Part 12 out of 16
This adds some threescore thousand to our foes.
That consummation long has threatened us! . . .
Would that you showed the steeled fidelity
You used to show! Except me, all are slack!
(To Murat) Why, even you yourself, my brother-in-law,
Have been inclining to abandon me!
I, sire? It is not so. I stand and swear
The grievous imputation is untrue.
You should know better than believe these things,
And well remember I have enemies
Who ever wait to slander me to you!
NAPOLEON (more calmly)
Ah yes, yes. That is so.--And yet--and yet
You have deigned to weigh the feasibility
Of treating me as Austria has done! . . .
But I forgive you. You are a worthy man;
You feel real friendship for me. You are brave.
Yet I was wrong to make a king of you.
If I had been content to draw the line
At vice-king, as with young Eugene, no more,
As he has laboured you'd have laboured, too!
But as full monarch, you have foraged rather
For your own pot than mine!
[MURAT and the marshal are silent, and look at each other with
troubled countenances. NAPOLEON goes to the table at the back, and
bends over the charts with CAULAINCOURT, dictating desultory notes
to the secretaries.]
A seer might say
This savours of a sad Last-Supper talk
'Twixt his disciples and this Christ of war!
[Enter an attendant.]
The Saxon King and Queen and the Princess
Enter the city gates, your Majesty.
They seek the shelter of the civic walls
Against the risk of capture by Allies.
Ah, so? My friend Augustus, is he near?
I will be prompt to meet him when he comes,
And safely quarter him. (He returns to the map.)
[An interval. The clock strikes midnight. The EMPEROR rises
abruptly, sighs, and comes forward.]
I now retire,
Comrades. Good-night, good-night. Remember well
All must prepare to grip with gory death
In the now voidless battle. It will be
A great one and a critical; one, in brief,
That will seal France's fate, and yours, and mine!
We'll do our utmost, by the Holy Heaven!
Ah--what was that? (He pulls back the window-curtain.)
It is our enemies,
Whose southern hosts are signalling to their north.
[A white rocket is beheld high in the air. It is followed by a
second, and a third. There is a pause, during which NAPOLEON and
the rest wait motionless. In a minute or two, from the opposite
side of the city, three coloured rockets are sent up, in evident
answer to the three white ones. NAPOLEON muses, and lets the
Yes, Schwarzenberg to Blucher. . . . It must be
To show that they are ready. So are we!
[He goes out without saying more. The marshals and other officers
withdraw. The room darkens and ends the scene.]
THE SAME. THE CITY AND THE BATTLEFIELD
[Leipzig is viewed in aerial perspective from a position above the
south suburbs, and reveals itself as standing in a plain, with
rivers and marshes on the west, north, and south of it, and higher
ground to the east and south-east.
At this date it is somewhat in she shape of the letter D, the
straight part of which is the river Pleisse. Except as to this
side it is surrounded by armies--the inner horseshoe of them
being the French defending the city; the outer horseshoe being
the Allies about to attack it.
Far over the city--as it were at the top of the D--at Lindenthal,
we see MARMONT stationed to meet BLUCHER when he arrives on that
side. To the right of him is NEY, and further off to the right,
on heights eastward, MACDONALD. Then round the curve towards the
south in order, AUGEREAU, LAURISTON (behind whom is NAPOLEON
himself and the reserve of Guards), VICTOR (at Wachau), and
PONIATOWSKI, near the Pleisse River at the bottom of the D. Near
him are the cavalry of KELLERMANN and MILHAUD, and in the same
direction MURAT with his, covering the great avenues of approach
on the south.
Outside all these stands SCHWARZENBERG'S army, of which, opposed
to MACDONALD and LAURISTON, are KLEINAU'S Austrians and ZIETEN'S
Prussians, covered on the flank by Cossacks under PLATOFF.
Opposed to VICTOR and PONIATOWSKI are MEERFELDT and Hesse-Homburg's
Austrians, WITTGENSTEIN'S Russians, KLEIST'S Prussians, GUILAY'S
Austrians, with LICHTENSTEIN'S and THIELMANN'S light troops: thus
reaching round across the Elster into the morass on our near left--
the lower point of the D.]
SEMICHORUS I OF RUMOURS (aerial music)
This is the combat of Napoleon's hope,
But not of his assurance! Shrunk in power
He broods beneath October's clammy cope,
While hemming hordes wax denser every hour.
He knows, he knows that though in equal fight
He stand s heretofore the matched of none,
A feeble skill is propped by numbers' might,
And now three hosts close round to crush out one!
The Leipzig clocks imperturbably strike nine, and the battle which
is to decide the fate of Europe, and perhaps the world, begins with
three booms from the line of the allies. They are the signal for
a general cannonade of devastating intensity.
So massive is the contest that we soon fail to individualize the
combatants as beings, and can only observe them as amorphous drifts,
clouds, and waves of conscious atoms, surging and rolling together;
can only particularize them by race, tribe, and language.
Nationalities from the uttermost parts of Asia here meet those from
the Atlantic edge of Europe for the first and last time. By noon
the sound becomes a loud droning, uninterrupted and breve-like, as
from the pedal of an organ kept continuously down.
CHORUS OF RUMOURS
Now triple battle beats about the town,
And now contracts the huge elastic ring
Of fighting flesh, as those within go down,
Or spreads, as those without show faltering!
It becomes apparent that the French have a particular intention,
the Allies only a general one. That of the French is to break
through the enemy's centre and surround his right. To this end
NAPOLEON launches fresh columns, and simultaneously OUDINOT supports
VICTOR against EUGENE OF WURTEMBERG'S right, while on the other
side of him the cavalry of MILHAUD and KELLERMAN prepares to charge.
NAPOLEON'S combination is successful, and drives back EUGENE.
Meanwhile SCHWARZENBERG is stuck fast, useless in the marshes
between the Pleisse and the Elster.
