Part 4 out of 16
But out of tune the Mode and meritless
That quickens sense in shapes whom, thou hast said,
Necessitation sways! A life there was
Among these self-same frail ones--Sophocles--
Who visioned it too clearly, even while
He dubbed the Will "the gods." Truly said he,
"Such gross injustice to their own creation
Burdens the time with mournfulness for us,
And for themselves with shame."(9)--Things mechanized
By coils and pivots set to foreframed codes
Would, in a thorough-sphered melodic rule,
And governance of sweet consistency,
Be cessed no pain, whose burnings would abide
With That Which holds responsibility,
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
Yea, yea, yea!
Thus would the Mover pay
The score each puppet owes,
The Reaper reap what his contrivance sows!
Why make Life debtor when it did not buy?
Why wound so keenly Right that it would die?
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Nay, blame not! For what judgment can ye blame?--
In that immense unweeting Mind is shown
One far above forethinking; processive,
Yet superconscious; a Clairvoyancy
That knows not what It knows, yet works therewith.--
The cognizance ye mourn, Life's doom to feel,
If I report it meetly, came unmeant,
Emerging with blind gropes from impercipience
By listless sequence--luckless, tragic Chance,
In your more human tongue.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
And hence unneeded
In the economy of Vitality,
Which might have ever kept a sealed cognition
As doth the Will Itself.
CHORUS OF THE YEARS (aerial music)
Nay, nay, nay;
Your hasty judgments stay,
Until the topmost cyme
Have crowned the last entablature of Time.
O heap not blame on that in-brooding Will;
O pause, till all things all their days fulfil!
LONDON. THE GUILDHALL
[A crowd of citizens has gathered outside to watch the carriages
as they drive up and deposit guests invited to the Lord Mayor's
banquet, for which event the hall is brilliantly lit within. A
cheer rises when the equipage of any popular personage arrives
at the door.
Well, well! Nelson is the man who ought to have been banqueted
to-night. But he is coming to Town in a coach different from these.!
Will they bring his poor splintered body home?
Yes. They say he's to be tombed in marble, at St. Paul's or
Westminster. We shall see him if he lays in state. It will
make a patriotic spectacle for a fine day.
How can you see a dead man, father, after so long?
They'll embalm him, my boy, as they did all the great Egyptian
His lady will be handy for that, won't she?
Don't ye ask awkward questions.
Here's another coming!
That's my Lord Chancellor Eldon. Wot he'll say, and wot he'll look!
Mr. Pitt will be here soon.
I don't like Billy. He killed Uncle John's parrot.
How may ye make that out, youngster?
Mr. Pitt made the war, and the war made us want sailors; and Uncle
John went for a walk down Wapping High Street to talk to the pretty
ladies one evening; and there was a press all along the river that
night--a regular hot one--and Uncle John was carried on board a
man-of-war to fight under Nelson; and nobody minded Uncle John's
parrot, and it talked itself to death. So Mr. Pitt killed Uncle
John's parrot; see it, sir?
You had better have a care of this boy, friend. His brain is too
precious for the common risks of Cheapside. Not but what he might
as well have said Boney killed the parrot when he was about it.
And as for Nelson--who's now sailing shinier seas than ours, if
they've rubbed Her off his slate where he's gone to,--the French
papers say that our loss in him is greater than our gain in ships;
so that logically the victory is theirs. Gad, sir, it's almost
[A hurrahing is heard from Cheapside, and the crowd in that
direction begins to hustle and show excitement.]
He's coming, he's coming! Here, let me lift you up, my boy.-- Why,
they have taken out the horses, as I am man alive!
Pitt for ever!--Why, here's a blade opening and shutting his mouth
like the rest, but never a sound does he raise!
I've not too much breath to carry me through my day's work, so I
can't afford to waste it in such luxuries as crying Hurrah to
aristocrats. If ye was ten yards off y'd think I was shouting
as loud as any.
It's a very mean practice of ye to husband yourself at such a time,
and gape in dumbshow like a frog in Plaistow Marshes.
No, sir; it's economy; a very necessary instinct in these days of
ghastly taxations to pay half the armies in Europe! In short, in
the word of the Ancients, it is scarcely compass-mentas to do
otherwise! Somebody must save something, or the country will be
as bankrupt as Mr. Pitt himself is, by all account; though he
don't look it just now.
