Cicely Fox Smith
Coasting Brigantine - Unnamed - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
I rather think they built her in some good old-fashioned yard
That smelt of pitch and sawdust and of hemp rope newly tarred,
Where they changed their ways but little as the centuries rolled along,
And they built a trifle slowly, but they built uncommon strong.
I think her little model used to grace some homely shelf,
Where a brace of pop-eyed poodles flanked the gaily-painted delf,
And the harbour's pleasant bustle through the open window came
With the mewing of the seagulls and the scent of gorse in flame.
I think her name was
John and Sarah's Venture
&mdash well, I trust, their venture thrived -
, or something sweet and dainty
To match her little figurehead that looks so prim and painty.
I think she never loaded things like gold mohurs and spice
And China tea and narwhals' teeth and monkey-nuts and rice,
And ivory, apes and peacocks out of Africa that come,
And Eastern frails and cotton bales and right Jamaica rum.
But she got her honest living out of homelier kinds of freights,
Such as salt and malt and china clay and blue Bethesda slates,
With perhaps a voyage foreign once in every good long while
For a fragrant load of oranges from far St. Michael's Isle.
I think she knew no distant lands, all sun and glare and smells,
And illy-ollying coolie gangs and chiming temple bells;
No lumber, grain or nitrate ports from Yukon to Peru,
No lone palm-girdled atolls in the false Pacific blue.
But the saltings and the maltings round from Lymington to Lynn,
And a hundred creeks and harbours from the Solent to the Swin,
From Eddystone to Lizard Head and round the Land to Wales
Knew her dipping in from seaward with the sunlight on her sails.
I think her little figurehead, all weathered, worn and bare,
With its valiant faded simper and its sad forsaken stare,
Gazes out across the water where the long tides break in snow
On the cruel hidden ledges where a ship sank long ago.
And the sand has choked the slipways where they built stout ships of old,
And the painted delf is broken and the pop-eyed dogs are sold;
And the little model - Lord knows how she found at last her way
To the dingy Thames-side junk-shop where I bought her yesterday.
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