Cicely Fox Smith
Sold Foreign - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
In Lady Dock, in Lady Dock, the ships from far and wide
Lay down their loads of fragrant deals the dusky sheds beside,
And there come in, a dwindling few, the old ships year by year
That bore the grain from Frisco Bay, the wool from Geelong Pier -
Swift champions of the days of sail, whose old-time far renown
Still lives in many a shellback's yarn and song of Sailortown,
Sold foreign in their latter days to drudge the years away
Till time or chance shall bring them all to berth in Dead Man's Bay.
In Lady Dock, in Lady Dock, as I was strolling by,
Among the tramps and lighters there I saw an old ship lie,
That still, for all her foreign name and foreign flag beside,
A seaman's eye might surely know a daughter of the Clyde.
The sunset light was on her spars; the sunset splendour made
A glory in her ragged gear, her rigging slack and frayed;
It fired her battered figurehead, and, passing, touched with flame
Among her scrollwork's tarnished gold her new out-landish name.
But little need had I to learn what name was hers of old
From wheel or bell or pitted brass on capstan green with mould,
Who knew it like my christened own, as any man would know
The ship's that shared his goodliest years in days of long ago.
Her mizen yards were gone, and lopped the tapering boom that bore
The threshing of her mighty jibs in many a gale of yore;
Her planking gaped at many a seam, her paint was bleached and bare,
And dull was all her burnished brass, and rust was everywhere.
But tender as a lad's first love, and brave as boy-hood's dream,
Above the Deptford lumber sheds her shining spars did gleam;
A light that was not sunset seemed about her yards to glow,
And all her freight was golden years brought out of long ago.
And there were shipmates of old time and folks that well I knew,
That looked and laughed as I went by as once they used to do;
And up and down her rutted decks, the littered gear among,
A lad went with me all the while I lost when I was young.
And through the dusty Deptford streets and noisy Rotherhithe,
With springing step and glancing eye and eager heart and blithe,
A lad walked with me all the way I knew in years gone by,
A lad I met by Lady Dock . . . and O! that lad was I!
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