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The Dynasts by Thomas Hardy

Part 16 out of 16

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a way of retreat, is heard receding over the hill.]

NAPOLEON (to himself, languidly)

Here should have been some troops of Gerard's corps,
Left to protect the passage of the convoys,
Yet they, too, fail. . . . I have nothing more to lose,
But life!

[Flocks of fugitive soldiers pass along the adjoining road without
seeing him. NAPOLEON'S head droops lower and lower as he sits
listless in the saddle, and he falls into a fitful sleep. The
moon shines upon his face, which is drawn and waxen.]


"Sic diis immortalibus placet,"--
"Thus is it pleasing to the immortal gods,"
As earthlings used to say. Thus, to this last,
The Will in thee has moved thee, Bonaparte,
As we say now.

NAPOLEON (starting)

Whose frigid tones are those,
Breaking upon my lurid loneliness
So brusquely? . . . Yet, 'tis true, I have ever know
That such a Will I passively obeyed!

[He drowses again.]


Nothing care I for these high-doctrined dreams,
And shape the case in quite a common way,
So I would ask, Ajaccian Bonaparte,
Has all this been worth while?


O hideous hour,
Why am I stung by spectral questionings?
Did not my clouded soul incline to match
Those of the corpses yonder, thou should'st rue
Thy saying, Fiend, whoever those may'st be! . . .

Why did the death-drops fail to bite me close
I took at Fontainebleau? Had I then ceased,
This deep had been umplumbed; had they but worked,
I had thrown threefold the glow of Hannibal
Down History's dusky lanes!--Is it too late? . . .
Yes. Self-sought death would smoke but damply here!

If but a Kremlin cannon-shot had met me
My greatness would have stood: I should have scored
A vast repute, scarce paralleled in time.
As it did not, the fates had served me best
If in the thick and thunder of to-day,
Like Nelson, Harold, Hector, Cyrus, Saul,
I had been shifted from this jail of flesh,
To wander as a greatened ghost elsewhere.
--Yes, a good death, to have died on yonder field;
But never a ball came padding down my way!

So, as it is, a miss-mark they will dub me;
And yet--I found the crown of France in the mire,
And with the point of my prevailing sword
I picked it up! But for all this and this
I shall be nothing. . . .
To shoulder Christ from out the topmost niche
In human fame, as once I fondly felt,
Was not for me. I came too late in time
To assume the prophet or the demi-god,
A part past playing now. My only course
To make good showance to posterity
Was to implant my line upon the throne.
And how shape that, if now extinction nears?
Great men are meteors that consume themselves
To light the earth. This is my burnt-out hour.


Thou sayest well. Thy full meridian-shine
Was in the glory of the Dresden days,
When well-nigh every monarch throned in Europe
Bent at thy footstool.


Saving always England's--
Rightly dost say "well-nigh."--Not England's,--she
Whose tough, enisled, self-centred, kindless craft
Has tracked me, springed me, thumbed me by the throat,
And made herself the means of mangling me!


Yea, the dull peoples and the Dynasts both,
Those counter-castes not oft adjustable,
Interests antagonistic, proud and poor,
Have for the nonce been bonded by a wish
To overthrow thee.


Peace. His loaded heart
Bears weight enough for one bruised, blistered while!


Worthless these kneadings of thy narrow thought,
Napoleon; gone thy opportunity!
Such men as thou, who wade across the world
To make an epoch, bless, confuse, appal,
Are in the elemental ages' chart
Like meanest insects on obscurest leaves,
But incidents and grooves of Earth's unfolding;
Or as the brazen rod that stirs the fire
Because it must.

[The moon sinks, and darkness blots out NAPOLEON and the scene.]



[Enter the Spirit and Chorus of the Years, the Spirit and Chorus
of the Pities, the Shade of the Earth, the Spirits Sinister and
Ironic with their Choruses, Rumours, Spirit-messengers and
Recording Angels.

