Philip the King

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Philip the King
written by John Masefield
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Philip the Second of Spain
His Daughter, the Infanta
An English Prisoner
A Spanish Captain

Don John of Austria
Don Alvaro de Bazan, the Marquis of Santa Cruz
Alonso de Leyva

At dawn in late September, 1588

A little dark cell in Philip's palace


Philip [Kneeling].
Lord, I am that Philip whom Thou hast made King of half the world. Thou knowest, Lord, how great a fleet I have fitted out to destroy the English, who work evil against Thee. Lord, I beseech Thee, keep that great Armada now, as I trust, in battle on the English coast. Protect my ships, O Lord, from fire and pestilence, from tempest and shipwreck, and in the day of battle. Amen. Amen.

Lord, now that the battle is joined, grant us Thy victory, I beseech Thee. Amen. Amen.

Lord, I beseech Thee to have in Thy special keeping my beloved friend, Alonso de Leyva, now at sea with my fleet. Guard his ways, O Lord, that so he may come safely home to me. Amen. Amen.

Lord, of Thy mercy, I beseech Thee to send to me, if it be Thy will, some word or message from my fleet, that I may know Thy will concerning it, that my weary heart may find peace. Amen. Amen.

[He rises.]

[Enter the Princess.]

Has no news come?

None yet.

Still nothing?


Two months now since they sailed and still no word.

The wind is foul; they cannot send.

I know.
And yet what tales, what rumours we have heard.
How the heart sickens for the want of news.
Is that a courier?


What if we lose?

Why should we lose?

Because of too much pride
Planning for glory not as scripture bade.

I am not proud nor hopeful, nor afraid.
But you are trembling, sweet, and heavy-eyed.

I am afraid, for all night long
The spirit of Spain's committed wrong,
Nourished wherever a life was shed,
Stood near my bed;
And all night long it talked to me
Of a trouble there is beyond the sea.
A trouble of war . . . I heard a horn
Blowing forlorn,
And I knew that it came from far away,
From men of Spain in a pass at bay
Blowing for help; the beaten call
None heeds at all.
And now I fear that we have angered Him
Who makes pride dim.

What we have done with our might
Cannot be hateful to God.
He speaks with dreams in the night
That the tired heart turn home
And an end of brooding come.
My heart has flushed in His praise,
The glow in my heart took sail
In a fleet that darkens the sprays;
Sacrifice may not avail,
But the uttermost gift is wise.

Yes, I believe that; and the deed is grand —
It is a mighty blow to deal for God.
But in my ear there rings
Ill-omened words about the pride of kings —
"Pride is the evil that destroys a land."

Brooding and watching waste you, you must sleep;
The hand of God will bring us through the deep.

Amen, my father, but my heart is breaking.

You are too young for heart-break; let it be.

There was another fear which kept me waking:
Spain's unborn monarchs came by night to me,
Each holding fewer of the Spanish gems
Here and abroad, each weaker in the soul.
With wearier brows and dimmer diadems,
And feebler ringers giving up control,
Till, as it seemed, a hundred years from now,
An idiot child was all the might of Spain,
And English spirits beat them on the brow,
Robbing their gems and binding them with chain.
And Spain's proud flag was draggled in the sea.
And then these shapes lamented, threatening me;
Saying that we began Spain's downfall here —
So grimly, father, that I shook with fear.

Child, these are only dreams. I have learned this
Since I have been a king, that our concern
Is not with Hope nor Fear, but with what is,
Which, when we follow dreams, we cannot learn.
Be patient, child; besides, the wind has changed;
God's will must never find our hearts estranged:
The wind is north, the news may come to-day.
Ship after ship is running down the Bay
With news; God grant that it be happy news.

Rest till it comes, dear father.

You can choose,
You who are young, whether to rest or no;
When one is old one sees the hours go.
Dear, they go fast from withered men like me.
You were my little daughter on my knee
When first this war with England was conceived.
Now you are this . . ., it would not be believed,
And nothing done, and still time hurrying by.
We are two grey old partners — Time and I:
Look at the work we do . . . you talk of rest.

You call your Captains in and choose the best,
And make him do the work.

Ah, you're a Queen,
That is what you would do, but I am King.
Kings have no beauty to make duty keen;
They have to supervise with whip and sting.

You do not whip men; you are good and mild.

Artists and Kings do what they can, my child,
Not what they would. It is not easy, dear,
Working with men, for men are only clay,
They crumble in the hand, or they betray
And time goes by, but no results appear —
Your little hands have happier work than mine.
Ah, little daughter, childhood is divine.

I am no child now that the fleet has sailed;
I was till then, but now I realise
What it would cost my father if it failed.

Yes, it has cost some life, this enterprise.

But all you had to do was give the word.

