Part 11 out of 16
Herefrom the city appears as a splendid panorama, with its river,
its gardens, and its curiously grotesque architecture of domes and
spires. It is the peacock of cities to Western eyes, its roofs
twinkling in the rays of the September sun, amid which the ancient
citadel of the Tsars--the Kremlin--forms a centre-piece.
There enter on the hill at a gallop NAPOLEON, MURAT, EUGENE, NEY,
DARU, and the rest of the Imperial staff. The French advance-
guard is drawn up in order of battle at the foot of the hill, and
the long columns of the Grand Army stretch far in the rear. The
Emperor and his marshals halt, and gaze at Moscow.]
Ha! There she is at last. And it was time.
[He looks round upon his army, its numbers attenuated to one-fourth
of those who crossed the Niemen so joyfully.]
Yes: it was time. . . . NOW what says Alexander!
This is a foil to Salamanca, sire!
What scores of bulbous church-tops gild the sky!
Souls must be rotten in this region, sire,
To need so much repairing!
Ay--no doubt. . . .
Prithee march briskly on, to check disorder,
Hold word with the authorities forthwith,
Tell them that they may swiftly swage their fears,
Safe in the mercy I by rule extend
To vanquished ones. I wait the city keys,
And will receive the Governor's submission
With courtesy due. Eugene will guard the gate
To Petersburg there leftward. You, Davout,
The gate to Smolensk in the centre here
Which we shall enter by.
VOICES OF ADVANCE-GUARD
This, this is Moscow city. Rest at last!
[The words are caught up in the rear by veterans who have entered
every capital in Europe except London, and are echoed from rank to
rank. There is a far-extended clapping of hands, like the babble
of waves, and companies of foot run in disorder towards high ground
to behold the spectacle, waving their shakos on their bayonets.
The army now marches on, and NAPOLEON and his suite disappear
citywards from the Hill of Salutation.
The day wanes ere the host has passed and dusk begins to prevail,
when tidings reach the rear-guard that cause dismay. They have
been sent back lip by lip from the front.]
An anticlimax to Napoleon's dream!
SPIRIT OF RUMOUR
They say no governor attends with keys
To offer his submission gracefully.
The streets are solitudes, the houses sealed,
And stagnant silence reigns, save where intrudes
The rumbling of their own artillery wheels,
And their own soldiers' measured tramp along.
"Moscow deserted? What a monstrous thing!"--
He shrugs his shoulders soon, contemptuously;
"This, then is how Muscovy fights!" cries he.
Meanwhile Murat has reached the Kremlin gates,
And finds them closed against him. Battered these,
The fort reverberates vacant as the streets
But for some grinning wretches gaoled there.
Enchantment seems to sway from quay to keep,
And lock commotion in a century's sleep.
[NAPOLEON, reappearing in front of the city, follows MURAT, and is
again lost to view. He has entered the Kremlin. An interval.
Something becomes visible on the summit of the Ivan Tower.]
CHORUS OF RUMOURS (aerial music)
Mark you thereon a small lone figure gazing
Upon his hard-gained goal? It is He!
The startled crows, their broad black pinions raising,
Forsake their haunts, and wheel disquietedly.
[The scene slowly darkens. Midnight hangs over the city. In
blackness to the north of where the Kremlin stands appears what at
first seems a lurid, malignant star. It waxes larger. Almost
simultaneously a north-east wind rises, and the light glows and
sinks with the gusts, proclaiming a fire, which soon grows large
enough to irradiate the fronts of adjacent buildings, and to show
that it is creeping on towards the Kremlin itself, the walls of
that fortress which face the flames emerging from their previous
The fire can be seen breaking out also in numerous other quarters.
All the conflagrations increase, and become, as those at first
detached group themselves together, one huge furnace, whence
streamers of flame reach up to the sky, brighten the landscape
far around, and show the houses as if it were day. The blaze
gains the Kremlin, and licks its walls, but does not kindle it.
Explosions and hissings are constantly audible, amid which can be
fancied cries and yells of people caught in the combustion. Large
pieces of canvas aflare sail away on the gale like balloons.
Cocks crow, thinking it sunrise, ere they are burnt to death.]
THE SAME. THE INTERIOR OF THE KREMLIN
[A chamber containing a bed on which NAPOLEON has been lying. It
is not yet daybreak, and the flapping light of the conflagration
without shines in at the narrow windows.
NAPOLEON is discovered dressed, but in disorder and unshaven. He
is walking up and down the room in agitation. There are present
CAULAINCOURT, BESSIERES, and many of the marshals of his guard,
who stand in silent perplexity.]
NAPOLEON (sitting down on the bed)
No: I'll not go! It is themselves who have done it.
My God, they are Scythians and barbarians still!
[Enter MORTIER (just made Governor).]
Sire, there's no means of fencing with the flames.
My creed is that these scurvy Muscovites
Knowing our men's repute for recklessness,
Have fired the town, as if 'twere we had done it,
As by our own crazed act!
[GENERAL LARIBOISIERE, and aged man, enters and approaches
The wind swells higher!
Will you permit one so high-summed in years,
One so devoted, sire, to speak his mind?
It is that your long lingering here entails
Much risk for you, your army, and ourselves,
In the embarrassment it throws on us
While taking steps to seek security,
By hindering venturous means.
[Enter MURAT, PRINCE EUGENE, and the PRINCE OF NEUFCHATEL.]
There is no choice
But leaving, sire. Enormous bulks of powder
Lie housed beneath us; and outside these panes
A park of our artillery stands unscreened.
What have I won I disincline to cede!
VOICE OF A GUARD (without)
The Kremlin is aflame!
[The look at each other. Two officers of NAPOLEON'S guard and an
interpreter enter, with one of the Russian military police as a
We have caught this man
Firing the Kremlin: yea, in the very act!
It is extinguished temporarily,
We know not for how long.
Inquire of him
What devil set him on. (They inquire.)
He says; the Count Rostopchin, sire.
So! Even the ancient Kremlin is not sanct
From their infernal scheme! Go, take him out;
Make him a quick example to the rest.
[Exeunt guard with their prisoner to the court below, whence a
musket-volley resounds in a few minutes. Meanwhile the flames
pop and spit more loudly, and the window-panes of the room they
stand in crack and fall in fragments.]
