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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Waiting for the Armada
By Charles Kingsley (1819–1875)
 
From ‘Westward Ho!’

SEE those five talking earnestly, in the centre of a ring, which longs to overhear and yet is too respectful to approach close. Those soft long eyes and pointed chin you recognize already: they are Walter Raleigh’s. The fair young man in the flame-colored doublet, whose arm is round Raleigh’s neck, is Lord Sheffield; opposite them stands, by the side of Sir Richard Grenville, a man as stately even as he,—Lord Sheffield’s uncle, the Lord Charles Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral of England; next to him is his son-in-law, Sir Robert Southwell, captain of the Elizabeth Jonas: but who is that short, sturdy, plainly dressed man, who stands with legs a little apart and hands behind his back, looking up, with keen gray eyes, into the face of each speaker? His cap is in his hands, so you can see the bullet head of crisp brown hair and the wrinkled forehead, as well as the high cheek-bones, the short square face, the broad temples, the thick lips which are yet firm as granite. A coarse plebeian stamp of man: yet the whole figure and attitude are that of boundless determination, self-possession, energy; and when at last he speaks a few blunt words, all eyes are turned respectfully upon him,—for his name is Francis Drake.  1
  A burly, grizzled elder, in greasy sea-stained garments contrasting oddly with the huge gold chain about his neck, waddles up, as if he had been born and had lived ever since in a gale of wind at sea. The upper half of his sharp dogged visage seems of brick-red leather, the lower of badger’s fur; and as he claps Drake on the back, and with broad Devon twang shouts, “Be you a-coming to drink your wine, Francis Drake, or be you not?—saving your presence, my Lord;” the Lord High Admiral only laughs, and bids Drake go and drink his wine: for John Hawkins, Admiral of the Port, is the Patriarch of Plymouth seamen, if Drake be their hero, and says and does pretty much what he likes in any company on earth; not to mention that to-day’s prospect of an Armageddon fight has shaken him altogether out of his usual crabbed reserve, and made him overflow with loquacious good-humor, even to his rival Drake.  2
  So they push through the crowd, wherein is many another man whom one would gladly have spoken with, face to face on earth. Martin Frobisher and John Davis are sitting on that bench, smoking tobacco from long silver pipes; and by them are Fenton and Withrington, who have both tried to follow Drake’s path round the world, and failed, though by no fault of their own. The man who pledges them better luck next time is George Fenner, known to “the seven Portugals”; Leicester’s pet, and captain of the galleon which Elizabeth bought of him. That short prim man in the huge yellow ruff, with sharp chin, minute imperial, and self-satisfied smile, is Richard Hawkins, the Complete Seaman, Admiral John’s hereafter famous and hapless son. The elder who is talking with him is his good uncle William, whose monument still stands, or should stand, in Deptford Church; for Admiral John set it up there but one year after this time, and on it recorded how he was “A worshiper of the true religion, an especial benefactor of poor sailors, a most just arbiter in most difficult causes, and of a singular faith, piety, and prudence.” That, and the fact that he got creditably through some sharp work at Puerto Rico, is all I know of William Hawkins; but if you or I, reader, can have as much or half as much said of us when we have to follow him, we shall have no reason to complain.  3
  There is John Drake, Sir Francis’s brother, ancestor of the present stock of Drakes; and there is George, his nephew, a man not over-wise, who has been round the world with Amyas; and there is Amyas himself, talking to one who answers him with fierce curt sentences,—Captain Barker of Bristol, brother of the hapless Andrew Barker who found John Oxenham’s guns, and owing to a mutiny among his men perished by the Spaniards in Honduras twelve years ago. Barker is now captain of the Victory, one of the Queen’s best ships; and he has his accounts to settle with the Dons, as Amyas has: so they are both growling together in a corner, while all the rest are as merry as the flies upon the vine above their heads.  4
  But who is the aged man who sits upon a bench, against the sunny south wall of the tavern, his long white beard flowing almost to his waist, his hands upon his knees, his palsied head moving slowly from side to side, to catch the scraps of discourse of the passing captains?… It is old Martin Cockrem, father of the ancient host, aged himself beyond the years of men, who can recollect the bells of Plymouth ringing for the coronation of Henry the Eighth, and who was the first Englishman, perhaps, who ever set foot on the soil of the New World. There he sits, like an old Druid Tor of primeval granite amid the tall wheat and rich clover crops of a modern farm. He has seen the death of old Europe and the birth-throes of the new. Go to him, and question him; for his senses are quick as ever, and just now the old man seems uneasy. He is peering with rheumy eyes through the groups, and seems listening for a well-known voice….  5
  “Long life? Iss, fegs, I reckon, long enough already! Why, I mind the beginning of it all, I do. I mind when there wasn’t a master mariner to Plymouth that thought there was aught west of the Land’s End except herrings. Why, they held then, pure wratches, that if you sailed right west away far enough, you’d surely come to the edge, and fall over cleve. Iss—’twas dark parts round here, till Captain Will arose; and the first of it I mind was inside the bar of San Lucar, and he and I were boys about a ten year old, aboord of a Dartmouth ship, and went for wine; and there come in over the bar he that was the beginning of it all.”  6
  “Columbus?”  7
  “Iss, fegs, he did, not a pistol-shot from us; and I saw mun stand on the poop, so plain as I see you: no great shakes of a man to look to neither; there’s a sight better here, to plase me: and we was disappointed, we lads, for we surely expected to see mun with a goolden crown on, and a sceptre to a’s hand, we did, and the ship o’ mun all over like Solomon’s temple for gloory. And I mind that same year, too, seeing Vasco da Gama, as was going out over the bar, when he found the Bona Speranza, and sailed round it to the Indies. Ah, that was the making of they rascally Portingals, it was!… And our crew told what they seen and heerd; but nobody minded sich things. ’Twas dark parts and Popish, then; and nobody knowed nothing, nor got no schooling, nor cared for nothing, but scrattling up and down alongshore like to prawns in a pule. Iss, sitting in darkness, we was, and the shadow of death, till the day-spring from on high arose, and shined upon us poor out-o’-the-way folk—the Lord be praised! And now, look to mun!” and he waved his hand all round—“look to mun! Look to the works of the Lord! Look to the captains! Oh blessed sight! And one’s been to the Brazils, and one to the Indies, and the Spanish Main, and the Northwest, and the Rooshias, and the Chinas, and up the Straits, and round the Cape, and round the world of God too, bless his holy name; and I seed the beginning of it; and I’ll see the end of it too, I will! I was born into the old times, but I’ll see the wondrous works of the new yet, I will! I’ll see they bloody Spaniards swept off the seas before I die, if my old eyes can reach so far as outside the Sound. I shall, I knows it. I says my prayers for it every night: don’t I, Mary? You’ll bate mun, sure as Judgment, you’ll bate mun! The Lord’ll fight for ye. Nothing’ll stand against ye. I’ve seed it all along—ever since I was with young master to the Honduras. They can’t bide the push of us! You’ll bate mun off the face of the seas, and be masters of the round world, and all that therein is. And then I’ll just turn my old face to the wall, and depart in peace, according to His word.”  8
 
 
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