The Great Eastern

The Great Eastern

A Poem by David Lewis Paget

The bones of the great and troubled ship

Lay under a greying sky,

I'd travelled on up to Liverpool

To see the monster die,

The wreckers were ripping the hull apart,

Were opening wounds of old,

Not only the bones of a rusty ship

But the bones of a tale untold!


My mind went back those thirty years

To the time when we built the ship,

When I was a poor, young riveter,

Just out on my maiden trip,

I'd found some digs in Millwall,

Right down in the Isle of Dogs,

Where the Thames sweeps on forever

In a miasma of mist and fogs.


I moved on in with Ted and Jane,

The Lamptreys they were called,

He was a man of forty years,

She was just twenty four,

But Ted was grim and serious,

While Jane was as light as froth,

While he was around, he held her down,

I thought her a fluttering moth.


She'd laugh and dance, and prance around

When Ted was not at home,

He liked his pint of Guinness Stout,

His beer, a head of foam,

He said that he'd worked a mighty thirst

For Isambard Brunel,

Whose dream of the great Leviathan

Rose up from the depths of hell.


I got me a job with Ted down there,

Riveting iron plates,

That ship was the first with a double hull

With an inner working space,

We belted the red-hot rivets in

And flattened the ends across,

We'd work in pairs, and the light was scarce

In the depths of that albatross.


Whenever old Ted would seek the pub

I'd go on home to Jane,

I thought that she must have feelings,

But the love that I felt was pain,

For I never dared to voice it, though

She must have looked in my eyes,

To see the way that my feelings lay

It was way beyond disguise.


Then Ted had begun to drink too much,

He said it was getting him down,

All he could hear were the hammers,

Hammers, belting his head around.

They chimed all day in his weary head

They rang all night in his sleep,

Drowned out the sound of our laughter

Like an echo relayed from the deep.


He belted Jane and he made her cry

While I had nothing to say,

I thought that I couldn't come in-between

A man and his wife that way,

She saw my eyes, and they said it all,

I'd sit, and begin to grieve,

I just couldn't bear the thought that he

Might say that I had to leave!


The Eastern Company went bust,

Went broke in '56,

And we were all laid off, until

The finances were fixed,

We spent some terrible weeks at home,

Living on toast and tea,

Wondering how to pay the rent

And arguing constantly.


They hired us back, began again,

But Ted and I were sour,

For Jane had begun to talk to me,

Ignored him by the hour,

We worked down deep in the hull this time

But spoke not a friendly word,

With just the clash of the hammers as

The heat of our tempers soared.


He worked inside, in the inner space

As I beat the rivets in,

He'd disappear in the iron walls

To the clash of the hammer's din,

My mind began to play me tricks,

My hammer felt like lead,

And then as he peered on out one day,

I hit him across the head.


He fell back into that inner space

With neither a scream, nor curse,

I knew if I pulled him out again

There'd be calls for a horse and hearse.

I fitted a whole new iron plate

And riveted it in place,

Wiped the blood from my hammer,

And the sweat from my trembling face.


That night, I told poor Jane I'd left him

Outside the Crown and Heart,

She didn't say much 'til midnight when

He hadn't returned to the hearth,

For days, she hurried around to seek

Her husband in every lane,

But only I knew the reason why

He'd never come home again!


For months, I hoped and I prayed that

She would fall in my loving arms,

And weep her sorrows away with me

While sharing some of her charms.

But Jane was bitter and fretful, she

Would glare at me in the dark,

And nothing would raise her spirits now,

The light had gone from her spark.


The ship had neared completion when

I offered my hand to her,

'You must have guessed that I love you, Jane?'

She turned on me with a curse.

'You think to replace my husband? Hah!

I wouldn't take you on a whim,

For Ted was really my one true love,

I'll keep myself true to him!'


The ship was launched, and I left that place,

I signed as one of the crew,

I'd killed a man for a dream, like sand

That had trickled my fingers through.

I dreamt that Ted was alive, not dead

And clanking his length of chain,

In the bowels of Brunel's Great Eastern

And calling me out, by name!


That ship was cursed from the day it launched,

When one of the boilers blew,

As it crossed the Atlantic swell it lost

A paddle-wheel or two,

The rudder snapped at the iron post,

A reef put her in tow,

I knew full well that the hounds of hell

Were trapped there, down below!


I'm old and tired, as I watch the iron

Now stripped from the Eastern's side,

When suddenly there's a shout goes up:

'There's a skeleton inside!'

Now back in my lonely boarding house

I write this in despair,

In death, he waits with a hammer of hate,

Ted clanks his chains down there!


David Lewis Paget

© 2012 David Lewis Paget

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Featured Review

A clap stomper bellowed in a bar with drinks clanging and men yelling. The trial of a man, a bot, the abuser and the bruiser, and the ghost that brings the whole foul thing to an end. The feeling that when the elder is worm food, he's gonna have a Pirate's boon to pay else he be fucked like a dog for the rest of days.

THIS was a song in a story wrapped up in some heavy beer and timeless wisdom.

Right I mate, Right o

Posted 13 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


Wow, this tale grips you and refuses to let you go. This is the best. Reading it I kept thinking what a great song this would make. Something along the lines of The Edmond Fitzgerald. You are an amazing artist.

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Truly inextricably woven the lines of prose and story, obviously by a master's hand. Well done!

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

love that word" miasma" ..

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

love your work , really well done ...I canot stop reading them

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I read this on Tate Morgan's profile and was 'riveted' You are truely a Master poet and storyteller. It was a delight to follow your rhythm and rhyme in a captivating well told story. I will be a frequent visitor of your page. Thank you for sharing your gift.

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I am a fan of your writing and enjoy the narrative style. The entertainment and intrigue never fails to grip!

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

incredible. This is a gem. There is ache, the ache of real life in this piece - and that twist at the end....a wonderfully crafted tale!

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

very nice piece of writing

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Narrative poetry is often looked down upon by the cogniscenti; I like it. Such writing demands the discipline of adhering to a rhyme scheme, adhering to the 'beat' that demands a proper choice of vocables and of course, a bloody good imagination. The writer also has to take the reader aboard for the journey and keep her/him there. You do that with knobs on. Superbe stuff.
Well done.

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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58 Reviews
Shelved in 4 Libraries
Added on February 18, 2010
Last Updated on June 28, 2012
Tags: Brunel, ship, hull, hammers


David Lewis Paget
David Lewis Paget

Moonta, South Australia, Australia



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