[PITT's coach passes, drawn by a troop of running men and boy.
The Prime Minister is seen within, a thin, erect, up-nosed
figure, with a flush of excitement on his usually pale face.
The vehicle reached the doorway to the Guildhall and halts with
a jolt. PITT gets out shakily, and amid cheers enters the
Quite a triumphal entry. Such is power;
Now worshipped, now accursed! The overthrow
Of all Pitt's European policy
When his hired army and his chosen general
Surrendered them at Ulm a month ago,
Is now forgotten! Ay; this Trafalgar
Will botch up many a ragged old repute,
Make Nelson figure as domestic saint
No less than country's saviour, Pitt exalt
As zenith-star of England's firmament,
And uncurse all the bogglers of her weal
At this adventurous time.
Talk of Pitt being ill. He looks hearty as a buck.
It's the news--no more. His spirits are up like a rocket for the
Is it because Trafalgar is near Portugal that he loves Port wine?
Ah, as I said, friend; this boy must go home and be carefully put
Well, whatever William's faults, it is a triumph for his virtues
[PITT having disappeared, the Guildhall doors are closed, and
the crowd slowly disperses, till in the course of an hour the
street shows itself empty and dark, only a few oil lamps burning.
The SCENE OPENS, revealing the interior of the Guildhall, and
the brilliant assembly of City magnates, Lords, and Ministers
seated there, Mr. PITT occupying a chair of honour by the Lord
Mayor. His health has been proposed as that of the Saviour of
England, and drunk with acclamations.]
PITT (standing up after repeated calls)
My lords and gentlemen:--You have toasted me
As one who has saved England and her cause.
I thank you, gentlemen, unfeignedly.
But--no man has saved England, let me say:
England has saved herself, by her exertions:
She will, I trust, save Europe by her example!
[Loud applause, during which he sits down, rises, and sits down
again. The scene then shuts, and the night without has place.]
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Those words of this man Pitt--his last large words,
As I may prophesy--that ring to-night
In their first mintage to the feasters here,
Will spread with ageing, lodge, and crystallize,
And stand embedded in the English tongue
Till it grow thin, outworn, and cease to be.--
So is't ordained by That Which all ordains;
For words were never winged with apter grace.
Or blent with happier choice of time and place,
To hold the imagination of this strenuous race.
AN INN AT RENNES
[Night. A sleeping-chamber. Two candles are burning near a bed
in an alcove, and writing-materials are on the table.
The French admiral, VILLENEUVE, partly undressed, is pacing up
and down the room.]
These hauntings have at last nigh proved to me
That this thing must be done. Illustrious foe
And teacher, Nelson: blest and over blest
In thy outgoing at the noon of strife
When glory clasped thee round; while wayward Death
Refused my coaxings for the like-timed call!
Yet I did press where thickest missiles fell,
And both by precept and example showed
Where lay the line of duty, patriotism,
And honour, in that combat of despair.
[He see himself in the glass as he passes.]
Unfortunate Villeneuve!--whom fate has marked
To suffer for too firm a faithfulness.--
An Emperor's chide is a command to die.--
By him accursed, forsaken by my friend,
Awhile stern England's prisoner, then unloosed
Like some poor dolt unworth captivity,
Time serves me now for ceasing. Why not cease? . . .
When, as Shades whisper in the chasmal night,
"Better, far better, no percipience here."--
O happy lack, that I should have no child
To come into my hideous heritage,
And groan beneath the burden of my name!(11)
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
I'll speak. His mood is ripe for such a parle.
(Sending a voice into VILLENEUVE'S ear.)
Thou dost divine the hour!
But those stern Nays,
That heretofore were audible to me
At each unhappy time I strove to pass?
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Have been annulled. The Will grants exit freely;
Yea, It says "Now." Therefore make now thy time.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
May his sad sunken soul merge into nought
Meekly and gently as a breeze at eve!
From skies above me and the air around
Those callings which so long have circled me
At last do whisper "Now." Now it shall be!
