your people

These cats are sick & tired of hearing lies,
Seeing false visages of victory
They want to see the proper champion
Forgo the inglorious arts of peace
& beat up on an ugly pretender

You what!

Lets go & fight in Fairbank Park

You’re crazy man

Well you’re a coward
The whole world knows you’re a flat-footed bull
Who moves like plowhorse thro’ rain-sodden mud

Hey sissy! You can’t hit, you got nothing

I want you Joe

I want you too

Well then,
At five o clock meet me up at Fairbank
{to the crowd}
I have a lot of speed
I have a lot of endurance
When I’m done with Joe Frazier
He’ll need more insurance
{Crowd laugh}
Joe Frazier too rebarbative to be
The representative of human might
He’d be better off donating his face
To the National Bureau of Wildlife

See what I do to your pretty face, Clay

Whaddaya call me?

Clay… Cassius Clay

Aint so, Cassius Clay is my slave name
I didn’t choose it, I didn’t want it
I am Muhammad Ali, a free name
It means Beloved of God, you dig God?
Joe, right?

Dont go bringin’ religion into this
This all about two men gettin’ it on

Lets get it on then, Joe, in Fairbank Park
At Five o Clock

I aint coming you fool
Your dearth of noblesse falls appalingly
I won’t be fighting no lunatic brawl

Dont be a coward, Joe, see you at five
{to crowd}
Can one of you lovely locals tell me
Where’s the flavourbest ice creams in Phily

Exit Muhammad Ali & the crowd

Gassius Cassius, Louisville Lip
Coming making you look bad in your crib
I thought he was your friend

Yeah, so did I

Funny way to show it

He don’t rile me
He nutting but a shunting stunt monkey
Engladdening the basest strains of men
When lenses land upon him he cries fake
But I guess such zero-adding antics
Won’t hurt a jot when come the paycheques, right?

You wanna fight that schmuck

He’s outta shape
& outta touch with all reality
For Mister Bigshot Sixties decades change

So back to work, focus on Joe Ellis

His time will come, I’ve seen it in my dreams

Eddie Futch & Joe Frazier re-enter the gym

SCENE 4: Fairbank Park, Philadelphia

Muhammad Ali is surrounded by a large crowd chanting ‘Ali-Ali-Ali-Ali-Ali’

I’m Hercules struggling thro’ his labours
I’m D’Artagnan, Cyrano & El Cid
When I smile women swoon, grown men shudder
As I scowl, some would say I’m dangerous
Too dangerous, it seems, for Joe Frazier
& prettier by untold magnitudes
A better boxer obvious to all
Tho’ Uncle Tom got my championship
They refus’d to fight me at five o clock
Its now ten past, shows Frazier was afraid
Of a good whuppin in front of you all
Here I am, aint had a fight in three years
Carrying an extra twenty-five pounds
& Joe don’t show up, what kind of a champ
Is that

Crowd-member 1
Joe’s just a phoney

He sure is
& now we’ve all seen he just a coward
I’ll have to find another way to scrub
The tainted glaze of someone’s else’s hands
Upon my sacred crown, but I’ll need dough
To pay this Supreme Court date coming up
So off I go to Broadway


To sing a heap of songs in Uncle Buck

Crowdmember 2
Right on

Crowdmember 3
Give us a song

You’ll have to wait
But boy, am  Ithe world’s greatest singer

Exit Ali & crowd


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”


Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse



Composing Conchordia, Provence

Composing Conchordia: Vaulting the Lockdown

Short Attention Span Theatre


Six new plays will be premiering online next week
Presented by Scotland’s Short Attention Span Theatre.

Audiences will be seeing double next week as a pioneering theatre company serves up its latest innovative slice of culture in quarantine. Short Attention Span Theatre (SAST) will be streaming six double-hander plays online and free of charge from Thursday 25th June – featuring some of Scotland’s best up-and-coming creatives. It follows the success of the company’s virtual shows in May, which featured 12 magical monologues – watched by hundreds of viewers ‘live’ and later on YouTube, as well as SAST’s own website. The next show will present six short plays – written, acted and directed by talents from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Moray … and even further afield.

Each will star two actors – filmed from a virtual distance to adhere to lockdown restrictions, using a variety of dramatic techniques. They will be available to view from Thursday (25th June) onwards. The plays will be:

Short Attention 1 (by Tom Brogan)

Through the Door by Leanne Cameron
Lucy has locked herself in the bathroom and is refusing to come to her Dad’s 60th birthday party because she’s fed up being compared to her sensible sister, Jess. Jess is trying to convince her to come out and that everything will be ok, but not before going through the emotional roller coaster that is sisterhood. Will Lucy come through the door?

Short Attention 2 (by Tom Brogan)

Smells Like Cheap Spirit by Jamie Graham
Mandy is spending another night in front of the TV and has treated herself to a takeaway pizza and a bottle of gin. She’s feeling a bit down in the dumps after recently losing her job and still not having anyone special in her life. But the evening takes an unexpected twist – and it’s not just the lemon in her gin.

Short Attention 3 (by Tom Brogan)

Rats by Karen Marquis
A make-up tutorial takes a horrific turn…

Short Attention 4 (by Tom Brogan)

Acquiesce by Alan Muir
Two men. Two prisoners. One wall.
For years they’ve been kept captive in neighbouring cells, forced to share their fears and secrets with each other – and the stone between. But now there’s a chance at escape. For one of them at least. The problem is, freedom comes at a cost. It always does.

Short Attention 5 (by Tom Brogan)

The Curse of Griffin Cottage by David Bratchpiece
Aspiring writer Sarah receives an unexpected message from young actor Eddie after he gets locked down in some spooky surroundings…

We Keep Going by Rachel Flynn
David and Zoe had a one-night stand that lasted a whole weekend just before lockdown. Now they actually have to get to know each other without sex, can they keep their intense connection over video chat, without the ability to touch? Or will they realise they’re not the people they thought they were?

The actors are Grant McDonald, Sarah Meikle, Stephen Will, John Michael-Love, Derek Banner, Catriona McAllister, Elle Watson, Emma Findlay, Paul Kelvin, Rebecca Wilkie, Stephen Kerr and Kirsty Florence. The directors are Karen Marquis, Daniel Gee Husson, Max Chase, Daniel Orejon, Rebecca Riddell and GR Greer. The June show will premiere on Thursday 25th June from 7.30pm. You can watch via YouTube and theSAST website.

Tom Brogan, Co-founder of SAST, said: “The reaction to our online shows has been extremely positive. We can’t wait to bring audiences six new virtual two-hander plays – all streaming free to your computer or device. Like everyone, we’ve had to adjust to the ongoing pandemic and it has presented a unique challenge creatively. I’m delighted with the innovative ways our writers, directors and actors have worked together – many miles apart – to produce new works to help lift people’s spirits during this testing time. Once again there’s a range of subject matters and genres, with something for everyone. Please tune in. Don’t worry if you can’t watch ‘live’ on YouTube or via our website – all the plays will be available to view again afterwards and you can catch up on previous shows too.

Here at SAST our goal is to encourage, support and inspire early-career writers and theatre makers. The online shows are a way of continuing that work, while hopefully entertaining people sheltering out the coronavirus storm at home. There’s no cost as such, but if anyone wants to buy us a ‘virtual cuppa’ then we’d be delighted to accept. All donations will help to fund future work.” Tom added, “Hopefully – all being well – we will be back on stage in the autumn with live shows in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Until then, please stay safe … and enjoy the shows.”

So far, SAST’s April show has had nearly 800 views, with May’s plays racking up nearly 1,000 views. SAST was established in 2015 by Karen Barclay and Tom Brogan, and is now run by Karen, Tom and Mairi Davidson. It was set up to enable first-time and early-career writers to experience their work being dramaturged, directed, rehearsed and performed in front of a paying audience. Prior to lockdown, SAST had mounted 24 live shows in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Ayr – producing the work of more than 100 writers. It receives no funding so if you want to help support future work please consider buying the company a ‘virtual cuppa.

The Young Shakespeare (15): Upstart Crow

Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years

Shakespeare in Titchfield

According to Aubrey, Shakespeare had been, ‘in his younger yeares a schoolmaster in the countrey,’ but when? In 1590, Shakespeare’s ‘younger years’ are running out somewhat, & we only have two more years to go until he is a smash-hot dramatist & the talk of all London. A year later, in 1593, he is dedicating his first poetic effort, Venus & Adonis, to a young English nobleman called Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, in which he describes his ‘unpolished lines’ as being written during his ‘idle hours’. The question is, what was Shakespeare doing when he was not being idle?

The answer is he was tutoring the seventeen year old earl, who dissapears from the records between October 1590 and August 1591. He was, in fact, living in Titchfield, where his pro-Catholic mother, Countess Mary, was in residence at Titchfield House. His contact now with Shakespeare would blossom into a great friendship, with Nicholas Rowe describing how the bard;

Had the honour to meet with many great and uncommon marks of favour and friendship from the Earl of Southampton… there is one instance so singular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakespeare’s, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William D’Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted, that my Lord Southampton, at one time, gave him a thousand pounds to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great and very rare at any time, and almost equal to that profuse generosity the present age has shown to French dancers and Italian eunuchs.

Finally, a possible & oblique connection between Shakespeare & Southampton is found in a 1592 letter from the Third Earl of Southampton is signed by him, but penned by somebody else. An American hand-writing expert, Charles Hamilton, has suggested the handwriting is identical to a portion of the manuscript of The Play of Sir Thomas More, which lies on solid ground enough in the world of Shakespearean scholarship to be given as the bard’s own hand.

It is now time to introduce a new dimension to the sonnets, a layer to Hisalrik if you will. We have established so far that Shakespeare wrote sonnets to William Stanley & to the mysterious Turkish lady in Constantinople. I am a sonneteer myself, & understand how indidual sonnets composed to different person may be synthesised into paeasn to a single ‘ideal’ musesource in a sequence. In the same spirit, a small number of the sonnets wer composed to Southampton, those in which Shakespeare takes on the role of the older man urging the young aristocrat to marry & have children. These are known as the ‘Procreation Sonnets,’ & are the first 17 of the entire sequence.

There is a significant back story. Thomas Wriothesley, second Earl of Southampton, and father of Shakespeare’s patron, died on 4th October 1581, leaving the seven year old Henry as his only surviving son. Elizabethan law deign’d him to become a ward of the Crown, & placed him in the hands of a certain Lord Burghley who would in 1589 put huge pressure on the young earl to marry his own grand-daughter, Lady Elizabeth Vere, daughter of the Earl of Oxford.

The Tears of the Muses

Shakespeare’s presence in Hampshire follow’d hard on the heels of Edmund Spenser himself, who was there in 1590. The poet Samuel Woodford, who lived in Hampshire near Alton, told Aubrey that, ‘Mr. Spenser lived sometime in these parts, in this delicate sweet air; where he enjoyed his muse, and wrote a good part of his verses.’ Some of these verses were included volume of poems called The Tears of the Muses, registered on the 29th December, 1590. They were dedicated to a relation of the poet’s, Alice Spencer of Althorp, who had married William Stanley’s brother, Ferdinando. In the sheme of our survey an increasingly small world!