By three o'clock the Allied centre, which has held out against the
assaults of the French right and left, is broken through by cavalry
under MURAT, LATOUR-MAUBOURG, and KELLERMANN.
The bells of Leipzig ring.
CHORUS OF THE PITIES
Those chimings, ill-advised and premature!
Who knows if such vast valour will endure?
The Austro-Russians are withdrawn from the marshes by SCHWARZENBERG.
But the French cavalry also get entangled in the swamps, and
simultaneously MARMONT is beaten at Mockern.
Meanwhile NEY, to the north of Leipzig, having heard the battle
raging southward, leaves his position to assist it. He has nearly
arrived when he hears BLUCHER attacking at the point he came from,
and sends back some of his divisions.
BERTRAND has kept open the west road to Lindenau and the Rhine, the
only French line of retreat.
Evening finds the battle a drawn one. With the nightfall three blank
shots reverberate hollowly.
SEMICHORUS I OF RUMOURS
They sound to say that, for this moaning night,
As Nature sleeps, so too shall sleep the fight;
Neither the victor.
But, for France and him,
Half-won is losing!
Yea, his hopes drop dim,
Since nothing less than victory to-day
Had saved a cause whose ruin is delay!
The night gets thicker and no more is seen.
THE SAME, FROM THE TOWER OF THE PLEISSENBURG
[The tower commands a view of a great part of the battlefield.
Day has just dawned, and citizens, saucer-eyed from anxiety and
sleeplessness, are discover watching.]
The wind increased at midnight while I watched,
With flapping showers, and clouds that combed the moon,
Till dawn began outheaving this huge day,
Pallidly--as if scared by its own issue;
This day that the Allies with bonded might
Have vowed to deal their felling finite blow.
So must it be! They have welded close the coop
Wherein our luckless Frenchmen are enjailed
With such compression that their front has shrunk
From five miles' farness to but half as far.--
Men say Napoleon made resolve last night
To marshal a retreat. If so, his way
Is by the Bridge of Lindenau.
[They look across in the cold east light at the long straight
causeway from the Ranstadt Gate at the north-west corner of the
town, and the Lindenau bridge over the Elster beyond.]
Last night I saw, like wolf-packs, hosts appear
Upon the Dresden road; and then, anon,
The already stout arrays of Schwarzenberg
Grew stoutened more. I witnessed clearly, too,
Just before dark, the bands of Bernadotte
Come, hemming in the north more thoroughly.
The horizon glowered with a thousand fires
As the unyielding circle shut around.
[As it grows light they scan and define the armies.]
Those lying there, 'twixt Connewitz and Dolitz,
Are the right wing of horse Murat commands.
Next, Poniatowski, Victor, and the rest.
Out here, Napoleon's centre at Probstheida,
Where he has bivouacked. Those round this way
Are his left wing with Ney, that face the north
Between Paunsdorf and Gohlis.--Thus, you see
They are skilfully sconced within the villages,
With cannon ranged in front. And every copse,
Dingle, and grove is packed with riflemen.
[The heavy sky begins to clear with the full arrival of the
morning. The sun bursts out, and the previously dark and gloomy
masses glitter in the rays. It is now seven o'clock, and with the
shining of the sun, the battle is resumed.
The army of Bohemia to the south and east, in three great columns,
marches concentrically upon NAPOLEON'S new and much-contracted line
--the first column of thirty-five thousand under BENNIGSEN; the
second, the central, forty-five thousand under BARCLAY DE TOLLY;
the third, twenty-five thousand under the PRINCE OF HESSE-HOMBURG.
An interval of suspense.]
Ah, see! The French bend, falter, and fall back.
[Another interval. Then a huge rumble of artillery resounds from
SEMICHORUS OF RUMOURS (aerial music)
Now Blucher has arrived; and now falls to!
Marmont withdraws before him. Bernadotte
Touching Bennigsen, joins attack with him,
And Ney must needs recede. This serves as sign
To Schwarzenberg to bear upon Probstheida--
Napoleon's keystone and dependence here.
But for long whiles he fails to win his will,
The chief being nigh--outmatching might with skill.
Ney meanwhile, stung still sharplier, still withdraws
Nearer the town, and met by new mischance,
Finds him forsaken by his Saxon wing--
Fair files of thrice twelve thousand footmanry.
But rallying those still true with signs and calls,
He warely closes up his remnant to the walls.
Around Probstheida still the conflict rolls
Under Napoleon's eye surpassingly.
Like sedge before the scythe the sections fall
And bayonets slant and reek. Each cannon-blaze
Makes the air thick with human limbs; while keen
Contests rage hand to hand. Throats shout "advance,"
And forms walm, wallow, and slack suddenly.
Hot ordnance split and shiver and rebound,
And firelocks fouled and flintless overstrew the ground.
At length the Allies, daring tumultuously,
Find them inside Probstheida. There is fixed
Napoleon's cardinal and centre hold.
But need to loose it grows his gloomy fear
As night begins to brown and treacherous mists appear.
Then, on the three fronts of this reaching field,
A furious, far, and final cannonade
Burns from two thousand mouths and shakes the plain,
And hastens the sure end! Towards the west
Bertrand keeps open the retreating-way,
Along which wambling waggons since the noon
Have crept in closening file. Dusk draws around;
The marching remnants drowse amid their talk,
And worn and harrowed horses slumber as the walk.
[In the darkness of the distance spread cries from the maimed
animals and the wounded men. Multitudes of the latter contrive to
crawl into the city, until the streets are full of them. Their
voices are heard calling.]
They cry for water! Let us go down,
And do what mercy may.
[Exeunt citizens from the tower.]
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
A fire is lit
Near to the Thonberg wind-wheel. Can it be
Napoleon tarries yet? Let us go see.
[The distant firelight becomes clearer and closer.]
THE SAME. AT THE THONBERG WINDMILL
[By the newly lighted fire NAPOLEON is seen walking up and down,
much agitated and worn. With him are MURAT, BERTHIER, AUGEREAU,
VICTOR, and other marshals of corps that have been engaged in this
part of the field--all perspiring, muddy, and fatigued.]
