The Story of Canvey Island IV
The Days of Here and Now
How came the change, so rapid and complete,
To crowded beaches and the busy street,
With motor-buses speeding to the trains,
Electric light and gas and water mains?
We have the cinema, the pierrot-stand
And concert-platform; while the local band
Confounds the great Apostle’s simile
By joining sounding brass to charity.
Old Bell the Thatcher shakes his hoary head,-
‘If this is life, I would we still were dead’-
Ans as he sees the hurrying crowds go by
He talks of ‘good old days’ with many a sigh.
And yet he thinks that things are not so bad
For there are many things that make him glad;
Forms manifold of social service show
What flowers of grace in Canvey soil will grow.
Here lie the plots of consecrated land
Where ‘mid the trees the simple churches stand
Calling mankind away from sin and strife,
Throwing their rainbow through the storms of life.
Hard by the road where goes the busy throng
The Chapel folk are heard in cheerful song;
The preacher’s ringing voice is raised on high
And caught in snatches by the passer-by;
And some in Quaker Meeting-house are found
Who claim the whole wide world as hallowed ground,
Yet find in habit, ordered time and place
An aid to worship and a means of grace.
And here in Hall or in the open air,
Throughout the year, in weather foul or fair,
The challenge of the Army can be heard,
Whose keenest weapon is the saving word.
Not perfect, but with aspirations true,
And ever striving for the best they knew,
How many have obeyed their Master’s call,
Forgetting self to serve the good of all.
We think of many, loyal to their Lord,
Who, passing on, have gone to their reward,
Leaving with us a sacred memory
Of simple faith and hope and charity.
We do not grudge the multitudes their fun
On crowded beaches ‘neath the summer sun-
Though some of us, if truth must be confessed,
May love the quiet of the spring-time best.
We like to think that from the city street
The children come escaping from the heat;
That in their frolic by the waves they share
The benizon of our salubrious air-
The air to which so many here impute
Their health regained; long living to refute
The doctors’ prophecy of early death,
They take their medicine with every breath.
Alas! Our tragedies on land and sea
Are not the rare events they used to be;
The youth too daring in his manly pride
May be the jetsum of to-morrow’s tide.
In days gone by the few who came knew well
The deeps invisible, the treacherous swell:
Now follows ignorance where folly leads,
Lured on to peril as the tide recedes.
‘Tis true there were e’en in the earlier day
Some gruesome happenings round in ‘Dead Man’s Bay’:
And scenes exciting, as when old ‘Wrack Hall,’
Built from the ‘Ajax’ wreck, in flames did fall.
Our council House we view with civic pride,
Where learned councillors our fate decide;
While we concede, as even cynics would,
That some at times will seek the public good.
The wordy battles raging round the Bridge,
The powerful pleas for ancient privilege,
The claims of frontages, the busmen’s strife-
Are fading memories on the Island’s life.
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