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When Three Cousins Played

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I am not too sure (and even doubt) that this child's play in some palace or other ever took place.

These were words bouncing around in my head the past few days, as Britain just remembered 100 years of entering the First World War - "the war to end all wars". Fact is, three first cousins threw their countries in the bloodiest, most bitter war, that has ever been seen. Either through pique, pride, prejudice - or some seriously bad counselling by vindictive, power hungry warmongers- remains for historians to decide. I am not an historian, merely a conveyor of thoughts, feelings and words. 

King George V should not have been king. He had an elder brother who was the heir apparent, but that heir apparent died early in life and so it was that King George picked up the mantle - and led his nation into a bloody war. So - historically - had ever such a play ever have taken place, it is hardly likely that little George would have been involved.  

To the historians and fact seekers please accept my apologies for the lack of historical accuracy. 

Three cousins played a “game’ of war
A map of Europe spread across the floor
No adults there to keep the score
As each of them wanted more and more

Three of four empires lay upon that map
As they played and ‘warred’ and they did clap
For them it was so much fun
The Tsar, the King and the Kaiser Hun

Their brightly painted toy soldiers there
Horses, cannon and ships to spare
Fields of green, mountains so high
And winding rivers flowing by

They chatted, laughed - each did deride
No malice here - no need to chide
“I’ll take that while you have this”
“And you can have the rest” said with a hiss

The little prince was not too happy
Didn’t like being the youngest chappy
Scattered toys with a vicious kick
“One day, you watch, your wounds you’ll lick”

But then they laughed and had some tea
(Cakes and scones stop the fighting, see)
Then the boisterous cousins resumed once more
Horses and soldiers were flung against the door

Cannon crashed and sabres slashed
Lances lunged and bayonets flashed
Horses fell amid broken carts
These small boys played in fits and starts

The clock rolled on relentlessly
Who knew then what would come to be
These boys now grown to Emperors
Played with real life and caused real wars

No longer soldiers made of lead
These soldiers breathed and fought and bled
And now the grown children fought for real
With a rancour fuelled by their ardent zeal

The call to arms was swift and sure
Decrees brought nations to their war
Men and women joined the cause
Volunteered without let or pause
On land and sea and in the air
The raw recruits signed up everywhere
Landlord, docker, farmer, daughter
Leapt like lemmings to the slaughter

Knowing not that they were pawns
In this “family” feud, so filled with scorn
Becoming airman, sailor, soldier, wren
Many would never see their land again

Their women joined as well, of course
And filled the factories, making guns and gauze
Toiled and sweated, fabricating bombs
As the cousins watched with such detached aplomb

The First World War: “War to end all wars”
Was the Emperors’ legacy to ours and yours
They took their subjects from far-flung lands
Pulled them from forest, dale and Raj and sand.

The Emperors vied each other viciously
Ego and spat sparred ominously
It was another’s war but they refused to see
The brutal costs of this calamity

War declared and fought  - millions died
While these three cousins sat on their thrones and sighed
Just like the children with the map
They battled hard but now they didn’t clap

The cost of war was a heavy one
Ypres, Verdun, Mons, the Somme
Paschendale just to name a few
The blood rivers flowed and grew and grew

Four years of war and carnage
Ravaged Europe’s lands
While those three wretched cousins
Stood and wrung their hands

One Emperor imprisoned by his very own
Would soon be killed and there no more throne
Another forced to abdicate
Death in a foreign land was his fate

The third had played a different card
Had visited men and women so battle scarred
Had he foreseen the masses plight
Had he “joined’ in their fight?
Yet not even he was spared
As the masses had seen, had felt, had heard
That no more will a king decide
Their fate, the deaths, the genocide

One of those three cousins and his family
Was cruelly murdered ignominiously
After centuries the hated, despotic Tsar
Made way to the Bolshevik commissar

The second cousin haughty, proud
Was chased away by a defeated crowd
Languished in the land of dyke and dam
Helplessly watched blitzkrieg from a sure madman

The third cousin watched this sullenly
His health was racked for all to see
Perhaps he reflected and recalled the days
When as boys those three cousins had played

Republics sprung up everywhere
The spoils of war the people’s share
Though kings were replaced by presidents
Again war would follow. Again Europe rent

In an aside, as the map was shred
Europe torn apart as the Empires bled
The fourth Empire also crumbled
Started it all – now meekly humbled

The proud Hapsburgs also dethroned
Austro-Hungarian Empire creaked and groaned
Then splintered and shattered like crystal glass
As Europe fell to the common mass

Three young cousins with the lead/tin toys
Had played and warred when they were boys
What frightful shameful fact
When, as men, they again did act

When Emperors played with human lives
Unheeded the senseless sacrifice
Aided by ruthless men of state
That threw Europe to a dreadful fate

A bygone age; a noble past
Had been replaced. The die was cast
Let’s not place on them the singular blame
When politicians and tyrants did the same

Three young cousins played a game
The map of Europe, then the same
But they would live to see the end result
For throwing the world into blind tumult

Copyright © | Year Posted 2014




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