The Valiant: A ballad by Aubrey Beardsley

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The valiant was a noble bark
As ever ploughed the sea,
A noble crew she also had
As ever there might be.

When once at night upon the deep
The Valiant did sail,
Her captain saw a pirate ship
By the moonlight dim and pale.

Then up he called his goodly crew
And unto them thus spake:
“A musket and a cutlass sharp
Each must directly take.

“For yonder see a pirate ship,
Behold her flag so dark;
See now the gloomy vessel
Makes straight for this our bark.”

Scarce had the Captain spoke those words
Than a shot o’er his head did fly
From the deck of the pirate ship which now
To the Valiant was hard by.

Approaching near, twelve desperate men
On the Valiant’s deck did leap,
But some there were less brave and strong
Who to their ship did keep.

And then a moment afterwards
Did a bloody fray ensue,
And as the time sped onward
Fiercer the fray it grew.

“Come on!” the Valiant’s captain cried,
“Come on, my comrades brave,
And if we die we shall not sink
Inglorious ’neath the wave.”

When the morning came, and the men arose,
The pirates, where were they?
The ship had sunk and all its crew;
Dead ’neath the sea they lay.


First published in Past and Present, the magazine of the Brighton Grammar School, Vol. X, No.2, June 1885, this was the artist’s first published literary work.

He had written the poem the previous year, 1884, when he was twelve. The poem was inspired by The Lives of All the Notorious Pirates, a popular childrens’ book of the day, for a while a great favourite with Beardsley and his schoolmates George Scotson-Clark and Charles Cochran. Beardsley recited the poem on several occasions to considerable acclaim from both masters and boys in the school.