Cicely Fox Smith

London Seagulls

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The pigeons of the Abbey, the pigeons of Saint Paul's,
That woo in windy niches of grey and grimy walls,
The pearl-grey dawns of London, his sky that gleams and glooms,
His stately smoky sunsets are in their changing plumes.

The saucy London sparrows, their Cockney chatter tells
Their parents nested surely in earshot of Bow Bells . . .
But Oh! the London seagulls a-cruising up and down,
They're most like old-time seamen come back to London town.

Old salty swearing seadogs and tarry buccaneers,
With bacca quids and pigtails and ear-rings in their ears,
That spent their money handsome and took their ease ashore
In rowdy Ratcliff aleshops with sand upon the floor . . .

And bawled their old sea-ballads, and told their thumping lies,
In fearsome deep sea lingo to open landsmen's eyes,
And drained their brimming pewters, and spat into the tide,
In old shipboarded taverns by Wapping waterside . . .

And saw there at their moorings the Geordie colliers rock,
The latest pirate dangling at Execution Dock,
The anchored ships unloading their silks and laces fine,
And spices from the Indies, and rum, and Spanish wine . . .

And watched the busy wherries all plying with their fares,
From Globe, Jamaica, Wapping and Cherry Garden Stairs,
And the lighters and the barges a-passing to and fro
As they did on London River two hundred years ago.

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Cicely Fox Smith