Fighting talk

I went to see the new Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe movie Robin Hood last night. Not exactly high culture, I know, but the blood-and-thunder battle scenes, sumptuous costumes and sheer scale of the thing were oddly therapeutic. I won’t comment on the accents, though.
This latest retelling of the Robin Hood legend is a long way from the classic Errol Flynn version, and even further from the definitive book by Roger Lancelyn Green that I read as a lad. But the idea of a man (literally) fighting for justice still came through – and strongly enough to set me scribbling this morning. Unlike the film, though, this poem isn’t supposed to be taken seriously.


Watching my hunting-dog running
Gunning down rabbits on open ground
Why do I find myself willing
A killing?

Is it simply an instinct
Linked to a hard, precarious past
When the everyday price of food
Was blood?

Or do I, perhaps (digging deeper)
Keep a tight rein in this sanitised world
On a side of myself I can’t trust:
A lust

For the old ways of settling scores:
Wars fought on paper or over the phone
Aren’t enough: there are times when I yearn
To burn

My enemy’s keep to the ground
Sound trumpets, raise banners, summon my troops
And ride out in battle array –
To pay

Back the drunks and the teenagers shouting
Out in my street on a Saturday night
By clearing them out of the joint
At sword-point.

Lay aside the solicitor’s letter:
Better to harry late-payers with soldiery
And take what they owe me by force.
Of course

These are not the Dark Ages:
Rages are dealt with in civilised ways;
So I’ll keep on damping down mine
With wine.