The Great War

from The Man Who Saw, an electronic edition

The Battle of the Bight

HAD I that fabled herb

Which brought to life the dead,

Whom would I dare disturb

In his eternal bed ?

Great Grenville would I wake,

And with glad tidings make

The soul of mighty Drake

Upheave a glorying head.

As rose the misty sun,

Our men the North Sea scanned,

And each rejoicing gun

Welcomed a foe at hand,

Eager, with thunderous throat,

To sound, for all afloat,

The world-awakening note

The world can understand.

For ev'n as birds of night,

Hoary and tawny owl,

Do sometimes brave the light,

Like bolder, nobler fowl,

So did the foe that day

Come venturing forth for prey,

Where, on the ocean way,

Our ocean watchdogs prowl.

But brief and plain, 'mid men

Not born to yield or flee,

Our cannon spoke out then

The speech that keeps us free,

And battered, with hoarse boom,

Four warships to their doom,

While one, to a fiercer tomb,

Fled blazing down the sea.

Sleep on, O Drake, sleep well,

In days not wholly dire!

Grenville, whom nought could quell,

Unquenched is still thy fire.

And thou that hadst no peer,

Nelson, thou need'st not fear!

Thy sons and heirs are here,

And shall not shame their sire.