Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean – roll! Ten thousand dinghies perished here in vain, Their frail and freighted flotsam swallowed whole With bubbling groan. Now nothing doth remain To mark the earth with ruin; the salt demesne Which guards this pebbled strand has washed away Each death as if it were a drop of rain, A tear soon drowned among the waves’ wild play. Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou roll’st today.
Assyria, NATO, Carthage, EU, Rome – Unceasing as the seas that beat these shores And violent as the thunder in the foam, The empire of the whale has closed its jaws On those made homeless by its endless wars. Weighed down by so much reckless hope, they told Their desperate stories to the sea’s applause, Until the tide of tv cameras rolled Away, and stranger, slave or savage, all were sold.
The beach at Eftalou on northern Lesvos is where the Syrian refugees arrived by sea from the Turkish mainland earlier this year. This poem borrows several lines, as well as the Spencerian stanza, from Byron’s Childe Harold Canto IV.
Andy Croft has written over eighty books of poetry, biography, teenage nonfiction and novels for children. He curates the T-junction international poetry festival on Teesside, runs Smokestack Books and writes the monthly ‘Twenty-first Century Poetry’ column in the Star.