BETA

The Revenge,’

A Ballad of the Fleet.

I.

At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay,1
And a pinnace, like a flutter’d bird, came flying from
far away :
2
Spanish ships of way at sea ! we have sighted fifty-
three
! ’
3
Then sware Lord Thomas Howard : ‘’Fore God I am
no coward ;
4
But I cannot meet them here, for my ships are out of
gear,
5
And the half my men are sick. I must fly, but follow
quick.
6
We are six ships of the line ; can we fight with fifty-
three
?’
7

II.

Then spake Sir Richard Grenvill : ‘ I know you are
no coward ;
8
You fly them for a moment to fight with them again.9
But I’ve ninety men and more that are lying sick
ashore.
10
I should count myself the coward if I left them, my
Lord Howard,
11
To these Inquisition dogs and the devildoms of Spain.’12

III.

So Lord Howard past away with five ships of war that
day,
13
Till he melted like a cloud in the silent summer
heaven ;
14
But Sir Richard bore in hand all his sick men from
the land
15
Very carefully and slow,16
Men of Bideford in Devon,17
And we laid them on the ballast down below ;18
For we brought them all aboard,19
And they blest him in their pain, that they were not
left to Spain,
20
To the thumbscrew and the stake, for the glory of the Lord.21

IV.

He had only a hundred seamen to work the ship and
to fight,
22
And he sail’d away from Flores till the Spaniard
came in sight,
23
With his huge sea-castles heaving upon the weather bow.24
Shall we fight or shall we fly ?25
Good Sir Richard, let us know,26
For to fight is but to die !27
There’ll be little of us left by the time this sun be set.’28
And Sir Richard said again : ‘ We be all good
English men.
29
Let us bang these dogs of Seville, the children of the
devil,
30
For I never turn’d my back upon Don or devil yet.’31

V.

Sir Richard spoke and he laugh’d, and we roar’d a
hurrah, and so
32
The little ‘ Revenge ’ ran on sheer into the heart of
the foe,
33
With her hundred fighters on deck, and her ninety
sick below ;
34
For half of their fleet to the right and half to the
left were seen,
35
And the little ‘ Revenge ’ ran on thro’ the long sea-lane
between.
36

VI.

Thousands of their soldiers look’d down from their
decks and laugh’d,
37
Thousands of their seamen made mock at the mad
little craft
38
Running on and on, till delay’d39
By their mountain-like ‘ San Philip ’ that, of fifteen
hundred tons,
40
And up-shadowing high above us with her yawning
tiers of guns,
41
Took the breath from our sails, and we stay’d.42

VII.

And while now the great ‘ San Philip ’ hung above
us like a cloud
43
Whence the thunderbolt will fall44
Long and loud,45
Four galleons drew away46
And two upon the larboard and two upon the star-
board lay,
47
And the battle-thunder broke from them all.48

VIII.

But anon the great ‘ San Philip,’ she bethought her-
self and went
49
Having hat within her womb that had left her ill-
content ;
50
And the rest they came aboard us, and they fought
us hand to hand,
51
For a dozen times they came with their pikes and
musqueteers,
52
And a dozen times we shook ’e m off as a dog that
shakes his ears
53
When he leaps from the water to the land.54

IX.

And the sun went down, and the stars came out far
over the summer sea,
55
But never a moment ceased the fight of the one and
the fifty-three.
56
Ship after ship, the whole night long, their high-built
galleons came,
57
Ship after ship, the whole night long, with her battle-
thunder and flame ;
58
Ship after ship, the whole night long, drew back with
her dead and her shame.
59
For some wee sunk and many wee shatter’d, and
so could fight us no more
60
God of battles, was ever a battle like this in the world
before ?
61

X.

For he said ‘ Fight on ! fight on !’62
Thro’ his vessel was all but a wreck ;63
And it chanced that, when half of the summer night
was gone,
64
With a grisly wound to be dest he had left the
deck,
65
But a bullet struck him that was dressing it suddenly
dead,
66
And himself he was wounded again in the side and
the head,
67
And he said ‘ Fight on ! fight on !’68

XI.

And the night went down, and the sun smiled out far
over the summer sea,
69
And the Spanish fleet with broken sides lay round
us all in a ring ;
70
But they dared not touch us again, for they fear’d
that we still could sting,
71
But they watch’d what the end would be.72
And we had not fought them in vain,73
But in perilous plight were we,74
Seeing forty of our poor hundred were slain,75
And half of the rest of us maim’d for life76
In the crash of the cannonades and the desperate
strife ;
77
And the sick men down in the hold were most of them
stark and cold,
78
And the pikes were all broken or bent, and the powder
was all of it spent ;
79
And the masts and the rigging were lying over the
side ;
80
But Sir Richard cried in his English pride,81
We have fought such a fight for a day and a night82
As may never be fought again !83
We have won great glory, my men !84
And a day less or more85
At sea or ashore,86
We die—does it matter when ?87
Sink me the ship, Master Gunner—sink her, split her
in twain !
88
Fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of
Spain !’
89

XII.

And he gunner said ‘ Ay, ay,’ but the seamen made
reply :
90
We have children, we have wives,91
And the Lord hath spared our lives.92
We will make the Spaniard promise, if we yield, to
let us go ;
93
We shall live to fight again and to strike another
blow.’
94
And the lion there lay dying, and they yielded to the
foe.
95

XIII.

And the stately Spanish men to their flagship bore
him then,
96
Where they laid him by the mast, old Sir Richard
caught at last,
97
And they praised him to his face with their courtly
foreign grace
98
But he rose upon their decks, and he cried :99
I have fought for Queen and Faith like a valiant
man and true ;
100
I have only done my duty as a man is bound to do :101
With a joyful spirit I Sir Richard Grenville die !’102
And he fell upon their decks, and he died.103

XIV.

And they stared at the dead that had been so valiant
and true,
104
And had holden the power and glory of Spain so
cheap
105
That he dared her with one little ship and his
English few ;
106
Was he devil or man ?  He was devil for aught they
knew,
107
But they sank his body with honour down into the
deep,
108
And they mann’d the ‘ Revenge ’ with a swarthier
alien crew,
109
And away she sail’d with her loss and long’d for
her own ;
110
When a wind from the lands they had ruin’d for
from sleep,
111
And the water began to heave and the weather to
moan,
112
And or ever that evening ended a great gale blew,113
And a wave like the wave that is raised by an earth-
quake grew,
114
Till it smote on their hulls and their sails and their
masts and their flags,
115
And the whole sea plunged and fell on the shot-
shatter’d navy of Spain,
116
And the little ‘ Revenge ’ herself went down by the
island crags
117
To be evermore in the main.118