Sir Henry Newbolt
The Quarter-Gunner's Yarn - Poem by Sir Henry Newbolt
We lay at St. Helen's, and easy she rode
With one anchor catted and fresh-water stowed;
When the barge came alongside like bullocks we roared,
For we knew what we carried with Nelson aboard.
Our Captain was Hardy, the pride of us all,
I'll ask for none better when danger shall call;
He was hardy by nature and Hardy by name,
And soon by his conduct to honour he came.
The third day the Lizard was under our lee,
Where the _Ajax_ and _Thunderer_ joined us at sea,
But what with foul weather and tacking about,
When we sighted the Fleet we were thirteen days out.
The Captains they all came aboard quick enough,
But the news that they brought was as heavy as duff;
So backward an enemy never was seen,
They were harder to come at than Cheeks the Marine.
The lubbers had hare's lugs where seamen have ears,
So we stowed all saluting and smothered our cheers,
And to humour their stomachs and tempt them to dine,
In the offing we showed them but six of the line.
One morning the topmen reported below
The old _Agamemnon_ escaped from the foe.
Says Nelson: 'My lads, there'll be honour for some,
For we're sure of a battle now Berry has come.'
'Up hammocks!' at last cried the bo'sun at dawn;
The guns were cast loose and the tompions drawn;
The gunner was bustling the shot racks to fill,
And 'All hands to quarters!' was piped with a will.
We now saw the enemy bearing ahead,
And to East of them Cape Traflagar it was said,
'Tis a name we remember from father to son,
That the days of old England may never be done.
The _Victory_ led, to her flag it was due,
Tho' the _Temeraires_ thought themselves Admirals too;
But Lord Nelson he hailed them with masterful grace:
'Cap'n Harvey, I'll thank you to keep in your place.'
To begin with we closed the _Bucentaure_ alone,
An eighty-gun ship and their Admiral's own;
We raked her but once, and the rest of the day
Like a hospital hulk on the water she lay.
To our battering next the _Redoutable_ struck,
But her sharpshooters gave us the worst of the luck:
Lord Nelson was wounded, most cruel to tell.
'They've done for me; Hardy!' he cried as he fell.
To the cockpit in silence they carried him past,
And sad were the looks that were after him cast;
His face with a kerchief he tried to conceal,
But we knew him too well from the truck to the keel.
When the Captain reported a victory won,
'Thank God!' he kept saying, 'my duty I've done.'
At last came the moment to kiss him good-bye,
And the Captain for once had the salt in his eye.
'Now anchor, dear Hardy,' the Admiral cried;
But before we could make it he fainted and died.
All night in the trough of the sea we were tossed,
And for want of ground-tackle good prizes were lost.
Then we hauled down the flag, at the fore it was red,
And blue at the mizzen was hoisted instead
By Nelson's famed Captain, the pride of each tar,
Who fought in the _Victory_ off Cape Traflagar.
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