In one of the stanzas of Spenser’s new poem, we see the return of the same ‘Willy’ who inhabited Spenser’s Calendar.

And he, the man, whom Nature self had mad
To mock herself, and Truth to imitate,
With kindly counter under mimic shade,
Our pleasant Willy, ah! is dead of late:
With whom all joy and jolly merriment
Is also deaded, and in dolour drent.

But that same gentle spirit, from whose pen
Large streams of honey and sweet nectar flow
Scorning the boldness of such base-born men,
Which dare their follies forth so rashly throw;
Doth rather choose to sit in idle cell,
Than so himself to mockery to sell

That he is deem’d ‘our pleasant Willy‘ suggests a connection to both Alice & Edmund Spenser, one which is confirmed through bloodbond – Shakespeare’s mother was were distantly related to the Spensers – & of course the link to the Stanleys. Spenser’s description of ‘large streams of honey and sweet nectar,’ is reminiscent & contemporaneous with Francis Meres’ description of Shakespeare in the Palladis Tamia as ‘mellifluous & honey-tongued.’ That Shakespeare was dead of late indicates he is between creative periods, while the ‘cell’ mentioned by Spenser points to Shakespeare having taken up the position of tutoring the Earl of Southampton, a refrence to a house near the historic Titchfield Abbey, known as Place House Cottage, which was a schoolhouse at the time & where Shakespeare may have slept.

Shakespeare writes Edmund Ironside

The Earls of Southampton clearly enjoyed the Theatre, for plans of 1737 show a large room on the upper level of Titchfield House labelled as ‘Play House Room.’ The tradition of theatre-making at Titchfield stretched back to before Titchfield Abbey had been converted to a stately home. In 1538, one of Thomas Wriothesley’s servants wrote to him, describing how Thomas’s future wife, Jane, ‘handleth the country gentlemen, the farmers and their wives to your great worship and every night is as merry as can be with Christmas plays and masques with Anthony Gedge and other of your servants.’

During Shakespeare’s time at Titchfield he created a play call’d Edmund Ironside, in essence rapidly cobbling together a new version of Titus Andronicus for a new audience, & setting it in Hampshire – the opening scene is in Southampton –  & having the Earls of Southampton as main protaganists. Edmond Ironside is a mysterious anonymous play with no records of performance in the period. This suggests it was created for private performance. The manuscript was discovered in 1865 when the British Museum purchased fifteen play manuscripts bound together into a single volume from a private library, known as Egerton 1994. The play certainly feels like it is bubbling up from a thinking Shakespeare, while scholars have suggested it was written by Shakespeare for the following linguistic reasons;

* There are 260 words that were used first by Shakespeare
* There are 635 instances of shakesperean rare words
* There are 300 usages of the very rarest Shakesperean words
* There are 700 clear parralels with the first folio
* There are 350 verbatim phrases

The most considerable echoes can be found in Titus & the Henry VI plays, & placing Shakespeare writing Edmund Ironside in Hampshire after Titus & before the histories makes perfect sense. Putting round balls into round hall kinda thing.

Creating this play would be a catalytical moment for Shakespeare – it was his first attempt at writing English history, & within days one expects, he began work on the great history cycle that would make his name & shoot his talents into the stratosphere.

Shakespeare begins the History Cycle

Shakespeare’s great sequence of history plays covers pretty much the whole of the dynastic War of the Roses, that dividing of England & Englishness which ran & ran & ran for deacdes of division, slaughter & power politics. The conflict was fought our between two royal houses, that of Lancaster & that of York, & ‘there is general agreement,‘ writes Lefranc, ‘that Shakespeare, in the historical dramas he devoted to the wars of the Roses, in spite of his usual impartiality, shows himself Lancastrian.’ This makes sense, for Shakespeare’s own great-grandfather fought at Bosworth field on the side of Henry Tudor, as suggested by Shakespeare’s father when he applied to the College of Heralds for a family coat of arms in 1596. A draft prepared by William Dethick, the garter king-of-arms, declared by ‘credible report’ that John Shakespeare’s, ‘parentes & late antecessors were for their valeant & faithfull service advanced & rewarded by the most prudent prince King Henry the seventh of famous memorie, sythence whiche tyme they have contiewed at those partes in good reputacion & credit.’

‘Shakespeare rearranged history,‘ says E. A. J. Honigmann ‘so as to make Stanley’s services to the incoming Tudor dynasty seem more momentous than they really were.’ The History plays definitely inflate the role of the Stanleys in the creation of the Tudor state, which end of course a Stanley-sponsored Shakespeare would achieve. The 1st Earl of Derby, Thomas Stanley, was created as such by Henry VII after the Battle of Bosworth, which role was dramatized in Richard III. Shakespeare famously portrays Richard III as a heinous villain, which was handy for the Stanleys seeing as Thomas & his kinsman, William, both betrayed the last Plantaganet king at Bosworth. This led to the moment when the whole Tudor dynasty began, as Thomas Stanley pluck’d the crown from the dead Richard and then places it on Henry’s head.

Taking his matter from Raphael Holinshed’s ‘Chronicles of England, Scotlande, & Irelande,’ our bard wove together a wonderful piece of drama in which he ressurected history & brought it alive like no other had done before. Not long after seeing it, Thomas Nashe wrote;

How would it have joyed brave Talbot, the terror of the French, to think that after he had lain two hundred years in his tomb, he should triumph again on the stage, and have his bones new embalmed with the tears of ten thousand spectators at least (at several times) who in the tragedian that represents his person imagine they behold him fresh bleeding.

Significantly, John Talbot was also the name of William Stanley’s very good friend, John Talbot, who would be later knighted by King James at Lathom House itself.

When creating his history cycle, Shakespeare drew from his time spent with the Queen’s Players, & especially one of the plays in their repertoire, The Famous Victories of Henry V. We know it was theirs as on its publication in 1598, the play was advertised as acted by ‘her Queen’s Majesty’s Players.’ C.A. Greer points out fifteen plot elements of the Famous Victories that are to be found with greater detail in the trilogy. These include the robbery at Gad’s Hill of the King’s receivers, the meeting of the robbers in an Eastcheap Tavern, the reconciliation of the newly crowned King Henry V with the Chief Justice, the gift of tennis balls from the Dauphin, and Pistol’s encounter with a French soldier (Dericke’s in The Famous Victories).

Shakespeare Begins Romeo & Juliet

Another play that Shakespeare was working on at Titchfield is that famous tale of star-crossed lovers, Romeo & Juliet. We know it was written befor 1595, & a line uttered by Juliet’s nurse gives us a credible date.

‘Tis since the earthquake now eleven years

In April 1580, a magnitude 5.5 earthquake caused extensive damage in the south-east of England and in London, two people were killed. If this is the earthquake Shakespeare is referring to, then Romeo & Juliet is being written in 1591. It is also being written the following year, as it contains nods to a 1592 romance by Samuel Daniel called The Complaint of Rosamond; the relevant passages include the description by Rosamond’s ghost of her death by poison and of Henry II’s mourning at his mistress’s bier (603-79) which remerges in Romeo’s lament over Juliet’s body (V.iii.92-115). In Daniel, a few line later, he gives us Rosamund’s epitaph;

And after ages monuments shall find, Shewing thy beauties title not thy name, Rose of the world that sweetned so the same.

We here see wordplay on Rosamund’s name – where her ‘beauties title’ (rosa mundi) is not her real name (rosa munda). These, & the word ‘sweetened’ leads us naturally to Juliet’s famous declaration;

O, be some other name! What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, Retain that dear perfection which he owes Without that title.

Romeo & Juliet would have resonated with the Southampton family, The Third Earl’s maternal grandfather, Antony Browne, was a pal of King Philip II of Spai, who created him Viscount Montague in September, 1554. Of course, Romeo & Juliet is a play which features a feud between the Montagues & the Capulets! A forbidden, homosexual love between Southampton & Shakespeare may only be speculated on – & might be a feature embedded in the play, but there is no proof as of yet.

The Premier of Shakespeare’s Battle of Alcazar

Philip Henslowe was a London businessman who built the Rose playhouse in 1587. He also kept a priceless of diary of plays & their takings which contains some of Shakespeare’s debuts. Here’s the Spring season of 1592;

19 – fryer bacone & friar bungay –
20 – muly mulloco
21 – Orlando –
23 – Don Horatio
24 – Sir John Mandeville
25 – Harey of Cornwall
26 – The Jew of Malta
28 – Clorys & Orgasto

2 – Matchavell
3 – henry Vi
4 – Pope John
4 – Bendo & Richardo
6 – 4 plays in one
8 – The looking glass
9 – Zenobia
14 – Jeronimo
21 – Constantine
22 – Jerusalem

6 – Brandymer
10 – the comedy of jeronimo
11 – titus & vespasian 3 – 4 – 0
28 – tamberlayne part 2 – 3 4 – 0
28 – the tanner of denmark –

The second of these plays, muly mulloco, perform’d on the 21st of February, & should be the same as a play first performed by Lord Strange’s Men call’d the ‘The Battell of Alcazar’ as one of the characters in the play refers to another as ‘Muly Molucco,’ a name which appears nowhere else in Elizabethan drama. The play’s proper title, as printed in its quarto edition, is ‘The Battell of Alcazar, fought in Barbarie, between Sebastian king of Portugal, and Abdelmelec king of Marocco.

Topical references to the Armada suggest the play was written 1588-1589 & there are traces of Stanley-Shakepeare coauthorship. When in North Africa together, they would have listened to tales of the Battle of Ksar El Kebir (Alcazar), fought in northern Morocco on the 4th of August 1578. Brian Vickers shows numerous verbal echoes between the co-authored parts of Titus Andronicus & the Alcazar including a highly similar double consonantal alliteration. Macdonald P Jackson also highights how the weird formalities of the first Act of Titus have been mirrored by those of the Alcazar.

A Star is Born

In early 1592, the world at large became witness to Henry VI part 1, performed by Ferdinando Stanley’s Lord Strange’s Men. This makes Lord Strange’s Men the first acting company to be ‘officially’ associated with a Shakespeare play. After an unprecedented six performaces at court over the winter season, they began playing in the capital’s theatres, including the Rose, which had opened on February 19th, 1592. In his diary, the Rose’s theatre manager, Philip Henslowe recorded quite succinctly that on the 3rd March 1592, he had seen a ‘ne’ play called ‘Harey the vj.’ This play seems to be Henry VI part 1 by Shakespeare, for in the August of that year, in his Pierce Penniless, Thomas Nashe refers to a play he had recently seen which featured a rousing depiction of Lord Talbot, a major character in Henry VI part 1. Takings for ‘Harey the vj.’ were three pounds, sixteen shillings & eightpence, which equates to 16,444 pennies in the ‘box’ – a clear hit! I mean lets be honest, the paying public would have been amazed, there was a new kid on the block & Shakespeare had thrust himself onto the public imagination in much the same way George Lucas did with his Star Wars trilogy.

