Poems About the Merchant Marine

Also see: Prayers and Memorial Service for Mariners

Advice on Going to Sea, Robert Goodwin

Cargoes, Marjorie Dent Candee

Convoy, Author unknown

Crossing the bar, Alfred Tennyson

Down To The Sea In Ships, Charles W. Mitchell

Forgotten Heroes, Milton E. Kniebes

The Forgotten Merchant Marine, Walter Drew

God and soldiers, Author unknown

Homeward Bound, Ira "Flare" Fredricksen

How Sleep The Brave, Wright M. Butler, Section 7001D,
USMS Fort Trumbull Officers' Training Station

How Sleep The Brave, William Collins (1720-1756)

In the Pool, Tribute to the 142 Cadets killed in World War II

The Last Voyage, Lizzie Clark Hardy

Lest We Forget [Sometimes when the bands are playing], Author Unknown

Lest We Forget [Now see the old seaman ], Ian A. Millar

Liberty in the Pacific, T. E. Kruglak

The Liberty Ship, Author unknown

The Liberty Ship, Daniel Kozak

The Loneliest Dead, M.C. Middlebrooks

Louie Gets Off, from "On the Drumhead," Mike Quin

Men of the Merchant Marine, Eleanor L. Neal

The Merchant Marine, Edgar A. Guest

The Merchant Marine Monument in Battery Park, Gloria Flora Nicolich

O Captain! My Captain!, Walt Whitman

A Psalm of the Sea, A. C. Sickfellow

Quiet Ships, Daniel Kozak

Recuerdo de Paradiso, Gloria Flora Nicolich

Remembrance of the Convoy, John Ackerson

Scatter Flowers on the Waves, Mary Brooks

The Sea: A Childhood Memory, Juan Campos

Sea-Fever, John Masefield

Sea Going American Patriots of World War II, Sol Axelrod

The Seamen's Graves On the Prairie, Bailey S. Haynie

Shaft Alley Navigation or How the blackgang knows the ship is where she ain't, Author unknown

A Sleeping Warrior, Charles R. Westover

NEW! Slip of the lip can sink a ship, Luther Henderson Jr. and Mercer Ellington

Song for All Seas, All Ships from Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman

Song of the Merchant Mariner, Bruce L. Felknor

Song of the Tanker, Grantland Rice

Straggler, Ira "Flare" Fredricksen

A Tanker's Hit, Robert Goodwin

To Five Who Died At Their Posts Below, Bailey S. Haynie

To the WWII Merchant Navies of all Nations: Thank You, Anonymous

A Toast to the Merchant Mariner, Anonymous

What Did The Deep Sea Say? Traditional folk song, recorded by Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston


The Forgotten Merchant Marine
Walter Drew

Over a half century has passed and we've yet to be told.
About the men on the ships who carried more than their load.
The first Americans to die even before the war was declared,
Loving fathers and sons, hardly any were spared.
More seamen perished, more than any other branch it is said.
One seamen out of thirty-two gave his life and is now dead.
Yet children lost fathers and mothers lost sons.
Wives lost their husbands before the conflict was won.
No military honors were bestowed on these men.
No mention of heroism was ever told to their kin.
No parades or open arms met them back home.
Only ridicule and scorn and sarcasm the tone.
That dark cloud of disrespect still hangs and it looms.
It has taken over fifty years to try heal these wounds.
Yet loved ones still mourn and the injured still ache.
They have given up wondering if this is some kind of mistake.
The scars still remain, the story is untold.
They ask not for themselves the honor to be bestowed.
They ask for their comrades who gave their life to the ocean.
So their relatives at home can remember them with devotion.

Lt. Colonel (Ret.) U. S. Army Transportation Service


 

The Merchant Marine
Edgar A. Guest

We seldom get their names,
In spite of all they do.
They're merely mentioned in the press
"As members of the crew"
Yet they're the men whose courage,
Arms and clothes, equips and feeds,
The boys in every battle zone
Who do the glorious deeds.
We speak of them as Merchant Men,
Yet when they once set out,
No matter where their course may run,
Death follows them about

They're stalked by death from port to port,
When once the anchor is weighed,
From master down to cabin boy.
They're Sailors unafraid,
They know the lurking submarines,
They've seen them break the wave.

And still with little means to fight,
The cruel odds they brave,
Sometimes they are struck in the dead of night,
And into rafts they fall -
And drift about and pray to God,
To save them all.

We think of them as Merchant Men,
But when the war is won,
They too must share the pride,
For duty nobly done,
And when the world is free once more,
And home the boys from sea,
When from the foxholes come,
The lads with us once more to be
When from the skies the boys slip down
Let all remember then,
The courage of the Yankee youth,
Who sailed as MERCHANT MEN.

Edgar A. Guest, a well respected American Poet, wrote this poem during WWII. Obviously, along with World Leaders of the time, he respected and honored the men of the American Merchant. This poem tells it all!

From the MO Valley Chapter (Lincoln, Nebraska), American Merchant Marine Veterans, Poetry Page.


Down To The Sea In Ships
Charles W. Mitchell

I have gone down to the sea
I have worked the ships
I have seen the glory of the Lord
I have quenched my lips.

I have lived the life of a Mariner
The world can be a united neighborhood
I have defied the will of Lucifer
Working the ships in an adventuresome good.

I have been to many mountains
I have been through the valley of the shadow of death
I have sailed the seven seas
The lifeline of ships is a manifestation of
"Open Sesame" and God's breath.

I have gone down to the sea
I did see the sky
The Lord is my Captain
The Lord does glorify.

As ships that pass in the night
I have met the twain
I did go down to the sea
I would do it yet again.

Charles W. Mitchell is a member of Edwin J. O'Hara Chapter, American Merchant Marine Veterans

 


Lest We Forget
Ian A. Millar

Now see the old seaman
Not a word has he said
In silence and tribute
He remembers the dead.

Some young people question
Most veterans don't know
What it is he remembers
From so long ago.

How quickly forgotten
How sad they don't know
How they died on the Oceans
Of so long ago.

He's a bosun, a wiper
The others as well
They sailed in harm's way
In battle they fell.

Now the band they are playing
A tear or two shed
It's flowers o' the forest
For our seafaring dead.

Now see that old seaman
Whose chums there had died
He's twenty years younger
His chest swells with pride.

Some young people question
Most veterans don't know
Of the great price they paid there
So long ago.