Baseness so gross I had not guessed of them!--
The thirty thousand false Bavarians
I looked on losing not unplacidly;
But these troth-swearing sober Saxonry
I reckoned staunch by virtue of their king!
Thirty-five thousand and gone! It magnifies
A failure into a catastrophe. . . .
Murat, we must retreat precipitately,
And not as hope had dreamed! Begin it then
This very hour.--Berthier, write out the orders.--
Let me sit down.
[A chair is brought out from the mill. NAPOLEON sinks into it, and
BERTHIER, stooping over the fire, begins writing to the Emperor's
dictation, the marshals looking with gloomy faces at the flaming
NAPOLEON has hardly dictated a line when he stops short. BERTHIER
turns round and finds that he has dropt asleep.]
Far better not disturb him;
He'll soon enough awake!
[They wait, muttering to one another in tones expressing weary
indifference to issues. NAPOLEON sleeps heavily for a quarter of
and hour, during which the moon rises over the field. At the end
he starts up stares around him with astonishment.]
Am I awake?
Or is this all a dream?--Ah, no. Too real! . . .
And yet I have seen ere now a time like this.
[The dictation is resumed. While it is in progress there can be
heard between the words of NAPOLEON the persistent cries from the
plain, rising and falling like those of a vast rookery far away,
intermingled with the trampling of hoofs and the rumble of wheels.
The bivouac fires of the engirdling enemy glow all around except
for a small segment to the west--the track of retreat, still kept
open by BERTRAND, and already taken by the baggage-waggons.
The orders for its adoption by the entire army being completed,
NAPOLEON bids adieu to his marshals, and rides with BERTHIER and
CAULAINCOURT into Leipzig. Exeunt also the others.]
SEMICHORUS I OF THE PITIES
Now, as in the dream of one sick to death,
There comes a narrowing room
That pens him, body and limbs and breath,
To wait a hideous doom,
So to Napoleon in the hush
That holds the town and towers
Through this dire night, a creeping crush
Seems inborne with the hours.
[The scene closes under a rimy mist, which makes a lurid cloud of
THE SAME. A STREET NEAR THE RANSTADT GATE
[High old-fashioned houses form the street, along which, from the
east of the city, is streaming a confusion of waggons, in hurried
exit through the gate westward upon the highroad to Lindenau,
Lutzen, and the Rhine.
In front of an inn called the "Prussian Arms" are some attendants
of NAPOLEON waiting with horses.]
He has just come from bidding the king and queen
A long good-bye. . . . Is it that they will pay
For his indulgence of their past ambition
By sharing now his ruin? Much the king
Did beg him to leave them to their lot,
And shun the shame of capture needlessly.
(He looks anxiously towards the door.)
I would he'd haste! Each minute is of price.
The king will come to terms with the Allies.
They will not hurt him. Though he has lost his all,
His case is not like ours!
[The cheers of the approaching enemy grow louder. NAPOLEON comes
out from the "Prussian Arms," haggard and in disordered attire.
He is about to mount, but, perceiving the blocked state of the
street, he hesitates.]
God, what a crowd!
I shall more quickly gain the gate afoot.
There is a byway somewhere, I suppose?
[A citizen approaches out of the inn.]
This alley, sire, will speed you to the gate;
I shall be honoured much to point the way.
Then do, good friend. (To attendants) Bring on the horses there;
I if arrive soonest I will wait for you.
[The citizen shows NAPOLEON the way into the alley.]
A garden's at the end, your Majesty,
Through which you pass. Beyond there is a door
That opens to the Elster bank unbalked.
[NAPOLEON disappears into the alley. His attendants plunge amid
the traffic with the horses, and thread their way down the street.
Another citizen comes from the door of the inn and greets the
I'll see if he succeed.
[He re-enters the inn and soon appears at an upper window.]
FIRST CITIZEN (from below)
You see him?
SECOND CITIZEN (gazing)
He is already at the garden-end;
Now he has passed out to the river-brim,
And plods along it toward the Ranstadt Gate. . . .
He finds no horses for him! . . . And the crowd
Thrusts him about, none recognizing him.
Ah--now the horses do arrive. He mounts,
And hurries through the arch. . . . Again I see him--
Now he's upon the causeway in the marsh;
Now rides across the bridge of Lindenau . . .
And now, among the troops that choke the road
I lose all sight of him.
[A third citizen enters from the direction NAPOLEON has taken.]
THIRD CITIZEN (breathlessly)
I have seen him go!
And while he passed the gate I stood i' the crowd
So close I could have touched him! Few discerned
In one so soiled the erst Arch-Emperor!--
In the lax mood of him who has lost all
He stood inert there, idly singing thin:
"Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre!"--until his suite
Came up with horses.
SECOND CITIZEN (still gazing afar)
Wearily walk the level causeway now;
Also, meseems, Macdonald's corps and Reynier's.
The frail-framed, new-built bridge has broken down:
They've but the old to cross by.
They should have had a dozen.
All the corps--
Macdonald's, Poniatowski's, Reynier's--all--
Confusedly block the entrance to the bridge.
And--verily Blucher's troops are through the town,
And are debouching from the Ranstadt Gate
Upon the Frenchmen's rear!
[A thunderous report stops his words, echoing through the city from
the direction in which he is gazing, and rattling all the windows.
A hoarse chorus of cries becomes audible immediately after.]
FIRST, THIRD, ETC., CITIZENS
Ach, Heaven!--what's that?
The bridge of Lindenau has been upblown!
SEMICHORUS I OF THE PITIES (aerial music)
There leaps to the sky and earthen wave,
And stones, and men, as though
Some rebel churchyard crew updrave
Their sepulchres from below.
To Heaven is blown Bridge Lindenau;
Wrecked regiments reel therefrom;
And rank and file in masses plough
The sullen Elster-Strom.