Shakespeare attacked by Greene

Shakespeare’s plays were clearly a hit, but true fame is always laced with a bit of envious spite – enter fellow playwright, Robert Greene. Writing practically on his deathbed in his Groatsworth of Wit, he vilifies Shakespeare as, ‘an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.’

The reference to Shakespeare being a jack of all trades, a ‘johannes fac totum,’ could well be implying his status as Southampton’s teacher. By parodying Shakespeare’s line ‘O tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide,’ (Henry VI, part 3), it is clear Greene is alluding to Shakespeare in quite jealous tones. In the same pamphlet, Greene seems to refer to Shakespeare’s participation with the Queen’s Players, on whose formation in 1583 were given the title, ‘grooms of the chamber.’ Greene writes;

It is pity men of such rare wits [Nashe, Marlowe and Peele] should be subject to the pleasures of such rude grooms

The old order was dying. Robert Greene would pass away on the 2nd September 1592, by which time a completely new form of theater was springing up about the marvellous & remarkable quill of an ‘uneducated’ Warwickshire yeoman. By the end of the year, even Greene’s publisher was climbing aboard the bandwagon, when in a preface to Kind-Harts Dreame by Henry Chettle, we find;

About three moneths since died M. Robert Greene, leauing many papers in sundry Booke sellers hands, among other his Groatsworth of wit, in which a letter written to diuers play-makers, is offensively by one or two of them taken, and because on the dead they cannot be auenged, they wilfully forge in their concietes a liuing Author: and after tossing it two and fro, no remedy, but it must light on me. How I haue all the time of my conuersing in printing hindred the bitter inueying against schollers, it hath been very well knowne, and how in that I dealt I can sufficiently prooue. With neither of them that take offence was I acquainted, and with one of them I care not if I neuer be: The other, whome at that time I did not so much spare, as since I wish I had, for that as I haue moderated the heate of liuing writers, and might haue vsde my owne discretion, (especially in such a case) the Author beeing dead, that I did not, I am as very, as if the originall fault had beene my fault, because my selfe haue scene his demeanor no lesse ciuill than he exclent in the qualitie he professes

With this very public apology & refutation of Greene’s attack, Shakespeare, it seems, had become the darling of the London’s Theatre world. There would be no looking back!

Gods of the Ring: Act 1, Prologue-Scene 1


The Greatest Play Ever Written


Enter the Spirit of America & her angels

The Spirit of America shall speak

O for a Muse of air, that would transcend
The lightest season of convincive art,
As here, as erst upon an antique stage,
I rise to thee a proud exordial,
Long sent to steer this vessel of repute
Across a raft of retrospective wits
Adorning this gymnic Conchordia
Uploaded with prologean Chorus,
Such dainty diversions stand antidote
To times of dull labour, outstandingly,
To live thro’ deeds, not years, thro’ thoughts, not breath,
Thro’ intimacies of imitancy
Rare souls yet rouse Humanity to ken
Fair prospers capabilities within
Each all of us to be a living God
Admir’d & worship’d widely ‘cross the world
My golden theme such Giants of the Sun
Melded ankle-deep, brutal gang of three,
Forming a cosmic counterpoint to life
Four years of fabulous entanglements
As much excitement as a night can bear
As much commotion as a land can stand
Exploding beyond borders thro’ the Globe
Pantomimean pandemonium
Of boxing; its burlesque imperative,
Its irreproducable accident
Of history; its outstanding resolve
Thro’ acts of beauty, countrymen come hear
The names of our three principles, Ali
Frazier & Foreman – hear the angels sing

Welcome, yes welcome, ye Gods of the Ring



When Smoking Joe Frazier met Muhammad Ali
It was the Fight (FIGHT) of the Century
When Foreman floor’d Frazier the talk of all Jamaica
Was the height (HEIGHT) of brutality

We don’t believe what we’re seeing
Got no right to call them human beings
As they fight their way thro mortal ceilings
As the angels sing

Welcome ye Gods of the Ring


When Foreman took a tumble the Rumble in the Jungle
Was a night (OF) immortality
& man what a killer the Thrilla in Manilla
Saw the might (MIGHT) of humanity

We don’t believe what we’re seeing
Got no right to call them human beings
As they fight their way thro mortal ceilings
As the angels sing

Welcome ye Gods of the Ring



SCENE 1: Philadelphia

Joe Frazier is sat in his car singing along to the radio – Muhammad Ali knocks on the window – Frazier gestures to Ali to get in the car – Enter Muhammad Ali carrying a suitcase

Hey, man, nice wheels

Front-drive Eldorado

The Queen o’ Cadillacs I heard ’em say

So where you wanna go

The bus station

Sure, that aint far, I’m happy to oblige

Look at us, undefeated champions
Of the whole world’s heavyweight division
All in one space & ne’er comin’ to blows

There’s a time & a place for that action
Mine was no ignoble supplantation
My honour says we’ll have to fight one day
I’ve even sent the Supreme Court letters
Begging them return your boxing license

I dig that, brother, your soul is shining
You got good days ahead, too, good money
You got Mac Foster coming up; Foreman –
George Foreman – both million-dollar gates
Rip’ning all the time, beautiful paydays
You got it made if you just play it cool,
But big up the truth, man, if you fought me,
Would you be scared?

No, man, honest to God

You really wouldn’t be

No kinda way

I mean my fast left jab, the way I dance?

Noooooo! I’d get close to you, I’ve heard ’em talk
‘Bout how fast you is, moving away, but
You’ll find out how fast I am moving in.

Remember that time you came to see me
Fight Zora Folley? You wanted to learn
From me

We all know a time of learning.

You believe you learnt enough to fight me?

Hell, yeah! Maybe even if I didn’t
Know enough, I would never turn you down –
For any man that turns another down
In his profession deem less than a man

What if a man is wise & bides his time
As when we watch’d delinquents stab their knives
Stood safely by on sidewalks when us boys

I’m ready now to beat you fair & square

So, do you think you could decision me,
Or could even stop me before fifteen?

I’m sure I could stop you before fifteen.

You really do?

I really do. You see,
The kinda stuff on you I’m gonna put
Y’ain’t ever seen before, you understand?

It’s impossible to dodge my jab


Those other cats let you have it your way
Just like they let me have it my way, dig?
They let you jump around the ring, and dance,
But I’d be getting me right dead on you
Every time you breathe you would be breathing
Right down on my head.

You never whip me
You be tired after six rounds of scuffling.

You be tired, too, trying to get away
Running and jabbing, ducking and dodging
You be tired, too.

I’m stronger than you think
{long pause}
I really believe you afraid of me

{long pause}
No, I sure ain’t – I wanna fight you bad

After I get myself into good shape,
I’m gonna dance and move like Sugar Ray.
S’impossible to whip me with your style

Well, I been up against real race horses
But I’ve whipp’d ’em all down to a slow trot.
Slammin’ sticky quicksand under bruis’d hooves.

I’ll admit you good, but I’m the fastest
Fist in the history of the whole world.

Moving away, maybe, but moving in,
No way, that’s me, I’m fastest moving in

But you don’t have no jab.

{aghast, almost stops car}
I don’t have a jab?

Keep driving! Watch it! No, you got no jab

But man, I’d tear your head off with a jab!
I’ve got a jab like a cool machine gun

I’ve seen you box, I fought Sonny Liston twice,
When he was at his best – Floyd Patterson
I beat, & all those title defenses
Like Mildenberger & Henry Cooper.

What you want me to do?

And I fought
Zora Folley & Cleveland Williams

Which one you want me to fight?

They all beat – but leaving out me & you
Who you think would be the best two to fight
The all-time title

Oh, like Joe Louis
& Jack Johnson

Damn straight, that’s who I think.

Yeah, man, y’know I hope you do get back.
But, man, you ain’t gonna do no whipping.
Not on me. I hope there’ll be no hard feelings
When I whip your ass
{Sees Ali about to cut in}
Brother let me talk!
Got no hard feelings with you anyplace
But when we in the ring, you on your own.

But you be on your ownsome lonesome, too

That’s the only way I know how to be.

If we can’t get along, let’s get it on.

We’ll get it on. Ain’t no doubt about that.
Once that bell rings, I see you psych ’em out
But me, I’m a different cut – I’m the
Greatest psych artist ever put on earth
You’d outpsych Houdini easy than me

For that smart remark, here’s my prediction
A perfect blueprint of the first five rounds

Who say you gonna last that –

Let me talk!
That night of the fight at the ticket booth,
I want the people to pick up the program,
See written out round-by-round what I’ll do
Like reading menus for an eight-course meal
Now the first round–Dong! See me coming out
But I ain’t gonna do nothing, no need
Just gonna show you off as an amateur,
I won’t throw one punch, I’m just gonna dance
& hold my guard down by my groovin’ hips
Gonna dance and move like I did with Floyd
Patterson, ‘what’s the matter son,’ I’ll say
As you don’t even get in one poor punch
But still, I’m gonna let you win that round.
Then, second round–Dong! I’m coming out fast,
I’ won’t be shooting nothing but left jabs.
Gonna hold my right hand down by my side
I won’t be needing it for no protection,
Nothing but left jabs, nothing but left jabs,
Here comes the jabs . . . then the third round–Dong!
I’m coming out, putting footwork together
Jabs together, right crosses together
& here come the unstoppable left hooks

Sounds like you done won the fight already–

I aint gonna miss a left jab that round
And after that fifth round–

{can’t stand it any longer}
Wait, wait–

You say what you say when I’m through

Go & muzzle up that Nostradamus

Lemme finish, man, don’t be getting scared,


Yeah. Now, in the fourth round–

It’s coming off!
This fight has got to come off!

The fourth round–
I’l tie you up & in your feetless fifth
I’m gonna right-cross you, talking to you,
Telling you the history of your life
Teaching you & inventing new punches

Now where I’m gonna be at all this time
Ya doing all these things, counting fingers?

You will be trying to throw everything
But none of those knick-knacks are gonna land

Hear me Clay, it ain’t gonna be that way.

You have a right to say that, as have I

The right to say what I would wanna say
& now I’m gonna tell you what I feel
Its gonna go, you gonna run about,
A few rounds, throw a few pansy punches
Then in the sixth I’m gonna knock you down

No! Listen! Don’t you try my predicting

I’m telling you

Be sure you back it up!
Your behind gonna be mine in round nine!
As soon as you start working the body,
I’m gonna shoot for your head–quick! WHIP! WHIP! WHIP!
You won’t get to my body ‘less you clinch

Ring Magazine Cover - Joe Frazier and Jerry Quarry

Outta twenty-six fights I ain’t never
Held on to a man

But brother listen
We know the truth by reason & by heart
Something tells me you & me got bizness
I hope you’re still the champ when I get back
Effluent with unstocking’d refluence
All this for saying no to killing folk
Pinn’d down by an imperial pastern
I aint no triggerhappy dilettante
I got no quarrel with the Vietcong
No Vietcong ever call’d me nigger
Those Vietcong don’t put no dogs on me
Nor robb’d me of my nationhood, hey look
Its the station, pull over

Sure thing, man

Nice one brother, real nice, & thank-you, hey!


