« AnteriorContinuar »
quent in poetry, but we think it is managed here with uncommon delicacy and consistency, and great novelty of thought and manner,
From a general view of the poems of Mr. Holland, it is evident that he has the external requisites for poetry in abundance ; he has fine images, fine phrases, and ready versification; he must only learn to think with fulness and precision, and he will write splendidly. As we have already hinted, we consider his present productions but the blossoms of his genius, and like blossoms they will fall and perish-but we trust that after some time of silent growth and gradual maturity, we shall see them succeeded by a harvest of rich and highly flavoured fruit.
ANECDOTES OF THE BATTLE ON LAKE ERIE.
It is a trite remark, that general descriptions of battles present no distinct images to the mind. We read with little emotion of broadsides discharged, ships cut to pieces, and numbers killed and wounded; but when particulars are given us, when the imminent risks, or piteous disasters of individuals are detailed, we fancy ourselves in their situations, and, in a manner, mingle personally in the conflict. A mere outline of the Battle of Erie was given some time since in the Biography of Commodore Perry: since then several circumstances have reached us, which give a more vivid idea of the nature of the fight, and show the incessant and thickening perils with which that young officer was surrounded.
It was his lot repeatedly to see men swept away from his side; some even while conversing with him. One of these incidents displays the coolness and presence of mind that prevailed among the officers, and indeed throughout the ship, enabling them even to jest with present dangers. The second lieutenant of the Lawrence, while standing beside Commodore Perry, was struck in the breast by a chain shot. The shot having passed through the bulwark, had no other effect than to knock him down, and lodged in the bosom of his waistcoat. He fell with an exclamation, and remained for a moment stunned by the violence of the blow. Perry raised him up, and seeing no marks of a wound, gave him some cheering words, and told him he could not be hurt. The lieutenant coming to himself, put his hand into his bosom, pulled out the chain shot, and exclaiming “no, Sir, but this is my shot," thrust it with great sang froid into his pocket.
In the course of the action Perry noticed a prime and favourite sailor, who was captain of one of the guns, very much embarrassed with his piece, which, in consequence of the forelock being broken, was rather unmanageable and rebounded. Perry approached him, and in his usual encouraging manner asked him what was the matter. The honest tar, who had been showing signs of infinite vexation, turned round, and, as if speaking of a mistress, exclaimed reproachfully, “Sir, my gun behaves shamefully-shamefully!" He then levelled it, and having taken aim, raised up and squared himself in a fine martial style, when suddenly a cannon ball struck him in the breast, passed through him, and he fell dead, without a groan!
Lieutenant Yarnall, of the Lawrence, behaved throughout with great bravery and coolness. He was dressed as a common seaman, a red bandana handkerchief was tied round his neck, and another round his head, to stanch two wounds which he had received. From these the blood trickled down his face, and a splinter having passed through his nose, it had swelled to a hideous magnitude. In this frightful plight, looking like the very genius of carnage and ill luck, he came up to Perry, in the hottest and bloodiest of the fight, and announced to him that all the officers of his division were killed. Perry ordered others in their place. Shortly after Yarnell returned with a repetition of the dismal tidings that all the officers were shot down; “then, Sir," said Perry, “ you must endeavour to make out by yourself. I have none more to furnish you!"
One circumstance which Perry relates deserves particular mention. It has in it something of sentiment that is above common life, and absolutely belongs to poetry. When, in the sweeping havoc that was sometimes made, a number of men were shot away from around a gun, the survivors looked silently round to Perry and then stepped into their places. Whenever he looked at the poor fellows that lay wounded and weltering on the deck, he always found their faces turned towards him, and their eyes fixed on his countenance. It is impossible for words to heighten the simple and affecting eloquence of this anecdote. It speaks volumes in praise of the heroism of the commander, and the loyal affection of his followers.