Incendiarism afoot, and we unware
Of what foul tricks may follow, I will go.
Outwitted here, we'll march on Petersburg,
The Devil if we won't!
[The marshals murmur and shake their heads.]
Your pardon, sire,
But we are all convinced that weather, time,
Provisions, roads, equipment, mettle, mood,
Serve not for such a perilous enterprise.
[NAPOLEON remains in gloomy silence. Enter BERTHIER.]
Well, Berthier. More misfortunes?
News is brought,
Sire, of the Russian army's whereabouts.
That fox Kutuzof, after marching east
As if he were conducting his whole force
To Vladimir, when at the Riazan Road
Down-doubled sharply south, and in a curve
Has wheeled round Moscow, making for Kalouga,
To strike into our base, and cut us off.
Another reason against Petersburg!
Come what come may, we must defeat that army,
To keep a sure retreat through Smolensk on
NAPOLEON (jumping up)
I must act! We'll leave,
Or we shall let this Moscow be our tomb.
May Heaven curse the author of this war--
Ay, him, that Russian minister, self-sold
To England, who fomented it.--'Twas he
Dragged Alexander into it, and me!
[The marshals are silent with looks of incredulity, and Caulaincourt
shrugs his shoulders.]
Now no more words; but hear. Eugene and Ney
With their divisions fall straight back upon
The Petersburg and Zwenigarod Roads;
Those of Davout upon the Smolensk route.
I will retire meanwhile to Petrowskoi.
Come, let us go.
[NAPOLEON and the marshals move to the door. In leaving, the
Emperor pauses and looks back.]
I fear that this event
Marks the beginning of a train of ills. . . .
Moscow was meant to be my rest,
My refuge, and--it vanishes away!
[Exeunt NAPOLEON, marshals, etc. The smoke grows denser and
obscures the scene.]
THE ROAD FROM SMOLENSKO INTO LITHUANIA
[The season is far advanced towards winter. The point of observation
is high amongst the clouds, which, opening and shutting fitfully to
the wind, reveal the earth as a confused expanse merely.]
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
Where are we? And why are we where we are?
SHADE OF THE EARTH
Above a wild waste garden-plot of mine
Nigh bare in this late age, and now grown chill,
Lithuania called by some. I gather not
Why we haunt here, where I can work no charm
Either upon the ground or over it.
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
The wherefore will unfold. The rolling brume
That parts, and joins, and parts again below us
In ragged restlessness, unscreens by fits
The quality of the scene.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
I notice now
Primeval woods, pine, birch--the skinny growths
That can sustain life well where earth affords
But sustenance elsewhere yclept starvation.
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
And what see you on the far land-verge there,
Labouring from eastward towards our longitude?
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
An object like a dun-piled caterpillar,
Shuffling its length in painful heaves along,
Hitherward. . . . Yea, what is this Thing we see
Which, moving as a single monster might,
Is yet not one but many?
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Even the Army
Which once was called the Grand; now in retreat
From Moscow's muteness, urged by That within it;
Together with its train of followers--
Men, matrons, babes, in brabbling multitudes.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
And why such flight?
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Recording Angels, say.
RECORDING ANGEL I (in minor plain-song)
The host has turned from Moscow where it lay,
And Israel-like, moved by some master-sway,
Is made to wander on and waste away!
By track of Tarutino first it flits;
Thence swerving, strikes at old Jaroslawitz;
The which, accurst by slaughtering swords, it quits.
Harassed, it treads the trail by which it came,
To Borodino, field of bloodshot fame,
Whence stare unburied horrors beyond name!
And so and thus it nears Smolensko's walls,
And, stayed its hunger, starts anew its crawls,
Till floats down one white morsel, which appals.
[What has floated down from the sky upon the Army is a flake of
snow. Then come another and another, till natural features,
hitherto varied with the tints of autumn, are confounded, and all
is phantasmal grey and white.
The caterpillar shape still creeps laboriously nearer, but instead,
increasing in size by the rules of perspective, it gets more
attenuated, and there are left upon the ground behind it minute
parts of itself, which are speedily flaked over, and remain as
white pimples by the wayside.]
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
These atoms that drop off are snuffed-out souls
Who are enghosted by the caressing snow.
[Pines rise mournfully on each side of the nearing object; ravens
in flocks advance with it overhead, waiting to pick out the eyes
of strays who fall. The snowstorm increases, descending in tufts
which can hardly be shaken off. The sky seems to join itself to
the land. The marching figures drop rapidly, and almost immediately
become white grave-mounds.
Endowed with enlarged powers of audition as of vision, we are struck
by the mournful taciturnity that prevails. Nature is mute. Save
for the incessant flogging of the wind-broken and lacerated horses
there are no sounds.
With growing nearness more is revealed. In the glades of the forest,
parallel to the French columns, columns of Russians are seen to be
moving. And when the French presently reach Krasnoye they are
surrounded by packs of cloaked Cossacks, bearing lances like huge
needles a dozen feet long. The fore-part of the French army gets
through the town; the rear is assaulted by infantry and artillery.]
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
The strange, one-eyed, white-shakoed, scarred old man,
Ruthlessly heading every onset made,
I seem to recognize.
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
The ceaselessly-attacked one, Michael Ney;
A pair as stout as thou, Earth, ever hast twinned!
Kutuzof, ten years younger, would extirp
The invaders, and our drama finish here,
With Bonaparte a captive or a corpse.
But he is old; death even has beckoned him;
And thus the so near-seeming happens not.
[NAPOLEON himself can be discerned amid the rest, marching on foot
through the snowflakes, in a fur coat and with a stout staff in his
hand. Further back NEY is visible with the remains of the rear.
There is something behind the regular columns like an articulated
tail, and as they draw on, it shows itself to be a disorderly rabble
of followers of both sexes. So the whole miscellany arrives at the
foreground, where it is checked by a large river across the track.
The soldiers themselves, like the rabble, are in motley raiment,
some wearing rugs for warmth, some quilts and curtains, some even
petticoats and other women's clothing. Many are delirious from
hunger and cold.
But they set about doing what is a necessity for the least hope of
salvation, and throw a bridge across the stream.
The point of vision descends to earth, close to the scene of action.]