You don’t have any money to spare
I’m short for the ticket

Hah! Of course man

You’ll get it back with int’rest when we fight

Here’s a hundred bucks

You’re a good brother,
Better friend, farewell & be prosperous

Exit Muhammad Ali


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”


Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse



Composing Conchordia, Provence

Composing Conchordia: Vaulting the Lockdown

Composing Conchordia: Vaulting The Lockdown


After the completion of the Leithology quintology – which will soon be on sale on all platforms – & the composition of Viriathus & Malmaison, I felt THE FLIGHT OF THE WHITE EAGLES was going to be a real statement-maker. If I really do wanna emulate Shakespeare, I need definitive works with meaty bodies – a bit like Hamlet innit – & so turned to Napoleon’s infamous retreat from Moscow as the first of my major conchords. There’s a hell of a lot of drama obviously, & when it comes to stagecraft the visual deterioration of the soldiers will be a wonderful story to tell.


With five acts of seven or so scenes each, all bubbling with blank verse & containing both original songs & songs drawn from the period itself, WHITE EAGLES definitely marks a placement of my muse on a Parnassian plateaux of sorts. No looking back now – ten down, 27 to go!


LEITHOLOGY – Available in book form soon

I began researching WHITE EAGLES last year after reading the fabulous ‘Memoirs of Sergeant Bourgogne.’ From this first catalyst – I was very verteux at the time – I began to research other memoirs up in the National Library of Scotland, such as those of Caulaincourt, & set to work on the composition period not long after my return from Provence sometime in mid-February. Then the Lock Down happened. I don’t need to rattle on about it, everyone’s experiencing it. I’m lucky tho’ – I walk dogs with my girlfriend which meant I could to & fro between my places in Edinburgh & East Lothian for ‘work that cannot be done from home‘ – the dog numbers had drastically plumetted, but there was enough to make it valid & of course meant I could compose pretty much anyway I liked – from the Lammermuirs to Leith Links. Here’s a Walking East Lothian post I created during the Lock Down.

Musically, WHITE EAGLES has been something of an educational dream, help’d along by my house-mate’s keyboard playing. By February I had a couple of tunes, but then began to write more & add local colour so to speak, translating from the French lyric into the English. Of my new songs THE BALLAD OF BORODINO is really beautiful I think, & THE GREAT NAPOLEON really fun – the Herod moment – my house mate incorporating the Tetrislike theme tune into via some techno rave from the 90s via Hicksy & Sharky. He also fell in love with Plaisir D’Amour & Compere Guillere.

The full list of songs is below, with astersks denoting my own compositions)

The Sable Raven – English version
Marlbrough is Going To war – English version
Plasir D’amour
Parisienne Skies (*)
On Va Leur Percer Le Franc
The Blood of Borodino (*)
Pomme de Terres (*)
Compere Guillere – French Version
Song of the Loricated Legion (*)
My Handsome Husband (*)
Soarin’ Home (*)
Chant du Depart
Crossing the Bridge (*)
The Great Napoleon (*)
Compere Guillere – English version (*)
Au Clair de la Lune
Le Depart Du Bologne
The March from Moscow (*)

Theatrically, there are a lot of parts – three main bodies of 8-10 characters; Napoleon & his entourage, Bourgogne’s company & the Russian partisans. There’s also another 20 or so walk-in parts, plus the crossing of the Berezhina bridge to depict – but whenever WHITE EAGLES does get performed everyone’s gonna JUST love it!


Artistically, WHITE EAGLES is the bag daddy to Malmaison, but together they form a very good account of Napoleon’s life. Like I said at the start, it also represents the foot-scrambling heave onto the plateaux from where the rest of my conchords will be composed.


The first of this new bunch is GODS OF THE RING & I’m extremely excited about it. The principle subject is the four fights between Ali, Foreman & Frazier, & all the dramas before, during, after & between the fights. The names of these epic combats have gone down in history – THE FIGHT OF THE CENTURY, THE SUNSHINE SHOWDOWN, THE RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE & THE THRILLA IN MANILLA. Like White Eagles I’ve already got two tunes in the bank, a theme tune & the sublime, best song I’ve written in ages, BLACK POWER. I’ve been compiling the notes in the past few days, the bulk of which were studied for in the National Library just before the Lockdown.  I’m gonna print out the first notes today & get composing soon after.


With White Eagles taking just over three months, & June the 1st on the horizon, I’ve got a feeling that every new conchord is gonna take a season – so Gods of the Ring is the conchord of the summer of 2020 – the weird summer, the one where the theatres were closed. For me, I think I’ll be spending some of it hopefully in Greece, where the next of these windows into my workings will be composed.


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”


Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse



Composing Conchordia, Provence

Composing Conchordia: Vaulting the Lockdown

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 5, Scenes 7-8

SCENE 7: Elbling

Bourgogne is asleep in a bed – enter Madame Gentil & her German servant, Billy, who carries a bowl of broth – Gentil opens the curtains letting in golden sunlight

Good morning, your privations are over

What? Where? Who? How?

You do not remember

No… you are so beautiful, am I dead

Well, Elbling is the nearest thing to death
In this life anyway, a quiet town
Render’d carnival by your Grand Armee
Or whats left of it, not much now at all

I’m in Elbling

Yes, I am your hostess
You came to me two days ago, have slept
Ever since

Hah! Picart, the Jew, the sledge

Yes, Picart
Is the man’s name, he’s been some seven times
Rnquiring on the status of your health
We’ve all been very worried

I feel fine
But hungry, by god, what is that I smell

A hearty garbure

But that dish is french

Yes, you are in the house of a Frenchman
& I his wife

His wife! what woes are mine
I thought you had been sent me by Cupid

You Frenchmen are masters of flattery
But need you not to try, I gladly come
To soothe as if you were kin of mine own
When you arrived in so much suffering
Slinging gibberish, I swore to nurse you

{tasting food}
To savour flavour is to paradise
A moment spent admiring god’s gardens
So very kind of you to take pity
On Sergeant Bourgogne, another fair stroke
Of fortune that delivers me alive
To this fantastic bed, of heaven’s felt
& eider down, where wearsome muscles melt

You are comfortable then

Beyond words
But tell me please, lady, my saviour’s name

Madame Gentil

Gentle appellation
& your servant

I am Billy

This broth
Is the greatest thing to have ever existed, sir
But then unfortunately quite finite
Is there any more

There’s some in the pan

Go fill another bowl for the sergeant

Exit Billy with the bowl

How cameth you to become the madame

Five years ago a convoy from Dantzig
Entere’d Elbling with wagons of wounded
A handsome hussar billeted with us
His breast bore musketball, his arm sword slash
My mother & I nurs’d him to his life

In gratitude he wed you for your care?

That is the case

I would have done the same
You are the most beautiful of women
Dark eyes of the deer, skin of pink-red rose
My soul has been imprison’d by your smile

Madame Gentil laughs & blushes

Your compliments are tonic to me sir
Perhaps we might havr married if, of course
I was not so already, but I love
my husband

It would give me great pleasure
To meet him, is that possible madame

He is with my father in the Baltic
On business, has been gone for some days
But should be back tomorrow or the next

Soon enough, but I am in such a state
To meet him, anyone, even myself
In the mirror, what a sight I must be
I ought to have a bath, find a barber
& make myself presentable erewhile

Enter Billy with a fresh bowl

A fresh bowl of garbure for you sergeant

Most kind… where are the nearest public baths

Unfortunately very far away
But, if you like, one ready may be made
in the house

That would be perfect


Yes mistress

Exit Billy

It is good to see you eat
When first you came I thought you’d die that night

No fear, madame, your fretting was futile
We warriors do not die in our beds

I shall call you when you bath is ready

Will it be hot

It shall

What ecstasy!

SCENE 8: The Same House – downstairs

Bourgogne is in thee bath – singing to the tune of The Cure (Priest) de Pomponne

Ah tun t’en souviendra, la-ri-la
Du depart de Boulogne


Enter Billy

Is anything amiss at all, sergeant
You have been soaking an awful long time

Amiss, no, bliss? Yes! I cannot express
What comfort am I fullily immersed

Enter Gentil with Graingier from the street

You are scrubbing up a rum young fellow
& now for your barber, he informs me
Of taking preen your beard & locks before

Before, but when?

The sixteenth I recall

Graingier – is that you

It is my old friend, how are you faring

Much better than the last time we conversed

& you smell it, too – I’ve scissors & blade
To end the job of reforging your youth
Soap please –
{Graingier makes a froth}
Head back – apply evenly… &

Graingier begins to shave Bourgogne’s beard & cut & curry comb his hair

Stop, this is agony inglorious
You flay my face, your razor cuts like saws

Your skin harden’d by cold continuous
Here, numb the pain, with some ten year brandy

You lie

It is true

From where

The citizens of France are sending gifts
For Christmas to their soldiers half-way home
Take this bottle’s contents in perfect peace
The Russians have retired from pursuing

Hah – is there anything left to pursue

Less than fifteen thousand, & most of them
Never march’d on moscow, the garrisons
Of Smolensk, Minsk & Vilnius

Mon dieu
How we surviv’d that carnival of death
I shall never understand

But we did

There is a knock at the door – Gentil answers – Legrand is there


Is this the house of Madame Gentil

I am she

Then you might have my sergeant




How is he

He is in the bath

Sergeant, you look well

I feel it

& you Graingier

I’m good

What joy it is to view your fresh faces

& you, Legrand, you look more than healthy

I am, & I am happy for my life
I also bring fresh clothes for the sergeant
Come to clad him in costume vermin-free

Perfect timings, I shall straightwise don them
If you do not mind, madame

Gentil turns away – Bourgogne steps out of the bath naked – Billy presents him with a towel

What do you have

These trousers ‘a la Cosaque’ should fit snug
The cloth is fine, the dark-red dye drawn deep

Where are they from

Some trooper or other
Probably an aide-de-camp belonging
To King Murat

I shall try them on – yes
They fit to perfection, & warm, so warm

This war commissary shirt also yours

Bourgogne stretches out his arms to put on the white shirt

Why, you look an eagle, a white eagle

Soar’d home

This calls for celebration
Our sickly sergeant summon’d from the dead
Delighting spirits with his tender smile
Lets toast the moment with my husband’s wine
Come help me, Billy, with the cellar door

Yes mistress

A knock on the door

Answer that first

Yes mistress

Enter a clean shaven Picart, wearing a white cloak & a black Russian fox cap – he is smoking meerschaum pipe

