Post-classical history


The Land Hath Far Too Little Ground: Danseker the Dutchman


Even more than poor Sir Francis Verney, one corsair was inextricably linked with John Ward in the seventeenth-century imagination: Simon Danseker, the “Devil Captain of Algiers.” Andrew Barker promised that his True and Certain Report would tell all about the “beginning, proceedings, overthrows, and now present estate of Captain Ward and Danseker, the two late famous pirates.” “The Seaman’s Song of Captain Ward” that appeared in the summer of 1609 had as its companion piece “The Sea-Mans Song of Dansekar the Dutchman”; and the full title of Robert Daborn’s 1612 play is A Christian Turn’d Turk: or, The Tragical Lives and Deaths of the Two Famous Pirates, Ward and Dansiker.

Danseker plays second fiddle to John Ward in all of these works, with English publishers preferring to thrill their English readers with the villainy of an English pirate. He scarcely gets a mention in Barker’s pamphlet, and even “The Sea-Mans Song of Dansekar the Dutchman” can’t resist bringing in the Dutchman’s rival, focusing throughout on the exploits of the two men together: “All the world about have heard / Of Dansekar and English Ward, / And of their proud adventures every day.”1 But Danseker’s career is the stuff of legend. He deserves a song of his own.

Simon the Dancer came from Vlissingen and served in the Spanish Wars before moving to Marseilles in the early years of the seventeenth century. According to Thomas Butler, an English merchant who picked up stories about him as he traveled toward the Levant in the summer and autumn of 1608, Danseker had married the daughter of the governor of Marseilles and then quarreled with the authorities, who, presumably, included his father-in-law. In 1607 he stole a ship in Marseilles harbor, used her to take another, and then set out to sell his prizes—in Algiers. Within a matter of months he had established himself as a piratical power to be reckoned with in the Mediterranean, capturing twenty-nine English, French, and Flemish vessels.

Danseker had a short but spectacular career as a corsair. In 1608 Henry Pepwell, the spy who offered to kill John Ward, listed “Captain Dansker of Flushing” as one of Ward’s commanders at Tunis. Soon afterward the Dutchman moved his base to Algiers, where he operated under the protection of the pasha, Redwan, and acquired the title by which he was known on the Barbary Coast—Dali Raïs, “the Devil Captain.”

At the end of 1608 Danseker pulled off a major coup. He and his crew of Dutch, English, and Turks ambushed a Spanish grain convoy off the coast of Valencia. The corn was useful, but the prizes’ real value lay in their human cargo: among the 160 passengers found aboard the main vessel, the Bellina, were the son of Viceroy Sandoval of Majorca and the illegitimate son of Viceroy Viliena of Sicily, one of whom (the dispatches aren’t clear which) was transporting 300,000 crowns to Spain for his father.

A month later there was an unconfirmed report that Danseker was in the eastern Mediterranean and that he had taken a Venetian merchantman six miles off the southern coast of Cyprus. By April 1609 he was threatening to blockade the Spanish fortress on Ibiza with a fleet of five ships, including the Bellina.

One of his victims that spring was a particularly unlucky English merchantman. On March 15, 1609, the Charity put out from Ancona on the Adriatic coast of Italy with a cargo of corn, bound for Málaga and home. As she rounded the heel of Italy she met with the Pearl of London; and, mindful of the corsairs who hunted in those waters, the Charity’s master, Daniel Banister, suggested the two vessels should stick together as they headed west to the Straits.

With a steady wind from the northeast (known by sailors as a “levant”), the pair made tremendous progress, covering the 1,300 miles or so to Cartagena on the southern coast of Spain in only fifteen days. Then things began to go wrong. On April 3, as they struggled in choppy seas with a wind now coming from the west, the watch on the Charity sighted three vessels closing fast. They reached the Pearl, which immediately lowered her topsail in a gesture of surrender, confirming Banister’s fears that the three ships meant them no good. The Charity’s crew gave her all the sail they could and tried to run, but after a long chase the pirates overtook them and ordered the ship to stand to in the name of their master, the great Turk.

What shocked the men aboard the Charity more than anything else was the realization that their pursuers were a mixture of Englishmen and Turks, and that all three ships were commanded by Englishmen. They later discovered that the pirates were members of John Ward’s Tunisian fleet.

