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Bill Thayer

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The Afflicting Bereavement

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Life in a Man-of‑War

a Fore‑top-man

published by
Houghton Mifflin Company
Boston and New York

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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The Nigger Pugilists
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p205  Lines on the Death of Commodore
Alexander Claxton

"All that's bright must fade:

The brightest still the fleetest."

Columbia's tars who plough the trackless main

In sadness view your melancholy bier,

And o'er the ashes of an upright man

Let fall with one accord a pitying tear:

For you have cause most deeply to deplore,

Since your most zealous advocate's no more.

Of every attribute that could adorn

The Christian and the man, he was possess'd; —

An officer devoid of haughty pride,

Each moral virtue glowed within his breast;

And he has proved unshrinking to the end

The much neglected sailor's steadfast friend.

When first his keen perception brought to view

The many grievances we long had borne,

His honest heart beheld them with disgust,

And to redress them he was pledged and sworn;

And from that pledge he never did depart —

That object still was nearest to his heart.

The sneers of ignorance, the frowns of power,

Could ne'er estrange him from his steady aim;

Promotion did not mar the great design,

For first and last he still remained the same;

And with untiring energy and zeal

His latest throb was for the seaman's weal.

Oh! cruel Death! remorseless conqueror —

Why did you point your keen, unerring dart

Against the bosom of a man so loved —

Why did you pierce so noble, kind a heart;

Oh! why so soon call Claxton to his urn,

And leave so many hardy tars to mourn?

Why not seek out your victim 'mongst the crowd

Of domineering tyrants on the main,

 p206  Whose bitter cruelty and demon guile

Cause many a son of Ocean to complain?

And who full many a noble heart have broke,

So doubly galling they have pressed the yoke.

Could you not such a victim single out

Whose death one heartfelt sigh would not attend,

And leave to future years the virtuous man,

The humane officer, the unshrinking friend,

To finish out his plans so well begun,

Which would so benefit each Ocean's son?

Yes! future years will show the good effects

Of his exertions for the sailor's weal;

Some other cruise the wanderer of the deep,

The happy change he struggled for will feel,

And every hardy tar his voice will raise

And echo loud with one accord his praise.

Peace to your manes, illustrious mortal, peace;

Though in a far and foreign grave you rest,

Your worth both as an officer and man

Will long live treasured in each sailor's breast,

And many a tar will point with tearful eye

Unto the mound where Claxton's ashes lie.

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Page updated: 3 Oct 21