DATE: Monday, September 8, 1997             TAG: 9709080057
SECTION: LOCAL                   PAGE: B3   EDITION: FINAL 



                                            LENGTH:   75 lines


As far as is known, a 12-year-old Benjamin Franklin penned the first poem featuring the notorious freebooter Edward Teach, alias Blackbeard, whose silver-plated skull is currently the stellar attraction of a superbly mounted, pirate-oriented exhibition at the Mariners' Museum in Newport News.

The show, which got under way with the hoisting of the Jolly Roger on Aug. 30, will continue through Jan. 4, 1998.

Calling on episodes and characters from David Cordingly's ``Under the Black Flag: the Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates'' for its themes, the exhibition is so convincing you expect to hear a fiendishly resounding ``Yo heave ho and a bottle of rum'' resound through the galleries at any moment while you are examining the objects on display.

To return to Franklin's poem, every Tidewater history buff knows that Royal Navy Lt. Robert Maynard put a period to Blackbeard's nefarious career at Ocracoke Inlet, N.C., early in November 1718. Few realize, however, that the event was celebrated shortly thereafter by Franklin, then an apprentice of his brother, James, a printer, in Boston. Taking advantage of the sensational news that arrived there shortly after Blackbeard's death, young Ben wrote the following ballad, set it up in type, printed it as a broadside, and hawked it through the streets of Boston. Titled ``The Downfall of Piracy,'' Franklin's juvenile doggerel chronicled Blackbeard's last days as follows:

``Will you hear of a bloody Battle, lately fought upon the Seas?

``It will make your Ears to rattle, and our Admiration cease:

``Have you heard of Teach the Rover, and his Knavery on the Main;

``How of Gold he was a Lover, how he lov'd all ill-got Gain?

``When the Act of Grace apeared, Captain Teach, with all his Men,

``Unto Carolina steered, where they kindly us'd him then;

``There he marry'd to a lady, and gave her five hundred Pound,

``But to her he prov'd unsteady, for he soon march'd off the Ground.

``And returned, as I tell you, to his Robbery as before,

``Burning, sinking Ships of value, filling them with Purple Gore;

``When he was at Carolina, there the Governor did send

``To the Governor of Virginia, that he might assistance lend.

``Then the Man-of-War's Commander, two small Sloops he fitted out,

``Fifty Men he put on board, Sir, who resolved to stand it out:

``The Lieutenant he commanded both the Sloops, and you shall hear

``How, before he landed, he suppress'd them without fear.

``Valliant Maynard as he sailed, soon the Pirate did espy,

``With his Trumpet he then hailed, and to him they did reply:

``Captain Teach is our Commander, Maynard said, he is the Man

``Whom I am resolv'd to hang, Sir, let him do the best he can.

``Teach replyed unto Maynard, you no Quarter here shall see,

``But be hang'd on the Mainyard, you and all your Company;

``Maynard said, I none desire of such Knaves as thee and thine,

``None I'll give, Teach then replyed, My Boys, give me a Glass of Wine.

``He took the Glass, and drank Damnation, unto Maynard and his Crew:

``To himself and Generation, then the Glass away he threw:

``Brave Maynard was resolv'd to have him, tho' he'd Cannons nine or ten;

``Teach a broadside quickly gave him, killing sixteen valliant Men.

``Maynard boarded him, and to it they fell with Sword and pistol too;

``They had Courage, and did show it, killing of the Pirate's Crew.

``Teach and Maynard on the Quarter, fought it out most manfully,

``Maynard's Sword did cut him shorter, losing his head, he there did die.

``Every Sailor fought while he, Sir, power had to wield the Sword,

``Not a Coward could you see, Sir, fear was driven from aboard;

``Wounded Men on both Sides fell, Sir, 't was a doleful Sight to see,

``Nothing could their Courage quell, Sir, O, they fought courageously.

``When the bloody fight was over, we're informed by a Letter writ,

``Teach's Head was made a Cover, to the Jack Staff of the Ship:

``Thus they sailed to Virginia, and when they the Story told,

``How they kill'd the Pirates many, they'd Applause from young and old.''

Not bad for a 12-year-old who later, as the deputy postmaster for the American colonies, visited Norfolk in 1756, at which time he was made an honorary citizen of the borough. ILLUSTRATION: [Color Illustration]

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