What followed was a perfect example of typical pirate tactics. The corsairs began by trying outright intimidation. One of their commanders, an old man named Foxley, “most sternly looking up, as sternly told us, that if we would not presently strike our topsail, thereby to show our yielding was immediate, they would lay us directly aboard with their ships and as readily sink us.”2

That approach produced no results, even though the crew of the Charity numbered just twenty men and faced three heavily armed opponents—one with thirty guns, the other two with twenty-eight apiece—and a small army of about 600 Turks brandishing small arms. With a splendid rhetorical flourish, Banister bid the pirates welcome and invited them to board, telling them that “such a hot entertainment should they find, as all the water that bare them, should hardly bring them into a cool temper again.”3 Every man made frantic preparations to fit the ship for action and to fit his soul for heaven. Cannon were unlashed and dragged into place; rope netting was suspended above the deck, so that boarders trying to jump down into the vessel would find themselves entangled; canvas drabblers were laced to the bottoms of the sails to give extra speed when the ship was maneuvering. And the crew waited.

But the pirates didn’t want a fight. They wanted prizes. Their next step was to parade a group of English captives on deck, clanking their chains. Foxley and the other commanders had recognized Banister—the Charity was well known on the Barbary Coast for transporting passengers between Tunis, Algiers, Alexandria, and Istanbul. Unnervingly, their prisoners called on him by name and begged him to surrender. If his crew ever wanted to see their homeland again, they shouted across at him, “if we had parents to mourn for their sons, wives to lament for their husbands, or children to cry out for their fathers,” they should not fire so much as a single shot.4 The corsairs had sworn to show them no mercy if they put up the least sign of resistance: the lucky ones among the Charity’s crew would die; the rest would be taken into slavery.

This display was enough for Banister. He struck his topsail and surrendered. As night fell, he and his company were taken aboard the pirate ships and placed under guard.

The pirates hadn’t finished with them. It was customary for sailors on merchant ships to do some trading on their own account—a piece of silk or woolen cloth, perhaps, or a little oil—and the crew of the Charity was no exception. Every single man had “some little particular venture for ourselves, or our friends,” and when the Charity was boarded, they all pleaded with Foxley and the other English pirates not to take their personal possessions. There was no need to worry, they were told: “It was in no way their intents, neither was it their captain Captain Ward’s pleasure that any private seafaring man’s venture should be in any ways hindered.”5 But the renegades said they couldn’t vouch for their shifty Turkish comrades, who would steal the shirts off their backs if they had the chance. Perhaps the captives ought to hand their things to the English pirates so they could keep them safe overnight from the greedy, dishonorable Janissaries?

They did. They never saw their possessions again.

But they did see their freedom. It so happened that on a recent voyage the Charity had carried the pasha of Tunis from Istanbul, and in consideration of this Foxley and his comrades decided to let the ship go, together with its entire crew and the crew of the Pearl. They took the Pearl itself back to Tunis as a prize; and while they ignored the Charity’s cargo of corn, they took her powder, muskets, match, pikes, ladles, sponges, swords and daggers, its cables, and most of its beef, pork, butter, cheese, and oil. And “when they saw they could take no more, they heaved up their hands and bade us be gone.”6

If the sailors were feeling sorry for themselves, they were soon reminded of how much worse things might have been. At dawn the next day they saw the same pirates about a mile away, engaged in a confrontation with a French vessel whose crew was rash enough to put up a fight. The men of the Charity watched appalled as the corsairs boarded her, hanged the master from the yardarm, and forced the eighty-four survivors to plead on their knees for their lives. They were all destined for the slave market in Tunis.

But it turned out that the Charity wasn’t as fortunate as its name might suggest. The ship steered a course for the Spanish coast. The next morning they sighted a French vessel, which unfortunately for them also turned out to be a pirate, and one, moreover, “of whose cruelty we had heard of so many [times] before, that we accounted ourselves compassed even in the arms and grip of death.”7 For two days she chased them, getting closer and closer with each passing hour, until there was less than a mile between them. The Charity’s crew had all but given up hope when they saw on the horizon five ships under sail. Not caring who or what they were, they made straight for them, shouting, kneeling on the deck, holding up their hands and generally expressing “the lively motions of distressed men.”8

The convoy, which consisted of four merchantmen from the east coast of England and one Fleming, realized what was happening and steered a course toward the Charity, and the Frenchman veered off, unhappy at the odds. It seemed the Charity’s luck had changed.

