To the memory of:
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
* Burnam Thorpe, UK, 29th of September 1758
+ Cape Trafalgar, Spain, 21th of October 1805
SCENE II THE SAME. THE QUARTER-DECK OF THE “VICTORY” [The van of each division of the English fleet has drawn to the windward side of the combined fleets of the enemy, and broken their order, the “Victory” being now parallel to and alongside the “Redoubtable,” the “Temeraire” taking up a station on the other side of that ship. The “Bucentaure” and the “Santisima Trinidad” become jammed together a little way ahead. A smoke and din of cannonading prevail, amid which the studding-sail booms are shot away. NELSON, HARDY, BLACKWOOD, SECRETARY SCOTT, LIEUTENANT PASCO, BURKE the Purser, CAPTAIN ADAIR of the Marines, and other officers are on or near the quarter-deck.]
NELSON See, there, that noble fellow Collingwood, How straight he helms his ship into the fire!— Now you’ll haste back to yours [to BLACKWOOD]. —We must henceforth Trust to the Great Disposer of events, And justice of our cause!... [BLACKWOOD leaves. The battle grows hotter. A double-headed shot cuts down seven or eight marines on the “Victory’s” poop.] Captain Adair, part those marines of yours, And hasten to disperse them round the ship.— Your place is down below, Burke, not up here; Ah, yes; like David you would see the battle! [A heavy discharge of musket-shot comes from the tops of the “Santisima Trinidad. ADAIR and PASCO fall. Another swathe of Marines is mowed down by chain-shot.]
SCOTT My lord, I use to you the utmost prayers That I have privilege to shape in words: Remove your stars and orders, I would beg; That shot was aimed at you.
NELSON They were awarded to me as an honour, And shall I do despite to those who prize me, And slight their gifts? No, I will die with them, If die I must. [He walks up and down with HARDY.]
HARDY At least let’s put you on Your old greatcoat, my lord—[the air is keen.].— ‘Twill cover all. So while you still retain Your dignities, you baulk these deadly aims
NELSON Thank ‘ee, good friend. But no,—I haven’t time, I do assure you—not a trice to spare, As you well will see. [A few minutes later SCOTT falls dead, a bullet having pierced his skull. Immediately after a shot passes between the Admiral and the Captain, tearing the instep of Hardy’s shoe, and striking away the buckle. They shake off the dust and splinters it has scattered over them. NELSON glances round, and perceives what has happened to his secretary.]
NELSON Poor Scott, too, carried off! Warm work this, Hardy; Too warm to go on long.
HARDY I think so, too; Their lower ports are blocked against our hull, And our charge now is less. Each knock so near Sets their old wood on fire.
NELSON Ay, rotten as peat. What’s that? I think she has struck, or pretty nigh! [A cracking of musketry.]
HARDY Not yet.—Those small-arm men there, in her tops, Thin our crew fearfully. Now, too, our guns Have dipped full down, or they would rake The “Temeraire” there on the other side.
NELSON True.—While you deal good measure out to these, Keep slapping at those giants over here— The “Trinidad,” I mean, and the “Bucentaure,” To win’ard—swelling up so pompously.
HARDY I’ll see no slackness shall be shown that way. [They part and go in their respective directions. Gunners, naked to the waist and reeking with sweat, are now in swift action on the several decks, and firemen carry buckets of water hither and thither. The killed and wounded thicken around, and are being lifted and examined by the surgeons. NELSON and HARDY meet again.]
NELSON Bid still the firemen bring more bucketfuls, And dash the water into each new hole Our guns have gouged in the “Redoubtable,” Or we shall all be set ablaze together.
HARDY Let me once more advise, entreat, my lord, That you do not expose yourself so clearly. Those fellows in the mizzen-top up there Are peppering round you quite perceptibly.
NELSON Now, Hardy, don’t offend me. They can’t aim; They only set their own rent sails on fire.— But if they could, I would not hide a button To save ten lives like mine. I have no cause To prize it, I assure ‘ee.—Ah, look there, One of the women hit,—and badly, too. Poor wench! Let some one shift her quickly down.
HARDY My lord, each humblest sojourner on the seas, Dock-labourer, lame longshore-man, bowed bargee, Sees it as policy to shield his life For those dependent on him. Much more, then, Should one upon whose priceless presence here Such issues hang, so many strivers lean, Use average circumspection at an hour So critical for us all.
