Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DER TAG: NELSON AND BEATTY, by ROBERT SEYMOUR BRIDGES

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

DER TAG: NELSON AND BEATTY, by             Poem Explanation     Poet's Biography
First Line: No doubt 'twas a truly christian sight
Last Line: This grey november morning.'
Alternate Author Name(s): Bridges, Robert+(2)
Subject(s): Beatty, David. 1st Earl (1871-1936); Navy - Great Britain; World War I - Naval Actions; English Navy

No doubt 'twas a truly Christian sight
When the German ships came out of the Bight,
But it can't be said it was much of a fight
That grey November morning;
The wonderful day, the great Der Tag,
Which Prussians had vow'd with unmannerly brag
Should see Old England lower her flag
Some grey November morning.

The spirit of Nelson, that haunts the Fleet,
Had come whereabouts the ships must meet,
But he fear'd there was some decoy or cheat
That grey November morning,
When the enemy led by a British scout
Stole 'twixt our lines ... and never a shout
Or a signal; and never a gun spoke out
That grey November morning.

So he shaped his course to the Admiral's ship,
Where Beatty stood with hand on hip
Impassive, nor ever moved his lip
That grey November morning;
And touching his shoulder he said: 'My mate,
Am I come too soon or am I too late?
Is it friendly manoeuvres or pageant of State
This grey November morning?'

Then Beatty said: 'As Admiral here
In the name of the King I bid you good cheer:
It's not my fault that it looks so queer
This grey November morning.
But there come the enemy all in queues;
They can fight well enough if only they choose;
Small blame to me if the fools refuse,
This grey November morning.

'That's Admiral Reuter, surrendering nine
Great Dreadnoughts, all first-rates of the line;
Beyond, in the haze that veils the brine
This grey November morning,
Loom five heavy Cruisers, and light ones four,
With a tail of Destroyers, fifty or more,
Each squadron under its Commodore,
This grey November morning.

'The least of all those captive queens
Could have knock'd your whole navy to smithereens,
And nothing said of the other machines,
On a grey November morning,
The aeroplanes and the submarines,
Bombs, torpedoes, and Zeppelins,
Their floating mines and their smoky screens,
Of a grey November morning.

'They'll rage like bulls sans reason or rhyme,
And next day, as if 'twere a pantomime,
They walk in like cows at milking-time,
On a grey November morning.
We're four years sick of the pestilent mob;
—You've heard of our biblical Battle in Gob?—
At times it was hardly a gentleman's job
Of a grey November morning.'

Then Nelson said: 'God bless my soul!
How things are changed in this age of coal;
For the spittle it isn't with you I'd condole
This grey November morning.
By George! you've netted a monstrous catch:
You'll be able to pen the best dispatch
That ever an Admiral wrote under hatch
On a grey November morning.

I like your looks and I like your name:
My heart goes out to the old fleet's fame,
And I'm pleased to find you so spry at the game
This grey November morning.
Your ships, tho' I don't half understand
Their build, are stouter and better mann'd
Than anything I ever had in command
Of a grey November morning.'

Then Beatty spoke: 'Sir! none of my crew,
All bravest of brave and truest of true,
Is thinking of me so much as of you
This grey November morning.'
And Nelson replied: 'Well, thanks f' your chat.
Forgive my intrusion! I take off my hat
And make you my bow ... we'll leave it at that,
This grey November morning.'

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