Cicely Fox Smith

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

The Ship-Keeper - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

When dusk comes round again
And red goes down the sun,
And all the stevedore's men
Have finished up and gone;
When silent all and dark
The tugs and lighters lie,
And derricks stand up stark
And still against the sky;
When solemn, slow as doom,
The dock policeman's tread
Wakes echoes in the gloom
Of each deserted shed -

Old Mike, his nightly tale
Of tasks at length complete,
Limps slowly to the rail
On lame rheumatic feet,
Lights his black clay, and leans
And thinks, as old men do,
Of bygone things and scenes
His lusty manhood knew;
Until, when stars begin
To gleam by two and three,
He sees the ships come in
That no one else can see -

The ships that wait no tide,
The ships that take no steam,
But to their moorings glide
As quiet as a dream;
The ships he served of old,
When blood was young and hot,
Long wrecked or scraped or sold,
Their very names forgot;
The ships that raced the wool,
The grain, the jute, the tea,

And proud
The 'Lochs,' the Irish 'Stars,'
Old fleets of far renown,
Green's, Wigram's, Some's, Dunbar's,
The pride of London town.

Cold Alps of shining snow,
He knows them one and all,
The fast ships and the slow,
The big ships and the small.
Knows too each glimmering queen
Or craven king they bore,
Each dragon gold and green,
Armed knight or turbaned Moor.
Lost shipmates of old years
Along their bulwarks throng;
Old speech of theirs he hears,
Old yarns, old scraps of song.

The last rose leaves the skies;
The river breeze blows chill;
But still with age-dimmed eyes
He dreams, as old men will,
His pipe between his lips;
Still, dreaming, seems to see
The lost and lovely ships
That no one sees but he.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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