NELSON Ay, ay. Yes, yes; I know your meaning, Hardy,; and I know That you disguise as frigid policy What really is your honest love of me. But, faith, I have had my day. My work’s nigh done; I serve all interests best by chancing it Here with the commonest.—Ah, their heavy guns Are silenced every one! Thank God for that.
HARDY ‘Tis so. They only use their small arms now. [He goes to larboard to see what is progressing on that side between his ship and the “Santisima Trinidad.”]
OFFICER [to seaman] Swab down these stairs. The mess of blood about Makes ‘em so slippery that one’s like to fall In carrying the wounded men below. [While CAPTAIN HARDY is still a little way off, LORD NELSON turns to walk aft, when a ball from one of the muskets in the mizzen- top of the “Redoubtable” enters his left shoulder. He falls upon his face on the deck. HARDY looks round, and sees what has happened.]
HARDY [hastily] Ah—what I feared, and strove to hide I feared!... [He goes towards NELSON, who in the meantime has been lifted by SERGEANT-MAJOR SECKER and two seamen.]
NELSON Hardy, I think they’ve done for me at last!
HARDY I hope not!
NELSON Yes. My backbone is shot through. I have not long to live. [The men proceed to carry him below.] Those tiller ropes They’ve torn away, get instantly repaired! [At sight of him borne along wounded there is great agitation among the crew.] Cover my face. There will be no good be done By drawing their attention off to me. Bear me along, good fellows; I am but one Among the many darkened here to-day! [He is carried on to the cockpit over the crowd of dead and wounded.] Doctor, I’m gone. I am waste o’ time to you.
HARDY [remaining behind] Hills, go to Collingwood and let him know That we’ve no Admiral here. [He passes on.]
A LIEUTENANT Now quick and pick him off who did the deed— That white-bloused man there in the mizzen-top.
POLLARD, a midshipman [shooting] No sooner said than done. A pretty aim! [The Frenchman falls dead upon the poop. The spectacle seems now to become enveloped in smoke, and the point of view changes.]
SCENE III THE SAME. ON BOARD THE “BUCENTAURE” [The bowsprit of the French Admiral’s ship is stuck fast in the stern-gallery of the “Santisima Trinidad,” the starboard side of the “Bucentaure” being shattered by shots from two English three- deckers which are pounding her on that hand. The poop is also reduced to ruin by two other English ships that are attacking her from behind. On the quarter-deck are ADMIRAL VILLENEUVE, the FLAG-CAPTAIN MAGENDIE, LIEUTENANTS DAUDIGNON, FOURNIER, and others, anxiously occupied. The whole crew is in desperate action of battle and stumbling among the dead and dying, who have fallen too rapidly to be carried below.]
VILLENEUVE We shall be crushed if matters go on thus.— Direct the “Trinidad” to let her drive, That this foul tangle may be loosened clear!
DAUDIGNON It has been tried, sir; but she cannot move.
VILLENEUVE Then signal to the “Hero” that she strive Once more to drop this way. MAGENDIE We may make signs, But in the thickened air what signal’s marked?— ‘Tis done, however.
VILLENEUVE The “Redoubtable” And “Victory” there,—they grip in dying throes! Something’s amiss on board the English ship. Surely the Admiral’s fallen?
A PETTY OFFICER Sir, they say That he was shot some hour, or half, ago.— With dandyism raised to godlike pitch He stalked the deck in all his jewellery, And so was hit.
MAGENDIE Then Fortune shows her face! We have scotched England in dispatching him. [He watches.] Yes! He commands no more; and Lucas, joying, Has taken steps to board. Look, spars are laid, And his best men are mounting at his heels.
VILLENEUVE Ah, God—he is too late! Whence came the hurl Of heavy grape? The smoke prevents my seeing But at brief whiles.—The boarding band has fallen, Fallen almost to a man.—‘Twas well assayed!
MAGENDIE That’s from their “Temeraire,” whose vicious broadside Has cleared poor Lucas’ decks.
VILLENEUVE And Lucas, too. I see him no more there. His red planks show Three hundred dead if one. Now for ourselves! [Four of the English three-deckers have gradually closed round the “Bucentaure,” whose bowsprit still sticks fast in the gallery of the “Santisima Trinidad.” A broadside comes from one of the English, resulting in worse havoc on the “Bucentaure.” The main and mizzen masts of the latter fall, and the boats are beaten to pieces. A raking fire of musketry follows from the attacking ships, to which the “Bucentaure” heroically continues still to keep up a reply. CAPTAIN MAGENDIE falls wounded. His place is taken by LIEUTENANT DAUDIGNON.]