THE BRIDGE OF THE BERESINA
[The bridge is over the Beresina at Studzianka. On each side of
the river are swampy meadows, now hard with frost, while further
back are dense forests. Ice floats down the deep black stream in
The French sappers are working up to their shoulders in the water at
the building of the bridge. Those so immersed work till, stiffened
with ice to immobility, they die from the chill, when others succeed
Cavalry meanwhile attempt to swim their horses across, and some
infantry try to wade through the stream.
Another bridge is begun hard by, the construction of which advances
with greater speed; and it becomes fit for the passage of carriages
NAPOLEON is seen to come across to the homeward bank, which is the
foreground of the scene. A good portion of the army also, under
DAVOUT, NEY, and OUDINOT, lands by degrees on this side. But
VICTOR'S corps is yet on the left or Moscow side of the stream,
moving toward the bridge, and PARTONNEAUX with the rear-guard, who
has not yet crossed, is at Borissow, some way below, where there is
an old permanent bridge partly broken.
Enter with speed from the distance the Russians under TCHAPLITZ.
More under TCHICHAGOFF enter the scene down the river on the left
or further bank, and cross by the old bridge of Borissow. But they
are too far from the new crossing to intercept the French as yet.
PLATOFF with his Cossacks next appears on the stage which is to be
such a tragic one. He comes from the forest and approaches the left
bank likewise. So also does WITTGENSTEIN, who strikes in between
the uncrossed VICTOR and PARTONNEAUX. PLATOFF thereupon descends
on the latter, who surrenders with the rear-guard; and thus seven
thousand more are cut off from the already emaciated Grand Army.
TCHAPLITZ, of TCHICHAGOFF'S division, has meanwhile got round by the
old bridge at Borissow to the French side of the new one, and attacks
OUDINOT; but he is repulsed with the strength of despair. The French
lose a further five thousand in this.
We now look across the river at VICTOR, and his division, not yet
over, and still defending the new bridges. WITTGENSTEIN descends
upon him; but he holds his ground.
The determined Russians set up a battery of twelve cannon, so as to
command the two new bridges, with the confused crowd of soldiers,
carriages, and baggage, pressing to cross. The battery discharges
into the surging multitude. More Russians come up, and, forming a
semicircle round the bridges and the mass of French, fire yet more
hotly on them with round shot and canister. As it gets dark the
flashes light up the strained faces of the fugitives. Under the
discharge and the weight of traffic, the bridge for the artillery
gives way, and the throngs upon it roll shrieking into the stream
and are drowned.
SEMICHORUS I OF THE PITIES (aerial music)
So loudly swell their shrieks as to be heard above the roar of guns
and the wailful wind,
Giving in one brief cry their last wild word on that mock life
through which they have harlequined!
To the other bridge the living heap betakes itself, the weak pushed
over by the strong;
They loop together by their clutch like snakes; in knots they
are submerged and borne along.
Then women are seen in the waterflow--limply bearing their
infants between wizened white arms stretching above;
Yea, motherhood, sheerly sublime in her last despairing, and
lighting her darkest declension with limitless love.
Meanwhile, TCHICHAGOFF has come up with his twenty-seven thousand men,
and falls on OUDINOT, NEY, and the "Sacred Squadron." Altogether we
see forty or fifty thousand assailing eighteen thousand half-naked,
badly armed wretches, emaciated with hunger and encumbered with
several thousands of sick, wounded, and stragglers.
VICTOR and his rear-guard, who have protected the bridges all day,
come over themselves at last. No sooner have they done so than the
final bridge is set on fire. Those who are upon it burn or drown;
those who are on the further side have lost their last chance, and
perish either in attempting to wade the stream or at the hands of
SEMICHORUS OF THE PITIES (aerial music)
What will be seen in the morning light?
What will be learnt when the spring breaks bright,
And the frost unlocks to the sun's soft sight?
Death in a thousand motley forms;
Charred corpses hooking each other's arms
In the sleep that defies all war's alarms!
Pale cysts of souls in every stage,
Still bent to embraces of love or rage,--
Souls passed to where History pens no page.
The flames of the burning bridge go out as it consumes to the water's
edge, and darkness mantles all, nothing continuing but the purl of
the river and the clickings of floating ice.
THE OPEN COUNTRY BETWEEN SMORGONI AND WILNA
[The winter is more merciless, and snow continues to fall upon a
deserted expanse of unenclosed land in Lithuania. Some scattered
birch bushes merge in a forest in the background.
It is growing dark, though nothing distinguishes where the sun
sets. There is no sound except that of a shuffling of feet in
the direction of a bivouac. Here are gathered tattered men like
skeletons. Their noses and ears are frost-bitten, and pus is
oozing from their eyes.
These stricken shades in a limbo of gloom are among the last
survivors of the French army. Few of them carry arms. One squad,
ploughing through snow above their knees, and with icicles dangling
from their hair that clink like glass-lustres as they walk, go
into the birch wood, and are heard chopping. They bring back
boughs, with which they make a screen on the windward side, and
contrive to light a fire. With their swords they cut rashers from
a dead horse, and grill them in the flames, using gunpowder for
salt to eat them with. Two others return from a search, with a
dead rat and some candle-ends. Their meal shared, some try to
repair their gaping shoes and to tie up their feet, that are
chilblained to the bone.
A straggler enters, who whispers to one or two soldiers of the
group. A shudder runs through them at his words.]
FIRST SOLDIER (dazed)
What--gone, do you say? Gone?
Yes, I say gone!
He left us at Smorgoni hours ago.
The Sacred Squadron even he has left behind.
By this time he's at Warsaw or beyond,
Full pace for Paris.
SECOND SOLDIER (jumping up wildly)
Gone? How did he go?
No, surely! He could not desert us so!
He started in a carriage, with Roustan
The Mameluke on the box: Caulaincourt, too,
Was inside with him. Monton and Duroc
Rode on a sledge behind.--The order bade
That we should not be told it for a while.
[Other soldiers spring up as they realize the news, and stamp
hither and thither, impotent with rage, grief, and despair, many
in their physical weakness sobbing like children.]
Good. It is the selfish and unconscionable characters who are so much
He felt, or feigned, he ought to leave no longer
A land like Prussia 'twixt himself and home.
