Cicely Fox Smith

(1 February 1882 – 8 April 1954 / Lymm, Cheshire)

Biography of Cicely Fox Smith

Cicely Fox Smith (1 February 1882 – 8 April 1954) was an English poet and writer. Born in Lymm, Cheshire and educated at Manchester High School for Girls, she briefly lived in Canada, before returning to the United Kingdom shortly before the outbreak of World War I. She settled in Hampshire and began writing poetry, often with a nautical theme. Smith wrote over 600 poems in her life, for a wide range of publications. In later life, she expanded her writing to a number of subjects, fiction and non-fiction. For her services to literature, the British Government awarded her a small pension.

Cicely Fox Smith was born 1 February 1882, into a middle-class family in Lymm, near Warrington, England during the latter half of the reign of Queen Victoria. Her father was a barrister and her grandfather was a clergyman. Smith well might have been expected to have a brief education and then to settle down to life as a homemaker either for her family or her marriage partner.

She was well educated at Manchester High School for Girls from 1894 to 1897, where she described herself later as "something of a rebel," and started writing poems at a comparatively early age. In an article for the school magazine Smith later wrote "I have a hazy recollection of epic poems after Pope's Iliad, romantic poems after Marmion stored carefully away in tin tobacco boxes when I was seven or eight." All of that early work is lost unfortunately. She published her first book of verses when she was 17 and it received favourable press comments.

Wandering the moors near her home she developed a spirit of adventure. She would follow the Holcombe Harriers[disambiguation needed] hunt on foot as a girl. She had a fierce desire to travel to Africa but eventually settled for a voyage to Canada. Smith likely sailed with her sister Madge in 1911 on a steamship to Montreal, where she would then have travelled by train to Lethbridge, Alberta, staying for about a year with her older brother Richard Andrew Smith before continuing on to British Columbia (BC). From 1912 to 1913 she resided in the James Bay neighbourhood of Victoria at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, working as a typist for the BC Lands Department and later for an attorney on the waterfront. Her spare time was spent roaming nearby wharves and alleys, talking to residents and sailors alike. She listened to and learned from the sailors' tales until she too was able to speak with that authoritative nautical air that pervades her written work.

On 23 November 1913, Smith, with her mother and sister, arrived home in Liverpool aboard the White Star Line steamer Teutonic on the eve of World War I. She and her family then settled in Hampshire.

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A Ballad Of Old And New

As I went down through Portsmouth Town, with my bundle in my hand,
I met a chap in a pigtail rig, just newly come to land;
I met a fellow of an old-style build, with a look both bold and free, -
With varnished hat and buckled shoes, like the men of the Old Navee.

'What news, what news, young fellow,' he said, 'of rigging loft and yard;
What ships are new, and what are built this year at Buckler's Hard?
And is the cry, 'More frigates,' still, as I mind it used to be?
Do England's oaks bu

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