Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
August 8
The Armada
By Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800–1859)
          In 1588 a great fleet was sent by Philip of Spain against England. It was met and defeated by the English fleet under Lord Howard of Effingham on August 8 of that year.

ATTEND, all ye who list to hear
  Our noble England’s praise;
I tell of the thrice famous deeds
  She wrought in ancient days,
When that great fleet invincible        5
  Against her bore in vain
The richest spoils of Mexico,
  The stoutest hearts of Spain.
It was about the lovely close
  Of a warm summer day,        10
There came a gallant merchant-ship
  Full sail to Plymouth Bay;
Her crew hath seen Castile’s black fleet,
  Beyond Aurigny’s isle,
At earliest twilight, on the waves,        15
  Lie heaving many a mile.
At sunrise she escaped their van,
  By God’s especial grace;
And the tall Pinta, till the noon,
  Had held her in close chase.        20
Forthwith a guard at every gun
  Was placed along the wall;
The beacon blazed upon the roof
  Of Edgecumbe’s lofty hall;
Many a light fishing bark put out        25
  To pry along the coast,
And with loose rein and bloody spur
  Rode inland many a post.
With his white hair unbonneted,
  The stout old sheriff comes;        30
Before him march the halberdiers;
  Before him sound the drums;
His yeomen round the market cross
  Make clear an ample space;
For there behooves him to set up        35
  The standard of Her Grace.
And haughtily the trumpets peal
  And gayly dance the bells,
As slow upon the laboring wind
  The royal blazon swells.        40
Look how the Lion of the sea
  Lifts up his ancient crown,
And underneath his deadly paw
  Treads the gay lilies down.
So stalked he when he turned to flight,        45
  On that famed Picard field
Bohemia’s plume, and Genoa’s bow,
  And Cæsar’s eagle shield.
So glared he when at Agincourt
  In wrath he turned to bay,        50
And crushed and torn beneath his claws
  The princely hunters lay.
Ho! strike the flag-staff deep, Sir Knight:
  Ho! scatter flowers, fair maids:
Ho! gunners, fire a loud salute:        55
  Ho! gallants, draw your blades:
Thou sun, shine on her joyously;
  Ye breezes, waft her wide;
Our glorious SEMPER EADEM,
  The banner of our pride.        60
The freshening breeze of eve unfurled
  That banner’s massy fold;
The parting gleam of sunlight kissed
  That haughty scroll of gold;
Night sank upon the dusky beach,        65
  And on the purple sea,
Such night in England ne’er hath been
  Nor e’er again shall be.
From Eddystone to Berwick bounds,
  From Lynn to Milford Bay,        70
That time of slumber was as bright
  And busy as the day;
For swift to east and swift to west
  The ghastly war-flame spread,
High on St. Michael’s Mount it shone:        75
  It shone on Beachy Head.
Far on the deep the Spaniard saw,
  Along each southern shire,
Cape beyond cape, in endless range,
  Those twinkling points of fire.        80
The fisher left his skiff to rock
  On Tamar’s glittering waves:
The rugged miners poured to war
  From Mendip’s sunless caves:
O’er Longleat’s towers, o’er Cranbourne’s oaks,        85
  The fiery herald flew;
He roused the shepherds of Stonehenge,
  The rangers of Beaulieu.
Right sharp and quick the bells all night
  Rang out from Bristol town,        90
And ere the day three hundred horse
  Had met on Clifton down;
The sentinel on Whitehall gate
  Looked forth into the night,
And saw o’erhanging Richmond Hill        95
  The streak of blood-red light.
Then bugle’s note and cannon’s roar
  The death-like stillness broke,
And with one start, and with one cry,
  The royal city woke.        100
At once on all her stately gates
  Arose the answering fires;
At once the wild alarum clashed
  From all her reeling spires;
From all the batteries of the Tower        105
  Pealed loud the voice of fear;
And all the thousand masts of Thames
  Sent back a louder cheer:
And from the furthest wards was heard
  The rush of hurrying feet,        110
And the broad streams of pikes and flags
  Rushed down each roaring street;
And broader still became the blaze,
  And louder still the din,
As fast from every village round        115
  The horse came spurring in:
And eastward straight from wild Blackheath
  The warlike errand went,
And roused in many an ancient hall
  The gallant squires of Kent.        120
Southward from Surrey’s pleasant hills
  Flew those bright couriers forth;
High on bleak Hampstead’s swarthy moor
  They started for the north:
And on, and on, without a pause        125
  Untired they bounded still:
All night from tower to tower they sprang;
  They sprang from hill to hill:
Till the proud peak unfurled the flag
  O’er Darwin’s rocky dales,        130
Till like volcanoes flared to heaven
  The stormy hills of Wales,
Till twelve fair counties saw the blaze
  On Malvern’s lonely height,
Till streamed in crimson on the wind        135
  The Wrekin’s crest of light,
Till broad and fierce the stars came forth
  On Ely’s stately fane,
And tower and hamlet rose in arms
  O’er all the boundless plain;        140
Till Belvoir’s lordly terraces
  The sign to Lincoln sent,
And Lincoln sped the message on
  O’er the wide vale of Trent;
Till Skiddaw saw the fire that burned        145
  On Gaunt’s embattled pile,
And the red glare on Skiddaw roused
  The burghers of Carlisle.
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