A gulf is Lindenau; and dead
Are fifties, hundreds, tens;
And every current ripples red
With marshals' blood and men's.
The smart Macdonald swims therein,
And barely wins the verge;
Bold Poniatowski plunges in
Never to re-emerge!
Are not the French across as yet, God save them?
SECOND CITIZEN (still gazing above)
Nor Reynier's corps, Macdonald's, Lauriston's,
Nor yet the Poles. . . . And Blucher's troops approach,
And all the French this side are prisoners.
--Now for our handling by the Prussian host;
Scant courtesy for our king!
[Other citizens appear beside him at the window, and further
conversation continues entirely above.]
CHORUS OF IRONIC SPIRITS
The Battle of the Nations now is closing,
And all is lost to One, to many gained;
The old dynastic routine reimposing,
The new dynastic structure unsustained.
Now every neighbouring realm is France's warder,
And smirking satisfaction will be feigned:
The which is seemlier?--so-called ancient order,
Or that the hot-breath'd war-horse ramp unreined?
[The October night thickens and curtains the scene.]
THE PYRENEES. NEAR THE RIVER NIVELLE
[Evening. The dining-room of WELLINGTON'S quarters. The table is
laid for dinner. The battle of the Nivelle has just been fought.
Enter WELLINGTON, HILL, BERESFORD, STEWART, HOPE, CLINTON, COLBORNE,
COLE, KEMPT (with a bound-up wound), and other officers.
It is strange that they did not hold their grand position more
tenaciously against us to-day. By God, I don't quite see why we
should have beaten them!
My impression is that they had the stiffness taken out of them by
something they had just heard of. Anyhow, startling news of some
kind was received by those of the Eighty-eighth we took in the
signal-redoubt after I summoned the Commandant.
Oh, what news?
I cannot say, my lord, I only know that the latest number of the
_Imperial Gazette_ was seen in the hands of some of them before the
capture. They had been reading the contents, and were cast down.
That's interesting. I wonder what the news could have been?
Something about Boney's army in Saxony would be most probable.
Though I question if there's time yet for much to have been
Well, I wouldn't say that. A hell of a lot of things may have
happened there by this time.
It was tantalizing, but they were just able to destroy the paper
before we could prevent them.
Did you question them?
Oh yes. But they stayed sulking at being taken, and would tell us
nothing, pretending that they knew nothing. Whether much were going
on, they said, or little, between the army of the Emperor and the
army of the Allies, it was none of their business to relate it; so
they kept a gloomy silence for the most part.
They will cheer up a bit and be more communicative when they have had
They are dining here, my lord?
I sent them an invitation an hour ago, which they have accepted.
I could do no less, poor devils. They'll be here in a few minutes.
See that they have plenty of Madeira to whet their whistles with.
It well screw them up into a better key, and they'll not be so
[The conversation on the day's battle becomes general. Enter as
guests French officers of the Eighty-eighth regiment now prisoners
on parole. They are welcomed by WELLINGTON and the staff, and all
sit down to dinner.
For some time the meal proceeds almost in silence; but wine is
passed freely, and both French and English officers become
talkative and merry.
WELLINGTON (to the French Commandant)
More cozy this, sir, than--I'll warrant me--
You found it in that damned redoubt to-day?
The devil if 'tis not, monseigneur, sure!
So 'tis for us who were outside, by God!
No; we were not at ease! Alas, my lord,
'Twas more than flesh and blood could do, to fight
After such paralyzing tidings came.
More life may trickle out of men through thought
Than through a gaping wound.
Bears on the news from Saxony, I infer?
SECOND FRENCH OFFICER
Yes: on the Emperor's ruinous defeat
At Leipzig city--brought to our startled heed
By one of the _Gazettes_ just now arrived.
[All the English officers stop speaking, and listen eagerly.]
Where are the Emperor's headquarters now?
My lord, there are no headquarters.
There are no French headquarters now, my lord,
For there is no French army! France's fame
Is fouled. And how, then, could we fight to-day
With our hearts in our shoes!
Why, that bears out
What I but lately said; it was not like
The brave men who have faced and foiled me here
So many a long year past, to give away
A stubborn station quite so readily.
And what, messieurs, ensued at Leipzig then?
SEVERAL FRENCH OFFICERS
Why, sirs, should we conceal it? Thereupon
Part of our army took the Lutzen road;
Behind a blown-up bridge. Those in advance
Arrived at Lutzen with the Emperor--
The scene of our once famous victory!
In such sad sort retreat was hurried on,
Erfurt was gained with Blucher hot at heel.
To cross the Rhine seemed then our only hope;
Alas, the Austrians and the Bavarians
Faced us in Hanau Forest, led by Wrede,
And dead-blocked our escape.
Ha. Did they though?
SECOND FRENCH OFFICER
But if brave hearts were ever desperate,
Sir, we were desperate then! We pierced them through,
Our loss unrecking. So by Frankfurt's walls
We fared to Mainz, and there recrossed the Rhine.
A funeral procession, so we seemed,
Upon the long bridge that had rung so oft
To our victorious feet! . . . What since has coursed
We know not, gentlemen. But this we know,
That Germany echoes no French footfall!
AN ENGLISH OFFICER
One sees not why it should.
SECOND FRENCH OFFICER
We'll leave it so.
[Conversation on the Leipzig disaster continues till the dinner
ends The French prisoners courteously take their leave and go
Very good set of fellows. I could wish
They all were mine! . . .Well, well; there was no crime
In trying to ascertain these fat events:
They would have sounded soon from other tongues.
It looks like the first scene of act the last
For our and all men's foe!
I count to meet
The Allies upon the cobble-stones of Paris
Before another half-year's suns have shone.
--But there's some work for us to do here yet:
The dawn must find us fording the Nivelle!
[Exeunt WELLINGTON and officers. The room darkens.]
THE UPPER RHINE
[The view is from a vague altitude over the beautiful country
traversed by the Upper Rhine, which stretches through it in
birds-eye perspective. At this date in Europe's history the
stream forms the frontier between France and Germany.
