Cicely Fox Smith – Commemoration

Delighted to hear that the life and work of Cicely -Fox Smith (1882-1954) is going to be commemorated at Bow, Devon, on 21st June 2014. More details from – Celebrating Cicely.

An extensive prose writer and poet, a huge body of her work concerns themes relating to the Sea, and war at sea. Her poem ‘Home Lads Home’ , written around 1916, was set to music about twenty years ago and performed in British folk clubs. Her poem ‘North Sea Ground’ about Grimsby during the Great War was set to music by classical composer E.J. Moeran .

A favourite of mine is ‘Stormy Dusk’,which appears in her anthology ‘The Naval Crown-Ballads and Songs of the War’ (1919). This anthology contains poems that originally appeared in ‘Punch’, ‘The Spectator’ , ‘Daily Chronicle’, ‘Sphere’ and ‘Country Life’, making one realise what a potentially large readership her work had.

The first few lines are quite ominous, but overall there’s not the graphic depiction of war of say Rosenberg, Owen, Gurney, or the satire of Sassoon, or triumphalism of Jessie Pope, just a simple prayer for the safety for the men at sea and for victory. A reminder that war poetry could be quite under-stated at times.

Stormy Dusk
To-night the dark came stormy down,
The sun went red to rest;
And fleets of clouds like battleships
Filled all the burning West.
The wind was rising to a gale,
It howled in hedge and tree . . .
And it’s cold, bitter cold,
Where our sailormen must be,
Oh, it’s bitter cold this night
In the wild North Sea!

To-night I heard the church clock strike
Across the gusts of storm . . .
And I thought how go the hours at sea
While we are sheltered warm . . .
I prayed God guard our ships at sea
And keep them from all harm . . .
And guide them through the pitch-black tides
Where the drifting death may be,
And give them soon a safe return
And a fruitful victory . . .
And Christ our Lord who walked of old
On waves of Galilee,
Be near our men this night
In the wild North Sea!

There is an online version of The Naval Crown

Wish to thank various pals from the Great War Forum, particularly Sea Jane, for their help.

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