Cicely Fox Smith

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

The Fighting Téméraire - Bone Prisoner Model - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

No tusk from trackless jungle brought,
No bone of slaughtered whale
Her wreathed and Tritoned sternports wrought
And bulwarks eggshell frail.
No warm dog-watch her building whiled
Away in tropic seas,
For no shore-anchored salt beguiled
His unaccustomed ease.
Mellow as ancient ivory
And fine as carven jade,
From beef-bones of captivity
The shapely hull was made,
Whose making helped upon their way
Such limping hours and slow
As measure out the leaden day
That none but prisoners know.
Old wars, old woes, old wasted years,
Old causes lost and won,
Old bitterness of captives' tears
As dreams-as dreams are done.
As dreams the stubborn hulls, the pride
Of masts that raked the sky,
Sea-shattering bows and oaken side
Of fighting fleets gone by.
Yet still, though thrones and systems shake
And pass and are no more,
The spars a casual touch might break
Unharmed by Time endure.
Still, though the world in change be whelmed,
From these small mimic bows
The antique warrior, mailed and helmed,
Looks out with frowning brows,
Like those beneath whose sightless stare
The sullen smoke-drift rolled
Round her, well-named the
In famous fights of old.
What of her builder? Did he sail
Home to his France at last,
To tell in happier times the tale
Of wars and prisons past?
Or is, upon some gravestone hoar,
The legend plain to see:
'He was a Prisoner of War,
But Death has set him free'?

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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010

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