The Harmonists

N APOLEON'S banners at Boulogne
Arm'd in our island every freeman,
His navy chanced to capture one
Poor British seaman.

They suffer'd him — I know not how —
Unprison'd on the shore to roam;
And aye was bent his longing brow
On England's home.

His eye, methinks, pursued the flight
Of birds to Britain half-way over;
With envy they could reach the white
Dear cliffs of Dover.

A stormy midnight watch, he thought,
Than this sojourn would have been dearer,
If but the storm his vessel brought
To England nearer.

At last, when care had banish'd sleep,
He saw one morning — dreaming — doating,
An empty hogshead from the deep
Come shoreward floating;

He hid it in a cave, and wrought
The livelong day laborious; lurking
Until he launch'd a tiny boat
By mighty working.

Heaven help us! 'twas a thing beyond
Description wretched: such a wherry
Perhaps ne'er ventur'd on a pond,
Or cross'd a ferry.

For ploughing in the salt sea-field,
It would have made the boldest shudder;
Untarr'd, uncompass'd, and unkeel'd,
No sail — no rudder.

From neighbouring woods he interlaced
His sorry skiff with wattled willows;
And thus equipp'd he would have pass'd
The foaming billows —

But Frenchmen caught him on the beach,
His little Argo sorely jeering;
Till tidings of him chanced to reach
Napoleon's hearing.

With folded arms Napoleon stood,
Serene alike in peace and danger;
And in his wonted attitude,
Address'd the stranger: —

" Rash man that wouldst yon channel pass
On twigs and staves so rudely fashion'd;
Thy heart with some sweet British lass
Must be impassion'd."

" I have no sweetheart," said the lad;
" But — absent long from one another —
Great was the longing that I had
To see my mother!"

" And so thou shalt," Napoleon said,
" Ye've both my favour fairly won;
A noble mother must have bred
So brave a son."

He gave the tar a piece of gold,
And with a flag of truce commanded
He should be shipp'd to England Old,
And safely landed.

Our sailor oft could scantly shift
To find a dinner plain and hearty;
But never changed the coin and gift
Of Bonaparte.
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