Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Spain: Trafalgar


By Ebenezer Elliott (1781–1849)

ABOVE the howl of ocean

And frowning Trafalgar,

From bursting clouds, went forth the voice

Of elemental war;

And, louder than the tempest,

From man, the insect, came,

Beneath the frown of Trafalgar,

His deadly voice of flame.

But, ere it rent the blackness

Which God’s stern brow cast wide,

“Now, victory or Westminster!”

Said Nelson, in his pride.

“My comrades, do your duty!

Or what will England say?”

“They shall!” cried accents from the deep,

Where dead men weltering lay.

Red horror tore the tempest;

Down stooped both sea and sky;

And, like a flood on Collingwood,

The clouds rushed from on high.

Life pledged for life, armed thousands

Joined then in horrid strife.

O Life, thou art an awful thing!—

For what is God but Life?

Shouts, groans, and man’s dread thunder,

Made up one dismal cry:

The affrighted storm asked what it meant,

And Death made no reply.

But on the grave of thousands

A silent spirit trod;

He clasped them in the embrace of Death,—

And what is Death but God?

He cared not for their glory,

He asked not of their cause;

While, right or wrong, the weak and strong

Obeyed alike his laws.

One tyrant lost his war-ships;

Worse tyrants summed their gains;

And toil-worn nations sang and danced

(As maniacs dance) in chains!

How like an empty bubble

The turmoil passed away!

“Where are the weak?” said sun and cloud;

“The mighty!—where are they?”

And birds of light and calmness—

Where dolphins gambolled free,

And heroes in their glory lay—

Flew over the smooth sea.

And, from his throne of silence,

The God of Peace looked down,

Though sternly, on their bed of death,

With pity in his frown.

For Spaniard, Frank, and Briton,

All peaceful in one grave,

Like babies in their nurses’ arms,

Slept under the green wave.

Image of God! through horrors

“That make the angels weep,”

Why seek the gift that comes unsought,—

His boon of dreadful sleep?