It hadn’t. While the crews were exchanging greetings and news, another vessel came into view. It was Danseker—terrifying, irresistible Danseker the Devil Captain, in a huge man-of-war that bristled with cannon and Turkish Janissaries:

Comes he amongst the thickest of our fleet, as if he had the power to sweep us away with his breath. But when he came near to us, he caused his followers to waft us amain with their glistering swords, threatening to sink us one after the other, if at his command we did not immediately strike.9

This was too much. The master of the Prosperous, the first vessel Danseker approached, was an Englishman named Startop. He was so overawed by the spectacle of 400 Turks brandishing small arms and scimitars that he struck his sails immediately. Even when his comrades rallied round and shouted out that “they would never forsake him, they would fight for him, rescue him, or die with him,” he steadfastly refused to put up any resistance. The three remaining Englishmen scattered, leaving the Prosperous , the Charity and the Fleming to the mercy of Captain Danseker and his Algerian Janissaries.

There is something magisterial, almost theatrical, about accounts of Danseker in action. An English seaman who was on the Swan, which put into port along the coast from Algiers in 1609, told of how Danseker boarded the vessel and declared “after his Dutch pronunciation, ‘Aha Swan, dow binst myne!’”10 And now, as he drew alongside the Charity, the first words he spoke were “I command you to strike sail and follow me!”

Banister did as he was told. What choice did he have, with no powder, no weapons, not even a dagger among twenty men? But he did point out to Danseker that they had been robbed by Ward’s men less than six days before. The Devil Captain’s response was as grandiloquent as his other gestures. “Since the men of Tunis had had us in hand, he scorned to rob a hospital, to afflict where there was misery before, or to make prey of them who had nothing left.” He would let the Charity go free—all the crew had to do was to fire a three-gun salute by way of tribute, “as a thanks to him or ransom for our liberty.”11

Banister pointed out that “such was the cruelty of our enemies” that they hadn’t left him even enough powder to do that, so Danseker simply sent him on his way, although he kept the Prosperous—and the Flemish vessel, which was carrying £20,000 in silks and other precious materials. In fact, when the crew of the Pearl, still aboard the Charity and rather tired of being captured by pirates, begged Danseker to put them ashore, he presented them with four shillings each “to help to carry them up into the country of Spain.”12

Detaining sailors only to give them money was not the usual practice among pirates of the Barbary Coast, and Danseker’s Robin Hood practice of robbing merchants and respecting mariners, coupled with his refusal to convert to Islam, earned him the admiration of the Charity’s crew, who contrasted his behavior with that of Ward’s men:

This is the difference between these two pirates. . . . Ward makes prey of all and Danseker hath compassion of some: the one contemning [i.e., disdaining] to be charitable to any, the other holding it hateful to take any thing from them, who labour in continual danger to maintain their lives.13

Back in London, the merchant community was less impressed. The news of the loss of the Pearl and the Prosperous brought a temporary halt to the Levant trade, and merchants petitioned the government for protection.

Danseker may have been the most famous Dutch renegade, but he wasn’t the only one. Zeerovers with Barbary Coast connections attracted attention and alarm throughout the early seventeenth century. They included Simon Maartsszoon Stuijt, who commanded a fleet of corsairs off Tangier in 1611; “Big Pete” (Grote Piet), who terrorized shipping in the English Channel in the early 1610s; and—a rare example of a corsair dynasty—Simon Danseker the younger, who, after his father’s death, became a renowned pirate in his own right, ending his days in Morocco, where he ran a successful business dealing in stolen goods. And unlike the “Great Danseker,” numbers of Dutch pirates converted to Islam. Hassan Raïs began life as Meinart Dircxssen; Murad Flamenco came from Antwerp; and Assam Raïs was better known in his home town of Sommelsdijk as Jan Marinus.

With all the different nationalities that frequented the Barbary Coast, communication was something of a problem. Arabic, the language of Islam, was universal throughout North Africa, although in a variety of different dialects. Turkish was the official language of the Ottoman Empire, and in the three Barbary states which owed a nominal allegiance to Istanbul—Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli—it was the language in which government business was conducted. The situation was slightly different in Morocco, which wasn’t part of the empire. There, Arabic was also used in government and diplomatic circles, although the Sa’di sultans didn’t necessarily confine themselves to Arabic—the Spanish said of Abd al-Malik, Arab ruler of Morocco from 1576 to 1578, that he knew Turkish, Spanish, German, Italian, and French.

