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well have been answered in so great an impossibility of prevailing: notwithstanding, out of the greatness of his mind, he could not be persuaded.
“The wind was light; the San Philip, a huge 'highcarged ship’ of 1500 tons, came up to winward of him, and, taking the wind out of his sails, ran aboard him. “After the Revenge was entangled with the San Philip,
, four others boarded her, two on her larboard and two on her starboard. The fight thus beginning at three o'clock in the afternoon continued very terrible all that evening. But the great San Philip, having received the lower tier of the Revenge, shifted herself with all diligence from her sides, utterly misliking her first entertainment. The Spanish ships were filled with soldiers, in some 200, besides the mariners, in some 500, in others 800. In ours there were none at all, besides the mariners, but the servants of the commander and some few voluntary gentlemen only. After many enterchanged vollies of great ordnance and small shot, the Spaniards deliberated to enter the Revenge, and made divers attempts, hoping to force her by the multitude of their armed soldiers and musketeers; but were still repulsed again and again, and at all times beaten back into their own ship or into the sea. In the beginning of the fight the George Noble, of London, having received some shot through her by the Armadas, fell under the lee of the Revenge, and asked Sir Richard what he would command him; but being one of the victuallers, and of small force, Sir Richard bade him save himself, and leave him to his fortune."
This last was a little touch of gallantry, which we should be glad to remember with the honour due to the brave English sailor who commanded the George Noble; but his name has passed away, and his action is an In Memoriam, on which time has effaced the writing. All that August night the fight continued, the stars rolling over in their sad majesty, but unseen through the sulphurous clouds which hung over the scene. Ship after ship of the Spaniards came on upon the Revenge, so that never less than two mighty galleons were at her side and aboard her, washing up like waves upon a rock, and falling foiled and shattered back amidst the roar of the artillery. Before morning fifteen several Armadas had assailed her, and all in vain; some had been sunk at her side, and the rest, “so ill approving of their entertainment, that at break of day they were far more willing to hearken to a composition, than hastily to make more assaults or entries.” “But as the day increased,” says Raleigh, "so our men decreased; and as the light grew more and more, by so much the more grew our discomfort, for none appeared in sight but enemies, save one small ship called the Pilgrim, commanded by Jacob Whiddon, who hovered all night to see the success, but in the morning, bearing with the Revenge, was hunted like a hare among many ravenous hounds—but escaped.”
"All the powder in the Revenge was now spent, all her pikes were broken, forty out of her hundred men killed, and a great number of the rest wounded. Sir Richard, though badly hurt early in the battle, never forsook the deck till an hour before midnight; and was then shot through the body while his wounds were being dressed, and again in the head. His surgeon was killed while attending on him; the masts were lying over the side, the rigging cut or broken, the upper works all shot in pieces, and the ship herself, unable to move, was settling slowly in the sea; the vast fleet of Spaniards lying round her in a ring, like dogs round a dying lion, and wary of approaching him in his last agony.
Sir Richard, seeing that it was past hope, having fought for fifteen hours, and having by estimation eight hundred shot of great artillery through him,' 'commanded the master gunner, whom he knew to be a most resolute man, to split and sink the ship, that thereby nothing might remain of glory or victory to the Spaniards; seeing in so many hours they were not able to take her, having had above fifteen hours' time, above ten thousand man, and fifty-three men-of-war to perform it withal; and persuaded the company, or as many as he could induce, to yield themselves unto God and to the mercy of none else; but as they had, like valiant resolute men, repulsed so many enemies, they should not now shorten the honour of their nation by prolonging their own lives for a few hours or a few days.'
“The gunner and a few others consented. But such δαιμονίη αρετή 1 was more than could be expected of ordinary seamen. They had dared do all which did become men, and they were not more than men. Two Spanish ships had gone down, above 1500 of their crew were killed, and the Spanish admiral could not induce any one of the rest of his fleet to board the Revenge again, 'doubting lest Sir Richard would have blown up himself and them, knowing his dangerous disposition.' Sir Richard lying disabled below, the captain, 'finding the Spaniards as ready to entertain a composition as they could be to offer it,' gained over the majority of the surviving company; and the remainder then drawing 1 Superhuman courage.
back from the master gunner, they all, without further consulting their dying commander, surrendered on honourable terms. If unequal to the English in action, the Spaniards were at least as courteous in victory. It is due to them to say, that the conditions were faithfully observed, and 'the ship being marvellous unsavourie,' Alonzo de Baçan, the Spanish admiral, sent his boat to bring Sir Richard on board his own vessel.
"Sir Richard, whose life was fast ebbing away, replied that he might do with his body what he list, for that he esteemed it not'; and as he was carried out of the ship he swooned, and reviving again, desired the company to pray for him.
"The admiral used him with all humanity, 'commending his valour and worthiness, being unto them a rare spectacle, and a resolution seldom approved.' The officers of the fleet, too, John Higgins tells us, crowded round to look at him; and a new fight had almost broken out between the Biscayans and the ‘Portugals,' each claiming the honour of having boarded the Revenge.
"In a few hours Sir Richard, feeling his end approaching, showed not any sign of faintness, but spake these words in Spanish, and said, 'Here die I, Richard Grenville, with a joyful and quiet mind, for that I have ended my life as a true soldier ought to do that hath fought for his country, queen, religion, and honour. Whereby my soul most joyfully departeth out of this body, and shall always leave behind it an everlasting fame of a valiant and true soldier that hath done his duty as he was bound to do.' When he had finished these or other such like words, he gave up the ghost with great and stout courage, and no man could perceive any sign of heaviness in him." 1
Such was the fight at Florez, in that August of 1591; without its equal in such of the annals of mankind as the thing which we call history has preserved to us; scarcely equalled by the most glorious fate which the imagination of Barrère could invent for the Vengeur. Nor did the matter end without a sequel awful as itself. Sea battles have been often followed by storms, and without a miracle; but with a miracle, as the Spaniards and the English alike believed, or without one, as we moderns would prefer believing, “there ensued on this action a tempest so terrible as was never seen or heard the like before." A feet of merchantmen joined the Armada immediately after the battle, forming in all 140 sail; and of these 140, only 32 ever saw Spanish harbour. The rest foundered, or were lost on the Azores. The men-of-war had been so shattered by shot as to be unable to carry sail; and the Revenge herself, disdaining to survive her commander, or as if to complete his own last baffled purpose, like Samson, buried herself and her two hundred prize crew under the rocks of St. Michael's.
And the stately Spanish men to their flagship bore him then,
1 The gallant antagonist of the Brunswick in the "Glorious First of June," 1794.