Drummond, William Hamilton. The Battle of Trafalgar, A Heroic Poem. Belfast: Smyth and Lyons, 1806.

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"Quis Martem tunica tectum adamantina

"Digne scripserit?" HOR.





The following production was written at the request of a friend. When the author sat down to write, he did not intend to compose a Heroic Poem, or, perhaps, he should have endeavoured to conform more the established rules of the epopee......he wrote as he felt, and mourned the fall of the Hero, before he rejoiced in his triumph......with this consideration he offers the Poem to the world without attempting to deprecate criticism, by the common apologies of haste, interruption during the composition, or multiplicity of avocations.





ADDRESS to Albion, Caledonia, Erin, and the foes of Britain--charge of the genius of England to Nelson--he obeys the charge--description of the morning, and of his fleet leaving England--morning of the battle--Villeneuve commander in chief of the combined fleets--his character--he ranges the French and Spanish ships alternately--General D'Ignatio D'Alava, in the Santa Anna leads the van--the Bucentaurus commanded by Villeneuve comes in the centre--Don Baltazar Cisneros follows, in the Santissima Trinidada--the third squadron led by rear Admiral Dumanoir--the rear division approaches in two squadron's; one of which is commanded by D. Frederico Gravina; the other by rear Admiral Magon, who fell in the battle--ominous appearance at their setting sail--the whole fleet approaches, ranged for battle, in the form of a crescent--the Britons mark their approach with joy--the command given to clear the decks--feelings of the sailors--speech of Nelson--he divides his fleet into two columns, to penetrate the enemies line:--the first led by himself in the Victory, followed by the Temeraire--Neptune--Conqueror--Leviathan--Ajax--Orion--Agamemnon--Minotaur--Spartiate--Britannia--Africa........Second division led by Admiral Collingwood in the Royal Sovereign--followed by the Mars--Belleisle--Tonnant--Bellerophon--Colossus--Achilles--Polypheme--Revenge--Swiftsure--Defence--Thunderer--Defiance--Prince--Dreadnought..........frigates.





WHAT flags low-streaming o'er the murmuring deep,
In mournful triumph, bid Britannia weep?
What sounds of sorrow reach the listening shore?
"Mourn, Albion, mourn, thy Nelson is no more!"
While grief and joy their tides alternate roll,
In rapid eddies, o'er thy troubled soul;
With tearful smiles, thy blushing laurels view,
Bedropped with blood, and twined with funeral yew;
The hard-earned trophies from Iberia won,
Or torn from Gallia, by thy bravest son.

    Let Caledonia robed in sable vest,
Her locks loose-floating o'er her throbbing breast,
In all the sweet solemnity of woe,
Bid the sad dirge in weeping numbers flow;
‘Till hill, and vale, and rock, and echoing dell
Resound the wild-notes of the deep-toned shell,
In hollow cadence to thy wild-wave's roar,
"Mourn, Britain, mourn! thy Nelson is no more!"

    Thou too, green Erin! join the plaintive lay,
And mourn, with me, Trafalgar's fatal day:
Touched with the sacred sympathy of song,
High on thy bleeting cliffs the dirge prolong;
Pour thy lorn sorrows on the sighing gale,
And let thy thrilling harp repeat the tale;
While tears, fast-gushing from their copious springs,
In trembling radiance glisten on the strings;
Waft the sad strain around thy emerald shore,
"Nelson the brave, the mighty is no more!"

    But ye, proud foes of Britain! loud rejoice,
Rise from defeat, and lift th' exulting voice:
The prince of ocean, Albion's brightest star,
Bronte's dread lord, that thunderbolt of war,[1]
Whose haughty ship, with blazing flag unfurled,
Bore Britain's glory round the subject world,
With storm and battle shook each hostile shore;
Nelson, your scourge, your terror is no more!

    But, with your triumph, fame's loud trump shall tell,
To hero more than conquered when he fell;
Deep in the waves, your navies he entombed,
Your glory blasted, and your strength consumed.

    "Go, my brave son!" Britannia's genius cried,
"As thou are wont, with conquest by thy side,
"Go, like thyself, in matchless valour strong,
"My foe to punish, and avenge my wrong;
"As erst, when France, at Nile's affrighted flood,[2]
"Tinged the blue billow with her children's blood,
"Beneath thy conquering standard shrunk dismayed,
"And, at thy feet, tri-coloured trophies laid:
"Or, when the Baltic, round his winding shore,[3]
"Heard the dread voice of Britain's thunder roar;
"Pale Scandia suck with deeply-troubled groan,
"Fearful, and trembling on her sea-girt throne.
"Anon she shrieked in frenzy and despair,
"Beat her white breast, and tore her golden hair;
"While thy bold squadron winged the iron sleet[4]
"That smote her ranks, and swept her widowed street.
"Go, my brave son! where'er thou meet'st the foe,
"There, let careering fires of vengeance glow;
"High o'er the billow lift thy awful form,
"Clad in the gathering terrors of the storm;
"With dauntless might the van of battle lead,
"And death or triumph by thy noble meed."

