I feel it has been some time since I wrote a haiku series, and I was starting to miss the simplicity of it. I was also reading about the Battle of the Wilderness during the American Civil War in early May of 1864. The Union forces threw themselves at Confederate positions to no avail, and survivors recounted the piles of corpses left in the wake of the carnage. Learning more about the experiences and perspectives of the combatants on both sides throughout the conflict provided the motivation for this haiku series. The American Civil War showed the brutality and the cost of a conflict where brother was turned against brother and neighbors became enemies.
A nation at war Brother fights against brother Father against son
Wanting ever more Friends turn on one another Eager to shed blood
Men of honor fade Civility dies with them Only pride remains
Now is time to fight For our God and country too Lest we lose it all
Brothers rip and tear Incapable of reason Their love has long gone
One blinded by pride The other led by God's word Destined to cross blades
Eyes meet no longer Both sides see themselves as right Only one may be
Locked in endless grief Warrior blood flows through both Neither can back down
The dead fill the land And questions start to plague us Where did we go wrong
May God forgive us For we have strayed far from Him We shed our own blood
But peace is not ours Until we have earned its grace And made ourselves whole
We have earned this war With our hubris and our pride And our own sense gone
But we carry on For such is our lot in life To set our path straight
In time, all will heal Old wounds mend to bitter scars To find Him once more
The “messer,” meaning “long knife” in German, is a weapon which was prominent in Germanic territories during the Renaissance era. It was called this for its hilt, which was constructed with a full tang and lacked a pommel, making it akin to a very large knife. The weapon was used throughout the 15th and 16th centuries as well as onward. As such, it experienced many different variations and changes in blade length and shape, hilt length, and guard design. The weapon experienced such evolution because it was terrifically effective and incredibly versatile, leading it to be used by commoners and nobility alike, as the utility and effectiveness of its design could not be denied.
The “kleine messer” was a small, dagger-sized version of the messer with a single-edged blade only about 12 inches long and a fine point for thrusting. It was a fighting knife and would not have been long enough to be considered a sword. It made an effective dagger, useful for thrusting between armor when up close or grappling with an opponent.
The “langes messer” is arguably the most iconic design, being the short sword with a knife hilt that was carried by commoners and nobles alike. It had a blade length of around 25 inches with a single cutting edge. These could have one-handed or hand-and-a-half hilts. Later versions added more hand protection in the form of a “nagel” in addition to a crossguard, which is a third stub protruding over the hand out from the flat of the blade instead of the edges.
The “grosse messer” was a longer, two-handed version of this iconic sword design. Meaning “great knife” or “war knife,” this version would not become as popular as the langes messer due to its size making it more of a dedicated battlefield or bodyguard weapon. With a typical blade length of 30 inches or more, this version was a bit too large for the average person to consider carrying daily for self-defense. Nevertheless, mercenaries and others making common use of swords found the grosse messer to be a great weapon of choice for their professional duties.
Prominence of the Langes Messer
The langes messer became very popular and saw widespread usage as both a commoner’s and noble’s weapon of choice due to its exceptional design. The blade has good balance with a full tang, eliminating the need for a pommel to counterbalance the weight of the blade. It has a hefty blade profile for great cutting power, and many had a cut edge to help facilitate thrusting. Its single-edged blade made it cheaper than double-edged swords, and it was a rather short sword, contributing to its lower cost as well. Some sources say that its knife-like hilt also skirting restrictions on civilians carrying swords in some Germanic regions, since it was technically not a sword. It was a “long knife.”
The langes messer had essentially the same blade as a falchion from the medieval period, but with a knife’s hilt rather than the typical cruciform hilt with a pommel of earlier Germanic swords. The edge of the blade could be on the outside or inside of the curve. An outside edge was far more common in the past and today with reproductions, and an outside edge would make for better slicing cuts. However, an inside edge is useful as well, turning the weapon into more of a chopping tool, like an axe. Both types of edges would likely cut just as well, broadly speaking. Although, an inside edge might make the messer more useful as a general tool for chopping wood and meat, in addition to being a great self-defense weapon.
