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

    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,

    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,

    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.

    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

    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;

    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

    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.

    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,

    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,

    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:

    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.

    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,

    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,

    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:

    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.

    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,

    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,

    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

    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.

    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

    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,

    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

    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.

    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

    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,

    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

    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;

    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

    On Gaunt’s embattled pile,

    And the red glare on Skiddaw roused

    The burghers of Carlisle.