Ian A. Millar is a maritime historian


The Liberty Ship
Daniel Kozak

The Liberty Ship so proud and staunch -
more than twenty-seven hundred of them were launched...

Manned by brave American mariners who sailed them with pride -
upon the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans they plied...

The gunners of those lumbering Libertys warded off many enemy attack;
airborne raiders found it difficult to penetrate their flak...

Our armies and air forces never could have survived,
without those brave American mariners -
and those Libertys they sailed with pride...

The world's greatest armada of ships ever known...
was led by those lumbering Libertys - who finally brought our guys home...
Some two hundred of those gallant Libertys -
and the sailors on board never made it back to their homeport...

They will, however, live on forevermore, as symbols of freedom...
pillars of courage... Consorts of the Realm... in King Neptune's Court....

Capt. Daniel Kozak, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)

 


To the WWII Merchant Navies of all Nations: Thank You
Anonymous

On all the oceans
White caps flow
You do not see crosses
Row on Row
But those who sleep
Beneath the sea
Rest in Peace,
For your country is free.

Tribute to the 50,000 Allied merchant seaman who lost their lives during the Second World War:
From This England Magazine, Summer issue 2000

 


O Captain! My Captain!
Walt Whitman

[Whitman wrote this poem about Abraham Lincoln's assassination, choosing the image of a ship's captain's untimely death just as the vessel nears safe harbor (end of the Civil War and the preservation of the Union) after a terrible voyage (the Civil War itself) to express his dismay that Lincoln was dead before he could see our nation move past its most bloody conflict.]

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up -- for you the flag is flung -- for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths -- for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck
You 'ye fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

 


Song of the Tanker
Grantland Rice

This is the song the tanker sings
As it plows through the waning suns--
"We don't travel on flying wing
Or know the glory a warship brings
To those who handle her guns.
But we ride on the breath of flaming death
As the oil pours through our dikes,
Facing our doom in the starless gloom
As the big torpedo strikes."

This is the story the tankers tell
As they tackle the poisoned foam--
"Starting our journey we know too well
We may be facing the Port of Hell
As Charon calls us home.
But we'll still sail through till the end is due
And the final tale is spun.
And we'll ride the waves that may be our graves
Till the closing fight is won."

Source: The Years of Peril, Cdr. Arthur Gordon, New York: Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. (Mobil Shipping and Transportation Company), 1954, 1994 (Originally appeared in Socony-Vacuum News, October 1945)


Sea Going American Patriots of World War II

The merchant seamen and the Navy Armed Guard
fought valiantly with the help of God.

These brave lads brought soldiers to fight
when men were needed at a combat site.

It was never easy or even routine
to sail the waters where death reigned supreme.

They roamed the world with cargo intact,
ever mindful of an enemy attack.

When supplies were needed, without delay,
they were delivered by night and by day.

As the battles turned hot,
some got through; many did not.

Heroes all, in death as in life,
doing their duty in time of strife.

"Patriots, all for love of country in the service of America"
© 1997 Sol Axelrod, WWII U.S. Army veteran


Forgotten Heroes
Milton E. Kniebes

To those who fought and bled and died,
That God's gift of freedom might always abide!
With weapons, flags and spirit bold,
Did wars on foreign shores unfold.

The tanks and guns with soldiers brave
Were carried over the restless wave.
The seas above and the subs below,
With the Merchant Marine they had to go.

It's strange some folks will ask today,
What part in the war did the Merchant Marine play?
Can it be as history counts the cost,
The page with the answer seems to be lost.

With the battles over and victory won,
The troops came home where they started from.
They marched in parades with much adulation,
Along with the thanks from a grateful nation.

I see a man watching the parade passing by.
It seems that I see a tear in his eye.
Did he not serve for the land that he loved,
In the Merchant Marine below decks or above?

He remembers the heat and the sweat down below,
The fear of torpedoes; what a way to go.
The men on the bridge in the wild North Atlantic,
In danger of ice or a submarine's antics.

So he stands there atone as the band plays a tune,
Reflecting how his part was forgotten too soon.
Take heart my brave shipmate if no glory you share,
In the logbook of Heaven you'll find it all there.

 

Your watch here on earth is not really over,
As long as you tread the topside of clover,
So lift your head high as old Glory you see.
Thank God that you served for the land of the free.


Bailey S. Haynie sailed throughout World War II, and was on the SS Liberator when she was attacked by a U-boat. He died in Baltimore on 28 January, 1995, at the age of 92. These two poems were from the book "Convoy and other poems."

The Seamen's Graves On the Prairie

Baily S. Haynie

(Concerning the Burial Ground for Deceased Patients at U.S. Marine Hospital No. 9,
Fort Stanton, New Mexico)

Walking past the long, straight rows of graves
That dot the plain for many yards around;
The older marked with sun-bleached, simple staves,
A stone upon the head of each new mound-

I wonder much about these seamen dead,
Each body in its earthy cell straight-laid;
At rest forever lies each storm-tossed head,
Life's gambling debt is now forever paid.

Steamship and clipper men, in peace at last,
Lie side by side in prairies far from home;
Remembering not the days that now are past,
They long no more the seven seas to roam.

No more can books fatigue their weary eyes,
Nor do the crafts employ their cold, dead hands;
No more are they required to deal in lies-
Who now are free from futile iron bands.

The new graves house the bodies of the young;
Along with seamen of an ancient day,
Their headstones in long lines so neatly strung,
They argue not the merits of their way.

Some there are who sailed the clipper ships-
These were the quick to man the dipping yard;
Now closed by prairie soil are their proud lips
Which had for prairies then a scant regard.

Above their moldering bones the cowboys ride
When winter moonlight paints the ridges gold;
Around the ridge-tops howling coyotes glide,
Calling their plaintive song in winter's cold.

In spring the grass grows high between the mounds,
And grazing horses pause outside the fence
To look with longing eyes upon the grounds
And wonder why they are excluded thence.

Gay summer brings great flocks of singing birds
That perch upon each sun-bleached wooden cross,
And whistle cheerful tunes to wandering herds
While wind-blown flowers brightly sway and toss.

 

Come fall, the time of sadly drooping leaves;
A fading wreath upon each new-made bier
Shows some fond heart in memory still grieves
And hopes its love has reached a better sphere.


 

To Five Who Died At Their Posts Below

Bailey S. Haynie

Out from Galveston, loaded deep
With yellow gold for sulphur drugs
Day and night we vigil keep-
On the bridge and down below.

