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The Captain
by Lord Alfred Tennyson

English poet and dramatist, generally considered to be the chief representative of the Victorian age in poetry. Tennyson's major works include his Poems. Chiefly Lyrical (1830); his two volume work, again entitled Poems, of 1842 which includes, alongside rewritten earlier works, the dramatic monologue 'Ulysses', 'Morte d'Arthur' and 'Sir Galahad' - his first pieces dealing with Arthurian legend, 'Locksley Hall' and 'Break, Break, Break'; the novella Princess: a Medly (1847) and his In Memorium A.H.H. (1850), a tribute to his deceased friend Arthur Hallam.

Other major works, this time from Tennyson's second period of creative out put after being made poet laureate, include Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington (1852), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1854) and Maud (1855), what Tennyson referred to as his "monodrama".

He also wrote, in later years, a number of works centred on Arthurian legends, including The Idylls of the King (1859), The Holy Grail and Other Poems (1870) and Gareth and Lynette (1872), as well as some poetic dramas: Queen Mary (1875), Harold (1877), Becket (1884) and, his only prose work, The Promise of May (produced at the Globe Theatre in November 1882). Other important works are Despair (1881), Locksley Hall Sixty Years After (1886), Demeter and Other Poems (1889) and his famous Crossing the Bar (1889). At Alfred's request, his poem "Crossing the Bar," an epitaph of sorts, is always printed last in any collection of his works (our thanks to visitor Cynthia R. for reminding Passions of this oversight).

The Captain
by Lord Alfred Tennyson

  A Legend Of The Navy

He that only rules by terror
  Doeth grievous wrong.
Deep as hell I count his error.
  Let him hear my song.
Brave the Captain was; the seamen
  Made a gallant crew,
Gallant sons of English freemen,
  Sailors bold and true.
But they hated his oppression;
  Stern he was and rash,
So for every light transgression
  Doom’d them to the lash.
Day by day more harsh and cruel
  Seem’d the Captain’s mood.
Secret wrath like smother’d fuel
  Burnt in each man’s blood.
Yet he hoped to purchase glory,
  Hoped to make the name
Of his vessel great in story,
  Wheresoe’er he came.
So they past by capes and islands,
  Many a harbor-mouth,
Sailing under palmy highlands
  Far within the South.
On a day when they were going
  O’er the lone expanse,
In the north, her canvas flowing,
  Rose a ship of France.
Then the Captain’s color heighten’d,
  Joyful came his speech;
But a cloudy gladness lighten’d
  In the eyes of each.
‘Chase,’ he said; the ship flew forward,
  And the wind did blow;
Stately, lightly, went she norward,
  Till she near’d the foe.
Then they look’d at him they hated,
  Had what they desired;
Mute with folded arms they waited–
  Not a gun was fired.
But they heard the foeman’s thunder
  Roaring out their doom;
All the air was torn in sunder,
  Crashing went the boom,
Spars were splinter’d, decks were shatter’d,
  Bullets fell like rain;
Over mast and deck were scatter’d
  Blood and brains of men.
Spars were splinter’d; decks were broken;
  Every mother’s son–
Down they dropt–no word was spoken–
  Each beside his gun.
On the decks as they were lying,
  Were their faces grim.
In their blood, as they lay dying,
  Did they smile on him.
Those in whom he had reliance
  For his noble name
With one smile of still defiance
  Sold him unto shame.
Shame and wrath his heart confounded,
  Pale he turn’d and red,
Till himself was deadly wounded
  Falling on the dead.
Dismal error! fearful slaughter!
  Years have wander’d by;
Side by side beneath the water
  Crew and Captain lie;
There the sunlit ocean tosses
  O’er them mouldering,
And the lonely seabird crosses
  With one waft of the wing.

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