[He seals a letter, and addresses it to his wife; then takes a
dagger from his accoutrements that are hanging alongside, and,
lying down upon his back on the bed, stabs himself determinedly
in many places, leaving the weapon in the last wound.]
Ungrateful master; generous foes; Farewell!
[VILLENEUVE dies; and the scene darkens.]
KING GEORGE'S WATERING-PLACE, SOUTH WESSEX
[The interior of the "Old Rooms" Inn. Boatmen and burghers are
sitting on settles round the fire, smoking and drinking.
So they've brought him home at last, hey? And he's to be solemnized
with a roaring funeral?
Yes, thank God. . . . 'Tis better to lie dry than wet, if canst do it
without stinking on the road gravewards. And they took care that he
'Tis to be at Paul's; so they say that know. And the crew of the
"Victory" have to walk in front, and Captain Hardy is to carry his
stars and garters on a great velvet pincushion.
Where's the Captain now?
SECOND BOATMAN (nodding in the direction of Captain Hardy's house)
Down at home here biding with his own folk a bit. I zid en walking
with them on the Esplanade yesterday. He looks ten years older than
he did when he went. Ay--he brought the galliant hero home!
Now how did they bring him home so that he could lie in state
afterwards to the naked eye!
Well, as they always do,--in a cask of sperrits.
FIRST BOATMAN (lowering his voice)
But what happened was this. They were a long time coming, owing to
contrary winds, and the "Victory" being little more than a wreck.
And grog ran short, because they'd used near all they had to peckle
his body in. So--they broached the Adm'l!
Well; the plain calendar of it is, that when he came to be unhooped,
it was found that the crew had drunk him dry. What was the men to
do? Broke down by the battle, and hardly able to keep afloat, 'twas
a most defendable thing, and it fairly saved their lives. So he was
their salvation after death as he had been in the fight. If he
could have knowed it, 'twould have pleased him down to the ground!
How 'a would have laughed through the spigot-hole: "Draw on, my
hearties! Better I shrivel that you famish." Ha-ha!
It may be defendable afloat; but it seems queer ashore.
Well, that's as I had it from one that knows--Bob Loveday of
Overcombe--one of the "Victory" men that's going to walk in the
funeral. However, let's touch a livelier string. Peter Green,
strike up that new ballet that they've lately had prented here,
and were hawking about town last market-day.
THE NIGHT OF TRAFALGAR
In the wild October night-time, when the wind raved round the land,
And the Back-sea(12) met the Front-sea, and our doors were blocked
And we heard the drub of Dead-man's Bay, where bones of thousands are,
We knew not what the day had done for us at Trafalgar.
(All) Had done,
For us at Trafalgar!
"Pull hard, and make the Nothe, or down we go!" one says, says he.
We pulled; and bedtime brought the storm; but snug at home slept we.
Yet all the while our gallants after fighting through the day,
Were beating up and down the dark, sou'-west of Cadiz Bay.
Sou'-west of Cadiz Bay!
The victors and the vanquished then the storm it tossed and tore,
As hard they strove, those worn-out men, upon that surly shore;
Dead Nelson and his half-dead crew, his foes from near and far,
Were rolled together on the deep that night at Trafalgar!
That night at Trafalgar!
[The Cloud-curtain draws.]
CHORUS OF THE YEARS
Meanwhile the month moves on to counter-deeds
Vast as the vainest needs,
And fiercely the predestined plot proceeds.
THE FIELD OF AUSTERLITZ. THE FRENCH POSITION
[The night is the 1st of December following, and the eve of the
battle. The view is from the elevated position of the Emperor's
bivouac. The air cuts keen and the sky glistens with stars, but
the lower levels are covered with a white fog stretching like a
sea, from which the heights protrude as dusky rocks.
To the left are discernible high and wooded hills. In the front
mid-distance the plateau of Pratzen outstands, declining suddenly
on the right to a low flat country covered with marshes and pools
now mostly obscured. On the plateau itself are seen innumerable
and varying lights, marking the bivouac of the centre divisions
of the Austro-Russian army. Close to the foreground the fires of
the French are burning, surrounded by soldiery. The invisible
presence of the countless thousand of massed humanity that compose
the two armies makes itself felt indefinably.
