Dunkirk

Dunkirk

A Poem by David Lewis Paget
"

A hatred of war does not necessarily make you a coward.

"

They came from a line of fishermen,

Way back, two hundred years,
The sons of a dour old Kentish man,
Who'd braved the First World War;
When Joe went off to the Army, then,
The old man's face was grim,
'You go and fight for the country, lad,
We can't rely on him!'
 
He scowled on down at the eldest lad
Who sat there, mending nets,
For all he knew was the salt, the sea
And a life of cheap regrets.
The black sheep of the family
Was all that his father saw,
For Jack had refused the Army call:
'I don't believe in war!'
 
A feather came in the post next day,
As white as a cotton sheet,
The father turned his back on him
For shame, and refused to speak.
While Joe went off with the B.E.F.
To help the beleaguered French,
Jack was mending his fishing nets,
And sat with his fingers clenched.
 
Their fishing boat, the Pelican,
Lay stranded in Sandwich Bay,
Just twenty feet, and clinker built,
With the deckhouse cut away.
When the Panzers swept down to the coast,
Reaching the channel first,
The B.E.F. had retreated back
To the beaches at Dunkirk.
 
The Navy sent destroyers then,
Their frigates and corvettes,
But couldn't get close to the beaches there
Because of the shallow depths,
The Navy's own small vessel pool
Then called for the help of those
Whose boats were a certain shallow draught
To ferry the soldiers home.
 
When Jack came in, the news was out,
His mother sat, dismayed,
The Army was stranded along the beach
Where Joe lay low, and prayed.
The Stuka's screamed, and dropped their bombs
And the lines of men were strafed,
Three hundred thousand men despaired
As the Panzers lay in wait.
 
'So much for you,' the father said,
As the tears poured down his cheek,
'So much for the lunacy of war,'
Said Jack, when he could speak.
'Your brother's out there, risking all,
My son, my shining light!'
But Jack stalked out with a bitter laugh,
And cried, when out of sight.
 
He strode on out to the Pelican,
The tide was coming in,
He dragged and pushed it to meet the sea
As he floated it again,
He kicked the inboard into life
And he sailed for Ramsgate then,
The boats were gathering by the score
To save their countrymen.
 
They sailed that night in convoys, groups,
And lines of little boats,
While Jack prayed long at the tiller
That the Pelican stayed afloat,
She'd never been out as far as this,
She was just a coastal craft…
But Joe stood out in the water, then,
And thought of his brother, Jack.
 
The Stuka's bombed the Naval ships,
They strafed the lines of men,
Joe didn't know if he'd ever get back
To his homeland, once again.
The Foudroyant was bombed and sank,
A destroyer ran aground,
Then a hundred boats, with the Pelican,
Finally sighted land.
 
Jack took the Pelican close inshore
And he loaded his twenty men,
He ferried them out to a waiting ship
Then turned to the shore again,
He plucked the men from the waters there
And he looked for his brother Joe,
But Joe was safe on a steamer, then,
Though his brother didn't know.
 
For hours he turned, and turned about,
He saved five hundred lives,
He worked himself to exhaustion there
Like a man who the devil drives,
Eight hundred ships and boats were there
In the smoke and the swirling murk,
To bring those thousands of soldiers home
From the beaches of Dunkirk.
 
Joe walked unsteadily through the door
To the cries of his folks, alone,
They couldn't speak for the pure relief
Of seeing him safe at home,
But his father suddenly pulled away,
And wept, while turning his back,
'We've just been told by the foot patrol…
We've lost your brother, Jack!'
 
'They said the Pelican's hull was holed
With a burst of cannon rounds,
The men on board were saved, I heard,
But three of them were drowned.
They left the bodies to float out there;
Oh God; now, what have I done?'
He shook his head as he cried, and said,
'I've lost my eldest son!'
 
They placed a plaque on the Harbour wall
For Jack and the Pelican,
While the father stared most days to sea
As he cried there, off and on,
Then he took a match and some tinder wood
For a pledge he'd made before,
To burn a pure white feather there
For a son who hated war.
 
David Lewis Paget

© 2012 David Lewis Paget


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Featured Review

The lesson is refined by the delivery within your art form.
The reader knows what will happen intuitively, yet the unfolding of the story is spooned out on perfect proportions to stir the appetite while feeding the mind.
A great story!
Would there were more white feathers in this world.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

I love the way you are able to grasp my attention throughout your whole piece and never quite know just what to expect in the end verses..You have outdone yourself again David..What is the white feather and what does it mean??God bless..Valentine

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Magnificent!

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Extraordinary! Congratulations are in order.
The tale took me to another time, another era.

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Thi is an excellent poem and tory, as well as an homage to those that have fallen....your usual excellence!

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

very detailed write, a story with rhyme and rhythm. Liked it alot, your concept and thought process.

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

David you are a superb storyteller. You get into our hearts and minds and captivate us with characters the way few authors can. I, like Damian have tears in my eyes.Your superb writing brought this story to life.

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is unbelievably good, David, and certainly the first poem I've read in a long while that has actually brought tears to my eyes. You never missed a beat in the rhythm, the rhyming was superb and the story was excellent. Nice work, my friend!

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

David - this is an outstanding accomplishment. Although it has an old-fashioned flavor, it speaks to what is going on in our world today. Sad, but true. How many young people will have to lose their lives?

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Splendid, but sad, story. Well crafted and well told. As always, your stories are a great read. The folly of war is the shame of man. Kudos! Going in favorites.

Posted 12 Years Ago



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2614 Views
39 Reviews
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Shelved in 5 Libraries
Added on June 14, 2008
Last Updated on June 27, 2012
Tags: war, army, retreat, B.E.F.

Author

David Lewis Paget
David Lewis Paget

Moonta, South Australia, Australia



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