Cicely Fox Smith
Then And Now - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
O FAIR to see, scudding with gull-like motion,
Or hovering poised on shadowing wings of snow;
The ships that won the empire of the ocean
A hundred years ago!
What could yon vessel tell of combats glorious,
That now so calmly at her anchor rides,
When the deep voice of England's guns victorious
Spoke from those oaken sides?
Those that ne'er bowed to man, to Time surrender,
And, as the passing years at last prevail,
Gone are the tapering masts, the rigging slender,
And snow-white spread of sail.
Gone - once the terror of the pirate-rover;
But, following on the steps of such as these,
We forge wherewith to bridge the ocean over,
A sword to cleave the seas.
That - a memory of the struggles of our nation,
When England staunchly stay'd Napoleon's plan;
This - emblem of a younger generation
And the wondrous art of man.
And, tho' beneath that banner, famed in story,
No snow-white sails across the seas are blown,
Our - ocean-greyhounds boast a new-won glory,
A beauty all their own.
Sped forward by their hearts' fierce palpitations,
White foam from those resistless bows far-hurled,
They watch upon the highway of the nations,
And the markets of the world.
And should the cannon's roar and broadside's rattle
Call Britain's bulwarks to defend her shore,
They will bear themselves right bravely in the battle
Tho' wooden walls no more!
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