The Sailor's Ghost
The Scots Magazine, LXXI (December, 1809), p. 928
A modern tragical Ballad, founded upon the
Battle of Trafalgar.
From Poems by ANDREW SCOTT, Bowden.
The busy world was hush'd in sleep,
And clear the night stars twinkling shone,
As forth fair Mary went to weep,
Beneath the pale beams of the moon.
In Nelson's fleet her lover sail'd
Her mind, harass'd with boding fear,
Did only whisper something ail'd
Her absent tar, her sailor dear.
Her pillow, by the death-watch, long,
With constant clink, had marr'd her rest
Thus omens gave presages strong,
Of tidings soon, to her unblest.
A dreary dream the fair one dream'd:
As on her couch last night she lay;
Bedrench'd in blood her William seem'd,
Pale was his cheek, and cold as clay.
Some distance off, her father's home,
Which not far from the sea-beach stood,
Where, jutting o'er the briny foam,
A rigged rock o'erhangs the flood.
Thither, where thickets form a shade,
And shelter from night's chilly breeze,
To weep her woes, the lovely maid
Sought night's deep solitude, and these.
"What if, by dauntless Nelson led,
My love has lately fac'd the foe?
What if, in honour's blood-stain'd bed,
His lifeless clay this night lies low?
What if, by deadly ball propell'd,
Or vengeful cutlass trenching deep,
His bright expressive eyes are seal'd,
For ever clos'd in lasting sleep?
Where fishes skim the ooze beneath,
And huge sea-monsters darkly roam.—
Ah me! I fear that now in death
My darling gluts some living tomb
"Yes," from the beach, reply'd a voice,
'Twas William's very voice she ken'd;
"Ah, Mary! now our wonted joys,
And promis'd bliss, is at an end.
For cold in death my body lies,
Transpierc'd with wounds beneath the flood,
Where fell the brave, no more to rise—
Oh this has been a day of blood!
Yet conquest to my country falls;
Nor has our blood been shed in vain;
Still Britain, in her wooden walls,
Maintains her empire o'er the main.
Their naval pride upon the main
No more Britannia's foes may boast,
But, wailing o'er their numbers slain,
They weep this night a navy lost.
When first the foe appear'd in sight.
And all our decks for battle clear,
In haste I did my Mary write;
'Twas well I did, my fate was near.
And from my locks the ringlet shorn
Therein I careful did inclose,
That this to thee might hence be borne,
If I my life should chance to lose.
Then take, dear maid, what Henry gives,
When him in port you hap to see,
For he, my faithful messmate, lives,
To bear my last sad boon to thee."
Then light as air the spirit pass'd,
(For by this time the grey cock crew,)
And cry'd, "Sweet maid, I hie to rest.
Adieu my Mary, hence adieu!"
Then Mary tore her yellow hair,
Big heav'd her breast with heavy woe,
And from the rock, in wild despair,
She sunk down in the deeps below.
1. [Author's note]: "The author of these poems is a native of the pastoral district of Tiviotdale, and descended of a family, in no respect considerable, but in bearing a name that is renowned in the history of the Scottish border. His father was a day-labourer in the parish of Bowden near Melrose."