William Charles Henry Wood.

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It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven is on the sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder - everlastingly.
- _Wordsworth_.


Where the remote Bermudas ride
In the ocean's bosom unespied,
From a small boat that row'd along
The listening winds received this song:

'What should we do but sing His praise
That led us through the watery maze
Unto an isle so long unknown,
And yet far kinder than our own?
Where He the huge sea-monsters wracks,
That lift the deep upon their backs,
He lands us on a grassy stage,
Safe from the storms' and prelates' rage:
He gave us this eternal Spring
Which here enamels everything,
And sends the fowls to us in care
On daily visits through the air:
He hangs in shades the orange bright
Like golden lamps in a green night,
And does in the pomegranates close
Jewels more rich than Ormus shows:

He makes the figs our mouths to meet
And throws the melons at our feet;
But apples plants of such a price,
No tree could ever bear them twice.
With cedars chosen by His hand
From Lebanon He stores the land;
And makes the hollow seas that roar
Proclaim the ambergris on shore.
He cast (of which we rather boast)
The Gospel's pearl upon our coast;
And in these rocks for us did frame
A temple where to sound His name.
O, let our voice His praise exalt
Till it arrive at Heaven's vault,
Which thence (perhaps) rebounding may
Echo beyond the Mexique bay!'

Thus sung they in the English boat
A holy and a cheerful note:
And all the way, to guide their chime,
With falling oars they kept the time.
- _Andrew Marvell_.









Just as Germany tried to win the overlordship of the world in this
twentieth century so Spain tried in the sixteenth; and just as the
Royal Navy was the chief, though by no means the biggest, force that
has won the whole world's freedom from the Germans now, so the Royal
Navy was the chief force that won world-freedom from the Spaniards then.

Spaniards and Portuguese, who often employed Italian seamen, were the
first to begin taking oversea empires. They gained footholds in places
as far apart as India and America. Balboa crossed the Isthmus of
Panama and waded into the Pacific, sword in hand, to claim it for the
King of Spain. A Portuguese ship was the first to go right round the
world. The Spaniards conquered all Central and great parts of North
and South America. The Portuguese settled in Brazil.

While this was going on abroad France and England were taken up with
their own troubles at home and with each other. So Spain and Portugal
had it all their own way for a good many years. The Spanish Empire was
by far the biggest in the world throughout the sixteenth century.
Charles V, King of Spain, was heir to several other crowns, which he
passed on to his son, Philip II. Charles was the sovereign lord of
Spain, of what are Belgium and Holland now, and of the best parts of
Italy. He was elected Emperor of Germany, which gave him a great hold
on that German "Middle Europe" which, stretching from the North Sea to
the Adriatic, cut the rest in two. Besides this he owned large parts
of Africa. And then, to crown it all, he won what seemed best worth
having in Central, North, and South America.

[Illustration: The _Santa Maria_, flagship of Christopher Columbus when
he discovered America in 1492. Length of keel, 60 feet. Length of
ship proper, 93 feet. Length over all, 128 feet. Breadth, 26 feet.
Tonnage, full displacement, 233.]

France and England had something to say about this. Francis I wrote
Charles a pretty plain letter. "Your Majesty and the King of Portugal
have divided the world between you, offering no part of it to me. Show
me, I pray you, the will of our father Adam, so that I may see if he
has really made you his universal heirs." Nor did the two Henrys
forget the claims of England. Henry VII claimed most of the eastern
coast of what are now Canada and the United States, in virtue of the
Cabot discoveries. In the Naval Museum at Madrid you can still see the
bullock-hide map of Juan de la Cosa, which, made in the year 1500,
shows St. George's Cross flying over these very parts.

But it was not till after 1545, when the mines of Potosi made Europe
dream of El Dorado, the great new Golden West, that England began to
think of trying her own luck in America. Some of the fathers of
Drake's "Sea-Dogs" had already been in Brazil, notably "Olde Mr.
William Hawkins, a man for his wisdome, valure, experience, and skill
in sea causes much esteemed and beloved of King Henry the Eight."
Hawkins "armed out a tall and goodlie ship called the Pole of
Plimmouth, wherewith he made three long and famous voyages into the
coast of Brasil." He went by way of Africa, "where he trafiqued with
the Negroes, and took of them Oliphants' teeth; and arriving on the
coast of Brasil, behaved himself so wisely, that he grew into great
friendship with those savages" - very different from the vile cruelty
with which the Spaniards always treated the poor natives. These
voyages were made about 1530; and the writer says that they were "in
those days very rare, especially to our Nation."