VILLENEUVE Now that the fume has lessened, code my biddance Upon our only mast, and tell the van At once to wear, and come into the fire. [Aside] If it be true that, as HE sneers, success Demands of me but cool audacity, To-day shall leave him nothing to desire! [Musketry continues. DAUDIGNON falls. He is removed, his post being taken by LIEUTENANT FOURNIER. Another crash comes, and the deck is suddenly encumbered with rigging.]
FOURNIER There goes our foremast! How for signalling now?
VILLENEUVE To try that longer, Fournier, is in vain Upon this haggard, scorched, and ravaged hulk, Her decks all reeking with such gory shows, Her starboard side in rents, her stern nigh gone! How does she keep afloat?— “Bucentaure,” O lucky good old ship! My part in you is played. Ay—I must go; I must tempt Fate elsewhere,—if but a boat Can bear me through this wreckage to the van.
FOURNIER Our boats are stove in, or as full of holes As the cook’s skimmer, from their cursed balls! [Musketry. VILLENEUVE’S Head-of-Staff, DE PRIGNY, falls wounded, and many additional men. VILLENEUVE glances troublously from ship to ship of his fleet.]
VILLENEUVE How hideous are the waves, so pure this dawn!— Red-frothed; and friends and foes all mixed therein.— Can we in some way hail the “Trinidad” And get a boat from her? [They attempt to distract the attention of the “Santisima Trinidad” by shouting.] Impossible; Amid the loud combustion of this strife As well try holloing to the antipodes!... So here I am. The bliss of Nelson’s end Will not be mine; his full refulgent eve Becomes my midnight! Well; the fleets shall see That I can yield my cause with dignity. [The “Bucentaure” strikes her flag. A boat then puts off from the English ship “Conqueror,” and VILLENEUVE, having surrendered his sword, is taken out from the “Bucentaure.” But being unable to regain her own ship, the boat is picked up by the “Mars,” and the French admiral is received aboard her. Point of view changes.]
SCENE IV THE SAME. THE COCKPIT OF THE “VICTORY” [A din of trampling and dragging overhead, which is accompanied by a continuos ground-bass roar from the guns of the warring fleets, culminating at times in loud concussions. The wounded are lying around in rows for treatment, some groaning, some silently dying, some dead. The gloomy atmosphere of the low- beamed deck is pervaded by a thick haze of smoke, powdered wood, and other dust, and is heavy with the fumes of gunpowder and candle-grease, the odour of drugs and cordials, and the smell from abdominal wounds. NELSON, his face now pinched and wan with suffering, is lying undressed in a midshipman’s berth, dimly lit by a lantern. DR. BEATTY, DR. MAGRATH, the Rev. DR. SCOTT the Chaplain, BURKE the Purser, the Steward, and a few others stand around.]
MAGRATH [in a low voice] Poor Ram, and poor Tom Whipple, have just gone..
BEATTY There was no hope for them. NELSON [brokenly] Who have just died?
BEATTY Two who were badly hit by now, my lord; Lieutenant Ram and Mr. Whipple.
NELSON Ah! So many lives—in such a glorious cause.... I join them soon, soon, soon!—O where is Hardy? Will nobody bring Hardy to me—none? He must be killed, too. Surely Hardy’s dead?
A MIDSHIPMAN He’s coming soon, my lord. The constant call On his full heed of this most mortal fight Keeps him from hastening hither as he would.
NELSON I’ll wait, I’ll wait. I should have thought of it. [Presently HARDY comes down. NELSON and he grasp hands.] Hardy, how goes the day with us and England?
HARDY Well; very well, thank God for’t, my dear lord. Villeneuve their Admiral has this moment struck, And put himself aboard the “Conqueror.” Some fourteen of their first-rates, or about, Thus far we’ve got. The said “Bucentaure” chief: The “Santa Ana,” the “Redoubtable,” The “Fougueux,” the “Santisima Trinidad,” “San Augustino, “San Francisco,” “Aigle”; And our old “Swiftsure,” too, we’ve grappled back, To every seaman’s joy. But now their van Has tacked to bear round on the “Victory” And crush her by sheer weight of wood and brass: Three of our best I am therefore calling up, And make no doubt of worsting theirs, and France.
