Monday, 6 June 2011

At Flores in the Azores...

Richard Grenville, the Elizabethan adventurer, explorer and naval hero, was born on this day in 1542. A fearless fighter, who famously took on 53 Spanish warships with his sole galleon the Revenge, Grenville was also an enthusiastic carouser, whose party piece was to chew up his glass after a few drinks, with much blood but apparently no lasting harm done - and he once, as a law student, ran a fellow through on the Strand and left him to die (he was acquitted). Grenville was, in fact, just the kind of mad bastard you want on your side in a scrap. The Revenge incident was the subject of Tennyson's most stirring narrative poem...
This was one of the poems my father delighted in reciting, often while shaving in the morning (how I envy him his powers of recall; mine are long gone). I enjoyed it as a boy, but naturally, when I grew into a young smartarse, I despised such risible stuff. Reading it now, though, it strikes me as a quite wonderful example of its kind, full of fine sonorous lines (that Tennysonian music never fails), setting the scene, building the tension and describing the climactic action and its aftermath with masterful skill. The sturdy anti-Spanish patriotism might be laid on a little heavily, but Tennyson, the great lyric poet, could also, when the occasion demanded, tell a tale to stir the blood.


  1. All fathers should recite poems while shaving.