Naval Songs & Ballads - online book

3 Centuries Of Naval History In Shanties & Sea Songs With Lyrics & Notes

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INTRODUCTION               lxtfj
history of the reign, if marked by no victory equal in magnitude to La Hogue, was distinguished by the victories of Rooke and Leake and many minor successes. The finest ballad of the time is that which records Benbow's disastrous battle with Ducasse, of which it has been possible to discover a longer and better version than that given in Halliwell's collection (p. 149).
Fortune was less kind to the fame of Rooke than to that of Benbow. There is, it is true, a poem addressed To the right honourable Sir George Rooke at his Return from his glorious EnterĀ­prise near Vigo. It celebrates his success in forcing the Danes to make peace with Sweden in 1700 :
' To jarring Crowns repose Thy Navy brings,
And Quiet broods beneath Her Halcyon wings.
Those Gathering Clouds, which not long since broke forth
In Storms, and threaten'd to lay waste the North,
Thou at Thy first approach didst drive away,
And on their Wintry Climes let in the Southern day'
It goes on to refer to the unsuccessful attempt on Cadiz in 1702, and to say that 'auspicious Heaven' pointed out to England a nobler quarry than the town first aimed at, and one more worthy of Rooke's arms:
' Shows Her, on wing retiring from the Main, The Wealth of India and the Pride of Spain. This Prize was worthy Thee ; and less had been Too mean a Present for an English Queen.'
The attack on the allied fleet on Oct. 12, 1702, is related at length in a ballad called The Sailor s Account of the Action at Vigo (p. 151). But contemporary poetasters in general attribute the victory to Ormonde and the army rather than Rooke and the navy {Poems on State Affairs, ii. 409, 415 ;