Charles the Second and James the Second - from A.D. 1660 to A.D. 1689.

The object of Roman Catholic France was to keep Protestant England embroiled with Holland, and in the profligate Charles the Second, a willing instrument was found for carrying out her designs. War was declared, and the Duke of York took command of a fleet consisting of 109 men-of-war, and 28 fire-ships and ketches, with 21,000 seamen and soldiers on board. The Duke having blockaded the Texel, was compelled at length for want of provisions to return to England, and immediately the Dutch fleet sailed out under the command of Baron Opdam, Evertzen, and Cornelius Van Tromp. Directly afterwards nine merchant-ships of the English Hamburgh Company and a frigate of 34 guns fell into their hands. Opdam at all risks was ordered to attack the English, which he did, contrary to his own opinion, while his opponents had the advantage of the wind. At first the battle appeared tolerably equal, but the Earl of Sandwich, with the Blue Squadron, piercing into the centre of the Dutch fleet, divided it into two parts, and began that confusion which ended in its total defeat. The Duke of York, who was in the Royal Charles, a ship of 80 guns, was in close fight with Admiral Opdam in the Endracht, of 84 guns. The contest was severe, the Earl of Falmouth, Lord Muskerry, and Mr Boyle, second son of the Earl of Burlington, standing near the duke, were killed by a chain-shot. In the heat of the action the Dutch admiral’s ship blew up, and of five hundred of his gallant men, among whom were a great number of volunteers of the best families in Holland, only five were saved. A fire-ship falling foul of four Dutch ships, the whole were burnt. Shortly afterwards three others suffered the same fate. The whole Dutch fleet seemed now to be but one blaze, and the cries of so many miserable wretches who were perishing either by fire or water was more frightful than the noise of the cannon. The English gave their vanquished enemy all the assistance they could, while with continued fury they assailed the rest. The English lost but one ship, while they took eighteen of the largest Dutch ships, sunk or burnt about fourteen more, killed four thousand men, and took two thousand prisoners, who were brought into Colchester. Among them were sixteen captains. As the bards of old stirred up the warriors of their tribe to deeds of valour, so the naval poets of those days wrote songs to animate the spirits of British tars. The following lines are said to have been written on the eve of the battle by Lord Buckhurst, afterwards Earl of Dorset:—

                I.
To all you ladies now on land
    We men at sea indite,
But first would have you understand
    How hard it is to write;
The muses now, and Neptune too,
    We must implore to write to you.
With a fa, la, la, la, la.
 
                II.
For tho’ the muses should prove kind,
    And fill our empty brain;
Yet if rough Neptune rouse the wind
    To wave the azure main,
Our paper, pen and ink, and we
    Roll up and down our ships at sea.
With a fa, la, etcetera.
 
                III.
Then if we write not by each post,
    Think not we are unkind,
Nor yet conclude our ships are lost
    By Dutchmen or by wind,
Ours tears we’ll send a speedier way—
    The tide shall bring them twice a-day.
With a fa, la, etcetera.
 
                IV.
The king, with wonder and surprise,
    Will swear the seas grow bold,
Because the tides will higher rise
    Than e’er they used of old,
But let him know it is our tears
    Bring floods of grief to Whitehall stairs
With a fa, la, etcetera.
 
                V.
Let wind and weather do its worst,
    Be you to us but kind,
Let Dutchmen vapour, Spaniards curse,
    No sorrow shall we find;
’Tis then no matter how things go,
    Or who’s our friend, or who’s our foe.
With a fa, la, etcetera.
 
                VI.
And now we’ve told you all our loves,
    And likewise all our fears,
In hopes this declaration moves
    Some pity from your tears;
Let’s hear of no inconstancy,
    We have too much of that at sea.
With a fa, la, etcetera.