Cicely Fox Smith
The Old Shellback - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
By Murphy’s Hotel as I loitered along
I heard an old shellback a-singing his song,
A crazy old chorus, a song of no skill,
In a voice that was boozy, and broken, and shrill.
A roaring old song of the ships and the men
In fine days departed which come not again . . .
With the chink of the glasses came drifting the tune
And the smell of the drinks out of Murphy’s saloon.
I stood there to hear it, and swift as I heard
My soul like a ship was awakened and stirred,
Like a vessel becalmed when she quivers to feel
The kiss of the Trade from her truck to her keel.
Then fast fled my heart down the seas and the years,
And the winds of the world they blew loud in my ears,
The winds of the ocean recalling to me
Lost things and lovely, like dawns on the sea.
Lips that have smiled on me . . . friends who are fled . . .
All that was Life in the time that is sped . . .
Laughter of long ago . . . frolics gone by
In the ports of the West where the windjammers lie.
Nights off the Horn, and the ice on our spars . . .
Tall skysail clippers a-raking the stars . . .
With a “blow the man up, bullies, blow the man down” . . .
And a crew of hard cases from Liverpool town!
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