Atlantic Convoy


    In our adulation for the armed forces of World War II we too often overlook the Merchant Marine which transported all the implements of war to the battlefields. This poem is dedicated to them.

    Half a hundred freighters, coursing east to Liverpool,

    Lifting with the long swells rolling hard a’lee.

    Charging through the night mists — straining, grimy monsters.

    Black bellied, steel ribbed, moving out to sea.

    Fifty giant phantoms like shades of the Mesozoic,

    Sliding through the fog with a labored, rolling motion.

    Slipping down the sea lanes, hot funnels belching,

    Huge dark smudge pots streaking up the ocean.

    Fat black merchantmen, blacker than the overcast

    That swirls like crepe in the cold wild gale.

    Black as midnight, black as the savage sea

    That rolls pitch-black by the weather rail.

    Dingy iron bottoms, loaded to the scuppers,

    Dragged down by cargo, riding low and deep.

    Strafed by spindrift, barnacled and battered.

    Rusty fugitives from a scrap-iron heap.

    Glamorless and ugly, staggering and yawing,

    Strangers all to glory and strangers all to fame.

    Bow plates creaking and hawse pipes leaking,

    Sitting iron ducks for a U-boat’s aim.

    You drink to the commodores, the admirals and generals,

    Decked out with medals from their head to their feet.

    I’ll drink to able seamen, the oilers and the wipers,

    All sweat and grime in the engine room heat.

    Half a hundred freighters, coursing east to Liverpool,

    Their songs rarely sung and their tales barely told.

    On through the night like graceless beasts of burden

    With the destiny of nations riding in the hold.

    Bill Dowey