Why would you write a poem about a leg? A leg!

Even if the leg had been detached from its owner. Even if the leg were detached during, or immediately after, the Battle of Waterloo. Even if the poem about the leg was written just before the bicentenary of the battle in which the phrase ‘met his Waterloo’ was born. Even if the battle was fought on a Sunday (when some people are peacefully writing their blogs).

There’s no logic behind what poems are written about.b2ap3_thumbnail_leg1-bass.jpg

But if the Earl of Uxbridge, who lost the particular leg as a result of a cannonball injury at the age of 47, happened to be your distant relative, then maybe. And if there was a story: not just the fact that the leg was lost but what happened to the limb later, well . . .

And if the resulting poem (or sequence of poems) had such wayward character and wit that a publisher could not resist it, so she squeezed it into her impossibly crammed publication schedule six months before the bicentenary, then maybe you might want to read it, or buy it and send it to a friend. Because poems are sometimes fun, and easy to understand and delight in. There should be more of that kind of poem.

The one I’m referring to is in the HappenStance shop, waiting for you to find it. It’s by Jo Field, and she’s good. (She’s in Blame Montezuma! too).

There’s no time like the present and I’m not pulling your . . . No, I must resist silly jokes. This is not a silly poem. Wit and charm. Those are the key attributes: wit and charm. (But it won’t cost you an arm and a.)



  1. Oh! I just wrote one about both legs. I seem to have used up all the legs. Does that count? Seriously – point taken…thanks.

  2. Re using up all the legs:
    “…your Great Grandfather who
    Was Aide-de-Camp to General Brue,
    And lost a leg at Waterloo
    And Quatre-Bras and Ligny too
    And died at Trafalgar!
    – Hilaire Belloc, Cautionary Tales.
    The book was given to me in 1954 and I can still recite some of them from memory!
    Thanks for your generous and illuminating blog. I don’t often reply but I do enjoy it very much.

  3. Ama, I[i] love[/i] the Cautionary Tales and I had forgotten this one. The only one I can half do from memory is Matilda, though I pored over them as a child. Roald Dahl learned a lot from Hilaire Belloc! Which Tale do these lines come from?

  4. I can’t find the book now, but I’m pretty sure it was Lord Lundy, who “from his earliest years was far too freely moved to tears”. The collection is indeed a toe-curlingly delicious catalogue of disasters befalling slightly imperfect children. Belloc in a reassuring note to the reader says, “And is it true? It is not true, and if it were it wouldn’t do for people such as me and you, who pretty nearly all day long are doing something rather wrong …”
    The only child who makes good is a disgusting prig called Charles Augustus Fortescue.

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