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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Battle of Copenhagen

By Thomas Campbell (1777–1844)

OF Nelson and the North

Sing the day!

When, their haughty powers to vex,

He engaged the Danish decks,

And with twenty floating wrecks

Crowned the fray!

All bright, in April’s sun,

Shone the day!

When a British fleet came down

Through the islands of the crown,

And by Copenhagen town

Took their stay.

In arms the Danish shore

Proudly shone;

By each gun the lighted brand,

In a bold determined hand,

And the Prince of all the land

Led them on!

For Denmark here had drawn

All her might!

From her battle-ships so vast

She had hewn away the mast,

And at anchor to the last

Bade them fight!

Another noble fleet

Of their line

Rode out, but these were naught

To the batteries, which they brought,

Like Leviathans afloat,

In the brine.

It was ten of Thursday morn,

By the chime;

As they drifted on their path

There was silence deep as death,

And the boldest held his breath

For a time—

Ere a first and fatal round

Shook the flood;

Every Dane looked out that day,

Like the red wolf on his prey,

And he swore his flag to sway

O’er our blood.

Not such a mind possessed

England’s tar;

’Twas the love of noble game

Set his oaken heart on flame,

For to him ’twas all the same—

Sport and war.

All hands and eyes on watch,

As they keep;

By their motion light as wings,

By each step that haughty springs,

You might know them for the kings

Of the deep!

’Twas the Edgar first that smote

Denmark’s line;

As her flag the foremost soared,

Murray stamped his foot on board,

And an hundred cannons roared

At the sign!

Three cheers of all the fleet

Sung huzza!

Then, from centre, rear, and van,

Every captain, every man,

With a lion’s heart began

To the fray.

Oh, dark grew soon the heavens—

For each gun

From its adamantine lips

Spread a death-shade round the ships,

Like a hurricane eclipse

Of the sun.

Three hours the raging fire

Did not slack;

But the fourth, their signals drear

Of distress and wreck appear,

And the Dane a feeble cheer

Sent us back.

The voice decayed, their shots

Slowly boom.

They ceased—and all is wail,

As they strike the shattered sail,

Or in conflagration pale

Light the gloom.

Oh death!—it was a sight

Filled our eyes!

But we rescued many a crew

From the waves of scarlet hue,

Ere the cross of England flew

O’er her prize.

Why ceased not here the strife,

O ye brave?

Why bleeds old England’s band,

By the fire of Danish land,

That smites the very hand

Stretched to save?

But the Britons sent to warn

Denmark’s town;

Proud foes, let vengeance sleep;

If another chain-shot sweep,

All your navy in the deep

Shall go down!

Then, peace instead of death

Let us bring!

If you’ll yield your conquered fleet,

With the crews, at England’s feet,

And make submission meet

To our king!

Then death withdrew his pall

From the day;

And the sun looked smiling bright

On a wide and woful sight,

Where the fires of funeral light

Died away.

Yet all amidst her wrecks,

And her gore,

Proud Denmark blest our chief

That he gave her wounds relief;

And the sounds of joy and grief

Filled her shore.

All round, outlandish cries

Loudly broke;

But a nobler note was rung,

When the British, old and young,

To their bands of music sung

‘Hearts of Oak!’

Cheer! cheer! from park and tower,

London town!

When the King shall ride in state

From St. James’s royal gate,

And to all his peers relate

Our renown!

The bells shall ring! the day

Shall not close,

But a blaze of cities bright

Shall illuminate the night,

And the wine-cup shine in light

As it flows!

Yet—yet—amid the joy

And uproar,

Let us think of them that sleep

Full many a fathom deep

All beside thy rocky steep,


Brave hearts, to Britain’s weal

Once so true!

Though death has quenched your flame,

Yet immortal be your name!

For ye died the death of fame

With Riou!

Soft sigh the winds of heaven

O’er your grave!

While the billow mournful rolls,

And the mermaid’s song condoles,

Singing—“Glory to the souls

Of the brave!”