An Exceptional Tool
Like the falchion of the medieval period, the messer could be used as a sidearm, for self-defense, or as a utility tool. It was small and light enough to be carried daily without encumbrance, but big enough to be useful as a versatile weapon rather than a simple cutting tool or just a backup weapon. I do not know if any messers were historically made with a false edge, but one could be added to it to give it even greater versatility in combat at a slightly higher cost. The knife-like hilt design is also unique for a sword and gives the weapon a distinct, aesthetic appeal. These factors no doubt all came together to make the weapon as prominent as it was, since not all weapons throughout history find themselves being employed by the almost the entire society from the richest to the poorest members alike.
The falchion is a one-handed, single-edged sword of European design which saw widespread use in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was noted to have seen service as late as the 16th century, but then began to fall out of use. The blade of the falchion is similar in design to the Persian scimitar and the Chinese dadao, but with a cruciform hilt which was iconic of medieval European arming swords. With a hefty blade, it is said to combine the strengths of an sword and axe into one tool, making the falchion both versatile and strong. Some versions may have had a false edge, which is a partially sharpened back edge to help facilitate thrusting. However, the weapon was primarily a cutting tool.
Very few falchions have survived into the modern day. Only about a dozen have been found and preserved. However, they are depicted in artwork and included in some manuscripts. This, combined with the few which have been discovered by archeologists, show the falchion did indeed exist. Falchions are said to have weighed less than two pounds with blades between 37-40 inches in length. This is about half the length of a classic longsword, making the falchion rather short by comparison. It was a common sword used during the Crusades by both knights and commoners alike. However, it is speculated there may have been some stigma surrounding the falchion as a “poor man’s weapon.”
As a one-handed, single-edged sword, the falchion was cheaper to produce than two-handed, double-edged swords such as the classic European longsword. Also, longswords may often have been ornate with decorated hilts and engravings in the blade, whereas the falchion is said to have been mass-produced and crude in its construction. Still, knights were known to carry the weapon, likely due to the appeal of its versatile design. Not only was the falchion an effective weapon which could severe limbs and heads with a single strike, but it was also useful for non-combat applications. Some sources claim certain falchions were great tools for chopping wood do to their large and hefty blade. Carrying a single tool which could be used effectively both in and out of combat for a variety of tasks would have convinced some knights to carry the weapon in favor of other, more expensive swords.
What I find most inspiring about the falchion is the versatility and simplicity of its design. While the single-edged blade arguably makes it less versatile in sword-on-sword combat compared to a double-edged blade, it did make the weapon much cheaper because it required less time and effort to grind out the edge. This, combined with the shorter length of the blade, allowed many more to be produced, putting them into the hands of more warriors than the more expensive longswords. While generally speaking, more range in better, the falchion could also be paired with a shield to mitigate the weakness of the shorter length of the blade. Additionally, it should be said that while a longer weapon is generally better, a shorter weapon does become more effective as the distance is closed, eventually eclipsing longer weapons which cannot be used effectively at very close ranges.
The cleaver-type falchions are also said to have had applications outside combat. They could be used in place of an axe, allowing someone to carry a falchion as a multipurpose tool instead of bringing multiple tools. On long campaigns, this could be tremendously valuable to a soldier or traveler. This is also where the smaller size would be a boon as well. If one is going to be spending a lot of time marching long distances and making camp away from towns or cities, a smaller weapon will be easier to carry. As long as it is not too small so as to be ineffective in combat, a more compact sword like the falchion may be preferable to many seeking to lighten the load they are carrying.
