The sound of horses’ hooves in market square
recalls the riding out to mark the bounds,
the summer rites and battles fought elsewhere
for king and country. And burial grounds
on ancient sites commemorate the loss
of young men felled, of women’s grief
for those so loved who nevermore would cross
ripe fields at harvest time nor bind a sheaf.
Now in the market square goes out the call
to fight with honour someone else’s war.
Chaotic aftermath as ruins fall,
such human waste amidst the rubble for
a dubious peace. Wary of attack
the soldiers know that some will not come back.
About this poem
This poem was commissioned by Euan Robson, MSP for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, in 2005. It was part of the second stage of the SPL’s Holyrood Link project, through which poets and MSPs were partnered and explored areas of mutual interest.
Dorcas Symms comments:
I have tried to capture the feeling of a rural community, its festivals, history and present day concerns. I felt that I wanted to write about the loss at Flodden, in keeping with the sentiments expressed in The Flowers of the Forest, in Iraq and also the proposed loss of a local regiment, the KSOB.
The last line is drawn from the words of Lieutenant-Colonel James Cowan on the expected return of the Black Watch battle group, which I found very moving