Corsairs and other renegades who spent any length of time in the Barbary states obviously picked up a fair smattering of Arabic. But there was an alternative. When the Puritan William Okeley was captured by Algerian pirates on his way to the West Indies in 1639, he found himself chained belowdecks with some English galley slaves. “From them,” he wrote, “we learned a smattering of the common language, which would be of some use to us when we should come to Algiers.”14

The common language to which he referred was the language of the Franks, a curious pidgin tongue in which Italian predominated, but which included Greek, Provençal, and Turkish words, with a dash of Spanish and Portuguese thrown in. (When Daniel Banister’s Charity was first boarded by pirates, the Turks among them addressed his crew in a language he thought was Italian.) Spoken by pirates and the merchants, brokers, and slave masters they dealt with, this pidgin language originated in Palestine around the time of the Crusades, perhaps at Acre, where Venetian, Pisan, and Genoese communities settled close to each other around the harbor. In Egypt it was lisan al ifrang, in North Africa sabir, and, later, petit mauresque . By the seventeenth century it was being referred to in the West by its most common name, lingua franca—so common, indeed, that the phrase has since come to mean any common medium of communication between people who speak different languages.

Lingua franca was primarily a spoken language. Its purpose was to facilitate face-to-face communication between traders and sailors around the Mediterranean basin, and documentary sources are few and far between, although almost every European who set foot on the Barbary Coast, from William Lithgow to Samuel Pepys, mentions it. The Spanish poet Juan del Encina used the language in a villancico, a song he wrote after returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1520. Dryden parodied it in his 1678 comedy Limberham, or The Kind Keeper:

LIMBERHAM. Now I understand him; this is almost English.

MISTRESS TRICKSY. English! away, you fop: ’tis a kind of lingua Franca, as I have heard the merchants call it; a certain compound language, made up of all tongues, that passes through the Levant.

LIMBERHAM. This lingua, what you call it, is the most rarest language! I understand it as well as if it were English; you shall see me answer him: Seignioro, stay a littlo, and consider wello, ten guinnio is monyo, a very considerablo summo.15

And Molière’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme (1670) contains a “Turkish ceremony,” with music by the Florentine-born composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, in which the Mufti speaks in lingua franca:

Se ti sabir,

Ti respondir;

Se non sabir,

Tazir, tazir.

Mi star Mufti:

Ti qui star ti?

Non intendir:

Tazir, tazir.

(If you know [lingua franca], / You will reply; / If you do not know it, / Be silent, be silent. / I am the Mufti: / Who then are you? / If you do not understand: / Be silent, be silent.)16

Such literary sources are stylized, concerned more with dramatic impact than accuracy. And because of its amorphous and unstable nature, because of the paucity of written sources, because by the nineteenth century it had all but been replaced in North Africa by French and in the Levant by a more correct Italian—for all these reasons lingua franca remains strangely elusive. (Bizarrely enough, fragments are thought to have survived in Polari, the secret language used by fairground people, street entertainers, and the gay community in nineteenth- and twentieth-century London.) But it is still possible to catch a hint of its real and fluid nature here and there in Tunisian and Algerian letters of marque and other official and semiofficial documents. For example, the Genoese renegade Agostino Bianco, known also as Murad Raïs, is referred to as “agostin bianco alis morato raixi genovesz,” and as “Caytto Morato Genovese Turco,” and also as “Juldàg bene Abedolo [ibn Abdullah] Turco Genovese.”17 And a whole raft of Italian, Greek, and Spanish nautical terms found their way into the Turkish language via lingua franca. So galión, the Venetian word for “galleon,” was absorbed into Turkish as kalyon; disbarco (disembarcation) became dizbarko; and corsar (corsair) became korsar. Lithgow claimed that the Turks “borrow from the Persian their words of state, from the Arabic their words of Religion, from the Grecians their terms of war, and from the Italian their words and titles of navigation.”18

“Since it is only recently that the Moslems have conquered the Land of the Rhommaioi [Romans] and begun to sail the seas,” wrote the Ottoman encyclopedist Hadji Khalifa in the mid-seventeenth century, “most of the terms and names given to things pertaining to ships and to the sea are some Spanish, some Italian, and some Greek; they have taken them over at their pleasure.”19 I can only guess how much the renegade corsairs of the Barbary Coast facilitated this process; but the thought of Ward and Jennings and Danseker addressing their victims and their friends in this lost pidgin tongue is strangely intriguing.

