The Ketch Ceres


words by Cicely Fox Smith, tune by Daniel Kelly

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A century and a quarter, full of chance and change had passed
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Since they built her, down in Devon, where they mostly build to last,
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And sent her out to earn her keep at risk of wave and war,
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And dodge the nimble privateer along the Biscay shore.

And war went out and peace came in and time it went and came,
And brought new changes every year but her it left the same;
The privateers they vanished and the Indiamen likewise,
And the first steam-kettle trailed her smoke across the affronted skies.

The tea fleet and the wool fleet, in their turn they had their day;
She marked them in their beauty as she plied upon her way,
Their canvas piled like summer clouds, …… like summer clouds they passed,
But —she was built in Devon and they build 'em there to last.

She loaded nuts and oranges, she carried coal and props,
And bricks and hay and china-clay and barley-malt and hops;
She traded north to Derry and she traded south to Spain,
And east about to Wells and Lynn and back to Byewd again.

She knew the rips and overfalls from London to the Lizard,
And once she nearly left her bones off Padstow in a blizzard,
But when winter fogs were thickest she could mostly smell her way
By the old familiar sea-marks into Bude or Watchett Bay.

And peace went out and war came in and forth she went once more
To dodge the nimble submarines along the English shore,
And war went out and peace came in and still she held together
Spite of floating mine and tin fish and the good old Channel weather.

She loaded salt and timber and she carried slate from Wales,
Cement and corn and cattle-cake and paving-stones and nails;
She worked her way to Liverpool and down the coast for cloam,
Across the war to Swansea Bay and then with slag for home.

But a time it comes to ships and men when sailing days are past,
Even such as hail from Devon, where they mostly build to last,
And her seams began to open and the Severn tide came through,
And the water kept on gaining spite of all that they could do.

They did their best to beach her but they couldn't do no more,
And she foundered at the finish there in sight of Appledore;
And her bones'll never flicker blue on any 'longshore fire,
For she'll lie there and she'll moulder as an old ship might desire,

And hear the vessels passing by and dream about the past
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And the great old times in Devon, where they built her once to last.

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