Through the Gulf-stream, up the coast,
Twisting, turning, throbbing along.
"Sank a sub!" And proud our boast
On the bridge and down below.

South of the cape, dark, wild the night.
A dull-red flare, and then a thud.
First, a tiny bonfire light
Seen from our bridge, not down below.

Then a flash that lights the sky
And shows the water angry red
Four miles off, while we stand by
On the bridge and down below.

"Tanker exploded!"; How many dead?
The flash was swallowed in the gloom
While each stands in suspended dread-
We on the bridge, they down below.

Daylight, and off toward the Sound
The sighting of a ship upreared,
Its bow held high, its stern aground
Deep water on bridge and down below.

Offshore, too, on the starboard hand,
Another, with its bow hung low;
Its stern adrift, its stem in sand-
Deep water on bridge and down below.

A numbing blast, and deadly still;
A deluge from a wave flung high.
Sulphur smoke and cordite kill-
Not on our bridge, but down below.

 




The Merchant Marine Monument in Battery Park
Gloria Flora Nicolich

LOOK!
There's an interesting monument.
What's that all about?

Well!
A man fell into the water,
Some men are pulling him out.

OH!
Go on to another tourist sight.
Lots to see before tonight.

STOP!
Not just a monument, much more.
A tribute to unknown heroes
Whose lifeboat never reached the shore.

WAIT!
Look once more and you may see
Valiant heroes of the sea
Who, when their long ordeal was done
Remained unheard of and unsung.

SALUTE the men of the Merchant Marines
Seamen strong and true.
In War and Peace for 300 years
They brought the cargo through.

HONOR the men of the Merchant Marine
Too long discounted and demeaned
The time has come to pay our debt.

RECOGNITION, REMEMBRANCE AND RESPECT!

 


It is customary for the graduating U.S. Merchant Marine Academy class to jump in the pool following the change of command ceremony. The Academy Chapel has a book listing all mariners killed in WWI and WWII, including the 142 cadets lost during WWII.

In the Pool

A baptism,
A new place to start.
For our boys,
Going in,
As men, coming out.

A baptism upon our boys.
Really always boys,
But really always men.
Then the Chapel and the book.
With the names of 142.

142 Merchant Mariners.
Always boys,
To their moms.
And always men to the rest.
Then they were gone.

Jets over graduation.
Now past the stands.
Over our boys.
I mean our men.

One more tear,
For all of them,
And the memories of 142.

Our sons, those boys.
And then the hand shakes,
And the good byes.
And then the hats,
So many hats.
Their hats into the air.

They shower,
Upon our men.
I mean our boys.
God, please bless
Our Boys.

And our men.
All of them.

 


Convoy

-- by Forty Fathoms

A rough grey sea
And leaden sky.
A wallowing ship
And sea birds cry --
Fogbanks to leeward,
Icebergs nearby,
Slow in the passage,
Decks never dry.

Deckload secure,
Hatches battened down,
Booms in their cradles
And officers frown;
Silent quartermaster.
Thought s grim and long,
Freshening gale,
Thin rigging song.

Oilskins and seaboots,
Rig of the day,
Sharp is the lookout--
Convoy array.
Long line of ships,
Guns sweeping the way,
Fogbound horizon,
Desolate, grey.

Daylight or darkness,
No light must show
Blackout is Life,
Aloft and below;
Smoke from the funnel
Watch on deck know
All's well in the fireroom.
Engines turn slow.

Precious the cargo
Cramming the hold,
More precious than ivory,
Diamonds or gold!
Food for the hungry,
Warmth for their cold,
Sinews for struggle
In Democracy's fold!

Neptune, December 1, 1942
[magazine published at USMS Alameda Officer's Training Station]

 


The Loneliest Dead

by M.C. Middlebrooks

They are the loneliest dead who rest beneath the waves
In graves unmarked, unknown. The bugle's soft farewell,
As taps say, "We remember", touches not their sleep.
Why should the forgotten listen to its poignant, haunting spell?

Where the white lines of crosses lie in ordered rows,
The fields are green and cherished, each cross bears a name,
Identifying valor and honoring its repose --
A land has pledged itself these dead shall live in fame.

But the long, slow convoys that grimly took
Their losses so that some might batter through
Sailed in quiet and secrecy; their dead may look
In vain for a salute from those who never knew.

Yet when the bugle blares the call for that last review,
And the great regiments sweep past the mighty dead,
Grouped round Washington, bearing flags that flew
On every battlefield where patriots blood was shed.

Will the weary thousands in tattered dungarees
Hang back ignored as they have been so long?
No. Eyes that have seen their country driven nigh its knees
And led it back to victory can judge that silent throng.

They shall march to a tune that has the deep slow beat
Of waves on a rocky shore, their banner shall proudly bead
The legend, "We held the balance 'twixt victory and defeat,
But when our armies needed them, the goods were there."

Mast Magazine, July 1947

 


A Tanker's Hit

by Robert Goodwin
[Composed on SS Georgia a few hours after witnessing
torpedoing of tanker SS Jacksonville 8/30/44 in the North Atlantic,
with loss of 48 crew and 28 Armed Guard.
Only 1 crewman and 1 Armed Guard survived ]

Have you ever seen a tanker hit?
It's not a pleasant sight;
The ship from stem to stern is lit
With fires that burn so bright.

Smoke pours from her into the blue
And forms a might cloud,
Then turns into a ghastly hue --
A ship that was so proud.

Then men on ships about do stand
And sadly watch her burn;
There is no way to lend a hand,
Just watch, and wait your turn.

So down into a watery grave
She takes her gallant crew;
And all of those who had been brave,
A trip to heaven drew.


Advice on Going to Sea

by Robert Goodwin [First Engineer, SS Georgia]

Now son, if you have love for the sea
And think you should sailing go.
One little gem of advice take from me,
Because from experience I know.

My advice to you is to become a mate,
Of the wheelhouse and bridge have no fear.
But let me warn you before it's too late,
Don't study to be a first engineer.

A mate's life is one of comparative ease,
His clothes so seldom he soils.
He stands his watch out in the cool breeze,
While far down below the engineer toils.

The engineer's work in the grease and the heat
Boy, take it from me, it's no fun,
Sweating and swearing, trying the job to complete,
While out on deck the mate suns.

So whatever it takes, my boy, be a mate
Or even the ship learn to steer.
But regardless of place, money, or date,
You'll rue the day you're a first engineer.