Ah, darling, many thousand men have heard
Orders from me since this attempt began
Seventeen years ago. Full many a man
Who helped the earliest outlines of the plot
Died at his unknown task suspecting not
What pattern his life's colour helped to weave.
Child, if I told you, you would not believe
How this idea has triumphed on unchanged
Past great commanders' deaths, past faith estranged,
Past tyranny and bloodshed and ill-hap,
Treachery striking like a thunder-clap,
Murder, betrayal, lying, past all these,
Past the grim days when feelings had to freeze
Lest the great King should drop his mask of lies
And hint his purpose to the thwarted spies,
Past half a world of men and years of thought,
Past human hope, to be the thing I sought.
Now that the dice are scattered for the stakes,
I half forget that old affront of Drake's,
By which this war with England was begun.
child, the labour that must first be done
Before a King can act! — unending work.
All the long days of beating down the Turk,
Then when Don John had thrust the Crescent down
[You cannot know] he plotted for the crown;
Don John, my Admiral, plotted against me.
He would have sunk the English in the sea,
But since he plotted, that was ended too.
Then a great world of labour still to do,
The French to check, and then the Portuguese,
Clearing myself a pathway through the seas.
Then, when my way was clear, my Admiral died,
The Marquis Santa Cruz, the unconquered guide,
The greatest sea commander of known times.
Seventeen years of subtleties and crimes.

But it is done. I have resolved those years,
Those men, those crimes, those great attempts, those tears,
Sorrows and terrors of a twisted earth,
Into this fleet, this death, this Dragon's birth;
I who have never seen it, nor shall see.

I shall thank God that it was shown to me;
I saw it sail.

You saw my heart's blood, child.

All a long summer day those ships denied.
I never saw so many nor so grand;
They wandered down the tide and cleared the land,
And ranked themselves like pikemen, clump to clump.
Then in the silence came the Admiral's trump,
And from those hundreds of expectant ships,
From bells and cannonade and sailors' lips,
And from the drums and trumpets of the foot
Burst such a roaring thunder of salute
As filled my heart with wonder like a cup.
They cheered St. James's banner going up —
Golden St. James, whose figure blew out fair,
High on the flagship's mast in the blue air,
Rippling the gold. Then all the city bells,
Fired like the singing spheres some spirit impels,
Rang in the rocking belfries, the guns roared,
Each human soul there shook like tautened cord.
And to that Christian march the singing priests
Bore up the blessed banners. Even the beasts
Ramped at the challenge of that shouting crowd.
Then, as the wind came fair, the Armada bowed.
Those hundreds of great vessels, ranked in line,
Buried their bows and heaped the bubbled brine
In gleams before them. So they marched; the van,
Led by De Leyva, like slipped greyhounds, ran
To spy the English. On the right and left
By Valdes and his friend the seas were cleft;
Moncada's gallies weltered like a weir,
Flanking Recalde, bringing up the rear,
While in the midst St. James's banner marched,
Blowing towards England till the flagpole arched.
Onward they swept the sea, the flagship's side
Smoked from her cannon's hail; she took her stride,
Leaned and stretched forward.
I was conscious then
That I beheld the greatest fleet that men
Ever sent seaward; all the world was there,
All nations that begem the crown you wear,
Pikemen of Rome, whose settled pikes had stood
Stern in full many a welter of man's blood.
Cunning Levantines, armed with crooked swords,
Venetians bronzed, the ocean's overlords,
Pisans and knights of Malta, Ferrarese,
Passionate half-bloods from the Indian seas,
Hollanders, Austrians, even English, come
To bring again religion to their home;
Spain too, our Andalusians, and the hale
Iberian Basquers used to hunt the whale —
The flower of the knighthood of the world
Mustered beneath the banner you unfurled.

* * * * * *

And that was but the half, for there in France
Was Parma's army ready to advance,
Death-coupled bloodhounds straining to the slip,
Waiting your navy's coming to take ship.
Father, such power awed me.

Time and I
Worked for long years.

And when it had passed by
The bells were silent, and a sigh arose
Of joy in that fleet's pride, and grief for those
Who, even if all went well, had looked their last
On men and women who had made their past.
Then darkness came, and all that I could see
Was the horizon where the fleet must be —
A dimming skyline with a setting star.
It was as though they died; and now, who knows
What has befallen them, or where they are?
And night by sleepless night my trouble grows.
This daily silence has been hard to bear,
But now I dread news worse.

We must prepare,
Hoping the best, but ready for the worst;
But patient still, for rumour must come first —
Rumour and broken news and seamen's lies;
Patience, expecting nothing, is most wise.
If God vouchsafes it, we shall hear to-day.
Lighten your heart, my daughter.

I will pray —
Pray for a Spanish triumph.