It is the morning of New Year's Day, and the shine of the tardy
sun reaches the fronts of the beetling castles, but scarcely
descends far enough to touch the wavelets of the river winding
leftwards across the many-leagued picture from Schaffhausen to
At first nothing--not even the river itself--seems to move in the
panorama. But anon certain strange dark patches in the landscape,
flexuous and riband-shaped, are discerned to be moving slowly.
Only one movable object on earth is large enough to be conspicuous
herefrom, and that is an army. The moving shapes are armies.
The nearest, almost beneath us, is defiling across the river by a
bridge of boats, near the junction of the Rhine and the Neckar,
where the oval town of Mannheim, standing in the fork between the
two rivers, has from here the look of a human head in a cleft
stick. Martial music from many bands strikes up as the crossing
is effected, and the undulating columns twinkle as if they were
SPIRIT OF RUMOUR
It is the Russian host, invading France!
Many miles to the left, down-stream, near the little town of Caube,
another army is seen to be simultaneously crossing the pale current,
its arms and accoutrements twinkling in like manner.
SPIRIT OF RUMOUR
Thither the Prussian levies, too, advance!
Turning now to the right, far away by Basel (beyond which the
Swiss mountains close the scene), a still larger train of war-
geared humanity, two hundred thousand strong, is discernible.
It has already crossed the water, which is much narrower here,
and has advanced several miles westward, where its ductile mass
of greyness and glitter is beheld parting into six columns, that
march on in flexuous courses of varying direction.
SPIRIT OF RUMOUR
There glides carked Austria's invading force!--
Panting, too, Paris-wards with foot and horse,
Of one intention with the other twain,
And Wellington, from the south, in upper Spain.
All these dark and grey columns, converging westward by sure
degrees, advance without opposition. They glide on as if by
gravitation, in fluid figures, dictated by the conformation of
the country, like water from a burst reservoir; mostly snake-
shaped, but occasionally with batrachian and saurian outlines.
In spite of the immensity of this human mechanism on its surface,
the winter landscape wears an impassive look, as if nothing were
Evening closes in, and the Dumb Show is obscured.
PARIS. THE TUILERIES
[It is Sunday just after mass, and the principal officers of the
National Guard are assembled in the Salle des Marechaux. They
stand in an attitude of suspense, some with the print of sadness
on their faces, some with that of perplexity.
The door leading from the Hall to the adjoining chapel is thrown
open. There enter from the chapel with the last notes of the
service the EMPEROR NAPOLEON and the EMPRESS; and simultaneously
from a door opposite MADAME DE MONTESQUIOU, the governess, who
carries in her arms the KING OF ROME, now a fair child between
two and three. He is clothed in a miniature uniform of the
MADAM DE MONTESQUIOU brings forward the child and sets him on his
feet near his mother. NAPOLEON, with a mournful smile, giving one
hand to the boy and the other to MARIE LOUISE, _en famille_, leads
them forward. The Guard bursts into cheers.]
Gentlemen of the National Guard and friends,
I have to leave you; and before I fare
To Heaven know what of personal destiny,
I give into your loyal guardianship
Those dearest in the world to me; my wife,
The Empress, and my son the King of Rome.--
I go to shield your roofs and kin from foes
Who have dared to pierce the fences of our land;
And knowing that you house those dears of mine,
I start afar in all tranquillity,
Stayed by my trust in your proved faithfulness.
(Enthusiastic cheers for the Guard.)
OFFICERS (with emotion)
We proudly swear to justify the trust!
And never will we see another sit
Than you, or yours, on the great throne of France.
I ratify the Empress' regency,
And re-confirm it on last year's lines,
My bother Joseph stoutening her rule
As the Lieutenant-General of the State.--
Vex her with no divisions; let regard
For property, for order, and for France
Be chief with all. Know, gentlemen, the Allies
Are drunken with success. Their late advantage
They have handled wholly for their own gross gain,
And made a pastime of my agony.
That I go clogged with cares I sadly own;
Yet I go primed with hope; ay, in despite
Of a last sorrow that has sunk upon me,--
The grief of hearing, good and constant friends,
That my own sister's consort, Naples' king,
Blazons himself a backer of the Allies,
And marches with a Neapolitan force
Against our puissance under Prince Eugene.
The varied operations to ensue
May bring the enemy largely Paris-wards;
But suffer no alarm; before long days
I will annihilate by flank and rear
Those who have risen to trample on our soil;
And as I have done so many and proud a time,
Come back to you with ringing victory!--
Now, see: I personally present to you
My son and my successor ere I go.
[He takes the child in his arms and carries him round to the
officers severally. They are much affected and raise loud
You stand by him and her? You swear as much?
This you repeat--you promise it?
We promise. May the dynasty live for ever!
[Their shouts, which spread to the Carrousel without, are echoed
by the soldiers of the Guard assembled there. The EMPRESS is now
in tears, and the EMPEROR supports her.]
Such whole enthusiasm I have never known!--
Not even from the Landwehr of Vienna.
[Amid repeated protestations and farewells NAPOLEON, the EMPRESS,
the KING OF ROME, MADAME DE MONTESQUIOU, etc. go out in one
direction, and the officers of the National Guard in another.
The curtain falls for an interval.
When it rises again the apartment is in darkness, and its atmosphere
chilly. The January night-wind howls without. Two servants enter
hastily, and light candles and a fire. The hands of the clock are
pointing to three.
The room is hardly in order when the EMPEROR enters, equipped for
the intended journey; and with him, his left arm being round her
waist, walks MARIE LOUISE in a dressing-gown. On his right arm
he carries the KING OF ROME, and in his hand a bundle of papers.
COUNT BERTRAND and a few members of the household follow.
Reaching the middle of the room, he kisses the child and embraces
the EMPRESS, who is tearful, the child weeping likewise. NAPOLEON
takes the papers to the fire, thrusts them in, and watches them
consume; then burns other bundles brought by his attendants.]
