Cicely Fox Smith

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

The Ship That Never Was - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

In Casey's Baltic Tavern Mike and I
Heard an old shellback praising to the sky,
With uncouth sailor oaths from foreign lands,
And clumsy gestures of rope-hardened hands,
A ship, the
Ladas
- praising her grace, her speed,
Beauty and strength, her handiness at need:
Telling of risks endured in fog or gale,
And hard-won triumphs snatched from queens of sail . . .

'Them was the days, my hearts, under the Duster!
No shortening sail - crack on it was an' bust 'er,
That was the game in the old
Ladas
then;
Ships was ships then, by the Lord, and men was men!'
Down crashed his fist and made the glasses chime
Some drowning sailor's knell. 'That was a time,
Too good it was, by cripes, too good to last!'
Then he feel silent, brooding on the Past.

'That old man's daft,' Mike said behind his hand,
'Him and his sixty days from land to land!

I
knowed that
Ladas
- twenty years ago
She lay by us in the tier at Vallipo -
I was in the
Cheviot
, one o' Muir Maclean's,

She
could 'ave give his ruddy
Ladas
beans!
She never beat no
Cutty Sark
, not she,
Nor done no seventeen knots, no more than me!
Such blinkin' yarns they spin, these old chaps do,
They don't know which are lies nor which are true.'

Ay, so it is! Who keeps not in his heart
Some ship of vision, lovely and apart,
Some
Ladas
,
Cheviot
, call her what you will,
Passing, the years but leave her more lovely still?
For she is built of joys and hopes and fears,
Passion and pain that perished with the years,
And all that foolish, fond remembrance means
Of youth and of youth's golden might-have-beens.

Oh, manned by memories, rigged with dear regret,
With tears like tropic dews her sails are wet,
Luminous as light of stars, her white wake streams
Bubbling beneath her keel - her spars are dreams.
Years shall not change her, time shall touch her never,
The ship that never was - the ship that is for ever!


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010



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