ON THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR
Not with an easy hand wills Fate to give
Nations, or heroes, power and renown:
Triumphant Rome, whose empire to receive
A hemisphere submissively bow'd down,
Yielding itself in silent servitude,
How often did she vanquish'd groan? repell'd
As she her course of loftiness pursued!
Her ground to Hannibal she scarcely held;
Italian blood of Trevia the sands,
And wavy Thrasymenus deeply dyed,
And Roman matrons the victorious bands
Of Cannæ nigh approaching them descried,
As some portentous comet fearful lower.
Who drove them thence? Who from the Capitol
Turn'd on the throne, that founded Dido's power,
The clouds that threaten'd then o'er them to roll?
Who in the fields of Zama, from the yoke
They fear'd, with direful slaughter to set free,
At length the sceptre of great Carthage broke,
With which she held her sovereignty, the sea?
Unswerving courage! that alone the shield
That turns adversity's sharp knife aside:
To joy turns sorrow; bids despair to yield
To glory, and of fortune learns to guide
The dubious whirlwind, victory in its train;
For a high-minded race commands its fate.
O, Spain! my country! covering thy domain,
The mourning shows how great thy suffering state;
But still hope on, and with undaunted brow,
From base dejection free, behold the walls
Of thy own lofty Gades, which avow
Thy strength, though fate them now awhile appals;
Which though affrighted, blushing in their shame,
As bathing them around the waves extend,
Yet loud thy sons' heroic deeds proclaim,
Far on the sounding billows they defend.
From the proud castled poop that crowns his high
Indomitable ship, the Briton round
Look'd, on his power and glory to rely,
And boastful cried, «Companions renown'd!
See, there they come: new trophies to attain
Wait your unconquer'd arms; the feeble pines
That Spain prepares for her defence in vain:
Fate from our yoke exemption none assigns.
We are the sons of Neptune. Do they dare
To plough the waves before us? Call to mind
Aboukir's memorable day! to share
Another such a triumph: let us find
One moment as sufficing us to come,
To conquer, and destroy them. Grant it me,
Kind fate! and let us crown'd with laurels home
Our wealthy Thames again returning see».
He spoke, and spread his sails. With swimming prows
Opening the waves, they follow him elate,
Conquerors of winds and waves. With dauntless brow
The Spaniards view them, and in calmness wait,
Contemning their fierce arrogance, and high
Their bosoms beating with indignant rage.
Just anger! sacred ardour! «There come nigh
Those cruel foes, who hasten war to wage,
And spill our blood, when we reposed secure
Beneath the wings of peace. They who are led
By avarice vile; who friendship's laws abjure;
Who in their endless tyranny o'erspread
Would hold condemn'd the seas; who to unite,
As brothers, pride and insolence of power
With treachery and rapacity delight;
Who»--but with mantle dark night brings the hour
To enwrap the world. Wandering round the shrouds
Are frightful shades, dire slaughter that portend
And fearful expectations raise. Through opening clouds
The day displays the field, where wildly blend
Fury and death; and horrid Mars the scene
Swells loud with shouts of war, upraised in air
His standard high. To answer intervene
From hollow brass the mortal roarings glare.
The echo thunders, and the waves resound,
Dashing themselves in rage to Afric's shore:
In conflict fly the ships to ships around,
By rancour moved. Less violent its store
Of heap'd-up ice in mountains, the South Pole
Emits immense, loud thundering through the waves
To glide, and on the adventurous seaman roll.
Nor with less clamour loosen'd from their caves
Rush the black tempests, when the East and North,
Troubling the heavens enraged in furious war,
And dire encounter, all their strength put forth,
And shake the centre of the globe afar.
Thrice the fierce islander advanced to break
Our squadron's wall, confiding in his might:
Thrice by the Spanish force repulsed, to shake
His hopes of victory he sees the fight.
Who shall depict his fury and his rage,
When with that flag before so proud he saw
The flag of Spain invincible engage?
'Tis not to skill or valour to o'erawe,
Solely he trusts to fortune for success.