"Song for All Seas, All Ships" from Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman

"Of sea-captains young and old,
and the mates, and of all intrepid sailors,
Of the few, very choice, taciturn,
whom fate can never surprise nor death dismay."


Louie Gets Off

"On the Drumhead" by Mike Quin

throwing louie overboard
Illustration from "On the Drumhead"

We have taken his shoes and his socks off
And salvaged his pants and his coat,
For your shipmates inherit your wardrobe
When you die in an open boat.

The coat is now warming the messboy,
And the pants are already on Pete,
For they both got away from the sinking
Without even shoes on their feet.

So the dead must give up to the living,
And the living must dress from the dead,
And Louie won't mind, for he's going
Where the seaweed will clothe him instead.

An hour ago he was raving
That all of us guys were to blame
For refusing to take him to Flatbush
Where someone was stealing his dame.

He thought he was caught in a subway,
And kept saying not to forget,
If we'd please let him off at Flatbush,
And hadn't we come to it yet?

It is strangely as if he had vanished,
His body, with nothing on,
Lies silently ready to bury.
But Louie, somehow, is gone.

We're trying to do this thing nicely,
With a measure of kindness and pride.
But we're conscious that all it amounts to
Is throwing him over the side.

Shore folks have a funeral with music
And greenly-lawned burial parks.
But what can you do in a lifeboat
That's followed by man-eating sharks?

Hell, it isn't the sound of the organ,
Or flowers of any price;
It's the love in the hearts of your comrades
That makes any funeral nice.

We understand Louie and love him.
We're burying one of our own.
His heartbreaks and faults were like ours.
His life was the same as we've known.

There are reasons as deep as the ocean
Why seamen are part of each other,
And reasons why maritime union men
Refer to each other as "brother."

The Mate had no Bible to read from,
But he mumbles some words about God;
About Heaven and glory and kindness,
Then signals the deed with a nod.

There's a shove, and a grunt, and a lurch of the boat
And Louie is gone in a splash.
"Don't look back!" snaps the Mate. And we mind him.
But our brains see the shark fins dash.

It is quiet for awhile, and we're thinking.
Then Charlie begins to cry
In that jittery way that gets on your nerves.
"Why don't somebody shut up that guy?"

"Aw, shut up yourself. He ain't bothering us."
"Pipe down. I ain't talking to you."
The Mate sees a need for diversion
And breaks out a biscuit or two.

A broken-off hunk of a biscuit,
A few drops of water to drink.
A thousand wide miles of the ocean,
And plenty of time to think.

To think about what killed Louie,
And what has made hell of our lives,
And is forcing a bloody nightmare
On millions of guys and their wives.

To think of the finks and the fascists,
And all their unsatisfied dead;
Of the anguish and conflict behind us,
And still greater battles ahead.

For a few of us guys will reach islands,
And stagger our way to the beach.
And God help the men who killed Louie
When we get them into our reach.

For we pledge on his grave of salt water,
With all that our spirits can give:
That the greed of all Hitlers shall perish,
And the dreams that were Louie's shall live!


Men of the Merchant Marine

Eleanor L. Neal (Wife of a Merchant Officer)

They are men who go down to the sea in ships,
With courage and faith serene,
Sailing with cargoes on hazardous trips
To the distant battle scene.
In the far-flung theatres of war,
Our allied soldiers pray
That merchant ships with new supplies
Are speeding on their way.
On perilous seas our merchant men
Grimly await their fate.
Silent and tense, their only hope
They will not arrive too late.
Exposed to bombs from the open sky,
And torpedoes hurled through the sea,
Over all the wide sea lanes they sail
In sight of the enemy.
Adrift on rafts, in the lonely seas,
They watch their shipmates die,
Yet fearlessly they carry on,
"Keep 'Em Sailing" is their cry.
They linger not in foreign ports,
But hurry back for more,
No martial music heralds them
As they step upon our shore.
For them there are no big parades,
No heroes' welcome gay,
No uniforms, and no applause
To cheer them on their way.
But they are heroes, too, these men
Who sail the seven seas,
Our hats are off to their valiant crews,
For unsung victories.
They are the men who go down to the sea in ships,
With courage and faith serene,
"God Speed You All" is the prayer on our lips,
For the Men of the Merchant Marine.

Polaris Magazine, U. S. Merchant Marine Academy, August 1942

 


 

Liberty in the Pacific
T. E. Kruglak

Lieutenant, (J.G.) U.S.M.S.
Mast Magazine, September 1945

The Commodore's blinker winks malevolently in the hazy sky
Saying I want you ship 122 repeat 122
Pull into port at once
And await further orders.
No homeward trip
Await Orders.

The Navy signalman curses and repeats the message
And turns and tells the Master of their fate.

Below in the bowels of the rusty roachy ship the message flies
And reaches tile Engineer on watch below.
No home, no engines if this keeps up
The third grabs the phone
And answers Up Six

The Liberty rolls ungainly as she threads through wreck.s
Of ships who once were going home again.

It's no holiday and the Steward curses the treat
In store homeward sailing men.
Scrawny turkeys hang on galley hooks
Or should he say gallow hooks.
Its just as well hungry troops
Stand huddled on the dock.

One more island for their growing pains
To fill the pockets left by speeding Yanks.

Aussies the word is passed up to the Bridge head
Tired professionals taking on another match
No spit and polish here
Men who fight to live
Down Under once again
In peace.

Right from the jungles they say, and almost home
No leave since Tunisia, Italy and the Guineas.

You Yanks must be in trouble again. We'll lend a hand.
And remembering Salerno you're glad they're here
Combat troops are needed fast
When needed at all
And that's up North
Badly.

The Captain rubs his twisted foot. Pacific's no place for him
And Neuritis. And Liberty ships for troops.

But they'll do okay until the final job is done.
He looks at orders. No Convoy just full speed.
Full speed is right except
Full is slow and Nips fast
But we'll get through
We always have.
It's a short trip but the Betsys come a-calling
No sooner dusk than they're in for tea.
The bow guns blast and then the planes are on us
But we're inhospitable and go up again in haste
From on high eggs drop fruitlessly
No suicide planes these
Just men who want to live
Until they're dead.

All except the torpedo plane hugging the horizon for a chance
To sneak in and slip a steel stiletto between our welded ribs.

