1816
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Exmouth's Victory at Algiers — 1816.

Occasional Pieces of Poetry, by John G. C. Brainard.

John G. C. Brainard


John G. C. Brainard introduces his lyric ode with a Spenserian stanza — a measure that had long since acquired associations with patriotism and the British Empire: "Each twinkling star look'd down to see | The pomp of England's chivalry, | The pride of Britain's crown!" Sir Edward Pellew, first baron and first Viscount Exmouth (1757-1833) was awarded his title after he bombarded Algiers in 1816 in an attempt to abolish Christian slavery — a deed for which he won plaudits from around the world.

Atlantic Magazine: "Lord Exmouth's Victory at Algiers in the year 1816, we skipped, because we think it is unpatriotic to write or read about English naval victories while our own are unsung" 2 (April 1825) 454.

Epes Sargent: "Brainard (1795-1828) was a native of New London, Conn., son of a judge of the Supreme Court. He was educated at Yale College, and in 1822 went to Hertford to take editorial charge of the Connecticut Mirror. Samuel G. Goodrich, author of the 'Peter Parley Tales,' was his intimate friend, and persuaded him to publish his first volume of poems. This appeared in New York, in 1826, from the press of Bliss & White. A second edition, with a memoir by J. G. Whittier, appeared in 1832; and this was followed by a third, in 1842, from the press of Hopkins, Hertford. 'At the age of eight-and-twenty,' says Goodrich, 'Brainard was admonished that his end was near. With a submissive spirit, in pious, gentle, cheerful faith, he resigned himself to his doom. In person he was short; his general appearance that of a clumsy boy. At one moment he looked stupid, and then inspired. He was true in friendship, chivalrous in all that belongs to personal honor.' An instance of his ready wit is given in a retort he addressed to a critic, who had objected to the use of the word 'brine,' as a word which 'had no more business in sentimental poetry than a pig in a parlor'; to which the poet replied that his critic, 'living inland, must have got his ideas of the salt-water from his father's pork-barrel'" Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 484.



The sun look'd bright upon the morning tide:
Light play'd the breeze along the whispering shore,
And the blue billow arch'd its head of pride,
As 'gainst the rock its frothy front it bore;
The clear bright dew fled hastily before
The morning's sun, and glitter'd in his rays;
Aloft the early lark was seen to soar,
And cheerful nature glorified the ways
Of God, and mutely sang her joyous notes of praise.

The freshening breeze, the sporting wave,
Their own impartial greeting gave
To Christian and to Turk;
But both prepared to break the charm
Of peace, with war's confused alarm—
And ready each, for combat warm,
Commenc'd the bloody work.

For England's might was on the seas,
With red cross flapping in the breeze,
And streamer floating light;
While the pale crescent, soon to set,
Waved high on tower and minaret,
And all the pride of Mahomet
Stood ready for the fight.

Then swell'd the noise of battle high;
The warrior's shout, the coward's cry,
Rung round the spacious bay.
Fierce was the strife, and ne'er before
Had old Numidia's rocky shore
Been deafen'd with such hideous roar,
As on that bloody day.

It seem'd as if that earth-born brood,
Which, poets say, once warr'd on God,
Had risen from the sea;—
As if again they boldly strove
To seize the thunderbolts of Jove,
And o'er Olympian powers to prove
Their own supremacy.

What though the sun has sunk to rest?
What though the clouds of smoke invest
The capes of Matisou?—
Still by the flash each sees his foe,
And, dealing round him death and wo,
With shot for shot, and blow for blow,
Fights — to his country true.

Each twinkling star look'd down to see
The pomp of England's chivalry,
The pride of Britain's crown!
While ancient Aetna rais'd his head,
Disgorging from his unknown bed
A fire, that round each hero shed
A halo of renown.

The dying sailor cheer'd his crew,
While thick around the death-shot flew;
And glad was he to see
Old England's flag still streaming high,—
Her cannon speaking to the sky,
And telling all the pow'rs on high,
Of Exmouth's victory!

The crescent wanes — the Turkish might
Is vanquish'd in the bloody fight,
The Pirate's race is run;—
Thy shouts are hush'd, and all is still
On tow'r, and battlement, and hill,
No, loud command — no answer shrill—
Algiers! thy day is done!

The slumb'ring tempest swell'd its breath,
And sweeping o'er the field of death,
And o'er the waves of gore,
Above the martial trumpet's tone,
Above the wounded soldier's moan,
Above the dying sailor's groan,
Rais'd its terrific roar.

Speed swift, ye gales, and bear along
This burden for the poet's song,
O'er continent and sea:
Tell to the world that Britain's hand
Chastis'd the misbelieving band,
And overcame the Paynim land
In glorious victory.

[pp. 37-40]