The Loss of the Birkenhead

Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

G                               C    G
Silent they stood upon that stranded wreck
C          G       D
Fast on a hidden shoal,
G                          C      G
Drawn up in line upon the leaning deck
C          D          G
For their last muster-roll.
    C          G              D         G
There was no wailing heard of wild affright,
C          G          D
No cry of those who drown:
G                    C              
All silent, in the darkness of the night,
G          D          G
The Birkenhead went down.

Many there were that hour who sank below,
Drown'd in the dark cold brine,
Who ne'er had tried their worth against the foe,
Nor stood in battle-line.
But bravely, truly, as in front of fight,
Each won a hero's crown,
When the staunch, Birkenhead at dead of night
Off Danger Point went down.

Where lives the man dare say that all in vain
Those hero lives were spent?
Ever their proud example shall remain
A deathless monument.
Ever the tale of sacrifice shall shine
In England's long renown,
How, strong and still, drawn up in steadfast line,
Five hundred souls went down.