I KNEW a ship in the magical time
Of painted toy and nursery rhyme
That quested the world with sails unfurled,
And fluttered her flag in every clime.
Now, once a year, when she came to port,
We quitted our lessons, forgot our sport,
Deserted schools with their tiresome rules,
And rushed to her side to pay her court.
We turned from the town with its ceaseless noise,
Its staring windows and gilded toys;
For she was a queen in her gold and green
And we were a group of Quayside boys.
We climbed her yards at the risk of our necks,
Or grouped wide-eyed on her snowy decks
While her sailors told — what time they rolled
The quid in their cheeks — of reefs and wrecks.
Great talk they made of the China Seas,
The cocoa-nut isles and the scented breeze
That came at night in the white moonlight
From cinnamon groves and camphor trees.
They yarned of dolphins and mermaids white
And Father Neptune abroad at night —
Or, short and tall, yet merry men all,
They danced a jig in the sunset light.
But, best of all, when the night came down
Were the songs they chorused of London Town —
Now loud, now low — with a Yo-heave-O,
And brave, blue eyes under brows of brown.
Now, kissing the foam when the good ship sped,
And poised at her fore with lips of red
And a robe of blue, was — what think you? —
Why, only a wooden figure-head.
Just that! no more; but its buoyant poise
Was such that it seemed a joy of joys,
And its gold-tressed head and its lips of red
Were loved, I think, by the Quayside Boys.
O! the vanished things are the things that most
We grieve about — and that Quayside host,
Would they sigh if told that their ship of old
Is a hulk for coals on the Spanish Coast?