Apologies again for disturbance
But has my friend awoken yet

He has

Enter Picart – Billy goes to join Madame Gentil

Hello Graingier
{to Bourgogne, but not recognizing him}

Excuse me


Is it not I you are looking for



Is it you

I hope so

What a miraculous transformation
Your shakefork face I’d truly forgotten
How do you feel, you seem’d so close to death

Much better than when sitting on that sledge
When each thick bump made murder in my bones
Come here, embrace me, friend who saved my life+

You would have done the same

A knock on the door

Let me get that
{opening the door to Leboude}
Leboude, Leboude, can this be really you
Look who has come to join this antiwake
This lazarean festival of friends

Hello my boys, bless god you all survived
A treasury of everlasting joy
I saw you last by Berezhina’s banks
I was order’d to bury poor corpses
Frozen by exposre, lagging behind
The regiment, I listen’d to some Poles
Who sent me to their country, but the road
Along which the regiment was routed
So follow’d a month of meandering
Deserted wastelands always deep in snow
Not knowing where I was or where to go
I spoke no Polish & the Poles no French,
Confusions exhausting in excresence
My money useless, & could only barter
Milk & dripping when exchanging eagles’
Buttons, or fine handkerchiefs kept by chance
& chance it is, & only that I’m sure
Which brings us all to company once more
To be alive together one more day

Enter Gentil & Billy

& many more to come brave sons of France
embarking for fresh towns & pastures new
But, before all that, you are in Elbling
Under my roof, where we shall make merry
There is plenty of food & drink – coffee
Tea, bread rolls, rhine wine, fine Dantzig gin

Madame you spoil us

Before I forget
I have something to hand to you sergent
Do you recall the day we left Moscow
& entrusted me with a small parcel

I do

Here it is – just as you gave it
Never once taken out of my knapscask

Leboude, you are the legend of my life
{taking out a dark grey overcoat}
You necer thought to wear this coat at all

Twas not mine to wear

Pockets keep secrets
What is this – an Indian handkerchief
Made from best Bengalese silkworm, & here
Knotted in its corner is a small box
Aha! its precious contents I recall
See for yourself, madame, five golden rings
The first for you,

How courteous

The next
For you Leboude

Is the ceremony
Over yet, this feast is beckoning me

Not quite, I wish to speak a few sound words
Madame – if you could fill all our vessels
Those who traverse thro’ this lamentable
But glorious adventure must have been
Coated in iron to bear so many trials
The greatest test to which men were exposed
Remember thoes memories & the fates
Of friends we left to perish, dissapear’d
Or dead upon some sombre battlefield
Come toast the regiment – la Garde

Bourgogne, Graingier, Picart, Leboude, Legrande

Can you believe we ever saw Moscow

Not only that we slept in palaces

& feasted like tsarinas at a ball

Do you recall our own informal ball

Of course, what fun, what luxury, what life



We were resting in bubble beds of silk, furs & feathers
In the nest of the double-headed eagle
We were blest with abundance & the punch does us wonders
In the nest of the double headed eagle

& I know that I’d do it all again
When I’m ready to hit the road again
Cos to be with my sweet Napoleon
Means more than my life to me

Remember when we saw stardust
Come a tumbling down
On the dancefloor, we saw ballerinas

In the flight of the Snow White Eagles
Only the strongest might survive
But when comes the majestic sequel
I’ll be alive

Our numbers were plummeting in terrible weathers
In the land of the double headed eagles

We were marching thro troublespots of big bloody Cossacks
In the land of the double headed eagles

& I know that I’d do it all again
When I’m ready to hit the road again
Cos to be with my sweet Napoleon
Means more than my life to me

Remember all the men we lost
& the friendless cost as we crossed
The freezing Berezhina

In the flight of the Snow White Eagles
Only the strongest might survive
But when comes the majestic sequel
I’ll be alive

& all the memories that I remember
I shall write them down to survive
So that all my friendships forever
Will be kept alive

One-by-one the hosts of dead soldiers join their living comrades in song

Rossi, Vachain, Cesarisse, Peniaux
Vachain, Leboude, Bodet, Melle, Monfort
Legrand, Boqet, Izambert, Maujard
Hourex, Pavart, Graingier, Picart

We are the Guard! La Guarde! La Guarde! We’re the Guard




“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”


Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse



Composing Conchordia, Provence

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 5, Scenes 4-6

SCENE 4: Eve, a small town

Inside a small hut there is a fire – Foucart is there in some distress – Madame Dubois is sitting quietly on soldier’s napsacks under a great coat, head in hands, elbows resting on knees, silk dress in tatters & wearing a sheepskin cap – Graingier is attending the fire & boiling tea & cooking food – enter Bourgogne & Rossi – Rossi collapses at the door – Bourgogne staggers to the fire

Adrien! Adrien! You are alive!
{preparing straw}
So many times your death-sonmg have I heard
But know now they were the pipes of phantoms
Lie down upon this straw, I have some broth
With seasalt season’d, not gunpowder dull’d




Our quartermaster?

Bourgogne points towards the door – Graingier goes to Rossi

Wake-up quartermaster, you have made it
To safety with your brothers once again

Graingier moves Rossi to the fire

Feel, my friend, the thermodryad warmth
There’s wood enough to burn the hole night through
& roast away your rheumatismal woes
{to Bourgogne}
I’m glad to see your famous appetite
Is still as legendary as Ceres
& see, I have some tea in a kettle
Its leaves left Moscow seven weeks ago
I had forgotten I had pack’d them deep
Drink, it will do you a great deal of good

Bourgogne drinks

Ah, what nectar! Comrade, you have saved me

An awful noise erupts from Foucart

Who is that


Foucart! How is he!

Foucart sits up with a face full of blood

Not so good
{Foucart begins eating his hand}
No – you mustn’t eat your hand
A Barrack-master of the Chevaliers
Of the Legion of Honour does not eat
His hand, you must stop this madness at once

Graingier pulls Foucart’s hand from his mouth / Foucart then takes bunches of mud & straw & shoves them in his mouth

Foucart, my friend, stop this, that is not food
You must spit it, spit it out

Graingier tries to pull the straw & mud from Foucart’s mouth – Foucart bites Graingier

Ah! my hand
Graingier strikes Foucart, who whimpers & curls up into a ball

He cannot swallow, his throat seizes small

Who is that soldier

That is no solider

Dubois sits up to reveal herself

Madame Dubois, my darling

Be quiet
I am nobody’s darling

Have mercy
Can you find me a droplet of Royome

Royome – you know very well I have none

This is a moment of no cautious smile
Well before the Berezhinan passage
I met myself imagining the crows
Made fristouille a la neige of your carcass

Wretch! They will eat you before they do me
Three months withour spirits for ye drunkards
Used to wassailing lasciviously
Must feel a lifetimes tragedy of want

That is not so, I’ve had my share of booze
But every sip’s a momentary bliss
Of warm escape from this dejective freeze

The thing that astonishes me, Sergeant
Is you’re not dead of drink, so many brave
Fellows left down yonder, while good for naughts
Live life still,

Stop there, madame, I object
You might slay & slate my reputation
But stop short of bad soldier, halte la!

Dubois frowns & bends her head – she raises it again & smiles a sad smile

What dwells within a tireless mind, madame
To form a smile as sad & strain’d as this

Can you guess



I faint for eating

& now there is only drink to be had

So you do have some

Infuriate child
Be silent as I dream of suppers past

Since yestereen all I’ve really eaten
Was half a dead raven found by the road
& a few spoons of powder-salted gruel
Anything is edible no matter
How disgusting, all devour’d like beef steaks
Sizzling savoury in onions & wine

Stop that talk, or I’ll soon be eating you

Madame Dubois!

I am still here Rossi
Tho we have reach’d the lowermost limits
Of human sufferance

My legs, my legs

What is it sergeant

Hot knives in my thighs
Incredible pains of burning needles
Rip through my flesh, relieve me, please no more!

I think you shan’t be leaving tomorrow
Incapable of moving a muscle
You seem

& me

I agree… Graingier
Please do me the noblest of services
Once more tonight, I wish to make my will.

Your will


That is the will of death
Where is the will which surges on the hope
Once more you’ll see fair France, if there’s a chance

I’m cool enough to bargain with reason
So ask you, no I BEG you, undertake
The charge of some delicate articles
Transport them to my family in Conde

Of course, my friend, what are they

Where’s your hand
Tell them these came from Moscow

I shall that

This is a gold & silver crucifix
& this little blue vase of porcelain
Was made in China by a finer hand
& wait- my money – when tomorrow comes
Bringing Russians, I’d rather it were gone
Take it please

Hold back a few gold pieces
Secrete them in the sheepskins round your feet
No soldier will search among footfilth
I am sure of that… but, sergeant, listen
Is this all not but fever-taking talk

I am in fever, but quite clear-headed

Then let me remonstrate against your will
Have you not demonstrated great courage
In torried situations worse than this

I may have done, but I was stronger then

We are so close to Kownow, two days march
Fatigue is never fatal, try & rest,
Place these things once more about your person
I shalll take them in the morning if you wish

I love you Graingier

I love you too

Bourgogne goes to sleep – Graingier goes to check on Rossi

Madame Dubois, please sing a lullaby

Au clair de la lune,
Mon ami Pierrot,
Prête-moi ta plume
Pour écrire un mot.
Ma chandelle est morte,
Je n’ai plus de feu.
Ouvre-moi ta porte
Pour l’amour de Dieu.”

Going quieter as the men go to sleep

Au clair de la lune,
Pierrot répondit :
“Je n’ai pas de plume,
Je suis dans mon lit.
Va chez la voisine,
Je crois qu’elle y est,
Car dans sa cuisine
On bat le briquet.”

Foucart suddenly sits up with a start & a groan, then slumps down dead

SCENE 5: The Tuileries – the quarters of the ladies-in-waiting to the Empress

It is night – enter Caulaincourt – a few moments later enter two ladies-in-waiting – Celeste & Giselle – they are taken aback by the sight of Caulaincourt

What are you doing here, rough brute, begone

How on earth did you gain access

Be calm
I am Caulaincourt


You are not he

He has no beard

Nor would he ever wear
Such ruffian rags as these

Ladies please
Be assur’d I am monseiur Caulaincourt
Outside that door the Emperor awaits
As is the custom, so I can announce
His presence to the Empress

Did you say
The Emperor’s here

Return’d from Russia?

Does he seem in appearance as yourself

Is he an apparition ghoulish hewn

Enter Napoleon

See for yourself

Your majesty?

Let me
Examine your features for some moments
{Celeste checking with a lamp}
You are the Emperor

Yes, I am he
& am impatient to see the Empress
Good night, Caulaincourt, you too will need some rest

Exit Caulanicourt – Napoleon enters the Empress’s room

The Empress
{from her room}
Napoleon, Napoleon , my love!