In 1554 Charles V planned to make all such voyages work for the glory
of Spain instead of England. But, thanks chiefly to the English
Sea-Dogs, everything turned out the other way. Charles saw that if he
could only add England to his vast possessions he could command the
world; for then he would have not only the greatest land-power but the
greatest sea-power too. Queen Mary seemed made for his plan. Her
mother, Katharine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife, was a Spaniard,
and she herself cared less for England than for Spain. She was only
too ready to marry Charles's heir, Philip, of Armada fame. After this
Charles would leave his throne to Philip, who would then be King of
England as well as King of Spain.

Philip sailed for England with a hundred and sixty ships, and came up
the Channel with the Spanish standard at the main (that is, at the tip
top of the main, or highest, mast). Lord Howard of Effingham sailed to
meet him and answer Philip's salute. But Philip and his haughty Dons
thought it was nonsense for the Prince of Spain to follow the custom of
the sea by saluting first when coming into English waters. So the
Spanish fleet sailed on and took no notice, till suddenly Howard fired
a shot across the Spanish flagship's bows. Then, at last, Philip's
standard came down with a run, and he lowered topsails too, so as to
make the salute complete. Howard thereupon saluted Philip, and the two
fleets sailed on together. But there was no love lost between them.
Neither was the marriage popular ashore. Except for the people at
court, who had to be civil to Philip, London treated the whole thing
more as a funeral than a wedding. Philip drank beer in public, instead
of Spanish wine, and tried to be as English as he could. Mary did her
best to make the people like him. And both did their best to buy as
many friends at court as Spanish gold could buy. But, except for his
Queen and the few who followed her through thick and thin, and the
spies he paid to sell their country, Philip went back with even fewer
English friends than he had had before; while the Spanish gold itself
did him more harm than good; for the English Sea-Dogs never forgot the
long array of New-World wealth that he paraded through the streets of
London - "27 chests of bullion, 99 horseloads + 2 cartloads of gold and
silver coin, and 97 boxes full of silver bars." That set them asking
why the whole New World should be nothing but New Spain.

But seventeen years passed by; and the Spanish Empire seemed bigger and
stronger than ever, besides which it seemed to be getting a firmer hold
on more and more places in the Golden West. Nor was this all; for
Portugal, which had many ships and large oversea possessions, was
becoming so weak as to be getting more and more under the thumb of
Spain; while Spain herself had just (1571) become the victorious
champion both of West against East and of Christ against Mahomet by
beating the Turks at Lepanto, near Corinth, in a great battle on
landlocked water, a hundred miles from where the West had defeated the
East when Greeks fought Persians at Salamis two thousand years before.


Sir Drake, whom well the world's end knew,
Which thou didst compass round,
And whom both poles of heaven once saw,
Which north and south do bound.

The stars above would make thee known,
If men here silent were;
The sun himself cannot forget
His fellow-traveller.
- _Anonymous_.




The daring English sailors who roved the waters to prey on Spanish
vessels were given the name of Sea-Dogs because they often used to hunt
together like a pack of hounds. Their Norse forefathers were often
called sea-wolves; and sometimes there was not so very much difference
between the two. War to the knife was the rule at sea when Spaniards
and Englishmen met, even in time of peace (that is, of peace between
the sovereigns of Spain and England, for there was no such thing as
real peace at sea or in any oversea possession). Spain was bound to
keep Englishmen out of the New World. Englishmen were bound to get in.
Of course the Sea-Dogs preyed on other people too, and other peoples'
own Sea-Dogs preyed on English vessels when they could; for it was a
very rough-and-tumble age at sea, with each nation's seamen fighting
for their own hand. But Spanish greed and Spanish cruelty soon made
Spain the one great enemy of all the English Sea-Dogs.

