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Verses from the past

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  #1  
Old 20th October 2022, 10:11
Harry Nicholson United Kingdom Harry Nicholson is offline
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Verses from the past

Passage Through Bab el Mandeb

(A memory of the Brocklebank steamer
SS Marwarri in 1960)

The steam turbine throbs down the Red
Sea road, through the oiled steel deck,
the rust-streaked hull, in the dreaded
dripping sweat of the Red Sea road.

You have never seen such colour,
it’s a molten sea of brass, splashed
across with mazarine, and Mocha
burns in orange low away to port.

The sky, blinding at the zenith,
fades into asses milk along the horizon,
across the ovens of Punt,
Eritrea and the Sudan.

Javelins in volleys -
flying fish pursued by nightmares -
break surface, trailing
necklaces of silver.

Then, like salamanders dancing
in a furnace, tortured islands
rise up twisted dead ahead -
shimmering anvils of the sun.

Vapours exude
out of long-dead mahogany.
Decades of varnish soften
and creep down bulkheads.

The banded funnel exhales
black smoke in rippled pulses
that hover, then drift away astern.
The phosphor-bronze screw thuds out


the passage of time. But
the crew are ghosts in history now,
scraps of memory, as the old ship glides
through the Gates of Weeping.


Begun 2003, revised Oct 2010 for the Brocklebank Reunion.

Harry Nicholson, one-time radio officer, SS Marwarri.

(Bab el Mandeb translates: “Gates of Weeping” - these are the straits at the southern end of the Red Sea across which slaves were carried out of Africa to the markets of Arabia)
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Old 20th October 2022, 15:44
Makko Mexico Makko is offline
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Harry, were the gates of weeping not also known as the gates of hell?

I can feel the heat and blinding light, especially the blue sky turning to asses milk on the horizon!

Rgds.
Dave
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Old 20th October 2022, 16:04
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John Rogers United States John Rogers is offline
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It was on the Good Ship Venus by God you shuld have seen us. soory forgot the rest. Perhaps some Old Salt can remember.
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Old 21st October 2022, 07:33
Hugh Shuttleworth Hugh Shuttleworth is offline
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It was on the Good Ship Venus by God you shuld have seen us. soory forgot the rest. Perhaps some Old Salt can remember.
Try Oscar Brand - he recorded Good Ship Venus and a lot more - Rugby Songs?? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsOQq09g4vQ
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Old 21st October 2022, 07:43
Hugh Shuttleworth Hugh Shuttleworth is offline
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Originally Posted by Harry Nicholson View Post
Passage Through Bab el Mandeb

(Bab el Mandeb translates: “Gates of Weeping” - these are the straits at the southern end of the Red Sea across which slaves were carried out of Africa to the markets of Arabia)
Did the Straits of Bab el Mandeb perhaps a dozen times each way on Brock ships; then on Lumen and then Luminetta every two to three weeks each way on the Raz to Jaz - Ras Tannurah to Jeddah charter.

The Red Sea always appeared the deepest blue of any of the seas I sailed.
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Old 2nd November 2022, 15:04
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al1934 England al1934 is offline
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Charles Causley

A favourite of mine, which reminds me of some of the grizzled old CPOs I have met, written by the late Charles Causley who was a Cornish writer and poet and who served in the Royal Navy in WW2:

CHIEF PETTY OFFICER
He is older than the naval side of British history,
And sits
More permanent than the spider in the enormous wall.
His barefoot, coal-burning soul,
Expands, puffs like a toad, in the convict air
Of the Royal Naval Barracks at Devonport.
Here, in depot, is his stone Nirvana:
More real than the opium-pipes,
The uninteresting relics of Edwardian foreign-commission.
And, from his thick stone box,
He surveys with a prehistoric eye the hostilities-only ratings.
He has the face of the dinosaur
That sometimes stares from old Victorian naval photographs:
That of some elderly lieutenant
With boots and celluloid Crippen-collar,
Brass buttons and cruel ambitious eyes of almond.
He was probably made a Freemason in Hong Kong.
He has a son (on War Work) in the Dockyard,
And an appalling daughter
In the WRNS.
He writes on your draft-chit,
Tobacco-permit or request-form
In a huge antique Borstal hand,
And pins notices on the board in the Chiefs’ Mess
Requesting his messmates not to
Lay on the billiard table.
He is an anti-Semite and has somewhat reactionary views,
And reads the pictures in the daily news.
And when you return from the nervous Pacific
Where the seas
Shift like sheets of plate-glass in the dazzling morning;
Or when you return
Browner than Alexander, from Malta,
Where you have leaned over the side, in harbour,
And seen in the clear water
The salmon tins, wrecks and tiny explosions of crystal fish,
A whole war later
He will still be sitting under a pusser’s clock
Waiting for tot-time,
His narrow forehead ruffled by the Jutland wind.
Petty Officer Charles Causley
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Old 2nd November 2022, 21:24
Harry Nicholson United Kingdom Harry Nicholson is offline
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That is a great poem, Alick - and one I'd not met before. I particularly enjoyed:

Or when you return
Browner than Alexander, from Malta,
Where you have leaned over the side, in harbour,
And seen in the clear water
The salmon tins, wrecks and tiny explosions of crystal fish,


I've just heard Causley read this at:https://www.discogs.com/release/1222...oems-1951-1975
It's the third poem in.
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Last edited by Harry Nicholson; 2nd November 2022 at 21:47.
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Old 3rd November 2022, 17:36
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al1934 England al1934 is offline
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Originally Posted by Harry Nicholson View Post
That is a great poem, Alick - and one I'd not met before. I particularly enjoyed:

Or when you return
Browner than Alexander, from Malta,
Where you have leaned over the side, in harbour,
And seen in the clear water
The salmon tins, wrecks and tiny explosions of crystal fish,


I've just heard Causley read this at:https://www.discogs.com/release/1222...oems-1951-1975
It's the third poem in.
Thank you, Harry and for the link, which I have been listening to just now. I agree with your choice of the extract, which reminds me of Malta and the Far East.

I also love Timothy Winters and the Ballad of the Breadman, which I have stored on my PC with CC reading them. Wonderful good old Cornish voice.

Have you read Hands to Dance and Skylark, which is his short story (less than 200 pages) of his service in the RN?

We have visited his father's tiny village of Trusham in the Teign valley, which CC knew well, not far from where we live.

I must admit that I have only stumbled upon this thread after being a member of Shipping History for years (and SN before that).

I have just finished writing my life from a small boy to my service in the RN in a book, which I am currently proof reading, hopefully for the last time. Book Printing UK will be printing a short run for me. I wanted to sell it but am finding it a bit of a hurdle and haven't even got the ISBN, etc sorted yet. It's a labour of love which I should have done years ago when I was younger.

I hope I don't get penalised for breaking copyright laws by printing Chief Petty Officer ... (Seems to me that everything is a sin these days)
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Old 3rd November 2022, 18:06
Harry Nicholson United Kingdom Harry Nicholson is offline
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Hello, Alick. Thanks for Causley recommendation. It's out of print, but I've just ordered a used copy via Amazon.
Writing memoir is an absorbing pursuit - I'm on with my third. Memoir raises all sorts of memory, and at this distance I wonder how accurate. But, no matter, I've concluded that the stories we tell about the past are valid enough so long as we catch the spirit of the times. Best wishes for yours. I'll look up Timothy Winters.
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Old 4th November 2022, 16:25
rustytrawler England rustytrawler is online now
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Hi Harry the best memoir i ever red was a book called Angela's ashes by Frank Mccourt all about growing up in Ireland (nothing to do with the sea) it was also a film but the book is better, a great but sad book full of laughs and desperation. Regards rustytrawler
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Old 4th November 2022, 17:01
Harry Nicholson United Kingdom Harry Nicholson is offline
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Hello Rusty. It's many years since I read that one. There are so many treasures to read, and all the while time flashes by. I'm reading Thubron's 'The Amur River' currently -- taking it slow because he is such a fine travel writer.
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Old 4th November 2022, 17:17
rustytrawler England rustytrawler is online now
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Hi Harry the best memoir i ever red is Angela's ashes by Frank MCcourt,is about his upbringing in Ireland (nothing to do with the sea) It was also a film but the book is better, a sad but uplifting, and funny memoir about his life as a child in 40s Ireland. MCcourt was a brilliant writer and story teller. Regards rustytrawler.
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Old 5th November 2022, 07:23
kauvaka kauvaka is offline
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Kia ora! Fully agree with you Rustytrawler, Frank McCourt was a great author and I recommend Angela's Ashes as an excellent read. It deservedly was awarded a Pullitzer Prize, the subject alone is worthy of a read. He also wrote another good book Teacher Man.
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Old 5th November 2022, 09:00
rustytrawler England rustytrawler is online now
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Teacher man was his last book. His second book starts when he leaves Ireland, on the Irish oak and starts his new life on his own in America, the second book is called Ti's he only did three books, Ti's is also a great read.
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Old 5th November 2022, 17:28
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Irish writers - dunno if anyone else has read JP Donleavy's books? I read The Onion Man once and couldn't put it down. Completely outrageous and very funny.
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Old 10th November 2022, 11:42
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Watching the news of late brings to mind a verse from a T. S. Elliot poem.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
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Old 10th November 2022, 13:01
Engine Serang Isle of Man Engine Serang is offline
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After reading the book, watching the film and seeing him on numerous Talk Shows I'm convinced Mr mcCourt has a vivid imagination. Fiction rather than Autobiography.
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Old 12th November 2022, 16:01
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Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.


Robert Louis Stevenson.
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Old 17th November 2022, 15:49
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I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky;
I left my nicks and socks there - I wonder if they're dry?

With apologies to Spike Milligan, who should apologise to John Masefield...
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