Echoes From The Cinque Ports

Long ago and distant, in days gone by,
When ships lay in the anchorage from Winchelsea to Rye,
With the wind in the ratlins, and the salt in the breeze,
And the tavern signs swinging to a song of the seas, Then the crews'd sing a shanty, or a sad Spanish air,
And the bold freebooters, 'trading' south of Finisterre,
Would come a-dancin' and a-fiddlin' and a-quaffin' of the ale,
With a wink and a chuckle, and a far-off tale. But, while I stand a-dreaming of those days gone by,
The Romneys graze the farmers' fields from Winchelsea to Rye;
For the tides have ebbed away now, and the grass blows free,
And the ships have sailed for ever, and gone is the sea. Like a squat and rugged sentinel, the sun-tanned town of Rye
Rises sharp from out the misty marsh, its ancient bulwarks dry;
And like a shrunk old salt a-sleeping awaits Winchelsea the tide:
Their medieval puissance drained, these ports of stranded pride. Yet, sighing through the sand-dunes when the south winds blow,
There comes a distant echo of a time long ago,
That sets my heart a-throbbing, as I harken there
To a salt sea-shanty, or a sad Spanish air.

by Bernard Brown

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