H.M.S. Hero

PALE grey, her guns hooded, decks clear of all impediment,
Easily, between the swart tugs, she glides in the pale October sunshine:
It is Saturday afternoon, and the men are at football,
The wharves and the cobbed streets are silent by the slow river.

Smoothly, rounding the long bend, she glides to her place in history,
Past the grimed windows cracked and broken,
Past Swan Hunter's, Hawthorn Leslie's, Armstrong's,
Down to the North Sea, and trials, and her first commission.

Here is grace; and a job well done; built only for one end.
Women watch from the narrow doorways and give no sign,
Children stop playing by the wall and stare in silence
At gulls wheeling above the Tyne, or the ship passing.
Michael Roberts