The Strongest Peoples of Earth Are the Free

Not ‘til full metal jackets

Came around

Would this sort of firepower

Be matched.

This was a peculiar fire

(Its verb was “loose”),

A rain

Of wood and steel

And each drop

s from up high

A full yard long.

At a rate of, what,

Seven eight a minute.

Bolt-action rifles bettered that easily

Half a millennium later.

Napoleon’s columns could not stand up

To the thin lines

Of the quickest army of his age.

Those sons of earlier Welsh and Cornish villagers

Could manage four shots a minute.

Crossbowmen from Genoa

Were more precise (so Latin)

But also much slower (also).

One English shaft could punch

Halfway through a church door

And popped (like rain on a tin roof)

Through the knights in their full metal jackets.

Ben Franklin was a wise man

(Early to bed)

But perhaps his most immortal insight

Was to say how much earlier

Our war would have been won

By an army of longbowmen.

The French and Scots had a few,

Of course, but in England it was a national sport.

For a couple of centuries that made the difference.

You can’t just train that into a man

In a few months.

It’s a lifelong endeavor.

Wellington owed his victories

To the playing fields of Eton,

But Edward to Sunday afternoon contests.

Practice, practice, practiced

In pulling a six-foot longbow.

I mean, imagine the shoulders.

Sport was the turning point of Western Europe.

And by the time a law was made

To practice every Sunday it was too late.

All good Englishmen need their day of rest,

And the strongest peoples of earth are the free.


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