The falchion is an interesting sword design combining the classic cruciform hilt of other medieval European swords with the simpler, single-edged blade. Simplicity, practicality, and versatility are always appealing to me. While the shorter length and single edge are arguably less versatile, the heft of the sword and its subsequent utility outside of combat do give the falchion other perks which make it appealing. I also love the aesthetic of the falchion as a sort of mean-looking saber. Many backswords are thin and seem frail by visual comparison to the falchion, which is a chunky little sword. I am glad at least some survived to be on display in museums today.
John Paul Jones is often considered one of the Fathers of the United States Navy. He was a privateer who joined the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War. However, since he worked with mercenaries, pirates, and other soldiers of fortune under his command, he found himself betrayed by his own crew on more than one occasion.
This was the case during the Battle of Flamborough Head when the Alliance, one of the ships in Jones’s squadeon when he was in command of the USS Bonhomme Richard, opened fire on Jones’s ship in an attempt to steal all the glory of sinking the British ships. Nevertheless, John Paul Jones continued to find success, defeat his enemies, and live to tell the tale in spite of such treachery, time and time again.
One can only wonder how impactful Jones would have been if he had a loyal crew at his side. This poem recounts the tale of Jones’s pyrrhic victory at Flamborough Head when despite the odds against him, Jones managed not only to secure victory after his ship was critically damaged, but managed to capture and commandeer the enemy’s command ship.
Outnumbered at sea Off the coast of hostile land Far from home, they be One young mercenary band
John Paul Jones, his name A rascal with luck's good grace To him, war, a game In battle, he found his place
Hear the drums of war Ships stare one another down Here at Flamborough Where young men have come to drown
All that's right goes wrong Cannons ring across the sea Gunfire sings a song A song full of suffering
A battle rages Pain and fury fill mens's hearts For all the ages A final test of one's art
Traitors hunt glory Firing on both friend and foe For their own story They risk everyone they know
His ship broken through Fire and water close in One thing left to do If free men are yet to win
Their ships bind up tight Jones gives the order to board Charging in to fight The gunfire, brave men ignored
Surrender, they say? He's not yet begun to fight They would rue this day Those who challenged Jones's might
Gun and blade are drawn Free men face death with courage Friends and brothers gone Those who survive are savage
Pushing to the brink All efforts made to destroy None can hear or think Yet fate would favor these boys
A stroke of luck came A stray grenade met its mark Soon to light a flame And end the fight with a spark
Jones found victory And they said he brought freedom To all the high seas Sorely did the sea need him
A pirate they say The Terror of the English He did win this day His foes surely to anguish
Hero or villain Surely not a man of ill Though he was wanton Always seeking too much thrill
A hero we know Untethered as he had been He found his way home As a true American
And this was the tale Of he known as John Paul Jones Always to prevail He had a will made of stone
Evils rise and demons scheme to lead to humans astray, time and time again throughout history. The path of darkness is seductive and leads to self-destruction, whereas the path of the righteous leads into the light where we find our true selves. The darkness of sin resides in all of us, and it is incumbent upon us to resist the temptation of the Adversary. Such choices make us who we are. And while evil may always lurk its way back into the halls of power, so too does good always return with the sword of God to strike down His foes.
Triumphant is He Jesus Christ, our righteous Lord He is and will be The one to see us restored
Blessed be the Lord His light shines for all to see Blessed be His sword Drawn against the enemy
Demons try to win Their pagan gods demand blood Reveling in sin Wickedness comes like a flood
A battle rages A battle to save the world Shackles and cages Await those whose hearts have failed
Warriors of light Fell their swords on pagan necks Fighting for what's right Angels standing at their backs
Death cannot hold Him He rises three days after Just an interim A chance for strength to gather
His life was given
The ground below is shattered
The seal now broken
His enemies left tattered
For He is risen
Our Lord and Commander
Satan left wanton
The enemy sent under
Warriors stand firm Darkness gathers all around Light shines ever stern Demons fall down to the ground
Men of God hold fast
Pushing back unsightly hordes
God's full strength amassed
All will break against the Lord
His blood protects us We wash ourselves free from sin Light shines in darkness We must be reborn to win
We do our duty
Remember His sacrifice
He makes us mighty
With Him, we find paradise
On this day, 244 years ago on April 10, 1778, John Paul Jones set sail aboard the USS Ranger from Brest, France on mission to harass British ships near the mainland. John Paul Jones was commissioned as a first lieutenant with the Continental Navy on December 7, 1775. His crew on the USS Ranger, however, was comprised of many privateers who did not share loyalty to the United States. This would complicate the mission, as it turned out, as the hired guns concerned themselves more with revelry and riches than honor and duty. Still, John Paul Jones was renowned for the operation and went onto other great successes afterward.