The tent of NAPOLEON rises nearest at hand, with sentinel and
other military figures looming around, and saddled horses held
by attendants. The accents of the Emperor are audible, through
the canvas from inside, dictating a proclamation.]
VOICE OF NAPOLEON
"Soldiers, the hordes of Muscovy now face you,
To mend the Austrian overthrow at Ulm!
But how so? Are not these the self-same bands
You met and swept aside at Hollabrunn,
And whose retreating forms, dismayed to flight,
Your feet pursued along the trackways here?
"Our own position, massed and menacing,
Is rich in chance for opportune attack;
For, say they march to cross and turn our right--
A course almost at their need--their stretching flank
Will offer us, from points now prearranged---"
VOICE OF A MARSHAL
Shows it, your Majesty, the wariness
That marks your usual far-eye policy,
To openly announce your tactics thus
Some twelve hours ere their form can actualize?
THE VOICE OF NAPOLEON
The zest such knowledge will impart to all
Is worth the risk of leakages. (To Secretary)
"Soldiers, your sections I myself shall lead;
But ease your minds who would expostulate
Against my undue rashness. If your zeal
Sow hot confusion in the hostile files
As your old manner is, and in our rush
We mingle with our foes, I'll use fit care.
Nevertheless, should issues stand at pause
But for a wink-while, that time you will eye
Your Emperor the foremost in the shock,
Taking his risk with every ranksman here.
For victory, men, must be no thing surmised,
As that which may or may not beam on us,
Like noontide sunshine on a dubious morn;
It must be sure!--The honour and the fame
Of France's gay and gallant infantry--
So dear, so cherished all the Empire through--
Binds us to compass it!
Maintain the ranks;
Let none be thinned by impulse or excuse
Of bearing back the wounded: and, in fine,
Be every one in this conviction firm:--
That 'tis our sacred bond to overthrow
These hirelings of a country not their own:
Yea, England's hirelings, they!--a realm stiff-steeled
In deathless hatred of our land and lives.
"The campaign closes with this victory;
And we return to find our standards joined
By vast young armies forming now in France.
Forthwith resistless, Peace establish we,
Worthy of you, the nation, and of me!"
(To his Marshals)
So shall we prostrate these paid slaves of hers--
England's, I mean--the root of all the war.
VOICE OF MURAT
The further details sent of Trafalgar
Are not assuring.
VOICE OF LANNES
What may the details be?
VOICE OF NAPOLEON (moodily)
We learn that six-and-twenty ships of war,
During the fight and after, struck their flags,
And that the tigerish gale throughout the night
Gave fearful finish to the English rage.
By luck their Nelson's gone, but gone withal
Are twenty thousand prisoners, taken off
To gnaw their finger-nails in British hulks.
Of our vast squadrons of the summer-time
But rags and splintered remnants now remain.--
Thuswise Villeneuve, poor craven, quitted him!
And England puffed to yet more bombastry.
--Well, well; I can't be everywhere. No matter;
A victory's brewing here as counterpoise!
These water-rats may paddle in their salt slush,
And welcome. 'Tis not long they'll have the lead.
Ships can be wrecked by land!
And how by land,
Your Majesty, if one may query such?
VOICE OF NAPOLEON (sardonically)
I'll bid all states of Europe shut their ports
To England's arrogant bottoms, slowly starve
Her bloated revenues and monstrous trade,
Till all her hulls lie sodden in their docks,
And her grey island eyes in vain shall seek
One jack of hers upon the ocean plains!
VOICE OF SOULT
A few more master-strokes, your Majesty,
Must be dealt hereabout to compass such!
VOICE OF NAPOLEON
God, yes!--Even here Pitt's guineas are the foes:
'Tis all a duel 'twixt this Pitt and me;
And, more than Russia's host, and Austria's flower,
I everywhere to-night around me feel
As from an unseen monster haunting nigh
His country's hostile breath!--But come: to choke it
By our to-morrow's feats, which now, in brief,
I recapitulate.--First Soult will move
To forward the grand project of the day:
Namely: ascend in echelon, right to front,
With Vandamme's men, and those of Saint Hilaire:
Legrand's division somewhere further back--
Nearly whereat I place my finger here--
To be there reinforced by tirailleurs:
Lannes to the left here, on the Olmutz road,
Supported by Murat's whole cavalry.
