Apocrypha Redux

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Apocrypha Redux

Post by Mobius 1 »

I'd been sitting on this one for a while until I finally dusted it off and looked at my old notes. And to be honest, of all the old Siege/Arty collabs on the OZ, Apocrypha was one of my favorites. I'd always loved it when Christian angels and demons show up in stories - be it Supernatural or DF. Good Omens is one of my favorite books, and TSW was such a massive disappointment that I'm sure NT has driven that horse into the ground.

But post-apocalyptic verses never really breathed as much as the bigger verses on the OZ. Sure, there was 20XX and Fatal Friday, but compared to OF, SOTS, CSW, and OZC, they were side projects at best. But Apocrypha always had a special place in my heart. I wasn't really able to dig it up on the wayback machine, so a lot of this is just elements from flashes of memory writ large. But this project is one of those folders I've had on my desktop for awhile, along with Shadow Tempest, TE, and myriad other projects. Since OF and Westworlds are breathing again, I wanted to get some new ideas from Siege and Arty while the iron was still hot.

APOCRYPHA – REDUX

It’s been twenty years since the world as we knew it ended.

April 13, 2036. We were wrong. So very wrong.

99942 Aphosis. Not big enough to be the end in and of itself, mind. But it greased the wheels. The first catastrophe.

Tens of millions dead in the ensuing Chinese Civil War. It was until the plague hit that we had an idea of what Aphosis had gifted us.

The world changed. A nuclear standoff in the Middle East didn’t help.

To be honest, we’re not sure who pushed the button.

But we do know that it’s been fifty years since the apocalypse began.

High command may have the specifics, but in this unholy clusterfuck of a melee, no one’s quite sure. One buddy of mine did the math and he thinks we’re sitting at the turn of the twenty second century. I’m sure the folks in the ships from Limbo know the specifics, but seeing as they’re carving out their own territory in the name of the Colony Belt, I’m exactly keen on asking them.

The hellgates were their own problem. Insidious, like. Not a giant portal so much as a creeping sickness, a stain. We didn’t realize the plague was the first manifestation of the Gates, but when they started to organize things really went down the shitter. And mutate. See, they were still bound in the early days.

Demons. It used to leave a dirty taste in my mouth. Now it sends chills down my spine. You can never be too careful, even today. It starts as a whisper, and by the end you’ve torn your family limb from limb.

Nowadays we try to stay away from the enclaves. I’m not sure if they’re collaborators or the real deal, but it doesn’t matter. By now they hold dominion over each continent. Mammon’s citadel sits on what used to the Big Apple, and the greater area is a desolate wasteland. Asmodeus camped Paris for a while until the Second Unified took to the catacombs. We haven’t had contact with the region for a month now. It’s all dark.

Africa stood as humanity’s stronghold for the longest time. We had finally started to fight back. It was V-Pacific Day, when the combined UNR fleet managed to shove a nuclear missile down Leviathan’s throat.

We always expected gents in white robes, harps and angelic wings. Not the six-winged wheel of fire that destroyed the CAP for the Remnant fleet. That’s the thing about Angels, see. You can’t look at them for too long before your eyes burst from their sockets. Humanity, as a base lot, can’t handle their form, their true essence, and since the Host didn’t exactly come in peace they have no intention of cloaking their true forms like the Legion did. They weren’t here for followers.

They were fulfilled a scorched earth policy in the most meaningful sense.

The UNR is underground these days, and I don’t like talking about command for fear that I might be cozying up with a Damned Soul, eh? We move around, mostly out of necessity. The Host is always there, always searching. A single Seraphim is a match for an entire squadron of Night Ravens, and considering we’ve only recently managed to get our jets up in the air in the past couple years the danger is omnipresent.

Belphegor had been sitting in the central crater for close to twenty years when the nuclear strike took out his fortress. At first we though the fat bastard has taken himself out out of shear boredom. Then the ships came down from on high. I remember clutching at my flask that day in the Hokkaido underground, watching the silver crafts on the monitors and thinking just as things couldn’t get worse, here were honest to god aliens.

The Colonies might have well been alien to us for the response we received when we sent a team of envoys. The Host will burn you were you stand, the Legion will enslave you to the will of their Baron, but the Limbo will judge you. At least the Host, assholes that they are, are inscrutable. The demons are fans of ol’ Dante. But the Colonies got it in their heads that we brought it on ourselves. The verdict’s ain’t nothing but guilty, but I hear conflicting reports, see, on the sentence. But seeing as the Limbo’s advance teams are stuck on this rock the same as us, I throw my weight with Najid from the Cantina. Neural collars are the way to go when you need manpower to wield your high tech lasers and armored walkers.

