Cicely Fox Smith

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

Sailor's Delight - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

Tall raking clipper ships driving hell-for-leather,
Swinging down the Forties in the easting weather;
Old wooden Indiamen leaking like baskets,
With half their ratlines missing and rotten slings and gaskets:
Big fourposters out of Mersey and Clyde,
Bound for grain to 'Frisco, not to be denied,
Thrashing to the westward through the great Horn seas,
With a crowd of husky reefers and a dozen A.B.'s . . .

Those were the ships Mike Murphy used to sail in,
Those were the sort he weathered many a gale in,
Handed, reefed and furled in from Timor to the Tongue
In the old days, the hard days, the done-with mast and yard days,
(And 'ah, but they were grand days, them days when he was young!')

Seal oil, whale oil, ivory an' grain,
Lumber out of Puget Sound, an' wine out of Spain,
Deer's horns and jaggery they used to load at lost,
God-forsaken ports on the Coromandel coast . . .
Copra from the South Seas, coal out of Wales,
Copper ore, cinnamon, monkey nuts and nails:
Sweet cloves from Zanzibar, beans from Peru,
And a young white elephant consigned to the Zoo . . .

Those were the freights he sailed the world around with,
Those were the things he's been everything but drowned with,
Scorched an' soaked an' frozen from Cork to Chittagong,
In the sail days, the old days, the hungry days, the cold days,
(And 'ah, but they were fine days, them days when he was young!')

Hard hairy sailormen with weather tanned faces,
Hands bent with hauling on sheets, tacks and braces,
Brawny forearms tattooed with strange devices,
And tough fingers skilled in cunning knots and splices . . .
Full of rum yarns and superstitious notions,
And odd bits of lingo from half a dozen oceans,
And many an old shanty, and old sailor song,
To while away a dog-watch, twenty verses long . . .

Those were the blokes Mike Murphy went to sea with,
Those were the sort of chaps he used to be with,
Shared his trick and whack with, laughed and swore and sung,
In the old days, the tough days, salt junk and leathery duff days,
(And 'ah but them was great days, them days when he was young!')

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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010

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