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Dura Navis

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To tempt the dangerous deep, too venturous youth,
Why does thy breast with fondest wishes glow?
No tender parent there thy cares shall sooth,
No much-lov’d Friend shall share thy every woe.
Why does thy mind with hopes delusive burn?
Vain are thy Schemes by heated Fancy plann’d:
Thy promis’d joy thou’lt see to Sorrow turn
Exil’d from Bliss, and from thy native land.

Hast thou foreseen the Storm’s impending rage,
When to the Clouds the Waves ambitious rise,
And seem with Heaven a doubtful war to wage,
Whilst total darkness overspreads the skies;
Save when the lightnings darting wingéd Fate
Quick bursting from the pitchy clouds between
In forkéd Terror, and destructive state
Shall shew with double gloom the horrid scene?

Shalt thou be at this hour from danger free?
Perhaps with fearful force some falling Wave
Shall wash thee in the wild tempestuous Sea,
And in some monster’s belly fix thy grave;
Or (woful hap!) against some wave-worn rock
Which long a Terror to each Bark had stood
Shall dash thy mangled limbs with furious shock
And stain its craggy sides with human blood.

Yet not the Tempest, or the Whirlwind’s roar
Equal the horrors of a Naval Fight,
When thundering Cannons spread a sea of Gore
And varied deaths now fire and now affright:
The impatient shout, that longs for closer war,
Reaches from either side the distant shores;
Whilst frighten’d at His streams ensanguin’d far
Loud on his troubled bed huge Ocean roars.

What dreadful scenes appear before my eyes!
Ah! see how each with frequent slaughter red,
Regardless of his dying fellows’ cries
O’er their fresh wounds with impious order tread!
From the dread place does soft Compassion fly!
The Furies fell each alter’d breast command;
Whilst Vengeance drunk with human blood stands by
And smiling fires each heart and arms each hand.

Should’st thou escape the fury of that day
A fate more cruel still, unhappy, view.
Opposing winds may stop thy luckless way,
And spread fell famine through the suffering crew,
Canst thou endure th’ extreme of raging Thirst
Which soon may scorch thy throat, ah! thoughtless Youth!
Or ravening hunger canst thou bear which erst
On its own flesh hath fix’d the deadly tooth?

Dubious and fluttering ’twixt hope and fear
With trembling hands the lot I see thee draw,
Which shall, or sentence thee a victim drear,
To that ghaunt Plague which savage knows no law:
Or, deep thy dagger in the friendly heart,
Whilst each strong passion agitates thy breast,
Though oft with Horror back I see thee start,
Lo! Hunger drives thee to th’ inhuman feast.

These are the ills, that may the course attend
Then with the joys of home contented rest —
Here, meek-eyed Peace with humble Plenty lend
Their aid united still, to make thee blest.
To ease each pain, and to increase each joy —
Here mutual Love shall fix thy tender wife,
Whose offspring shall thy youthful care employ
And gild with brightest rays the evening of thy Life.

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.