    He heard obedient;--to the rising gale
Unfurled his banner, stretched the sinuous sail;
And o'er the billow towered his awful form,
Clad in the gathering terrors of the storm;
The foamy surge, with winged speed, he sweeps,
And England's prayers attend him o'er the deeps.

    Fair from her ruby throne, with roseate smiles,
The morn in glory clothed the sparling isles;
Light o'er the billow's glassy concaves rolled
The playful radiance of her fluid gold;
The silvery surges drank the purple day,
And rainbow-colours tinged the dashing spray;
The milk-white foam along the pebbly strand
Danced on the surf, or fringed the rustling sand;
While round and round the sportive sea-fowl flew,
Or dipped their plumage in the briny dew.
The silken pendants from the tow'ring mast,
Streamed o'er the wave, and wanted in the blast;
The furrowing keels the sounding ocean plowed,
With sailor's cries the cliffs re-echoed loud.

    Britannia viewed the scene with conscious pride,
And hailed her castled bulwarks on the tide:
But Victory's heart of thrilled with joy and pain,
Her soul prophetic saw Nelson slain;
Her helm unbound, her tresses wooed the wind--
The laurel wreath her rosy fingers twined
Was washed with tears--and while she hailed her child,
She fondly smiled, and wept--and wept, and smiled.

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Note 1.....line 32.
"Bronté's dread lord, that thunderbolt of war."

        Scipiades, belli fulmen, Carthaginis horror.
            ...............duo fulmina belli
    The title of Duke of Bronté, and the annexed fief, were conferred to Lord Nelson, by Ferdinand the IVth. king of the two Sicilies, as a mark of gratitude for having "reconquered his kingdom, and placed him on the throne."
    It is remarkable that Bronté is the Greek of thunder.[go back to text]

Note 2.....lines 45-46.
"As erst when France, at Nile's affrighted flood,
"Tinged the blue billow with her children's blood."

    The celebrated battle of the Nile was fought on the 1st of August, 1798. On the morning of that day, the French fleet was discovered moored in the bay of Aboukir. "As all the officers of our squadron were totally unacquainted with Aboukir bay, each ship kept sounding as she stood in. The enemy appeared to be moored in a strong and compact line of battle, close in with the shore, the line describing an obtuse angle in its form, flanked by numberous gun-boats, four frigates, and a battery of guns and mortars on an island in their van..........The position of the enemy presented the most formidable obstacles, but the Admiral viewed them with the eyes of a seaman, determined on attack, and it instantly struck his eager and penetrating mind, that where there was room for one ship to swing, there was room for another of ours to anchor. No further signal was necessary than that which had already been made. The admiral's designs were fully known to the whole squadron, as was his determination to conquer or perish in the attempt." The result was what might be expected from such a heroic determination. The whole of the enemy's fleet, with the exception of two ships of the line and two frigates, were taken or destroyed, in the battle.[go back to text]

Note 3.....lines 39-40.
"Or, when the Baltic, round his winding shore,
"Heard the dread voice of Britain's thunder roar;"

    The memorable victory of Copenhagen was gained on April 2d, 1801. A victory of the utmost importance to the welfare of England, as it dissolved that formidable confederacy of the Northern Powers, known by the name of the "Armed Neutrality."--See an animated and interesting description of this battle in Carr's Northern Summer, or Travels round the Baltic, through Denmark, Sweden, &c.--  [go back to text]

Note 4.....lines 55-56.
"While thy bold squadron winged the iron sleet
"That smote her ranks, and swept her widowed street."

        How quick they wheel'd, and flying, behind them shot
        Sharp sleet of arrowy shower.

        Iron sleet of arrowy shower
        Hurtles in the darkened air.

"It may be difficult to mark the exact boundary of what should be termed plagiarism: where the sentiment and expression are both borrowed without due acknowledgement, there can be no doubt:--single words, on the contrary, taken from other authors, cannot convict a writer of plagiarism: they are lawful game, wild by nature; the property of all who can capture them--and, perhaps, a few common flowers of speech may be gathered as we pass our neighbour's inclosure, without stigmatizing us with the title of thieves but we must not therefore plunder his cultivated fruit."

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