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Then if at last she find him fast beset,
She issues forth, and runs along her loom : She joys to touch the captive in her net,
And drags the little wretch in triumph home. The Belgians hop'd that, with disorder'd haste,
Our deep-cut keels upon the sands might run: Or if with caution leisurely were past, Their numerous gross might charge us one by
But with a fore-wind pushing them above,
And swelling tide that heav'd them from below, O'er the blind flats our warlike squadrons move,
And with spread sails to welcome battle go. It seem'd as there the British Neptune stood,
With all his hosts of waters at command, Beneath them to submit th' officious flood;
And with his trident shov'd them off the sand.
To the pale foes they suddenly draw near,
And summon them to unexpected fight : They start like murderers when ghosts appear,
And draw their curtains in the dead of night.
Now van to van the foremost squadrons meet,
The midmost battles hastening up behind, Who view far off the storm of falling sleet,
And hear their thunder rattling in the wind.
At length the adverse admirals appear :
The two bold champions of each country's right : Their eyes describe the lists as they come near, And draw the lines of death before they fight.
The distance judg'd for shot of every size,
The linstocs touch, the ponderous ball expires: The vigorous seaman every port-hole plies,
And adds his heart to every gun he fires!
Fierce was the fight on the proud Belgians' side,
For honour, which they seldom sought before : But now they by their own vain boasts were tyd,
And forc'd at least in show to prize it more.
But sharp remembrance on the English part,
And shame of being match'd by such a foe, Rouze conscious virtue up in every heart,
And seeming to be stronger makes them so.
Nor long the Belgians could that fleet sustain,
Which did two generals' fates, and Cæsar's bear : Each several ship a victory did gain,
As Rupert or as Albemarle were there.
Their batter'd admiral too soon withdrew,
Unthank'd by ours for his unfinish'd fight: But he the minds of his Dutch masters knew,
Who call'd that providence which we call'flight.
Never did men more joyfully obey,
Or sooner understood the sign to fly : With such alacrity they bore away,
As if, to praise them, all the States stood by.
O famous leader of the Belgian fleet,
Thy monument inscrib'd such praise shall wear, As Varro timely flying once did meet,
Because he did not of his Rome despair.
Behold that navy, which a while before
Provok'd the tardy English close to fight; Now draw their beaten vessels close to shore,
As larks lie dar'd to shun the hobby's flight.
Whoe'er would English monuments survey,
In other records may our courage know: But let them hide the story of this day,
Whose fame was blemish'd by too base a foe. Or if too busily they will inquire
Into a victory, which we disdain ;
Before the patron saint of injur'd Spain.
To Philip's manes did an offering bring : England, which first, by leading them astray,
Hatch'd up rebellion to destroy her king.
Our fathers bent their baneful industry,
To check a monarchy that slowly grew; But did not France or Holland's fate foresee,
Whose rising power to swift dominion flew.
In Fortune's empire blindly thus we go,
And wander after pathless Destiny; Whose dark resorts since Prudence cannot know,
In vain it would provide for what shall be.
But whate'er English to the blessed shall go,
And the fourth Harry or first Orange meet; Find him disowning of a Bourbon foe,
And him detesting a Batavian fleet.
Now on their coasts our conquering navy rides,
Waylays their merchants, and their land beséts; Each day new wealth without their care provides ;
They lie asleep with prizes in their nets. So close behind some promontory lie
The huge leviathans t'attend their prey; And give no chace, but swallow in the fry, (way.
Which through their gaping jaws mistake the Nor was this all : in ports and roads remote,
Destructive fires among whole fleets we send ; Triumphant flames upon the water float,
And out-bound ships at home their voyage end. Those various squadrons variously design'd,
Each vessel freighted with a several load, Each squadron waiting for a several wind,
All find but one, to burn them in the road.
Some bound for Guinea, golden sand to find,
Bore all the gauds the simple natives wear : Some for the pride of Turkish courts design'd,
For folded turbans finest Holland bear,
Some English wool vex'd in a Belgian loom,
And into cloth of spungy softness made, Did into France or colder Denmark doom,
To ruin with worse ware our staple trade.
Our greedy seamen rummage every hold,
Smile on the booty of each wealthier chest, And, as the priests who with their gods make bold,
Take what they like, and sacrifice the rest.
But ah! how insincere are all our joys! (no stay :
Which, sent from Heaven, like lightning make Their palling taste the journey's length destroys,
Or grief sent post o’ertakes them on the way.
Swell'd with our late successes on the foe,
Which France and Holland wanted power to cross, We urge an unseen fate to lay us low,
And feed their envious eyes with English loss.
Each element his dread command obeys,
Who makes or ruins with a smile or frown; Who, as by one he did our nation raise,
So now he with another pulls us down.
Yet, London, empress of the northern clime,
By an high fate thou greatly didst expire; Great as the world's, which, at the death of Time,
Must fall, and rise a nobler frame by Fire.
As when some dire usurper Heaven provides,
To scourge his country with a lawless sway; His birth, perhaps, some petty village hides,
And sets his cradle out of Fortune's way:
Till, fully ripe, his swelling fate breaks out,
And hurries him to mighty mischiefs on:
And wants the power to meet it when 'tis known.
Such was the rise of this prodigious Fire,
Which in mean buildings first obscurely bred, From thence did soon to open streets aspire,
And straight to palaces and temples spread.