The Pellew Poem countdown is starting and this will challenge you!!
I have never heard of the poet I Plimsott, nor can I yet find out anything about him, but I do know he writes prodigious verse.
Bizarrely this poem features in a book called ‘The Temptation of Christ’, which is the main poem in the book but then followed by a number of other shorter poems. They all seem to be of the form of a ‘stream of consciousness’ with no obvious breaks for stanzas. Perhaps poets didn’t take a breath in those days! The Temptation of Christ runs to 170 odd pages. Thankfully, this poem, which is untitled, is somewhat shorter but still homeric in content.
According to the author the inspiration for his poem came from ‘reading the following inscription on the Fly-Leaf of a presentation-copy of the life of Sir Francis Drake to Admiral Lord Exmouth, by a descendant of the former, and one bearing his imperishable name.’
LORD AND LADY EXMOUTH
SIR FRANCIS AND LADY DRAKE’S
Best Respects and Grateful Remembrances.
Malvern Wells. 27th June, l829.
Incredible that a descendant of Francis Drake would have given this book to Edward Pellew.
Lines to Lord Exmouth
(I Plimsott, publication 1869)
HOW rife of deep and thrilling interest
This simple incident in social life!
How pregnant with Reality’s romance
The thoughts and retrospections it awakens!
For thus, through Friendship’s genial impulses,
Are brought into close contact with each other
Two mighty and illustrious naval chiefs,
Though in Time’s circuit placed so wide apart.
As actors on the fields of human strife; –
Thus to the mind’s eye are made visible
At the same moment, in the expanse serene
Of peaceful life’s benign and joyous sky,
Two brilliant, potent, and beneficent orbs
Which had before, in widely separate ages.
Shone forth in War’s portentous firmament,
And shed effulgence on the British name; –
Stars, which had by the tutelary might
O’er Britain, and, through her, o’er all the world.
Wherewith their influence and career were fraught,
Swayed mightily the destiny of this realm,
And proved themselves Heaven’s chosen ministers
Of weal and blessing to the human race.
Felicitous encounter, this, betwixt
The mighty living and the mightier dead! –
If immortality-crowned mortals e’er
Can rightly with departed ones be numbered.
What spectacle could prove more spirit-stirring
To all reflecting and true Englishmen,
But chiefly to Devonians justly proud
Of those undying Worthies who have shed
Such peerless lustre on their native shire! –
How vividly suggestive, at this hour,
When Froude’s historic powers are stirring up,
In many a Briton’s breast, the slumbering embers
Of patriotic ardour, and thereto
Fresh fuel adding, as his graphic pen
Resuscitates, and re-displays to view,
The marvels of the Elizabethan age!
Drake and Pellew ! In one we recognize
This habitable globe’s first compasser!
Likewise the bold confronter and defeater
Of Spain’s, so-called| Invincible Armada!
In the heroic second we descry
The conqueror of Algeria’s savage lord!
Happy conjunction of redoubtable names,
And memories which make those names immortal,
Their scenes of action, bellicose exploits,
The foes colossal they had fought and conquered,
And the inestimable blessings linked
With all these, in the thoughtful British mind –
As earthly friendship’s gifts thus strikingly
Exhibit them to contemplation’s gaze!
How potent to awaken recollections
Of England’s glory in the eventful past;
Her many brilliant naval victories;
Her proud supremacy upon the sea;
And her deliverance from the Papal yoke!
Not in his actual person, it is true,
Did Drake thus visit his compatriot,
As if to show, that like some modern Tishbite,
He had defied Death’s devastating touch;
That in his race with Time he held his own
And kept abreast of it and its events –
Pellew’s contemporary thus becoming ; –
For Drake had had to wage, as well as others,
An unsuccessful contest with that foe;
Had been prostrated by its direful stroke.
And like all other mortals, great and small,
Save Enoch and Elijah, had succumbed
To that relentless enemy of man.
Yet Death had claimed but the corporeal substance
Of that illustrious departed one
Whereon to prey and work its ravages –
On it possessing an undoubted right
To inflict whatever havoc it might list –
But o’er the nobler portion of his being,
That which most worthy is to be called man,
It had not, nor could exercise, dominion,
Or morally disorganizing power.
He still was living, in life’s higher sense,
And to Reflection’s optics visible.
Yes! it was in his ‘Life ‘ that Drake appeared
To that brave follower in his footsteps –
Exmouth -His ‘Life,’ as History had emblazoned it.
He came, – that he might amicably greet
The scourger of barbarian cruelty,
And liberator of its hapless victims;
He came to thank him that he had redeemed
From Islamism’s fell and cruel thrall,
(As he himself had rescued in times past.
His countrymen from Rome’s dire tyranny)
Those votaries of Christianity
Whom piracy had placed within its grasp;
And that because, as the executor
Of heaven’s unerring and retributive justice,
He had inflicted on the barbarous author
Of their captivity and sufferings.
So richly merited a punishment.
And his strongholds so utterly o’erthrown.
His visit’s purport likewise was to render
Thanks, and encomiums pass on brave Pellew,
That he so oft triumphantly had waged
Contention with the naval might of France –
Our then most potent foe upon the main –
And England’s liberty and homes, thereby,
Defended, and their sanctity and peace,
So greatly aided to perpetuate –
Ev’n as he had himself, ages before,
On the same vast, unstable battle field,
Vanquished and humbled fierce and haughty Spain.
He came to vindicate and eulogize
A life then verging ‘twards its earthly close;
To loud pronounce the verdict of his judgment,
And tribute of his praise thereon award;
To say to the illustrious peer – ‘well done!’-
Anticipating thus the self-same verdict
Ordained to be, ere long, pronounced
On the great Sailor, in the court above,
By an unerring and far higher judge;
Foretokening righteous heaven’s entire approval
Of qualities in the brave warrior’s breast
Transcending mightily, in worth and glory.
Those which had so distinguished him ‘mongst men;
For although valour and philanthropy
Had signalized his brilliant course on earth,
As one of Britain’s champions and defenders
He had not vainly trusted in his own
Heroic and beneficent exploits
In succour of oppressed humanity,
Or in his many signal victories
O’er England’s mightiest maritime opponent,
And as her delegated instrument
To smite the oppressor and the enslaved set free;
In none of these achievements, nor the fame
He had acquired — though they had much conduced
To his country’s glory, peace, and happiness –
Had trusted, whereby to secure God’s favour,
And the salvation of his deathless soul.
But solely to the merits of that Saviour
Who on Gethsemane had agonized
And on the hill of Calvary had died –
The Just One for the unjust — that all those
Believing in Him might not perish, but
Obtain forgiveness, endless life, and joy –
For in this faith and hope Lord Exmouth died!
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