Today I’m sharing two of my favorite things. The first is the poem Clipper Ships and Captains by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét. I was compelled to memorize and recite a poem in front of my fifth grade class. I was already keen on the idea of exploring the world and selected this poem. Yes, I was a nerd. I was terrified I’d forget the words, but fortunately I didn’t. In fact, I can still recite Clipper Ships and Captains in its entirety. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
Clipper Ships and Captains
There was a time before our time,
It will not come again,
When the best ships still were wooden ships
But the men were iron men.
From Stonington to Kennebunk
The Yankee hammers plied
To build the clippers of the wave
That were New England's pride.
The "Flying Cloud," the "Northern Light,"
The "Sovereign of the Seas"—
There was salt music in the blood
That thought of names like these.
"Sea Witch," "Red Jacket," "Golden Age,"
And "Chariot of Fame,"
The whole world gaped to look at them
Before the steamship came.
Their cargoes were of tea and gold,
Their bows a cutting blade;
And, on the bridge, the skippers walked,
Lords of the China trade.
The skippers with the little beards
And the New England drawl,
Who knew Hong Kong and Marblehead
And the Pole Star over all.
Stately as churches, swift as gulls,
They trod the oceans, then
No man had seen such ships before
And none will see again.
Continuing the theme of ocean travel is Sunset at Sea, painted in 1911 by American Impressionist Childe Hassam. During the previous administration you might have seen photographs of the Oval Office that included one of Hassam’s famous flag paintings. The Impressionists were famous for banishing black from their palette, but Hassam couldn’t resist using a dash of black for the tiny ship. This painting delights my senses and propels me into imaginary voyages of adventure and discovery.
Did you have to recite a poem in front of your class? What was it and can you still remember it?