And that’s not to consider the free powers. Amon’s been hunting humans, walking the earth since the dawn of time. Papa Wrath’s reputation is fleeting, because not many stories get out when there aren’t survivors. Behemoth’s been rampaging across South America, Hell’s first son against the Host. I was there when the Amazon went up, trying to pull the last people out of Brazil. The screams still pull me out of my sleep, covered in sweat.

There’s the Van Winkle Teams, now those bastards you have to watch out for. Humanity’s been practicing at killing each other for thousands of years, and we’re not going to let a war between heaven and hell get in our way. Put under right after things got serious, right before someone pressed the button and the first arrows took to the sky, they’re starting to come out now. Four man teams, and can you imagine?

You leave one Armageddon to find another. I wish they didn’t have gear to put Limbo to shame either. Six decades on ice and one the biggest threats UNR HiCom is facing. New Zealand went dark, right as we had establish a real stronghold there. But at least other groups are doing some good, carving out sections of Sou’Frica, you know? And then there’s the best of them, who put down their mission when they saw what Earth had come to and decided to join the Remnant. Hell, though, the thought’s still there, that if these teams are coordinating, they might have a shot of coming out on top of this mess.

Hell’s on their own, and they’ve always been. They fight each other, they lay waste to hundreds of miles throwing down with the Host, but at least you can talk to them. They can’t rule the world is everyone on it is dead.

The greatest weapon in all of this isn’t anything that comes out of a gun, though. It’s hope. It’s knowing that the Host isn’t invincible, that they can, in fact, be put down, and put down hard. When the Limbo ship decided to plow its nose straight into the Angel we’d been calling Gabe, hope finally began to leak back into the camps. And that, Nicolai tells me, is key. Not every patron demon makes himself know, he told me over a bottle last week. Despair lives within each of us, and up until now he’s been winning this chaotic shitstorm we call a war. General Morgenstern’s broadcasts are the glue, though, that’s been holding the Remnant together. We’d been lost without him, and it’s with him that the UNR’s been able to dish out for the first time in decades.

No one’s seen hide or hair of Old Scratch, which is ironic, considering Asmodeus always referred to him as Brother Pride. You’d think he’d be leading the Legion or at least sitting in his icy lake, organizing it all while chewing on Brutus, Cassius, and Judas. But nothing. Thin air. And that’d be the most frightening aspect of this century if not for the Old Man himself.

The Host doesn’t talk much. Burning eyes and ears and all that. But I personally don’t think this is sanctioned, if you catch my drift. I don’t want it to be, you get it? He’s almighty, he’s omnipotent, he can snap his fingers and move onto another universe? What does it mean if he’s not involved? Or worse, is gone? A lot of people still pray, but I’m too bitter. It’s not hatred, see. I’m carving my own path with the rest of the Remnant, but damn it all. It’s they why that, beyond all the horror I’ve seen on the mortal coil, then keeps me up at night. The metaphysical implications are terrifying, and it’s no wonder suicide takes just as many lives as Limbo or the Van Winkle teams.

I sat down with Colonel Zeke last week for coffee and we got to talking about superstitions – if such a thing can still exist – going around the camps. He looks at me over his cup and says to me, if we’re in the throes of the end of the world, where are the four horsemen? I don’t remember Mammon in my scriptures, but I can quote Rev Six at you all day long. He waved away the steam and mentioned the tales of the three travelers that UNR intel’s been tracking for the past decade. The man in white always foreshadows an Angelic attack. Eight times in the past year, followed by an attack.

Zeke’s pretty nervous by this point, looking left and right. Amon’s been pulling double duty, but intel at least is sure he or she – they’re leaning towards she, mostly based on Aussie mutterings – exists. A few wanted to associate Behemoth with Famine, but Zeke wasn’t buying it, he said. But the EIS could track the vectors of the plague, and whenever it occurs, and the man in black is always on surveillance footage at each ground zero, staring right into the lens.

Now that’s what has HiCom all aflutter, Zeke explains, because these mystery men aren’t working for any one side. But wherever they go, death follows short behind. The Pale Horse itself, I asked? Who the fuck knows, Zeke says, leaning back into the holding chair. God knows there’s been enough death to go around with someone seizing the title.

Every now and then some asshole tries to whip the Remnant into a twitter using the good book. Pointing at Rev and making this relation and that, reaching into the hearsay around Aphosis’ aftermath. HiCom’s always quick to shut them down, but it’s fairly clear nothing really went according to plan if this is the Apocalypse with a Capital A. We’re writing our own chapter now.

