It is helpful that we are careful about talking too much about our generation's wee "War" on Terror. Perspective is important. Look at what others endured, what they suffered, what many never came back from. Little spots of horror many people look over and don't even know it.
Do you know who Philip Freneau is? I didn't, though I wish I did earlier. Sure, as a passing paragraph, I have heard of prison ships, but not paused to let it soak in.
Via the NationalHumanitiesCenter;
The British Prison Ship as the first-person account of a six- week ordeal on British prison ships, on which an estimated 11,500 Americans died during the war. Although some facts in the poem conflict with ships’ records and Freneau’s own prose account, it is likely that Freneau was describing his own experiences as a young prisoner in his twenties.Having spent a fair bit of time on the water in calm and heat - one thing that comes to mind for me in what it must have been like in those ships ... the smell.
Presented here are the imprisonment sections of the first and least-known version, published only months after Freneau’s release in summer 1780.
The Prison Ship.
THE various horrors of these hulks to tell,Read it all .. and think that in time, hate between nations can fade - but the knowledge of the sacrifices of those who suffered to give us the comfort and freedom we have now should not.
These Prison Ships where pain and sorrow dwell;
Where death in tenfold vengeance holds his reign,
And injur’d ghosts, in reason’s ear, complain;
This be my talk - ungenerous Britons, you,
Conspire to murder those you can’t subdue;
Why else no art of cruelty untry’d,
Such heavy vengeance and such hellish pride?
Death has no charms - his empires barren lie,
A desert country and a clouded sky;
Death has no charms except in British eyes,
See how they court the bleeding sacrifice!
See how they pant to stain the world with gore,
And millions murdered, still would murder more;
This selfish race from all the world disjoin’d,
Our world was not granted, taken, given, or designed - it was earned, bought and paid for.
We should be thoughtful how cheaply we give away those things others paid so dearly for in order that we may enjoy them.
Hat tip MS.