There was great need for him to go, he said,
To quiet France, and raise another army
That shall replace our bones.
Deserted us!--O, after all our pangs
We shall see France no more!
[Some become insane, and go dancing round. One of them sings.]
MAD SOLDIER'S SONG
Ha, for the snow and hoar!
Ho, for our fortune's made!
We can shape our bed without sheets to spread,
And our graves without a spade.
So foolish Life adieu,
And ingrate Leader too.
--Ah, but we loved you true!
Yet--he-he-he! and ho-ho-ho-!--
We'll never return to you.
What can we wish for more?
Thanks to the frost and flood
We are grinning crones--thin bags of bones
Who once were flesh and blood.
So foolish Life adieu,
And ingrate Leader too.
--Ah, but we loved you true!
Yet--he-he-he! and ho-ho-ho!--
We'll never return to you.
[Exhausted, they again crouch round the fire. Officers and
privates press together for warmth. Other stragglers arrive, and
sit at the backs of the first. With the progress of the night the
stars come out in unusual brilliancy, Sirius and those in Orion
flashing like stilettos; and the frost stiffens.
The fire sinks and goes out; but the Frenchmen do not move. The
day dawns, and still they sit on.
In the background enter some light horse of the Russian army,
followed by KUTUZOF himself and a few of his staff. He presents
a terrible appearance now--bravely serving though slowly dying,
his face puffed with the intense cold, his one eye staring out as
he sits in a heap in the saddle, his head sunk into his shoulders.
The whole detachment pauses at the sight of the French asleep.
They shout; but the bivouackers give no sign.
Go, stir them up! We slay not sleeping men.
[The Russians advance and prod the French with their lances.]
Prince, here's a curious picture. They are dead.
KUTUZOF (with indifference)
Oh, naturally. After the snow was down
I marked a sharpening of the air last night.
We shall be stumbling on such frost-baked meat
Most of the way to Wilna.
OFFICER (examining the bodies)
They all sit
As they were living still, but stiff as horns;
And even the colour has not left their cheeks,
Whereon the tears remain in strings of ice.--
It was a marvel they were not consumed:
Their clothes are cindered by the fire in front,
While at their back the frost has caked them hard.
'Tis well. So perish Russia's enemies!
[Exeunt KUTUZOF, his staff, and the detachment of horse in the
direction of Wilna; and with the advance of day the snow resumes
its fall, slowly burying the dead bivouackers.]
PARIS. THE TUILERIES
[An antechamber to the EMPRESS MARIE LOUISE'S bedroom, at half-past
eleven on a December night. The DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO and another
lady-in-waiting are discovered talking to the Empress.]
I have felt unapt for anything to-night,
And I will now retire.
[She goes into her child's room adjoining.]
DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO
For some long while
There has come no letter from the Emperor,
And Paris brims with ghastly rumourings
About the far campaign. Not being beloved,
The town is over dull for her alone.
[Re-enter MARIE LOUISE.]
The King of Rome is sleeping in his cot
Sweetly and safe. Now, ladies, I am going.
[She withdraws. Her tiring-women pass through into her chamber.
They presently return and go out. A manservant enters, and bars
the window-shutters with numerous bolts. Exit manservant. The
Duchess retires. The other lady-in-waiting rises to go into her
bedroom, which adjoins that of the Empress.
Men's voices are suddenly heard in the corridor without. The lady-
in-waiting pauses with parted lips. The voices grow louder. The
MARIE LOUISE hastily re-enters in a dressing-gown thrown over her
Great God, what altercation can that be?
I had just verged on sleep when it aroused me!
[A thumping is heard at the door.]
VOICE OF NAPOLEON (without)
Hola! Pray let me in! Unlock the door!
Heaven's mercy on us! What man may it be
At such and hour as this?
O it is he!
[The lady-in-waiting unlocks the door. NAPOLEON enters, scarcely
recognizable, in a fur cloak and hood over his ears. He throws
off the cloak and discloses himself to be in the shabbiest and
muddiest attire. Marie Louise is agitated almost to fainting.]
Is it with fright or joy?
I scarce believe
What my sight tells me! Home, and in such garb!
[NAPOLEON embraces her.]
I have had great work in getting in, my dear!
They failed to recognize me at the gates,
Being sceptical at my poor hackney-coach
And poorer baggage. I had to show my face
In a fierce light ere they would let me pass,
And even then they doubted till I spoke.--
What think you, dear, of such a tramp-like spouse?
(He warms his hands at the fire.)
Ha--it is much more comfortable here
Than on the Russian plains!
MARIE LOUISE (timidly)
You have suffered there?--
Your face is thinner, and has line in it;
No marvel that they did not know you!
Disasters many and swift have swooped on me!--
Since crossing--ugh!--the Beresina River
I have been compelled to come incognito;
Ay--as a fugitive and outlaw quite.
We'll thank Heaven, anyhow, that you are safe.
I had gone to bed, and everybody almost!
what, now, do require? Some food of course?
[The child in the adjoining chamber begins to cry, awakened by the
loud tones of NAPOLEON.]
Ah--that's his little voice! I'll in and see him.
I'll come with you.
[NAPOLEON and the EMPRESS pass into the other room. The lady-in-
waiting calls up yawning servants and gives orders. The servants
go to execute them. Re-enter NAPOLEON and MARIE LOUISE. The lady-
in-waiting goes out.]
I have said it, dear!
All the disasters summed in the bulletin
Shall be repaired.
And are they terrible?
Have you not read the last-sent bulletin,
No recent bulletin has come.
Ah--I must have outstripped it on the way!
And where is the Grand Army?
Gone? But--gone where?
Gone all to nothing, dear.
MARIE LOUISE (incredulously)
But some six hundred thousand I saw pass
Through Dresden Russia-wards?
NAPOLEON (flinging himself into a chair)
Well, those men lie--
Or most of them--in layers of bleaching bones
'Twixt here and Moscow. . . . I have been subdued;
But by the elements; and them alone.
Not Russia, but God's sky has conquered me!
(With an appalled look she sits beside him.)
From the sublime to the ridiculous
There's but a step!--I have been saying it
All through the leagues of my long journey home--
And that step has been passed in this affair! . . .