The Plan for the Raid
Jones and his crew sailed into the Irish Sea and arrived near the port of Whiteraven on the 22nd. The target was the 400 merchant ships in the harbor. The tides were strongest at night and kept the ships anchored. Jones planned to take a small group of men on rowboats into the harbor under the cover of darkness and set the ships ablaze. With them closely tied together, the fire would spread easily among the ships. Setting only one on fire would be enough to destroy the entire fleet.
However, the entrance to the harbor was guarded by two forts. Their sentries would see the ships burning, and their cannons would rip Jones and his men to shreds when they attempted to escape. If the rebels were to infiltrate the harbor, destroy the merchant ships, and leave without being pinned down, they would need to eliminate those forts first. The group would split into two teams and each take over a fort. Then, they would converge on the merchant fleet and set it ablaze before returning to the USS Ranger for extraction. If all went well, the operation would be quick, and the men would be sailing away before sunrise.
The Trouble With Mercenaries
Jones took a group of 30 men in two rowboats, just as planned. However, due to the strength of the tide, the journey to the forts took several hours longer than planned and the waters were difficult to navigate with row boats. Also, the men under Jones’ command were not loyal to the Continental Navy and were more akin to traditional pirates. They had no loyalties other than to themselves and to their next payday. The second team Jones sent to commandeer the northern fort decided to abandon their objective. They claimed they diverted from the fort because of a strange noise they heard, while other reports indicated they went to a nearby tavern and got drunk. By the time they awoke from their drunken stupor, it was sunrise and they returned to the USS Ranger without taking the fort or burning any ships.
Meanwhile, Jones led the first team and successfully captured the southern fort guarding the harbor. Only a small force operated each fort and was quickly subdued. The cannons were then sabotaged to prevent further use. Then, Jones led his team into the harbor and boarded a ship called the Thompson. They had lost the fire from their torches and needed to acquire a torch from a nearby house. They took the crew prisoner and set the ship ablaze. Jones and his team also tried setting matches and throwing them onto other ships during their escape, but those matches did not catch fire. Adding even more to the misfortune of John Paul Jones on this day, a traitor among his crew conspired to warn the townsfolk of Whiteraven about the rebel operation, and the fire raging on the Thompson was put out before it could spread. Tactically, the mission was a complete failure.
Attempting to Salvage the Operation
After retreating from Whiteraven and realizing the mission was a failure, Jones was eager to still make something of the operation. He gathered his crew and sailed to Kirkcudbright, Scotland. The new plan was to abduct the Earl of Selkirk and use him as leverage to negotiate the release of American prisoners. However, the Earl was not there at the time. To let the Earl know he and his men were there, they stole silverware from his estate. After that, the operation ended and the USS Ranger set back out to sea.
The raid turned out to be strategically insignificant due to the failure of the fire to spread among the merchant fleet and the absence of the Earl. However, had the fire spread and the Earl been captured, it would have been an astronomical blow to British operations, and thus, the message the raid ended up sending was clear. The British mainland, the heart of the Empire, was not safe from the American rebels overseas. Thus, the raid was successful in striking the fear of war into the hearts of the British people and forcing them to shift some of their forces to bolster domestic security, and consequently away from the American colonies.