And who knows? Maybe, hundreds of years from now, when humanity finally takes its place amongst the stars and leaves a dead Earth behind, we’ll tell tales of the Apocrypha to our children.
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Arty »

Oh, yes. Oh my, yes.

This is a more than pleasant surprise, Moby!
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Siege »

Man, Apocrypha. That's a long way back. It was simultaneously a very fun and very annoying setting to me. Fun, because as anybody who's ever played a game of Doom knows there's joy to be found in shooting demons in the face. And annoyance because as is the case with most postmodern takes on old religions it really raises more questions than it answers. Questions like 'where is god hanging out', 'what about those beasts with lots of heads and horns' and, 'what the balls is going on'.

I suppose what kind of bothers me is that it seems impossible to create a setting that has space marines blowing up angels with IEDs that is simultaneously theologically sound. To me, there's a sense that it isn't really doing a take on a religion, that calling these things angels or demons is just slapping allusions to Christianity on what in terms of motivations might as well have been generic big stompy space monsters, that just seems... Exploitative? I'm not sure that's the right word for it. But if you're genuinely dealing with fallen angels who oversaw the creation of the universe at the dawn of time then painting them as godzilla with horns and swords doesn't ring true with me.

It's difficult to get the tone and the focus down right. Are we doing a big pulpy postapocalyptic monsters and plasma guns adventure? If so, do we really need to call our gribblies angels? Because the implications are kind of awkward. Or are we doing some sort of critique of religion, because if we do, I gotta say that the starting assumption that Christianity was broadly right except for that whole New Testament thing is also pretty awkward. I don't think that's what we're doing, but... Well.

EDIT: To clarify, I'm not slagging Moby's take, or the universe itself. I really liked working on Apocrypha way back when. But on reflection it's easy to make cheesy pulp. It's difficult, or at least so it seems to me, to make it stand out, to put an intelligent spin on it that does justice to the 'source material' while also being its own thing (and fun, and not a horrendously bleak struggle in the face of eternal damnation, etc.)

I guess I'm not quite seeing how to do that just yet.
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Mobius 1 »

I get what you're saying on multiple fronts, Siege. I was seeing any sort of future Apocrypha project as something analogous to, say, Aaron Allston's Future War-set Terminator books. The setting is by its nature grim, but that doesn't mean the plots or the characters have to be - as a whole, after all, the main thrust was that humanity was on its way back up anyway. A lot of the grimdarkness would be a side effect of me writing the intro from the perspective of someone old enough to see the lead-up to 'present day,' but like I said, no matter how pulpy 'current' stories are, you're still in a setting where you've got a four way post-apocalyptic (in the most literal sense) war between Earth, Space, Heaven, and Hell.
To me, there's a sense that it isn't really doing a take on a religion, that calling these things angels or demons is just slapping allusions to Christianity on what in terms of motivations might as well have been generic big stompy space monsters, that just seems... Exploitative? I'm not sure that's the right word for it. But if you're genuinely dealing with fallen angels who oversaw the creation of the universe at the dawn of time then painting them as godzilla with horns and swords doesn't ring true with me.
I see what you're saying, and to a degree, I agree. I wouldn't want actual angels to be something out of a kaiju story - they're something incomprehensible and utterly powerful and humanity can't even look at them without the usual 'be not afraid' message intact. But the setting doesn't work if humanity can't, on some level, fight back, so you have to balance theological interpretations with interesting applications in the universe. Demon's aren't exactly big stompy cloven hoof dudes (or the eight foot tall monsters I remember from original Apoc).

I get the feeling TSW and Smugtheist portrayals of religion left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, but the problem wasn't so much with the premise as the execution.

E- aaaand I remember I did write in literal stomp-stomp eldritch kaiju into the story with Leviathan and Behemoth. But if Pokemon of all things can pull off a B/L/Ziz trio back into 2003 while still maintaining the appropriate level of awe and gut terror, I think there might be a shot. You'd have to balance Psalm 104 with NGE-esque humanity's last stand mentioned in the article proper.
It's difficult to get the tone and the focus down right. Are we doing a big pulpy postapocalyptic monsters and plasma guns adventure? If so, do we really need to call our gribblies angels?
I understand the base level of respect you're expecting here - if I understand a few of your N&P posts on SDN correctly, a couple thousand years of scholastic and theocratic research and theories shouldn't be pushed aside to do a straightforward 'post-apocalypse with religious theming' story.
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

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Mobius 1 wrote:I understand the base level of respect you're expecting here - if I understand a few of your N&P posts on SDN correctly, a couple thousand years of scholastic and theocratic research and theories shouldn't be pushed aside to do a straightforward 'post-apocalypse with religious theming' story.
Right. I don't mind stating outright that large swathes of theology were wrong, or incomplete, or falsified, or fabricated to keep the true horribleness of the cosmos from the blissfully ignorant masses for as long as possible, but at some point I feel you have to own up to the fact that there's a 'source book' for all this stuff. Ignoring that in favor of the usual pop culture ideas regarding pitchforks and swords to me is doing it a disservice (not to mention not very compelling).

