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Beneath whose shade our humble frigates go;
Their mounting shot is on our sails designed; Deep in their hulls our deadly bullets light, And through the yielding planks a passage find. +
61. Our dreaded admiral from far they threat,
Whose battered rigging their whole war receives; All bare, like some old oak which tempests beat, He stands, and sees below his scattered leaves.
62. Heroes of old, when wounded, shelter sought;
But he, who meets all danger with disdain, Even in their face his ship to anchor brought, And steeple-high stood propt upon the main. I
63. At this excess of courage, all amazed,
The foremost of his foes awhile withdraw; With such respect in entered Rome they gazed,
Who on high chairs the god-like Fathers saw. §
* Built, for build or structure.
† Note XVII. #Note XVIII.
§ The Gauls, when they first entered the Roman senate, were so much struck with the solemn appearance of the venerable senutors on their chairs of state, that, for a time, their fury was absorbed in veneration.--Liv. His. Lib. V. cap. 41.
64. And now, as where Patroclus' body lay,
Here Trojan chiefs advanced, and there the Greek; Ours o'er the Duke their pious wings display, And theirs the noblest spoils of Britain seek.
65. Meantime his busy mariners he hastes,
His shattered sails with rigging to restore; And willing pines ascend his broken masts, Whose lofty heads rise higher than before.
66. Straight to the Dutch he turns his dreadful prow,
More fierce the important quarrel to decide; Like swans, in long array, his vessels show, Whose crests advancing do the waves divide.
67. They charge, recharge, and all along the sea
They drive, and squander the huge Belgian fleet; Berkley alone, who nearest danger lay,
Did a like fate with lost Creusa meet. *
68. The night comes on, we eager to pursue
The combat still, and they ashamed to leave; Till the last streaks of dying day withdrew, And doubtful moonlight did our rage deceive.
69. In the English fleet each ship resounds with joy,
And loud applause of their great leader's fame; In fiery dreams the Dutch they still destroy,
And, slumbering, smile at the imagined flame.
* Note XIX.
70. Not so the Holland fleet, who, tired and done,
Stretched on their decks, like weary oxen, lie; Faint sweats all down their mighty members run, Vast bulks, which little souls but ill supply.
71. In dreams they fearful precipices tread;
Or, shipwrecked, labour to some distant shore ; Or in dark churches walk among the dead; They wake with horror, and dare sleep no more.
72. The morn they look on with unwilling eyes,
Till from their main-top joyful news they hear Of ships, which, by their mould, bring new supplies, And in their colours Belgian lions bear.
73. Our watchful general had discerned from far
This mighty succour, which made glad the foe; He sighed, but, like a father of the war, His face spake hope, while deep his sorrows flow.t
74. His wounded men he first sends off to shore,
Never, till now, unwilling to obey; They, not their wounds, but want of strength, deplore,
And think them happy, who with him can stay,
75. Then to the rest, Rejoice,” said he, “ to-day;
In you the fortune of Great Britain lies; Among so brave a people, you are they, Whom heaven has chose to fight for such a prize.
Note XX. + Spem vultu simulat, premit alto corde dolorem.-VIRGIL.
76. " If number English courages could quell,
We should at first have shun'd, not met, our foes, Whose numerous sails the fearful only tell; Courage from hearts, and not from numbers grows." +
To their known stations, cheerfully they go;
But, bold in others, not themselves, they stood; So thick, our navy scarce could steer their way, But seemed to wander in a moving wood.
79. Our little fleet was now engaged so far,
That, like the sword-fish in the whale they fought;f The combat only seemed a civil war, Till through their bowels we our passage wrought.
80. Never had valour, no not ours before
Done aught like this upon the land or main; i Where, not to be o'ercome, was to do more Than all the conquests former kings did gain,
81. The mighty ghosts of our great Harries rose,
And armed Edwards looked with anxious eyes, To see this fleet among unequal foes, By which fate promised them their Charles should 82. Meantime the Belgians tack upon our rear, And raking chase-guns through our sterns they
rise. ** Tell, for number. + Note XXI. 1 Note XXII.
send; Close by their fire-ships, like jackals, appear, Who on their lions for the prey attend.
83. Silent, in smoke of cannon, they come on;
Such vapours once did fiery Cacus hide it In these, the height of pleased revenge is she:vn, Who burn contented by another's side.
84. Sometimes from fighting squadrons of each fleet,
Deceived themselves, or to preserve some friend, Two grapling Ætnas on the ocean meet, And English fires with Belgian flames contend.
85. Now, at each tack, our little fleet grows less;
And, like maimed fowl, swim lagging on the main, Their greater loss their numbers scarce confess, While they lose cheaper than the English gain,
86. Have you not seen, when whistled from the fist,
Some falcon stoops at what her eye designed, And with her eagerness the quarry
missed, Straight flies at check, and clips it down the wind? |
* Note XXIII.
Fumiferam noctem, commixtis igne tenebris. Virgil. | A falcon, I believe, is said to fly at check, when, having missed her stroke, she deserts her proper object of pursuit for a crow, or some otherbird.