Elegy on the Deplorable Death of the Right Honourable, John Lord Belhaven, Who Was Lost at Sea, on the 10th of Nov. 1721 (1721)

Leith Harbour

Leith Harbour.

Print, c. 1700.

Copyright, City of Edinburgh Council – Edinburgh Libraries.

Courtesy of Capital Collections, www.capitalcollections.org.uk.

   John Hamilton, third Lord Belhaven and one of sixteen Scottish peers from 1715 until his death, was a commander at the battle of Sherrifmuir (on the government side) in 1715. In 1721, he was to take up the role of governor of Barbados, but the outgoing ship sank in the English channel, and Belhaven, along with most of the 240 people on board, was drowned (Anderson 1864, 269). Belhaven was the son of John Hamilton, second Lord Belhaven (1656-1708), famous for his widely-circulated speech against the 1707 Union of the Scottish and English parliaments. The older Belhaven was also a vocal proponent of the effort to establish a Scottish colonial foothold at Darien (Young 2004). The failure at Darien, facilitated in part by English hostility to the project, was seen as weakening Scotland's position and precipitating Union (Paul 2009, 2).

   Sophie Jorrand has written about the twofold significance of the sea in the context of the Darien venture, representing both an expanse of opportunity and a ruthless subduer of Scottish hopes (2017, 2). This symbolic relationship, it seems, may be extended to the topic of this elegy. 

   The concluding Annexa, which pits Scottish relations with the "Indians" of Barbados against the "Yoke" of the English (42-43), echoes the pre-Union state of imperial competition exercised through the Darien venture, where emphasis was laid on "cultivat[ing] . . . friendship" with the indigenous people (Burton 1849, 127). Belhaven would have been taking up an appointment only allowed by access to the once English and later British empire - this being one of the chief attractions of the Union. Nevertheless, Pennecuik maintains the divide between Scottish and English involvement in empire, perhaps envisioning Union as a temporary arrangement through which the Scottish hero Belhaven, had he lived, would have allowed the Scots to distinguish themselves.


The deplorable Death of the Right Honourable,
     JOHN Lord BELHAVEN, who was lost at 
          Sea, on the 10th of Nov. 1721.

LET Scotia's Sons in sable Weeds[1] appear,                                                              
Sigh every Soul, and drop a fun'ral Tear,
BELHAVEN's gone, the gallant Scottish Peer.
In doleful Ditties sing this Glorious Name.
Let Grones be heard, loud as his matchless Fame,                                                     5
Nature turn'd gloomy fac'd, forbears to smile
All cheeks are pale, and Sorrow sinks the Isle.
    When his Immortal Sire resign'd his Breath,
True Scotsmen felt the Agonies of Death;
(The Faithful Patriot's Memory shall stand,                                                              10
While there are Men or Hononr [sic] in Our Land.)
Yet they mix'd Words of Comfort with their Grone,
The Saint a Relict leaves his hopeful Son:
But He's gone too, where shall we Comfort have?
Its buried with him in the wat'ry Grave,                                                                  15
Ah! faithless Sea, thy Cruelty deplore,
Rich was the Scottish Cargo which you bore,
To waft with Kindness to a foreign Shore.
Old as thy self was the dear Hero's Blood,
Which thou extinguish'd with an impious Flood.                                                       20
    Yet his surviving Fame as far shall go,
As Phoebus[2] shines, or thy proud Waves can flow.
Perfidious Element! must thy cold Arms,
Hold Him, and wash away his blooming Charms.
Ah! Traitor to thy Trust, how durst you touch                                                           25
Him, who the English Court admir'd so much?[3]
A greater Loss than if you'd drown'd the Dutch.
Ye Ships, that on the dang'rous Seas do run,
Hang out a mourning Flag, and drop a Gun;
Like Lightning, fly unto Barbadoes Coast,                                                                30
And tell the killing News, The great BELHAVEN's lost:
That the new World may with the old condole
A skillful Statesman, and a gallant Soul.
Nor shall he want a Tomb, to tell his Deeds
To this, and all the Ages that succeeds:                                                                  35
His Actions are engrav'd in ev'ry Breast;
When Brass and Marble fails, his Fame will last.
Each Tongue's a Trumpet, loudly to proclaim
His Merit, and his never dying Name.

OLd Sathan, England's Friend, Our Foe,                                                                  40
Contriv'd BELHAVEN's Overhtrow [sic];
Lest the Indians should have broke
England's, and ta'en a Scotish Yoke.
To Scotland only sent their Pelf,[4]
Thinking all Scotsmen like himself.                                                                        45


1 Mourning clothes.
2 Greek god associated with the sun.
3 The young Belhaven was "one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber to George, Prince of Wales" (Anderson 1864, 269).
4 Money, particularly of the ill-gotten variety.



Anderson, Willliam. 1864. The Scottish Nation; or the Surnames, Families, Literature, Honours, and Biographical History of the People of Scotland. Vol. 1. Edinburgh: A. Fullarton and Co. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.c2697303;view=1up;seq=11.

Burton, John H., ed. 1849. The Darien Papers: Being a Selection of Original Letters and Official
Edinburgh: Bannatyne Club. http://sources.tannerritchie.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/browser.php?bookid=1014.

Jorrand, Sophie. 2017. "From 'the Doors of the Seas' to a Watery Debacle: The Sea, Scottish Colonization, and the Darien Scheme, 1696-1700." Études Écossaises 1: 1-14. http://etudesecossaises.revues.org/1184.

Paul, Helen Julia. 2009. "The Darien Scheme and Anglophobia in Scotland." Discussion Papers in Economics and Econometrics Series, no. 09251: 1-15. https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/79228/1/0925.pdf.

Pennecuik, Alexander. 1721. "Elegy on the Deplorable Death of the Right Honourable, John Lord Belhaven, Who Was Lost at Sea, on the 10th of Nov. 1721." The Word on the Street. National Library of Scotland. https://digital.nls.uk/broadsides/broadside.cfm/id/15579.

Young, John R. 2004. "Hamilton, John, second Lord Belhaven and Stenton." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. http://www.oxforddnb.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-12107?rskey=WlYDVp&result=5.

Elegy on the Third Lord Belhaven