Cicely Fox Smith

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

Torpedo Boats - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

There be poets in plenty have sung in the praise
Of the famous old names out of Old Navy days,
Victory, Téméraire, Ajax, Orion,
Colossus, Caliope, Tiger
But it's hard, you'll acknowledge, to rhyme you the fame
Of a craft that has never so much as a name,
But simply appears on the tale of the sea
As - 'H.M. Torpedo Boat (One, Two, or Three)!'

Likewise our destroyers have names to suggest
Their fierceness, their fleetness, their daring, their zest,
The Insects, the Rivers, the Tribes and what not -
Not to mention selections from Shakespeare and Scott;
But though they should ransack the poets all through,
And exhaust every creature that's known at the Zoo,
Not a name would there be in the whole bag of tricks
To spare for Torpedo Boat Four, Five or Six!

But it matters not greatly when work's to be done
If they call you
Ark Royal
If you sound like a flagship of ancient renown,
Or more like the knapsack once worn by John Brown.
And whether your portion be number or name,
There are some things, you'll find, which are always the same,
And sisters in Duty, at risk of the sea,
Are Dreadnought, destroyer, and humble T.B.

There be sea-fogs to blind her and tempests to batter,
There be shoals to decoy her and lee shores to shatter,
There be seas which engulf her and billows which roll,
With spray dashing high as a Dreadnought's control;
While to keep her from dulness are mines not a few
(And she knows just a bit about submarines too!),
Such lesser distractions as fall to the lot
Of H.M. Torpedo Boat - please yourself what!

And though scant be her portion on History's page,
Recounting great battles where fleets did engage,
Though the end of her day be to perish alone,
Her deeds unrecorded, her glory unknown;
Come lightning or tempest, come gale or come sleet,
She must stick to her job on the fringe of the Fleet,
Patrolling our coast round from Harwich to Humber,
H.M. Torpedo Boat - known by a number!

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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