The Death of Admiral Nelson
An Irregular Ode
“Father of Heaven! if yet thy pow’r
The trembling orb of earth sustains,
Shall flames my scatter’d hosts devour,
Shall streams of blood pollute these crystal plains?
Behold yon Chief, whose godlike sway
The ministers of Fate obey!
Behold, with thunders like thy own
He rends old Neptune’s proudest throne!
Amidst the deserts of the deep,
My warriors’ vanquish’d spirits weep;
In vain my guardian aid they crave,—
Father of Heaven! behold and save!”
Thus from Trafalgar’s sky-crown’d height
Hispania’s mournful genius cried—
Swift thro’ the air she wing’d her flight,
Then plung’d amid the raging tide:
Morena’s livid nymph obey’d her call,
And whirl’d her golden car to Amphitrite’s hall.
“Awake! awake! thy glory flies!
Imperial Neptune, hear and rise!
Shall Britain’s sons the Sire of Ocean awe?
Shall yon aspiring Chief again
With Gallia’s ruins croud the main?
Ah! now her high-rais’d ensigns bend,
Her floating citadels descend!
In seas of blood, in storms of fire,
Behold her mangled sons expire,
While towering ’midst the’ affrighted waves
Her foe thy subject world enslaves!
He comes—’tis done! his frown is fate,
Fortune and Fate his call await.—
Mars yields his lance to him, and Death receives his law!”
She ceas’d—and from his drear abode,
(Sublimely dim! in mystic shade
His ever hidden form array’d,)
The sacred Sire of Nilus rose;
And as in giant pomp he strode,
“Revenge, revenge (he cried) on ancient glory’s foes!
By them whose consecrated graves
Scamander’s weeping Naiad laves;
By him whose mighty spirit calls
From Babylon’s forsaken walls;
By him sho ’midst her blushing fanes
Bade Isis kneel in Roman chains,
By lost Pelusium’s vengeful flood
Rich with his marty’rd rival’s blood,
Monarch of Ocean, hear and rise!
Preserve, preserve, the sacred dead,
From cold oblivion’s shade their deeds reclaim!
Their records sink, their glory dies,
Their laurels grace a Briton’s head,
A Briton’s deeds employ the wings of Fame!
Horatio’s brow her brightest wreath surrounds,
Horatio’s name alone my sable world resounds!
And hark! Sicilian echoes raise
For him the proudest note of praise;
Still trembling in her frozen zone
Deluded Cimbria mourns her humbled throne:
Far as imperial Indus glides,
Far as thy western realm’s remotest tides,
Horatio’s deeds their cloudless blaze extend—
And shall my ancient honours end?
Shall Glory’s first-born sons to Britons yield?
Again on Ocean’s azure field
Behold his conq’ring flag unfurl’d!
King of the boundless deep, ascend,
Redeem thy throne from him, or call him from the world!”
Slow rising from his sapphire bed,
The Sire of Ocean bow’d his head;
“Enough,” he cried, “my favour’d son
Of Conquest and of Fame has won;
Enough his deeds enrich th’ historic page,
Enough his glories warm the rising age—
But not in death his triumph ends,
Not with the dust his spirit blends,
Britannia bids a new Horatio rise;
Still o’er my realms behold her flag unfurl’d,
Dejected Europe’s pride, the guardian of the world!
“Genius of Spain, lament no more!
Ere thrice the circling year has roll’d,
Britannia’s strength shall thine restore,
Thy banner shall with hers unfold!
Soon bath’d in blood, a faithless guest
Shall rifle thy polluted breast;
Soon from inglorious slumber woke,
Thy sons shall trample on their yoke.
Then on thy Ebro’s crimson plain,
Saguntum’s fires shall blaze again;
Such fires as in a far-fled age,
Appall’d the Roman victor’s rage.
Then shall my favor’d Albion pour
Not war but tribute to they shore;
With thy dark doom a ray of glory blends,
As o’er the sable cloud the bow of heav’n extends.
“But Albion! thy unbroken rays,
Still shall expiring nations warm;
Still kindle Freedom’s purest blaze,
And brave the desolating storm.
Thy sons, in Truth and Justice bold,
Shall Honour’s beacon-light uphold;
While o’er their parent-monarch’s head,
Undimm’d, his ev’ning glories spread:
They daughters round his envied throne,
Mild Virtue’s sacred splendor own;
Virtue, sublime in matron-grace,
Or bright in youthful Beauty’s face.
For thee my subject tides shall roll,
Rich tributes from the farthest pole;
Jove to thy realm eternal Fame awards,
The realm Minerva rules and bounteous Neptune guards!”
- The river which rises in Sierra Morena, a district of Spain, is celebrated for its poisonous quality and yellow tint. ↩
- Pelusium, where Pompey perished, is now called Damietta. ↩
- Saragossa (near the Ebro) has been compared to the famous Saguntum, whose inhabitants set it on fire, and chose to perish with it rather than surrender to the Romans. ↩