Cicely Fox Smith

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

Might Have Been - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

“If I was a bloke as could paint,”
Bill said, “which I ain’t,
Lord! The pictures I’d do
Of ships runnin’ free
In the Tropics, or flyin’ like stags
Down the Forties; an’ seas, white an’ blue,
In the Trades, or like cliffs in a blow
Off the Leeuwin, or calm
After storm, an’ the dawn comin’ solemn an’ slow
Like a psalm . . . .
Ports too,
Full o’ funnels an’ flags,
I’d do,
If I was a chap as could paint,”
Said Bill, “but I ain’t.

Or if I’d the knack of the pen”
(Bill said) “like some men,
lord! The yarns
I could spin
About the queer places I’ve bin
To an’ the queer things as I’ve seen an’ I’ve done
‘Most everywhere under the sun:
a picnic we ‘ad
in a copper ore barque
out o’ Bristol,
when the skipper went mad
an’ started in pickin’ the watch
for a lark
off the yard with a pistol,
till the second mate managed to catch
him a clout
with a handspike, an that laid him out
good an’ proper, an’ ended his bother . . . .
then the time when we roasted an’ froze
both together
in a ship with her cargo alight
off Cape Stiff in the worst of his weather;
for it snowed
an’ it blowed
a fair fright
an’ the deck got
that ‘ot
we was ‘oppin’ around like a hen
on a griddle - an’ then
come a ship by as tuk us off just
in time, ‘fore she blowed up an’ bust . . . .
an’ yarns about cannibal isles,
where they sharpen their teeth up with files
‘Case they dish up for tea
some hard-cased old shellback, like me
an’ ship wrecks an’ shanghai-ing too
I could tell - and a few
On ‘em true,
If I had the trick o’ the pen,”
Bill said, “like some men.

But all as I done wi’ the brush
In my puff
Ain’t been much
Only touching up bulwarks and such,
Or slung overside in the sun
Or aloft with a bucket o’ slush,
An’ the mate comin’ sneakin’ be’ind
An’ growlin’, ‘No holidays mind,
Ye sons o’ sea-cooks!’ . . . .
An the schoolin’ I ‘ad
As a lad
Was enough
For to learn me to sign
Ships’ articles, forty-odd year
Far an’ near
‘Stead o’ makin’ my mark . . . . An’ that’s ‘ow
it is there’ll be nobody now
to read all them books,
or to see
them pictures as might ha’ been mine -
only me . . . . “

Comments about Might Have Been by Cicely Fox Smith

There is no comment submitted by members..

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010

[Report Error]