NELSON That’s well. I swore for twenty.—But it’s well.
HARDY We’ll have ‘em yet! But without you, my lord, We have to make slow plodding do the deeds That sprung by inspiration ere you fell; And on this ship the more particularly.
NELSON No, Hardy.—Ever ‘twas your settled fault So modestly to whittle down your worth. But I saw stuff in you which admirals need When, taking thought, I chose the “Victory’s” keel To do my business with these braggarts in. A business finished now, for me!—Good friend, Slow shades are creeping me... I scarce see you.
HARDY The smoke from ships upon our win’ard side, And the dust raised by their worm-eaten hulks, When our balls touch ‘em, blind the eyes, in truth.
NELSON No; it is not that dust; ‘tis dust of death That darkens me. [A shock overhead. HARDY goes up. On or two other officers go up, and by and by return.] What was that extra noise?
OFFICER The “Formidable’ passed us by, my lord, And thumped a stunning broadside into us.— But, on their side, the “Hero’s” captain’s fallen; The “Algeciras” has been boarded, too, By Captain Tyler, and the captain shot: Admiral Gravina desperately holds out; They say he’s lost an arm.
NELSON And we, ourselves— Who have we lost on board here? Nay, but tell me!
BEATTY Besides poor Scott, my lord, and Charles Adair, Lieutenant Ram, and Whipple, captain’s clerk, There’s Smith, and Palmer, midshipmen, just killed. And fifty odd of seamen and marines.
NELSON Poor youngsters! Scarred old Nelson joins you soon.
BEATTY And wounded: Bligh, lieutenant; Pasco, too, and Reeves, and Peake, lieutenants of marines, And Rivers, Westphall, Bulkeley, midshipmen, With, of the crew, a hundred odd just now, Unreckoning those late fallen not brought below.
BURKE That fellow in the mizzen-top, my lord, Who made it his affair to wing you thus, We took good care to settle; and he fell Like an old rook, smack from his perch, stone dead.
NELSON ‘Twas not worth while!—He was, no doubt, a man Who in simplicity and sheer good faith Strove but to serve his country. Rest be to him! And may his wife, his friends, his little ones, If such be had, be tided through their loss, And soothed amid the sorrow brought by me. [HARDY re-enters.] Who’s that? Ah—here you come! How, Hardy, now?
HARDY The Spanish Admiral’s rumoured to be wounded, We know not with what truth. But, be as ‘twill, He sheers away with all he could call round, And some few frigates, straight to Cadiz port. [A violent explosion is heard above the confused noises on deck. A midshipman goes above and returns.]
MIDSHIPMAN [in the background] It is the enemy’s first-rate, the “Achille,” Blown to a thousand atoms!—While on fire, Before she burst, the captain’s woman there, Desperate for life, climbed from the gunroom port Upon the rudder-chains; stripped herself stark, And swam for the Pickle’s boat. Our men in charge, Seeing her great breasts bulging on the brine, Sang out, “A mermaid ‘tis, by God!”—then rowed And hauled her in.—
BURKE Such unbid sights obtrude On death’s dyed stage!
MIDSHIPMAN Meantime the “Achille” fought on, Even while the ship was blazing, knowing well The fire must reach their powder; which it did. The spot is covered now with floating men, Some whole, the main in parts; arms, legs, trunks, heads, Bobbing with tons of timber on the waves, And splinter looped with entrails of the crew.
NELSON [rousing] Our course will be to anchor. Let me know.
HARDY But let me ask, my lord, as needs I must, Seeing your state, and that our work’s not done, Shall I, from you, bid Admiral Collingwood Take full on him the conduct of affairs?
NELSON [trying to raise himself] Not while I live, I hope! No, Hardy; no. Give Collingwood my order. Anchor all!
HARDY [hesitating] You mean the signal’s to be made forthwith?
NELSON I do!—By God, if but our carpenter Could rig me up a jury-backbone now, To last one hour—until the battle’s done, I’d see to it! But here I am—stove in— Broken—all logged and done for! Done, ay done!
BEATTY [returning from the other wounded] My lord, I must implore you to lie calm! You shorten what at best may not be long.
