Lines, on the lamented death of Captain Dobree, R N

Lines, on the lamented death of Captain Dobree, R N

'Who lost his life in a humane attempt to save the lives of shipwrecked seamen on the coast of this island.' From L'Independance, March 14th, 1818; followed by excerpts from the sermon given at the Castel church on 15th March 1818 by Nicolas' young contemporary, the Reverend William Guille. The watercolour of the church is dated 1804 and is signed JM (for Dr John MacCulloch).

Why chills my soul thus? what means this sudden start?
Why this unusual panting of the heart?
Is it the natural impulse of the mind?
Or the forerunner of mishap to mankind?
By heaven this inward tumult makes me fear
Some dire misfortune on our Isle draws near!

Hear how the storm increases—see each flash
Of lightning in succession pass along;
See too the foaming billows how they dash
On our coast—frightful to old and young!

Hark! heard you not the signal of distress?
'Twas yonder ship: she strikes!—the crew express
By signal their misfortune to the shore;
While from the brave assistance they implore.

O noble youth, descended from a race
Of heroes, now steps forward, while his face
Bespeaks the language of a heart that swells
With sympathetic feeling, and where dwells
All that is truly noble—all that can
Make the brave gentle, or adorn the man!
'Tis DOBRÉE calls! 'tis generous DOBRÉE dares
Appeal around for Sarnian volunteers!
To them humanity ne'er pleads in vain—
They hear the call and join the noble swain.
Now they embark—tossed by each foaming wave,
While each spectator trembles for the brave.
Thank heaven they reach the destin'd spot! and mark
They gain their end; they have three in the bark:
But see! a wave now strikes them on the side!
The hawser breaks! they're dragged along the tide!
There's danger! now they shriek along the shore—
Oh God she fills! and DOBRÉE is no more!
No more! oh yes—while valour is caress'd,
Dobrée must live in every Sarnian's breast!

See how the crowd, in pity gaze around!
They seek the youth, but he's not to be found.
He who a few short moments saw so brave,
Now sleeps in death, in an untimely grave!
The tears that trickle down each manly cheek
For DOBRÉE's loss, but too too well bespeak
How truly valu'd! while each throbbing sigh,
Proclaims that he shall never never die.


Sermon preached March 15th, 1818, at the Castel Church, Guernsey

How many striking examples do we see every day of our need always to be prepared to meet the Son of God? I could give you many now, if there were not one particular one occupying all our thoughts and attention. A sad and moving example, my brothers, of the uncertainty of human life, which happened only a few days ago. I will not simply describe to you how sad it is to see several of our brothers die violently and young—to see them set off in the flower of youth and health, and a moment later only to see them with the horror that the revolting sight of death inspires, as bodies, appallingly disfigured by the marks of the King of Terror. I will not simply describe to you how sad it is to see human beings become victims of their own bravery and compassion towards their fellow man, and then to be themselves swallowed up in the abyss from which they had intended so generously to save others! I will not simply describe to you how sad it is when the opposite to what you expect happens, when you expect to welcome joyfully home the sailors and their rescuers, to hear the dreadful news that they have perished in the waves! I will not simply describe to you how sad it is to have to tell a parent they have lost a child, who was the joy of their heart, from whom they expected support and comfort in their old age—to have to tell a child, now an orphan, about the loss of their father, a father given to them by Providence to look after them and provide them with their daily bread,—or to tell a poor unfortunate widow of the sudden and violent breaking of life's most tender bonds, the loss of her husband (her only hope and that of her family), who has become the pitiful plaything of the wind and waves, who was used to rest his head upon her bosom! I will not simply describe to you how much more awful is it to be suddenly transported to the other world, without any warning that death is imminent, to be whisked away from this world to appear before the judgment of God and to have to account to Him for our life. All this you have been shown, more shockingly and immediately than I could ever have made it for you. You have heard it with your own ears, with your own eyes have you seen it, with your own hearts have you felt it.

[Original.] Combien d'exemples frappans ne voyons-nous pas journellement du besoin où nous sommes de nous tenir toujours prêts pour rencontre le Fils de l'Homme? Je pourrois auhourd'hui vous en présenter un grand nombre, si ce n'étoit qu'il y en a un en particulier, qui arrête irresistiblement nos regards et qui occupe toute notre attention. Un exemple triste et imposant, mes frères, de l'incertitude de la vie humaine, nous a été presenté, il n'y a que quelques jours. Je ne m'arretêrai pas à vous representer combien il est triste de voir plusieurs de nos frères périr d'une mort violente et prematurée—de les voir partir dans la fleur de l'âge et dans la vigueur de la santé, et un instant après, de ne les contempler qu'avec l'horreur qu'inspire l'aspect revoltant de la mort, comme des cadavres défigurés par les traits effroyables du roi des épouvantemens. Je ne m'arretêrai pas à vous representer combien il est triste de voir des mortels infortunés devenir les victimes de leur courage et de leur compassion envers leurs frères, et etre eux-mêmes engloutis dans cet abyme duquel ils se proposoient généreusement sauver les autres! Je ne m'arretêrai pas à vous representer combien le revers est triste, lorsqu'on s'attend à recevoir avec joie des marins naufragés et leurs libérateurs, d'entendre la nouvelle affreuse qu'ils avoient péri dans les flots! Je ne m'arretêrai pas à vous representer combien il est triste de communiquer à un parent la perte d'un enfant, qui faisoit la joie de son coeur, duquel il attendoit son support et sa consolation dans le declin de ses ans—de communiquer à un enfant, rendu orphelin, la perte d'un père, duquel il dépondoit, comme de l'instrument établi par la Providence, pour lui fournir son pain quotidien—ou à une veuve malheureuse, la dissolution subite et violente des liens les plus tendres de la vie et la perte d'un époux (son seul espoir et ainsi celui de sa famille,) devenu le jouet pitoyable des vents et des flots, d'accoutumé qu'il étoit de se reposer sur son sein! Je ne m'arretêrai pas à vous representer combien il est plus terrible encore d'être subitment transportés dans l'autre monde, sans en être averti par quelque avant-coureur de la mort; et d'être enlevés dans un instant de ce monde, pour comparaître devant le tribunal de Dieu et pour lui rendre compte de notre vie. Tout ceci vous a été representé d'une manière plus vive et plus frappante qu'il ne m'est possible de vous le dépeindre. Vos propres oreilles l'ont entendu, vos propres yeux l'ont vû, vos propres coeurs l'ont senti.


The watercolour, of which we have reproduced an old photograph, can be identified from the report of a visit to the Vale Church by the Société Guernesiaise, around 1928. 'Great interest was taken in two charming water-colour drawings made by Miss Christine Ozanne, from paintings of her great-great-uncle, Dr John McCulloch, brother of David McCulloch who was Government Secretary. These two water-colours are reproductions of those found in Elizabeth College, and show the churches of the Vale and St Sampson's in 1804. [Staff, Coysh notebook red Eliz. Coll., p. 95.]