A Ballad Of Old And New

As I went down through Portsmouth Town, with my bundle in my hand,
I met a chap in a pigtail rig, just newly come to land;
I met a fellow of an old-style build, with a look both bold and free, -
With varnished hat and buckled shoes, like the men of the Old Navee.

'What news, what news, young fellow,' he said, 'of rigging loft and yard;
What ships are new, and what are built this year at Buckler's Hard?
And is the cry, 'More frigates,' still, as I mind it used to be?
Do England's oaks build ships this day like the ships of the Old Navee?'

'And when these things you've answered all, why, then, lad, tell me true,
Who stands this day where Nelson stood (if any so may do),
What prizes late our Fleet has won, what victories gained at sea,
Does England hold what she fought for of old, in the days of the Old Navee?'

'By Tyne and Clyde and Merseyside our ships lie keel by keel,
And a man must stop his ears to hear the hammer on the steel;
By Buckler's Hard nought now you hear but song of bird and tree,
But the ships of grey will be first in the fray like the ships of the Old Navee.'

'Dogger and Bight and Falklands fight, and one or two beside,
And Jutland Bank shall one day rank with the names of Nelson's pride;
But that's a tale is all too hard for simple lads like me, -
Not word, but deed, is the sailor's creed, as it was in the Old Navee.'

'But when the time for deeds is come, we've fighting lads a few,
Can hit and hold, both swift and bold, the same's they used to do,
Can hunt the pirate submarine from broad and narrow sea,
And strike the raider in his lair as they did in the Old Navee.'

'So let the Navy have her fling, she'll show in the Navy's way
Our frontier is the foeman's shore, to-day as yesterday:
For the fights that are fought on blue water will win or lose the sea,
As it was when Hawke and Nelson sailed in the ships of the Old Navee.'

'And all we ask is to finish our task some day with a free sky o'er us,
A day fair and fine, with a clear skyline, and a foe that will stand before us:
We've a man from Wexford that we know full well for as good as any may be,
And the bulldog's grip that never slip, as it was in the Old Navee!'

As I went down through Portsmouth Town, a cold rain falling fast,
I saw the flap of old
flag, where she dreams of victories past,
And this was the word the salt wind bore that blew from the English sea:
'Be it steam or sail, you weather the gale by the New as the Old Navee!'

by Cicely Fox Smith

Comments (1)

You are a great poet. I enjoyed this poem very much.