Better to treat them thus; since no one knows
What comes, or into whose hands he may fall!
I have an apprehension-unexplained--
That I shall never see you any more!
Dismiss such fears. You may as well as not.
As things are doomed to be they will be, dear.
If shadows must come, let them come as though
The sun were due and you were trusting to it:
'Twill teach the world it wrongs in bringing them.
[They embrace finally. Exeunt NAPOLEON, etc. Afterwards MARIE
LOUISE and the child.]
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Her instinct forwardly is keen in cast,
And yet how limited. True it may be
They never more will meet; although--to use
The bounded prophecy I am dowered with--
The screen that will maintain their severance
Would pass her own believing; proving it
No gaol-grille, no scath of scorching war,
But this persuasion, pressing on her pulse
To breed aloofness and a mind averse;
Until his image in her soul will shape
Dwarfed as a far Colossus on a plain,
Or figure-head that smalls upon the main.
[The lights are extinguished and the hall is left in darkness.]
THE SAME. THE APARTMENTS OF THE EMPRESS
[A March morning, verging on seven o'clock, throws its cheerless
stare into the private drawing-room of MARIE LOUISE, animating
the gilt furniture to only a feeble shine. Two chamberlains of
the palace are there in waiting. They look from the windows and
Here's a watering for spring hopes! Who would have supposed when
the Emperor left, and appointed her Regent, that she and the Regency
too would have to scurry after in so short a time!
Was a course decided on last night?
Yes. The Privy Council sat till long past midnight, debating the
burning question whether she and the child should remain or not.
Some were one way, some the other. She settled the matter by saying
she would go.
I thought it might come to that. I heard the alarm beating all night
to assemble the National Guard; and I am told that some volunteers
have marched out to support Marmot. But they are a mere handful:
what can they do?
[A clatter of wheels and a champing and prancing of horses is
heard outside the palace. MENEVAL enters, and divers officers
of the household; then from her bedroom at the other end MARIE
LOUISE, in a travelling dress and hat, leading the KING OF ROME,
attired for travel likewise. She looks distracted and pale.
Next come the DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO, lady of honour, the COUNTESS
DE MONTESQUIOU, ladies of the palace, and others, all in travelling
KING OF ROME (plaintively)
Why are we doing these strange things, mamma,
And what did we get up so early for?
I cannot, dear, explain. So many events
Enlarge and make so many hours of one,
That it would be too hard to tell them now.
KING OF ROME
But you know why we a setting out like this?
Is it because we fear our enemies?
We are not sure that we are going yet.
I may be needful; but don't ask me here.
Some time I will tell you.
[She sits down irresolutely, and bestows recognitions on the
assembled officials with a preoccupied air.]
KING OF ROME (in a murmur)
I like being here best;
And I don't want to go I know not where!
Run, dear to Mamma 'Quiou and talk to her
(He goes across to MADAME DE MONTESQUIOU.)
I hear that women of the Royalist hope
(To the DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO)
Have bent them busy in their private rooms
With working white cockades these several days.--
Yes--I must go!
DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO
But why yet, Empress dear?
We may soon gain good news; some messenger
Hie from the Emperor or King Joseph hither?
King Joseph I await. He's gone to eye
The outposts, with the Ministers of War,
To learn the scope and nearness of the Allies;
He should almost be back.
[A silence, till approaching feet are suddenly heard outside the
Ah, here he comes;
Now we shall know!
[Enter precipitately not Joseph but officers of the National Guard
Long live the Empress-regent!
Do not quit Paris, pray, your Majesty.
Remain, remain. We plight us to defend you!
MARIE LOUISE (agitated)
Gallant messieurs, I thank you heartily.
But by the Emperor's biddance I am bound.
He has vowed he'd liefer see me and my son
Blanched at the bottom of the smothering Seine
Than in the talons of the foes of France.--
To keep us sure from such, then, he ordained
Our swift withdrawal with the Ministers
Towards the Loire, if enemies advanced
In overmastering might. They do advance;
Marshal Marmont and Mortier are repulsed,
And that has come whose hazard he foresaw.
All is arranged; the treasure is awheel,
And papers, seals, and cyphers packed therewith.
Yet to leave Paris is to court disaster!
MARIE LOUISE (with petulance)
I shall do what I say! . . . I don't know what--
What SHALL I do!
[She bursts into tears and rushes into her bedroom, followed by
the young KING and some of her ladies. There is a painful silence,
broken by sobbings and expostulations within. Re-enter one of the
She's sorely overthrown;
She flings herself upon the bed distraught.
She says, "My God, let them make up their minds
To one or other of these harrowing ills,
And force to't, and end my agony!"
[An official enters at the main door.]
I am sent here by the Minister of War
To her Imperial Majesty the Empress.
[Re-enter MARIE LOUISE and the KING OF ROME.]
Your Majesty, my mission is to say
Imperious need dictates your instant flight.
A vanward regiment of the Prussian packs
Has gained the shadow of the city walls.
They are armed Europe's scouts!
[Enter CAMBACERES the Arch-Chancellor, COUNT BEAUHARNAIS, CORVISART
the physician, DE BAUSSET, DE CANISY the equerry, and others.]
There's not a trice to lose. The force well-nigh
Of all compacted Europe crowds on us,
And clamours at the walls!
If you stay longer,
You stay to fall into the Cossacks hands.
The people, too, are waxing masterful:
They think the lingering of your Majesty
Makes Paris more a peril for themselves
Than a defence for you. To fight is fruitless,
And wanton waste of life. You have nought to do
But go; and I, and all the Councillors,
Will follow you.
Then I was right to say
That I would go! Now go I surely will,
And let none try to hinder me again!
[She prepares to leave.]
KING OF ROME (crying)
I will not go! I like to live here best!
Don't go to Rambouillet, mamma; please don't.
It is a nasty place! Let us stay here.
O Mamma 'Quiou, stay with me here; pray stay!
