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The Ocean Bards

British Poetry and the War at Sea, 1793-1815


H. George Hahn

Long before Patrick O’Brian’s and C. S. Forester’s novels of the great age of combat sail, a vast popular poetry abounded in Britain about the war at sea against the French Revolution and Napoleonic Empire. This book tells the story of how that poetry, with its sailors and admirals as folk heroes, became a driving force for morale, national identity and patriotism that would flourish until 1918. Focusing on the sea poetry of Britain during that twenty-two year war, 1793-1815, the book shows how heretofore overlooked invasion poems, sea battle ballads, victory odes, seascapes and sailors’ elegies are crucial to a full understanding of literary, naval, and social history during the era of Nelson and Romanticism. The author opens a straight channel to link literary and military readerships and lays an important plank in the bridge of war literature arching from Homer to Hemingway.
Contents: The Navy, the Nation and the Ocean Bards – Invasion Poems: Resistance and Recruitment – Ballads of the Lower Deck: Jack Tar’s Disciplines, Dangers and Delights – Battle Odes: Admirals and Victory – Seascapes and Elegies – Bibliography – Index