Yes, briefly, it is quite ridiculous,
Whichever way you look at it.--Ha, ha!
MARIE LOUISE (simply)
But those six hundred thousand throbbing throats
That cheered me deaf at Dresden, marching east
So full of youth and spirits--all bleached bones--
Ridiculous? Can it be so, dear, to--
Their mothers say?
NAPOLEON (with a twitch of displeasure)
You scarcely understand.
I meant the enterprise, and not its stuff. . . .
I had no wish to fight, nor Alexander,
But circumstance impaled us each on each;
The Genius who outshapes my destinies
Did all the rest! Had I but hit success,
Imperial splendour would have worn a crown
Unmatched in long-scrolled Time! . . . Well, leave that now.--
What do they know about all this in Paris?
I cannot say. Black rumours fly and croak
Like ravens through the streets, but come to me
Thinned to the vague!--Occurrences in Spain
Breed much disquiet with these other things.
Marmont's defeat at Salamanca field
Ploughed deep into men's brows. The cafes say
Your troops must clear from Spain.
We'll see to that!
I'll find a way to do a better thing;
Though I must have another army first--
Three hundred thousand quite. Fishes as good
Swim in the sea as have come out of it.
But to begin, we must make sure of France,
Disclose ourselves to the good folk of Paris
In daily outing as a family group,
The type and model of domestic bliss
(Which, by the way, we are). And I intend,
Also, to gild the dome of the Invalides
In best gold leaf, and on a novel pattern.
To gild the dome, dear? Why?
To give them something
To think about. They'll take to it like children,
And argue in the cafes right and left
On its artistic points.--So they'll forget
The woes of Moscow.
[A chamberlain-in-waiting announces supper. MARIE LOUISE and
NAPOLEON go out. The room darkens and the scene closes.]
THE PLAIN OF VITORIA
[It is the eve of the longest day of the year; also the eve of the
battle of Vitoria. The English army in the Peninsula, and their
Spanish and Portuguese allies, are bivouacking on the western side
of the Plain, about six miles from the town.
On some high ground in the left mid-distance may be discerned the
MARQUIS OF WELLINGTON'S tent, with GENERALS HILL, PICTON, PONSONBY,
GRAHAM, and others of his staff, going in and out in consultation
on the momentous event impending. Near the foreground are some
hussars sitting round a fire, the evening being damp; their horses
are picketed behind. In the immediate front of the scene are some
This grateful rest of four-and-twenty hours
Is priceless for our jaded soldiery;
And we have reconnoitred largely, too;
So the slow day will not have slipped in vain.
SECOND OFFICER (looking towards the headquarter tent)
By this time they must nearly have dotted down
The methods of our master-stroke to-morrow:
I have no clear conception of its plan,
Even in its leading lines. What is decided?
There are outshaping three supreme attacks,
As I decipher. Graham's on the left,
To compass which he crosses the Zadorra,
And turns the enemy's right. On our right, Hill
Will start at once to storm the Puebla crests.
The Chief himself, with us here in the centre,
Will lead on by the bridges Tres-Puentes
Over the ridge there, and the Mendoza bridge
A little further up.--That's roughly it;
But much and wide discretionary power
Is left the generals all.
[The officers walk away, and the stillness increases, so the
conversation at the hussars' bivouac, a few yards further back,
I wonder, I wonder how Stourcastle is looking this summer night, and
all the old folks there!
You was born there, I think I've heard ye say, Sergeant?
I was. And though I ought not to say it, as father and mother are
living there still, 'tis a dull place at times. Now Budmouth-Regis
was exactly to my taste when we were there with the Court that
summer, and the King and Queen a-wambling about among us like the
most everyday old man and woman you ever see. Yes, there was plenty
going on, and only a pretty step from home. Altogether we had a
You walked with a girl there for some weeks, Sergeant, if my memory
I did. And a pretty girl 'a was. But nothing came on't. A month
afore we struck camp she married a tallow-chandler's dipper of Little
Nicholas Lane. I was a good deal upset about it at the time. But
one gets over things!
'Twas a low taste in the hussy, come to that.--Howsomever, I agree
about Budmouth. I never had pleasanter times than when we lay there.
You had a song on it, Sergeant, in them days, if I don't mistake?
I had; and have still. 'Twas made up when we left by our bandmaster
that used to conduct in front of Gloucester Lodge at the King's Mess
[The Sergeant is silent for a minute, then suddenly bursts into
SONG "BUDMOUTH DEARS"
When we lay where Budmouth Beach is,
O, the girls were fresh as peaches,
With their tall and tossing figures and their eyes of blue
And our hearts would ache with longing
As we paced from our sing-songing,
With a smart CLINK! CLINK! up the Esplanade and down
They distracted and delayed us
By the pleasant pranks they played us,
And what marvel, then, if troopers, even of regiments of renown,
On whom flashed those eyes divine, O,
Should forget the countersign, O,
As we tore CLINK! CLINK! back to camp above the town.
Do they miss us much, I wonder,
Now that war has swept us sunder,
And we roam from where the faces smile to where the faces frown?
And no more behold the features
Of the fair fantastic creatures,
And no more CLINK! CLINK! past the parlours of the town?
Shall we once again there meet them?
Falter fond attempts to greet them?
Will the gay sling-jacket(20) glow again beside the muslin gown?--
Will they archly quiz and con us
With a sideways glance upon us,
While our spurs CLINK! CLINK! up the Esplanade and down?
[Applause from the other hussars. More songs are sung, the night
gets darker, the fires go out, and the camp sleeps.]
THE SAME, FROM THE PUEBLA HEIGHTS
[It is now day; but a summer fog pervades the prospect. Behind
the fog is heard the roll of bass and tenor drums and the clash
of cymbals, with notes of the popular march "The Downfall of Paris."
By degrees the fog lifts, and the Plain is disclosed. From this
elevation, gazing north, the expanse looks like the palm of a
monstrous right hand, a little hollowed, some half-dozen miles
across, wherein the ball of the thumb is roughly represented by
heights to the east, on which the French centre has gathered; the
"Mount of Mars" and the "Moon" (the opposite side of the palm) by
the position of the English on the left or west of the plain;
and the "Line of Life" by the Zadorra, an unfordable river running
from the town down the plain, and dropping out of it through a
pass in the Puebla Heights to the south, just beneath our point
of observation--that is to say, toward the wrist of the supposed
hand. The left of the English army under GRAHAM would occupy the
"mounts" at the base of the fingers; while the bent finger-tips
might represent the Cantabrian Hills beyond the plain to the north
or back of the scene.
