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THE REVENGE
“Shall we fight or shall we fly?

25
Good Sir Richard, tell us now,
A BALLAD OF THE FLEET

For to fight is but to die!

There'll be little of us left by the time At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Gren

this sun be set." ville lay,

And Sir Richard said again: "We be all And a pinnace, like a fluttered bird, came

good English men. flying from far away:

Let us bang these dogs of Seville, the chil"Spanish ships of war at sea! we have

dren of the devil,

30 sighted fifty-three!

For I never turned my

Don or Then sware Lord Thomas Howard:“'Fore

devil yet.” God, I am no coward;

V But I cannot meet them here, for my ships Sir Richard spoke and he laughed, and we are out of gear,

roared a hurrah, and so And the half my men are sick. I must fly, but follow quick.

The little Revenge ran on sheer into the We are six ships of the line; can we fight with her hundred fighters on deck, and

heart of the foe, with fifty-three?"

her ninety sick below; II

For half of their fleet to the right and half Then spake Sir Richard Grenville: "I to the left were seen,

35 know you are no coward;

And the little Revenge ran on through the You fly them for a moment to fight with long sea-lane between.

them again. But I've ninety men and more that are lying sick ashore.

Thousands of their soldiers looked down I should count myself the coward if I left

from their decks and laughed, them, my Lord Howard,

Thousands of their seamen made mock at To these Inquisition dogs and the devil

the mad little craft doms of Spain."

Running on and on, till delayed
III

By their mountain-like San Philip that, So Lord Howard passed away with five

of fifteen hundred tons,

40 ships of war that day,

And up-shadowing high above us with her Till he melted like a cloud in the silent yawning tiers of guns, summer heaven;

Took the breath from our sails, and we But Sir Richard bore in hand all his sick stayed. men from the land

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VII
Very carefully and slow,
Men of Bideford in Devon,

And while now the great San Philip hung And we laid them on the ballast down be

above us like a cloud low:

Whence the thunderbolt will fall For we brought them all aboard,

Long and loud,

45 And they blessed him in their pain, that

Four galleons drew away they were not left to Spain,

From the Spanish fleet that day, To the thumb-screw and the stake, for the

And two upon the larboard and two upon

the starboard lay, glory of the Lord.

And the battle-thunder broke from them IV

all. He had only a hundred seamen to work

VIII the ship and to fight, And he sailed away from Flores till the But anon the great San Philip, she beSpaniard came in sight,

thought herself and went,

50 With his huge sea-castles heaving upon the Having that within her womb that had weather bow.

left her ill content;

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XII

And the rest they came aboard us, and And the pikes were all broken or bent, they fought us hand to hand,

and the powder was all of it spent; 80 For a dozen times they came with their And the masts and the rigging were lying pikes and musqueteers,

over the side; And a dozen times we shook 'em off as a But Sir Richard cried in his English dog that shakes his ears

54

pride: When he leaps from the water to the land. “We have fought such a fight for a day

and a night

As may never be fought again! And the sun went down, and the stars We have won great glory, my men! 85

came out far over the summer sea, And a day less or more But never a moment ceased the fight of At sea or ashore, the one and the fifty-three.

We die does it matter when? Ship after ship, the whole night long, their Sink me the ship, Master Gunner-sink high-built galleons came,

her, split her in twain! Ship after ship, the whole night long, with Fall into the hands of God, not into the her battle-thunder and flame:

hands of Spain!”

90 Ship after ship, the whole night long, drew

back with her dead and her shame. 60 For some were sunk and many were shat

And the gunner said, “Ay, ay," but the tered, and so could fight no more

seamen made reply: God of battles, was ever a battle like this

“We have children, we have wives, in the world before?

And the Lord hath spared our lives.

We will make the Spaniard promise, if X

we yield, to let us go; For he said, "Fight on! fight on!” We shall live to fight again and to strike Though his vessel was all but a wreck;

another blow.'

95 And it chanced that, when half of the short

And the lion there lay dying, and they summer night was gone,

65

yielded to the foe. With a grisly wound to be dressed he had left the deck,

And the stately Spanish men to their But a bullet struck him that was dressing

flagship bore him then, it suddenly dead,

Where they laid him by the mast, old Sir And himself he was wounded again in the

Richard caught at last, side and the head,

And they praised him to his face with And he said, “Fight on! fight on!”

their courtly foreign grace;

But he rose upon their decks, and he cried: XI

"I have fought for Queen and Faith like a And the night went down, and the sun

valiant man and true; smiled out far over the summer sea, 70

I have only done my duty as a man is And the Spanish fleet with broken sides

bound to do. lay round us all in a ring;

With a joyful spirit I Sir Richard GrenBut they dared not touch us again, for

ville die!” they feared that we still could sting, And he fell upon their decks, and he died. So they watched what the end would be. And we had not fought them in vain,

XIV But in perilous plight were we,

75 And they stared at the dead that had been Seeing forty of our poor hundred were so valiant and true,

105 slain,

And had holden the power and glory of And half of the rest of us maimed for life Spain so cheap In the crash of the cannonades and the That he dared her with one little ship and desperate strife:

his English few; And the sick men down in the hold were Was he devil or man? He was devil for most of them stark and cold,

aught they knew,

XIII

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But they sank his body with honor down

IV into the deep,

Who let her in? how long has she been? And they manned the Revenge with a

you-what have you heard? swarthier alien crew,

Why did you sit so quiet? you never have And away she sailed with her loss and

spoken a word. longed for her own;

0—to pray with me-yes-a lady-none When a wind from the lands they had of their spiesruined awoke from sleep,

But the night has crept into my heart, And the water began to heave and the and begun to darken my eyes.

weather to moan, And or ever that evening ended a great

V gale blew, And a wave like the wave that is raised by Ah-you, that have lived so soft, what an earthquake grew,

should you know of the night,

115 Till it smote on their hulls and their sails

The blast and the burning shame and the and their masts and their flags,

bitter frost and the fright?