While in reserve, here, are the grenadiers
Of Oudinot, the corps of Bernadotte,
Rivaud, Drouet, and the Imperial Guard.
Even as we understood, Sire, and have ordered.
Nought lags but day, to light our victory!
VOICE OF NAPOLEON
Now let us up and ride the bivouacs round,
And note positions ere the soldiers sleep.
--Omit not from to-morrow's home dispatch
Direction that this blow of Trafalgar
Be hushed in all the news-sheets sold in France,
Or, if reported, let it be portrayed
As a rash fight whereout we came not worst,
But were so broken by the boisterous eve
That England claims to be the conqueror.
[There emerge from the tent NAPOLEON and the marshals, who all
mount the horses that are led up, and proceed through the frost
and time towards the bivouacs. At the Emperor's approach to the
nearest soldiery they spring up.]
The Emperor! He's here! The Emperor's here!
AN OLD GRENADIER (approaching Napoleon familiarly)
We'll bring thee Russian guns and flags galore.
To celebrate thy coronation-day!
[They gather into wisps the straw, hay, and other litter on which
they have been lying, and kindling these at the dying fires, wave
them as torches. This is repeated as each fire is reached, till
the whole French position is one wide illumination. The most
enthusiastic of the soldiers follow the Emperor in a throng as
he progresses, and his whereabouts in the vast field is denoted
by their cries.]
CHORUS OF PITIES (aerial music)
Strange suasive pull of personality!
CHORUS OF IRONIC SPIRITS
His projects they unknow, his grin unsee!
CHORUS OF THE PITIES
Their luckless hearts say blindly--He!
[The night-shades close over.]
THE SAME. THE RUSSIAN POSITION
[Midnight at the quarters of FIELD-MARSHAL PRINCE KUTUZOF at
Kresnowitz. An inner apartment is discovered, roughly adapted
as a council-room. On a table with candles is unfolded a large
map of Austerlitz and its environs.
The Generals are assembled in consultation round the table,
WEIROTHER pointing to the map, LANGERON, BUXHOVDEN, and
MILORADOVICH standing by, DOKHTOROF bending over the map,
PRSCHEBISZEWSKY(13) indifferently walking up and down. KUTUZOF,
old and weary, with a scarred face and only one eye, is seated
in a chair at the head of the table, nodding, waking, and
nodding again. Some officers of lower grade are in the
background, and horses in waiting are heard hoofing and champing
WEIROTHER speaks, referring to memoranda, snuffing the nearest
candle, and moving it from place to place on the map as he
Now here, our right, along the Olmutz Road
Will march and oust our counterfacers there,
Dislodge them from the Sainton Hill, and thence
Advance direct to Brunn.--You heed me, sirs?--
The cavalry will occupy the plain:
Our centre and main strength,--you follow me?--
Count Langeron, Dokhtorof, with Prschebiszewsky
And Kollowrath--now on the Pratzen heights--
Will down and cross the Goldbach rivulet,
Seize Tilnitz, Kobelnitz, and hamlets nigh,
Turn the French right, move onward in their rear,
Cross Schwarsa, hold the great Vienna road:--
So, with the nightfall, centre, right, and left,
Will rendezvous beneath the walls of Brunn.
LANGERON (taking a pinch of snuff)
Good, General; very good!--if Bonaparte
Will kindly stand and let you have your way.
But what if he do not!--if he forestall
These sound slow movements, mount the Pratzen hills
When we descend, fall on OUR rear forthwith,
While we go crying for HIS rear in vain?
KUTUZOF (waking up)
Ay, ay, Weirother; that's the question--eh?
If Bonaparte had meant to climb up there,
Being one so spry and so determinate,
He would have set about it ere this eve!
He has not troops to do so, sirs, I say:
His utmost strength is forty thousand men.
Then if so weak, how can so wise a brain
Court ruin by abiding calmly here
The impact of a force so large as ours?
He may be mounting up this very hour!
What think you, General Miloradovich?
I? What's the use of thinking, when to-morrow
Will tell us, with no need to think at all!
Pah! At this moment he retires apace.