Pray for me.
Pray for God's cause adventured on the sea.

I will; God help my prayer.

God help us both.

[She goes.

Lord, I have laboured long to keep my oath,
And since my loved one died it has been hard.
O Lord, my God, in blessed mercy guard
My only friend De Leyva, now at sea;
Keep him, O Lord, and bring him home to me.
Lord, be thou his bulwark and his guide;
1 am so lonely since my loved one died.
How splendidly the nations hold their way,
Marching with banners through the fields of Time!
Who sees the withered King weary and grey,
Prompting it all with secret lust or crime?
Who guesses at the heavy brain behind?
I am Earth's greatest man; the world is blind.

[He droops over his papers. Starting up.]

I have still strength, and I must read these scrolls,
Or else all goes to ruin; I must read.

[He sleeps.]


Who calls?

[The Indians enter.]

We are the Indian souls,
Loosed from the gold-mines where our brothers bleed.
We swell the tale of blood: we dug you gold;
We bore your burdens till we died of thirst;
We sweated in the mines or shook with cold,
Washing the gravel which the blast had burst.
We dived for pearls until our eyeballs bled;
You burned us till we told where treasure lay.
We were your Indian slaves, but we are dead;
Our red account is cast and you must pay.

A Voice.
Our lives paid for your fleet; you pay for us.
The unjustly killed restore the balance thus.

A Voice.
They flung my little baby to the hounds.

A Voice.
They took my daughter from me for their lust.

A Voice.
Even the weak are strong beyond life's bounds;
We myriad weak add power to the thrust.

Philip! Philip! Philip!

We gather from over the sea
To the justice that has to be
While the blind red bull goes on.
Philip! Philip! Philip!
We who were ciphers slain
In a tale of the pride of Spain
Are a part of her glory gone.

A Voice.
We see them where our will can help their foes.

A Voice.
Quick, brother, quick! another galleon goes!
Waken those sleeping gunners by the fire,
Or she'll escape unracked.
[They fade away.

The voices tire.
They go. I dreamed. I slept. My heavy head
Is drowsed. What man is that?

[Don John appears, with Escovedo behind him.]

Voice of Don John of Austria.
I am the dead;
I am your brother, Philip — brother John.

You corpse-fetch from the unclean grave, begone!
I had no brother.

Don John.
Would you never had!

You were a landmark of my father's sin,
Never my brother.

Don John.
I was that bright lad,
Your father's son, my brother; I helped win
Great glory for you, Philip.

I agreed
To overlook your bastardy, my friend,
So long as your bright talents served my need;
But you presumed, and so it had to end.

Don John.
My talents served you well.

They did, at first.

Don John.
I won the Battle of Lepanto for you.

And afterwards you killed my troops with thirst,
Following a crazy scheme which overbore you.

Don John.
Not crazy, unsuccessful.

Poor vain ghost,
Poor flickering candle that was bright awhile.

Don John.
I was the man whom Europe worshipped most,
One with a mighty plan which you thought guile.
Why did you kill me, Philip?

You betrayed me,
Or would have, traitor, had I not been wise.

Don John.
I was your board's best piece, you should have played me,
Now I am dead and earth is in my eyes.
I could have won you England. I had planned
To conquer England. I had all prepared
Ships, soldiers, money, but your cruel hand
Killed me, and nothing's done and nothing's dared.

You planned to conquer England and be King;
Those who obstruct my path I sweep aside.

Don John.
Brother, there is a time for everything;
That was the time for England, but I died;
Now you attempt too late,
The powers have closed the gate,
Destiny enters by another door.
The lost chance comes no more.

The Voice of Escovedo.
Philip, he tells the truth. We could have won
England for you, we were no plotters then.

Philip, you were betrayed, you were undone.
You had the moment, but you killed the men.

The liar, Perez, tricked you. O great King!
We would have added England to your crown,
Now the worms cling
About our lips deep down.
You had me stabbed at midnight going home
That man of Perez' stabbed me in the back.
And then I could not stir, down on the loam;
The sky was full of blood, the stars were black.
And then I knew my wife and children waited
But that I could not come; a moving hand
Had interposed a something fated
'Twixt us and what we planned.

Don John.
You had me poisoned in that Holland den,
Outcast, alone, without the help of men.
We planned a glorious hour
Hoisting the banner of Spain
On the top of London Tower,
With England a Spanish fief.
Life cannot happen again,
And doing dies with the brain;
Autumn ruins the flower
And after the flower the leaf.

Philip, Philip, Philip!
The evil men do has strength,
It gathers behind the veils
While the unjust thing prevails.
While the pride of life is strong,
But the balance tips at length,
And the unjust things are tales,
The pride of life is a song.

I kept my purpose while you lived. Shall I
Be weaker, now that you are dead, you things?
What can such reedy wretches do but die
Standing against the purposes of Kings?