I have done it, while you were asleep And the whole sea plunged and fell on the shot-shattered navy of Spain,

you were only made for the day. And the little Revenge herself went down

I have gathered my baby together-and by the island crags

now you may go your way. To be lost evermore in the main.

VI

Nay-for it's kind of you, madam, to sit RIZPAH

by an old dying wife. 17

But say nothing hard of my boy, I have I

only an hour of life.

I kissed my boy in the prison, before he Wailing, wailing, wailing, the wind over

went out to die. land and seaAnd Willy's voice in the wind, “O mother, “They dared me to do it,” he said, and he

never has told me a lie. come out to me!

I whipped him for robbing an orchard once Why should he call me to-night, when he

when he was but a child

25 knows that I cannot go?

“The farmer dared me to do it,” he said; For the downs are as bright as day, and the full moon stares at the snow.

he was always so wildAnd idle-and couldn't be idle-my Willy

-he never could rest. We should be seen, my dear; they would The King should have made him a soldier,

he would have been one of his best. spy us out of the town. The loud black nights for us, and the

VII storm rushing over the down, When I cannot see my own hand, but am

But he lived with a lot of wild mates, and led by the creak of the chain,

they never would let him be good; And grovel and grope for my son till 1 They swore that he dare not rob the mail, find myself drenched with the rain.

and he swore that he would; 30

And he took no life, but he took one purse, III

and when all was done Anything fallen again? nay-what was He Aung it among his fellows—“I'll none there left to fall?

of it,” said my son. I have taken them home, I have numbered the bones, I have hidden them all. 10

VIII What am I saying? and what are you? do I came into court to the judge and the you come as a spy?

lawyers. I told them my tale, Falls? what falls? who knows? As the tree God's own truth—but they killed him, falls so must it lie.

they killed him for robbing the mail.

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They hanged him in chains for a show, My Willy 'ill rise up whole when the

we had always borne a good name-35 trumpet of judgment ’ill sound, To be hanged for a thief-and then put But I charge you never to say that I laid away-isn't that enough shame?

him in holy ground. Dust to dust-low down let us hide! but

they set him so high That all the ships of the world could stare at him, passing by.

They would scratch him up—they would God 'ill pardon the hell-black raven and

hang him again on the cursèd tree. horrible fowls of the air,

Sin? o, yes, we are sinners, I know-let all that be,

60 But not the black heart of the lawyer who killed him and hanged him there. 40

And read me a Bible verse of the Lord's

goodwill toward men

"Full of compassion and mercy, the IX

Lord”-let me hear it again; And the jailer forced me away. I had bid

“Full of compassion and mercy-longhim my last good-bye;

suffering.” Yes, O, yes! They had fastened the door of his cell.

For the lawyer is born but to murder“O mother!" I heard him cry.

the Savior lives but to bless. I couldn't get back though I tried, he had

He 'll never put on the black cap except something further to say,

for the worst of the worst, 65 And now I never shall know it. The jailer. And the first may be last—I have heard forced me away.

it in church-and the last may be first.

Suffering O, long-suffering-yes, as the х

Lord must know, Then since I couldn't but hear that cry of Year after year in the mist and the wind my boy that was dead,

45

and the shower and the snow. They seized me and shut me up: they fastened me down on my bed.

XIV “Mother, O mother!”-he called in the dark to me year after

Heard, have you? what? they have told

yearThey beat me for that, they beat me

you he never repented his sin. you know that I couldn't but hear;

How do they know it? are they his mother? And then at the last they found I had

are you of his kin?

70 grown so stupid and still

Heard! have you ever heard, when the They let me abroad again—but the crea

storm on the downs began, tures had worked their will.

The wind that 'ill wail like a child and the 50

sea that 'ill moan like a man? XI

XV Flesh of my flesh was gone, but bone of my bone was left

Election, Election, and Reprobation—it's I stole them all from the lawyers-and all very well. you, will you call it a theft?

But I go to-night to my boy, and I shall My baby, the bones that had sucked me, not find him in hell.

the bones that had laughed and had For I cared so much for my boy that the cried

Lord has looked into my care, 75 Theirs? O, no! they are mine—not theirs And He means me I'm sure to be happy - they had moved in my side.

with Willy, I know not where.

XII

XVI Do you think I was scared by the bones? I And if he be lost-but to save my soul, kissed 'em, I buried 'em all

that is all

your desire I can't dig deep, I am old—in the night by Do you think that I care for my soul if my the churchyard wall.

boy be gone to the fire?

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I have been with God in the dark-go, go,

you may leave me aloneYou never have borne a child—you are just as hard as a stone.

80

XVII Madam, I beg your pardon! I think that

you mean to be kind, But I cannot hear what you say for my

Willy's voice in the windThe snow and the sky so bright-he used

but to call in the dark, And he calls to me now from the church

and not from the gibbet-for hark! Nay—you can hear it yourself—it is

coming-shaking the walls- 85 Willy—the moon 's in a cloud- -Good

night. I am going. He calls.

If my body come from brutes, though some

what finer than their own, I am heir, and this my kingdom. Shall

the royal voice be mute? No, but if the rebel subject seek to drag me from the throne,

15 Hold the sceptre, Human Soul, and rule thy province of the brute.

II I have climbed to the snows of Age, and

I gazed at a field in the Past, Where I sank with the body at times in

the sloughs of a low desire, But I hear no yelp of the beast, and the

Man is quiet at last As he stands on the heights of his life with

a glimpse of a height that is higher. 20

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