Doubling his ships, redoubling them again,
From poop to prow, from side to side to press,
In an unequal fight is made sustain
Each Spanish ship a thousand, thousand fires;
And they with equal breath that death receive
So send it back. No, not to my desires,
If heaven would grant it me, could I achieve
The task that day's heroic deeds to tell,
Not with a hundred tongues; hid from the sun
By smoke, Fame's trumpet shall their praises swell,
And bronze and marble for their names be won.
At length the moment comes, when Death extends
His pale and horrid hand, to signalize
Great victims. Brave Alcedo to him bends,
And nobly Moyua, with Castanios, dies.
And Alcalà, Churruca, also ye!
Of Betis and Guipuzcoa the pride.
O! if Fate knew to spare, would it not be
Enough to soothe, upon your brows allied
Minerva's olive with Mars' laurels seen?
From your illustrious and inquiring mind
What could the world, or stars, their mysteries screen?
Of your great course the traces left behind
The Cyclades are full, nor less the seas
Of far America. How seeks to mourn,
New tears from her sad heart her grief to appease,
The widow'd land such heroes from her torn;
And still she sheds them o'er your cruel fate.
O! that ye two could live, and I in place
Of grief, of sorrowing song, to consecrate
To you the funeral accents that I raise,
Might have opposed my bosom to the stroke,
And thus my useless life my country give!
That I might thus your cruel lot revoke,
To bear the wounds, so that ye two might live!
And she might proudly raise her front anew,
Victorious crown'd with rays of glory bright,
Her course 'gainst arduous fortune to pursue,
Triumphant in your wisdom and your might.
Yet fell ye not, ye generous squadrons! there,
Without revenge and slaughter. Spreading wide,
Rivers of English blood your powers declare.
And Albion also horror-struck descried
Mountains of bodies weigh, a heavy pile,
On her so proud Armada. Nelson, too!
Terrible shade! O, think not, no, that vile
My voice to name thee, e'er an insult threw
On thy last sigh. As English I abhor,
But hero I admire thee. O, thy fate!
Of captive ships a crowd, the spoils of war,
The Thames awaits, and now exults elate
To hail with shouts the conqueror's return!
But only pale and cold beholds her Chief!
Great lesson left for human pride to learn,
And worthy holocaust for Spanish grief.
Yet still the rage of Mars impels the arm
Of destiny; mow'd down unnumber'd lives.
By fury launch'd, voracious flames alarm;
On every side planks burning. Loosely drives
Each ship a fierce volcano; blazing high
Through the wide air 'tis raised, and thrown again
With horrid bursting in the seas to lie,
Engulf'd. Do other havocs yet remain?
Yes, for that Heaven, displeased to see such foes,
Bids the inclement north winds rise to part
The furious combatants, and day to close
In stormy night. 'Tis order'd, and athwart
They throw themselves the miserable barks,
Lashing the waves on high with cruel wings.
As each this new unequal combat marks
For ruin, falls the mast, and over swings
Trembling beneath the assault. The hulls divide,
And where the gaping seams the waves invite,
They enter, while the dying Spaniards cried,
«O! that we were to perish, but in fight!»
In that remorseless conflict, high in air,
Then shining forth their glorious forms display'd
The mighty champions, who of old to bear
The trident and the spear, supreme had made
Before the Iberian flag the nations bow.
There Lauria, Trovar, and Bazan were seen,
And Aviles, their brother heroes now
Of Spain to welcome, and in death convene.
«Come among us», they cried, «among the brave
You emulate. Already you have gain'd
Your fair reward. The example that you gave
Of valour, Spain in constancy sustain'd
Her warriors shows, inciting to prepare
For other conflicts they undaunted greet.
Look to the city of Alcides! there
Gravina, Alavà, and Escanio meet!
Cisneros and a hundred more combine
There in firm column, with proud hopes to bless
Our native land. Come, fly ye here, and shine
In heaven their stars of glory, and success».
Manuel José Quintana
Translation by James Kennedy
James Kennedy. "Modern poets and poetry of Spain" (1860). Produced by Cornell University Library, 1992.