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James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

August 29

On the Loss of the Royal George

By William Cowper (1731–1800)

  • Written when the news arrived.
  • An English man-of-war. While being refitted at Spithead on August 29, 1782, she suddenly heeled over, filled and went down with her commander and nearly 1,000 sailors, marines, and visitors, about 800 of whom were lost.

  • TOLL for the brave—

    The brave that are no more!

    All sunk beneath the wave,

    Fast by their native shore!

    Eight hundred of the brave,

    Whose courage well was tried,

    Had made the vessel heel,

    And laid her on her side.

    A land breeze shook the shrouds,

    And she was overset—

    Down went the Royal George,

    With all her crew complete.

    Toll for the brave!

    Brave Kempenfelt is gone;

    His last sea-fight is fought,

    His work of glory done.

    It was not in the battle;

    No tempest gave the shock;

    She sprang no fatal leak;

    She ran upon no rock.

    His sword was in its sheath;

    His fingers held the pen,

    When Kempenfelt went down

    With twice four hundred men.

    Weigh the vessel up,

    Once dreaded by our foes!

    And mingle with our cup,

    The tear that England owes.

    Her timbers yet are sound,

    And she may float again,

    Full charged with England’s thunder,

    And plough the distant main.

    But Kempenfelt is gone—

    His victories are o’er;

    And he and his eight hundred

    Shall plough the waves no more.