The poem about the Speedy tragedy that appeared in the Kingston Gazette in 1811 is very unique and engaging. I am providing the full text here. This is directly from Appendix C of the book.
“Elegy” is a poem that appeared in the Kingston Gazette on Tuesday, June 18, 1811. The overarching title of the section is “Original Miscellany” and the column is called Reckoner. The first sentence of the introduction says “SIR—If you admit of poetry, you will please some of your admirers by inserting the following verses in your paper, commemorating a melancholy event, which filled the whole province with the most poignant sorrow.” Then it goes on to recount the well-known facts of the Speedy story, before breaking into verse. Reckoner is the column written by an anonymous scribe who often contributed to the Gazette. It is most likely that Reverend John Strachan was the author of Reckoner at this time. His good friend and mentor, Reverend John Stuart, had been known as the author of Reckoner for some time but was now close to death, so the younger man, who was running his grammar school in Cornwall, was most likely the writer of “Elegy.” This is a very emotional, heartfelt expression of the shock and grief of the community of Upper Canada at the loss of the Speedy in 1804. Today, we may roll our eyes at the sumptuous language and extreme emotion displayed in these lines, but what else is poetry for? In those days before modern media, writing poetry to express oneself was an expected pastime for members of society who had education and leisure time. In effect, a work like this was considered to be a public service for the benefit of the whole community.
ELEGY O! what avails distinction’s splendid crown! Blest years in view with smiling prospects fair, For swept away by fate’s terrific frown, We know them now as only things that were. Affliction’s poison’d arrows sternly flew Our trembling hearts that man must often mourn; At morn abroad with golden hopes we go, But cruel death arrests our wish’d return. Yet sweet’s the mem’ry of departed worth, That dims our eyes and melts our swelling hearts, Calls all the force of dear affection forth, And grateful sorrow to the soul imparts. With hasty steps the luckless ship they throng, Unhappy Gray reluctant looks behind; As York withdraws the sailors pensive song With tremor shakes determin’d Cochrane’s mind. Newcastle bleak appears in open view, The destin’d port at which they wish to land, They gladly bid the surly lake adieu, And jump in fond idea on the strand. Alas the redd'ning sun’s departing beam Sheds on the fading woods a chequer’d light, The hollow blasts a rising storm proclaim, And thick’ning clouds obscure the face of night. The adverse tempest backs the shaking sail. About the ship! the watchful boatswain cries, The feeble bark, by ancient service frail. Before the storm with dreadful crashing flies. The raging billows dash her op’ning sides, Pale fear appals the lately jovial train; His secret grief the friendly captain hides, And keenly tries the nautic art in vain. O cruel Lake! must thy insatiate jaws Demand with rig’rous haste an annual prey? Asunder burst kind nature’s dearest laws, And blast the finest gems we can airplay? The weeping mother mourns her darling son, The brightest hope of all her lovely race; Scarce had the youth his virtuous course begun, When barb'rous death obtrudes his loath’d embrace. The smiling housewife tells her children dear, As round her chair in boistrous mirth they fly, “Peace—peace my loves—papa will soon be here” Just as he heaves with life's departing sigh. Perhaps she trembles at the dreadful storm, And dark foreboding feels, yet knowns not why, She clasps her laughing babe, of beauteous form, While crystal drops land glistening in her eye. These terrors gone, & lock’d in gentle sleep, Her husband meets her with the smiles of love, She fondly tells his dangers make her weep, But present joys her hasty fears remove. Dream on thou fair! in sweet delusion blest, The mournful tale too soon shall meet thine ear, Why dissipate the pleasure-giving mill, Or draw with baneful haste the burning tear? These private griefs a gen’ral notice crave, In them the province mourns a public woe, Oh! to bedew with tears the sacred grave Where Cochrane mild & lib’ral Gray lie low. Struck as their worth in full meridian shone, Their baleful lot a weeping tomb denies, Where friendship’s hallow'd voice might oft bemoan The loss of pleasures never more to rise. Ah! little thought their aged, anxious fires, Who saw with joy their rip’ning minds expand, That early deaths would crush their living fires, When strewing blessings o'er a favor’d land. They cheer’d with joyful hope their setting days, That when deliver'd from this varying scene, The sons they left deserv’d the brightest praise, More worthy still than they themselves had been. Cold are the hands that loos’d the captive’s chain, And stills the heart that cherish’d honor bright. Lock’d is the tongue that sooth’d the ear of pain, And pale the illumin’d face that spread delight. But hark! A voice from yonder cloud proclaims, The hallowed friends of virtue never die, Wash’d pure, and cloth'd in bright seraphic flames, They join their kindred spirits in the sky. Life’s never short but lasting pleasure knows, If pious deeds its diff‘rent portions date, Th’ attending angel budding palms bestows, For holy triumphs in this mortal state. No more in sighs your happy friends lament, Go, rather seek with care the way they trod, On pious resignation rest content, That leads the ardent Christian straight to God.