The Death of Nelson

Melody - John Braham

S. J. Arnold

O'er Nelson's Tomb,
With silent grief oppress'd,
Britannia mourns her Hero,
Now at rest:
But those bright laurels
Ne'er shall fade with years,
Whose leaves are water'd
By a Nation's tears.

'Twas in Trafalgar's bay
We saw the Frenchman lay,
Each heart was bounding then.
We scorned the foreign yoke,
For our Ships were British Oak,
And hearts of oak our men!
Our Nelson mark'd them on the wave,
Three cheers our gallant Seamen gave,
Nor thought of home or beauty.
Along the line this signal ran,
England expects that ev'ry man
This day will do his duty!
  And now the cannons roar
Along th'affrighted shore,
Our Nelson led the way,
His Ship the Vict'ry nam'd!
Long be that Vict'ry famed,
For Vict'ry crowned the day!
But dearly was that conquest bought,
Too well the gallant Hero fought,
For England, home and beauty.
He cried as 'midst the fire he ran,
"England shall find that ev'ry man
This day will do his duty!"

At last the fatal wound,
Which spread dismay around,
The Hero's breast received;
"Heav'n fights on our side,
The day's our own," he cried!
"Now long enough I've lived!
In honour's cause my life was past,
In honour's cause I fell at last,
For England, home and beauty."
Thus ending life as he began,
England confessed that ev'ry man,
That day had done his duty!

This song was a great exhibition piece for Victorian tenors. 'The Death of Nelson' came originally from an opera by John Braham, The Americans which was first produced in 1811. So overcome was Lady Hamilton, who was in a private box for the evening, that she had to be taken out of the performance in a fit of hysterics. Critics have suggested that her reaction was more to the musical setting than to the words. It is really rather unimpressive - a collection of half-digested musical cliches that say more about the composer's patriotism than his musical capabilities. When all is said, however, 'The Death of Nelson' is a fine vehicle for a dramatic tenor.
The composer, John Braham (1774-1856) was well known as a tenor being reckoned by at least one writer as 'the greatest English tenor ever known'. Of Jewish origin (his real name was Abraham) he had a keen sense of business as well as of music. He sang in opera all over Europe winning acclaim from, amongst others, Napoleon. Presumably he never sang this song to the Emperor

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