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The Captain

Alfred Tennyson

He that only rules by terror
Doeth grievous wrong.
Deep as hell I count his error.
Let him hear my song.

Brave the Captain was; the seamen
Made a gallant crew,
Gallant sons of English freemen,
Sailors bold and true.

But they hated his oppression;
Stern he was and rash,
So for every light transgression
Doomd them to the lash.

Day by day more harsh and cruel
Seemd the Captains mood.
Secret wrath like smotherd fuel
Burnt in each mans blood.

Yet he hoped to purchase glory,
Hoped to make the name
Of his vessel great in story,
Wheresoeer he came.

So they past by capes and islands,
Many a harbor-mouth,
Sailing under palmy highlands
Far within the South.

On a day when they were going
Oer the lone expanse,
In the north, her canvas flowing,
Rose a ship of France.

Then the Captains color heightend,
Joyful came his speech;
But a cloudy gladness lightend
In the eyes of each.

Chase, he said; the ship flew forward,
And the wind did blow;
Stately, lightly, went she norward,
Till she neard the foe.

Then they lookd at him they hated,
Had what they desired;
Mute with folded arms they waited
Not a gun was fired.

But they heard the foemans thunder
Roaring out their doom;
All the air was torn in sunder,
Crashing went the boom,

Spars were splinterd, decks were shatterd,
Bullets fell like rain;
Over mast and deck were scatterd
Blood and brains of men.

Spars were splinterd; decks were broken;
Every mothers son
Down they dropt, no word was spoken
Each beside his gun.

On the decks as they were lying,
Were their faces grim.
In their blood, as they lay dying,
Did they smile on him.

Those in whom he had reliance
For his noble name
With one smile of still defiance
Sold him unto shame.

Shame and wrath his heart confounded,
Pale he turnd and red,
Till himself was deadly wounded
Falling on the dead.

Dismal error! fearful slaughter!
Years have wanderd by;
Side by side beneath the water
Crew and Captain lie;

There the sunlit ocean tosses
Oer them mouldering,
And the lonely seabird crosses
With one waft of the wing.

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