In Ocean Wastes no Poppies Blow

In Waters Deep by Eileen Mahoney

In ocean wastes no poppies blow,
No crosses stand in ordered row,
There young hearts sleep… beneath the wave…
The spirited, the good, the brave,

But stars a constant vigil keep,
For them who lie beneath the deep.
‘Tis true you cannot kneel in prayer
On certain spot and think. “He’s there.”

But you can to the ocean go…
See whitecaps marching row on row;
Know one for him will always ride…
In and out… with every tide.

And when your span of life is passed,
He’ll meet you at the “Captain’s Mast.”
And they who mourn on distant shore
For sailors who’ll come home no more,

Can dry their tears and pray for these
Who rest beneath the heaving seas…
For stars that shine and winds that blow
And whitecaps marching row on row.
And they can never lonely be
For when they lived… they chose the sea.

© 11 October 2001 Eilee Mahoney

In Flanders Fields by Maj John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

May 1915 John McCrae

Two poems that are timeless, one over a hundred years old and the other not yet twenty years old.  John McCrae was a military surgeon and his poem led to the use of the poppy first by the Americans and then Canada, France, the UK and across the World.  I know very little about Eileen Mahoney other than her poem and that I often see it reproduced without a credit to her - which I always think is such a shame for such a poignant piece of work that brings the seafarer into McCrae's embrace.

The images of the Waves were all taken in the northern Atlantic on two different quiet beaches that today are places that are full of the sounds of the waves, birds calling and seals barking.  It is only when you look at a chart and see the sea battles from the Great War and World War II that you appreciate what lies beneath the surface.  Many ships, around the World, on the ocean floor are designated War Graves and for all but a few divers they remain out of sight.  The heavy oil they left behind on the surface has long since gone and few who served in the frozen wastes of the Atlantic ocean (or beyond) remain to tell the horrors of when a ship is lost at sea.  But Eileen Mahoney's poem captures the sentiment of many seafarers who though they can admire and reflect when they see the pristine row upon row of white War Graves can also shed a tear when they pass silently across a stretch of water that only they and a selected few know what lies beneath.

2 Responses

  1. Richard Garrett
    | Reply

    Great work; as a South Atlantic Medal holder I have the up most respect for all those who have and still do, protect us on the sea.

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