Beach Burial Poem by Kenneth Slessor

Beach Burial

Rating: 2.7


Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
The convoys of dead sailors come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
But morning rolls them in the foam.

Between the sob and clubbing of the gunfire
Someone, it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon their nakedness;

And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
Bears the last signature of men,
Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,
The words choke as they begin -

'Unknown seaman' - the ghostly pencil
Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
The breath of wet season has washed their inscriptions
As blue as drowned men's lips,

Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,
Whether as enemies they fought,
Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
Enlisted on the other front.
_____________________________________________
German Translation


Strandbegräbnis
Ergeben und sanft zum Golf der Araber
Kommen die Konvois der toten Matrosen;
Nachts irren sie schwankend im Wasser tief unten,
Doch der Morgen läßt sie im Schaum rollen.

Zwischen dem Schluchzen und Knüppeln von Geschützen
Hat jemand, so scheint es, die Zeit gefunden,
Sie an seichten Stellen aufzusammeln und in Reihen zu begraben
Und den Sand über ihrer Nacktheit festzutreten;

Und jedes Kreuz, ein getriebener Pfahl aus Treibholz,
Trägt die letzte Unterschrift eines Mannes,
Geschrieben mit solcher Bestürzung, mit solch verwirrtem Mitleid,
Die Worte ersticken, sobald sie beginnen -

“Unbekannter Seemann“ - der gespenstische Stift
Zittert und verblaßt, das Purpur tropft,
Der Atem der nassen Jahreszeit hat jede Inschrift
Blau wie die Lippen der Ertrunkenen gefärbt,

Tote Seemänner, fort, denselben Landfall zu suchen,
Wo sie sich als Feinde bekämpft,
Oder mit uns kämpften, oder keines davon, im Sand jetzt zusammen,
Angeworben an der anderen Front.

COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Helen 10 February 2022

purple drips..........indelible pencil, (I'm old and remember it) dripped purple when touched by water..?

0 0 Reply
Michael P & Sammy F.C. 02 September 2019

Michael - Fantastic analysis of post-war depression and melancholy after world war 2. A nice use of 'the purple drips', perhaps a reference to royalty or luxury in the post war period? and a depreciation for the royal family? Very cool poem! ! ! Sammy F.C. - I disagree with Michael, in that the purple represents royalty, as it doesn't really fit with the context of the poem I feel, in my personal opinion.

2 3 Reply
Kenneth Slessor 02 June 2019

who ever wrote this poem must be a genius ;)

5 5 Reply
Nadia 30 October 2019

you are such a little... well I shouldn't say

0 1 Reply
Timothy bethland 02 June 2019

thank you John, meet up sometime xx

1 2 Reply
Timothy bethland 02 June 2019

thank you for the pleasure that i endured while reading this fantastic poem from Timothy xx

1 2 Reply
Shrek 16 September 2019

Can i meet up with you guys as well

0 1 Reply
Timothy bethland 02 June 2019

thank you John, meet up sometime? xx

0 1 Reply
John petlhem 02 June 2019

i strongly agree with you Timothy thanks for your comment xx

0 1 Reply
John petlhem 02 June 2019

i strongly agree with you Timothy it was fantastic x

0 1 Reply
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Kenneth Slessor

Orange, New South Wales
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