Cicely Fox Smith

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

The Cape Horner - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

I never was in clipper ships when they was in their prime:
The tea fleet an' the wool fleet, they was done afore my time:
The ship I knowed the best was a big Cape Horner,
Thrashin' to the westward round that stormy corner,
Loaded down with Cardiff coal for Californio,
Rollin' round to 'Frisco - forty year ago!

When it was 'Round the Horn and 'ome again, that's the sailor's way,'
'Crost the road to Newcastle, back to 'Frisco Bay,
Up the Coast to Oregon, down to Callao,
Round the Horn and 'ome again - forty year ago!

She was 'ard-run, undermanned, 'ungry as you please,
She wallowed both rails under in the thunderin' Cape Horn seas:
With three thousand ton inside her she was like a 'ouse to steer,
She didn't carry flyin' kites nor suchlike fancy gear -
But reefin' upper topsails was a picnic in a blow,
Rollin 'ome to 'Frisco - forty year ago!

She was only meant to carry, she was nothin' of a clipper,
But the Old Man was a snorter of an old-style racin' skipper:
The seas they kep' on poopin' 'er, 'e wouldn't 'eave 'er to,
'E 'ung on to 'is topsails and 'e run till all was blue:
It was 'Keep 'er movin', Mister!' every time 'e went below,
An' - we beat the fleet from 'Frisco - forty year ago!

But time 'e keeps on movin' too, an' them ol' days are past,
An' the ol' ship's gone for ever, like we all must go at last,
Like the ships that made a forest on the 'Frisco waterside,
The slashin' big fourmasters from the Mersey and the Clyde,
An' the Yankee skysail yarders with their plankin' scoured like snow,
Loadin' grain at 'Frisco - forty year ago!

Law's ships, De Wolf's ships, Castles, Counties, Glens,
Potter's fleet and Leylands, Halls, and Clans and Bens,
Cities, Ports, and Passes, Falls an' Lord knows what -
All of 'em are gone now, and most of 'em forgot,
Rotten ships and good 'uns, speedy ships and slow,
That used to load at 'Frisco - forty years ago!

When it was 'Round the Horn and 'ome again, that's the sailor's way,'
'Crost the road to Newcastle, back to 'Frisco Bay,
Up the Coast to Oregon, down to Callao,
Round the Horn and 'ome again - forty year ago!


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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010



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