Cicely Fox Smith

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"Ain't it rum?" said Dan one day,
Yarning while he worked away
At his model, all but done,
Of the clipper ship Keemun--
Fully rigged and all to scale,
Shroud and backstay, spar and sail,
Tiny blocks and tackles fine,
Tacks and sheets of Hambro line,
Dainty skysails fairy-small,
Stunsails, Jamie Green and all--
"Ain't it sort o' rum," said he,
"Human natur, seems to be--
How a feller never knows
What he likes best--till it goes?

Take the ports I used to know--
How I cussed 'em years ago,
Cussed the insecks an' the stinks,
Cussed the lingo an' the drinks,
Cussed the blacks for bein' black,
Cussed the lot to--Hull an' back!
Never thought how some fine day
I'd sit yarnin' here an' say
What I'd give to see again
Just them things I hated then--
Talk and tell how nothin' else
Smells just like them Eastern smells--
Finish up with 'Seems to me
Ports ain't what they used to be!'

"Take this ship, the old Keemun,
Names I've called 'er, many a one;
Called 'er cranky, stubborn, slow,
Bad aloft an' worse below,
Worst darned ship I'd set my eyes on,
Pikin' pay and grub like pison,--
Never thought I'd come to spend
All the time I've spent on end
('Alf a year's dog-watches good)
Carvin' of 'er out o' wood--
Fight a feller in a pub
Cos he called 'er 'blinkin' tub' . . .
Funny, ain't it? . . . seems to me
Ships ain't what they used to be.

"Chaps I've sailed with--thought per'aps
Pretty much like other chaps,
Maybe liked an' maybe not,
Drunk with, scrapped with, half forgot--
Never though I'd come to say,
Thinkin' of 'em far away,
'Them was fellers, them was men,
Shipmates they was shipmates then,
Lookin' back, why, seems to me
Chaps ain't what they used to be.'

"That's the way I've always found
Things turn out, the whole world round;
If it's gals or ships or beer
Don't much matter, ain't it queer
(Human natur, I suppose)
How a feller never knows
What he likes best--till it goes?"

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