Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE FIGHT OF THE ARMSTRONG PRIVATEER, by JAMES JEFFREY ROCHE



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THE FIGHT OF THE ARMSTRONG PRIVATEER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Tell the story to your sons
Last Line: In the harbor of fayal the azore!
Subject(s): Azores; Courage; General Armstrong (ship); Mountains; Navy - United States; United States; War Of 1812; Valor; Bravery; Hills; Downs (great Britain); American Navy; America


TELL the story to your sons
Of the gallant days of yore,
When the brig of seven guns
Fought the fleet of seven score,
From the set of sun till morn, through the long
September night --
Ninety men against two thousand, and the ninety
won the fight
In the harbor of Fayal the Azore.

Three lofty British ships came a-sailing to Fayal:
One was a line-of-battle ship, and two were frigates
tall;
Nelson's valiant men of war, brave as Britons ever
are,
Manned the guns they served so well at Aboukir
and Trafalgar.
Lord Dundonald and his fleet at Jamaica far away
Waited eager for their coming, fretted sore at their
delay.
There was loot for British valor on the Mississippi
coast
In the beauty and the booty that the Creole cities
boast;
There were rebel knaves to swing, there were pri-
soners to bring
Home in fetters to old England for the glory of the
King!

At the setting of the sun and the ebbing of the
tide
Came the great ships one by one, with their portals
opened wide,
And their cannon frowning down on the castle and
the town
And the privateer that lay close inside;
Came the eighteen-gun Carnation, and the Rota,
forty-four,
And the triple-decked Plantagenet an admiral's
pennon bore;
And the privateer grew smaller as their topmasts
towered taller,
And she bent her springs and anchored by the
castle on the shore.
Spake the noble Portuguese to the stranger: "Have
no fear;
They are neutral waters these, and your ship is
sacred here
As if fifty stout armadas stood to shelter you from
harm,
For the honor of the Briton will defend you from
his arm."
But the privateersman said, "Well we know the
Englishmen,
And their faith is written red in the Dartmoor
slaughter pen.
Come what fortune God may send, we will fight
them to the end,
"And the mercy of the sharks may spare us then."

"Seize the pirate where she lies! cried the Eng-
lish admiral:
"If the Portugese protect her, all the worse for
Portugal!
And four launches at his bidding leaped impatient
for the fray,
Speeding shoreward where the Armstrong, grim and
dark and ready, lay.
Twice she hailed and gave them warning; but the
feeble menance scorning,
On they came in splendid silence, till a cable's
length away --
Then the Yankee pivot spoke; Pico's thousand
echoes woke;
And four baffled, beaten launches drifted helpless
on the bay.

Then the wrath of Lloyd arose till the lion roared
again,
And he called out all his launches and he called five
hundred men;
And he gave the word "No quarter!" and he sent
them forth to smite.
Heaven help the foe before him when the Briton
comes in might!
Heaven helped the little Armstrong in her hour of
bitter need;
God Almighty nerved the heart and guided well the
arm of Reid.

Launches to port and starboard, launches forward
and aft,
Fourteen launches together striking the little craft.
They hacked at the boarding-nettings, they swarmed
above the rail;
But the Long Tom roared from his pivot and
the grape-shot fell like hail:
Pike and pistol and cutlass, and harts that knew
not fear,
Bulwarks of brawn and mettle, guarded the priva-
teer.
And ever where fight was fiercest, the form of Reid
was seen;
Ever where foes drew nearest, his quick sword fell
between.
Once in the deadly strife
The boarders' leader pressed
Forward of all the rest
Challenging life for life;
But ere their blades had crossed,
A dying sailor tossed
His pistol to Reid, and cried,
"Now riddle the lubber's hide!"
But the privateersman laughed, and flung the
weapon aside,
And he drove his blade to the hilt, and the foeman
gasped and died.
Then the boarders took to their launches laden with
hurt and dead,
But little with glory burdened, and out of the
battle fled.

Now the tide was at flood again, and the night was
almost done,
When the sloop of-war came up with her odds of
two to one,
And she opened fire; but the Armstrong answered
her, gun for gun,
And the gay Carnation wilted in half an hour of sun.

Then the Armstrong, looking seaward, saw the
mighty seventy-four,
With her triple tier of cannon, drawing slowly to
the shore.
And the dauntless captain said: "Take our wounded
and our dead,
Bear them tenderly to land, for the Armstrong's
days are o'er;
But no foe shall tread her deck, and no flag above
it wave --
To the ship that saved our honor we will give a
shipman's grave."
So they did as he commanded, and they bore their
mates to land
With the figurehead of Armstrong and the good
sword in his hand.
Then they turned the Long Tom downward, and
they pierced her oaken side,
And they cheered her, and they blessed her, and
they sunk her in the tide.
Tell the story to your sons,
When the haughty stranger boasts
Of his mighty ships and guns
And the muster of his hosts,
How the word of God was witnessed in the gallant
days of yore
When the twenty fled from one ere the rising of
the sun,
In the harbor of Fayal the Azore!




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