The Revenge, A Ballad of the Fleet – Lord Alfred Tennyson (Poem narrated) | Jordan Harling Reads


At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville
lay And a pinnace like a flutter’d 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 follow quick. We are six ships of the line; can we fight
with fifty-three?” 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.” 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 thumb-screw and the stake for the glory
of the Lord. 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
Englishmen. Let us bang these dogs of Seville the children
of the devil For I never turn’d my back upon Don or devil
yet.” Sir Richard spoke and he laugh’d and we
roar’d 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. Thousands of their soldiers look’d down
from their decks and laugh’d Thousands of their seamen made mock at the
mad little craft Running on and on till delay’d
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 stay’d. 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
starboard lay And the battle-thunder broke from them all. But anon the great San Philip she bethought
herself 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. 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 the 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 shatter’d
and so could fight us no more— God of battles was ever a battle like this
in the world before? 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 suddenly dead
And himself he was wounded again in the side and the head
And he said “Fight on! fight on!” 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
fear’d that we still could sting So they watch’d 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 maim’d 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!” 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. 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:
100 “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. 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 mann’d the Revenge with a swarthier
alien crew And away she sail’d with her loss and long’d
for her own; When a wind from the lands they had ruin’d
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 earthquake 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-shatter’d navy of Spain And the little Revenge herself went down by
the island crags To be lost evermore in the main. The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet. Written by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Narrated by Jordan Harling.

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