1822 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Stanzas on the cutting out of the "Esmerelda" Spanish Frigate.

Poems by James Hyslop ... with a Sketch of his Life, and Notes on his Poems, by the Rev. Peter Mearns.

James Hyslop


Seven Spenserians "On the cutting out of the 'Esmerelda' Spanish Frigate, by Lord Cochrane." A boarding party takes a prize: "The Patriots dash the helmsman from the wheel; | And, cheering, rally round their leader's sword. | The frigate freed, the tide she soon 'gins feel. | 'Loose sails!' a broad Scotch accent gives the word; | And instant 'tis obeyed — 'tis Cochrane treads the board." The poem was written during Hyslop's South-American cruise, 1821-24. The poet served as a tutor aboard the "Doris." Admiral Thomas Cochrane (1775-1860) fought against the Spanish and secured the liberation of Chili and Peru.

Peter Mearns: "Shortly after reaching the South American coast, Mr. Hyslop heard of Lord Cochrane's daring exploit of cutting out the Spanish frigate, 'Esmerelda,' from under the batteries of Callao, in the Bay of Lima, which had taken place about a year before his visit, and he wrote a spirited poem on the subject. He received the particulars of the feat from some who had taken part in it, and from others who had heard the narrative as related by seamen who were actually engaged in the affair" in Poems (1887) 80.



Behold thy Cochrane, Scotland! and be proud
To see that fiery spirit of the deep,
Like freedom's guardian angel from the cloud
Forth breaking on the waves his watch to keep.
How like the bolt of Heaven! his arm can sweep
Aside the fleets of Portugal and Spain.
For their lost nations they in vain may weep,
While his broad flag is hoisted on the main,
The billows are his throne, and while he lives he'll reign.

And British seamen love to tell the sport,
Of how one night a Spanish frigate lay,
Mann'd and secure, beneath a friendly fort
Of bright brass bristling guns, in Lima Bay;
And Cochrane's boarding boats were under weigh.
His men were few, but strong enough their faith
To move a mountain had it dared to stay
Their desp'rate course. On for the prize they sweep:
"Silence or death!" the chief proclaims, with utterance deep.

'Twas sable night: nought on the waters stirr'd—
Scarce ev'n the feathering of the muffled oar.
Pacing the forts the watchmen kept their guard,
But little dream'd they who 'twas passed their shore.
The frigate's bells proclaim'd the first watch o'er;
The gun-room revellers to their berths had crept;
The seamen on her decks were heard to snore;
The mid-watch sentries wak'd; the rest all slept;
When sudden in the midst the brave assailants leapt.

Athwart her moorings, rang'd to form a chain,
A line of gunboats lay: its links they broke,
Scattering with their sabres blood like rain,
Quenching the flames amid the cannon smoke.
The opposing warriors in confusion broke
Ere scarce to quarters beat their midnight drum.
Some stood, their daggers grasping firm as rock,
Dread welcome threat'ning to the first should come;
But many of them stood with trembling terror dumb.

Behold the Patriots on the bulwarks spring!
They grasp the fore, the main, and mizen chains.
With fearful strength, their battle blades they swing;
With desp'rate vigour every muscle strains;
And well their chief his chieftainship maintains,
The gangway he ascends, with dauntless stride,
And where the shower of bullets thickest rains—
His dusky Patriot "Devil" by his side—
The quarterdeck he sweeps to seize the post of pride.

Brave Crosbie's band the forecastle now gain,
Cutting their path through groves of bristling steel;
The Royalists awhile the charge sustain;
But backward on the gangways soon they reel.
The Patriots dash the helmsman from the wheel;
And, cheering, rally round their leader's sword.
The frigate freed, the tide she soon 'gins feel.
"Loose sails!" a broad Scotch accent gives the word;
And instant 'tis obeyed — 'tis Cochrane treads the board.

But fifteen minutes past, well-mann'd and moor'd,
Beneath the forts the Esmeralda lay.
Now under hatch, his prisoners secured,
The conqueror steers her calmly 'cross the Bay;
The deep-mouthed brazen batteries on him play;
He smiles and boasts they cannot point a gun.
The frigate's flag was changed, when dawning day
Brought o'er the Eastern Andes' peaks the sun.
'Twas thus the hero's brow its brightest laurel won.

[pp. 232-33]