His fires are dark; all sounds have ceased that way
Save voice of owl or mongrel wintering there.
But, were he nigh, these movements I detail
Would knock the bottom from his enterprize.
Well, well. Now this being ordered, set it going.
One here shall make fair copies of the notes,
And send them round. Colonel van Toll I ask
To translate part.--Generals, it grows full late,
And half-a-dozen hours of needed sleep
Will aid us more than maps. We now disperse,
And luck attend us all. Good-night. Good-night.
[The Generals and other officers go out severally.]
Such plans are--paper! Only to-morrow's light
Reveals the true manoeuvre to my sight!
[He flaps out with his hand all the candles but one or two,
slowly walks outside the house, and listens. On the high
ground in the direction of the French lines are heard shouts,
and a wide illumination grows and strengthens; but the hollows
are still mantled in fog.]
Are these the signs of regiments out of heart,
And beating backward from an enemy!
[He remains pondering. On the Pratzen heights immediately in front
there begins a movement among the Russians, signifying that the plan
which involves desertion of that vantage-ground is about to be put
in force. Noises of drunken singing arise from the Russian lines at
various points elsewhere.
The night shades involve the whole.]
THE SAME. THE FRENCH POSITION
[Shortly before dawn on the morning of the 2nd of December. A
white frost and fog still prevail in the low-lying areas; but
overhead the sky is clear. A dead silence reigns.
NAPOLEON, on a grey horse, closely attended by BERTHIER, and
surrounded by MARSHALS SOULT, LANNES, MURAT, and their aides-de
camp, all cloaked, is discernible in the gloom riding down
from the high ground before Bellowitz, on which they have
bivouacked, to the village of Puntowitz on the Goldbach stream,
quite near the front of the Russian position of the day before
on the Pratzen crest. The Emperor and his companions come to
a pause, look around and upward to the hills, and listen.]
Their bivouac fires, that lit the top last night,
Are all extinct.
And hark you, Sire; I catch
A sound which, if I err not, means the thing
We have hoped, and hoping, feared fate would not yield!
My God, it surely is the tramp of horse
And jolt of cannon downward from the hill
Toward our right here, by the swampy lakes
That face Davout? Thus, as I sketched, they work!
Yes! They already move upon Tilnitz.
Leave them alone! Nor stick nor stone we'll stir
To interrupt them. Nought that we can scheme
Will help us like their own stark sightlessness!--
Let them get down to those white lowlands there,
And so far plunge in the level that no skill,
When sudden vision flashes on their fault,
Can help them, though despair-stung, to regain
The key to mastery held at yestereve!
Meantime move onward these divisions here
Under the fog's kind shroud; descend the slope,
And cross the stream below the Russian lines:
There halt concealed, till I send down the word.
[NAPOLEON and his staff retire to the hill south-east of Bellowitz
and the day dawns pallidly.]
'Tis good to get above that rimy cloak
And into cleaner air. It chilled me through.
[When they reach the summit they are over the fog: and suddenly
the sun breaks forth to the left of Pratzen, illuminating the
ash-hued face of NAPOLEON and the faces of those around him.
All eyes are turned first to the sun, and thence to look for
the dense masses of men that had occupied the upland the night
I see them not. The plateau seems deserted!
Gone; verily!--Ah, how much will you bid,
An hour hence, for the coign abandoned now!
The battle's ours.--It was, then, their rash march
Downwards to Tilnitz and the Goldbach swamps
Before dawn, that we heard.--No hurry, Lannes!
Enjoy this sun, that rests its chubby jowl
Upon the plain, and thrusts its bristling beard
Across the lowlands' fleecy counterpane,
Peering beneath our broadest hat-brims' shade. . . .
Soult, how long hence to win the Pratzen top?
Some twenty minutes or less, your Majesty:
Our troops down there, still mantled by the mist,
Are half upon the way.
Good! Set forthwith
Vandamme and Saint Hilaire to mount the slopes---
[Firing begins in the marsh to the right by Tilnitz and the pools,
though the thick air yet hides the operations.]
O, there you are, blind boozy Buxhovden!
Achieve your worst. Davout will hold you firm.
