Cicely Fox Smith
The Haunted Ship - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
Houses have ghosts, they say; well like enough they may have -
Folks that have lived within their walls in the bygone days;
And why should not ships have their ghosts also, even as they have -
Men that have hated or loved them, served them and gone their ways,
Sweated and shivered, know hunger and thirst and been weary,
Slept, waked, worked their traverse well or ill?
I know of one that walks in the old barque
If she’s floating still.
Here and there on the familiar decks he lingers,
Watching the crowd at their work, making or furling sail;
Pausing now and then to touch with remembering fingers
Wheel-spoke and capstan-bar, or handle rope and rail.
He stands at the half-deck door awhile, smiling to see there
The notched table, the bunk where he used to lie -
Nothing changed at all since the time he used to be there
But the old faces he knew in the years gone by.
In tropic dog-watches he stays a little to hearken
The hands lounging and yarning as of old on the fore-hatch;
He hears the “one-two, one-two” of the bells and, as evening darkens,
The hoarse voice of the bosun rousing out the watch;
He catches the whiff of the mate’s pipe, he hears him tramping
Fore and aft, fore and aft, steady and slow;
He sees the warm yellow of the binnacle light lamping
The intent face of the steersman over its glow.
He stands at his elbow, hearing the night-wind singing
Up aloft, far aloft in the sheave-blocks and spars,
Watching the lift of the royal leech and the high trucks swinging,
Swaying their ceaseless arc against the sky and the stars . . .
North, South, East, West - sunny weather or dreary,
Cold in the high South latitudes, steamy hot on the line -
There’s a ghost walks I know, in the old barque
And that ghost’s mine.
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