Cicely Fox Smith

(1 February 1882 – 8 April 1954 / Lymm, Cheshire)

The Passing Of Sail - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

I often think how sad that time will be
When no wind lifts a sail on any sea -
When all that through the long slow centuries grew
From the first hollowed trunk or bark canoe
To mould that miracle of power and grace
Which made a wonder of the water's face
Must pass at last away and be no more -
All ancient skill and slow-won sailor lore
That taught hard hands with customed artifice
To shape tough hemp in many a bend and splice,
Dead eye and gasket, cunning hitch and knot,
With those that were its masters, clean forgot:
While those two sullen djinnee, Coal and Oil,
Usurp the old and honourable toil
By ships the four winds drove required of man
Since he and his sea-venturing first began.

Yet it may be that in some watery star
Beyond this earth and all its changes far,
Cetus or Capricornus, or that Ship
Which on our southern sea-rim seems to dip
Her wandering keel, or such as sailors name
Yardarm or Spanker, or the unflickering flame
Of high Polaris - there, it well may be,
Still sail the ships long fled this earthly sea:
The same, though fairer, that in days gone by
Had of their lovers faithful ministry,
Filling with toil their lives' unwritten page
From youth through manhood to neglected age,
Breaking their bodies with weariness, yet swelling
The seaman's heart with beauty past his telling . . .

There day by day a Trade that never fails
Shall fill from dawn to dark their straining sails.
There shall old tales be told, old songs by sung,
As in those years when earth and they were young:
All that was bitter and brutal, base and blind,
In the old life, for ever cast behind,
Where at the last the eternal Truth shall give
To each his dream, and only beauty live . . .

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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