[Illustration: DRAKE]

Sea-Dogs were not brought up on any bed of roses. They were rough, and
their lives were rougher. They were no gentler with Spaniards than
Spaniards were with them when both were fighting. But, except by way
of revenge, and then very seldom, they never practised such fiendish
cruelty as the Spaniards practised the whole time. "Captain John
Smith, sometime Governor of Virginia and Admiral of New England" (whom
the Indian girl Pocahontas saved from death) did not write _The
Seaman's Grammar_ till after most of Queen Elizabeth's Sea-Dogs were
dead. But he was a big boy before Drake died; so one of his
_Directions for the Takying of a Prize_ may well be quoted here to show
that there was a Sea-Dog code of honour which would pass muster among
the rules of war today. What's more, the Sea-Dogs kept it. "Always
have as much care to their wounded as to your own; and if there be
either young women or aged men, use them nobly."

Some of the other _Directions_ show that Smith knew how to fight like a
lion as well as how to treat his captives well. "Out with all your
sails! A steadie man at the helm! Give him (the enemy) chace! Hail
him with trumpets! Whence is your ship? Of Spain! - whence is yours?
Of England! Be yare at the helm! Edge in with him! Give him a volley
of small shot, also your prow and broadside as before! With all your
great and small shot charge him! Make fast your grapplings. Board
him!" Then, after giving much good advice as to how the rest of a sea
fight should be managed, Smith tells his pupils what to do in case of
fire. "Captaine, we are foul of each other and the ship is on fire!"
"Cut anything to get clear and smother the fire with wet clothes."
Here he adds this delightful little note: "In such a case they will
presentlie bee such friends as to help each other all they can to get
clear; and if they bee generous, and the fire bee quenched, they will
drink kindly one to the other, heave their canns overboard, _and begin
again as before_." The duties of a good crew after the fight are
carefully laid down: "Chirurgeon (surgeon) look to the wounded and wind
up the slain, and give them three guns (volleys) for their funerals"
(as we do still). "Swabber, make clean the ship! Purser, record their
names! Watch, be vigilant! Gunners, spunge your ordnance! Souldiers,
scour your pieces! Carpenters, about your leaks! Boatswain and the
rest, repair sails and shrouds! Cook, see you observe your directions
against the morning watch!" The first thing in this "morning watch"
the captain sings out, "Boy, hallo! is the kettle boiled?" - "Ay, ay,
Sir!" Then the captain gives the order: "Boatswain, call up the men to
prayer and breakfast." The victory won, and the Spanish ship once safe
in the hands of an English crew, the _Directions_ end with a grand
salute: "Sound drums and trumpets: Saint George for England!" ("Saint
George for England!" is what Sir Roger Keyes signalled to the fleet he
led against the Germans at Zeebrugge on St. George's Day in 1918, three
hundred years after Smith's book was written.)

Sea-Dogs worked desperately hard for all they got, ran far more than
the usual risks of war, and were cheated by most of the traders ashore.
As for the risks: when Shakespeare speaks of a "Putter-out of five for
one" he means that what we now call insurance agents would bet five to
one against the chance of a ship's ever coming back when she was going
on a long voyage through distant seas full of known and unknown
dangers, such as pirates, cannibals, shipwreck, and deadly diseases.
As for cheats: Sea-Dogs were not perfect themselves, nor were all
landsmen quite so bad as those in the old sailors' song:

For Sailours they bee honest men,
And they do take great pains.
But Land-men and ruffling Ladds
Do cheat them of their gains.

All the same, the "Land-men" often did cheat sailors so much that
sailors might well be excused for poking fun at "Land-men" who were
seasick. Yet, at a time when even the best crews had no means of
keeping food and water properly, a land-lubber might also be excused
for being not only seasick but sick in worse ways still. The want of
fresh food always brought on scurvy; and the wonder is that any one
lived to tell the tale when once this plague and others got a foothold
in a ship.

But the Norse blood tingling in their veins, the manly love of
wonderful adventure, and, by no means least, the gamble of it, that
dared them to sail for strange outlandish parts with odds of five to
one against them, these, quite as much as the wish to make a fortune,
were the chief reasons why Sea-Dogs sailed from every port and made so
many landsmen mad to join them. And, after all, life afloat, rough as
it was, might well be better than life ashore, when men of spirit
wanted to be free from the troubles of taking sides with all the ups
and downs of kings and courts, rebels and religions.