NELSON [exhausted] I know, I know, good Beatty! Thank you well Hardy, I was impatient. Now I am still. Sit here a moment, if you have time to spare? [BEATTY and others retire, and the two abide in silence, except for the trampling overhead and the moans from adjoining berths. NELSON is apparently in less pain, seeming to doze.]
NELSON [suddenly] What are you thinking, that you speak no word?
HARDY [waking from a short reverie] Thoughts all confused, my lord:—their needs on deck, Your own sad state, and your unrivalled past; Mixed up with flashes of old things afar— Old childish things at home, down Wessex way. In the snug village under Blackdon Hill Where I was born. The tumbling stream, the garden, The placid look of the grey dial there, Marking unconsciously this bloody hour, And the red apples on my father’s trees, Just now full ripe.
NELSON Ay, thus do little things Steal into my mind, too. But ah, my heart Knows not your calm philosophy!—There’s one— Come nearer to me, Hardy.—One of all, As you well guess, pervades my memory now; She, and my daughter—I speak freely to you. ‘Twas good I made that codicil this morning That you and Blackwood witnessed. Now she rests Safe on the nation’s honour.... Let her have My hair, and the small treasured things I owned, And take care of her, as you care for me! [HARDY promises.]
NELSON [resuming in a murmur] Does love die with our frame’s decease, I wonder, Or does it live on ever?... [A silence. BEATTY approaches.]
HARDY Now I’ll leave, See if your order’s gone, and then return.
NELSON [symptoms of death beginning to change his face] Yes, Hardy; yes; I know it. You must go.— Here we shall meet no more; since Heaven forfend That care for me should keep you idle now, When all the ship demands you. Beatty, too. Go to the others who lie bleeding there; Them can you aid. Me you can render none! My time here is the briefest.—If I live But long enough I’ll anchor.... But—too late— My anchoring’s elsewhere ordered!... Kiss me, Hardy: [HARDY bends over him.] I’m satisfied. Thank God, I have done my duty! [HARDY brushes his eyes with his hand, and withdraws to go above, pausing to look back before he finally disappears.]
BEATTY [watching Nelson] Ah!—Hush around!... He’s sinking. It is but a trifle now Of minutes with him. Stand you, please, aside, And give him air. [BEATTY, the Chaplain, MAGRATH, the Steward, and attendants continue to regard NELSON. BEATTY looks at his watch.]
BEATTY Two hours and fifty minutes since he fell, And now he’s going. [They wait. NELSON dies.]
CHAPLAIN Yes.... He has homed to where There’s no more sea.
BEATTY We’ll let the Captain know, Who will confer with Collingwood at once. I must now turn to these. [He goes to another part of the cockpit, a midshipman ascends to the deck, and the scene overclouds.]
CHORUS OF THE PITIES [aerial music] His thread was cut too slowly! When he fell. And bade his fame farewell, He might have passed, and shunned his long-drawn pain, Endured in vain, in vain!
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS Young Spirits, be not critical of That Which was before, and shall be after you!
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES But out of tune the Mode and meritless That quickens sense in shapes whom, thou hast said, Necessitation sways! A life there was Among these self-same frail ones—Sophocles— Who visioned it too clearly, even while He dubbed the Will “the gods.” Truly said he, “Such gross injustice to their own creation Burdens the time with mournfulness for us, And for themselves with shame."—Things mechanized By coils and pivots set to foreframed codes Would, in a thorough-sphered melodic rule, And governance of sweet consistency, Be cessed no pain, whose burnings would abide With That Which holds responsibility, Or inexist.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES Yea, yea, yea! Thus would the Mover pay The score each puppet owes, The Reaper reap what his contrivance sows! Why make Life debtor when it did not buy? Why wound so keenly Right that it would die?
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS Nay, blame not! For what judgment can ye blame?— In that immense unweeting Mind is shown One far above forethinking; processive, Yet superconscious; a Clairvoyancy That knows not what It knows, yet works therewith.— The cognizance ye mourn, Life’s doom to feel, If I report it meetly, came unmeant, Emerging with blind gropes from impercipience By listless sequence—luckless, tragic Chance, In your more human tongue.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES And hence unneeded In the economy of Vitality, Which might have ever kept a sealed cognition As doth the Will Itself.
CHORUS OF THE YEARS [aerial music] Nay, nay, nay; Your hasty judgments stay, Until the topmost cyme Have crowned the last entablature of Time. O heap not blame on that in-brooding Will; O pause, till all things all their days fulfil!