Now mind you, at the same time I don't believe this ought to turn into something you'd need a theological degree to properly interpret and comprehend. I'm totally dandy with humans shoving sanctified nukes down the throats of hellspawn monsters. But I'd like for there to be at least a groundwork, an idea that the writers of the setting at least have some idea of what happened cosmologically speaking that brought about the apocalypse, that informs the setting before we get on with the plasma-gunning of tiny little cherubs. This doesn't have to be a fully coherent eschatological treatise, but just a rudimentary idea that would allow us to at least figure out how the major players are supposed to be feeling.

For example as I recall in the old Apocrypha all the angels got abruptly ejected from heaven: god just up and left one day and nobody knew why. I would imagine this would leave the heavenly host quite distraught, and that would inform their behavior. It'd be totally different if say they somehow believed it was time to make like Noah and cleanse the earth because humanity in their eyes had thrown in with the ol' Morningstar. Or, alternatively, they really don't give a hoot about humans: somehow Lucifer and his lot broke out of the pit and they're just here to stop them, and humanity is just collateral damage. Perhaps it isn't so much that the angels got evicted, but the other guys did -- that would be different yet again.

Myself, I kind of like the idea that one day Lucifer simply found himself out of hell and he doesn't know why. Imagine his confusion: am I forgiven? Is this a last shot at redemption? Do I even want that? What do I do now, and why is everybody trying to kill me? Granted this isn't particularly sound theology either but the thought that maybe armageddon began because one day Satan felt a sliver of remorse is something I find appealing. What if it wasn't about humans after all? What if our story is just the backdrop for the story of Lucifer the Prodigal Son?
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Mobius 1 »

Yeah, well, General Morgenstern is about as subtle as a ten pound bible.
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

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Thinking on it some more, and imagining hell not as the archetypical place of fire and gnashing of teeth but rather as not a place but as "the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God" (to quote JP2)... What if, having spent a small eternity in that state, Lucifer has developed a sort of sympathy for humans who've also managed to damn themselves? He wasn't so much hell's baron and torturer-in-chief as its first resident, and he knows all too well the reasons people would choose to remove themselves from God's grace.

Anyway, he then finds himself on Earth in the company of a small band of previously damned souls (let's make it 12, just for the hell of it). So here is Lucifer, knower of Man, with newfound flakes of remorse in what remains of his soul, at the head of a small group of erstwhile suicides, divinators, warlords and whatnot else in various stages of self-doubt and remorsefulness, walking the scourged earth in search of whatever Purpose has put them here.

Meanwhile as far as his erstwhile lieutenants are concerned he's missing presumed gone, and they not being so penitance-inclined see fit to pursue their own ends. Those ends I suppose could be pillaging and making a terrible mess (dare I say hell) on earth.

Now Lucifer is not a nice guy necessarily, he's still the Prince of Darkness, first amongst fallen angels with all the terrifying mind-bending heebie-jeebies that entails, but he's got to be operating under the assumption that if anything he's at least no longer quite as damned as he used to be. So now what is he going to do? And what is he going to make of all these humans blaming him for all the craziness that went down when he was locked away? They did that to themselves, he had nothing to do with any of those wars and genocides, but try convincing them of that...

So, yeah. In the post-apocalypse, if ever a dark-haired man with a five 'o clock shadow and a worn-out suit wanders into your clearing, and he brings twelve followers and he chain-smokes cigarettes but never seems to light any of them... Just be slightly wary, okay?
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Shroom Man 777 »

You can solve your theological and thematic quandries by going the Todd McFarlane route and just give all your characters spikes and chains and cloaks and skulls and focus on selling expensive action figures instead of focusing on the story. In fact, the more disjointed your story is, jumping from place to place to show new cool spikechaincloakskull demons, the more toys you can sell! :D

I'm sorry. I love Apocrypha but lately in meat space we have been laughing at Todd McFarlane quite a lot.

EDIT:

And also, on one hand of the spectrum of "awsum hell vs earth" popular fiction you've got Todd McFarlane's Spawn. Chains and hit and apocalyptic shit. On the other hand, you've got Hellboy.

