On the Victory Obtained by Blake over the Spaniards in the Bay of Santa Cruz, in the Island of Tenerife, 1657
Now does Spain’s fleet her spacious wings unfold,
Leaves the New World and hastens for the old:
But though the wind was fair, they slowly swum
Freighted with acted guilt, and guilt to come:
For this rich load, of which so proud they are,
Was raised by tyranny, and raised for war;
Every capacious gallion’s womb was filled,
With what the womb of wealthy kingdoms yield,
The New World’s wounded entrails they had tore,
For wealth wherewith to wound the Old once more:
Wealth which all others’ avarice might cloy,
But yet in them caused as much fear as joy.
For now upon the main, themselves they saw–
That boundless empire, where you give the law–
Of winds’ and waters’ rage, they fearful be,
But much more fearful are your flags to see.
Day, that to those who sail upon the deep,
More wished for, and more welcome is than sleep,
They dreaded to behold, lest the sun’s light,
With English streamers, should salute their sight:
In thickest darkness they would choose to steer,
So that such darkness might suppress their fear;
At length theirs vanishes, and fortune smiles;
For they behold the sweet Canary Isles;
One of which doubtless is by Nature blessed
Above both Worlds, since ’tis above the rest.
For lest some gloominess might strain her sky,
Trees there the duty of the clouds supply;
O noble trust which heav’n on this isle pours,
Fertile to be, yet never need her show’rs.
A happy people, which at once do gain
The benefits without the ills of rain.
Both health and profit fate cannot deny;
Where still the earth is moist, the air still dry;
The jarring elements no discord know,
Fuel and rain together kindly grow;
And coolness there, with heat doth never fight,
This only rules by day, and that by night.
Your worth to all these isles, a just right brings,
The best of lands should have the best of kings.
And these want nothing heaven can afford,
Unless it be–the having you their Lord;
But this great want will not a long one prove,
Your conquering sword will soon that want remove.
For Spain had better–she’ll ere long confess–
Have broken all her swords, than this one peace,
Casting that legue off, which she held so long,
She cast off that which only made her strong.
Forces and art, she soon will feel, are vain,
Peace, against you, was the sole strength of Spain.
By that alone those islands she secures,
Peace made them hers, but war will make them yours.
There the indulgent soil that rich grape breeds,
Which of the gods the fancied drink exceeds;
They still do yield, such is their precious mould,
All that is good, and are not cursed with gold–
With fatal gold, for still where that does grow,
Neither the soil, not people, quiet know.
Which troubles men to raise it when ’tis ore,
And when ’tis raised, does trouble them much more.
Ah, why was thither brought that cause of war,
Kind Nature had from thence removed so far?
In vain doth she those islands free from ill,
If fortune can make guilty what she will.
But whilst I draw that scene, where you ere long,
Shall conquests act, your present are unsung.
For Santa Cruz the glad fleet makes her way,
And safely there casts anchor in the bay.
Never so many with one joyful cry,
That place saluted, where they all must die.
Deluded men! Fate with you did but sport,
You ‘scaped the sea, to perish in your port.
‘Twas more for England’s fame you should die there,
Where you had most of strength, and least of fear.
The Peak’s proud height the Spaniards all admire,
Yet in their breasts carry a pride much high’r.
Only to this vast hill a power is given,
At once both to inhabit earth and heaven.
But this stupendous prospect did not near,
Make them admire, so much as they did fear.
For here they met with news, which did produce,
A grief, above the cure of grapes’ best juice.
They learned with terror that nor summer’s heat,
Nor winter’s storms, had made your fleet retreat.
To fight against such foes was vain, they knew,
Which did the rage of elements subdue,
Who on the ocean that does horror give,
To all besides, triumphantly do live.
With haste they therefore all their gallions moor,
And flank with cannon from the neighbouring shore.
Forts, lines, and scones all the bay along,
They build and act all that can make them strong.
Fond men who know not whilst such works they raise,
They only labour to exalt your praise.
Yet they by restless toil became at length,
So proud and confident of their made strength,
That they with joy their boasting general heard,
Wish then for that assault he lately feared.
His wish he has, for now undaunted Blake,
With wingèd speed, for Santa Cruz does make.
For your renown, his conquering fleet does ride,
O’er seas as vast as is the Spaniards’ pride.
Whose fleet and trenches viewed, he soon did say,
`We to their strength are more obliged than they.
Were’t not for that, they from their fate would run,
And a third world seek out, our arms to shun.
Those forts, which there so high and strong appear,
Do not so much suppress, as show their fear.
Of speedy victory let no man doubt,
Our worst work’s past, now we have found them out.
Behold their navy does at anchor lie,
And they are ours, for now they cannot fly.’
This said, the whole fleet gave it their applause,
And all assumes your courage, in your cause.
That bay they enter, which unto them owes,
The noblest of wreaths, that victory bestows.
Bold Stayner leads: this fleet’s designed by fate,
To give him laurel, as the last did plate.
The thundering cannon now begins the fight,
And though it be at noon creates a night.
The air was soon after the fight begun,
Far more enflamed by it than by the sun.
Never so burning was that climate known,
War turned the temperate to the torrid zone.
Fate these two fleets between both worlds had brought,
Who fight, as if for both those worlds they fought.
Thousands of ways thousands of men there die,
Some ships are sunk, some blown up in the sky.
Nature ne’er made cedars so high aspire,
As oaks did then urged by the active fire,
Which by quick powder’s force, so high was sent,
That it returned to its own element.
Torn limbs some leagues into the island fly,
Whilst others lower in the sea do lie,
Scarce souls from bodies severed are so far
By death, as bodies there were by the war.
The all-seeing sun, ne’er gazed on such a sight,
Two dreadful navies there at anchor fight.
And neither have or power or will to fly,
There one must conquer, or there both must die.
Far different motives yet engaged them thus,
Necessity did them, but Choice did us.
A choice which did the highest worth express,
And was attended by as high success.
For your resistless genius there did reign,
By which we laurels reaped e’en on the main.
So properous stars, though absent to the sense,
Bless those they shine for, by their influence.
Our cannon now tears every ship and sconce,
And o’er two elements triumphs at once.
Their gallions sunk, their wealth the sea doth fill–
The only place where it can cause no ill.
Ah, would those treasures which both Indies have,
Were buried in as large, and deep a grave,
Wars’ chief support with them would buried be,
And the land owe her peace unto the sea.
Ages to come your conquering arms will bless,
There they destroy what had destroyed their peace.
And in one war the present age may boast
The certain seeds of many wars are lost.
All the foe’s ships destroyed, by sea or fire,
Victorious Blake, does from the bay retire,
His siege of Spain he then again pursues,
And there first brings of his success the news:
The saddest news that e’er to Spain was brought,
Their rich fleet sunk, and ours with laurel fraught,
Whilst fame in every place her trumpet blows,
And tells the world how much to you it owes.