Don John.
Do? We can thwart you.

And we will, we will;
All Spain's unjustly murdered work you ill.
Gather against him, gather, mock him down.

The Voice of the Marquis of Santa Cruz.
Scatter, you shadows, fly. Philip, great King.
You vultures gathered in an unclean ring;
Away, you shadows, scatter.
They are gone,

[The Marquis enters. ]

Who calls?

Santa Cruz.

Let me dream on.
Whose voice was that? It warned me of defeat.

Santa Cruz.
I am that Santa Cruz who built your fleet,
And died to make it good. It was my child.
I call because my work has been defiled.

Why rail, uneasy soul?

Santa Cruz.
If I had spent
Less life in that, I should be still alive,
Commanding what I built to my content,
Driving the English slaves as conquerors drive.
Why did you give away my splendid sword,
Forged by a never-conquered captain's brain,
Into the hoof-hand of an ambling lord,
Useless in all things, but to ruin Spain?
Would God I had but guessed it! Would my stars
Had shown me clearer what my death would bring,
I would have burned those galleons, guns and spars,
Soldiers and all, and so have stopped this thing.
And doing that I should have served you well,
And brought less ruin on this lovely land.
What folly from the unfed brain of hell
Made you promote that thing to my command? —
Folly from which so many men must die.

We stand against all comers, Time and I.
I chose the Duke because I wanted one . . .
Who . . .

Santa Cruz.
Give no reason for the evil done.
Souls wrestle from the ever deedless grave
To do, not to hear reason. Oh, great King,
You still may save the ruin of this thing!

You speak of ruin. Tell me what you see.

Santa Cruz.
Ruin that threatens, but need never be.
Be silent, Philip; listen while I tell
What you must do.

You are a voice from hell;
I will not listen to these obscene dreams.

Santa Cruz.
Life is a heavy cloud, through which come gleams.
Oh, Philip, let me speak! Philip, I say,
One way can still be tried; I see the way.
You must do this, but listen.

I still doubt.

Santa Cruz.
Listen, great King; the light is dying out.
You are fading from me, Philip; they are coming.
Before it is too late for ever send . . .


Santa Cruz.

To whom?

Santa Cruz.
To . . .

Drown his voice with drumming;
Pipe with the Inca conch, the Indian flute.
What red flowers spring from this blood-sprinkled root!

What name was that you said?

Santa Cruz.
Wait, Philip — wait;
They are so many and so full of hate.

Call to your monarch, Marquis — call again.

Something he meant is knocking at my brain —
Knocking for entrance. Marquis!

Santa Cruz.
Philip! King!

What must I do?

Santa Cruz.
Oh, fiends!

Ah, conquerors, sing!
Now we have triumphed.
We have torn the flag.
Dance in a ring, victorious spirits, dance;
Brought to a byword is the Spanish brag,
And ruined is the grand inheritance.
Mourn, wretched Philip, for your plans are checked;
Your colonies defenceless; your sweet faith
Mocked by the heretics; your ships are wrecked;
The strength of Spain has dwindled to a wraith.
Aha! you beaten King, you blinded fool!
Scream, for the empire tumbles from your rule.

God will deliver me; you are but words
Called in the night-time by malignant birds
But who are you?

[The figure of De Leyva enters.]

Voice of De Leyva.
I am De Leyva, come
Out of the sea, my everlasting home,
To whisper comfort to my ruined friend.
Dear, I am dead, but friendship cannot end;
Love does not die, and I am with you here.
Often in sorrow you will feel me near,
Feel me, but never speak, nor hear me speak.
Philip, whatever bitter Fate may wreak
On Spain and you, remember I am here,
The dead are bound to those they held most dear.

Dreams of the night. I dreamed De Leyva came.

Awake to hear the story of your shame.

[They cry. A gun is shot off. Bells.]

[Rousing.] I dreamed I was defeated like those men
Whom I defeated; I have felt their woe.
What is this noise? A message?
Enter then.

A prisoner comes with news of victory.

Victory comes! We win!

The fleet has won!

Thanks be to God on high.

His will be done.

Lord, help me use this victory for Thy praise.
Lord, Thou hast burst this night of many days
With glorious morning and my heart is full.
God, my God, Thy ways are wonderful!
Bring me the prisoner.

He brought this letter.

[An Englishman is brought in.]

You are an Englishman?

Yes, your Majesty.

This letter says that you can tell me how things have fared. Tell me your story.

I was at sea, my lord, fishing, some fifteen miles south-west from Falmouth. We were not expecting the Spanish fleet; our cruisers had said it was not coming. It was hazy summer weather and early morning. We could hear that we were among a big fleet, and when the haze lifted your ships were all round us, so we were taken aboard an admiral's ship. A dark man the admiral was, with a very quick way; he was not the chief admiral, but an Admiral Recalde, with the rearguard.

