C. Fox Smith

C. (Cicely) Fox Smith (1882-1954) was an English poet and writer, primarily on nautical themes. She lived in Vancouver, Canada, from 1904 - 1913, and learned all she could about ships and sailors. Some believe that she sailed on working ships as well. Lately her poems have been set to music by various folk music performers, but they are otherwise fairly obscure, at least in the United States.

Many of her first published poems appeared under the byline C.F.S. or C. Fox Smith, but later she published under her full name. Some believe the reason she did not do so at first was the belief that nautical poetry by a woman would not be well received.

For your reading pleasure I have scanned and converted into a pdf one of her books of poetry, Sailor Town: Songs & Ballads, first published in 1914. As the copy I had to work from is not the best and can be hard to read in places, below is the text of the first poem in the book transcribed. Enjoy!

Sailor Town

Along the wharves in sailor town a singing whisper goes
Of the wind among the anchored ships, the wind that blows
Off a broad brimming water, where the summer day has died
Like a wounded whale a-sounding in the sunset tide.

There's a big China liner gleaming like a gull
And her lit ports flashing: there's the long gaunt hull
Of a Blue Funnel freighter with her derricks dark and still;
And a tall barque loading at the lumber mill.

And in the shops of sailor town is every kind of thing
That the sailormen buy there, or the ships' crews bring:
Shackles for a sea chest and pink cockatoos,
Fifty cent alarum clocks and dead men's shoes.

You can hear the gulls crying, and the cheerful noise
Of a concertina going, and a singer's voice—
And the wind's song and the tide's song, crooning soft and low
Rum old tunes in sailor town that seamen know.

I dreamed a dream in sailor town, a foolish dream and vain,
Of ships and men departed, of old days come again—
And an old song in sailor town, an old song to sing
When shipmate meets with shipmate in the evening.

The poem was set to music by Dick Miles in 1989. It was later recorded by Johnny Collins.

Scanned version of the book, 1919 edition. (Warning, large pdf.)

More poetry by C. Fox Smith can be found on the Old Poetry Archive.

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