Mudcat Café message #3437397 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #126636   Message #3437397
Posted By: Charley Noble
16-Nov-12 - 10:20 AM
Thread Name: Song about the Thames River
Subject: RE: Song about the Thames River
This poem by Cicely Fox Smith is a tribute to the River Thames or "London River" as she calls it:

The Oldest Thing in London

A thousand landmarks perish,
A hundred streets grow strange;
With all the dreams they cherish
They go the ways of change;
But, whatso towers may tumble,
And whatso bridges fall,
And whatso statues crumble
Of folk both great and small,
The Oldest Thing in London he changes not at all.

The shoutings of the foeman,
The groanings of the slain,
The galley of the Roman,
The longship of the Dane,
The warring of the nations,
The judgment of the Lord
On heedless generations
In plague and fire and sword,
The Oldest Thing in London has known them and endured.

When London wall was builded
And London stone was new,
When first Paul's spire rose gilded
And gleaming in the blue,
Ere Holbein yet was christened,
When no one dreamed of Wren,
And clear the Ty-bourne glistened
And the Fleet was seen of men
The Oldest Thing in London was not much younger then.

New Londons rise like bubbles,
Like bubbles break and pass,
Or some dark dream that troubles
A wizard's magic glass;
A little while they hustle
And glitter in the sun,
And feast and fret and bustle
And chaffer, and have done
The Oldest Thing in London he sees them every one.

No stones so strong to weather
Sun's heat or winter's blast
But time and man together
May tear them down at last;

The toughest rafters moulder,
The stoutest beams decay,
But he seems little older
From day to changing day
The Oldest Thing in London that passes not away.

Each day to her, his daughter,
On each returning tide
He brings as first he brought her
Her dower of wealth and pride;
Twice daily, now as ever
At London's feet is laid
By London's ancient river
The burthen of her trade
By London's ancient river
Way-hay, you London River!
The Oldest Thing in London, whereby was London made!

Notes from The Complete Poetry of Cicely Fox Smith, p. 450:

From Here and There in England with the Painter Brangwyn, by Cicely Fox Smith, a limited edition published by F. Lewis, Leigh-on-Sea, UK, 1945, pp. 18-19, with excellent color plates and is one of her better travel books; published earlier in Sailor's Delight in 1931.

The words imply they were written during World War 1 when the London River, as the poet called the Thames, was a target for many bombs and the scene of much destruction. It is interesting to note that this book was published in large format at a time (or very soon after) of severe paper rationing.

To those unfamiliar with London, "Paul's spire" is the dome of St. Paul's cathedral designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Ty-bourne (nowadays Tyburn) and Fleet are tributary rivers of the Thames. Holbein was Court painter to the late Tudor monarchs of England.

Charley Noble