And Hellboy is the complete opposite of Spawn and Spawn-like fiction. Hellboy doesn't have spikes and shit, all he has are sawn-off horns and one big lumpy hand. And his stories are the opposite of the grimdark massacrations apocalyptic hellwars of Spawn. And he goes "awcrap."

I don't know why I mention these things. Maybe I see old Apocrypha as very Spawn. Maybe new Apocrypha should consider the styles of Mike Mignola and maybe 2000AD.
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Arty »

When I wrote the first few articles for the original Apocrypha, I think I really did have something like Spawn meets Neon Genesis Evangelion in my head.

Which perhaps explains a lot about not only the universe, but my state of the art at the time :p
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Mobius 1 »

I will never ever miss out on the chance to insert elements of NGE into anything I write, but the gradual descent into helplessness and madness would kinda kill any sort of adventure pulp spirit Siege was suggesting.

Not that you can't mix batshit action with existential crises - see the Rebuild films.
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

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I'm certainly not adverse to having our fair share of "gaze into the fist of Dredd!" moments. Punching demonic critters in the face with superior firepower was very much an element of ye olde Apocrypha, and a certain carefree nonchalance towards cosmic entities is an attitude that I think would suit especially the space marine guys coming down from Jupiter.

At the same time though: I'm not the biggest Spawn reader, but from what I have read it strikes me very much as an example of the postmodern silliness I mentioned before (slathered with a good-sized helping of '90s grimdark). And the reason I feel there ought to be some framework in the background of this 'verse that's at least understood by its writers is very much to avoid that sort of rapidly-dated awkwardness and incoherent nuttery.

PS: I think a key difference is that Hellboy isn't actually about all the supernatural craziness. That stuff is just a setting in which we experience the adventures and thoughts and actions of our protagonists. The books (and movies) are about Hellboy & co. dealing with the world they live in. If you want to do that sort of story in Apocrypha it needs to not be about the apocalypse, but about how characters X, Y and Z deal with the consequences of armageddon.
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Czernobog »

My skill at Biblical exegesis is probably quite low but I will try and help clarify some things, give some support and such:

1. The Beast of Revelation with all them horns and crowns isn't a literal big scary sea monster but an allegorical view of an incredibly powerful and evil empire which rises on the world stage.
2. By the Bible Lucifer/Satan/Heylel ben Schachar/whatever you call him is not in Hell as of the present era but wandering the wildernesses of the earth.

(I'll try and provide more help as asked).

I'm eager to see how this 'verse works out!
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Mobius 1 »

I wasn't really referring to the Beast of Revelation as much to the Jewish Behemoth/Leviathan/Ziz trio. While they don't really have a place in Rev IIRC, they fulfilled my biblical Kaiju quota.
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Czernobog »

Mobius 1 wrote:I wasn't really referring to the Beast of Revelation as much to the Jewish Behemoth/Leviathan/Ziz trio. While they don't really have a place in Rev IIRC, they fulfilled my biblical Kaiju quota.
'kay, that's fine, just thought I'd try and help.
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Mobius 1 »

No, bring it on. I'd love ideas from everyone on this one.
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Invictus »

I'll point to this old post of mine and the subsequent discussion, I guess.
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Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Shroom Man 777 »

What if the aliens blew up the Earth to prevent the Apocalypse from happening Biblically, because maybe the Earth itself was the key to the cosmic Armageddon, and by destroying it with their xenotech instead of having God fulfill THE PROPHECY, well... all the people who made it off-world are NOT gonna burn in hell, and all the alienoids are also spared from damnation.

Which leaves all sorts of Earthless angels and demons and humans all ornery at the aliens who just exploded what was to be the final battleground between Heaven and Hell. And, so, like... they end up being refugees. And a bit lost, because without Earth and with the Apocalypse permanently put on hold... they have no idea what comes next!
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Location: The Netherlands

Re: Apocrypha Redux

Post by Siege »

The idea of the anti-christ as an elected president is interesting. "B-b-but he's the antichrist!" "You can't expect us to deny someone supreme executive power just because some jackass drew some numbers on his forehead!"

It would have a high probability of spinning wildly out of control into political scorechart land ("he's the antichrist 'cause he's ANTI BIBLICAL VALUES LOL SO EDGY"), but the idea that "he may be Satan's firstborn but he got into office on a pretty solid platform, dammit!" amuses me to no end. Insert DEMOCRACY! as a metaphor for humanity choosing its own destiny here.
"Nick Fury. Old-school cold warrior. The original black ops hardcase. Long before I stepped off a C-130 at Da Nang, Fury and his team had set fire to half of Asia." - Frank Castle

For, now De Ruyter's topsails
Off naked Chatham show,
We dare not meet him with our fleet -
And this the Dutchmen know!
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