The poems

 

…I don’t know how I got them, but the first two ‘English’ poems have always stuck in my mind, possibly they once appeared in the newspaper ‘Wacht te Kooi’?

gate

Heavensgate.

 

This newspaper came regularly, wherever in the world, together with the personal mail on board and was printed on airmail paper, very thin and light.

The first poem was.

In times of war and not before
God and sailors we adore ashore
But, when war is over and paece remitted
God is forgotten and the sailors quitted.

With the help of others still found the right words of this poem.

The second one is a bit more difficult and longer, because I once read it somewhere.
There are a few lines missing in my opinion.
I used my own words.

A man came to Petrus gate
And asked him for his rate
Petrus replied: ‘what have you done on earth’
‘I was sailor, no more worth’
Petrus opened his gate so well.
‘Come on in, you have had already your hell’.

I’m sure it’s not correct English, but the essence speaks from it.

Next, you find a poem from which the above may have originated.
So was that the right poem?

A man knocked at the heavenly gate, his face was scarred and old.
He stood before the man of fate for permission to the fold.
‘What have you done’, St. Peter asked to gain admission here.
‘I’ve been a sailor, sir, for many and many a year’.
The pearly gates swung open wide, St. Peter touched the bell:
‘Come in and choose your harp’, he said: ‘you’ve had your share of hell’.

The doubt remains and is reinforced by the following poem I received from an English friend of my wife.

A Sailor’s Thoughts
Lost in the middle of nowhere
We’re doomed to spend our time
In the land that God forgot.

Down with the Navy and the officers too
Down where a man gets blue,
Down in the middle of nowhere
A thousand miles from you.

We sweat, we freeze, we shiver
It’s more than a man can stand,
We’re not convicts
But we’re defenders of our land.

We’re members of the Navy
Earning our meager pay
Guarding people with millions
For two and a half (dollars) a day.

Sleeping only with our memories,
Waiting to see our girl,
Hoping while in the Navy,
She won’t marry our pal.

But when we get to heaven,
St. Peter will give this lovely yell
Let the boys from the Navy in,
THEY’VE SERVED THEIR TIME IN HELL!

Was life on board a ship really hell?
In wartime perhaps, mostly fueled by fear.
Life on board in my time was hard work and little rest, yet it gave security and a certain regularity.

Now I think mildly of it, it was an adventurous time.

 

Comments

  1. Margery Holmes says

    Hi Rob,
    Sorry I didn’t get back to you but I didn’t know either of the poems and I was looking on the internet. This morning I woke up thinking of the word ‘permitted’ (which rhymes with ommitted but doesn’t make much sense) but I am happy to hear that you have found the correct word. I found something about the other poem that might interest you if you don’t already know. If you look at the last verse of the following poem, it is similar in sentiment to the one you sent and gives a little information about the poet.

    After Keller died on July 8, 2002, discovered among his
    things was a poem that he had written in 1966 or 1967
    while far from home. It’s entitled “A Sailor’s
    Thoughts
    ” and it reads:

    A Sailor’s Thoughts
    Lost in the middle of nowhere
    We’re doomed to spend our time
    In the land that God forgot.

    Down with the Navy and the officers too
    Down where a man gets blue,
    Down in the middle of nowhere
    A thousand miles from you.

    We sweat, we freeze, we shiver
    It’s more than a man can stand,
    We’re not convicts
    But we’re defenders of our land.

    We’re members of the Navy
    Earning our meager pay
    Guarding people with millions
    For two and a half (dollars) a day.

    Sleeping only with our memories,
    Waiting to see our girl,
    Hoping while in the Navy,
    She won’t marry our pal.

    But when we get to heaven,
    St. Peter will give this lovely yell
    Let the boys from the Navy in,

    THEY’VE SERVED THEIR TIME IN HELL !

    Aviation Machinst’s Mate, Kenneth S. Keller, USN

    I also found the next poem, a very famous one and one that sounds good to read. Hope you like it

    I must down to the seas 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’s shaking,
    And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

    I must 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 flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

    I must 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 quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

    John Masefield 1878-1967 He was Poet Laureat (Official poet to the country when I was at school and I remember he wrote several poems about the sea)
     
    Some of the words you may not be familiar with.
    Flung = thrown. Spume = froth, like you have on a beer. Vagrant = homeless person
    Whetted = sharpened, yarn = story/tale, fellow rover = travelling companion/seafarer,
    When the long trick’s over = when the watch is over/when life is over.

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