Europe has now sunk netherward to its far-off position as in the
Fore Scene, and it is beheld again as a prone and emaciated figure
of which the Alps form the vertebrae, and the branching mountain-
chains the ribs, the Spanish Peninsula shaping the head of the
ecorche. The lowlands look like a grey-green garment half-thrown
off, and the sea around like a disturbed bed on which the figure


Thus doth the Great Foresightless mechanize
In blank entrancement now as evermore
Its ceaseless artistries in Circumstance
Of curious stuff and braid, as just forthshown.

Yet but one flimsy riband of Its web
Have we here watched in weaving--web Enorm,
Whose furthest hem and selvage may extend
To where the roars and plashings of the flames
Of earth-invisible suns swell noisily,
And onwards into ghastly gulfs of sky,
Where hideous presences churn through the dark--
Monsters of magnitude without a shape,
Hanging amid deep wells of nothingness.

Yet seems this vast and singular confection
Wherein our scenery glints of scantest size,
Inutile all--so far as reasonings tell.


Thou arguest still the Inadvertent Mind.--
But, even so, shall blankness be for aye?
Men gained cognition with the flux of time,
And wherefore not the Force informing them,
When far-ranged aions past all fathoming
Shall have swung by, and stand as backward years?


What wouldst have hoped and had the Will to be?--
How wouldst have paeaned It, if what hadst dreamed
Thereof were truth, and all my showings dream?


The Will that fed my hope was far from thine,
One I would thus have hymned eternally:--


To Thee whose eye all Nature owns,
Who hurlest Dynasts from their thrones,(26)
And liftest those of low estate
We sing, with Her men consecrate!


Yea, Great and Good, Thee, Thee we hail,
Who shak'st the strong, Who shield'st the frail,
Who hadst not shaped such souls as we
If tendermercy lacked in Thee!


Though times be when the mortal moan
Seems unascending to Thy throne,
Though seers do not as yet explain
Why Suffering sobs to Thee in vain;


We hold that Thy unscanted scope
Affords a food for final Hope,
That mild-eyed Prescience ponders nigh
Life's loom, to lull it by-and-by.


Therefore we quire to highest height
The Wellwiller, the kindly Might
That balances the Vast for weal,
That purges as by wounds to heal.


The systemed suns the skies enscroll
Obey Thee in their rhythmic roll,
Ride radiantly at Thy command,
Are darkened by Thy Masterhand!


And these pale panting multitudes
Seen surging here, their moils, their moods,
All shall "fulfil their joy" in Thee
In Thee abide eternally!


Exultant adoration give
The Alone, through Whom all living live,
The Alone, in Whom all dying die,
Whose means the End shall justify! Amen.


So did we evermore, sublimely sing;
So would we now, despise thy forthshowing!


Something of difference animates your quiring,
O half-convinced Compassionates and fond,
From chords consistent with our spectacle!
You almost charm my long philosophy
Out of my strong-built thought, and bear me back
To when I thanksgave thus. . . . Ay, start not, Shades;
In the Foregone I knew what dreaming was,
And could let raptures rule! But not so now.
Yea, I psalmed thus and thus. . . . But not so now.


O Immanence, That reasonest not
In putting forth all things begot,
Thou build'st Thy house in space--for what?


O loveless, Hateless!--past the sense
Of kindly eyed benevolence,
To what tune danceth this Immense?


For one I cannot answer. But I know
'Tis handsome of our Pities so to sing
The praises of the dreaming, dark, dumb Thing
That turns the handle of this idle show!

As once a Greek asked I would fain ask too,
Who knows if all the Spectacle be true,
Or an illusion of the gods (the Will,
To wit) some hocus-pocus to fulfil?


Last as first the question rings
Of the Will's long travailings;
Why the All-mover,
Why the All-prover
Ever urges on and measure out the chordless chime of Things.(27)


Heaving dumbly
As we deem,
Moulding numbly
As in dream
Apprehending not how fare the sentient subjects of Its scheme.


Nay;--shall not Its blindness break?
Yea, must not Its heart awake,
Promptly tending
To Its mending
In a genial germing purpose, and for loving-kindness sake?


Should it never
Curb or care
Aught whatever
Those endure
Whom It quickens, let them darkle to extinction swift and sure.