From the aforesaid stony crests of Puebla the white town and
church towers of Vitoria can be descried on a slope to the right-
rear of the field of battle. A warm rain succeeds the fog for a
short while, bringing up the fragrant scents from fields, vineyards,
and gardens, now in the full leafage of June.]
All the English forces converge forward--that is, eastwardly--the
centre over the ridges, the right through the Pass to the south, the
left down the Bilbao road on the north-west, the bands of the divers
regiments striking up the same quick march, "The Downfall of Paris."
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
You see the scene. And yet you see it not.
What do you notice now?
There immediately is shown visually the electric state of mind that
animates WELLINGTON, GRAHAM, HILL, KEMPT, PICTON, COLVILLE, and other
responsible ones on the British side; and on the French KING JOSEPH
stationary on the hill overlooking his own centre, and surrounded by
a numerous staff that includes his adviser MARSHAL JOURDAN, with,
far away in the field, GAZAN, D'ERLON, REILLE, and other marshals.
This vision, resembling as a whole the interior of a beating brain
lit by phosphorescence, in an instant fades back to normal.
Anon we see the English hussars with their flying pelisses galloping
across the Zadorra on one of the Tres-Puentes in the midst of the
field, as had been planned, the English lines in the foreground under
HILL pushing the enemy up the slopes; and far in the distance, to the
left of Vitoria, whiffs of grey smoke followed by low rumbles show
that the left of the English army under GRAHAM is pushing on there.
Bridge after bridge of the half-dozen over the Zadorra is crossed by
the British; and WELLINGTON, in the centre with PICTON, seeing the
hill and village of Arinez in front of him (eastward) to be weakly
held, carries the regiments of the seventh and third divisions in a
quick run towards it. Supported by the hussars, they ultimately
fight their way to the top, in a chaos of smoke, flame, and booming
echoes, loud-voiced PICTON, in an old blue coat and round hat,
swearing as he goes.
Meanwhile the French who are opposed to the English right, in the
foreground, have been turned by HILL; the heights are all abandoned,
and the columns fall back in a confused throng by the road to
Vitoria, hard pressed by the British, who capture abandoned guns
amid indescribable tumult, till the French make a stand in front
of the town.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
What's toward in the distance?--say!
SEMICHORUS I OF RUMOURS (aerial music)
Fitfully flash strange sights there; yea,
Unwonted spectacles of sweat and scare
Behind the French, that make a stand
With eighty cannon, match in hand.--
Upon the highway from the town to rear
An eddy of distraction reigns,
Where lumbering treasure, baggage-trains,
Padding pedestrians, haze the atmosphere.
Men, women, and their children fly,
And when the English over-high
Direct their death-bolts, on this billowy throng
Alight the too far-ranging balls,
Wringing out piteous shrieks and calls
From the pale mob, in monotones loud and long.
To leftward of the distant din
Reille meantime has been driven in
By Graham's measure overmastering might.--
Henceforward, masses of the foe
Withdraw, and, firing as they go,
Pass rightwise from the cockpit out of sight.
The sunset slants an ochreous shine
Upon the English knapsacked line,
Whose glistering bayonets incline
As bends the hot pursuit across the plain;
And tardily behind them goes
Too many a mournful load of those
Found wound-weak; while with stealthy crawl,
As silence wraps the rear of all,
Cloaked creatures of the starlight strip the slain.
THE SAME. THE ROAD FROM THE TOWN
[With the going down of the sun the English army finds itself in
complete possession of the mass of waggons and carriages distantly
beheld from the rear--laden with pictures, treasure, flour,
vegetables, furniture, finery, parrots, monkeys, and women--most
of the male sojourners in the town having taken to their heels
and disappeared across the fields.
The road is choked with these vehicles, the women they carry
including wives, mistresses, actresses, dancers, nuns, and
prostitutes, which struggle through droves of oxen, sheep, goats,
horses, asses, and mules-- a Noah's-ark of living creatures in
one vast procession.
There enters rapidly in front of this throng a carriage containing
KING JOSEPH BONAPARTE and an attendant, followed by another vehicle
JOSEPH (inside carriage)
The bare unblinking truth hereon is this:
The Englishry are a pursuing army,
And we a flying brothel! See our men--
They leave their guns to save their mistresses!
[The carriage is fired upon from outside the scene. The KING leaps
from the vehicle and mounts a horse.
Enter at full gallop from the left CAPTAIN WYNDHAM and a detachment
of the Tenth Hussars in chase of the King's carriage; and from the
right a troop of French dragoons, who engage with the hussars and
hinder pursuit. Exit KING JOSEPH on horseback; afterwards the
hussars and dragoons go out fighting.
The British infantry enter irregularly, led by a sergeant of the
Eighty-seventh, mockingly carrying MARSHAL JOURDAN'S baton. The
crowd recedes. The soldiers ransack the King's carriages, cut
from their frames canvases by Murillo, Velasquez, and Zurbaran,
and use them as package-wrappers, throwing the papers and archives
into the road.
They next go to a waggon in the background, which contains a large
chest. Some of the soldiers burst it with a crash. It is full of
money, which rolls into the road. The soldiers begin scrambling,
but are restored to order; and they march on.
Enter more companies of infantry, out of control of their officers,
who are running behind. They see the dollars, and take up the
scramble for them; next ransacking other waggons and abstracting
therefrom uniforms, ladies raiment, jewels, plate, wines, and
Some array them in the finery, and one soldier puts on a diamond
necklace; others load themselves with the money still lying about
the road. It begins to rain, and a private who has lost his kit
cuts a hole in the middle of a deframed old master, and, putting
it over his head, wears it as a poncho.
Enter WELLINGTON and others, grimy and perspiring.]
The men are plundering in all directions!
Let 'em. They've striven long and gallantly.
--What documents do I see lying there?
SECOND OFFICER (examining)
The archives of King Joseph's court, my lord;
His correspondence, too, with Bonaparte.