Where was the English fleet at that time?
Was it expecting us?

No, your honour. It was windbound in Plymouth, unprepared, as I told your admiral. Then I was taken down below.

Did our fleet enter Plymouth, then?

No, my lord, and I could not think why, for the wind held and they had only to sail straight in. The day passed.

The next day there was firing, and I thought "The English have got out of the trap at least," but the firing died down, and I concluded the English were beaten.


I thought the ships would put ashore then to take what they had won, but they kept at sea some days, though there was firing every day, sometimes very heavy. They said they were burning all the English towns as they passed, and then going to France to fetch an army; and after some nights I was brought ashore in Calais to come to your Majesty.

What did you see in Calais?

It was dark night, my lord, when they sent me in. I saw the road full of shipping, lit up like a town.

What was the feeling among you English prisoners? That the Spaniards had prospered?

Yes, my lord. You had reached your army, which was all your intent. You had only to take it across the Channel; the wind was fair for that.

So then you started for Spain. You know no more of what happened?

No, my lord, except that looking back from a hilltop, I saw a great glare over Calais.

Something was burning there?

It was the bonfires, my lord, to give them light; they were embarking the army. Then in France later on we heard that Drake had been sunk off Calais with fifteen ships. A man said he had seen it. That is all I know, my lord.

What you say will be proved. You will be returned to England. Treat this man well.

[Exit Prisoner.

Father, what blessed news!

We have not failed;
But then he hardly knew. The letter here
Shows that our navy partly has prevailed.

The news has spread.

Cries Without.
Long live King Philip! Cheer!

Cheer our great King! Long live our noble King.
Beat Santiago, drummers.

Hark! they sing.
The court is dark with people, but more come.

Long live King Philip!

A Great Voice.
Silence for the drum!
And when the drum beats, we will lift our thanks
Till his heart triumphs.
Silence in the ranks!
Eyes front! people, listen! Our attempt
Has triumphed more than our desires dreamt.
England is ours. Give thanks. Sound trumpets. Sing!

Philip, Philip the King! God save the King!
Philip the conqueror! Philip!

[A strange cry.]

Oh, look! look! . . .
Just as they cheered, the palace banners shook,
They took it for a sign.
The guards are there,
Look, and the monks are forming in the square
Bringing the blessed relics. Oh, my dear!
I am so happy. Listen how they cheer.
Father, they're cheering because Spain has won.
All you have hoped and striven for is done.
I hardly dare believe it.

Long live Spain.

O, there are horsemen, I must look again!

There is the Princess at the window. See?
God save you, little lady. Which is she?
There. Is the King there? No. He must be. Yes.
God save your Grace. He's there with the Princess.

Stand farther back; they saw you.

Oh, not now!
They called 'God save me,' father; let me bow.

Bow, then, my dear.

God save your pretty face.

Father, do come, they want you.

Bless your Grace.
God save the King — King Philip.

Father dear,

They're calling for you; stand beside me here.

Not yet. It is not time.

Philip the King!

Oh, father, come! It is a thrilling thing
To know they won, and hear these shouts of praise.

God save the King! God send him many days!
Philip the King, the conqueror of the sea!
St. James for Spain, King Philip, victory!
King Philip! Santiago!


Kings must not yield them at too cheap a rate.

Philip the King! The English are destroyed!
God save him! Victory! We are overjoyed!
Let the bells ring! King Philip! Philip! King!
Ring the Cathedral bells — ay, let them ring!
St. James for Spain! King Philip! Clear the guns! [Guns shot off.]
King Philip, fire — fire all at once!
King Philip, fire! King Philip, fire! St. James!
Thank God, the King of kings, the Name of names!
Fire, King Philip! Santiago, fire!
Give thanks to God who gives us our desire!
Philip, God save and bless him!

Philip [going to window].
I will speak.

Fire! He's there! King Philip!

Man is weak.

He's there!

Oh, father, look!

Stand at my side.

God bless and guard our blessed country's guide!
King Philip, fire! The King!

[The bells begin.]


Oh, bells of joy!

And now the monks are singing.

The Monks.
Let us give thanks unto the Lord of lords,
Who saves His faithful from the Egyptian swords.

Amen. God save the King.

The Monks.
He made the Red Sea waters to divide,
And led our Israel through with Him for guide.

Amen. God save the King! Philip the King!

O God, I thank Thee for this marvellous thing.

The Monks.
He whelmed King Pharaoh's army in the sea,
And of His mercy gave us victory.

The famous kings are blown like chaff
Before Thy fiery car.
Thou smit'st th' ungodly with Thy staff . . .
Philip the King! God save our prudent King!