The 20's spot her and the orange dashes weave a pattern
She tries to launch a slender fish in haste
The Jap is full of fight
But fight is not enough
When tracers cut your guts
And plunge you in the sea.

Two more days of attack and then the coast is clear
Somewhere North of Guinea where she's needed.

LCIs are there to ferry Aussies to the beach in style
Between the mortar splashes from a hill top gun.
So it's hurry Aussie move your feet
So long Yank we'll give them hell.
The LCI waits impatiently
Bouncing like an impatient woman.

The Colonel's still aboard trying to pay a mess bill
It's on the house the Purser says to blankly staring Pips.

The Purser takes time out to explain the meaning of the words
An Americanism meaning there's no charge
I say that's good the Colonel laughs
And scampers down the net
I'll have to remember that
On the house.

The signalman reads the blinker on the shore with ease
And grins as he passes on the word were going home.

 


 

Cargoes
Marjorie Dent Candee

Editor, The Lookout

Mast Magazine, July 1945

Shrapnel-scarred freighter with a patriot's name
Outward bound for beachheads on the evening tide.
With a cargo of plasma.
Atabrine, penicillin,
Novocaine, ether and sulfanilamide.

Rusty cargo-carrier with a crimson burgee.
Loading goods for Leyte and Mindora Strait.
With a cargo of rocket-flares.
Munitions, hand-grenades.
Incendiaries, shells and war's deadly freight.

Phantom-decked tanker loaded to the Plimsoll.
Cutting through the curky. mine-swept seas.
With a cargo of fuel oil.
Diesel oil, gasoline,
Thunderbolts, Mustangs and -43's.

Hog Island steamer with a gaping hole forward.
Wallowing through the Channel, the Stars and Stripes unfurled,
With a cargo of condensed milk.
Oranges, C-rations,
Life-bringing cargoes for a war-weary world.


Shaft Alley Navigation or How the blackgang knows the ship is where she ain't

Author unknown, Neptune [USMS Officers School, Alameda, CA] January 11, 1944

With a pair of calipers and a twelve-inch rule
The chief climbed up on his cabin stool;
He glanced out the port at a bit of land
As he shifted six pencils from hand to hand.

He took a two-finger bearing on God knows what
And hurriedly grabbed his morning tot;
He jumped down below the revs to take
To see what knots he'd have to make.

He looked at the clock and yelled for steam
Then wrote in the log "Diamond Head abeam";
"Righto. Chief!" as the Aussies say
Abeam twelve hundred miles away.

On an ancient chart of old Cathay
The course he marked with a corset stay;
His calipers slipped as a wave made her roll
But he marked his fix with a piece of coal.

He added, deducted, divided by three,
And called to the mate, "Dead ahead's Flattery.!"
Navigation to him is mere child's play --
Yes, Flattery's five hundred miles away.

He took the bilge soundings and added the log,
Deducted the draft, made allowance for the fog;
Divided the tonnage by the pressure of steam,
Added her length to the maximum beam;

By the sea temperature, her speed multiplied,
Then threw all his figures over the side,
Blew his whistle three times, set his watch back an hour,
Tied the safety valve down with a half sack of flour

Another three days, he told the Chief Mate,
Will bring her in sight of the Golden Gate;
Better grab something, Chief, and take a round turn,
We're inside the bay and the Gate is astern.

 


God and soldiers
Author unknown

God and soldiers and sailors all people adore
In time of war, but not before;
And when war is over and things are righted,
God is neglected and soldiers and sailors are slighted.

 


The Liberty Ship
Author unknown

[from Feb. 2002 Ambrose Light Newsletter, Edwin O'Hara Chapter AMMV, New York]

Laden deep from lands afar,
The Liberty stands at the bar
A rusty tramp that has eluded fate,
Heaves in the swell off the Golden Gate.

Yes, she's a Liberty built in twenty days,
One of the hundreds that slipped the ways.
A champagne bottle, an unknown name,
And no design for future fame.

She was laden deep with goods of war,
Below her marks both aft and fore.
And as if so to tempt the hand of fate,
Her decks were piled high with plane and crate.

Each time she dives, she shudders free,
And pounds her way through angry sea.
There are those, who would sneer at these,
But they have never sailed the seven seas.

The Liberty tramp, the butt of jests.
"Can-opener" ship and all the rest.
An "Ugly Duckling," a "Rusty Pot."
Waiting for the wrecker's lot.

So now, dear lass, don't mind the name,
Your endless miles have won you fame.
From the tropic heat to Arctic Flow.
There's not a sealane you don't know.

The Murmansk Run, and Attu's shore.
Salerno beachhead and many more.
After the naval gunfire shook,
You were the first to drop your hook.

Why there's not a cargo, great or small,
But a Liberty tramp carried them all.
High test gas, troops and TNT,
From Guadalcanal to Tripoli.

You are the prey of the U-boat pack,
That lurks on the ocean's merchant track. Your hulls lay blasted on the ocean's bed,
While your sister ships sail overhead.

We've trod your decks, we're proud to tell
You've sailed us in and out of Hell.
We've cursed you and praised you, too,
As sailor men so often do.

We'll drink a glass at the Mariner's bar.
To you, good ship, so there you are.
A Merchant Ship, a Liberty,
Another TRAMP upon the sea.

But Hark! that's the stand bell,
The Pilot's boarded; all is well.
Another trip comes to an end,
We say farewell, to you, my friend.


Lest We Forget
Author Unknown

Sometimes when the bands are playing
And the uniforms march by
You will find a seaman watching
With a wistful-looking eye
And you know just what he's thinking
As he hears the cheering crowd
As the soldiers and the sailors
Swing along, erect and proud.
He is thinking that his country
Saves its honor once again
For the uniforms, forgetting
All the seas' forgotten men.
He is thinking of the armies
And the food and fighting tanks
That for every safe arrival
To the seamen owe their thanks.
He is thinking of those buddies
Who have paid the final score,
Not in khaki or in the Navy
But the working clothes they wore;
And we'd like to tell him something
That we think he may not know
A reminder he can stow away
Wherever he may go.
All your countrymen are proud of you
And though there's no brass band
Not a bugle or a banner
When the merchant seamen land,
We know just the job you're doing
In your worn-out work clothes
On the seas where death is lurking
And a fellow's courage shows.
So be sure to keep your chin up
When the uniforms parade
What a man wears doesn't matter
It's the stuff of which he's made.


