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The Death of Nelson

Poem incorrectly attributed to Gordon.

 

I was midst the battle's echoing din

And the cannon's thundering roar,

When brave men fought to die or win

And the decks ran red with gore ;

When the fleets of England, France and Spain

Were joined in desperate fight,

When fell the leaden shot like rain

And flashed the cutlass bright,

When the iron ball's resistless sway

Through sheet and rigging passed,

And through the swelling sails made way

And split the towering mast ;

When the tumult of the contest's swell

Reached to the shore

Twas then in victory's arms he felló

He fell to rise no more.

And will he never, never rise,

That spirit bold and true ;

Has he for ever closed his eyes

And bid this world adieu ?

And where, oh where shall England find

'Mong all her many brave

A soul so generous and so kind

In hour of need to save.

Thou mays't on bygone times look back

With conscience bright and clear,

No mad ambition made thy track

A selfish vain career.

Thy country's safety though didst guard,

Her honour was thy care,

Her foeman's course thou didst retard

And made her prospects fair ;

And couldst thou live and yet return

Back to thy grateful land

I ween each English heart would burn

To clasp thee by the hand ;

And highest honour thou wouldst hold

And most revered wouldst be

Midst all that loyal race and bold

The Saxon chivalry.

While England's lovely fair ones too

On thee would brightly smile,

And hail with joy the guardian true

Of their unconquered isle.

But no, alas, the thought is vain,

Thy course on earth is o'er,

And thou wilt never rise again

Nor see thy country more.

Yet wherefore shouldst thou be delayed

In this dark world of ours,

Whose brightest paths are marked with shade

And false its fairest flowers ?

The hero in his cabin lies.

While round him mutely stand

With throbbing hearts and tearful eye

A sad but silent band ;

But now his gallant mates have hurled

Destruction on their foes,

And through the fleet like lightning whirled

The shout of victory goes.

The conqueror gazed upon his sword :

'My earthly race is run'

Then faintly murmured, 'Thank my God,'

'My duty I have done.'

The sun on high with golden light

Streaks through the cabin now,

And for an instant flickers bright

On Nelson's pallid brow.

The dying man looked up and smiled,

One long look round him cast,

And from the scene of carnage with

The soul to heaven passed.