Cicely Fox Smith

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

Rhyme Of The Captive Maid - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

A ship there sailed in the nitrate trade,
And she went by the name of the
Captive Maid
. . .
Built on the Clyde in sixty-nine
For Reid, Macallister's 'Maiden' Line:
There was many a shellback used to praise
Her turn o' speed in the old-time days,
But the best of her years were over and done,
And the eighteen-nineties were all but run,
When they hung her up in a fog at last
On a half-tide reef both hard and fast,
Off Punta Arenas, outward bound
To load nitrates for Puget Sound.
And they took to the boats and they rowed away,
And there for a score of years she lay,
Safe and sung in a natural dock
With sandy bottom and walls of rock,
Where the biggest sea that ever did roll,
And the fiercest gale from the frozen Pole,
And the bergs and the breakers passed her by -
Passed her and left her and let her lie . . .

Nothing to hear but the wild winds crying,
Nothing to see but the grey gulls flying:
A smudge of smoke on a skyline far,
Sunset, and dawn, and a lonely star:
Frost and fog and the drifting floe,
The beating rain and the blinding snow:
An empty sea and an empty sky,
And a long, long dream of the years gone by!

A score of years - while she lay forgotten,
And her ropes decayed, and her gear grew rotten,
And her planking gaped to the sun and rain;
And her paint was tarnished with many a stain,
And the green mould caked on her idle wheel,
And the rust bit deep in her slumbering keel,
And the screaming seabirds, night and day,
Fouled with their droppings both spar and stay:
A score of years . . . while the world went round,
And thrones were shaken, and kings discrowned:
A score of years, till, every one knows,
The ships they sank and the freights they rose,
And all of a sudden somebody said:
'What about salving the
Captive Maid
?'

They came with hawsers and tugs and men,
And towed her back to the world again:
Back to the world once more - but oh,
Not the old world that she used to know!
Where were her men that served her well,
Kept her watches and struck her bell,
Learned and humoured her every whim,
Conned and steered her and watched her trim:
Scoured and painted her and kept her fine,
Her decks agleam and her yards ashine?
What of her sisters swift and tall?
Time and the sea had claimed them all -
Seas and years and the pirate Hun
Had made an end of them every one . . .
Strange new ensigns on every breeze -
Strange new craft upon all the seas -
A ghost returned to the world of men,
Does she wish herself back on her reef again? . . .

Nothing to hear but the wild winds crying,
Nothing to see but the grey gulls flying,
A smudge of smoke on a skyline far,
Sunset, and dawn, and a lonely star,
Frost and fog and the drifting floe,
The beating rain and the blinding snow,
An empty sea and an empty sky,
And a long, long dream of the days gone by!


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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010



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