My subjects, whom God gave me for His ends . . .

Whatever pain you bore, this makes amends.

Speak to your loving hearts, your Majesty.

I do His will; to God the glory be.

The Monks.
Praise Him, O sun and moon, morning and evening star!
The kings who mocked His word are broken in the war.
Praise Him with heart and soul! Praise Him with voice and lute!

The King! God save the King! Silence! He speaks. Salute!

The Monks.
In the dark night, ere dawn, we will arise and sing
Glory to God on high, the praises of our King.

The King is going to speak. He makes a sign.
God bless your noble Grace and all your line!
God bless you, Sir, for all your thought for us!
The conquering King, Philip victorious!
Philip the great and good! Hush! Silence! Peace!
Philip! Attention! Bid the ringers cease.
The King is going to speak; he raised his hand.

Dear, to be loved as you are is most grand.
Speak to them, father; thank them for their love.

The Monks.
I will exalt the Name of God above.

The bells are hushed. Be quiet! Silence all!

I thought I heard, far off, a funeral call;
As in your dream, a melancholy cry.

It was the fifes.

No; listen!

That sound?


It was the crowd outside. Now they are still.

No; it was singing coming up the hill —
Sad singing, too.

I did not hear it.


The bells have left a trembling in the air.

No; it was voices. I will speak one word
To these below. There is the noise I heard.

[Recalde's men are heard singing.]

Recalde's Men.
Out of the deep, out of the deep, we come,
Preserved from death at sea to die at home.
Mercy of God alone preserved us thus;
In the waste sea Death laid his hand on us.

The Black Monks in a penitential psalm.

Philip the King!

I'll wait.

Oh, speak!

Be calm!
I cannot cross God's word with words of mine.

Quiet, you singers!

They are men in line.

[Recalde's men are heard singing.]

Recalde's Men.
We called the world too small with boastful lips;
Now we are ghosts crawled from the bones of ships.
We were most glorious at our setting sail;
Now our knees knock, our broken spirits fail.
Our banner is abased and all our pride:
A tale of ships that sank and men who died.

Listen! Who are they?

What is it they sing?

The King is speaking. Silence for the King!
Let the King speak; be still. You ragged crew,
Have you no manners? Silence! Who are you?

Recalde's Men.
We are the beaten men, the men accursed,
Whose bitter glory 'tis t' have borne the worst.

They are not monks.

Nor beggars.

Now they stand.

Yon navy's sweepings driven back to land.
Go to the hens and tunnies; beat them down
Back to the sea you ran from; back and drown.

Recalde's Men.
Pity our shame, you untried heroes here.
Defeat's not victory, but 'tis bought as dear.

They are sailors from the fleet.

They come with news.
They are ragged to the skin, they have no shoes.

The crowd is still.

Why do they come like this?

Listen; their Captain tells them what it is.

Recalde's Men.
Darken the bedrooms for us, people all,
And let us turn our faces to the wall,
And let the darkness and the silence make
A quiet time in which our hearts may break.

[A murmur runs through the Court.]

Father, what is it?

Child, the Act of One
Who chastens earthly kings, whose Will be done.

It means that we are beaten?

Who can tell?


Dear child, even defeat is well.

I thought that we were happy.

Watch the square.
Now tell me calmly what is passing there.

The Captain comes, the crowd is making way.

Who is it? Can you see?

His hair is grey.
He walks bareheaded, slowly, and the crowd
Shrink as though Death were passing in his shroud.

Worse news has come. Who is the man?

His face . . .
I seem to know him, but the air is strange.
He puts the touch of Death upon the place.
Nothing but Death could fashion such a change.
He carries something. Now the people kneel.
We are defeated, Father.

What I feel
I cover. Go within. Misfortune stuns
None but the tender.

[Exit Princess.

Give us back our sons.
Philip, give back our sons, our lovely sons.

The Palace Guard.
Halt! Who comes there?

A Voice.
Spain and the Empire.

The Guard.
Spain and the Empire.

They are drowned. Alas!
Philip, give back our sons, our lovely sons.

[Enter Messenger, carrying an Admiral's chain.]

What brings you to me, Captain?

This gold chain . . .
Bears the twelve badges of the strength of Spain
Once linked in glory, Philip, but now loosed.

[Detaching link from link.]

Castilla, Leon, Aragon, and these,
Palestine, Portugal, the Sicilies,
Navarre, Granada, the Valencian State,
The Indies, East and West, the Archducate,
The Western Mainland in the Ocean Sea.
Those who upheld their strength have ceased to be.
I, who am dying, King, have seen their graves.
Philip, your Navy is beneath the waves.

He who in bounty gives in wisdom takes.

O King, forgive me, for my spirit breaks;
1 saw those beaches where the Grange descends
White with unburied corpses of stripped friends.

