In youthful blooming years was I,
When I that practice took
Of perpetrating piracy
For filthy gain did look.
To wickedness we all were bent,
Our lusts for to fulfil;
To rob at sea was our intent,
And perpetrate all ill.
I pray the Lord preserve you all
And keep you from this end;
O let Fitz-Gerald’s great downfall
Unto your welfare tend.
I to the Lord my soul bequeath,
Accept whereof I pray;
My body to the earth beneath:
Dear friend, adieu for aye.
Written by the 21-year-old John Fitz-Gerald of Limerick, Ireland, apparently on the night before his execution. It is quoted in The Pirates of the New England Coast, 1630-1730 (Rio Grande Press, 1923), which in turn is proudly excerpted by the Online Review of Rhode Island History, as well as by David Cordingly’s extensive history and analysis of the Golden Age of piracy, Under the Black Flag.
On 11th June 1723, Captain Peter Solgard, commander of His Majesty’s Ship Greyhound, a man-o-war, engaged two pirate sloops off Long Island, New York, capturing one of them, Ranger, and taking 37 of its 48 crew alive. He brought them in to Newport, Rhode Island, and they went on trial the following month. Those who could show that they had been forced to join the pirates and had not taken part in violence were released, but the pirate captain and 25 others–including our young poet, of course–were “hanged by the neck until dead” on 19th July 1723, between twelve and one o’clock in the afternoon.