viernes, 21 de octubre de 2016


So I found the Battle of Trafalgar retold in a Shakespearean style in The Dynasts, an epic narrative poem written by a descendant of the self-same Hardy who gave Lord Nelson the last kiss, and I said (a month ago): "That's something for our Trafalgar in memoriam on this blog!" Said and done, right the fortnight before this year's Lützen commemoration, so get your hankies or/and your Xanax ready if you are high-strung!

To the memory of:
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
* Burnam Thorpe, UK, 29th of September 1758
+ Cape Trafalgar, Spain, 21th of October 1805


    [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.

    BURKE the Purser, CAPTAIN ADAIR of the Marines, and other
    officers are on or near the quarter-deck.]


  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.]


  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.


  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.]


            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


  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.]


  Poor Scott, too, carried off!  Warm work this, Hardy;
  Too warm to go on long.


            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.


            Ay, rotten as peat.
  What’s that?  I think she has struck, or pretty nigh!

    [A cracking of musketry.]


  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.


  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.


  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.]


  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.


  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.


  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.


  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.


            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.


  ‘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

  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.]


  Hardy, I think they’ve done for me at last!


  I hope not!


            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

  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.]


  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.] 

    [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
    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.]

  We shall be crushed if matters go on thus.—
  Direct the “Trinidad” to let her drive,
  That this foul tangle may be loosened clear!

  It has been tried, sir; but she cannot move.

  Then signal to the “Hero” that she strive
  Once more to drop this way.


            We may make signs,
  But in the thickened air what signal’s marked?—
  ‘Tis done, however.

            The “Redoubtable”
   And “Victory” there,—they grip in dying throes!
  Something’s amiss on board the English ship.
  Surely the Admiral’s fallen?

            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.

            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.

  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!

  That’s from their “Temeraire,” whose vicious broadside
  Has cleared poor Lucas’ decks.

            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

  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.]

  There goes our foremast!  How for signalling now?

  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.

  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.]

  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.]

  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.]

    [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..

  There was no hope for them.

  NELSON [brokenly]

       Who have just died?

  Two who were badly hit by now, my lord;
  Lieutenant Ram and Mr. Whipple.

  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?

  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.

  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?

  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.

  That’s well.  I swore for twenty.—But it’s well.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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?

  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.

            And we, ourselves—
  Who have we lost on board here?  Nay, but tell me!

  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.

  Poor youngsters!  Scarred old Nelson joins you soon.

  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.

  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.

  ‘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?

  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.—

            Such unbid sights obtrude
  On death’s dyed stage!

            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.

  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?

  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.

            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.]
            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.]

  Two hours and fifty minutes since he fell,
  And now he’s going.

    [They wait.  NELSON dies.]

            Yes.... He has homed to where
  There’s no more sea.

            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!

       Young Spirits, be not critical of That
       Which was before, and shall be after you!

       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.

                 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?

       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.

                 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!

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