Back of beyond

Up, and visited very betimes by Mr. Sheply, who is come to town upon business from Hinchingbrooke, where he left all well. I out and walked along with him as far as Fleet Streete, it being a fast day, the usual fast day for the plague, and few coaches to be had. Thanks be to God, the plague is, as I hear, encreased but two this week; but in the country in several places it rages mightily, and particularly in Colchester, where it hath long been, and is believed will quite depopulate the place.
To St. James’s, and there did our usual business with the Duke, all of us, among other things, discoursing about the places where to build ten great ships; the King and Council have resolved on none to be under third-rates; but it is impossible to do it, unless we have more money towards the doing it than yet we have in any view. But, however, the shew must be made to the world.
Thence to my Lord Bellasses to take my leave of him, he being going down to the North to look after the Militia there, for fear of an invasion.
Thence home and dined, and then to the office, where busy all day, and in the evening Sir W. Pen come to me, and we walked together, and talked of the late fight. I find him very plain, that the whole conduct of the late fight was ill, and that that of truth’s all, and he tells me that it is not he, but two-thirds of the commanders of the whole fleete have told him so: they all saying, that they durst not oppose it at the Council of War, for fear of being called cowards, though it was wholly against their judgement to fight that day with the disproportion of force, and then we not being able to use one gun of our lower tier, which was a greater disproportion than the other. Besides, we might very well have staid in the Downs without fighting, or any where else, till the Prince could have come up to them; or at least till the weather was fair, that we might have the benefit of our whole force in the ships that we had.
He says three things must [be] remedied, or else we shall be undone by this fleete.
1. That we must fight in a line, whereas we fight promiscuously, to our utter and demonstrable ruine; the Dutch fighting otherwise; and we, whenever we beat them.
2. We must not desert ships of our own in distress, as we did, for that makes a captain desperate, and he will fling away his ship, when there is no hopes left him of succour.
3. That ships, when they are a little shattered, must not take the liberty to come in of themselves, but refit themselves the best they can, and stay out — many of our ships coming in with very small disablenesses.
He told me that our very commanders, nay, our very flag-officers, do stand in need of exercising among themselves, and discoursing the business of commanding a fleete; he telling me that even one of our flag-men in the fleete did not know which tacke lost the wind, or which kept it, in the last engagement.
He says it was pure dismaying and fear that made them all run upon the Galloper, not having their wits about them; and that it was a miracle they were not all lost. He much inveighs upon my discoursing of Sir John Lawson’s saying heretofore, that sixty sail would do as much as one hundred; and says that he was a man of no counsel at all, but had got the confidence to say as the gallants did, and did propose to himself to make himself great by them, and saying as they did; but was no man of judgement in his business, but hath been out in the greatest points that have come before them. And then in the business of fore-castles, which he did oppose, all the world sees now the use of them for shelter of men.
He did talk very rationally to me, insomuch that I took more pleasure this night in hearing him discourse, than I ever did in my life in any thing that he said.
He gone I to the office again, and so after some business home to supper and to bed.

I sing about places where
it is impossible to find a cow

where in the desert
will a flag need the wind

or a miracle do as much
as one hundred ants
for the night life


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 4 July 1666.

2 Replies to “Back of beyond”

    1. Thanks, Dick. When I started this erasure poetry project, the results were often rather stilted or contrived, but ever since I made the decision to embrace strangeness, it’s been so much more fun!

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