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And Semmes, who followed all that flew,
Followed, perhaps by some mistake,
Close in his foeman's frothing wake;
But when three leagues were gained from shore,
Slowly and grimly the Yankee wore;
And our starry ensign leaped above,
Round which the wind, like a fluttering dove,
Cooed low, and the sunshine of God's day
Like an open blessing on it lay;
So we felt our friendless ship would fight
Full under the great Disposer's sight.
Heigh-ho! 'tis well to know
Who looks on the deeds done here below.
Semmes led the waltz and struck the tune:
Shots at the sea and at the moon
The swashing, wasteful cavalier,
Scattered around him far and near.
The saving Yankees squandered not
An ounce of powder or pound of shot.
They held their peace till the guns would tell,
Then out they burst like the mouths of hell.
Terrible, horrible! how they tore
The Alabama, until the gore
From her bursting scuppers smoked and streamed,
The dying groaned and the wounded screamed!
“Heigh-ho!” said Semmes, “let's show
The Yankees the heels we boast of so.”
Seven times in that deadly round
Sped the ships to the cannon's sound.
The vulture, through the smoke and din,
Saw the eagle's circles narrowing in;
And every time her pivots roared
The fatal bomb-shells came straight aboard.
His helm was useless, his engine failed,
His powder was wet, his Britons quailed;
And in his course, like a warning hand,
Stretched forth the flag of his outraged land.
In vain he hoisted his sails to flee;
For each foot he sailed, his foe sailed three.
Heigh-ho! “Why, here's a blow,”
Said Semmes, as he hauled his flag below.
Well was it for the cavalier,
That brother Bull was lying near.
His vessel with a haughty curl
Turned up her nose, and in the whirl
Of the white sea, stern foremost, tore
As if in scorn of the crew she bore.
Then the thrifty Briton launched his boat,
To pick up aught that might be afloat,
And amongst other less precious spoil,
Fished swordless Semmes from his watery coil!
“Hide me!” the gallant cried in affright;
“Cover me up from the Yankee's sight.”
Heigh-ho! they laid him low,
With a bit of sail to hide his woe.
Safely they bore the chief aboard,
Leaving behind his fame and sword;
And then the Deerhound stole away,
Lest Winslow's guns might have a say;
Landed him in Southampton town,
Where heroes like him have had renown,
Ever since Lawrence, Perry, and Hull,
Took hold of the horns of great John Bull.
Had I been Winslow, I say to you,
As the sea is green, the sky is blue,
Through the Deerhound I'd have sent a shot,
And John might have liked the thing or not I
Heigh-ho! come soon or slow,
In the end we are bound to have a blow.
What said the Frenchman from his hill,
After the cannon-shots were still?
What said the Briton from his deck,
Gazing down on the sunken wreck?
Something was said of guns like mortars,
And something of smooth-bores at close quarters;
Chain armor furnished a word or two,
But the end of all was both looked blue.
They sighed again o'er the “Great Contention,”
But never hinted at “Intervention.”
One thing they wished, which they dared not say,
“If the fight had but gone the other way!
Heigh-ho! I told you so!
Oh! Semmes was a sorry fool to go!”
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