“Woe to us when we lose the watery wall!”

[MAGA. September 1823.]

If e’er that dreadful hour should come—but God avert the day!—
When England’s glorious flag must bend, and yield old Ocean’s sway;
When foreign ships shall o’er that deep, where she is empress, lord;
When the cross of red from boltsprit-head is hewn by foreign sword;
When foreign foot her quarterdeck with proud stride treads along;
When her peaceful ships meet haughty check from hail of foreign tongue;—
One prayer, one only prayer is mine—that, ere is seen that sight,
Ere there be warning of that woe, I may be whelmed in night!

If ever other prince than ours wield sceptre o’er that main,
Where Howard, Blake, and Frobisher, the Armada smote of Spain;
Where Blake, in Cromwell’s iron sway, swept tempest-like the seas,
From North to South, from East to West, resistless as the breeze;
Where Russell bent great Louis’ power, which bent before to none,
And crushed his arm of naval strength, and dimmed his Rising Sun—
One prayer, one only prayer is mine—that, ere is seen that sight,
Ere there be warning of that woe, I may be whelmed in night!

If ever other keel than ours triumphant plough that brine,
Where Rodney met the Count de Grasse, and broke the Frenchman’s line,
Where Howe, upon the first of June, met the Jacobins in fight,
And with Old England’s loud huzzas broke down their godless might;
Where Jervis at St Vincent’s felled the Spaniards’ lofty tiers,
Where Duncan won at Camperdown, and Exmouth at Algiers—
One prayer, one only prayer, is mine—that, ere is seen that sight,
Ere there be warning of that woe, I may be whelmed in night!

But oh! what agony it were, when we should think on thee,
The flower of all the Admirals that ever trod the sea!
I shall not name thy honoured name—but if the white-cliffed Isle
Which reared the Lion of the deep, the Hero of the Nile,
Him who, ’neath Copenhagen’s self, o’erthrew the faithless Dane,
Who died at glorious Trafalgar, o’er-vanquished France and Spain,
Should yield her power, one prayer is mine—that, ere is seen that sight,
Ere there be warning of that woe, I may be whelmed in night!