Cicely Fox Smith
The Old Breed - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
They cheered her from the waterside,
They watched her from the shore
Drop swiftly down the Mersey tide
Till she was seen no more,
Till, stately-swaying, tall and proud,
Her tower of sail grew dim,
And faded like a summer cloud
Beyond the far sea-rim.
They passed - like summer clouds they passed,
As fleeting and as fair:
The shapely hull, the soaring mast,
The speed beyond compare:
The hemp, the teak, the brasses bright,
The sunlit sails ashine,
The paint, the planking scoured and white,
The spars of glistening pine.
They passed - the ships, the men likewise,
The captains tried and bold,
The rich in lore of seas and skies,
The mates of mighty mould,
The bawling bosuns heard afar,
Sea craftsmen, Chips and Sails,
The crew whose veins ran Stockholm tar,
Big-fisted, hard as nails.
Long turned their log-book's final page!
Far South'ard now no more
Their royals dare the Forties' rage
As they were wont of yore.
No more, no more from Salthouse Dock
For lands of gold they clear,
Or, homebound, welcome off the Rock
The tugboat with a cheer.
What then remains? . . . The gulls, the breeze,
They bear from near and far
No words of Empress of the Seas.
Red Jacket, Shalimar ,
But long as calls the Mersey gulls
And Mersey tides do run,
The breed that drove the clipper hulls
Lives on from sire to son.
Clipper and liner, steam and sail,
The old law guides them still,
The ancient, stark sea needs prevail
Of courage, foresight, skill,
As when they ran the easting down
(Oh blow, my bully boys, blow!)
In clipper ships of old renown
Threescore long years ago!
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