Cicely Fox Smith

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

Coastwise - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

The ships that trade foreign, to London they bear
Their cargoes unnumbered both common and rare,
Their bales and their gunny-sacks, tea-chests and cases,
From all kinds of countries and all sorts of places,
Their copra and teakwood, their rum and their bacca,
Their rice and their spice from Rangoon and Malacca,
Their sugar and sago from far Singapore,
And lumber, and logwood, and manganese ore.

But they that trade coastwise unceasing do ply
On lawful occasions to Ramsgate and Rye,
To Lowestoft and Lymington, Padstow and Poole,
And Falmouth and Fowey and Gorleston and Goole,
the North-country colliers, smutty and small,
The barges and bawleys and schooners and all,
and the rest,

Two Brothers
, and
Pride of the West

The ships that trade foreign, wide oceans they know,
Far down to the South'ard they see the whales blow,
Great bergs like cathedrals they likewise behold,
And flying fish shining all silver and gold:
They know the far islets of pearl and of pine,
the Trades and the tempests from Leeuwin to Line,
From the Horn to the Hooghly their smoke-trail is curled,
And their bow-wave is white on the seas of the world.

But they that trade coastwise, they know the salt seas
That surge evermore round the grey mother's knees,
The tide-rips and swatchways, the deeps and the shoals,
Each eddy that dimples, each current that rolls
By Longships and Lizard, by Bishop and Clerk,
And the fangs of the Manacles, deadly and dark,
By reef and by sandbank, by headland and holm,
And Scilly's lone outposts of thunder and foam.

The ships that trade foreign see cities afar,
Where the black and the brown and the yellow folk are,
The tin towns and timber towns, mud towns and all,
From the Straits of Le Mair to the Bay of Bengal.
Of Rio and Sydney the charms they compare,
And others name 'Frisco than either more fair,
The lordly St. Lawrence they mark in his flow,
And Fraser and Hudson and mighty Hwang-ho.

But they that trade coastwise know little stone quays
With old salts a-smoking and taking their ease,
The smell of the seaweed, the nets in the sun,
The snug little tavern where old yarns are spun,
The coastguard, the flagstaff, the boats in the bight,
The herring gulls mewing by day and by night,
The flash of the lighthouse that flings forth its ray
To ships trading foreign that pass on their way.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010

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