Cicely Fox Smith
The First Ship - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
This is the ship the Man built . . .
In time's grey dawn, by the unsailed sea,
Hairy and lonely and wild stood he.
Deep in his darkling soul there woke
Something that stirred him, something that spoke
Of lands to find in the burning west;
And the vision grew, and troubled his rest
With strange new dreams of the waters wide . . .
Till he launched a Log on the sunset tide.
But the Log it rolled till it rolled him under
And the loud surf roared in his ears like thunder,
Battered and bruised him, whirled him round,
Smothered and choked him, all but drowned,
And tossed him up on the beach again . . .
He took the Log, and with care and pain
He hollowed it out with axe and fire
And shaped it at last to his heart's desire;
Called it his Woman, his Love, his Pride,
And launched it again on the sunset tide.
But all it did was to drift unsteered
Wherever the tides and the currents veered,
A night and a day till they flung it at last
High on the beach again, hard and fast . . .
So he took a branch and he made him an Oar.
He toiled all day till his hands were sore,
Then glanced and saw how over his head
The seabirds sailed with their wide wings spread,
And clapped his hands with a shout and a cry,
'I too, I too will have wings and fly,
I too will steer like a gull down gale!'
So he wove a mat and he made him a Sail.
Into the sunset he sailed away,
And what became of them none can say,
The Log and the Oar and the Hairy Man -
But that was the way the Ship began.
And all the ships there ever have been
Go back and back through the years between
To the Hairy Man on the lone seashore
That hollowed the Log, and shaped the Oar,
And spread the Sail on the unsailed sea
(First of the countless sails to be)
In the Ship - the Ship the Man built.
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