 

 

Song of the Merchant Mariner
Bruce L. Felknor


Now hear the song of America's merchant marine,
Its Herculean deeds in World War Two,
Supplying the needs of its country's war machine,
Disdaining all perils as only the brave can do.

A hundred eighty thousand men and boys,
None drafted, ev'ry one a volunteer,
To serve on ships the oceans tossed like toys,
Deliv'ring an invading army's gear;

Each knowing ev'ry time he sets to sea
That out of port he's in a zone of war,
Where lurking submarines can plainly see
His ship a target, just another score.

Torpedoes' wakes are hard to see at night,
But when they hit, the sea's suffused with light.

A hundred eighty thousand gallant souls,
From nineteen forty-one to 'forty-five,
They sailed across the oceans' seas and shoals,
To keep the Allies' chance to win alive.

In old rust-buckets, lumb'ring Libertys,
They braved the winter North Atlantic's storms,
In tankers too, and newer Victorys,
Through oceans' rolling, pitching, tossing norms.

And in the far Pacific--misnamed ocean!
Nothing like some atoll's calm lagoon--
Epitome of violence in motion:
They faced the fury of a full typhoon.

In convoy, or alone on zig-zag course,
The billows were the U-boat's stalking horse.

A hundred eighty thousand seamen who--
Civilians to a man--confronted death,
From torpedoes, guns, and bombs that flew;
Each trip meant facing death with ev'ry breath.

No-one knew the destination when
A man signed on to make another trip
(The captain has all secrets in his ken,
To be destroyed if they abandon ship.)

Some faced it more than others; when you sail
With "ammo" or with aviation gas,
You know that if one day your luck should fail,
Your body won't attend your fun'ral mass

The U-boat captain's dream is realized:
When such a ship is hit it's vaporized.

Offshore, in Carolina's latitude,
A stalking U-boat's periscope reveals
A coastal tanker riding deep with crude.
The unterseeboot sends a brace of "eels."

Explosions, and a viscous pad of oil
Congeals and thickens on the icy brine.
Blown overboard, two swimmers vainly toil
Until their strength is gone, and then resign.

Down by the stern, the tanker bursts afire;
A gutt'ring flame spreads o'er the oil-choked sea.
Now sinks the stern; the upright bow's a pyre
That's quenched in diving to eternity.

A lifeboat head-count tallies who's alive:
Thirty-two of forty-four survive.

A hundred eighty thousand mothers' sons,
And thousands faced the U-boats and the planes
'Long Norway's coast: the deadly Murmansk runs,
Where death and ice bestrode the ocean lanes,

Where submarines, torpedo planes, and more,
Where German cruisers joined the fight to close
The Allies' access to North Russia's door,
Thereby relief to Stalingrad foreclose.

Far north beyond the Arctic Circle, and
Bear east and sail across the Barents Sea;
Turn south: Murmansk or Arkangelsk. There's land!
No subs, but bombers, bombers constantly.

Midsummer ice and sunlit nights conspire
With subs and bombers: unremitting fire.

A hundred eighty thousand, some of whom
In convoys sailed "the Med" to bring supplies
For Sicily's invasion, anteroom
To Hitler's Europe, and to his demise.

A trick when eastbound vessels reach Gibraltar:
Limpet bombs stuck to the hull by swimmers.
The watch of marksmen downward peer, nor falter
To shoot whatever moves among the glimmers.

We're moored at Bari; German planes appear,
Torpedo, bomb, and strafe. Unloading ships
With troops and ammunition disappear,
Blown skyward in a small Apocalypse.

A quaint and bustling port when all is well,
With bombs can be the hinterland of hell.

On D-Day hordes of men and tons of gear
Crossed the English Channel to a port
That ne'er existed any other year,
Invented for this day, great tides to thwart.

An artificial port, breakwaters, piers,
All made in England, towed to France's door,
And sunk in place, so ships could dock in tiers
And land their cargo right on Europe's shore.

Down the channel sailed a bridge of ships,
With men and cannons, trucks and jeeps and tanks,
Machine guns, pistols, rifles, loaded clips,
And ev'rything to arm and feed the Yanks.

All brought by merchant ships and tugs and crews,
Without which the Allies were sure to lose.

A hundred eighty thousand; many went
Into the far Pacific and its isles,
To often-hostile beach with armament
And food and gas and medics' goods in piles.

A Liberty moored to a rickety pontoon pier
Discharges, using its winch and cargo booms
On drums of gas, assorted crates--we hear
A plane! Guns manned; a friend. The work resumes.

Sometimes the guns of merchant ships were all
The antiaircraft weapons at the beach.
Each shell-burst formed a threat'ning smoky pall;
and some shots blew up planes that they could reach.

Then Kamikazes: some of them were killed,
Their sacred mission ever unfulfilled.

The war was won in nineteen forty-five,
And then began the troops' repatriation.
The homeward-bound in merchant ships arrive,
To great parades and gen'ral celebration.

GIs came home to preference in hiring,
Home-purchase mortgage guarantees, and yet--
The GI Bill of Rights their zeal inspiring--
A college education free of debt.

The Army and its Air Force were included,
The Navy and the Coast Guard and Marines,
But the merchant seaman was excluded:
The one that fueled and fed their war machines.

He offered his life to his country each time that he sailed.
To thank him his country and congress and government failed.

Two shipmates who were prisoners of war,
Slave-labor at notorious River Kwai,
Protested their exclusion from the corps
Of veterans. They're rebuffed at ev'ry try.

Forty-two years later, joined by friends,
They took the case to U.S. District Court,
Where the string of slights abruptly ends
With a solid finding of support.

Vets at last, when half their mates have died,
Old men, too late for college, housing loans.
Forty years late, being vets brings a surging of pride--
And a veteran's marker to label the site of their bones.

Of all branches they died in the war at the paramount rate,
And got grudging acknowledgement, finally, forty years late.

[There were 180,000 men sailing at the end of 1944.]

 


Crossing the bar

by Alfred Tennyson

Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have cross'd the bar.

["Crossing the bar" refers to the death of a mariner. The phrase has its origin in the fact that
most rivers and bays develop a sandbar across their entrances, and "crossing the bar" meant
leaving the safety of the harbor for the unknown.]

 


 

How Sleep The Brave

Wright M. Butler, Section 7001D,
USMS Fort Trumbull Officers' Training Station; Trumbullog Newsletter, Nov. 13, 1945

When first we board S/S Trumbull.
The first to catch our eyes,
Is an unpretentious monument
To some unpretentious guys

Who did their jobs as best they could,
And died at it, but who
Will live forever in the hearts
Of men who sail the blue.

