Cicely Fox Smith
The Last Of The Sealing Fleet - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
All in the slime of the stagnant Arm, the mouldering slips beside,
Where dark as sin slinks out and in the fouled and furtive tide,
There slowly parting strake from strake, the poor old sealers lie,
And whisper to the jostling booms of a brave day gone by.
Unkept, uncaulked, their gaping decks are blistered, bleached and bare;
Along their keels the chuckling ebb mocks at their blind despair;
And even like a ghostly tune through rotted ropes and green
Runs the shrill keening of the wind and the long sob between -
'Oh, south away to Frisco Bay the open seas do roll,
And north to the white bear's hunting grounds about the lonely Pole;
And at rutting time on the Pribyloffs the lusting seal do roar,
But we'll go out by Brotchie Ledge on the sealer's road no more.'
'Oh, north away from Frisco Bay the tumbling seas do roll,
Both wide and free to Behring's Sea which laps around the Pole:
A thousand miles from Frisco Bay the feeding seals may fare
With never a foe but the killer whale and the brown man and the bear.'
'Yestreen along the waterside I saw my captain go,
A weary and a broken man, with lagging step and slow;
Salt was his blood as the salt tide and restless as the sea,
And like the sea the wild blue eye that there did gaze on me.'
''Old ship,' he said, 'when we were young together, you and I,
A man's life I lived with men between the sea and sky;
And would to God you had sunk deep and I also had died
Who now upon the land decay as you rot in the tide.''
''By God, it were a kindier thing to make an end with those
Which split upon the uncharted reef or splintered in the floes
Then to cheat death a hundred times and last to find the day
When a man's strength must fail him and a good ship decay.''
''And north away from Frisco Bay the plunging seal do go,
But never a schooner plies that way of all we used to know;
And there the spouting bowhead blows and the grey gulls do soar,
But south or north, though you go forth, you'll find us there no more.''
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