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Her flag aloft spread ruffling to the wind,
And sanguine streamers seem the flood to fire: The weaver, charm'd with what his loom design'd, Goes on to sea, and knows not to retire.
With roomy decks, her guns of mighty strength, Whose low-laid mouths each mounting billow laves:
Deep in her draught, and warlike in her length,
This martial present, piously design'd,
The loyal city give their best-lov'd king: And with a bounty ample as the wind,
Built, fitted, and maintain'd, to aid him bring.
By viewing Nature, Nature's handmaid, Art,
Makes mighty things from small beginnings grow: Thus fishes first to shipping did impart,
Their tail the rudder, and their head the prow.
Some log perhaps upon the waters swam,
An useless drift, which, rudely cut within, And hollow'd first, a floating trough became, And cross some rivulet passage did begin.
In shipping such as this, the Irish kern
And untaught Indian on the stream did glide: Ere sharp-keel'd boats to stem the flood did learn, Or fin-like oars did spread from either side.
Add but a sail, and Saturn so appear'd,
When from lost empire he to exile went, And with the golden age to Tyber steer'd, Where coin and commerce first he did invent.
Rude as their ships was navigation then;
Of all who since havé us'd the open sea,
Than the bold English none more fame have won: Beyond the year, and out of Heaven's high way, They make discoveries where they see no Sun. But what so long in vain, and yet unknown,
By poor mankind's benighted wit is sought, Shall in this age to Britain first be shown,
And hence be to admiring nations taught.
The ebbs of tides and their mysterious flow,
Whose paths shall be familiar as the land.
Instructed ships shall sail to quick commerce,
Then we upon our globe's last verge shall go,
And view the ocean leaning on the sky: From thence our rolling neighbors we shall know, And on the lunar world securely pry.
This I foretell from your auspicious care,
Who great in search of God and Nature grow; Who best your wise Creator's praise declare, Since best to praise his works is best to know.
O truly royal! who behold the law
But first the toils of war we must endure,
And from th' injurious Dutch redeem the seas: War makes the valiant of his right secure,
And gives up fraud to be chastis'd with ease.
Already were the Belgians on our coast, Whose fleet more mighty every day became By late success, which they did falsely boast, And now by first appearing seem'd to claim.
Designing, subtle, diligent, and close,
They knew to manage war with wise delay: Yet all those arts their vanity did cross,
And by their pride their prudence did betray.
Nor staid the English long; but well supplied, Appear as numerous as th' insulting foe: The combat now by courage must be tried, And the success the braver nation show.
There was the Plymouth squadron now come in, Which in the Straits last winter was abroad; Which twice on Biscay's working bay had been, And on the midland sea the French had aw'd.
Old expert Allen, loyal all along,
Fam'd for his action on the Smyrna fleet: And Holmes, whose name shall live in epic song, While music numbers, or while verse has feet.
Holmes, the Achates of the general's fight;
The tempting fruits of Afric did unfold.
With him went Sprag, as bountiful as brave, Whom his high courage to command had brought: Harman, who did the twice-fir'd Harry save,
And in his burning ship undaunted fought.
Young Hollis on a Muse by Mars begot,
Born, Cæsar-like, to write and act great deeds: Impatient to revenge his fatal shot,
His right hand doubly to his left succeeds.
Thousands were there in darker fame that dwell,
Of every size an hundred fighting sail :
And with its weight it shoulders off the tides.
Now, anchors weigh'd, the seamen shout so shrill, That Heaven and Earth and the Wide Ocean
A breeze from westward waits their sails to fill, And rests in those high beds his downy wings.
The wary Dutch this gathering storm foresaw, And durst not bide it on the English coast: Behind their treacherous shallows they withdraw, And there lay snares to catch the British host.
Our greedy seamen rummage every hold,
Smile on the booty of each wealthier chest, And, as the priests who with their gods make bold, Take what they like, and sacrifice the rest.
But ah! how insincere are all our joys!
[stay: Which, sent from Heaven like lightning make no Their palling taste the journey's length destroys, Or grief sent post o'ertakes them on the way.
Swell'd with our late successes on the foe,
Which France and Holland wanted power to cross, We urge an unseen fate to lay us low,
And feed their envious eyes with English loss.
Each element his dread command obeys,
Who makes or ruins with a smile or frown; Who, as by one he did our nation raise,
So now he with another pulls us down.
Yet, London, empress of the northern clime,
As when some dire usurper Heaven provides, To scourge his country with a lawless sway; His birth, perhaps, some petty village hides,
And sets his cradle out of Fortune's way:
Till, fully ripe, his swelling fate breaks out,
Such was the rise of this prodigious Fire,
Which in mean buildings first obscurely bred, From thence did soon to open streets aspire,
And straight to palaces and temples spread.
The diligence of trades and noiseful gain, And luxury more late, asleep were laid: All was the Night's; and in her silent reign No sound the rest of Nature did invade.
In this deep quiet, from what source unknown, Those seeds of Fire their fatal birth disclose; And first few scattering sparks about were blown, Big with the flames that to our ruin rose.
Then in some close-pent room it crept along, And, smouldering as it went, in silence fed; Till th' infant monster, with devouring strong, Walk'd boldly upright with exalted head.
Now like some rich or mighty murderer,
Too great for prison, which he breaks with gold; Who fresher for new mischiefs does appear, And dares the world to tax him with the old :
So scapes th' insulting Fire his narrow jail, And makes small outlets into open air: There the fierce winds his tender force assail, And beat him downward to his first repair.
The winds, like crafty courtesans, withheld
With faint denials weaker than before.
And now no longer letted of his prey,
The ghosts of traitors from the bridge descend,
And sing their sabbath notes with feeble voice.
Our guardian angel saw them where they sate
At length the crackling noise and dreadful blaze
Half-cloth'd, half-naked, hastily retire:
Their cries soon waken all the dwellers near; Now murmuring noises rise in every street: The more remote run stumbling with their fear, And in the dark men justle as they meet.
So weary bees in little cells repose;
But if night-robbers lift the well-stor'd hive, An humming through their waxen city grows, And out upon each other's wings they drive.
Now streets grow throng'd and busy as by day: Some run for buckets to the hallow'd quire: Some cut the pipes, and some the engines play; And some more bold mount ladders to the fire.
In vain for from the east a Belgian wind
His hostile breath through the dry rafters sent; The flames impell'd soon left their foes behind, And forward with a wanton fury went.
A key of fire ran all along the shore,
Old father Thames rais'd up his reverend head, But fear'd the fate of Simois would return: Deep in his ooze he sought his sedgy bed,
And shrunk his waters back into his urn.
The Fire, meantime, walks in a broader gross;
At first they warm, then scorch, and then they take; Now with long necks from side to side they feed; At length grown strong, their mother Fire forsake, And a new colony of Flames succeed.
To every nobler portion of the town
The curling billows roll their restless tide: In parties now they straggle up and down, As armies unoppos'd for prey divide.