Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ON THE MEMORABLE VICTORY OF PAUL JONES, by PHILIP FRENEAU

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ON THE MEMORABLE VICTORY OF PAUL JONES, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: O'er the rough main with flowing sheet
Last Line: They trembled and ador'd.
Variant Title(s): Bonhomme Richard And Serapis
Subject(s): American Revolution; Bon Homme Richard (ship); Jones, John Paul (1747-1792); Navy - United States; Sea Battles; American Navy; Naval Warfare

O'ER the rough main, with flowing sheet,
The guardian of a numerous fleet.
Serapis from the Baltic came:
A ship of less tremendous force
Sail'd by her side the self-same course,
Countess of Scarb'ro' was her name.

And now their native coasts appear,
Britannia's hills their summits rear
Above the German main;
Fond to suppose their dangers o'er,
They southward coast along the shore,
Thy waters, gentle Thames, to gain.

Full forty guns Serapis bore,
And Scarb'ro's Countess twenty-four,
Mann'd with Old England's boldest tars --
What flag that rides the Gallic seas
Shall dare attack such piles as these,
Design'd for tumults and for wars!

Now from the top-mast's giddy height
A seaman cry'd -- "Four sail in sight
Approach with favoring gales."
Pearson, resolv'd to save the fleet,
Stood off to sea, these ships to meet,
And closely brac'd his shivering sails.

With him advanc'd the Countess bold,
Like a black tar in wars grown old:
And now these floating piles drew nigh.
But, muse, unfold what chief of fame
In the other warlike squadron came,
Whose standards at his mast-head fly.

"T was Jones, brave Jones, to battle led
As bold a crew as ever bled
Upon the sky-surrounded main;
The standards of the western world
Were to the willing winds unfurl'd,
Denying Britain's tyrant reign.

The Good-Man-Richard led the line;
The Alliance next: with these combine
The Gallic ship they Pallas call,
The Vengeance arm'd with sword and flame;
These to attack the Britons came --
But two accomplish'd all.

Now Phoebus sought his pearly bed:
But who can tell the scenes of dread,
The horrors of that fatal night!
Close up these floating castles came:
The Good-Man-Richard bursts in flame;
Serapis trembled at the sight.

She felt the fury of her ball:
Down, prostrate, down the Britons fall;
The decks were strew'd with slain:
Jones to the foe his vessel lash'd;
And, while the black artillery flash'd,
Loud thunders shook the main.

Alas! that mortals should employ
Such murdering engines to destroy
That frame by heaven so nicely join'd;
Alas! that e'er the god decreed
That brother should by brother bleed,
And pour'd such madness in the mind.

But thou, brave Jones, no blame shalt bear,
The rights of man demand your care:
For these you dare the greedy waves.
No tyrant, on destruction bent,
Has plann'd thy conquest -- thou art sent
To humble tyrants and their slaves.

See! -- dread Serapis flames again --
And art thou, Jones, among the slain,
And sunk to Neptune's caves below? --
He lives -- though crowds around him fall,
Still he, unhurt, survives them all;
Almost alone he fights the foe.

And can your ship these strokes sustain?
Behold your brave companions slain,
All clasp'd in ocean's cold embrace;
STRIKE, OR BE SUNK -- the Briton cries --
SINK IF YOU CAN -- the chief replies,
Fierce lightnings blazing in his face.

Then to the side three guns he drew
(Almost deserted by his crew),
And charg'd them deep with woe;
By Pearson's flash he aim'd hot balls;
His main-mast totters -- down it falls --
O'erwhelming half below.

Pearson had yet disdain'd to yield,
But scarce his secret fears conceal'd,
And thus was heard to cry --
"With hell, not mortals, I contend;
What art thou -- human, or a fiend,
That dost my force defy?

"Return, my lads, the fight renew!" --
So call'd bold Pearson to his crew;
But call'd, alas! in vain;
Some on the decks lay maim'd and dead;
Some to their deep recesses fled,
And hosts were shrouded in the main.

Distress'd, forsaken, and alone,
He haul'd his tatter'd standard down,
And yielded to his gallant foe;
Bold Pallas soon the Countess took, --
Thus both their haughty colors struck,
Confessing what the brave can do.

But, Jones, too dearly didst thou buy
These ships possest so gloriously,
Too many deaths disgrac'd the fray:
Thy barque that bore the conquering flame,
That the proud Briton overcame,
Even she forsook thee on thy way;

For when the morn began to shine,
Fatal to her, the ocean brine
Pour'd through each spacious wound;
Quick in the deep she disappear'd
But Jones to friendly Belgia steer'd,
With conquest and with glory crown'd.

Go on, great man, to scourge the foe,
And bid these haughty britons know
They to our Thirteen Stars shall bend;
Those Stars that, veil'd in dark attire,
Long glimmer'd with a feeble fire,
But radiant now ascend.

Bend to the Stars that flaming rise
In western, not in eastern, skies,
Fair Freedom's reign restored --
So when the Magi, come from far,
Beheld the God-attending Star,
They trembled and ador'd.

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