Their names are plain and simple,
Which belie the deeds they've done.
Races, creeds and colors equal,
That is why our war was won.

Rawles and Dorsett, Schulte,
O'Leary, Epstein, Nitti and Larson,
Finch and Olsen, Rogers, Oakley,
Lima, Major and Johnson.

To them and others just like them
A debt unpaid we owe,
Their monument will remind us
As back and forth we go.

How sleep the brave who sink to rest?
Who knows! We only say
Because They died We sleep secure
In this, our U. S. A.

 


How Sleep The Brave, William Collins (1720-1756)

How sleep the brave, who sink to rest
By all their Country's wishes blessed!
When spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallowed mould,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than fancy's feet have ever trod.

By fairy hands their knell is rung;
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
There honor comes, a pilgrim gray,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
And freedom shall awhile repair,
To dwell a weeping hermit there!

 


Sea-Fever

John Masefield

I must go down to the sea again,
to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship
and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel's kick and the wind's song
and the white sail shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face
and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again,
for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call
that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day
with the white clouds flying,
And the flug spray and the blown spume,
and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again
to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way
where the wind's like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn
from a laughing fellow'rover,
And a quiet sleep and a sweet dream
when the long treck's over.

 


 

Recuerdo de Paradiso

(c) Gloria Flora Nicolich, Brooklyn, N.Y. 1997

Come with me to the mountains
Come with me on high
Come with me to the freedom
Of the breeze, the birds, the sky.
Come with me to the seashore
Where the waves beat rhythmic beat.
Or sail with me to Shangri-la
Sand Castles at our feet.
Enjoy with me the peaceful scene,
And let the memory flow
To ocean-going freighters
Rich cargoes down below.
Just sit beside me Shipmate
Recall the long ago
Renew the vow,
renew the trust,
Before illusions turn to dust.
Come with me to the mountain
Or follow me to sea,
But choose a quiet sanctuary
Then cast your spell for me.
For there still is time for dreaming
Though short lived it may be.


 

A Toast to the Merchant Mariner

Anonymous, United States Merchant Marine Corps, Polaris Magazine, July, 1943

Reserve, I pray, one lusty cheer
For men whose names you never hear.
Who win no stripes and wear no braid,
But face Great Dangers Unafraid.
Who go wherever ships are sent;
Whose breast no medals ornament
Whose deeds no scrolls of honor stress
But who are heros none the less.
Who sail the ocean's vast expanse
Nor hesitate to take their chance
Against the swift torpedo's blast
Nor know which trip will be their last.
Who take both peace and war in stride
Who, when torpedos strike go overside
Perchance to be the lucky men
Who live to sail the seas again.
I give you then, each gallant crew,
Of liner, freighter, tanker too,
Out-bound I know not where or when.
The men who man our Merchant Fleet
Whose bones lie in the ocean deep!
Unknown, unheard of and unsung,
God keep you now, your task is done!

 


The Last Voyage

Lizzie Clark Hardy
[USMAA Memorial Service May 30, 2000, Coyote Point, San Mateo, CA]

Some time at eve when tide is low,
I shall slip my moorings and sail away.

With no response to the friendly hail
Of kindred craft in the busy bay.
In the silent hush of the twilight pale.
When the night troops down to embrace the day.
And the voices call, and in the waters flow.
Some time at even when the tide is low.
I slip my moorings and sail away.

Through the purple shadows that darkly trail
O'er the ebbing tide of the Unknown Sea.
I shall fare me away, with a dip of a sail
And a ripple of waters to tell the tale
Of a lonely voyager, sailing away
To the Mystic Isles where at anchor lay
The crafts of those who have sailed before
O'er the Unknown Sea to the Unseen Shore.

A few who have watched me sail away
Will miss my craft from the busy Bay:
Some friendly barks that were anchored near.
Some loving soul that my heart held dear.
In silent sorrow will drop a tear.
But I shall have peacefully furled my sail
In moorings sheltered from storm and gale
And greeted the friends who sailed before
O'er the Unknown Sea to the Unseen Shore.


 

Remembrance of the Convoy
By John Ackerson, Lieutenant, USMS
The MAST Magazine, February 1947

My standby calls up, "Lights are burning bright."
What, in these waters where the ordered lines
Of blacked-out ships slog eastward, gray as night
And cheerily each heart with valor shines?
Thse very waves are witness; touch and go
The battle went for years, with roar and flame;
Our merchant seamen took the utmost blow
The Hun could strike.
If laurels wreathe their name,
They're pleased; if not,
the convoy job was done,
The cargoes fed the front.
Today the foam has lost its tinge,
Save where the setting sun blazes
for us the welcome pathway home.
I pace the bridge.
Watch fires of our return,
I bless the running lights
that brightly burn.


Straggler

by Ira "Flare" Fredricksen (written at sea 1943-45)

Dark as the ship's cat
and watchful as one too,
we probe and plod
through the night.

We're only doing ten knots
and the rest steam ahead.
For we are only one,
and they are fifty one
and can't spare an escort
for us.

"The engines are fixed?"
"We're doing seventeen?"
We'll see them when dawn
cuts the east!

They're there, dead ahead!
thank God that they're there!
Thank God for the light
in the east!

 


Homeward Bound

by Ira "Flare" Fredricksen (written at sea 1943-45)

She's riding tonight
with a good light draft.
Lines are stowed
forward and aft.

The holds are empty,
the ballast in.
Booms secured
and fast again.

She's swept and washed
from stem to stern,
and we're sailing for home
in the morning --


A Psalm of the Sea

A. C. Sickfellow

Tell me not in cheerful numbers
Life at sea's a pleasant dream,
For all round me seasick grumblers
Anything but pleasant seem.

Life is hateful -- life's disgusting,
When in torture past control,
To bounding billows you're entrusting
Your scarce-swallowed breakfast roll.

Short the voyage, the bark swift sailing,
No ill wind nor storm betides;
Yet, still obtrudes the thought prevailing,
'Twas not meant for my insides.

In future, friends, nor doctor either,
Trust when urging change of air;
Firmly tell them that you'd rather
Stay at home and tear your hair,

Than to ride with ocean demons
In a plight that nothing cures;
With the vessel on her beam ends,
And you, hapless wight, on yours.

