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CAPTAIN FRANCISCA

Off Maracaibo's wall
The squadron lay:
The dykes are carried all
With storm and shout!
Le Basque and Lolonnois
On land their crews deploy,
Through all that ruthless day
The Spaniards rout.


They sack the captured town
Ere set of sun;
Their blood-red pennons crown
The convent tower:
Then Du Plessis, the bold,
Cries: "Take my share of gold!
For me this pretty one,
This cloister flower!"


Dice, drink, and song, the while
They seek anew
The filibusters' isle,
Tortuga's port.
Swift was the craft that bore
Francisca from her shore;
Red-handed were its crew
And grim their sport.


Unbraided fell her hair,
A tropic cloud;
Seven days, with sob and prayer,
She mourned the dead;
Like rain her tears fell;
But Du Plessis right well
By saint and relic vowed
As on they sped.


Ere past the Mer du Nord
She smiled apace;
Her dark eyes evermore
Sought his alone.
Hot wooed the Chevalier;
His outlaw-priest was near:
Forsworn were home and race,
She was his own.


Now cruel Lolonnois
And fierce Le Basque
Unlade with wolfish joy
The cargazon;
Land all their ribald braves,
Captives and naked slaves,
With many a bale and cask,
By rapine won;


Armor and altar-plate
Brought over sea:
Pesos, a countless weight,
The horde divide—
To each an equal share,
Else blades are in the air!
Cries Du Plessis: "For me,
My ship, and bride!"


They sailed the Mer du Nord,
The Carib Sea,
Whose galleons fled before
The Frenchman's crew;
But, in one deadly fight,
A swivel aimed aright
Brought down young Du Plessis,
Shot through and through.


Wild heart of France, in pride
And ruin bred!
Against a heart he died,
As brave, as free.
Sternly she bade his men
First sink the prize, and then
Name one that in his stead
Their chief should be.


Each red-shirt laid his hand
Upon the Cross,
Swearing, at her command,
Vengeance to wreak;
To scour the blue sea there
And seek the Spaniards' lair,
From Gracias à Dios
To Porto Rique.


His corse the deep she gave,
Her life to hate;
Upon the land and wave
Brought sudden fear:
No bearded Capitan,
Since first their woes began
(The orphaned niñas prate),
Cost them so dear!


From Maracaibo's Bay
Anon put out
A frigate to waylay
This ranger dark.
It crossed the Mer du Nord,
And, off San Salvador,
Stayed, with defiance stout,
Francisca's barque.


They grappled stern and prow
Till the guns kissed!
Girt like her rovers, now
She bids them board:
The first her blade had shorn
Was her own brother born.
Blindly she smote, nor wist
Whose life-stream poured.


Yet, as he fell, one ball
His sure aim sped.
Her lips the battle-call
Essay in vain.
Then deathful stroke on stroke,
Curses and powder-smoke,
And blood like water shed
Above the twain!


No quarter give or take!
The decks are gore;
Fresh gaps the Spaniards make,
Charging anew:
"Death to the buccaneer!
No more our fleet shall fear,
That sails the Mer du Nord,
This corsair crew!"


—On thy lone strand was made,
San Salvador,
One grave where two were laid
For bane or boon!
The last of all their race,
To each an equal place.
Guards well that sombre shore
The still lagoon.