We must examine it. It may have use.
[Another company of soldiers enters, dragging some equipages that
have lost their horses by the traces being cut. The carriages
contain ladies, who shriek and weep at finding themselves captives.]
What women bring they there?
Mixed sorts, my lord.
The wives of many young French officers,
The mistresses of more--in male attire.
Yon elegant hussar is one, to wit;
She so disguised is of a Spanish house,--
One of the general's loves.
Well, pack them off
To-morrow to Pamplona, as you can;
We've neither list nor leisure for their charms.
By God, I never saw so many wh---s
In all my life before!
[Exeunt WELLINGTON, officers, and infantry. A soldier enters with
his arm round a lady in rich costume.]
We must be married, my dear.
LADY (not knowing his language)
Anything, sir, if you'll spare my life!
There's neither parson nor clerk here. But that don't matter--hey?
Anything, sir, if you'll spare my life!
And if we've got to unmarry at cockcrow, why, so be it--hey?
Anything, sir, if you'll spare my life!
A sensible 'ooman, whatever it is she says; that I can see by her
pretty face. Come along then, my dear. There'll be no bones broke,
and we'll take our lot with Christian resignation.
[Exeunt soldier and lady. The crowd thins away as darkness closes
in, and the growling of artillery ceases, though the wheels of the
flying enemy are still heard in the distance. The fires kindled
by the soldiers as they make their bivouacs blaze up in the gloom,
and throw their glares a long way, revealing on the slopes of the
hills many suffering ones who have not yet been carried in.
The last victorious regiment comes up from the rear, fifing and
drumming ere it reaches its resting-place the last bars of "The
Downfall of Paris":--
Transcriber's Note: There follows in musical notation four bars
from that song in 2/4 time, key of C--
\\E EF G F\E EF G F\E EC D DB\C \\
A FETE AT VAUXHALL
[It is the Vitoria festival at Vauxhall. The orchestra of the
renowned gardens exhibits a blaze of lamps and candles arranged
in the shape of a temple, a great artificial sun glowing at the
top, and under it in illuminated characters the words "Vitoria"
and "Wellington." The band is playing the new air "The Plains
All round the colonnade of the rotunda are to be read in the
illumination the names of Peninsular victories, underneath them
figuring the names of British and Spanish generals who led at
those battles, surmounted by wreaths of laurel The avenues
stretching away from the rotunda into the gardens charm the eyes
with their mild multitudinous lights, while festoons of lamps
hang from the trees elsewhere, and transparencies representing
scenes from the war.
The gardens and saloons are crowded, among those present being the
KING'S sons--the DUKES OF YORK, CLARENCE, KENT, and CAMBRIDGE--
Ambassadors, peers, and peeresses, and other persons of quality,
English and foreign.
In the immediate foreground on the left hand is an alcove, the
interior of which is in comparative obscurity. Two foreign
attaches enter it and sit down.]
Ah--now for the fireworks. They are under the direction of Colonel
[At the end of an alley, purposely kept dark, fireworks are
Very good: very good.--This looks like the Duke of Sussex coming in,
I think. Who the lady is with him I don't know.
[Enter the DUKE OF SUSSEX in a Highland dress, attended by several
officers in like attire. He walks about the gardens with LADY
People have been paying a mighty price for tickets--as much as
fifteen guineas has been offered, I hear. I had to walk up to the
gates; the number of coaches struggling outside prevented my driving
near. It was as bad as the battle of Vitoria itself.
So Wellington is made Field-Marshal for his achievement.
Yes. By the by, you have heard of the effect of the battle upon
the Conference at Reichenbach?--that Austria is to join Russia and
Prussia against France? So much for Napoleon's marriage! I wonder
what he thinks of his respected father-in-law now.
Of course, an enormous subsidy is paid to Francis by Great Britain
for this face-about?
Yes. As Bonaparte says, English guineas are at the bottom of
everything!--Ah, here comes Caroline.
[The PRINCESS OF WALES arrives, attended by LADY ANNE HAMILTON
and LADY GLENBERVIE. She is conducted forward by the DUKE OF
GLOUCESTER and COLONEL ST. LEDGER, and wears a white satin train
with a dark embroidered bodice, and a green wreath with diamonds.
Repeated hurrahs greet her from the crowd. She bows courteously.]
The people are staunch for her still! . . . You heard, sir, what
Austrian Francis said when he learnt of Vitoria?--"A warm climate
seems to agree with my son-in-law no better than a cold one."
Marvellous it is how this loud victory
Has couched the late blind Europe's Cabinets.
Would I could spell precisely what was phrased
'Twixt Bonaparte and Metternich at Dresden--
Their final word, I ween, till God knows when!--
I own to feeling it a sorry thing
That Francis should take English money down
To throw off Bonaparte. 'Tis sordid, mean!
He is his daughter's husband after all.
Ay; yes! . . . They say she knows not of it yet.
Poor thing, I daresay it will harry her
When all's revealed. But the inside o't is,
Since Castlereagh's return to power last year
Vienna, like Berlin and Petersburg,
Has harboured England's secret emissaries,
Primed, purse in hand, with the most lavish sums
To knit the league to drag Napoleon down. . . .
(More fireworks.) That's grand.--Here comes one Royal item more.
[The DUCHESS OF YORK enters, attended by her ladies and by the
HON. B. CRAVEN and COLONEL BARCLAY. She is received with signals
She calls not favour forth as Caroline can!
To end my words:--Though happy for this realm,
Austria's desertion frankly is, by God,
Whatever it is, it means
Two hundred thousand swords for the Allies,
And enemies in batches for Napoleon
Leaping from unknown lairs.--Yes, something tells me
That this is the beginning of the end
For Emperor Bonaparte!
[The PRINCESS OF WALES prepares to leave. An English diplomatist
joins the attaches in the alcove. The PRINCESS and her ladies go
I saw you over here, and I came round. Cursed hot and crowded, isn't
What is the Princess leaving so soon for?
Oh, she has not been received in the Royal box by the other members
of the Royal Family, and it has offended her, though she was told
beforehand that she could not be. Poor devil! Nobody invited her
here. She came unasked, and she has gone unserved.
We shall have to go unserved likewise, I fancy. The scramble at the
buffets is terrible.