When Perry went off from the Lawrence to shift his flag to the Niagara, he stood up in the boat galJantly waving his sword, and was heard cheeringly to exclaim, “Pull away my brave boys !" so earnest was he that though the balls whistled around him he could scarcely be made to take a seat, and an old sailor, who had been in both battles of the Constitution, absolutely held him down.
Just after he had got on board the Niagara, and was on the quarter deck, a sailor who commanded one of the guns, seeing all his men shot down, turned with eagerness to Perry, and, laying both hands upon his shoulders, exclaimed, “ For God's sake, Sir, give me some more men !" Such was the vivid animation that prevailed among all ranks—they had lost all sense of personal danger, and thought of nothing but victory.
When the Niagara dashed through the enemy's line, as she passed the Lady Prevost, Lieutenant Buchan, the commander of that vessel, was shot through the face by a musket ball. The vessels were then within half pistol shot, so that every thing could be seen distinctly from one to the other. The crew of the Lady Prevost, unable in their crippled state to stand the fire of the Niagara, ran below; but their unfortunate commander remained on deck, and Perry saw him leaning on the companion way, with his face on his hand, looking with fixed stare at his enemies. Perry immediately silenced the marines on the quarter deck, and running forward ordered the men to cease firing. He afterwards learnt that the strange conduct of Lieutenant Buchan was owing to sudden derangement, caused by his wound. He was a brave officer, and had distinguished himself in the battle of the Nile.
While Perry was engaged at close quarters in the Niagara, Lieutenant Turner, a fine told young sailor, who commanded the brig Caledonia, of three guns, spreading every sail, endeavoured to get into the action. His foresail interfered between him and the enemy, but, rather than take in an inch of canvass, he ordered his men to fire through it. Seeing the commodore engaged in the thickest of the fight, he proposed to the commander of another small vessel, to board the Detroit; the other, however, prudently declined the rash but gallant proposal.
It has been mentioned that two Indians were on board the Detroit, stationed in the tops, to pick off our officers with their rifles. No sooner, however, did the ships come into close action, than they were dismayed by this new and tremendous species of battle, and slunk into the hold. When the ship was taken they ar
ticipated cruel treatment, if their nation was discovered, and borrowed sailors' clothes that they might pass for Englishmen. Thus disguised, they lay in close concealment for two days, when word was brought to Perry, that two Indians were concealed below who had not tasted food for eight and forty hours. He had them brought up on deck, where they made a most uncouth and ludicrous appearance, with their borrowed garments bagging about them. They expected nothing less than to be butchered and scalped, but notwithstanding, preserved the most taciturn inflexibility of muscle. Perry, however, after putting a few good-humoured questions to them, ordered them to be taken away and fed; a degree of lenity which seemed to strike them with more surprise than their stoic natures are apt to evince.
The only time that the coolness and self command of Perry experienced any thing like a shock, was on seeing his young brother, a midshipman, knocked down by a hammock, which had been driven in by a ball. In the momentary agony of mind he gave him up as slain, but had the delight to see him rise up perfectly unhurt.
Perry speaks highly of the bravery and good conduct of the negroes, who formed a considerable part of his crew. They seemed to be absolutely insensible to danger. When Captain Barclay came on board the Niagara, and beheld the sickly and particoloured beings around him, an expression of chagrin escaped him, at having been conquered by such men. The fresh water service had very much impaired the health of the sailors, and crowded the sick list with patients.
We shall close these few particulars of this gallant and romantic affair, with the affecting fate of Lieutenant Brookes of the marines. It presents an awful picture of the scenes which the warrior witnesses in battle-his favourite companions suddenly cut down before his eyes—those dreadful transitions from the flush of health and the vivacity of youth, to the ghastliness of agonized death
from the cheering and the smile, to the shriek and the convulsion.
Brookes was a gay, animated young officer, remarkable for his personal beauty. In the midst of the engagement he accosted Perry in a spirited tone, with a smile on his countenance, and was making some observations about the enemy, when a cannon ball struck bim in the thigh, and dashed bin to the opposite side of