Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Georgian Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Georgian Verse.  1909.
Ballad of Admiral Hosier’s Ghost
By Richard Glover (1712–1785)
AS 1 near Porto-Bello lying
  On the gently swelling flood,
At midnight with streamers flying
  Our triumphant navy rode;
There while Vernon sate all-glorious        5
  From the Spaniards’ late defeat:
And his crews, with shouts victorious,
  Drank success to England’s fleet.
On a sudden shrilly sounding,
  Hideous yells and shrieks were heard;        10
Then each heart with fear confounding,
  A sad troop of ghosts appear’d.
All in dreary hammocks shrouded,
  Which for winding-sheets they wore,
And with looks by sorrow clouded        15
  Frowning on that hostile shore.
On them gleam’d the moon’s wan lustre,
  When the shade of Hosier brave
His pale bands was seen to muster
  Rising from their watery grave.        20
O’er the glimmering wave he hied him,
  Where the Burford rear’d her sail,
With three thousand ghosts beside him,
  And in groans did Vernon hail.
Heed, oh heed our fatal story,        25
  I am Hosier’s injur’d ghost,
You who now have purchas’d glory
  At this place where I was lost!
Tho’ in Porto-Bello’s ruin
  You now triumph free from fears,        30
When you think on our undoing,
  You will mix your joy with tears.
See these mournful spectres sweeping
  Ghastly o’er this hated wave,
Whose wan cheeks are stain’d with weeping;        35
  These were English captains brave.
Mark those numbers pale and horrid,
  Those were once my sailors bold:
Lo, each hangs his drooping forehead,
  While his dismal tale is told.        40
I, by twenty sail attended,
  Did this Spanish town affright:
Nothing then its wealth defended
  But my orders not to fight.
Oh! that in this rolling ocean        45
  I had cast them with disdain,
And obey’d my heart’s warm motion
  To have quell’d the pride of Spain!
For resistance I could fear none,
  But with twenty ships had done        50
What thou, brave and happy Vernon,
  Hast achiev’d with six alone.
Then the bastimentos never
  Had our foul dishonour seen,
Nor the sea the sad receiver        55
  Of this gallant train had been.
Thus, like thee, proud Spain dismaying,
  And her galleons leading home,
Though condemn’d for disobeying,
  I had met a traitor’s doom,        60
To have fallen, my country crying
  He has play’d an English part,
Had been better far than dying
  Of a griev’d and broken heart.
Unrepining at thy glory,        65
  Thy successful arms we hail;
But remember our sad story,
  And let Hosier’s wrongs prevail.
Sent in this foul clime to languish,
  Think what thousands fell in vain,        70
Wasted with disease and anguish,
  Not in glorious battle slain.
Hence with all my train attending
  From their oozy tombs below,
Thro’ the hoary foam ascending,        75
  Here I feed my constant woe:
Here the bastimentos viewing,
  We recall our shameful doom,
And our plaintive cries renewing,
  Wander thro’ the midnight gloom.        80
O’er these waves for ever mourning
  Shall we roam depriv’d of rest,
If to Britain’s shores returning
  You neglect my just request;
After this proud foe subduing,        85
  When your patriot friends you see,
Think on vengeance for my ruin,
  And for England sham’d in me.
Note 1. This poem appears in Percy’s Reliques with the following note appended: “A Party Song written by the ingenious author of Leonidas, on the taking of Porto-Bello from the Spaniard by Admiral Vernon, Nov. 23, 1739. The case of Hosier, which is here so pathetically represented, was briefly this: In April, 1726, that commander was sent with a strong fleet into the Spanish West Indies, to block up the galleons in the port of that country, or should they presume to come out to seize and carry them into England; he accordingly arrived at Bastimentos near Porto-Bello, but being employed rather to overawe than attack the Spaniards, with whom it was probably not our interests to go to war, he continued long inactive on that station, to his own great regret. He afterwards removed to Carthagena and remained cruising in these seas, till the far greater part of his men perished deplorably by the diseases of that unhealthy climate. This brave man seeing his best officers and men thus daily swept away, his ships exposed to inevitable destruction, and himself made the sport of the enemy, is said to have died of a broken heart. Such is the account of Smollett, compared with that of other less partial writers.” [back]

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