Magick7's Moonlight Stories Index

 

 

 

 

Anglo-Saxon Tyranny

 

Lord Dunsany

 

 

 

``We need a sea,'' says Big-Admiral von Tirpitz, ``freed of Anglo-Saxon tyranny.'' Unfortunately neither the British Admiralty nor the American Navy permit us to know how much of the Anglo-Saxon tyranny is done by American destroyers and how much by British ships and even trawler. It would interest both countries to know, if it could be known. But the Big-Admiral is unjust to France, for the French navy exerts a tyranny at sea that can by no means be overlooked, although naturally from her position in front of the mouth of the Elbe England practises the culminating insupportable tyranny of keeping the High Seas Fleet in the Kiel Canal.

It is not I, but the Big-Admiral, who chose the word tyranny as descriptive of the activities of the Anglo-Saxon navies. He was making a speech at Dusseldorf on May 25th and was reported in the Dusseldorfer Nachrichten on May 27th.

Naturally it does not seem like tyranny to us, even the contrary; but for an admiral, ein Grosse-Admiral, lately commanding a High Seas Fleet, it must have been more galling than we perhaps can credit to be confined in a canal. There was he, who should have been breasting the blue, or at any rate doing something salty and nautical, far out in the storms of that sea that the Germans call an Ocean, with the hurricane raging angrily in his whiskers and now and then wafting tufts of them aloft to white the halyards; there was he constrained to a command the duties of which however nobly he did them could be equally well carried out by any respectable bargee. He hoped for a piracy of which the Lusitania was merely a beginning; he looked for the bombardment of innumerable towns; he pictured slaughter in many a hamlet of fishermen; he planned more than all those things of which U-boat commanders are guilty; he saw himself a murderous old man, terrible to seafarers, and a scourge of the coasts, and fancied himself chronicled in after years by such as told dark tales of Captain Kidd or the awful buccaneers; but he followed in the end no more desperate courses than to sit and watch his ships on a wharf near Kiel like one of Jacob's night watchmen.

No wonder that what appears to us no more than the necessary protection of women and children in seacoast towns from murder should be to him an intolerable tyranny. No wonder that the guarding of travellers of the allied countries at sea, and even those of the neutrals, should be a most galling thing to the Big-Admiral's thwarted ambition, looking at it from the point of view of one who to white-whiskered age has retained the schoolboy's natural love of the black and yellow flag. A pirate, he would say, has as much right to live as wasps or tigers. The Anglo-Saxon navies, he might argue, have a certain code of rules for use at sea; they let women get first into the boats, for instance, when ships are sinking, and they rescue drowning mariners when they can: no actual harm in all this, he would feel, though it would weaken you, as Hindenburg said of poetry; but if all these little rules are tyrannously enforced on those who may think them silly, what is to become of the pirate? Where, if people like Beattie and Sims had always had their way, would be those rollicking tales of the jolly Spanish Main, and men walking the plank into the big blue sea, and long, low, rakish craft putting in to Indian harbours with a cargo of men and women all hung from the yard-arm? A melancholy has come over the spirit of Big-Admiral von Tirpitz in the years he has spent in the marshes between the Elbe and Kiel, and in that melancholy he sees romance crushed; he sees no more pearl earrings and little gold rings in the hold, he sees British battleships spoiling the Spanish Main, and hateful American cruisers in the old Sargasso Sea; he sees himself, alas, the last of all the pirates.

Let him take comfort. There were always pirates. And in spite of the tyranny of England and America, and of France, which the poor old man perplexed with his troubles forgot, there will be pirates still. Not many perhaps, but enough U-boats will always be able to slip through that tyrannous blockade to spread indiscriminate slaughter amongst the travellers of any nation, enough to hand on the old traditions of murder at sea. And one day Captain Kidd, with such a bow as they used to make in ports of the Spanish Main, will take off his ancient hat, sweeping it low in Hell, and be proud to clasp the hand of the Lord of the Kiel Canal.