And the road from here to Marsh Gate is impassable. Some ladies have
been sitting in their coaches for hours outside the hedge there. We
shall not get home till noon to-morrow.
A VOICE (from the back)
Take care of your watches! Pickpockets!
Good. That relieves the monotony a little.
[Excitement in the throng. When it has subsided the band strikes
up a country dance, and stewards with white ribbons and laurel
leaves are seen bustling about.]
Let us go and look at the dancing. It is "Voulez-vous danser"--no,
it is not,--it is "Enrico"--two ladies between two gentlemen.
[They go from the alcove.]
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
From this phantasmagoria let us roam
To the chief wheel and capstan of the show,
Distant afar. I pray you closely read
What I reveal--wherein each feature bulks
In measure with its value humanly.
[The beholder finds himself, as it were, caught up on high, and
while the Vauxhall scene still dimly twinkles below, he gazes
southward towards Central Europe--the contorted and attenuated
ecorche of the Continent appearing as in an earlier scene, but
now obscure under the summer stars.]
Three cities loom out large: Vienna there,
Dresden, which holds Napoleon, over here,
And Leipzig, whither we shall shortly wing,
Out yonderwards. 'Twixt Dresden and Vienna
What thing do you discern?
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
Flat-folded, parchment-pale, and in its shape
Rectangular; but moving like a cloud
The Dresden way.
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Yet gaze more closely on it.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
The object takes a letter's lineaments
Though swollen to mainsail measure,--magically,
I gather from your words; and on its face
Are three vast seals, red--signifying blood
Must I suppose? It moves on Dresden town,
And dwarfs the city as it passes by.--
You say Napoleon's there?
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Sized to its big importance, as I told,
Bears in it formal declaration, signed,
Of war by Francis with his late-linked son,
The Emperor of France. Now let us go
To Leipzig city, and await the blow.
[A chaotic gloom ensues, accompanied by a rushing like that of a
LEIPZIG. NAPOLEON'S QUARTERS IN THE REUDNITZ SUBURB
[The sitting-room of a private mansion. Evening. A large stove-
fire and candles burning. The October wind is heard without, and
the leaded panes of the old windows shake mournfully.]
SEMICHORUS I OF IRONIC SPIRITS (aerial music)
We come; and learn as Time's disordered dear sands run
That Castlereagh's diplomacy has wiled, waxed, won.
The beacons flash the fevered news to eyes keen bent
That Austria's formal words of war are shaped, sealed, sent.
So; Poland's three despoilers primed by Bull's gross pay
To stem Napoleon's might, he waits the weird dark day;
His proffered peace declined with scorn, in fell force then
They front him, with yet ten-score thousand more massed men.
[At the back of the room CAULAINCOURT, DUKE OF VICENZA, and
JOUANNE, one of Napoleon's confidential secretaries, are unpacking
and laying out the Emperor's maps and papers. In the foreground
BERTHIER, MURAT, LAURISTON, and several officers of Napoleon's
suite, are holding a desultory conversation while they await his
entry. Their countenances are overcast.]
At least, the scheme of marching on Berlin
Is now abandoned.
Not without high words:
He yielded and gave order prompt for Leipzig
But coldness and reserve have marked his mood
Towards us ever since.
The march hereto
He has looked on as a retrogressive one,
And that, he ever holds, is courting woe.
To counsel it was doubtless full of risk,
And heaped us with responsibilities;
--Yet 'twas your missive, sire, that settled it (to MURAT).
How stirred he was! "To Leipzig, or Berlin?"
He kept repeating, as he drew and drew
Fantastic figures on the foolscap sheet,--
"The one spells ruin--t'other spells success,
And which is which?"
What better could I do?
So far were the Allies from sheering off
As he supposed, that they had moved in march
Full fanfare hither! I was duty-bound
To let him know.
Assuming victory here,
If he should let the advantage slip him by
As on the Dresden day, he wrecks us all!
'Twas damnable--to ride back from the fight
Inside a coach, as though we had not won!
CAULAINCOURT (from the back)
The Emperor was ill: I have ground for knowing.
Comrades, the outlook promises us well!
Right glad are we you tongue such tidings, sire.
To us the stars have visaged differently;
To wit: we muster outside Leipzig here
Levies one hundred and ninety thousand strong.
The enemy has mustered, OUTSIDE US,
Three hundred and fifty thousand--if not more.
All that is needful is to conquer them!
We are concentred here: they lie a-spread,
Which shrinks them to two-hundred-thousand power:--
Though that the urgency of victory
Is absolute, I admit.
The issue will be worse than Moscow, sire!
[MARMONT, DUKE OF RAGUSA (Wellington's adversary in Spain), is
announced, and enters.]
Ah, Marmont; bring you in particulars?
Some sappers I have taken captive, sire,
Say the Allies will be at stroke with us
The morning next to to-morrow's.--I am come,
Now, from the steeple-top of Liebenthal,
Where I beheld the enemy's fires bespot
The horizon round with raging eyes of flame:--
My vanward posts, too, have been driven in,
And I need succours--thrice ten thousand, say.
The enemy vexes not your vanward posts;
You are mistaken.--Now, however, go;
Cross Leipzig, and remain as the reserve.--
Well, gentlemen, my hope herein is this:
The first day to annihilate Schwarzenberg,
The second Blucher. So shall we slip the toils
They are all madding to enmesh us in.
Few are our infantry to fence with theirs!
We'll range them in two lines instead of three,
And so we shall look stronger by one-third.
Can they be thus deceived, sire?
Can they? Yes!
With all my practice I can err in numbers
At least one-quarter; why not they one-third?
Anyhow, 'tis worth trying at a pinch. . . .
[AUGEREAU is suddenly announced.]
Good! I've not seen him yet since he arrived.
Here you are then at last, old Augereau!
You have been looked for long.--But you are no more
The Augereau of Castiglione days!
Nay, sire! I still should be the Augereau
Of glorious Castiglione, could you give
The boys of Italy back again to me!
Well, let it drop. . . . Only I notice round me
An atmosphere of scopeless apathy
Wherein I do not share.
There are reasons, sire,
Good reasons for despondence! As I came
I learnt, past question, that Bavaria
Swerves on the very pivot of desertion.