Abbildungen der Seite

It was received with a shout throughout the fleet, an answering acclamation made sublime by the feeling which it conveyed. “ Now,” said Nelson, “ I can do no more. We must trust to the Great Disposer of all events, and the justice of our cause; I thank God for this great opportunity of doing my duty.” Captain Blackwood, being about to return to his ship, took him by the hand, saying he hoped soon to return, and find him in possession of his twenty prizes.' He replied, ' God bless you, Blackwood, I shall never see you again.”

It having been represented so strongly to Nelson, both by Captain Blackwood and his own Captain, Hardy, how advantageous it would be to the fleet that he should keep out of action as long as possible ; he consented at length to suffer the Temeraire then sailing abreast of the Victory and the Leviathan, to be ordered to pass a-head. This, however, they could not possibly do, while the Victory continued to carry all her sail; and so far was Nelson from shortening it, that he seemed to take pleasure in baffling the advice, to which he could not but give his apparent assent. As usual, he hoisted several flags, that they might not be shot away. The enemy showed no colours, till late in the action, when they began to feel the necessity of having them to strike. The Santissima Trinidad, Nelson's old acquaintance,' as he used to call her, was therefore only distinguished by her four decks: to the bow of this opponent he ordered the Victory to be steered. It was not possible to break the enemy's line without running on board one of their ships. Before this could be done, and before the Victory fired a shot, fifty of her men were killed and wounded, and her mizen top-mast

with all her studding-sails and their booms on both sides shot away. In this state she ran on board the Redoutable, which firing her broadsides into the English flag-ship, instantly let down her lower-deck ports from fear of being boarded. Captain Harvey, in the Temeraire, fell on board the Redoutable on the other side : another ship, in like manner, was on board the Temeraire ; so that these four ships, in the heat of battle, formed as compact a tier as if they had been moored together, their heads lying all the same way. The Lieutenants of the Victory immediately depressed their guns, and fired with a diminished charge, lest the shot should pass through and injure the Temeraire; and, because there was cause to apprehend that the enemy's ship might take fire from the guns of the lower deck, whose muzzles touched her side when they were run out, the fireman of each

gun stood ready with a bucket of water, which upon each successive discharge he dashed at the hole made in her sides by the shot. The Victory passed astern, so as to play upon the Bucentaure (Villeneuve's ship) and the Santissima Trinidad with her larboard-guns, and upon the Redoutable from the other side.

In the prayer, which Nelson wrote before the action, he implores that humanity after victory might distinguish the British fleet.' Setting an example himself, he twice gave orders to cease firing upon the Redoutable, supposing that she had struck, because her great guns were silent: as she carried no flag, there was no means of ascertaining the fact. Alas! from this very ship, whose destruction was twice delayed by his wish to spare the enemy, he received his death! A ball, fired from her mizen-top,

2 I


struck the epaulette on his left shoulder : he fell with his face on the deck. They have done for me at last, Hardy,” said he, “my back-bone is shot through.” Yet not for a moment losing his presence of mind he observed, as they were carrying him down the ladder, that the tiller-ropes which had been shot away were unreplaced, and ordered new ones to be rove immediately; and lest he should be seen by the crew, he took out his handkerchief, and covered with it his face and the insignia upon his coat. Had he but concealed them with equal care from the enemy, England perhaps would not have received with sorrow the tidings of the battle of Tra-, falgar! Certain by the sensation in his back, and the gush of blood which he felt every minute within his breast, that no human aid could avail him, after the wound had been probed he ordered the surgeon to return to the wounded, and assist those to whom his services could be useful; adding, “ you can do nothing for me.” The pain he suffered was so severe, that he wished himself dead. “ Yet," said he in a lower tone,“ one would like to live a little longer too:” doubtless, that he might hear the completion of the victory, which he had seen so gloriously begun. Upon inquiring how many ships had struck, and being told, .fourteen or fifteen certainly, but that it was impossible as yet to ascertain the number exactly; ' “ That's well,” said he,“ but I bargained for twenty :” and then he emphatically exclaimed, “ Anchor! Hardy, anchor !” To this the Captain replied, that “ he supposed Admiral Collingwood would now take upon himself the direction of affairs." “ Not while I live, Hardy," cried the dying conqueror, ineffectually endeavouring to raise

himself from the bed; “no, do you anchor, Hardy.” He had foreseen the great importance of this; for, by the position in which the enemy had waited for the attack, the shoals of Trafalgar and St. Pedro were under their lee, and the port of Cadiz with the existing wind open to them; and upon this account he had, before the action, 'made signal to prepare to anchor. Presently calling Hardy back, he said to him in a low tone,“ Don't throw me overboard ;” and desired that he might be buried by his father and mother, unless it should please the. King to order otherwise.' “ Kiss me, Hardy,” said he. Hardy knelt down, and kissed his cheek; upon which he observed, “ Now I am satisfied. " I have done my duty. Thank God! I have done my duty :” these words he repeatedly pronounced, and they were the last he uttered.*.

The death of Nelson was felt in England, as something more than a public calamity. Her sons started at the intelligence, and turned pale, as if they had heard of the decease of a dear friend. An object of her admiration and affection, of her pride and of her hopes, was suddenly taken from her; and it seemed, as if she had never till then known how deeply she loved and reverenced him. What she lost in her great naval hero, the greatest of all times,

* Among other panegyrists of this almost unprecedented victory, Bishop Horsley preached his ingenious Discourse, from Dan. iv. 17., on the Watchers and the Holy ones,' and it was the last, which that very powerful theologian composed. In the course of it, he strenuously impugns the notion (though supported, from considerable antiquity, by several eminent Catholic and Protestant authorities) of Tutelar or Guardian Angels; stigmatising, as an abominable doctrine,' the tenet that angels thus participate in God's government of the world.

[ocr errors]

was scarcely taken into the account of grief. So perfectly, indeed, had he performed his part, that the maritime war might from that day be considered at an end.

The fleets of the enemy were not merely defeated, but destroyed: new navies must be built, and a new race of seamen reared for them, before the possibility of their invading her shores could again be contemplated. It was not, therefore, from 'any selfish reflexion upon her own loss, that she mourned for him: her sorrow was of a higher character. She grieved, that funeral ceremonies and public monuments were all she could now bestow upon him, whom the King, the legislature, and the nation would alike have delighted to honour; whom every tongue would have blessed; whose presence, in every village through which he should have passed, would have awakened the church-bells, have given school-boys a holiday, drawn children from their sports to gaze upon him, and seduced old men from the chimney corner' to see Nelson ere they died. The victory of Trafalgar was, indeed, celebrated with the usual forms of rejoicing; but they were without joy: for such was the glory of Nelson and of the British navy, in great measure through his genius, that they scarcely seemed to receive any addition from this triumph; that the most signal victory ever achieved upon the seas, and the destruction of so large a fleet, hardly appeared to add to his country's strength or her security! While Nelson was living to watch them, she felt herself as strong, and as secure, as when they were destroyed.

There was reason to suppose, from the appearances upon opening his body, that in the course of nature he might have attained, like his father, to a good old

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »