Captain Peel

Did you know our Captain Peel?
Such a face to give command,
Full of thought, clear-chiselled, fair!
Such a wealth of wavy hair
O’er a forehead high and square!
Such broad shoulders! but a hand
Like a woman’s, and soft eyes
Bluest-grey as English skies,
Though they flamed and flashed like steel
When he made his swift replies;
Such a brow to feel the rush
Of the heart’s blood, with the blush
Of a girl! but mouth firm-set;
Peel, we never can forget,
Kind to man and kind to beast,
Loving greatest in the least,
Iron-willed, but tender-sweet,
Gentle-hearted to the core;
Peel, the darling of the fleet!
Peel, the hero of the shore!

Have you heard how Captain Peel,
Of the “Excellent,” excelled
All excelling, for his grace;
The dear honour of our fleet,
Made the name of Captain sweet
For all sailor souls that feel?
Have your hearts not beat to learn
How at sea in dirty weather,
In his cabin at the stern,
He heard the fateful cry
“Lower boat, man overboard,” 
Saw a man go flashing by,
Smite the waters, disappear,
And, well knowing the ship’s pace
By the furrow foaming free,
Never stayed to loose his sword,
Knew his duty plain and clear
From the port-hole on the lee
Sprang right out into the sea,
Caught the drowning man, and cried,
“Hold on fast! whate’er betide
We will sink or swim together,
Man and captain side by side?”
And the crew were unaware,
Thought their captain sitting there
In his cabin; came to tell
How the “main-top” seaman fell;
But they little knew his care
For the drowner at his need,
Till the boat alongside came,
Then they felt their hearts aflame
For the daring and the deed!

Have they told you, how he fought
On the bitter upland height,
Where the Russian gunners wrought
Hurt and havoc, day and night:
Where death mined and countermined
With the subtlety of hell,
And the wit of devil-kind,
And fierce sickness, more than shell,
Was the slayer in the fight?

Have you heard how Peel was then
Hope and heart for all our men?
How, a hero to the core
Through the nine long months he bore
Head erect, and never blenched,
While the sailors sapped and trenched,
And the bullets hailed around,
And the red shot ploughed the ground;
How, where fiercest death-shower burst,
With his gabion ever first,
Eyes to see and mind to feel
For all round, was gallant Peel,
Swift to succour, sure to plan,
Heart and soul of every man,
Full in front of the Redan.

Have you heard how on a day,
When our battery blazed away
From its twenty-one gun-throats,
And the “Diamond” sent her boats
With fresh powder for the fray,
Through our parapet there came
A live shell with fuse aflame,
While our powder-boxes round
Lay all open on the ground;
And we knew our end had come,
And we flung ourselves in fear
To the dust we soon should be,
Thought of God, and thought of home,
—England far across the sea,
Almost glad that death was near
On our faces as we fell,
Seeing death should set us free
From the Russian shot and shell?

But our gallant Captain Peel
Caught the monster in his hand,
Cool of head, and nerved like steel,
Heaved the bomb upon his chest,
Rolled it o’er the rampart crest,
And we heard his clear command
“To your guns, and do the rest,
They have given us of their worst
Let us pay them with our best!”
And beyond the earthwork’s breast
Lo, the forty pounder burst!

On the uplands grim and grey,
Full in front of the Redan, 
Where our English life-blood ran
Into purple Russian clay,
Now the war-mounds melt away,
And the walls are in decay,
And the trenches on the hill,
Once so loud, are hushed and still,
And the blood in battle spilt
Blooms to poppy, grows to wheat;
But the battery we built
And we called the “Koh-i-nor”
For the “Diamond’s” Captain, meet,
Shall be honoured more and more,
There the name of Peel is sweet
As it was in days of yore—
Peel, the darling of the fleet!
Peel, the hero of the shore!

(Ballads of Brave Deeds, p. 4).