We’d better pour the Emperor a bath

Yes, & send out for the strongest perfume
In Paris

But he is back among us

The Emperor is home & all is well

Exit Ladies-In-Waiting

SCENE 6: A small hut in Eve

Dawn breaks – a trumpet blares – Graingier wakes up, leaves the hut – Dubois wakes up, stands with difficulty & brushes herself down

I’d best be off, in these day’s of long night
Each minute’s precious illumination
Inches me to safety – goodbye old friends

Dubois leans on a stick & exits the hut – Graingier returns

Allez, allez, the company musters
Foucart, Rossi, Bourgogne, awake, arise
We take ourselves parading in the square

Foucart is dead, I heard him in te enight
Stilling the crude death rattle of his breath

Pour soul, but so, his fate shall not be yours
Get up, stand up,

I cannot move my legs
They are uselessly numb, & look at this
{unwrapping his sheepskin}
More than half of my toes are now missing
The remainder are readying to fall
Do you not see my feet, how they are blue
As if lain on some mortuary slab

You must try, Rossi, the Russians are near

I will take my chances, there’s always Ney
He’ll arrive before the Russians, if I
Rest a few hours longer, gain back strength,
I might do well to join with the Rear gaurd

I am also utterly unable
To leave, or even take a paltry step
I am as bad as Rossi

But then what
If you cannot keep up with the marshall?

We shall find the first house or village
& put ourselves under the protection
Of baron or master, praying he will
Take pity on us ’til healthier made

Could you do me a great service Graingier
If you gain happiness in seeing France
Here is a little packet of papers
To send to my mother, there is a sheet
Of paper which sports her name & address
Could you add in the space my condition
As you leave me, but not to let her lose
Her hopes for the thought of me returning

Take mine back also, my friend

Of course I shall,
But beg you both never abandon hope
& summon every strength that yet remains
To haul yourslves to safety by nightfall
You are a couple of mad bedlamites
To think you are to end your days today

We shall see how strong Death’s urge, how loud his knell
Soon enough my friend, Goodbye Graingier

Goodbye Bourgogne, goodbye Rossi, good luck

Exit Graingier

If you have tears prepare to shed them now!
Farewell my mother, farewell to my dear
& Bonnie sophie, farewell to fair Nantes
Where I have lived a happy life, farewell
Beautiful France, my patriotic pearl
Farewell old world, I quit this life, farewell,

Rossi collapses

Rossi, Rossi, are you dead

I’m sleeping
Or trying to

Of course, it might be hours
Before the rearguard comes, are you hungry

I am sleeping sergeant, please

Ah, sorry

Bourgogne begins to scrape out a bowl of horse broth for scraps – enter Picart

Jour di Dieu, it is my friend, my sergeant
Why do you not depart with King Murat

Picart, no, I must be delirious

You are not, my friend, listen to my voice
Relish living life in its cognizance
I must iterate & reiterate
You cannot stay here, it is dangerous

Outwith your twingle-twangle sentiment
This is the end for me, unless I rest

As your colonel I order you to stand

My what – where did you get that uniform

A deliciously simple ruse de guerre
Since Vilnius the key to good lodgings
& best of all this morning I procured
A sledge! the jew who owns it waits outside

A sledge you mean…

He’ll take us to Prussia

Is there room for Rossi


He’s there
But very badly off

I am alive Picart, but cannot walk

We can squeeze you in, yes, but are the last
Friends step outside, your chariot awaits

You are the miracle of this campaign

Yes, yes… don’t forget to call me colonel

Yes colonel

He also thinks I’m Jewish

Exit Picart – Rossi & Bourgogne stand with some difficulty & leave the hut


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse



Composing Conchordia, Provence

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 5, Scenes 1-3

SCENE 1: The Hill of Three Crosses over Vilna

Vasalisa, Albina, Vitaly, Valentina, Angelina & Natasha are looking down on Vilna

Look how they stream like rats into Smolensk
A flailing army wedded to its fate
This settlement of luxuries foresworn
Is nothing but the tombstone of thousands

When reaching Europa’s icy regions
Napoleon could not nature subdue
Was precipitated from the summit
By forceful instigation of our arms –
Irresistible, invulnerable
& wonderful Russia, we love you so!



He is proud as Ceasar
Accidental Ceasar, Bonaparte
Abandoning his army
He heard his Guards say please Bonaparte
Titi Bonparte
Toto Bonaparte
Don’t ever forget us

Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon, ran off

He slips away from Russia
As swiftly as the wind, Bonaparte
His freezing royal highness
Disguis’d upon a sled Bonaparte
Titi Bonparte
Toto Bonaparte
Will never forget Rus

Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon, ran away


We were surprised to hear
He did not make decrees, Bonaparte
Abolishing the winter
Banishing the snow, Bonaparte
Titi Bonparte
Toto Bonaparte
Will never forget us

Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon, ran off


My grandfather spoke of a prophecy
That conjur’d a time when the Tartar host
Would surge to the banks of the Gallic Seine
Behold the first steps taken to its truth
Set steady & at liberty to pass
These overthrown French forces as they drag
In a startling, debacling parade.

Mistress Vasalisa, what is this cross
Among the other wooden ones, atop
This hill, arot with worms & badly aged

A gloomy legend fixes to this place
Seven franciscan friars were beheaded
For badmouthing Lithuanian idols
& by the city walls, commutual,
Another seven crucified or toss’d
Into the river clad in chains

{sounds of gunfire}

Shots! Shots!

Enter Vladamir

Mistress Vasalisa

Is it the French

Soldiers in dozens ascending the hill

We had better move off

{more gun shots, louder}

That sounds closer

Quickly to the treeline

All except Vitaly make a dash for the trees – Vitaly stands looking down the hill with a scythe

Vitaly run!

A shot rings out that fells Vitaly – he is wounded


{trying to holding him back}
Vladamir, no

He needs help

Vladamir breaks free & runs to Vitaly but is felled dead from a shot by Picard – the rest of the partisans flee

That’s right, flee ye pathetic partisans
Cowardly chickens, too afraid to fight
{To Vitaly}
Well, it looks like you’re abandon’d, young man,
Bleeding to death to boot, at least I can
Release ye from your mortal agonies
{Picart shoots Vitaly dead}
Frighten’d canaries come back here & fight
Ye raggedy crew of peasants & hinds
Ye craven, dastard, recreant poltroons!
{Picard turns to look on the army retreating from Vilna}
See how they go again into the snow
Better to see it softening the blow
Of horrors seeing in that sad city,
It is impossible to show pity,
Insensible to our own sufferings,
Let alone the miseries of others –
I saw formaldehyde-soaked specimens
From university laboratories
Funell’d into starving maws like mutton
Five months before, on our march east, we sang
Songs of pure rejoicing, now just silence
Accompanies our fugitive retreat
Blinded by snowfall, ice-crusted by sleet
Footdragging thro’ a universe congeal’d
By dismal Death’s murmourless murderfield
As out of air beside drop dead-frozen birds
Men fall down still without complaint or words
& breathe their last with calm resignation
Releas’d from this pain’s peregrination
The blood now freezing in their seizing veins
Oblivion, at last, each man obtains.

Exit Picart


SCENE 2: An inn between Leipzig & Erfut

An Innkeeper is showing Napoleon & Caulaincourt their room

Here you are, make yourselves comfortable
This might not be Paris, but in Leipzig
We like to think our guests will come again
My wife’s already cooking for that cause

How long before the sledge is fixed

An hour
Maybe two, but there lies not enough snow
For such a mode of travel, better swap
Your sled for a carriage down in Erfut

We shall, & thank-you


Yes, sir

What think you of the war & Bonaparte

Well… Bonaparte, the Emperor, is good
In constant service to this modern world
With more common sense than many a man
At the head of affairs, he is no mere

& the war

A waste of life
There’s not so many paying customers
Since half of Europe march’d towards the East

Enter Innkeeper’s Wife

Innkeeper’s Wife
Good morning… here are fried & eggs & white bread
Freshly baked this morning, a little game

I caught the rabbit yesterday myself

A hearty breakfast, & is that coffee

Innkeeper’s wife


We shall leave you to it

Innkeeper’s Wife
Eat & drink, & if you like, be merry

Exit Innkeeper & his Wife – Napoleon & Caulaincourt begin to eat their breakfast

I am much taken by that warm couple
Their kindness & sincerity delights

The closer that we are to France, the less
Preoccupied & careworn do you seem

Perhaps, but I cannot, will not relax
Until we reach our borders – do you think
I was recognized by the innkeeper

Napoleon has never grown a beard
You are quite safe

I fear an ambuscade
Secret assassination in the night

Sire, if Eighteen Twelve was your year to die
It should have happen’d by now, you will reach
Paris, alive

Yes, & see the Empress
My cherub offspring hold aloft & smile
At words he tries to mumble with sweet sounds
How is the meat?

Balanced & peppery

I was most dissapointed by Poland

What do you mean?

Why they refused to rise
& thwart the Russian’s behemoth’s advance

I suspect it is the uncertain vale
Of future spread, they supplied the campaign
More than any other nation, even
The richest have but pennies to their name
While gossips spreading danger, scatter doubts
Of economy far too exhausted
To contemplate a war against the Tsar

But for the winter they would have risen
Who wants to war in cold, grey drudgery
But come the spring we’ll need their buffer’s edge
& Poland must be made more powerful
It must have Danzig & a coastal strip
To outlet the markets of its produce
&, also, it must have a foreign king
A Pole would conjure many jealousies
Murat would suit, but has so little sense
Jerome too vain, a blundersom buffoon
Whom would you have made king

I, your highness,
Who never before has laurell’d a brow
With crowns, am unqualified to answer
But there is one caution I might advise
The establishment of your dynasty
Across the thrones of Europe undermines
A cordial respect for your embrace
When nations are transform’d to prefectures
& kings only proconsuls, who might be
Removed at any whim by your highness.

Hmm – I think you you would make a better king
Than any of my brothers ever will

A knock on the door

{drawing sword & pistol}
Who is it

Innkeeper’s Wife
The lady of the house, sir

Enter Innkeeper’s Wife & Stella

Innkeeper’s Wife
Sorry to disturb, but this is my niece
She sells beads, you see, & was wondering
If your lady folk would like their allure

Let us see

Innkeeper’s Wife
I shall leave you three to it
With God’s peace, which passeth understanding

Exit Innkeeper’s Wife

Hello men of France, welcome to Leipzig
I have fine beads of glass, necklaces, rings
All locally crafted with expertise
Come look…

Yes, there are many pretty things
I will take them all as a souvenir
Of this journey for my wife

All of them?

