Cicely Fox Smith

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

They Made Sails - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

In the old raftered loft
Where the winds blow
Like thin querulous voices
Out of long ago,
And the cobwebs sway
To and fro, to and fro,
Like the fine top-hamper
Etching out the sky
Of a tall square-rigger
In a time gone by . . .

In the old raftered loft
They made sails . . .

Moonsails, skysails
(To deck a new-built clipper),
Stunsails, trysails
(To suit a racing skipper),
Mainsails, to'gans'ls,
Great sails and small,
In the old raftered loft
They made them all . . .

Yonder where the sun strikes
On the rutted floor,
Old Sails used to sit
Forty years or more,
Like an old bald Buddha,
Squatting on his throne,
Where the girls come with garlands
And the yellow monks intone.
There he'd sit and yarn
Hour by hour
About the Blackwall frigate

Owen Glendower
Where he learned his trade
A dog watch ago,
Striding down the Tropic
With her tacks boarded
And a wake like snow . . .

In the old raftered loft
He made sails . . .
They drooped in the Doldrums
Dark with tropic dew;
They stooped in the Forties
When the West winds blew;
They flushed like Alps at sunrise
In the dawn's first glow;
They took the last daylight,
Tall towers of snow . . .
When it was 'Watch, aloft and furl it'
In the black Horn night;
And 'Shake another reef out'
At the first gleam of light;
Give her all she'll carry
Through the Trade Wind foam,
By the great Lord Harry
Crack it on for home . . .

Outer jibs, flying jibs
(Killers of men),
Ringtail and Jamie Green
(They will not come again).
Stunsails, skysails
(To dress a flying clipper),
Every sort of handkercher
To suit a racing skipper . . .
Big sails and little sails
For ships great and small,
In the old raftered loft
They made them all . . .

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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