Sunday, 30 December 2012

Three Sonnets to Captain James Cook

[Three Sonnets to] Captain James Cook

Whilst obelisks are raised to men of wealth,
And pyramids are tow’ring to the sky
To tell mankind where bygone tyrants lie
Men who in life, flush’d with the joy of health,
And render’d vain by crouching helots’ praise, 5
Imagined they, by slave-piled stones, could raise
A Babel high to reach the Heaven of Fame—
And lo! E’en hoary Time’s forgot their name!
Whilst monuments are raised to men who slew
Their fellow-mortals on the field of strife, 10
England! Shall it be said thou never knew
Thy debt of gratitude to one whose life
Devoted was to arts that dignify
Not COOK alone, but all humanity?

Ye men of Cleveland! Now be you the lot 15
To prove that COOK, your COOK, is not forgot!
Upon your hills he bounded young and free,
In all the pride of boyhood’s joyancy;
And when in foreign climes ’t was his to roam,
’Mongst savage hordes where ev’ry face was strange, 20
Oft would his soul across the ocean stray,
When to rest he sought at close of weary day,
And in delight reveries would range
The verdant hills and valleys of his home.
And shall not sculpture homage pay to thee, 25
Immortal offspring of the Cleveland hind?
Shall thy own countrymen now prove to be
More than Owhyeen savages unkind?

Perish the thought! Ye gods! ’t were impious now
To think that one so useful to his kind— 30
Endow’d by Nature with so strong a mind,
And Resolution written on his brow—
Oh, it was impious to think that he
Who with his hardy seamen did explore
Those ocean-tracks unknown to us before, 35
Could be forgot. For all eternity,
The wise of every clime will love his name,
And call him hero, benefactor brave!
And Cleveland’s future children strive to save
Themselves from the dishonour and the blame 40
Which ye, vile, money-grubbing Cleveland slaves!
Will carry with ye to dishonoured graves.

George Markham Tweddell
Stokesley G. T.
[Tweddell’s Yorkshire Miscellany, p. 343, July 1846.
The poem appears again in Tractates No. 7 as Cleveland
Sonnets, No. IV, No. V and No, VI]

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