Whether or not the man who wrote _The Complaynt of Scotland_ was only a
passenger or off to join the Sea-Dogs is more than we shall ever know;
for all he tells us is that he wrote his book in 1548, and that he was
then a landsman who "heard many words among the seamen, but knew not
what they meant." In any case, he is the only man who ever properly
described the daily work on board a Sea-Dog ship. The Sea-Dogs
themselves never bothered their heads about what they thought such a
very common thing; and whatever other landsmen wrote was always wrong.
A page of this quaint old book, which was not printed till two hundred
and fifty years after it was written, will show us how much the work
aboard a Sea-Dog ship was, in some ways, like the work aboard any other
sailing ship, even down to the present day; and yet how much unlike in
other ways. Some of the lingo has changed a good deal; for English
seamen soon began to drop the words King Henry's shipwrights brought
north from the Mediterranean. Many of these words were Italian, others
even Arabic; for the Arabs, Moors, and Turks haunted the Mediterranean
for many centuries, and some of their sea-words passed current into all
the northern tongues. We get _Captain_ from the Italian _Capitano_,
and _Admiral_ from the Arabic _Amir-al-bahr_, which means

"I shall report their crying and their call," says our author. "Then
the boatsman" (who was the officer next to the captain) "cried with an
oath: 'I see a great ship.' Then the master (that is, the captain)
whistled and bade the mariners lay the cable to the windlass to wind
and weigh (that is, heave the anchor up). Then the mariners began to
wind the cable in with many a loud cry; and, as one cried, all the
others cried in that same tune, as it had been an echo in a cave.
'Veer, veer; veer, veer; gentle gallants, gentle gallants! Wind, I see
him! Wind, I see him! _Pourbossa, pourbossa_! Haul all and one!'"
When the anchor was hauled above the water they cried: "_Caupon,
caupon; caupon, cola; caupon holt; Sarrabossa_!" When setting sail
they began with the same kind of gibberish. "_Hou_! _Hou_! _Pulpela,
Pulpela_! Hard out strife! Before the wind! God send! God send!
Fair weather! Many Prizes! Many Prizes! Stow! Stow! Make fast and
belay - Heisa! Heisa! One long pull! One long pull! Young blood!
More mud! There, there! Yellow hair! Great and small! One and all!"
The "yellow hair" refers to the fair-haired Norsemen. What the master
told the steersman might have been said by any skipper of our own day:
"Keep full and by! Luff! Con her! Steady! Keep close!" But what he
told the "Boatswain" next takes us back three hundred years and more.
"Bear stones and limepots full of lime to the top" (whence they would
make it pretty hot for an enemy held fast alongside). The orders to
the artillery and infantry on board are equally old and very odd when
we remember modern war. "Gunners, make ready your cannons, culverins,
falcons, sakers, slings, head-sticks, murdering pieces, passevolants,
bazzils, dogges, arquebusses, calivers, and hail shots! Souldiers,
make ready your cross-bows, hand-bows, fire-spars, hail-shot, lances,
pikes, halberds, rondels, two-handed swords, and targes!" Yet, old as
all this was, the artillery seems to have made a good many noises that
would have been familiar to those of us who heard the noises of the
Great War. "I heard the cannons and guns make many hideous cracks"
(like the stabbing six-inchers). "The bazzils and falcons cried
_tir-duf, tir-duf, tir-duf_" (like the anti-aircraft "Archies"). Then
the small artillery cried _tik-tak, tik-tak, tik-tak_ (something like
the rattle of machine-guns, only very much slower).

The cannons of those days seem like mere pop-guns to those who knew the
British Grand Fleet that swept the Germans off the sea. But the best
guns Drake used against the Spanish Armada in 1588 were not at all bad
compared with those that Nelson used at Trafalgar in 1805. There is
more change in twenty years now than there was in two hundred years
then. The chief improvements were in making the cannon balls fit
better, in putting the powder into canvas bags, instead of ladling it
in loose, and in fitting the guns with tackle, so that they could be
much more easily handled, fired, and aimed.

The change in ships during the sailing age was much greater than the
change in guns. More sails and better ones were used. The old
forecastle, once something really like a little castle set up on deck,
was made lower and lower, till it was left out altogether; though the
name remains to describe the front part of every ship, and is now
pronounced fo'c's'le or foxle. The same sort of top-hamper (that is,
anything that makes the ship top-heavy) was cut down, bit by bit, as
time went on, from the quarter-deck over the stern; till at last the
big British men-of-war became more or less like the _Victory_, which
was Nelson's flagship at Trafalgar, and which is still kept in
Portsmouth Harbour, where Henry VIII's first promise of a sailing fleet
appeared in 1545, the year that Drake was born.