Yes, all, in return take these golden coins,
That must be seven times your trinkets worth

You are too kind, a gracious traveller
God bless you on your journies to your wives

Exit Stella

We should divide them between us, take half
For the lady of your heart

I shall, sire

Caulaincourt begins to divide the jewels – there is a knock on the door – enter Innkeeper

That is the runner fix’d, your sled renew’d

You are a legendary engineer
Do take these gold napoleons, each one
Worth twenty francs, & add to them our thanks
For such a pleasant stay, however short

It is my duty sirs, to humble serve
God’s children if they ever step inside
My humble home

& a dear godfather
You are to us all

Exit Napoleon

Your companion…
An interesting fellow, magnetic,

Indeed he is, indeed he is, goodbye

Exit Caulanicourt – The Innkeeper collects the plates & exits

SCENE 3: The Russian Wastes

Bourgogne is resting on a tree stump

What a dream we are all wander’d into
A stream of shadows under leaden sky
Enwrapp’d in snow, tight-sewn in silent shroud
Absorb’d in private thoughts & lonely fears
Watch’d on by those foggy & frozen ghosts
Of buglers, sat bolt upright in saddles,
Still as lizards, quarelling with blizzards
To mouths of stone their copper lips glued fast
While, above, driving snow & writhing wind
Leave the hearts of warriors well broken

Enter Rossi – he is in a bad way & walking painfully crutch’d by a musket – there are sheepskins hung over his shoulders & wrapping his feet – he is leaning on musket

Rossi, is that really you

How flush am I to see your face old friend
But to my fibres wholly astonish’d
To witness your liberty warms me, sir
Our friends were growing very uneasy
There’ll be unbound gladnesses when they know

You are alone


Where are the others

Well, both my feet are frozen to the bone
Unable thus to walk as well & swift
As the poor remnant of our regiment
I am become the seperated slice
But gain coactivity each fresh night
When fire spreads heat & horseflesh boils oer blaze
{Rossi collapses}
But this day I shall not make it I fear,
My strength the weakest it has clearly been
Upon this dreary hike, each step saps more
My poor mother, if you could see me now
I shall never leave this devil country
Nor again see beautiful Montauban

I, too, am exhausted quartermaster
But look how far we’ve come, full eighty leagues
Since Berezina, now only fifteen
More to Kowno, fifteen of three hundred,
We are so close, we can help each other

Maybe today we can go together
But these will be the last stretch of my legs
I sense it well, my end has all but come
I am undone, there is no living, none
But I would rather transpass in some warmth
Than on this spot of untranspeciate earth
Entering frozen sleep that never wakes
So easy just to sleep the peace of dreams

To dream of peaceful sleeping is to die
Salvation does not hide behind the eyes
Rossi, Rossi, wake up,

Wait, what, what is it

The one thing it is not, sir, is your time
Can you stand


Let us march my friend
Or shuffle rather, one last time abreast
& ward away the sting of death alike

I would not feel it anyway, Bourgogne,
My brains are frozen, there’s no feeling left

Exit Bourgogne & Rossi in some discomfort


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse



Composing Conchordia, Provence

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 4, Scene 7

SCENE 7: Smogorny

Bertheir, Eugene, Prince Emile, Gourgaud & Murat are gathered around a table

This could be the utter ruin of France

Silent your seditious understanding
The Emporer shall be among us soon

I am not the only one who says so
Am I

A distinct silence of brooding underlooks

You might be right, but this no time
To think such things, we must prioritize
Our goal, for now, to guide the army home

What army? We are hardly ten thousand
& half of them too weak to even stand

He is coming

Well, on with the charade

Enter Napoleon & Caulaincourt

Good morning

Good morning, sire

Please sit down
{everybody takes a place at the table}
Each man within this room I love untold
The bravest & the loyalest I know
Who have, with impeccable conduction,
Fought nobly thro’ this drastical campaign

Thank you, sire

To see you all safely seated this side
Of Berezhina’s ice, blankets my heart
With joy & warmth, we have done a fine thing
With that obstinate obstacle behind
I gather ye my leaders to inform
Thee of my decision to directly
Leave the army, privately, & today

Leave sire?

Yes leave, I depart for Paris
At noon, my regal duties to resume
Our disasters will make a sensation
But my arrival will counter-balance
Their bad effects & rouse the French to arms
It is only from the Tuileries
My grip on Europe truly be sustain’d
There I shall raise an army to replace
This one born to an unfortunate fate
Within three months I shall have an army
As magnificent as that which began
This perturbably instructive campaign
Tha aresnals are full – remember Esslaing,
Marengo, we almost lost thos ebattles
But given time the victory turn’d ours
Placing Austria at our disposal

Then how are you to travel, & with whom

By sled, with Caulanicourt & hand-pick’d guards
These events have proved the man a prophet
Therefore he’ll be my lone companion
En route are many projects to discuss
The rest of you remain with the army
Of whom Murat shall have the full command

I shall serve you well

Blend caution with steel

You must return to Paris

Prince Emile
I concur
For the Revolution to continue
You must be there to emanate its heart
To elevate its light, to steer its course
You are its elemental genius
When asham’d of its brutal excesses
France crumpl’d tranquescent in obeyance
Before your precious, deconvulsing voice
Admir’d herself in you, precipitates
Herself into thy glory, without thee
At France’s head I fear the King’s return

To defend our indeposable rights
You must head home, your majesty, & now

Beneath you sceptre, sire, all France unites
Sixteen years of invincible success
Shone thro’ us all in bright deliverance
The most civilised nation in Europe
Wide reigns as if the Mughals of the West.

But where art now our noble countenance
Traversing scenes of famous victory
Rag-cover’d, feet torn & naked in snow
Supporting our frames with branches of fir
When all the strength & perservering force
Invested in conquest syphon’d for flight
Catastrophes of immense distances
& terrible frost sends our edifice

Not the frost, Holland Ninety-Five
& Eylau drove thermometers lower
In both these campaigns the men had food
& wine, trekking daily on full bellies
While recently the only certainty
Is… tomorrow must be worse than today

Defeatism leads to dereliction
Of duty, dejectism invites death,
There shall be no remission of the sins
That gave the Revolution its purpose

We all know more than well, your majesty
You have not been conquer’d by force of arms
But by this climate unendurable

My affairs were miscarried completely
That fine weather trick’d me, we should have left
Moscow a fortnight sooner, we should be
Perch’d safely at Witespk for the winter
But as things stand we only can adapt
Reaching a new page in the age of France
When I return to the magnificent
& peaceful bosom of the fatherland
I shall claim her frontiers immutable
All her future wars purely defensive
All aggrandisment antinational
Paris shall be the global capital
The envy & the pride of all nations
& I, with the empress, shall spend our years
Attending the royal apprenticeship
Of our son, & visit like gentle folk
On horses all corners of the empire
Receiving complaints, redressing ill’d wrongs,
Scatter benefactions, public buildings
& call them all the bones of Bonaparte



I’m on the drive to greatness
I’m like a king o’ clubs with no aces
I’m gonna play my hand
I’m gonna make my stand
Cos I’m the great Napoleon

I’m on the surge to glory
Each soul’s a slice of story
But the biggest part
Must go to Bonaparte
Cos I’m the great Napoleon

Who’s in my way
I don’t give a damn about what you say
There’s no better man alive today
Yes I’m the great Napoleon
Great Napoleon
Great Napoleon

Oo-oo! I’ve never been the one to back me down
Oo-oo! Cos I’m the coolest cat in town
{who’s got the crown)



I’m on a higher mission
Ya gotta bow on down to my vision
I’m gonna haul you all into the golden goal
Cos I’m the great Napoleon

I am the top cock of the steeple
I’m like a cannonball of the people
Fraternetie & Libertie
I am the great Napoleon

Who’s in my way
I don’t give a damn about what you say
There’s no better man alive today
Yes I’m the great Napoleon
Great Napoleon
Great Napoleon

Oo-oo! I’ve never been the one to back me down
Oo-oo! Cos I’m the coolest cat in town
{who’s got the crown)


But what will France say of this debacle


Yes sire, hundreds of thousands
Are dead & yet to die before the end

Of the four hundred thousand men who cross’d
The Vistula, most were Austrians
Prussians, Saxons, Wurtembergers, Spaniards,
Bavarians, Neopolitans, Poles
Italians, Belgians, Meckenbergers,
Swiss, Tuscans, Piedmontese, Genoese
Hollanders, Hamburgers & Bremenish
Scarcely a hundred & forty thousand
Spoke French, tens of thousands of whom live still
& Vilna shall be to them a Verdun
At Vilna there are copious supplies
& reinforcements easily in reach
Once the army replenishes its might
We’l push right back the Cossacks, hold a line
Until the Spring, when I shall lead to war,
Three Hundred thousand soldiers for the cause

That is a bold projection, your highness

& unreasonable, not fit to stand
The army are, half of them quite harmless,
Nor could they recuperate in ruins
Vilna crumbles to roofless skeletals

If we cannot hold Vilna, let us march
For France, for glory, as when Xenophon
Deep stranded in Persia with ten thousand
Went trekking deserts, climbing snow passes
Cordyenean, Armenian natives
Harassing every step with sleepless spears
Until the ships of Trezibond beheld
From Theches lofty peaks, as one they cried
Exultingly, ‘Thalatta! Thalatta!’ –
The Sea! The Sea! So shall we Prussia praise
On piercing her borders

Well spake Murat
The army will honour such a spirit
& now I must be bidding you adieu
But Berthier, Eugene please remain
A little longer – come to me comrades
To pinch thine ears

All rise from the tables – one-by-one Prince Emile, Gourgaud & Murat have their ears ceremonially pinched by Napoleon then leave

One hour more Caulaincourt

Exit Caulaincourt

I shall not be going with you it seems

No – better only Caulaincourt, I sense
An incognito mission means less chance
A face might be remember’d thro’ the mist,
More prudent to remain with the army
The presence of somebody accustom’d
To his total obeysance paramount
If morale to be maintain’d

Of course, sire
With heartfelt attachment & devotion
To yourself, I shall strive for best success
With step on Western step reinforcements
Made easy, while Kutusoff drifts further
Thro’ countryside utterly exhausted

The Russians will be as tired as we are,
& suffer just as much from this foul cold
They are certain to enter cantonments

But rallying the army will be hard
Without its beating heart, that heart is you
Whose departure might pretext disorder

They are too close on home to fall apart
Meanwhile, upon my passage thro’ Poland
I shall rouse them against the colossus
Of Russia, their nationhood is threaten’d,
Both baring witness to them on the field
Individually heroical
What mighty pillars should erect from pride
When national prosperity at stake
Beyond Warsaw all Europe’s cabinets
Tho’ wounded most by the power of France
Will cry anxiety that the Cossacks
The scourge of a civilised continent,
Should not be permitted Nieman’s crossing
& the reverses France has just suffer’d
Shall put an end to jealosies upsrung
From all our imperial influence
To think of a singular enemy
Point millions of muskets to the east
My dear, dear prince of Neuchetal, stout be,
Fear not, but trust in providence

Yes sire

The key is to save every soldier
The forced abandoment of imploring
Companions breeds dismoralizations

Eugene is right, leave no man behind
Your goal must be above all things, bar one –
That is to see your Emporer again

Napoleon pinches Berthier’s ear

I shall see you in Paris, sire

I know

Travel safely & speedily

I shall

Exit Berthier

My son, how are you

I am more than fine
Sharing the stark privations with my men
Has harden’d my torso with spartan steel

I wish you were beside me on the sled
But as the only one I truly trust
I need you with the men for their own good

& Caulaincourt

I do possess his trust
But crushing pessimism sours the curd

There’s some who praise his realism, sire

You too?

You must admit, even yourself
These are our darkest days, all we have dream’d
Burn’d nightmare by the summits of the Gods
As when peat bogs & marshes of the Picts
Rejected the surge of the Ceasars, sire

Call me Papa, it always comforts me

You will be miss’d, Papa, the army feeds
Upon your spirit

I am confident
In your abilities as commanders
But enough of combat & all of that
I call’d upon your mother just before
I left Paris, & she made me promise
You would stay safe enough to see her face
Pack’d full of smiles on your healthy return

I am very happy it nigh fulfill’d
On many levels, Papa

Hah – & I

You love my mother still?

Of course I do,
Being carv’d from the self-same rock of fate
An entwination of the our love took hold
Renaming us Emperor & Empress

Then how can you be happy in the heart
With this second marriage

I love her too
Marie-Louise, she is so innocent
Totally devoted to my dynasty
How could I not fall for such an angel

Papa, Pray tell me, how do they compare

There is, nor ever was, comparison
There is nothing they do not differ on
As far apart as India & Lille
While your mother’s beauty troubl’d the gods
The goddesses admir’d the new empress
Where the walls of Malmasion had grown ears
Marie-Louise enslav’d by discretion
Shyly delighting to ever receive
Ten thousand francs, your mother tyrannized
My finances with promises unkept

You sound as if the Austrian preferr’d

I do love Marie-Louise sincerely
& miss her as we speak, Eugene, much
But higher love hold I for your mother
In fitting fashion & most natural
For she flew on the tail of my comet
Shooting thro’ the stratosphere these years past

The brightest in the cosmos

But it fades
& my marital alliance error,
I should never have march’d on Russia
Without security bought by the ties
To Papa Beau-bere, forg’d thro’ his daughter…
& there we go again, back to the wars
Nothing can escape its odour’s stale stench

There is work to do yet

Stay safe my son

Napoleon & Eugene embrace

As soon as you reach Paris, come find me

I shall endeavour to serve the empire

Exit Eugene – Napoleon slumps on a chair, exhausted


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”



Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 4, Scenes 3-6c


Scene 3: The French Camp

A young woman is sat on the snow holding her dying husband’s head between her knees – she sheds no tears – leaning on her shoulder is her 13-year old daughter, sobbing bitterly – her tears fall & freeze on her father’s face – near them a soldier stands in silence – enter Vachain & Valentina

{to Soldier}
Excuse me, friend, my company I seek
Have you seen the Guard within the camp

Perhaps, but everything is confusion
& thro this growing gloom one better try
To call their names, & hope above the din
They hear your voice, but best to keep your breath
& send warm blows enthawing thro’ your hands

Thank-you… wait… yes it is, Madame Dubois
Madame Dubois, over here, over here!

Enter Madame Dubois

Madame Dubois
Why, Captain Vachain, we thought you done for

I might have been but for my bonnie beau,
This masterpiece of nature saved my life

Madame Dubois
I’ve seen your face before… now where was it

Moscow, Madame, I am Valentina

Madame Dubois
The Russian girl… what… how…

I shall explain
The queerling quirks of fate that caught our love

Madame Dubois

Yes love, we love one another

Madame Dubois
Well… enjoy love while love lasts, be in love
The hues of bliss grow brightly in thy smile
& why not, in this constant spectacle
Of distresses, miseries, oerwhelming,
You offer proofs that beauty still may move
Thro this stupid world

Love is beauty, yes
Madame, we are to marry in Auzin
Your attendance would delight us

Please come

Madame Dubois
I think you would be very fortunate
& ought to thank Heaven if you make it
As far as France

Our love will take us there

Sharing incredible concaulescence
What jot could halt our fate’s inburning drive

Madame Dubois
Bless you both, whatever may befall ye
Preordained has been from everlasting,
But from such oracles I’ll take my leave
& seek a fire, without one I should die

Before you off, where is my company

Madame Dubois
You are the first of them I’ve seen in days

Very well, Madame, good luck tomorrow

Madame Dubois
& you

Exit Madame Dubois

Come Valentina, let us share
Each other’s heat beneath my dry warm cape

I love you so much

& I you, darling

Vachain & Valentina huddle under a cape & begin to kiss


SCENE 4: The French Camp

Bourgogne & his company are sleeping soundly – the morning is beginning but the sun is not yet risen – there is a sound of gunfire in the distance – Bourgogne wakes

Wake up Graingier, wake up

What is it

The bridge is completely empty, lets go

There’ll be time for that later – let me sleep



Come with me across the bridge

Leboude shrugs off Bourgogne with a grunt

There will come to pass an almighty crush
We need to leave now

Let us catch you up


It is freezing sergeant


Bourgogne collects his firearms & exits


SCENE 5: The western end of the bridge

A soldier, Marcelin, is guarding the bridge – he is immaculately presented – enter Borgogne

Halt, who goes thee

I am sergeant Bourgogne
Of the Guard



Well off you step
I am Marcelin

May I please admire
A moment your astonishing attire
So smart, well-fed, clean shaven, are you real?

We have spent the Autumn with Oudinot
On the banks of the Davina River
When first I saw the army how I swoon’d
As if enchaunted by evil spectres
Feebling & emaciated phantoms
Unfit for the struggles of existence
Are these the men who march’d with dash & fire
To scuttle Russia’s capital, I said
Aloud & to my colonel in the shock –
He simply nodded back in silent gloom
& watch’d still silent as they came like tears
An unmanicured mob of tatter’d ghosts
Drap’d in woman’s clothes, old carpet pieces
Dragging feet wrapp’d in all sorts of rough rags
Gaunt grey faces neath disfiguring heads
Marching shamelessly out of step, heads low,
Eyes to the ground like an old convict gang

We are in a sorry state, that’s for sure,
& foolish too, all night the bridge like this,
The crossing would have taken a minute
But no, each content in their symmory
Out of Athens they think the world a dirge
Civilisation is precarious
& if a panic starts, then…

A panic?

The Russians are expected to attack

Cannon shots are heard – one ball splashes in the river

Sometimes it is better to say nothing

Soldiers & stragglers start to rush by (until the end of the scene)

What adverse planet heaves against our star
The camp is stirring slowly, the army
Now a wounded animal, its paths block’d
Impassable, fleeing its predator
It will enact all efforts to escape
I fear today a tragedy unfolds
On that bank lies destruction, this bank hope

The icy paralysis of the night
Is melting fast in a furnace of fear
Candent with excitement & sheer terror
Chaos is rising & doth fling itself
Fat surge of fleshment to a dread exploit
Towards the eastern bank, look Marcelin
It appears already heavy-headed
Block’d by a broken carriage on the planks

Indeed! Into that incredible press
Cannonballs are falling, fell five at once
& the spaces fill’d up in mere moments
Horses leap on horses, trampled beneath
People scream shoot me or stab me to death

Into the waters some are stumbling now
Push’d by the crush, it looks like a sheep dip
Where bobbing heads of men & horses sink
& never more shall rise

I cannot watch

A cannonball strikes Marcelin, killing him instantly

Poor Marcelin, how lucky you are!

Bourgogne gazes once more on the bridge, then leaves


SCENE 6a: The French Camp

Valentina is sleeping – enter Vachain in some agitation



You gotta stand up my love
You gotta get up & go

I cannot stand up my love
I’m frozen in all this snow

You gotta stand up my love
We’ve gotta get up my dear

I cannnot stand up my love
I’m frozen with all this fear

They’re crossing the bridge, they’re crossing the bridge, I’ve seen it
Crossing the bridge, they’re crossing the bridge, I mean it
Gotta get up & cross the Berezina
Gotta get up my darling Valentina






You gotta get up my love
We’ve gotta get up & go

I cannot get up my love
To stumble through all that snow

You gotta stand up my dear
We’ve gotta get outta here

I cannnot stand up my love
I’m frozen with all this fear

They’re crossing the bridge, they’re crossing the bridge, I’ve seen it
Crossing the bridge, they’re crossing the bridge, I mean it
Gotta get up & cross the Berezhina
Gotta get up & see the grass is greener
Crossing the bridge, they’re crossing the bridge, I’ve seen it
Crossing the bridge, they’re crossing the bridge, I mean it
Gotta get up across the Berezhina
Gotta get up my darling Valentina


Scene 6b: The eastern end of the bridge

Vachain & Valentina enter the press at the bridgehead

They’re rushing the bridge
They’re pushing the bridge
They’re crushing the bridge
Russians on the ridge

Prince Emile & several bodyguards arrive from the western bank, pushing the crowd back with brutal strikes from the flats of the swords – as they push their way through the crush, some unfortunates fall into the river

Prince Emile
Back, you swine, everybody must go back

Remove yourselves at once

But why should we

Not me

Prince Emile
Take one more step & you’ll be shot

Be cautious man, retrorse yourself at once

Straggler 1
I cannot remain another second

Man attempts to break through the bodyguards & is shot dead

Prince Emile
Anybody else

Straggler 2
What are you doing

Prince Emile
In order to halt Kutuzoff’s forces
Aslant this bank, we must destroy the bridge

I am with the Gaurd, you must let me cross

Straggler 3
I am with the gaurd

Straggler 4 (Female)
I am with the gaurd

Prince Emile
The Guard crossed half an hour ago

Straggler 1
Not me

Straggler 4 (Female)
Nor me

Prince Emile
It is too late, the flames are set

Straggler 3
You cannot just leave us to the Russians
It will be the most morbid massacre

Prince Emile
Get back! you are too late – do not attempt
To cross the bridge else suffer musket balls

Sir, we need to return now before flames
Prevent the passage

Emile leads this bodyguards back over the bridge

Back, get back, get back

Straggler 2

Prince Emile
Your sacrifice will be remembered
We burn the bridge to save the emporer

Straggler 3
Vive l’empreur

Exit Valentina & Vachain


SCENE 6c: The River Bank

Enter Vachain & Valentina – the river is full of human corpses – some are beginning to freeze – a woman has fallen thro the ice & is frozen in, but still alive – one of her arms is cut & hangs loosely – her other arm holds a suckling baby which has wound itself around her neck – the woman is staring at a dead man frozen in the ice nearby – between them a dead child lies spread out on the ice

Let us swim oer the water

It will be too cold – look at the bodies

But look up there, dispiteous Cssacks
Make orgiastic continguities
Murd’rous upon the comprecative mob

I would not wish to die by native hand
I would rather hold yours in the water

You will fare much better without your shawl
Save vital seconds vanish’d in its drag

Valentina takes off her shawl

I love you

They kiss

I love you too
{Vachain takes Valentina by the hand}


Vachain & Valentina wade into the river hand-in-hand


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”





Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse