Works in progress

My major work in progress is a series of narrative verses interspersed with sonnets and ballads about our wonderful ancestors here in Somerset and the South West of England.

To date I have 12 works well advanced and some of the poems on this site are now incorporated within these drafts.  These constitute nearly 800 pages of poetry and are now quite out of hand.  Each time I try to wind them up new poems come out from somewhere.  I would like to get them finished sometime but may not live that long!

The regnal lists of the kings of the Gewissae (Wessex) include Woden as an ancestor and a character called Gewis.  Gewis lived at about the time of the age of migration just as the Western Roman Empire collapsed and the Dark Ages began.  There is little known of this period so it has attracted all that jolly nonsense about a King Arthur and Camelot.

I prefer to honour the known real people of that time and spin my yarns about their names.  So I started with this ballad:

 
The Orcs sweep all before them

“The strong and great they languished then
And wallowed in a fear.
All craven seem the weapon men
As Orcs sweep ever near.

Some sought a solace in decline,
They seemed to fade away.
Yet in each Dawn some sought a sign
That this might be their day.

Though many, many lulled all sad
A few stayed resolute.
And many, many they went mad
And braggarts now were mute.

Now Gewis was among those few,
He would not fade away.
For in his soul he truly knew
The Orcs would have their day.

Night came; their final day was done,
Though loathing for them grew.
It seemed like no one here had won
Yet grass was kissed by dew.

For grass eternal it will spring
Across each ruined land.
The skylark in the sky will sing
All is as Wyrd has planned.”

From: “The Children of Gewis”

 

 

Arctic Elegies

I wish to write elegies to Royal Navy ships lost escorting convoys through the Barents Sea to supply Russia during WWII. This is a long term project

The Kola Graveyard

The waters of the North are cold and wild
Ice may form there upon the upper decks
Of ships that ventured there from climes more mild
The sea’s floor there is littered with sad wrecks
For one by one, small ships died in the fight
Yet in death they secured the rise of hope
Though u-boats struck with all their stealth and might
Despite each loss these escorts were to cope
Of those destroyed there on this icy sea
As they brought aid to that beleaguered land
That fought with them that Europe might be free
Of tyrannies some Nazi filth had planned
And many men who ventured through that cold
Were marked by fate so they would not grow old

HMS Bluebell – Sunk off the Kola Inlet 17 February 1945

Rising up to seek the light
Upward through the winter cold
Springtime is not yet in sight
Ah, not all things will grow old

Plucked up when it reached full bloom
Thrown aside – but not forgot
Lost there in the chill and gloom
That place now – a sacred spot

Bluebells bless our woodland floor
In the spring foretell of peace
Each year may there grow yet more
Let Bluebell’s glory never cease

In the woodlands Bluebells grow
Growing up through winter’s cold
How they make a glorious show
Precious more than burnished gold

Little ship sunk in that sea
All but one went down with her
Died to keep this old world free
Young men die when old men err.[1]

HMS Lapwing – 20 March 1945

That incandescent glow
That blast that brought such death
The shock wave of the blast
That sucks out all your breath

Last moments

The sloop had juddered as she went about
The helmsman held the wheel full to the port
Amidships there erupted such a spout
And blast that rattled right through this escort
And lurching decks reared up beneath men’s feet
Bones shattered and the icy sea came in
Eternity hung in just one heartbeat
As all about men struggled in that din
Then broken backed she lurched with each small wave
Their next great battle was against the cold
That cold that kills men who may yet feel brave
For frozen fingers soon may loose their hold
Men in the water saw her break in two
Through white crests of the waves she sank from view

Crewmen in the water

There, all the waves were cresting white
The sea seemed in a rage
With floating flotsam just in sight
Those moments seemed an age

The stern part of their broken ship
Rose up and then went down
A vortex caught men in its grip
It was their fate to drown

The bow and bridge capsized and rolled
The keel came into sight
The Lapwing’s death kneel had been tolled
She had fought her last fight

With oil on hands it’s hard to grip
With fingers blue with cold
But weary men must not let slip
That way you don’t grow old

Two, twenty men were on her when
That fish slammed in her side
One, sixty died of all those men
As arctic breezes sighed

A Lapwing’s such a caring thing
Lures hunters from her nest
She feigns to have a shattered wing
But wolves they hunt with zest

A wolf it killed a mother bird
And she got torn in two
Though wolves they sneak away unheard
Most wolves would get their due

HMS Goodall

The action in the Kola Inlet 29 April 1945
The wolf pack

The wolves they lurked below
They’d gathered in a pack
Who’s to tell and who’s to know
Just when they might attack?

Action

The depth charges they rained on down
They made a wicked din
Those men below would quickly drown
There as her hull caved in

They’d come to hunt and kill their prey
With stealth they chose to fight
These hunters would be made to pay
Confronted in this fight

Each charge rolled out fell with a splash
Below none heard that sound
For them it seemed their ears might smash
As charges thundered round

One skipper fired and hit a ship[2]
So now it was their turn
And they’d be caught in fear’s firm grip
At least they’d drown – not burn!

But up above a ship ablaze
Sent black plumes rising high
A burning man screeched through that haze
And took too long to die

Most rafts and boats were splinters now
The choice is burn or freeze
Some prayed they’d live, they knew not how
Few lived long in these seas

In icy waters two men swam
The burning fuel caught them
And fire and cold’s a fatal dram
Where’s honour in mayhem?

Some bundled things they knew would float
And carried them astern
The flames and smoke they burned the throat
The choice seemed swim or burn

But swimming men could freeze and die
And sink beneath the sea
In desperation men must try
But what may be may be

None chose to join the unsung dead
Men strive to stay alive
Mid smoke so black and flames so red
All fought hard to survive

Men in the burning sea

He fought a fate that seemed quite near
He strove to get away
And all about he sensed such fear
There on that doleful day

He jumped into the icy sea
He swam out from her side
But diesel oil was pouring free
It spread out far and wide

The sea held safety from the flames
But oil will float and burn
Ah, Fate it plays the cruellest games
Death comes to each in turn

The fire spread out across the sea
More swift than birds may fly
And there it seemed his destiny
To freeze and burn and die

His arms and head then caught alight
He fought to swim straight on
But who can win a hopeless fight
We saw him and felt wan

With flailing strokes and failing then
He was soon lost from view
Apart from prayers of watching men
There’s nought that we could do

Small bubbles rose from his last breath
All faded then in him
The fire and cold had caused his death
His dying quick but grim

Drowned Sailor

Limp and lifeless drifting downward
Sinking slowly through the cold
Washed so slowly there to landward
He would never now grow old

Though no more he would face fear
Back at home old folk will weep
Blue clothes cling about him here
Though all’s blackness in the deep

Bubbles rising from this clothing
His warm blood is now all chill
Drifting, sinking just a dead thing
Arctic cold was quick to kill

Fate was sealed and death was grim
For u-boats were here about
He’d called out as ships passed him
Passing matelots heard him shout

In the springtime on the shoreline
Stinking corpses marred the shore
Arctic daytime chilly sunshine
Clearing up a ghastly chore

Those the gods love they all die young
Gods can love a ship’s whole crew
The sailors’ hymn is often sung
Death at sea is nothing new

Spirits of these dear departed
Heard upon a gentle breeze
Kin and kith are broken hearted
Sea birds’ calls sound ill at ease

Burning on board ship

His eyelids were quite gone – all burned away
He writher about all ravaged by his pain
The time it seemed to drag on his last day
Events had wrecked such torment on his brain
Yet in a trice he seemed to go all calm
His lidless eyes gazed listless at the sky
Now who can know what caused this easing balm
Those lidless eyes leaked tears – he seemed to cry
His rasping breath turned quiet and got slow
Who could tell what was passing through his mind
A fiery death is no good way to go
His death for him was lingering and unkind
Where’s honour in the ways men wage a war?
It’s just a filthy awful vicious chore

HMS Honeysuckle

The Honeysuckle came up then
There by her blazing side
She rescued many of her men
Mid heat hard to abide

It seemed she might be set ablaze
Her paintwork caught alight
Yet through the flames and through the haze
She was a valiant sight

Fear below

The depth charges they all rained down
And made a wicked din
And some were crushed and some would drown
When pressured hulls caved in

U*** she broke surface
Men tried to man her gun
But death came with his fatal kiss
Their boat’s short life was run

A few went in the freezing sea
And less would be pulled out
Ships gunners had a killing spree
That fight it was a rout

“An Honourable war”

Men talk of honour when they’ve done
Dire deeds men ought not do
Who gives a damn who lost who won
When left bereaved to rue

To rue the hand that Fate dealt out
A future all turned bleak
As Hope and Faith all fade to doubt
And strong resolves grow weak

As plans once sure seem like a wraith
That haunts a doleful soul
That lingers past the end of Faith
And now does not feel whole

Such “Honour’s” just a balm for those
Whose hands are all blood red
The path they trod they freely chose
And they too will end dead

But they were not cut down too soon
And so they ought feel shame
When silhouettes cast by the moon
Helped periscopes to aim

 

[1] Old men lead nations and the young fight for nations.  Hitler and his cronies certainly erred.
[2] HMS Goodall

 

Widow’s sea

The boat rolls gently on the wave
A small bird’s flying by
We know the sea’s a sailor’s grave
And like the breeze we sigh

The seaweed’s washed up on the beach
It’s scent is on the air
Her sailor’s soul is out of reach
Winds blow the widow’s hair

An eagle soars above the shore
The tide is on the turn
It flies above the sailor’s grave
A widow’s left to yearn

The tern dives in the gentle wave
Then rises to the skies
And flies above the sailor’s grave
A lonely widow cries

Whitebait are caught there in a net
The fisherman’s at sea
There are to be more widows yet
It’s what is going to be

The widow’s weeping by the bay
The orphans by her side
Yet these sad times will pass away
For goodness will abide

The boat lulls on the gentle calm
Soon no clouds in the sky
In stillness is a gentle balm
And widow’s tears will dry

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