Cicely Fox Smith

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

The Tryphena's Extra Hand - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

In the clipper ship
Tryphena

Swingin' nor'ard from the Line,
With the Trade wind blowin' steady
And her flyin' kites ashine,
Five and sixty days from Anjer
With her freight of Foochow teas,
There a sailorman lay dying,
And the words he spoke were these:

'Many a year I've knowed this packet,
And I've got to like her well,
And I've not much hopes of heaven
And I've not much use for hell:
But if so be as they'll let me,
By the great hook-block I swear,
When the old
Tryphena
wants me,
Dead as living I'll be there.'

There'll be one more at the halyards,
There'll be one on the yard
Fisting down them thundering courses
When they're frosted good and hard,
One more tallying on the forebrace
When the waist's neck deep in foam,
One more hand to sweat the tops'ls up
And sheet t'ga'n's'ls home.

So, just off the Western Islands,
When he smelt the land he died,
And they laid aback the main y'rd
And they dropped him overside,
Then they squared away for England,
Pulley-hauling with a will,
But, for all they thought they'd left him there,
He sailed aboard her still.

And the chaps as was his shipmates
Went the way as all chaps go,
And the folks as was her owners
Sold the old ship long ago,
But whoever owned or sold her,
And whoever went or came,
The
Tryphena's
extra hand
He sailed aboard her just the same.

And he never signed no Articles,
He never drawed no pay,
He never scoffed no vittles,
But by night as well as day,
Though you'd never know his coming,
Nor you'd never see him go,
He'd be always somewheres handy
And it comin' on to blow.

And he'd stand by wheel and lookout,
And you'd kind o' feel him near,
Kind o' see him and not see him,
Kind o' hear him and not hear,
And the funny thing about it
Was you somehow couldn't swear
(Though you knew it sure as shooting)
When the Extra Hand was there.

And in port, when all the chaps had gone
Ashore to take their ease,
And left the ship as lonely
And as quiet as you please,
Not a blessed soul aboard her
But the galley cat and you,
Then you'd hear a sort o' something -
More than once I've heard it too.

Like a feller up aloft there,
Puttering round among the gear,
Seizing there another ratline,
Putting on a mousing here,
And rum-tumming old tunes over
Such as shell backs used to know
In the good old China tea trade,
Many and many a year ago.


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010



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