The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book IV Chapter 11

On a black night the tempest growled in the depths of the clouds. Ulenspiegel was on the deck of the ship with Nele, and said:
“All our lights are out. We are foxes, watching by night for the passing of the Spanish poultry, which is to say their two and twenty assabres, rich ships with lanterns burning, that will be to them stars of ill fortune. And we shall rush upon them.”
Nele said:
“This night is a witches’ night. This sky is black as the mouth of hell; these lightnings gleam like the smile of Satan; the distant thunderstorm is growling dully; the sea-mews pass, uttering loud cries; the sea rolls its phosphorescent waves like silver serpents. Thyl, my beloved, come into the world of the spirits. Take the powder of vision.”
“Shall I see the Seven, my darling?”
And they took the powder of vision.
And Nele shut Ulenspiegel’s eyes, and Ulenspiegel shut Nele’s eyes. And they beheld a cruel spectacle.
Heaven, earth, sea were full of men, of women, of children, toiling, wandering, journeying, or dreaming. The sea cradled them; the earth carried them. And they swarmed like eels in a basket.
Seven men and women were in the middle of the firmament, seated upon thrones, their brows girt with a brilliant star, but they were so shadowy that Nele and Ulenspiegel could see only their stars with any distinctness.
The sea rose up to the sky, tumbling in its foam the innumerable multitude of ships whose masts and rigging clashed together, interlocked, broke one another, crushed each other, following the tempestuous moving of the waves. Then one ship appeared in the midst of all the others. Its bottom was of flaming iron. Its keel was made of steel shaped and sharpened like a knife. The water cried out, groaning, when it went through. Death was upon the stern of the ship, seated, grinning, holding his scythe in one hand and in the other a whip which he smote upon seven personages. One was a man woebegone, thin, haughty, silent. He held in one hand a sceptre and in the other a sword. Beside him, mounted upon a goat, there was a ruddy girl, with bared breast, her robe open, and a sprightly eye. She was stretched out lasciviously beside an old Jew picking up bits of rubbish and a big bloated fellow that fell down every time she set him on his feet, while a thin and angry woman beat them both. The big man never avenged himself nor did his red-faced she-companion. A monk in their midst was eating sausages. A woman lying on the earth, was crawling like a serpent among the others. She bit the old Jew because of his old rubbish, the bloated man because he was too comfortable, the red woman for the dewy brightness of her eyes, the monk for his sausage, and the thin man because of his sceptre. And soon all of them fell a-fighting.
When they passed, the battle was horrible on the sea, in the sky, and on the earth. It rained blood. The ships were broken with blows of axes, arquebuses, and cannon shot. The shattered fragments flew into the air in the midst of the powder smoke. On the earth armies clashed together like walls of bronze. Towns, villages, harvests burned amid cries and tears: tall spires, stone lace-work, held up their proud silhouettes in the midst of the fire, then fell down with a crash like oak trees laid low. Black horsemen, numerous and close arrayed as bands of ants, sword in hand, pistol in hand, were smiting men, women, children. Some made holes in the ice and buried old men alive in them; others cut off women’s breasts and sprinkled pepper on the place; others hanged children in the fireplaces. Those who were tired of killing violated some girl or some woman; drank, played dice, and tossing over piles of gold, the fruit of pillage, dabbled their red fingers in it.
The Seven, crowned with stars, cried: “Pity for the poor world!”
And the phantoms grinned with laughter. And their voices were as the voices of a thousand sea-eagles crying together. And Death brandished his scythe.
“Dost thou hear them?” said Ulenspiegel; “they are the birds of prey of poor mankind. They live on small birds, which are the simple and the good.”
The Seven, crowned with stars, cried: “Love, justice, compassion!”
And the Seven phantoms laughed loudly. And their voices were like the voices of a thousand sea-eagles crying all together. And Death struck them with his whip.
And the ship passed over the sea, cutting in two boats, vessels, men, women, children. On the sea reëchoed the plaints of the victims crying: “Pity!”
And the red ship passed over them all, while the phantoms, laughing, cried like sea-eagles.
And Death, laughing loud, drank the water that was full of blood.
And the ship having disappeared in the mist, the battle ceased, and the Seven crowned with stars vanished away.
And Ulenspiegel and Nele saw nothing now save the black sky, the surging sea, the dark clouds coming forward on the phosphorescent sea, and close at hand, red stars.
These were the lanterns of the two and twenty assabres. The sea and the thunder were growling dully and faintly.
And Ulenspiegel rang the bell for the wacharm softly, and cried: “The Spaniard, the Spaniard! He is sailing for Flessingue!” And the cry was repeated throughout the whole fleet.
And Ulenspiegel said to Nele:
“A gray hue is spreading over the sky and over the sea. The lanterns burn now but feebly; the dawn lifts, the wind is freshening, the waves throw their spume over the decks of the ships; a thick rain is falling and speedily ceases; the sun rises radiant, gilding the crest of the waves: it is thy smile, Nele, fresh as the morning, sweet as the sun’s ray.”
The two and twenty assabres pass: on the ships of the Beggars the drums are beating, the fifes are squealing: de Lumey cries: “In the Prince’s name, to the chase!” Ewout Pietersen Wort, sub-admiral, cries: “In the name of Monseigneur d’Orange and the admiral, to the chase!” On all the ships, the Johannah, the Swan, Anne-Mie, the Beggar, the Compromise, the d’Egmont, the de Hoorn, on the Willem de Zwyger (the William the Silent,) all the captains cry: “In the name of Monseigneur d’Orange and the admiral!”
“To the chase! Long live the Beggar!” cry the soldiers and sailors. Très-Long’s houlque, on which are Lamme and Ulenspiegel, and called Briele, followed closely by the Johannah, the Swan, and the Beggar, take four assabres. The Beggars fling everything Spanish into the sea, make the inhabitants of the Low Countries prisoners, empty the ships like eggshells, and leave them to float without masts or sails in the roadstead. Then they pursue the other eighteen. The wind blows violently; coming from Antwerp, the sides of the swift ships bend over in the water of the river beneath the weight of the sails swollen like a monk’s cheeks in the wind that comes from kitchens; the assabres go swiftly; the Beggars pursue them into the very roadstead of Meddleburg under the fire from the forts. There a bloody battle joins: the Beggars carrying axes rush on the decks of the ships, soon strewn with lopped-off arms and legs, that have to be thrown into the waves after the combat ends. The forts fire on them: they take no heed, and to the shout of “Long live the Beggar!” take from out the assabres powder, artillery, bullets, and corn; burn the boats when they have emptied them; and make off to Flessingue, leaving them smoking and flaming in the roadsteads.
From there they will send squadrons to pierce the dykes of Zealand and Holland, to help in the construction of fresh ships, and notably of flyboats of one hundred and forty tons carrying up to twenty cannon of cast iron.