THE LINE AND THE SQUARE | write out loud

It’s not exactly “memory” in the conventional sense, but it’s worth dabbling in the killer math of military history. A deadly game of rock, paper, scissors.

The foundations on which we built Empire

They’re just a secret to share

The offensive force of rifle fire

The defensive fortress of the square.

The advantages of the musketry line

They are best learned mathematically.

And not a hundred meters in front

As a Frenchie I would certainly agree.

The French attack you in column

Of maybe 10,000 or more

That stretch back for hundreds of meters

With 20 or less at the head.

They choose their way over their stumbles

A crowded and dense mass of men

And plan that by pressure of numbers

To break through a defense.

But a column will pay a terrible price

In pain and in death and in blood

That numbers are simply a device in

Mathematics of battle and war.

Stop the spine as you go

Shoot from the front 20 men

While a line of a thousand muskets or more

Pay this over and over again.

And the speed of the volley sequence says

The cycle of prime, load and fire

Three volleys a minute brings three spits from Hell

The thunder of the choir of King George.

And practice and drill and practice again

Makes the shot go as planned

But all the training and instruction of men

They can never be taught to stand up.

And so the mathematics of war

It would counteract the strength of his spine

But the line would always be vulnerable

At a cavalry horse charge.

So you kindly looked at the training you had done

In the drill yard that helped you prepare

To make an efficient maneuver on

Hearing the command “Shape square!”

When the spearmen charged you stood and held the line

Until signaled by bugle or drums

To break square too early in time

He invited the wrath of his weapons.

For a six pound shot hitting on the line

I’d pull out a redcoat or two

But 20 or more would go to hell

If in the square one flew.

But once we were ready and the bayonets fixed

Or our pikes were stuck in the ground

There was not a lancer in all of France

It wouldn’t swing your charger.

And when they fell back from a failed attack

The bugles once more would give the signal

Three volleys repeated while retreating

A red line gift from King George.

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