1798 9

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Nelson's Victory
An Ode.

The Monthly Magazine, VI (November 1798), pp. 366-367

Climb, climb, Abookir's tower. Not thus,
                    not thus,
Abyss-born earthquakes bellow: yearning
    Prepare not to ingorge
    The eternal pyramids,
Nor frowns the prophet; Eblis is not loos'd
Flame-breathing, din-environ'd, smoke-inwrapt,
    By shouts of yelling fiends,
    To death and havoc urg'd.
Though a destroying angel walks the wave,
His step the thunder, and his frown the night.
    A searing sword of fate,
    Bare in his red right hand,
'Tis Nelson he obeys: to Nelson's prayer,
Almighty God his dread avenger sent
    In characters of death,
    To write the dooms of men.
Ye trembling mothers, hot with scatter'd hair,
From the long-sacred precincts of your home
    In wild disorder burst,
    Soothe, soothe, the close-claspt babe,
And change its scream of fright to crowing joy:
Your saviour conquers in this night of deeds—
    Here from Abookir's tower,
    We mark his triumph nigh.
Athwart the smouldring smoke, that lowers
As had the hoarse-voic'd chaos call'd anew
    On earth, and sea, and sky,
    To mix in shapeless mist,
Roar thunders thousand fold: by fits glares red,
Like seething lavas the illumin'd wave.
    While o'er the pirates pale,
    Their thick-ribb'd bulwarks break,
Bright, bright, yon proud pyre burns. The Orient
Toulon, once more thou'rt humbled: thy huge
    To the French navy burns
    With fire unquenchable.
Lo! it explodes! so from extinguish'd suns,
Spurt their last lightnings to the rim of heaven,
    And the chill'd planets round,
    Their dark'ning shine forego.
How the tower totters with the might crash,
Shakes, far as Sinai's foot, the shuddering shore.
    The thick masts from the clouds
    Drop—like shafts shot in vain.
Slow beams the blooming dawn as stills the strife.
Hence, down the winding stairs. With pearled eye
    On the throng'd coast below,
    Pale pity beck'ning stands.
Dare, dare, to meet the shrieks of mangled men—
O stop the fire-swart hulks slow-drifting by,
    Least of the flitting wrack
    Their wounded limbs lose hold.
Ah! not the midnight tear, nor morning prayer,
Not e'en the sob that choak'd her farewell kiss,
    Avails the wife to save
    Her children's only hope.
None is a foe who suffers—welcome all.
Those whom the long-boats bring with oary speed,
    Are captives sworn to peace,
    Whom Nelson's mercy spares.
They bear to Buonaparte's startled ear,
This tale: "Thy hero friends have fought and
    Thy ships are ashes, strown
    On a rejoicing land.
Time was, when Freedom waver'd in thy van
The three streak'd banner, and thy legions
    When thanking nations wash'd
    With tears thy step of blood—
When from his long-dishonour'd tomb, the ghost
Of Gracchus rising, show'd his wounds aveng'd—[1]
    Now Rapine holds thy flag,
    Coy victory drops her palm."

Norwich, Nov. 29, 1798


1. The reference is to Gaius Sempronius Gracchus (d. 123 B.C.), one of the two Gracchi, who sought to extend the franchise and republicanize Italy. They were both assassinated.

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