Drake was a first-rate seaman long before he grow up. His father, also
a seaman, lived in a man-of-war on the Medway near where Chatham
Dockyard stands today; and Drake and his eleven sturdy brothers spent
every minute they could in sailing about and "learning the ropes."
With "the master of a barque, which used to coast along the shore and
sometimes carry merchandise into Zeeland (Holland) and France" Drake
went to sea at the age of ten, and did so well that "the old man at his
death bequeathed his barque to him by will and testament."

But the Channel trade was much too tame for Drake. So in 1567, when he
was twenty-two, he sailed with Hawkins, who was already a famous
Sea-Dog, to try his fortune round the Spanish Main, (that is, the
mainland of northern South America and of the lands all round Panama).
Luck went against them from start to finish. Hawkins, who founded the
slave trade that lasted till the nineteenth century, was attacked this
time by the negroes he tried to "snare" in Africa. "Envenomed arrows"
worked havoc with the Englishmen. "There hardly escaped any that had
blood drawn, but died in strange sort, with their mouths shut some ten
days before they died." As everybody who sailed to foreign parts used
slaves in those days Hawkins and Drake were no worse than the rest; and
less bad than those whites who kept them three hundred years later,
when people knew better. But Hawkins' complaint against the negroes
for not coming quietly is just the same sort of nonsense as any other
complaint against anything alive for being "vicious" when we want to
take or kill it. "This animal," said a Frenchman who made wise fun of
all such humbug, "is very wicked. When you attack it, it defends

With what he could get - some four or five hundred negroes - Hawkins did
a roaring trade in those parts of the Spanish Main where King Philip's
subjects were not too closely watched by Governors and troops. But new
troubles began when Hawkins, trying to leave the West Indies, was blown
back by a hurricane into Vera Cruz, then known as San Juan de Ulua.
Hawkins still had a hundred negroes left; so, hoping for leave from
Mexico City to trade them off, he held the Kind's Island, which
entirely commanded the entrance to the harbour, where he saw twelve
Spanish treasure ships. But it was four hundred miles to the City of
Mexico and back again; and meanwhile a great Spanish fleet was expected
out from Spain. Hawkins had this fleet completely at his mercy; for it
could no more get past the King's Island if he chose to stop it than
the fleet inside could get out. Moreover, the stormy season was
beginning; so the fleet from Spain might easily be wrecked if Hawkins
kept it at bay.

The very next morning the fleet arrived. Hawkins was terribly tempted
to keep it out, which would have made his own fleet safe and would have
struck a heavy blow at Spain; for all the Spanish vessels together were
worth many millions. But he feared the wrath of Queen Elizabeth, who
did not want war with Spain; so he let the Spaniards "enter with their
accustomed treason" after they had agreed not to attack him.

For a few days everything went well. Then suddenly the Spaniards set
on the English, killed every Englishman they could catch ashore, and
attacked the little English fleet by land and sea. Once the two
Spanish fleets had joined they were in overwhelming force and could
have smothered Hawkins to death by sheer weight of numbers. But he
made a brave fight. Within an hour the Spanish flagship and another
vessel had been sunk, a third was on fire, and every English deck was
clear of Spanish boarding parties. But the King's Island, to which
Hawkins had moored his vessels, now swarmed with Spaniards firing
cannon only a few yards off. To hearten his men he drank their health
and called out, "Stand by your ordnance lustily!" As he put the goblet
down a round shot sent it flying. "Look," he said, "how God has
delivered me from that shot; and so will He deliver you from these
traitors." Then he ordered his own battered ship to be abandoned for
the _Minion_, telling Drake to come alongside in the _Judith_. In
these two little vessels all that remained of the English sailed safely
out, in spite of the many Spanish guns roaring away at point-blank
range and of two fire-ships which almost struck home.

Drake and Hawkins lost each other in the darkness and gale outside.

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Online LibraryWilliam Charles Henry WoodFlag and Fleet → online text (page 5 of 19)