1809.9 - "The Sea-Fight"

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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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1809.9
The Sea-Fight
Samuel Elsdale [1]
The Gentleman's Magazine, LXXIX (July, 1809), p. 655

Lines descriptive of an Engagement which took place off Hispaniola, between the English Privateer the Revenge, of 14 Guns, Capt. Wetherall, and a French Merchantman, of Six Hundred Tons burden, and mounting 24 Guns.

The stars had fled, the sun arose,
Along the deep the sea breeze blows,
With rippling track the current flows,
                        The British flag flies gloriously.

When, lo! a vessel hove in sight,
'Twas French; both crews prepare for fight,
And summon all their skill and might,
                        To gain the conquest speedily.

The English was a privateer,
Renown'd for valour far and near;
Their Captain Wetherall loud they cheer,
                        To lead the combat manfully.

The French for merchandize was made,
The Captain late retir'd from trade,
For wife and only son afraid,
                        Fought for his life, love, property.

Of murd'rous guns they number'd more,
But British hearts, true to the core,
Who ne'er in battle flinch'd before,
                        Rush to close battle furiously.

With deafening shouts they board the foe,
Twice the French Captain aim'd a blow,
Two of the English sunk below,
                        The rest retreated hastily.

"Turn, cowards, turn," bold Wetherall cried;
Furious he boards, and at his side
Seldale, whose courage oft was tried,
                        Assails the foe impetuously,

The Frenchman's sword, in vengeance drest,
Had laid full low the foremost crest,
But Seldale pierc'd the hero's breast,
                        And thus secur'd the victory.

O cruel, fatal, bloody War!
Where'er the Furies drive thy car,
Nor husband, sire, nor son they spare,
                        Fell Slaughter reigns promiscuously.

Great God of Heaven! to thee we kneel;
Thy guardian care may England feel,
Secure from hostile fire and steel,
                        From force and secret treachery!

Soft Pity weave thy golden chain!
May widows, mothers, ne'er complain
For husbands, sons, untimely slain;
                        But ev'ry soul breathe harmony!

May love 'twixt man and man increase,
Stern war and ruthless carnage cease,
The world obey the Prince of Peace,
                        And Mercy reign triumphantly!


Notes

1. Samuel Elsdale (1778?-1827) was the son of Robinson Elsdale (1744-1783), autobiographer and seaman, whose memoirs were used as a basis for books by Captain Marryat. Samuel Elsdale was master of a grammar school at Moulton, Lincolnshire and a frequent contributor of poetry to magazines. He published a volume of sacred poetry, Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell, in 1812.

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Published @ RC

September 2004