The Value of Honor and Loyalty
There is only so much a great leader can do if those under his command are noncommittal at best and treasonous at worst. The team under Jones’ direct command during the raid succeeded with their objectives. However, their efforts were thwarted by traitors in the ranks. Also, the second team abandoned their objectives altogether in favor of getting drunk. Had the crew of the USS Ranger been committed to the cause, it is likely the operation would have been a resounding success with all targets destroyed. However, the dishonorable crew of privateers was unconcerned with the mission of the Continental Navy. Not even the legendary John Paul Jones could lead such a crew to victory. Fortunately, his time to shine would come soon enough.
The botched Raid on Whiteraven teaches us about the importance of loyalty, honor, and duty. Hired muscle may be cheaper due to their ability to self–organize and operate independently. However, there is tremendous risk is trusting pirates, mercenaries, and other soldiers of fortune to carry out the military objectives of a nation. Those who are not part of our nation, born of its bosom, and raised by its peoples to fight for its survival and freedom will not be eager to rise up with blade and gun in hand to face down her enemies. Those who stand for money rather than honor with falter at even the simplest of tasks, let alone the most harrowing.
The Book of Revelation has long been my favorite book of the Bible. I find the lessons contained within about living through dark times surrounded by agents of the adversary to be some of the greatest wisdom ever imparted upon Humanity. The stories about people who want to be good and do what is right but give into pressure to tolerate evil and degeneracy as the mainstream culture around them falls from grace are timeless and are seen repeating throughout history.
Evil always defends itself by becoming popular and ostracizing those who are good and righteous from society. When this happens, many agents of the enemy can become our neighbors, coworkers, leaders, friends, and family members. When this happens, we must identify those in step with the enemy and safeguard ourselves against their influence.
Only once the lines are clearly drawn between those who stand in the light and those who embrace the dark can the conflict be resolved and peace restored. For while the righteous mingle among the wicked, the wicked cannot be struck down. The righteous must first recognize their enemy and set themselves apart from it before the forces of evil may be vanquished.
They are all around
Agents of the enemy
Everywhere you go
Some are hard to see
Wearing familiar faces
Smiling faces all
They hide in cloaks of honey
Sweet words hide sharp tongues
Some are open fiends
Proud to be degenerate
They see wrong as right
They turn their backs on the light
They see right as wrong
Give not into fear
Lost are those who stand not firm
Their names blotted out
But those who stand firm
Who stand in the face of death
They shall see us through
To defeat the dark
We must separate ourselves
From those who are lost
On March 27, 1775, 247 years ago today, Thomas Jefferson was elected to the Second Continental Congress as a Virginia delegate. During this time, he worked on drafts for several important documents, including the Virginia Constitution and The Declaration of Independence. Throughout his political career, Jefferson also served as the governor of Virginia, the first U.S. Secretary of State, and the third President of the United States. Thomas Jefferson is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. His work as a writer and leader are legendary. His words continue to inspire generations of writers, philosophers, and leaders to this day.
Early Life and Career
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 on his father’s plantation of Shadwell in Albemarle County, Virginia. He grew up among the Blue Ridge Mountains and dreamed of building a house high up atop a mountain peak. Around the age of 25, he began working toward this dream. He contracted to have a clearing made at the highest point in the mountains above Shadwell, and there he began to build his dream home. He continued on this project over the next 40 years. This house atop the mountain became known as Monticello. Here, in his personal library, Thomas Jefferson accumulated thousands of books from his travels around the world which he would donate near the end of his life to form the beginning of the U.S. Library of Congress.
Thomas Jefferson joined the College of William and Mary at the age of seventeen. Here, he studied for two years before beginning his studies of law under George Wythe for the next five years. Then, two years later at the age of 26, he was elected to the legislature of Virginia, known as Virginia’s House of Burgesses at the time. Thomas Jefferson was an accomplished scholar, writer, and leader from a young age, making it natural for him to play a major role in the new nation to come. His “Summary View of the Rights of British America” was critical of King George III’s rule leading up to the war for independence in which Jefferson described the king as overstepping his authority.
