Cicely Fox Smith

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

Rathlin Head - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

We left the murk of Merseyside, we left the flaring town;
All smouldering red by Spanish Head the stormy sun went down;
We saw the lamp blink out and in the Mull o' Galloway,
And at dead of night to Rathlin Light a long good-bye did say -

On a bitter cold night in the morning watch,
A little before the day!

Black deep of night without a star both sky and sea did fill;
So cautious crept we through the dark our engines near stood still;
All salt like tears on rope and rail the sea mist clinging grey . . .
And Rathlin Island close to port, Kintyre to starboard lay -

On a bitter cold night in the morning watch,
A little before the day!

We heard across the blind black tide the lighthouse boom forlorn,
All night we heard a Glasgow barque blowing the old cow's horn;
And groping slow we passed her by a bare ship's length away -
'A near thing with the barque,' was all I heard the Old Man say -

On a bitter cold night in the morning watch,
A little before the day!

All houseless stretch the unfenced fields that cold and green do roll
Where winds do herd the berg and floe which calve about the Pole;
Oh, peace be on the small green fields of a land that's far away,
And on the little farms therein where folks a-sleeping lay -

On a bitter cold night in the morning watch,
A little before the day!

And oh, good-bye the narrow seas and forelands loud wi' foam!
There's many a turning in the road that brings the sailor home;
Full speed once more our engines throbbed as faint the east grew grey,
I turned my face to Rathlin Head, a long good-bye to say -

On a bitter cold night in the morning watch,
A little before the day!


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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010



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