Programming note: If you missed today's audio edition of Steyn's Song of the Week on Serenade Radio in the UK, do treat yourself and catch the rerun. It airs Monday morn at 5.30am London time - that's 9.30pm Sunday on the US and Canadian West Coast, so a kind of late-night vibe to it, but it's early Monday afternoon in Oz, so a mellow post-prandial feel to it. Whichever you prefer, we hope you'll tune in. You can listen from anywhere on the planet right here.
On the subject of rhymed words, albeit without accompanying music, welcome to a brand new entry to our Mark Steyn Club anthology of video poetry. Because, as I always say, video poetry is where the big bucks are.
On this twentieth anniversary of 9/11, we have a poem obliquely on the theme, preceded as always by my introduction. I am not sure there is any poetry to be made of the utter humiliation America has just suffered in Afghanistan, but then I expect that's what they said about the British retreat from Kabul in 1842. Some years later Theodor Fontane, then a German journalist in London, was moved by the bloody, brutal arithmetic of the slaughter to write a ballad of the event.
I have never read a really satisfying English translation of this poem, so decided to do one myself, making allowances for my very primitive German. I've put in a bit more historical detail than Fontane did, because I always find it so striking.
Among the finer points I didn't get to is one that seems relevant to those US "negotiators" in Doha so effortlessly played by the Taliban: Wazir Akbar Khan, the duplicitous prince with whom the British negotiated the terms of the retreat, understood that the infidel were more familiar with Dari than with Pashto. So, as the bloodbath began, he repeatedly shouted to his men "Fire!" in Pashto (their tongue), but punctuated by "Hold fire!" in Dari, in order that the British would think he was trying to prevent the massacre and sticking to the terms of the retreat.
To watch The Tragedy of Afghanistan, prefaced by my introduction, please click here and log-in.
If you'd like to catch up on earlier poems in the series, you can find them on our Sunday Poems home page. As with Tales for Our Time and our music specials and The Mark Steyn Show, we're archiving my video poetry in an easy-to-access Netflix-style tile format that we hope makes it the work of moments to prowl around and alight on something that piques your interest of a weekend, whether Kipling or Keats or The Kangaroo. One other bonus of Steyn Club membership is that you can enjoy much of our content in whichever is your preferred form - video, audio, text. So, if you'd rather hear me read The Tragedy of Afghanistan off-camera, please click here.
Speaking of which, for those who find me easier to take in non-visual formats, I'll be back to close out this grim anniversary weekend with an audio special later this evening.
Steyn's Sunday Poem is a special production for The Mark Steyn Club. We launched the Steyn Club over four years ago, and in this our fifth year I'm immensely heartened by all the longtime SteynOnline regulars - from Fargo to Fiji, Madrid to Malaysia, West Virginia to Witless Bay - who've signed up to be a part of it. Membership in The Mark Steyn Club also comes with non-poetic benefits, including:
~Our latest audio adventure in Tales for Our Time, and its four-dozen thrilling predecessors;
~Other audio series on pertinent topics, such as our 2019 serialization of Climate Change: The Facts and our current adaptation of Mark Steyn's Passing Parade;
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The opportunity to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly (such as last Thursday's);
~Transcript and audio versions of Mark's Mailbox, The Mark Steyn Show, and other video content, including today's poem;
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world, including exclusive members-only events such as The Mark Steyn Christmas Show, assuming such events are ever again lawfully permitted;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~and the chance to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
One other benefit to Club Membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, if you feel you'd like to do to me what Akbar Khan did to the British Army, then give it your best below. Please do stay on topic on all our comment threads, because that's the way to keep them focused and readable. With that caution, have at it (in verse, if you wish).