Stokers Lament

Now each of us from time to time, has gazed upon the sea, And watched the war ships pulling out, to keep his country free, And most of us have read a book or heard a lusty tale, About the men who sail these ships, through lightning, wind and hail, But there’s a place within each ship, that legend fails to teach.

It’s hot down below the water line, it takes a living toll, A hot metal living hell, that sailors call the “Hole”, It houses engines run by steam, that make the shafts go round, Where boilers like a hellish heart, with blood of angry steam, Are of molded Gods without remorse, are nightmares in a dream.

Whose threat that from the fires roar is like a living doubt, That any minute would with scorn, escape and crush you out, Where turbines scream like tortured souls, alone and lost in hell, And ordered from above somewhere they answer every bell, The men who keep the fires lit, and make the engines run, Are strangers to the world of light, and rarely see the sun.

They have no time for men or god, no tolerance for fear, Their aspect pays no living thing, the tribute of a tear, For there’s not much that men can do, that these men haven’t done, Beneath the decks, deep in the hole, to make the engines run, And every hour of every day, they keep the watch in hell, For if the fires ever fail, the ships a useless shell.

When ships converge to have a war, upon the angry sea, The men below just grimly smile, at what their fate might be, They’re locked in below like men for doomed, who hear no battle cry, Its well assumed that if they’re hit, the men below will die, For every day is a war down there, when the gauges all read red, Twelve hundred pounds of superheated steam, can kill you mighty dead.

So if you ever write these sons, or try to tell their tale, The very words would make you hear, a fired furnace’s wail, And people as a general rule, don’t hear of men of steel, So little is heard about the place, that sailors call the hole, But I can sing about this place, and try to make you see, The hardened life of men down there, cause one of them is me.

I’ve seen these sweat soaked hero’s fight, in superheated air, To keep their ship alive and right, though no one knows they’re there, And thus they’ll fight for ages on, till war ships sail no more, Amid the boiler’s mighty heat, and the turbines hellish roar, So when you see a ship pull out, to meet a war like foe, Remember faintly if you can, “The men who sail below”.

The unknown Stoker

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