This is for the stokers of old

Now each of us from time to time has gazed upon the sea,

And watched the warships 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, though lightning, wind, and hail.

But there’s a place within each ship, that legend fails to teach.

It’s hot below the waterline, it takes a living soul…

A hot metal living hell, that sailors call the Hole.

It houses engines run by steam, that makes the shafts go round,

A place of fire and noise and heat, that beats your spirit down.

Where boilers like a hellish heart with the blood of angry steam,

Are molded gods without remorse, are nightmares in a dream.

Whose threat that from the fire roar, is like living doubt,

That any minute would with scorn, escape and crush you out.

Where turbines scream like tortured souls, alone and lost in hell,

As 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 man 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 men haven’t done.

Beneath the decks, deep in the hole to make engines run.

For every hour of every day, they keep the watch in hell,

For if the fires ever fail, their ship’s 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 below like men fore-doomed. Who hear no battle cry,

It’s well assured that if they’re hit, the men below will die.

For every day’s 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 their sons, or try to tell their tale,’

The very words would make you hear, a fired furnace wail.

And people as a general rule, don’t hear of men of steel,

So tittle’s heard about the place, that sailor 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 those sweat-soaked heroes 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 warships sail no more,

Amid the boilers might heat and the turbines hellish rear.

So when you see a ship pull out, to meet a warlike foe,

Remember faintly if you can, “The men who sail below.”

By “The unknown Stoker”