Rolling on the broad Atlantic,
Reeling feet from stem to stern;
Every one with efforts frantic
Striving head from heels to learn.

You lose your meals -- don't lose your temper,
Cheerful let your dinner go;
All know, who've suffered this distemper,
You've "that within which passeth show."

Let us, then, while onward gliding,
As for land we long and wait,
Still from port to starboard sliding,
Learn to grin and bear our fate.
Nor for brandy, now we call;
All we ask is that each morrow
Bring us nearer to Fayal.

By S. B. S.

(From Passenger's Log of the "Azor" in possession of Mrs. Clara D. Benton, of Michigan, daughter of Captain Burke, published in Some Merchant and Sea Captains of Old Boston, 1918: State Street Trust Company, Boston, MA)


A Sleeping Warrior

by Charles R. Westover (written 1974 in Port Tampa)

A ship in port is like a sleeping warrior
Waiting for its next battle with the sea,
But when it's out on the ocean it becomes alive,
Smoking, creaking and fighting the huge waves.

It's a home, it's a fortress, it's a haven for few,
A place to work, to eat, to sleep,
To read one's memoirs of the past,
To meditate, to plan, to hope.

Huge and strong, if it could speak
It would tell many tales of distant shores,
Of the men who sailed her
And took care of her.

Quiet now, in port with its booms raised up high.
Most men left, to forget for a while
The companionship of others,
The loneliness of the days at sea.
Just happy to be on land again.
But anxious to go back.

Quiet now, just a breeze, a seagull,
A passing plane to remind us of the present.
Looking at the giant warrior, carrier of cargo,
Carrying supplies now like it was a hundred years ago.


Quiet Ships

by Daniel Kozak
Capt. USMM (Ret.), Lt, USCGR (Ret.) & Pilot, NYFD (Ret.)

Forgotten are those who sail the quiet ships
Whose comrades in arms lie in still quiet deep

Of forgotten honor, glory and valor
For their restless souls, our nation should weep

And of the unsung deeds of the many among the few
Whom are cited as before

But when war is over, quiet ships take their places in the silent fleet
Then one hears of them little more

They had brought forth to many a foreign shore the elements of peace
And yes too, the mighty implements of war

Although now, tales of heroism and patriotism
Are only told in seaman lore

Hail to the brave, courageous and strong
Who ply the oceans, rivers and bays told in story and song

Sing thee a quiet tribute to our dwindling fleet
And to the mariners who guide our vessels o'er the shallows and deep

Heard in the distance is a muffled sob, from hither quiet dead
Thru silent mist and deadly fog

Too few ships fly our standard high
Yea, denied substance and glory, future generations of brave mariners will die....


What Did The Deep Sea Say?

Traditional folk song, recorded by Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston ("The Folkways Years") Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, and friend Jim Longhi sailed together on 3 ships during World War II. They were torpedoed on William B. Travis in the Mediterranean, and either torpedoed or mined on Sea Porpoise off Normandy. Cisco's older brother, Adrian Houston was killed on Parismina in No.v 1942. [Text from www.ciscohouston.com]

Oh captain tell me true
Does my sailor sail with you
No he does not sail with me
He sleeps on the bottom of the sea

What did the deep sea say
Tell me, what did the deep sea say
It moaned and groaned
And it splashed and it foamed
And it rolled on its weary way

He promised he'd write to me
His promise he never kept true
Never a word from my sailor have I heard
Since he sailed on that ocean blue

What did the deep sea say
Tell me, what did the deep sea say
It moaned and groaned
And it splashed and it foamed
And it rolled on its weary way

Well a beautiful rose every day
I placed on the crest of the waves
I said "Take it please
And let the pedals fall
Upon his watery grave"

What did the deep sea say,
Tell me, what did the deep sea say
It moaned and groaned
And it splashed and it foamed
And it rolled on its weary way

What did that deep sea say,
Tell me, what did that deep sea say
It moaned and groaned
And it splashed and it foamed
And it rolled on its weary way.


Slip of the lip can sink a ship,

Composed by Luther Henderson Jr. and Mercer Ellington, recorded by Duke Ellington on July 28, 1942; Single released July 1943

Shhh! Don't talk too much.
Shhh! Don't know too much. Jack!
Don't be too "hip" 'cause
A slip of the lip might sink a ship.
Shhh! Don't see too much
Shhh! Don't jive too much. Jack!
Don't be too "hip" 'cause
A slip of the lip might sink a ship.
The walls have ears
The night has eyes
So let's be wise and trick those nasty spies.
Shhh! Don't talk too much.
Shhh! Don't know too much. Jack!
Don't be too "hip" 'cause
A slip of the lip might sink a ship.

Courtesy of the Newark Public Library and the Brown University Library.


 

Scatter Flowers on the Waves

by Mary Brooks

Scatter Flowers on the Waves;
there our fathers found their graves,
Brothers, sons and husbands sleep;
Strew your garlands o'er the deep.

Ebbing tides of summer day,
Bear these blossoms on their way,
North and east to bank and coast
Where they lie whom we love most.

Christ, who shared the fisher's lot,
Marks each grave a sacred spot;
He will guard each wave-washed bed
Till the sea gives up its dead.

Source: American Seamen Vol IV, Number 2 Spring 1944


The Sea: A Childhood Memory

by Juan Campos

As each new summer was born
My father's car lifted us to the top of the hill
And only then we christened our ecstasy:
The sea!

My siblings and I cried
And tightened our rewarded eyes
As our hearts quickened.

The wide bright blue
Shone naked, fully naked at our feet.
The waiting sand,
The surf smiling,
The nostril spreading tar,
The neighing sails,
The impetuous hope
Of pirates, merchants,
Ocean racers, whalers,
Of mermaids throbbing salty lovers
In secret caves,
Where darkness and caresses whispered
Heart rending songs.

At sunset,
The brave small trawlers put to sea,
And from time to time
A cargo ship,
Of massive bow and proudly smoking,
Crewed by invisible sailors,
Entered the bay,
Or even more exciting,
Sailed away towards the Ocean,
Towards the infinite line
That no sailor's hand ever reaches,
Where sea and heaven kiss,
And we called its destiny America
And wondered,
Before resuming our play.

Juan Campos, a resident of Cadiz, Spain, was inspired to write this poem after visiting the Merchant Marine Memorial in Battery Park, New York City (seen below)


Merchant marine Monument at Battery Park NY City



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10/06/07

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