Today’s poems are from Peter Wyton. It seems he too is fascinated by the musicians on Titanic.
BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
William Hartley, bandmaster on the Titanic
He has resurfaced in Colne, Lancashire,
leadership duties appropriately fulfilled,
discipline maintained, morale boosted
by the slender point of his baton,
until the ocean’s cold ovation
swamped him and his gallant band.
Now firmly anchored to his plinth
on the sloping deck of Albert Street,
awash in Blues Festival revellers,
rag-time favourites he might have played
swirling around his sculpted ears,
he seems threatened by the white bulk
of the First World War Memorial,
bearing down on him at a rate of knots,
crewed, amongst others, by twenty-three
bearers of his surname.
(first published in an issue of Smiths Knoll magazine)
A SONG OF AUTUMN
They played, as good musicians should,
wherever they could find an audience.
‘A’ Deck, initially, the First Class Lounge.
Later, Grand Staircase, on the Boat Deck Level.
Lastly, the stricken liner’s canting deck,
as lifeboat after lifeboat crawled like beetles
across stark Atlantic swell. Applaud
a literally gallant band, not one of whom
survived to turn this unique booking
to career advantage. Their choice of music
still provokes conjecture, decades on.
‘Nearer My God To Thee’, the headlines screamed,
much more concerned with sales than common sense.
These troupers plied their trade to boost morale,
not reconcile their audience to a watery grave.
Rational survivors spoke of lively tunes,
contemporary hits from London and New York,
like ‘In The Shadows’’Alexander’s Ragtime Band’
and ‘Songe d’Automne’, most plausible contender
for the dubious accolade of
what the band was playing when the ship went down.
(First published in Chimera)