Thomas Jefferson is perhaps best known for his drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Previous writings of Jefferson, while critical of the king, did not call for separation from the mother country. However, with the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson elaborated upon the reasoning for why continued participation in the British Empire had become untenable and separation was both necessary and justified. The grievances left unaddressed and unresolved for decades which led up to the need for severance were described in detail, as well as the natural rights possessed by all God’s peoples by virtue of birth – those rights infringed upon by the king; and the reason for why the king’s authority was forfeit.
Jefferson’s words ring true with resounding and timeless vibrancy across the ages of human history. That all men are created equal in the eyes of God – their creator – and that governments are endowed with authority by men to preserve the ability of those governed to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, only so long as said governments continue to do so; and not a moment longer, formed the eternal basis for understanding when a government is legitimate and may be allowed to exist, as well as when a government becomes illegitimate and must be opposed. These eternal words serve as a guiding stone for those across time and space who find themselves in the difficult position of having to determine whether an existing authority is legitimate and continues to serve the people, or whether it has gone astray and serves itself instead.
As an American and a writer myself, I am inspired at the craftsmanship of Jefferson’s writings, as well as the great accomplishments of his life. He lived the life of a farmer, architect, lawyer, scientist, and author. His achievements in life were too numerous to account for in just one article. One of his quotes which has stuck with me throughout my life is to “never trouble another for what you can do yourself.” I have always tried to live by these words, for I know others have troubles of their own, and any troubles of my own which I can bear myself saves those around me from new burdens of which they need not be appraised.
As a writer, I look to such prolific voices of the past as a measure of my own skill. I aspire to craft my words as great as those who came before and inspire the children of the future as our forebears inspire the leaders of today. Such is the way of the pen.
As any who follow my work know, I love both the ABAB rhyme scheme and haiku. ABAB poems consist of four-line stanzas with the first and third lines rhyming together and the second and fourth lines rhyming together. A haiku is a short poem of three verses consisting of 5, 7, and 5 syllables each. I thought that since I enjoy both poetry styles so much, I should combine them together.
The result is this you see here. My first “A5B7” poem, as one might call it. It is merely an ABAB poem which maintains a consistent pattern of 5 and 7 syllables throughout each stanza. The poem itself is a commentary on the rise of totalitarian ideologies, enabled by the blindness of uncritical followers, and ended by the inevitable resurgence of righteous wisdom.
Humanity’s Repetitious Tale
A world on the brink All sides sharpening their spears A ship bound to sink Drums of war piercing our ears
Evil stands on high Good men afraid to act right Dark and prying eyes Spreading endless night
Shadows run amok People live their lives in fear Feeling out of luck Perverts whisper in youths' ears
Evil spreads abound To every corner of Earth Nowhere is good found Good sits in wait for rebirth
Most live in between Neither righteous nor wicked Sheep who follow fiends Not seeing who is kindred
Conflict spreads and grows The wicked prey on the young Turning friend to foe All our traditions undone
Discord sinks in deep Families spit apart by lies Good men left to weep Unrest spreads both far and wide
War will never cease Beasts smell the blood of their prey Weak men keep no peace Demons take the day
It seems hope is lost Shadow grows all around us Blades are drawn and crossed Dark powers do accost us
War sparks hints of light Evil births its own demise We return to God Hope is lost, but never dies
Life favors the wise In the dark, their light grows strong Guardians they rise They remember right from wrong
The sheep then turn right Standing behind the righteous All will rise and fight They will be victorious
Angels at their backs Fire of God burns in their hearts No shadow can hide No evil escapes God's darts
People remember What they were put on Earth for To stand together And keep evil from our shores
Light triumphs once more Fiends return to the abyss God reigns as before The Earth earns a time of peace