MARIE LOUISE (to the Equerry)
Bring him down.
[Exit MARIE LOUISE in tears, followed by ladies-in-waiting and
Come now, Monseigneur, come.
[He catches up the boy in his arms and prepares to follow the
KING OF ROME (kicking)
No, no, no! I don't want to go away from my house--I don't want to!
Now papa is away I am the master! (He clings to the door as the
equerry is bearing him through it.)
But you must go.
[The child's fingers are pulled away. Exit DE CANISY with the King
OF ROME, who is heard screaming as he is carried down the staircase.]
MADAME DE MONTESQUIOU
I feel the child is right!
A premonition has enlightened him.
She ought to stay. But, ah, the die is cast!
[MADAME DE MONTESQUIOU and the remainder of the party follow, and
the room is left empty. Enter servants hastily.]
Sacred God, where are we to go to for grub and good lying to-night?
What are ill-used men to do?
I trudge like the rest. All the true philosophers are gone, and the
middling true are going. I made up my mind like the truest that ever
was as soon as I heard the general alarm beat.
I stay here. No Allies are going to tickle our skins. The storm
which roots--Dost know what a metaphor is, comrade? I brim with
them at this historic time!
A weapon of war used by the Cossacks?
Your imagination will be your ruin some day, my man! It happens to
be a weapon of wisdom used by me. My metaphor is one may'st have
met with on the rare times when th'hast been in good society. Here
it is: The storm which roots the pine spares the p--s--b--d. Now
do you see?
FIRST AND SECOND SERVANTS
Good! Your teaching, friend, is as sound as true religion! We'll
not go. Hearken to what's doing outside. (Carriages are heard
moving. Servants go to the window and look down.) Lord, there's
the Duchess getting in. Now the Mistress of the Wardrobe; now the
Ladies of the Palace; now the Prefects; now the Doctors. What a
time it takes! There are near a dozen berlines, as I am a patriot!
Those other carriages bear treasure. How quiet the people are! It
is like a funeral procession. Not a tongue cheers her!
Now there will be a nice convenient time for a little good victuals
and drink, and likewise pickings, before the Allies arrive, thank
[From a distant part of the city bands are heard playing military
marches. Guns next resound. Another servant rushes in.]
Montmartre is being stormed, and bombs are falling in the Chaussee
[Exit fourth servant.]
THIRD SERVANT (pulling something from his hat)
Then it is time for me to gird my armour on.
What hast there?
[Third servant holds up a crumpled white cockade and sticks it in
his hair. The firing gets louder.]
FIRST AND SECOND SERVANTS
Hast got another?
THIRD SERVANT (pulling out more)
Ay--here they are; at a price.
[The others purchase cockades of third servant. A military march
is again heard. Re-enter fourth servant.]
The city has capitulated! The Allied sovereigns, so it is said,
will enter in grand procession to-morrow: the Prussian cavalry
first, then the Austrian foot, then the Russian and Prussian foot,
then the Russian horse and artillery. And to cap all, the people
of Paris are glad of the change. They have put a rope round the
neck of the statue of Napoleon on the column of the Grand Army, and
are amusing themselves with twitching it and crying "Strangle the
Well, well! There's rich colours in this kaleidoscopic world!
And there's comedy in all things--when they don't concern you.
Another glorious time among the many we've had since eighty-nine.
We have put our armour on none too soon. The Bourbons for ever!
[He leaves, followed by first and second servants.]
My faith, I think I'll turn Englishman in my older years, where
there's not these trying changes in the Constitution!
[Follows the others. The Allies military march waxes louder as
the scene shuts.]
FONTAINEBLEAU. A ROOM IN THE PALACE
[NAPOLEON is discovered walking impatiently up and down, and
glancing at the clock every few minutes. Enter NEY.]
NAPOLEON (without a greeting)
Well--the result? Ah, but your looks display
A leaden dawning to the light you bring!
What--not a regency? What--not the Empress
To hold it in trusteeship for my son?
Sire, things like revolutions turn back,
But go straight on. Imperial governance
Is coffined for your family and yourself!
It is declared that military repose,
And France's well-doing, demand of you
Your abdication--unconditioned, sheer.
This verdict of the sovereigns cannot change,
And I have pushed on hot to let you know.
NAPOLEON (with repression)
I am obliged to you. You have told me promptly!--
This was to be expected. I had learnt
Of Marmont's late defection, and the Sixth's;
The consequence I easily inferred.
The Paris folk are flaked with white cockades;
Tricolors choke the kennels. Rapturously
They clamour for the Bourbons and for peace.
I can draw inferences without assistance!
They see the brooks of blood that have flowed forth;
They feel their own bereavements; so their mood
Asked no deep reasoning for its geniture.
I have no remarks to make on that just now.
I'll think the matter over. You shall know
By noon to-morrow my definitive.
NEY (turning to go)
I trust my saying what had to be said
Has not affronted you?
No; but your haste
In doing it has galled me, and has shown me
A heart that heaves no longer in my cause!
The skilled coquetting of the Government
Has nearly won you from old fellowship! . . .
Well; till to-morrow, marshal, then Adieu.
[Ney goes. Enter CAULAINCOURT and MACDONALD.]
Ney has got here before you; and, I deem,
Has truly told me all?
We thought at first
We should have had success. But fate said No;
And abdication, making no reserves,
Is, sire, we are convinced, with all respect,
The only road, if you care not to risk
The Empress; loss of every dignity,
And magnified misfortunes thrown on France.
I have heard it all; and don't agree with you.
My assets are not quite so beggarly
That I must close in such a shameful bond!
What--do you rate as naught that I am yet
Full fifty thousand strong, with Augereau,
And Soult, and Suchet true, and many more?
I still may know to play the Imperial game
As well as Alexander and his friends!
So--you will see. Where are my maps?--eh, where?
I'll trace campaigns to come! Where's my paper, ink,
To schedule all my generals and my means!
Sire, you have not the generals you suppose.
