Tuesday, 9 December 2014


   From among the mountains of literature condemning the insanity of conflict, here is one I have liked since childhood.  It deals with the Russian-Turkish quarrels of the 1800s:

There are heroes in plenty
And well known to fame
In the ranks that are led by the Tsar.
But among the most famous
Of name or of fame
Was Ivan Skivinski Skvar.

    One day this bold Russian
Had shouldered his gun
And donned his most truculent sneer.
Down town he did go
Where he trod on the toe
Of Abdul the Bulbul Ameer.

“Young man,” said Abdul,
“Has life grown so dull
That you wish to end your career?
For by this I imply
You are going to die,
Mister Ivan Skivinski Skvar.”

Said Ivan, “My friend,
Your remarks in the end
Will avail you but little I fear.
For you will never survive 
To repeat them alive.
Mister Abdul the Bulbul Ameer.”

They fought all that night
‘Neath the pale polar light.
In the end it was heard from afar.
Great multitudes came
So great was the fame
Of Abdul and Ivan Skvar.

The Sultan drove by
In his cream-crested fly
Expecting the victor to cheer,
But only drew nigh
To hear the last sigh
Of Abdul the Bulbul Ameer.

Tsar Petrovich too
In his spectacles flew
To arrive in his gold-crested car.
But arrived just in time
To exchange a last line
With Ivan Skivinsky Skvar.

For, as Abdul’s long knife
Was extracting a life,
In fact, he was yelling “Huzzah!”
When he felt himself struck
By that wily Kalmuck
Called Ivan Skivinski Skvar.

A monument rises
Where the Blue Danube rolls,
Engraved there in characters clear
‘Oh, Stranger, when passing,
Please pray for the soul
Of Abdul the Bulbul Ameer.’

A Muscovite maiden
Her lone vigil keeps
‘Neath the light of the pale polar star.
And the name that she murmurs,
So oft as she weeps,
Is Ivan Skvinski Skvar.

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