(Lewrie – 09)
This one is for…
Tom C. Armstrong, 'your humble poet' as he calls himself, who, disguised as a mild-mannered writer/producer on Music Row for many years, a sometime songwriter, sometime book reviewer, sometime teacher/mentor to a new generation of writer/dreamers, a veteran of the old
Never did Fortune give
on how frail ground stand the proud.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
She beheld a ship outworn
with the toils of the savage Sea,
which passing Time had scorched with its suns
and the Moon with her hoarfrosts had worn.
There was a thunder 'pon the sea.
Crash and bellow, a deep, continual tympany-drumming which went on and on 'til the waters on this slightly foggy, coolish day shivered as if in terror, and the winds, already nothing to boast of from out of South-of-West, were shot nigh to stillness. Winds failing and the long Atlantic rollers beguilingly rippled and fractured like an ocean of shattered glass fragments. But it wasn't the wind that did it-it was that thunder.
They could feel it, a gun-thunder which had quailed the winds and waters, rumbling upwards from the sea itself, as if some drowned volcano had cleared its throat numberless fathoms below; and their ship shook to that thunder, vibrated and trembled, humming in enforced harmony.
A game lass was their little ship, a plunger and a 'goer' most of the time. But she was now worn just about out from
Yet her standing and running rigging, her towering masts, still stood in a lean Bristol fashion, her spars and yards were yet sound, and her sails-though much patched-still curved sweetly wind-full. Though her captain
But slowed as she was, as frailing, her crew could load and fire three broadsides in less than two minutes, could still cajole her to 'dance' at the peak of their expertise, gained in three years' continuous service together.
So she stood, near the end of the battle-line as it sailed on Sutherly, with the lead ships just starting to tack about Nor'west to double back on the two converging packs of foes they faced-a repeating frigate to pass messages or aid a ship which might be disabled.
Though again, to her captain's mind (and a rather
With their artillery crashing and bellowing, making that thunder… sending shock waves through the sea.
'I can make out, sir…' Lieutenant Ralph Knolles attempted to say, as he took off his hat and swiped both forearms of his coat at his hair and brows. A bad sign that; usually,
'Aye, Mister Knolles?' Commander Alan Lewrie replied, sounding almost calm in comparison.
'Beyond, sir.' Knolles pointed towards the Spanish Fleet. 'It may
'Two-deckers, d'ye think, sir?' Lewrie frowned, stepping to the starboard side of his quarterdeck, leaning on the bulwarks, and raising his telescope for a look-see. The smoke from all the gunfire was thick, a sulphurous, reeking mist which hazed the day even worse. More than a few British line-of-battle ships stood between him and the ones Knolles had sighted too, their gun-smoke and towering masts and sails obscuring what little he could see. But he could barely make out three-masters yonder, well up to weather and almost hull-down from the Spanish line.
He couldn't tell.
And if Admiral Jervis threw away his ships in this action, then what hope did Lord Bridport and the Channel