A Ballad Of The French Fleet


    OCTOBER, 1746

    MR. THOMAS PRINCE loquitur.

    A fleet with flags arrayed
        Sailed from the port of Brest,
    And the Admiral's ship displayed
        The signal: "Steer southwest."
    For this Admiral D'Anville
        Had sworn by cross and crown
    To ravage with fire and steel
        Our helpless Boston Town.

    There were rumors in the street,
        In the houses there was fear
    Of the coming of the fleet,
        And the danger hovering near.
    And while from mouth to mouth
        Spread the tidings of dismay,
    I stood in the Old South,
        Saying humbly: "Let us pray!

    "O Lord! we would not advise;
        But if in thy Providence
    A tempest should arise
        To drive the French fleet hence,
    And scatter it far and wide,
        Or sink it in the sea,
    We should be satisfied,
        And thine the glory be."

    This was the prayer I made,
        For my soul was all on flame,
    And even as I prayed
        The answering tempest came;
    It came with a mighty power,
        Shaking the windows and walls,
    And tolling the bell in the tower,
        As it tolls at funerals.

    The lightning suddenly
        Unsheathed its flaming sword,
    And I cried: "Stand still, and see
        The salvation of the Lord!"
    The heavens were black with cloud,
        The sea was white with hail,
    And ever more fierce and loud
        Blew the October gale.

    The fleet it overtook,
        And the broad sails in the van
    Like the tents of Cushan shook,
        Or the curtains of Midian.
    Down on the reeling decks
        Crashed the o'erwhelming seas;
    Ah, never were there wrecks
        So pitiful as these!

    Like a potter's vessel broke
        The great ships of the line;
    They were carried away as a smoke,
        Or sank like lead in the brine.
    O Lord! before thy path
        They vanished and ceased to be,
    When thou didst walk in wrath
        With thine horses through the sea!


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