I grieve that Spain's disaster brings such loss.

From Pentland to the Groyne the tempests toss
Unshriven Spaniards driving with the tide.
They were my lovely friends and they have died,
Far from wind-broken Biscay, far from home,
With no anointing chrism but the foam.

The dead will rise from unsuspected slime;
God's chosen will be gathered in God's time.

King, they died helpless; our unwieldy fleet
Made such a target to the English guns
That we were riddled through like sifted wheat.
We never came to grappling with them once.
They raked us from a distance, and then ran.
Each village throughout Spain has lost a man;
The widows in the seaports fill the streets.

Uncertain chance decides the fate of fleets.

Now the North Sea is haunted for all time
By miserable souls whose dying words
Cursed the too proud adventure as a crime.
Our broken galleons house the gannet-birds.
The Irish burn our Captain's bones for lime.
O misery that the might of England wrought!

Christ is the only remedy for thought
When the mind sickens. We are pieces played,
Not moving as we will, but as we are made;
Beaten and spurred at times like stubborn steeds,
That we may go God's way. Your spirit bleeds,
Having been proved in trouble past her strength.
Give me the roll in all its ghastly length.
Which of my friends survive, if any live?

Some have survived, but all are fugitive.
Your Admiral in command is living still;
Michael Oquendo too, though he is ill,
Dying of broken heart and bitter shame.
Valdes is prisoner, Manrique the same.

God willed the matter; they are not to blame.
Thank God that they are living. Name the rest.

They are all dead . . . with him you loved the best.

I dreamed De Leyva died, so it is true?

Drowned on the Irish coast with all his crew.
After enduring dying many days
The sea has given him quiet. Many ways
Lead men to death, and he a hard one trod,
Bearing much misery, like a knight of God.

Amen. Go on.

Hugh de Moncada died,
Shot in his burning ship by Calais side,
Cheering his men to save her. Pimentel
Sank in a galleon shambled like a hell
Rather than yield, and in a whirl of flames
Pedro Mendoza, Captain of St. James,
Stood with Don Philip thrusting boarders back
Till their Toledan armour was burnt black,
And both their helms ran blood. And there they fell,
Shot down to bleed to death. They perished well,
Happy to die in battle for their King
Before defeat had fallen on their friends;
Happier than most, for where the merrows sing
Paredes and his brother met their ends,
And Don Alarcon, cast alive ashore,
Was killed and stripped and hanged upon a tree.
And young Mendoza, whom the flagship bore,
Died of starvation and of misery.
But hundreds perished, King; why mention these?
Battle and hunger, heart-break, and the seas
Have overwhelmed the chivalry of Spain.

Misfortune, after effort, brings no stain.
Perhaps I underjudged the English fleet.
How was it that the Spaniards met defeat?
What evil fortune brought about our fall?

Their sailors and their cannon did it all.

Yet when the fleet reached Calais all went well.

Our woes began there.

Tell me what befell.

We were to ship the troops in Calais Road;
They lay encamped, prepared to go aboard.
To windward still the English fleet abode —
Still as in port when peace has been restored.

The wind and sea were fair,
We lay at anchor there;
The stars burned in the air,
The men were sleeping,
When in the midnight dark
Our watchman saw a spark
Suddenly light a bark
With long flames leaping.

Then, as they stood amazed,
Others and others blazed;
Then terror set them crazed,
They ran down screaming:
"Fire-ships are coming! Wake
Cast loose, for Jesus' sake!
Eight fire-ships come from Drake —
Look at their gleaming!"

Roused in the dark from bed,
We saw the fire show red,
And instant panic spread
Through troops and sailors;
They swarmed on deck unclad,
They did what terror bade,
King, they were like the mad
Escaped from jailers.

Some prayed for mercy, some
Rang bells or beat the drum,
As though despair had come
At hell's contriving;
Captains with terror pale
Screamed through the dark their hail,
"Cut cable, loose the sail,
And set all driving!"

Heading all ways at once,
Grinding each other's guns,
Our blundering galleons
Athwart-hawse galleys,
Timbers and plankings cleft,
And half our tackling reft,
Your grand Armada left
The roads of Calais.

Weary and overwrought
We strove to make all taut;
But when the morning brought
The dawn to light us,
Drake, with the weather gage,
Made signal to engage,
And, like a pard in rage,
Bore down to fight us.

Nobly the English line
Trampled the bubbled brine;
We heard the gun-trucks whine
To the taut laniard.
Onwards we saw them forge,
White billowing at the gorge.
"On, on!" they cried, "St. George!
Down with the Spaniard!"

From their van squadron broke
A withering battle-stroke,
Tearing our planked oak
By straiks asunder,
Blasting the wood like rot
With such a hail of shot,
So constant and so hot
It beat us under.

