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Cicely Fox Smith

(1882-1954 / England)

The Old Whale


When I'm growing old (if I'm getting tired of sailing
Up and down the seas, and always finding something new),
When I come to feel the sight and strength of me are failing,
Maybe I'll curl up then, as the old whales do;
When I've lived on land, and never feel the fret and fever
Pull me back to seaward (as may one day be),
When I hear my old bones saying that it's time for me to leave her,
Maybe I'll curl up then ashore, and leave the sea!

I'll grow a few flowers then; I'll have a few friends nigh me,
Lie soft, and never care for all the winds that blow:
Eat, and sleep, and smoke, and let the hours go by me,
In the little easy ways that old men know;
Or sit by a winter fire, and tell the old tales over,
Listen for a shipmate's step coming to the door,
Talk of men and ships I knew, from Torres Strait to Dover,
And . . . maybe the heart of me'll be happy on the shore.

Maybe I'll forget then how, when I was younger
(Pleasant folks about me, and my girl's kiss on my lip),
When I've been a month or less on land I'd feel the hunger
Drive me through the ports again, looking for a ship;
Maybe then the shore things won't seem stale; and I won't waken
In the night and think of all my friends forgetting me,
Nor know (when it's too late to know) how sore I was mistaken
Curling up ashore there . . . with my heart at sea!

Submitted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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