The Dawn Patrol
- Sometimes I fly at dawn above the sea,
- Where, underneath, the restless waters flow --
- Silver, and cold, and slow,
- Dim in the east there burns a new-born sun,
- Whose rosy gleams along the ripples run,
- Save where the mist droops low,
- Hiding the level loneliness from me.
- And now appears beneath the milk-white haze
- A little fleet of anchored ships, which lie
- In clustered company,
- And seem as they are yet fast bound by sleep,
- Although the day has long begun to peep,
- With red-inflamèd eye,
- Along the still, deserted ocean ways.
- The fresh, cold wind of dawn blows on my face
- As in the sun's raw heart I swiftly fly,
- And watch the seas glide by.
- Scarce human seem I, moving through the skies
- And far removed from warlike enterprise --
- Like some great gull on high
- Whose white and gleaming wings beat on through space.
- Then do I feel with God quite, quite alone,
- High in the virgin morn, so white and still,
- And free from human ill:
- My prayers transcend my feeble earth-bound plaints --
- As though I sang among the happy Saints
- With many a holy thrill --
- As though the glowing sun were God's bright Throne.
- My flight is done. I cross the line of foam
- That break around a town of grey and red,
- Whose streets and squares lie dead
- Beneath the silent dawn -- then am I proud
- That England's peace to guard I am allowed;
- Then bow my humble head,
- In thanks to Him Who brings me safely home.
Paul Bewsher (1894-1966)
This poem was published in a 1917 anthology titled A Treasury of War Poetry
a compilation of group of works collected from British and American poets of the World War written between 1914-1917. Written by an RAF Lieutenant assigned to coastal reconnaissance in World War I
. Paul Bewsher was a member of the Royal Naval Air Service
from 1915 to 1918 and a member of the Royal Air Force
from 1918 until 1919. He was shot down once and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross
during his career.
Bob Blair at the Poet's Corner explains that on June 14th 1919, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown took off from Newfoundland in a Vickers Vimy bomber. Sixteen hours later they were sinking but alive in a bog in central Ireland. The Dawn Patrol was written to commemorate these first men to fly the Atlantic in a fixed-wing aircraft. The celebrity of Alcock and Brown has been overshadowed by the solo heroics of Charles Lindbergh, but it is still impressive to imagine the two men taking off into the fog in a wood-and-cloth frame capable of a maximum speed of 90 miles per hour.
Acknowledgments. Clarke, George Herbert, ed. 1917. A Treasury of of War Poetry:
Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner: