An Elegy on my Sailor
John Gabriel Stedman
The Weekly Entertainer (1795)
Loud sounds the tempest—peals of thunder roar,
Tremendous lightnings flash from shore to shore.
Seas dash the shaking rocks, seas mount the flaming sky,
And elements convuls'd—speak dissolution nigh.
Such scenes as these (while tossing on the waves,
True to his duty still) the manly sailor braves.
Such was my boy, (whose eyes could never weep
But for his neighbours' woes)—now swallow'd in the deep.
O agonizing pain! pain never felt before,
My manly boy, my John, my sailor, is no more.
Still let me mourn with hope,—and God adore,
With hope to see my sailor once again,
Floating on seas of bliss,—thro' the azure main,
Till then, a short farewell, my lovely boy.
Thy shipmates' darling, and thy father's joy.
Yet one small comfort soothes (while doom'd to part,
Sweet gallant youth!) thy parent's broken heart.
No more thy tender frame, thy blooming age,
Shall be the sport of ocean's turb'lent rage.
No more thy olive-beauties on the waves,
Shall be the scorn of such European slaves,
Whose optics, blind to merit, ne'er could spy
That sterling worth could bloom beneath a western sky.
No more, my dear!—no more—while such were scar'd,
Undaunted shalt thou rock upon the yard.
There, while the silver moon gleam'd thro; the gale,
With manly skill and courage hand the sail.
When fame, who scann'd the value of her tar,
Did make thee shine on board a man of war,
With honour,—while with equal glory fir'd,
To please a parent, brother, friend, thou e'er aspir'd,
Till death, rentless death (none can withstand)
To cut thy cable—gave the last command.
Now soar, my angel! to thy Maker's shrine,
There meet that prize due to such worth as thine.
Fly, gentle shade, fly to that blest abode,
There view thy mother—and adore thy God.
There, O my boy! on that celestial shore,
O may we gladly meet, and part no more.
1. Also published in The Journal of John Gabriel Stedman, 1744-1797, Soldier and Author, ed. Stanbury Thompson (London, 1962), pp. 375-376.
2. Stedman's son, John, the offspring of Stedman's marriage to a native of Surinam, was drowned at seventeen.