The English would not close;
They fought us as they chose,
Dealing us deadly blows
For seven hours.
Lords of our chiefest rank
The bitter billow drank,
For there the English sank
Three ships of ours.

* * * * *

Then the wind forced us northward from the fight;
We could not ship the army nor return;
We held the sea in trouble through the night,
Watching the English signals blink and burn.
The English in a dim cloud kept astern;
All night they signalled, while our shattered ships
Huddled like beasts beneath the drovers' whips.

* * * * *

At dawn the same wind held; we could not strive.
The English drove us north as herdsmen drive.

* * * * *

Under our tattered flags,
With rigging cut to rags,
Our ships like stricken stags
Were heaped and hounded.
Caught by the unknown tide,
With neither chart nor guide,
We fouled the Holland side,
Where four more grounded.

Our water-casks were burst,
The horses died of thirst,
The wounded raved and curst,
Uncared, untended.
All night we heard the crying
Of lonely shipmates dying;
We had to leave them lying.
So the fight ended.

God gives His victory as He wills. But this
Was not complete destruction. What thing worse
Came to destroy you?

An avenging curse,
Due for old sins, destroyed us.

Tell the tale.

King, when morning dawned it blew a gale,
But still the English followed, and we fled
Till breakers made the dirty waters pale.
We saw the Zealand sandbanks right ahead,
Blind in a whirling spray that gave us dread;
For we were blown there, and the water shoaled.
The crying of the leadsmen at the lead,
Calling the soundings, were our death-bells tolled.

We drifted down to death upon the sands —
The English drew away to watch us drown;
We saw the bitter breakers with grey hands
Tear the dead body of the sandbank brown.
We could do nothing, so we drifted down
Singing the psalms for death — we who had been
Lords of the sea and knights of great renown,
Doomed to be strangled by a death unclean.

So there the ships were wrecked?

Time had not struck.
O King, we learned how blessed mercy saves:
Even as our forefoot grounded on the muck,
Tripping us up to drown us in the waves,
A sudden windshift snatched us from our graves
And drove us north; and now another woe,
Tempest unending, beat our ships to staves —
A never-dying gale with frost and snow.

Now our hearts failed, for food and water failed;
The men fell sick by troops, the wounded died.
They washed about the wet decks as we sailed
For want of strength to lift them overside.
Desolate seas we sailed, so grim, so wide,
That ship by ship our comrades disappeared.
With neither sun nor star to be a guide,
Like spirits of the wretched dead we steered.

Till, having beaten through the Pentland Pass,
We saw the Irish surf, with mists of spray
Blowing far inland, blasting trees and grass,
And gave God thanks, for we espied a bay
Safe, with bright water running down the clay —
A running brook where we could drink and drink.
But drawing near, our ships were cast away,
Bilged on the rocks; we saw our comrades sink . . .

Or worse: for those the breakers cast ashore
The Irish killed and stripped; their bodies white
Lay naked to the wolves — yea, sixty score —
All down the windy beach, a piteous sight.
The savage Irish watched by bonfire light
Lest more should come ashore; we heard them there
Screaming the bloody news of their delight.
Then we abandoned hope and new despair.

And now the fleet is sunken in the sea,
And all the seamen, all the might of Spain,
Are dead, O King, and out of misery,
Never to drag at frozen ropes again —
Never to know defeat, nor feel the pain
Of watching dear companions sink and die.
Death's everlasting armistice to the brain
Gives their poor griefs quietus; let them lie.

I, like a ghost returning from the grave,
Come from a stricken ship to tell the news
Of Spanish honour which we could not save,
Nor win again, nor even die to lose;
And since God's hidden wisdom loves to bruise
Those whom He loves, we, trembling in despair,
Will watch our griefs to see God's finger there,
And make His will our solace and excuse.

Defeat is bitter and the truth is hard —
Spain is defeated, England has prevailed;
This is the banner which I could not guard,
And this the consecrated sword which failed.
Do with your dying Captain as you will.

[He lays down sword and banner.]

I, from my heart, thank God, from whose great hand
I am so helped with power, I can still
Set out another fleet against that land.
Nor do I think it ill
If all the running water takes its course
While there are unspent fountains at the source.

He sendeth out His word and melteth them.
Take back your standard, Captain. As you go,
Bid the bells toll and let the clergy come.
Then in the city by the strike of drum
Proclaim a general fast. In bitter days
The soul finds God, God us.

[Exit Captain.

Philip [alone].
De Leyva, friend,
Whom I shall never see, never again,
This misery that I feel is over Spain.
O God, beloved God, in pity send
That blessed rose among the thorns — an end:
Give a bruised spirit peace.

[He kneels. A muffled march of the drums.]


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