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Passions in PoetryThe Temeraire
by Herman Melville

 

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Passions in Poetry Home > All Poems > Classic Poetry > Herman Melville > At a Solemn Music At a Solemn Music
Herman Melville
Poetry | Biography
The Temeraire
by Herman Melville

(Supposed to have been suggested to an Englishman
of the old order by the fight of the Monitor and Merrimac)

The gloomy hulls, in armour grim,
Like clouds o'er moors have met,
And prove that oak, and iron, and man
Are tough in fibre yet.

But Splendours wane. The sea-fight yields
No front of old display;
The garniture, emblazonment,
And heraldry decay.

Towering afar in parting light,
The fleets like Albion's forelands shine -
The full-sailed fleets, the shrouded show
Of Ships-of-the-Line.
The fighting Temeraire,
Built of a thousand trees,
Lunging out her lightnings,
And beetling o'er the seas -
O Ship, how brave and fair,
That fought so oft and well,
On open decks you manned the gun
Armorial.
What cheerings did you share,
Impulsive in the van,
When down upon leagued France and Spain
We English ran -
The freshet at your bowsprit
Like the foam upon the can.
Bickering, your colours
Licked up the Spanish air,
You flapped with flames of battle-flags -
Your challenge, Temeraire!
The rear ones of our fleet
They yearned to share your place,
Still vying with the Victory
Throughout that earnest race -
The Victory, whose Admiral,
With orders nobly won,
Shone in the globe of the battle glow -

The angel in that sun.
Parallel in story,
Lo, the stately pair,
As late in grapple ranging,
The foe between them there -
When four great hulls lay tiered,
And the fiery tempest cleared,
And your prizes twain appeared,
Temeraire!

But Trafalgar is over now,
The quarterdeck undone;
The carved and castled navies fire
Their evening gun.
O, Titan Temeraire,
Your stern-lights fade away;
Your bulwarks to the years must yield,
And heart-of-oak decay.
A pigmy steam-tug tows you,
Gigantic to the shore -
Dismantled of your guns and spars,
And sweeping wings of war.
The rivets clinch the ironclads,
Men learn a deadlier lore;
But Fame has nailed your battle-flags -
Your ghost it sails before:
O, navies old and oaken,
O, Temeraire no more!

 

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