‘Hey there ‘Buff-coat’!
I know you!
We were once comrades
Brothers good and true
We fought side by side
In England’s bloody war
Do you not remember me?
Let me tell you more
We marched along together
Through England’s hill and vale
And when we got to Putney
We told a signal tale
Our case was truly stated
We thought it truly heard
But came a storm cloud rolling
That swallowed every word
We thought we’d glimpsed the sunrise
Of England’s better day
But dawn rose like a spectre
Cold and dark and gray
And when we thought our misery
Could not be more complete
We heard our brother Rainsborough
Was cut down in the street
So we all went to see him
To say our last goodbye
With ten thousand Levellers
Under a sea-green sky
Do you not remember?
I stood by your side
As Faith and Hope and Liberty
There in Wapping died
Up went our cry of pain
In broken-hearted riot
And when two days were over
There came a deadly quiet
You looked at me with tear-filled eyes
I looked at you through mine
You took me by the shoulders
And said, ‘it wasn’t time’
Your anguished voice was breaking
As you told me, ‘this I swear,
Our time and place will come again
And I will meet you there
Though all our hope may now seem lost
Remember this my friend
The great arc of history
Towards justice bends
And when the ‘poorest he’ at last
Commands his proper share
Where that last chapter’s opening
You will find me there’
‘But how will I know you?’
I begged, as you withdrew
When you may wear a different face
And I another too?
‘Worry not’ you reassured
When time to seek me out
I’ll call myself a ‘buff-coat’
So there may be no doubt
And you will know me by my works
For I will make a stand
Against the lords of tyranny
Who subjugate this land
They will not make me silent
I hereby make the choice
That even from a prison cell
You will hear my voice
And when they wish me leave the stage
I will refuse to go
For I have laboured long and hard
Much longer than they know
And now we both can tell them
My old familiar friend
That Agitators never die
They rise to fight again
‘I thought you had forgotten me’
I said, through grateful tears
‘Not I’ you said, ‘I’ve kept the faith
These long and troubled years
Through many hard fought battles
I glimpsed you in the fray
But I foretold our meeting
And now has come the day
So here we are, the Endgame
And bloody but not bowed
We stand shoulder to shoulder
Our voices twice as loud
And there are many others
From history’s honour sheet
Have come to share the victory
So many you will meet
The Chartists here have gathered
The crowd from Peterloo
And I have seen Wat Tyler
Firing up his crew
The Empire now is falling
The hail is true and clear
It’s final justice calling
And that is why we’re here
So glad you found me brother
Now I bid you come with me
For we’re meeting Thomas Rainsborough
In The Prospect of Whitby
He’s waiting there to greet us
And he has waited long
To join his fellow Levellers
In our great victory song!
Let’s walk there now together
Through Wapping’s cobbled lanes
And reminisce of Putney
Where Thomas made his claim
We’ll shake his hand warmly
He’ll greet us with a smile
And beside the glowing embers
We’ll sit with him awhile…’

This poem is inspired by, and dedicated to, Joe Glenton and James Florey of Veterans For Peace
Alison Banville is co-editor of BSNews, an independent journalist and writer, singer/songwriter, and performance poet. She will visit Syria as a journalist in April 2017 with co-ed of BSNews Mike Raddie and they plan to return in 2018.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.