Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE REVENGE; A BALLAD OF THE FLEET, by ALFRED TENNYSON



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THE REVENGE; A BALLAD OF THE FLEET, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: At flores in the azores sir richard grenville lay
Last Line: To be lost evermore in the main.
Alternate Author Name(s): Tennyson, Lord Alfred; Tennyson, 1st Baron; Tennyson Of Aldworth And Farringford, Baron
Subject(s): England; Grenville, Sir Richard (1542-1591); Revenge (ship); Sea Battles; English; Naval Warfare


I.
AT Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay,
And a pinnace, like a fluttered bird, came flying
from far away:
"Spanish ships of war at sea! we have sighted fifty-
three!"
Then sware Lord Thomas Howard: "'Fore God I am
no coward;
But I cannot meet them here, for my ships are out
of gear,
And the half my men are sick. I must fly, but fol-
low quick.
We are six ships of the line; can we fight with fifty-
three?"
II.
Then spake Sir Richard Grenville: "I know you are
no coward;
You fly, them for a moment to fight with them
again.
But I've ninety men and more that are lying sick
ashore.
I should count myself the coward if I left them, my
Lord Howard,
To these Inquisition dogs and the devildoms of
Spain."
III.
So Lord Howard past away with five ships of war
that day,
Till he melted like a cloud in the silent summer
heaven;
But Sir Richard bore in hand all his sick men from
the land
Very carefully and slow,
Men of Bideford in Devon,
And we laid them on the ballast down below;
For we brought them all aboard,
And they blest him in their pain, that they were
not left to Spain,
To the thumbscrew and the stake, for the glory of
the Lord.
IV.
He had only a hundred seamen to work the ship
and to fight,
And he sailed away from Flores till the Spaniard
came in sight,
With his huge sea-castles heaving upon the weather
bow.
"Shall we fight or shall we fly?
Good Sir Richard, tell us now,
For to fight is but to die!
There'll be little of us left by the time this sun be set."
And Sir Richard said again: "We be all good Eng-
lish men.
Let us bang these dogs of Seville, the children of
the devil,
For I never turned my back upon Don or devil yet."
V.
Sir Richard spoke and he laughed, and we roared a
hurrah, and so
The little Revenge ran on sheer into the heart of
the foe,
With her hundred fighters on deck, and her ninety
sick below;
For half of their fleet to the right and half to the
left were seen,
And the little Revenge ran on thro' the long sea
lane between.
VI.
Thousands of their soldiers looked down from their
decks and laughed,
Thousands of their seamen made mock at the mad
little craft
Running on and on, till delayed
By their mountain-like San Philip, that, of fifteen
hundred tons,
And up-shadowing high above us with her yawning
tiers of guns,
Took the breath from our sails, and we stayed.
VII.
And while now the great San Philip hung above us
like a cloud
Whence the thunderbolt will fall
Long and loud,
Four galleons drew away
From the Spanish fleet that day,
And two upon the larboard and two upon the star-
board lay,
And the battle-thunder broke from them all.
VIII.
But anon the great San Philip, she bethought her-
self and went
Having that within her womb that had left her ill
content;
And the rest they came aboard us, and they fought
us hand to hand,
For a dozen times they came with their pikes and
musqueteers,
And a dozen times we shook 'em off as a dog that
shakes his ears
When he leaps from the water to the land.
IX.
And the sun went down, and the stars came out far
over the summer sea,
But never a moment ceased the fight of the one and
fifty-three.
Ship after ship, the whole night long, their high-
built galleons came,
Ship after ship, the whole night long, with her
battle-thunder and flame;
Ship after ship, the whole night long, drew back
with her dead and her shame.
For some were sunk and many were shattered,
and so could fight us no more --
God of battles, was ever a battle like this in the
world before?
X.
For he said "Fight on! fight on!"
Tho' his vessel was all but a wreck;
And it chanced that, when half of the short summer
night was gone,
With a grisly wound to be drest he had left the
deck,
But a bullet struck him that was dressing it sud-
denly dead,
And himself he was wounded again in the side and
the head,
And he said "Fight on! fight on!"
XI.
And the night went down and the sun smiled out
far over the summer sea
And the Spanish fleet with broken sides lay round
us all in a ring;
But they dared not touch us again, for they feared
that we still could sting,
So they watched what the end would be.
And we had not fought them in vain,
But in perilous plight were we,
Seeing forty of our poor hundred were slain,
And half of the rest of us maimed for life
In the crash of the cannonades and the desperate
strife;
And the sick men down in the hold were most of
them stark and cold,
And the pikes were all broken or bent, and the
powder was all of it spent;
And the masts and the rigging were lying over the
side;
But Sir Richard cried in his English pride,
"We have fought such a fight for a day and a night
As may never be fought again!
We have won great glory, my men!
And a day less or more
At sea or ashore,
We die -- does it matter when?
Sink me the ship, Master Gunner -- sink her, split
her in twain!
Fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of
Spain!"
XII.
And the gunner said" Ay, ay," but the seamen made
reply:
"We have children, we have wives,
And the Lord hath spared our lives.
We will make the Spaniard promise, if we yield, to
let us go;
We shall live to fight again and to strike another
blow."
And the lion there lay dying, and they yielded to
the foe.
XIII.
And the stately Spanish men to their flagship bore
him then,
Where they laid him by the mast, old Sir Richard
caught at last,
And they praised him to his face with their courtly
foreign grace;
But he rose upon their decks, and he cried:
"I have fought for Queen and Faith like a valiant
man and true;
I have only done my duty as a man is bound to do:
With a joyful spirit I sir Richard Grenville die!"
And he fell upon their decks, and he died.
XIV.
And they stared at the dead that had been so valiant
and true,
And had holden the power and glory of Spain so
cheap
That he dared her with one little ship and his
English few;
Was he devil or man? He was devil for aught they
knew,
But they sank his body with honor down into the
deep,
And they manned the Revenge with a swarthier
alien crew,
And away she sailed with her loss and longed for
her own;
When a wind from the lands they had ruined awoke
from sleep,
And the water began to heave and the weather to
moan,
And or ever that evening ended a great gale blew,
And a wave like the wave that is raised by an earth-
quake grew,
Till it smote on their hulls and their sails and their
masts and their flags,
And the whole sea, plunged and fell on the shot-shat-
tered navy of Spain,
And the little Revenge herself went down by the
island crags
To be lost evermore in the main.




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