Cicely Fox Smith

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

The Queen's Delight (A Ballad Of Master Mariners) - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

Goriana's mood was bitter, Gloriana's brow was black,
She railed upon her ladies - there was none durst answer back;
She rapped my Lord of Leicester on the knuckles with her fan;
She tore the poets' verses up and swore they didn't scan;
She scowled on all her courtiers - 'I am sick of words,' said she -
When in came a Master Mariner just home from over sea.
He could turn no courtly phrases, but in words both few and plain
He spoke of golden ingots and of jewels seized from Spain;
And the Queen she ceased her frowning and the Queen she smiled instead,
'Faith! We like this seaman mightily - a sword, a sword!' she said,
Then tapped him on the shoulder as he knelt upon the floor,
Said, 'Rise, Sir Master Mariner - and now go fetch some more.'

Gloriana's with her fathers, and her captains bold are sped
Who sailed beyond the sunset, who bartered, fought and bled
From the Arctic to the Andes till they dipped beyond recall,
Hull down below the skyline on the last great quest of all;
But still down all the ages, as Gloriana bade,
Went forth the Master Mariners that used the seas for trade.

They went in valiant cockboats of queer and antique rig,
In flyboat, hoy and galley, in snow and pink and brig;
They plunged their high poop-lanthorns and gilt stern-galleries
Deep wallowing far to south'ard in the steep Agulhas seas;
They went in trim-built frigates and clippers swift and tall,
The pride of Clyde and Mersey and the glory of Blackwall.

They were but simple merchantmen and bred to ways of peace,
But they proved their fighting mettle on broad and narrow seas;
They fought with Turkish galleys and corsairs of Algiers,
And yelling painted savages and saucy privateers;
And when trade grew something scanty and freights were poor and few
Then peaceful British merchantmen went privateering too!

Amazed, in seas uncharted new continents they hailed,
Their leadsmen groped a fairway where never ship had sailed;
They blazed the trail for commerce to a thousand isles unknown;
They grappled with the westerlies and made their realms their own;
They thundered down the easting with the lee-rail deep in foam;
They drove the racing clippers with their tea rip-roaring home.

Gloriana's with her fathers, but the breed she knew remains,
While go the ships of Britain down all the long sea-lanes;
Though sail and spar have vanished like foam-flakes down the wind,
And gone the last Cape Horner as went the
Golden Hind
The men of mould unchanging, more scant of word than deed,
Staunch in their country's service as instant in her need,

Wish with the world-old wisdom of winds and skies and seas,
Schooled in the ancient ocean's eternal mysteries;
The men who late unflinching (have we ourselves not seen?)
Endured the lurking horrors of the mine and submarine;
In liner, tramp and tanker without reproach who bear
The name that Drake and Dampier bore of Master Mariner.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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