Cicely Fox Smith

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

How We Took The Great Galleon - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

Eighty men of Devon stood out to sweep the sea,
To plough the Spanish Main, my boys, to plough the Spanish Main,
Eighty men of Devon, staunch and true and free,
And it's many a month shall pass ere we come home again.

All on an April morning we sailed from Plymouth Sound,
All in the early morning, boys, before the sun was high;
The seagulls they were crying and calling all around,
And the moon hung white and pale in the pure blue April sky.

We left our homes to slumber upon the brown hillside,
We left the quiet farm, my boys, and drowsy market-town,
We left the tranquil harbour where ships at anchor ride,
And went to fight our battles for country, faith, and crown.

By noon the cliffs of England were a grey mist far behind,
And it's farewell to your homes, my boys, and ho for the Spanish Main!
And many a league to westward we sped before the wind,
To reap our share of plunder from the argosies of Spain.

Far o'er the-wild Atlantic we steered our westward way,
Where never voice is heard, my boys, save wail of bird and breeze,
And the cold dead fog it whelmed us and held us night and day
Till a wind came down from northward and tore the oily seas.

And many a mile to southward before the gale we fled,
And so the voyage went, my boys, for many a livelong day
Ere we moored beneath the palm-trees, when the eastern sky was red,
And lay to wait the galleons as they went their homeward way.

Ah, long and long we waited and fretted to be free,
We lay and chaffed in vain, my boys, like bandogs on the chain,
Till there came a mighty galleon, high tow'ring o'er the sea,
And at her masthead flaunted the golden flag of Spain.

And when we saw her colours, a ringing cheer arose
From eighty British hearts, my boys, prepared to fight and win.
For we thought with rage and horror on these our nation's foes,
The hated Holy Office and our tortured English kin.

Out from the shadowy thicket, across the line of spray,
We ran our gallant ship, my boys, beneath the lofty prow,
And when they saw our mettle, fast, fast they fled away,
With the golden image shattered that decked their mighty bow.

We chased her south from Flores the livelong summer day,
We hung upon her heels, my boys, like hounds upon the deer,
Till underneath a cliff-side we brought the foe to bay,
And grappled her and boarded with a rousing English cheer.

We swarmed up sides and bulwarks and gave them blow for blow,
And all night long we fought, my boys, 'mid the dying and the dead,
Till our young Captain's broadsword had laid their leader low,
And at the masthead floated St. Georges Cross of red.

Long may the Cadiz merchants watch for their sailors bold,
Ere they see that galleon proud, my boys, come o'er the Western main,
With silk and fruit and spices and stores of gems and gold
For great Castilian nobles and haughty dames of Spain.

All in the early morning we sighted England's shore,
With wealth and fame and glory, boys, from far across the main;
We'd ploughed the seas and conquered for full twelve months and more,
And on a fair May morning we reached our homes again.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010

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