But--a stirring thrills the air
Like to sounds of joyance there
That the rages
Of the ages
Shall be cancelled, and deliverance offered from the darts that were,
Consciousness the Will informing, till It fashion all things fair!


September 25, 1907



(2)Introduction to the _Choephori_.

(3)It is now called an Epic-drama (1909).

(4)Through this tangle of intentions the writer has in the main
followed Thiers, whose access to documents would seem to
authenticate his details of the famous scheme for England's ruin.

(5)These historic facings, which, I believe, won for the local
(old 39th) regiment the nickname of "Green Linnets," have been
changed for no apparent reason. (They are now restored--1909.)

(6)The remains of the lonely hut occupied by the beacon-keepers,
consisting of some half-buried brickbats, and a little mound
of peat overgrown with moss, are still visible on the elevated
spot referred to. The two keepers themselves, and their
eccentricities and sayings are traditionary, with a slight
disguise of names.

(7)"Le projet existe encore aux archives de la marine que
Napoleon consultait incessamment; il sentait que cette marine
depuis Louis XIV. avait fait de grandes choses: le plan de
l'Expedition d'Egypte et de la descente en Angleterre se
trouvaient au ministere de la marine."--CAPEFIGUE: L'Europe
pendant le Consulat et l'Empire.

(8)This weather-beaten old building, though now an hotel, is but
little altered.

(9)Soph. Trach. 1266-72.

(10)This scene is a little antedated, to include it in the Act to
which it essentially belongs.

(11)"Quel bonhour que je n'aie aucun enfant pour recueillir mon
horrible heritage et qui soit charge du poids de mon nom!"--
(Extract from the poignant letter to his wife written on
this night.--See Lanfrey iii. 374.)

(12)In those days the hind-part of the harbour adjoining this scene
was so named, and at high tides the waves washed across the isthmus
at a point called "The Narrows."

(13)This General's name should, it is said, be pronounced in three
syllables, nearly PRESH-EV-SKY.

(14)It has been conjectured of late that these adventurous spirits
were Sir Robert Wilson and, possibly, Lord Hutchinson, present
there at imminent risks of their lives.

(15)The traditional present of the rose was probably on this
occasion, though it is not quite matter of certainty.

(16)At this date.

(17)So Madame Metternich to her husband in reporting this interview.
But who shall say!

(18)The writer has been unable to discover what became of this
unhappy lady and her orphaned infants.--(The foregoing note,
which appeared in the first edition of this drama, was the
means of bringing from a descendant of the lady referred to
the information she remarried, and lived and died at Venice;
and that both her children grew up and did well.--1909)

(19)Thomas Young of Sturminster-Newton; served twenty-one years in
the Fifteenth (King's) Hussars; died 1853; fought at Vitoria, and

(20)Hussars, it may be remembered, used to wear a pelisse, dolman, or
"sling-jacket" (as the men called), which hung loosely over the
shoulder. The writer is able to recall the picturesque effect of
this uniform.


(22)This famous ball has become so embedded in the history of the
Hundred Days as to be an integral part of it. Yet in spite of
the efforts that have been made to locate the room which saw
the memorable gathering (by the present writer more than thirty
years back, among other enthusiasts), a dispassionate judgment
must deny that its site has as yet been proven. Even Sir W.
Fraser is not convincing. The event happened less than a century
ago, but the spot is almost as phantasmal in its elusive mystery
as towered Camelot, the palace of Priam, or the hill of Calvary.

(23)The spelling of the date is used.

(24)Samuel Clark; born 1779, died 1857. Buried at West Stafford,

(25)One of the many Waterloo men known to the writer in his youth,
John Bentley of the Fusileer Guards, use to declare that he lay
down on the ground in such weariness that when food was brought
him he could not eat it, and slept till next morning on an empty
stomach. He died at Chelsea Hospital, 187-, aged eighty six.

(26)Transcriber's note: This footnote is an excerpt in Greek from
the "Magnificat" canticle, the Latin character equivalent being
"katheile DYNASTAS apo THrono," or "He has put down the mighty
from their thrones."--D.L.

(27)Hor. _Epis._ i, 12.

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