And if you had, the mere anatomy
Of a real army, sire, that's left to you,
Must yield the war. A bad example tells.
Ah--from your manner it is worse, I see,
Than I cognize! . . . O Marmont, Marmont,--yours,
Yours was the bad sad lead!--I treated him
As if he were a son!--defended him,
Made him a marshal out of sheer affection,
Built, as 'twere rock, on his fidelity!
"Forsake who may," I said, "I still have him."
Child that I was, I looked for faith in friends! . . .
Then be it as you will. Ney's manner shows
That even he inclines to Bourbonry.--
I faint to leave France thus--curtailed, pared down
From her late spacious borders. Of the whole
This is the keenest sword that pierces me. . . .
But all's too late: my course is closed, I see.
I'll do it--now. Call in Bertrand and Ney;
Let them be witness to my finishing!
[In much agitation he goes to the writing-table and begins drawing
up a paper. BERTRAND and NEY enter; and behind them are seen
through the doorway the faces of CONSTANT the valet, ROUSTAN the
Mameluke, and other servants. All wait in silence till the EMPEROR
has done writing. He turns in his seat without looking up.]
"It having been declared by the Allies
That the prime obstacle to Europe's peace
Is France's empery by Napoleon,
This ruler, faithful to his oath of old,
Renounces for himself and for his heirs
The throne of France and that of Italy;
Because no sacrifice, even of his life,
Is he averse to make for France's gain."
--And hereto do I sign. (He turns to the table and signs.)
[The marshals, moved, rush forward and seize his hand.]
Mark, marshals, here;
It is a conquering foe I covenant with,
And not the traitors at the Tuileries
Who call themselves the Government of France!
Caulaincourt, go to Paris as before,
Ney and Macdonald too, and hand in this
To Alexander, and to him alone.
[He gives the document, and bids them adieu almost without speech.
The marshals and others go out. NAPOLEON continues sitting with
his chin on his chest.
An interval of silence. There is then heard in the corridor a
sound of whetting. Enter ROUSTAN the Mameluke, with a whetstone
in his belt and a sword in his hand.]
After this fall, your Majesty, 'tis plain
You will not choose to live; and knowing this
I bring to you my sword.
NAPOLEON (with a nod)
I see you do, Roustan.
Will you, sire, use it on yourself,
Or shall I pass it through you?
Is quite expedient for the moment, man.
There may be, in some suited time,
Some cleaner means of carrying out such work.
Sire, you refuse? Can you support vile life
A moment on such terms? Why then, I pray,
Dispatch me with the weapon, or dismiss me.
(He holds the sword to NAPOLEON, who shakes his head.)
I live no longer under such disgrace!
[Exit ROUSTAN haughtily. NAPOLEON vents a sardonic laugh, and
throws himself on a sofa, where he by and by falls asleep. The
door is softly opened. ROUSTAN and CONSTANT peep in.]
To-night would be as good a time to go as any. He will sleep there
for hours. I have my few francs safe, and I deserve them; for I have
stuck to him honourably through fourteen trying years.
How many francs have you secured?
Well--more than you can count in one breath, or even two.
In a hollow tree in the Forest. And as for YOUR reward, you can
easily get the keys of that cabinet, where there are more than
enough francs to equal mine. He will not have them, and you may
as well take them as strangers.
It is not money that I want, but honour. I leave, because I can
no longer stay with self-respect.
And I because there is no other such valet in the temperate zone,
and it is for the good of society that I should not be wasted here.
Well, as you propose going this evening I will go with you, to lend
a symmetry to the drama of our departure. Would that I had served
a more sensitive master! He sleeps there quite indifferent to the
dishonour of remaining alive!
[NAPOLEON shows signs of waking. CONSTANT and ROUSTAN disappear.
NAPOLEON slowly sits up.]
Here the scene lingers still! Here linger I! . . .
Things could not have gone on as they were going;
I am amazed they kept their course so long.
But long or short they have ended now--at last!
(Footsteps are heard passing through the court without.)
Hark at them leaving me! So politic rats
Desert the ship that's doomed. By morrow-dawn
I shall not have a man to shake my bed
Or say good-morning to!
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
How heavily grinds the Will upon his brain,
His halting hand, and his unlighted eye.
A picture this for kings and subjects too!
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
Yet is it but Napoleon who has failed.
The pale pathetic peoples still plod on
Through hoodwinkings to light!
NAPOLEON (rousing himself)
This now must close.
Roustan misunderstood me, though his hint
Serves as a fillip to a flaccid brain. . . .
--How gild the sunset sky of majesty
Better than by the act esteemed of yore?
Plutarchian heroes outstayed not their fame,
And what nor Brutus nor Themistocles
Nor Cato nor Mark Antony survived,
Why, why should I? Sage Canabis, you primed me!
[He unlocks a case, takes out a little bag containing a phial, pours
from it a liquid into a glass, and drinks. He then lies down and
falls asleep again.
Re-enter CONSTANT softly with a bunch of keys in his hand. On
his way to the cabinet he turns and looks at NAPOLEON. Seeing
the glass and a strangeness in the EMPEROR, he abandons his
object, rushes out, and is heard calling.
Enter MARET and BERTRAND.]
BERTRAND (shaking the Emperor)
What is the matter, sire? What's this you've done?
NAPOLEON (with difficulty)
Why did you interfere!--But it is well;
Call Caulaincourt. I'd speak with him a trice
Before I pass.
[MARET hurries out. Enter IVAN the physician, and presently
Ivan, renew this dose;
'Tis a slow workman, and requires a fellow;
Age has impaired its early promptitude.
[Ivan shakes his head and rushes away distracted. CAULAINCOURT
seizes NAPOLEON'S hand.]
Why should you bring this cloud upon us now!
Restrain your feelings. Let me die in peace.--
My wife and son I recommend to you;
Give her this letter, and the packet there.
Defend my memory, and protect their lives.
(They shake him. He vomits.)
He's saved--for good or ill-as may betide!