In July and August 1609, rumors reached England that Simon Danseker wanted to negotiate a pardon with Europe and retire to Italy or France. Perhaps he had amassed enough wealth to retire from piracy; perhaps he was just tired. Certainly, the Mediterranean was becoming a more dangerous place for corsairs that summer. Three Dutch trading centers, Amsterdam, Middelburg, and Vlissingen, launched a combined expedition to Barbary in an attempt to stamp out the threat to their shipping (although the Venetians, always suspicious of other European powers, were privately convinced their real motive was to establish trading links with the Turks); and a fleet of more than a dozen Spanish galleons under the command of Don Luis Fasciardo passed the Straits with express orders to hunt down corsairs, at one point forcing Danseker to take refuge in Algiers harbor. Anthony Sherley, an English ex-privateer employed by the king of Spain to suppress piracy in the Mediterranean, wrote a letter to Ward and the other corsairs, urging them to take up arms against the Turks instead of siding with them. Ward’s response was to say he felt safer with Turks than with Christians; Danseker, in a characteristically flamboyant gesture of defiance, released a captured Spanish caravel and its crew on condition that they seek out Sherley and tell him that if he cared for a fight, the pirate would wait for him at the mouth of the Straits. “This was the pride of his mind, this was (as he thought) a revenge for the letter, and in manner of a challenge upon the same.”20

But in spite of the outward show of defiance, the rumors that Danseker wanted to give up the life of a sea-raider were true. In October he suddenly turned on his Algerian comrades, killing some, taking others prisoner, and liberating several hundred Christian slaves. Then he headed for the Straits. As he reached the Gulf of Cadiz he came on a Spanish treasure fleet entering the Guadalquivir estuary on the way to Seville and captured a great galleon and two ships. According to the Venetian ambassador at Madrid, “Half a million of gold in booty was taken and that, one may say, in the very harbor of Seville.”21 Reasoning that it would be hard for the French authorities to take a high moral tone toward him when presented with gifts such as these, he sailed into Marseilles harbor, where he was met by the governor of Provence, Charles, Duke of Guise, “with every sign of joy.”22No wonder, since he presented the duke with a hefty bribe, the freed Christian slaves, and his Muslim prisoners, who were to be held hostage against the release of some of Danseker’s comrades in Algiers who had been arrested in the aftermath of his escape.

The Duke of Guise secured a safe-conduct through France from Henry IV for the pirate and accompanied him on a public progress to the French court at Paris, where he arrived in the middle of December 1609. Conservative estimates put his personal wealth at 500,000 crowns—he laid out 60,000 on various things as soon as he landed in Marseilles—but attempts by the Spanish and English governments to obtain compensation were waved aside by Henry IV, who told them airily that Europe ought to be grateful to France “for clearing the sea of such a famous pirate.”23

And that should have been that for Danseker and the Barbary Coast. Reunited in Marseilles with his wife and young son after an absence of two years, fêted as “a famous pirate” by the French court, rich enough to live in comfort for the rest of his life, he had no need to go to sea ever again.

The French had other plans.

Those plans had their origins in an idea mooted in March 1610 by Henry IV’s loyal old Protestant general, the Duke of Lesdiguières, for a seaborne assault on Genoa, using a fleet led by Danseker. Henry IV was assassinated on May 14 and the scheme came to nothing, but by the end of that month Danseker was preparing to go back to sea on behalf of the merchants of Marseilles, who were up in arms at the losses they were suffering at the hands of corsairs. Still only in his thirties, and perhaps a little bored with life ashore, the “most notable freebooter”24 had been persuaded out of his early retirement to lead an expedition under French colors against his old allies, the Algerians. His knowledge of the Barbary Coast was too valuable to waste, and the Marseilles merchants clubbed together and spent 24,000 crowns on equipping and victualing three men-of-war to sail for Algiers under his command. Most of the crews were Marseilles men—Danseker was allowed to keep “only two or three of his old lot with him”25—and he was asked to leave his fortune behind as a deposit against his return. The French crown authorized a tax on imports and exports to help pay for the expedition, which was to cruise between Tunis and Algiers, intercepting, intimidating, and if possible destroying any pirate vessels that ventured out of port. Danseker promised that if the French came up with additional ships to reinforce his own, he would “clear out those pirates’ nests within a year.”26

