Cicely Fox Smith

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

The Fight Of The Caroline - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

It was the good ship Caroline,
That ploughed the Channel foam,
All for the sake of England's fame,
Of country, king, and home.
Staunch northern men were her mariners,
From the mouth of noble Tyne,
And a braver man than her captain true,
And a stouter ship, and a better crew,
Ne'er sailed the ocean brine.

It was the French ship Guerriere,
A league from the Breton shore,
Ship of the line of eighty guns,
Four hundred men and more,
That saw far off the English flag
Float free o'er the waters grey;
And their hearts beat fierce when they saw the foe,
The little craft that had harassed so
Their commerce many a day.

Glad grew the hearts of the English men,
When they saw the fight draw near,
And up from eighty English throats
There rose a dauntless cheer.
'Make ready, make ready,' the captain cried,
'Make ready, mariners mine ;
Fire straight, fire straight, my gunners
Fire straight, and spare not of your ball,
Or farewell to the Caroline.'

The two ships grappled then and there,
And the battle's din grew loud,
And the shot of the gallant Caroline
Tore every sail and shroud.
Up o'er the side they came in scores, -
Our men were staunch and bold,
But the Frenchmen swarmed o'er the side like bees,
And the English crew that had swept the seas,
It was eighty men all told.

But straight, straight had our gunners fired,
And soon, a riddled wreck,
Down sank the hull of the Guerriere,
With half her crew on deck.
There was but time to cut her loose,
Ere she sank beneath the brine,
And left the crew of the Guerriere,
To join in battle, fierce and fair,
On the deck of the Caroline.

Grimly, grimly, the whole day long,
The deadly fray went on;
Grimly, grimly, the whole day long,
Till the last of the light was gone.
And the dense sea-fog o'er the fight came down,
And hid heaven far and near,
And the lightning gleamed like a fiery sword,
And the masts and the rigging were gone by the board,
And there was none to steer.

Grimly, grimly, the whole day long,
They fought on the slippery deck,
Drifting, drifting, the whole day long,
Floated the shattered wreck.
And the dead and the wounded lay in a ring,
Around ten dauntless men -
Men of the brave old bulldog breed,
That has done for England many a deed,
And can do now as then.

And then from the French, that fought on the deck,
Went up a desperate groan,
For over the din of the deadly fight
They heard the breakers moan,
Where, over the waves of the narrow seas,
The cliffs for ever frown,
And there, unbeaten to the last,
With the British flag still nailed to the mast,
The Caroline went down.

Once more as the sinking ship went down,
'Mid the cries of rage and fear,
Above the wail of the drowning foes,
Rose up a British cheer.
There, with the ship that they held to the end
They lie 'neath the Channel brine.
Bravely they fought for their country then :
God rest their souls, for they died like men,
The crew of the Caroline!


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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010



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