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British War Poetry in the Age of Romanticism 1793-1815, by Betty T. Bennet, Edited by Orianne Smith

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1798.8
Poor TOM
“Peter Pindar”[1]
[John Wolcot]
The Scots Magazine, LX (November 1798), pp. 771-772
The Lady's Magazine, XXIX (December 1798), p. 566
The Courier (January 8, 1799)

A Tale

From "Tales of the Hoy."

Now the rage of Battle ended
    And the French for mercy call;
Death no more in smoke and thunder
    Rode upon the vengeful Ball.

Yet, what brave and loyal Heroes
    Saw the son of morning bright—
Ah! condemn'd by cruel Fortune
    Ne'er to see the Star of Night.

From the main-deck to the quarter,
    Strew'd with limbs and wet with blood,
Poor Tom Halliard, pale and wounded,
    Crawl'd where his brave Captain stood.

"O, my noble Captain! tell me
    Ere I'm borne a corpse away,
Have I done a Seaman's duty
    On this great and glorious day?

"Tell a dying Sailor truly,
    For my life is fleeting fast;
Have I done a Seaman's duty?
    Can there aught my mem'ry blast?"

"Ah! brave Tom!" the Captain answer'd,
    "Thou a Sailor's part hast done!
I revere thy wounds with sorrow—
    Wounds by which our glory's won."

"Thanks, my Captain! life is ebbing
    Fast from this deep wounded heart;
But, O grant one little favour.
    Ere I from the world depart.

"Bid some kind and trusty sailor,
    When I'm number'd with the dead,
For my dear and constant Catharine
    Cut a lock from this poor head.

"Bid him to my Catharine give it,
    Saying, Her's alone I die!
Kate will keep the mournful present,
    And embalm it with a sigh.

"Bid him too this letter bear her,—
    Which I've penn'd with panting breath:
Kate may ponder on the writing
    When the hand is cold in death."

"That I will," reply'd the Captain,
    "And be ever Catherine's friend."
"Ah! my good and kind Commander,
    Now my pains and sorrows end!"

Mute towards his Captain weeping,
    Tom uprais'd a thankful eye—
Grateful then, his foot embracing,
    Sunk, with Kate on his last sigh!

Who, that saw a scene so mournful,
    Could without a tear depart?
He must own a savage nature—
    Pity never warm'd his heart!

Now in his white hammock shrouded,
    By the kind and pensive Crew,
As he dropp'd into the Ocean,
    All burst out—"Poor Tom, adieu!"


Notes

1. Pseudonym of John Wolcot (1738-1819).

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Published @ RC

September 2004