The expedition sailed on October 1, 1610, and before the end of the year, reports were filtering back to Europe that Danseker was dead. According to Antonio Foscarini, the Venetian ambassador in France, the Dutchman scored a few successes against the Algerians and then, with characteristic directness, he hoisted a flag of truce and sailed right into Algiers harbor, asking for a parley. Invited to come ashore and discuss the matter of corsair attacks on Marseilles shipping, he accepted, whereupon he was “made prisoner and has paid by his death for his excessive credulity.”27

The reports, which Foscarini admitted were still unconfirmed, were premature. But they were eerily prophetic. Danseker survived the Algiers expedition, returning safely home to France in late 1610, although he wasn’t successful in putting an end to Algerian raids on Marseilles’s Mediterranean trade.

For the next four years he lived quietly with his family. Then history repeated itself. At the end of 1614, Louis XIII asked him to come out of retirement once again for a last mission to the Barbary Coast. In recent months pirates operating out of Tunis (including renegades working for the aging John Ward) had captured a total of twenty-two French vessels. They and their crews were being held at La Goulette, at the mouth of the Lake of Tunis, and the young king—or, more likely, the irate Levant merchants of Marseilles—pleaded with Danseker to go to Tunis and negotiate with Yusuf Dey for their release.

Danseker agreed. He eventually anchored in the Gulf of Tunis with two French ships in February 1615, and immediately sent a party of men ashore to pay his respects to the dey and to open negotiations. They were welcomed, and the next day Yusuf himself came aboard Danseker’s ship with twelve followers. He was perfectly amenable to the request to free the French vessels—in fact, he had them brought out into the bay as the two men talked—and Danseker, who was pleasantly surprised at his reception, put on a great feast in return, “with good cheer, great quaffing, sounding trumpets, and roaring shots,” according to the Scottish traveler William Lithgow, who was in Tunis at the time and visiting John Ward.28

The rituals of hospitality demanded that the following day Danseker should come ashore to be entertained to dinner in his turn by Yusuf Dey at the Borj el-Karrak. As the Dutchman crossed the drawbridge at the head of his own entourage, a pair of Janissaries came out to greet him and lead him into the fortress.

There was nothing unusual in that. But when Danseker stepped inside, things went quickly and terribly wrong. The Janissaries slammed the gate in the faces of his twelve followers and, leaving them to wait in confusion, marched Danseker straight to the dey. Far from welcoming him to dinner, Yusuf berated him at some length for his crimes against Islam. The ex-pirate was forced to his knees and made to listen to a tirade of accusations about “the many ships, spoils, and great riches he had taken from the Moors, and the merciless murder of their lives.”29 Then a Janissary stepped forward and cut off his head.

Danseker’s corpse was thrown over the fortress wall into a ditch, a signal for every cannon on the ramparts to open fire on the two French ships at anchor in the bay. The ships cut their cables and fled, leaving their dead captain and twelve live comrades behind. The survivors were, in fact, treated decently by the Tunisians, who obviously felt that their point had now been made. They escorted the men aboard one of the redeemed merchantmen and allowed them to set sail for Marseilles with the news of their commander’s death.

The rise and fall of Simon Danseker the Devil Captain was more theatrical, more tragic, than the careers of most Barbary Coast renegades, which tended to be squalid, fragmentary, or both. His adherence to a moral code of sorts, his refusal to renounce Christendom, his return to the European fold, and the manner of his death at the hands of “Turks” gave commentators license to admire him. The Scottish Protestant Lithgow, who loathed Islam almost as much as he hated Catholicism, was convinced that Yusuf Dey had arranged the taking of so many French merchant ships purposely to lure Danseker to his doom: “There was a Turkish policy more sublime and crafty,” he wrote, “than the best European alive could have performed.”30 And even before the Dutchman’s rejection of piracy, English ballad writers were marveling at the majestic scope of his ambition with a frank admiration which wasn’t often accorded to corsairs:

His heart is so aspiring,

That now his chief desiring

Is for to win himself a worthy name;

The land hath far too little ground,

The sea is of a larger bound,

And of a greater dignity and fame.31

There was precious little dignity in Danseker’s brutal death. In life, though, there was a certain fame. “Mundo cosi, cosi,” as his lingua franca- speaking friends might have said. Such, such is the world.

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