[The head of and aide-de-camp rises through the fog on that
side, and he hastens up to NAPOLEON and his companions, to whom
the officer announces what has happened. DAVOUT rides off,
disappearing legs first into the white stratum that covers the
Lannes and Murat, you have concern enough
Here on the left, with Prince Bagration
And all the Austro-Russian cavalry.
Haste off. The victory promising to-day
Will, like a thunder-clap, conclude the war!
[The Marshals with their aides gallop away towards their respective
divisions. Soon the two divisions under SOULT are seen ascending
in close column the inclines of the Pratzen height. Thereupon the
heads of the Russian centre columns disclose themselves, breaking
the sky-line of the summit from the other side, in a desperate
attempt to regain the position vacated by the Russian left. A
fierce struggle develops there between SOULT'S divisions and these,
who, despite their tardy attempt to recover the lost post of
dominance, are pressed by the French off the slopes into the
SEMICHORUS I OF THE PITIES (aerial music)
O Great Necessitator, heed us now!
If it indeed must be
That this day Austria smoke with slaughtery,
Quicken the issue as Thou knowest how;
And dull their lodgment in a flesh that galls!
If it be in the future human story
To lift this man to yet intenser glory,
Let the exploit be done
With the least sting, or none,
To those, his kind, at whose expense such pitch is won!
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Again ye deprecate the World-Soul's way
That I so long have told? Then note anew
(Since ye forget) the ordered potencies,
Nerves, sinews, trajects, eddies, ducts of It
The Eternal Urger, pressing change on change.
[At once, as earlier, a preternatural clearness possesses the
atmosphere of the battle-field, in which the scene becomes
anatomized and the living masses of humanity transparent. The
controlling Immanent Will appears therein, as a brain-like
network of currents and ejections, twitching, interpenetrating,
entangling, and thrusting hither and thither the human forms.]
SEMICHORUS I OF IRONIC SPIRITS (aerial music)
O Innocents, can ye forget
That things to be were shaped and set
Ere mortals and this planet met?
Stand ye apostrophizing That
Which, working all, works but thereat
Like some sublime fermenting-vat.
Heaving throughout its vast content
With strenuously transmutive bent
Though of its aim insentient?--
Could ye have seen Its early deeds
Ye would not cry, as one who pleads
For quarter, when a Europe bleeds!
Ere ye, young Pities, had upgrown
From out the deeps where mortals moan
Against a ruling not their own,
He of the Years beheld, and we,
Creation's prentice artistry
Express in forms that now unbe
Tentative dreams from day to day;
Mangle its types, re-knead the clay
In some more palpitating way;
Beheld the rarest wrecked amain,
Whole nigh-perfected species slain
By those that scarce could boast a brain;
Saw ravage, growth, diminish, add,
Here peoples sane, there peoples mad,
In choiceless throws of good and bad;
Heard laughters at the ruthless dooms
Which tortured to the eternal glooms
Quick, quivering hearts in hecatombs.
Us Ancients, then, it ill befits
To quake when Slaughter's spectre flits
Athwart this field of Austerlitz!
SHADE OF THE EARTH
Pain not their young compassions by such lore,
But hold you mute, and read the battle yonder:
The moment marks the day's catastrophe.
THE SAME. THE RUSSIAN POSITION
[It is about noon, and the vital spectacle is now near the village
of Tilnitz. The fog has dispersed, and the sun shines clearly,
though without warmth, the ice on the pools gleaming under its
GENERAL BUXHOVDEN and his aides-de-camp have reined up, and remain
at pause on a hillock. The General watches through a glass his
battalions, which are still disputing the village. Suddenly
approach down the track from the upland of Pratzen large companies
of Russian infantry helter-skelter. COUNT LANGERON is beheld to
be retreating with them; and soon, pale and agitated, he hastens
up to GENERAL BUXHOVDEN, whose face is flushed.]
While they are upon us you stay idle here!
Prschebiszewsky's column is distraught and rent,
And more than half my own made captive! Yea,
Kreznowitz carried, and Sokolnitz hemmed:
The enemy's whole strength will stound you soon!
You seem to see the enemy everywhere.
You cannot see them, be they here or no!
I only wait Prschebiszewsky's nearing corps
To join Dokhtorof's to them. Here they come.
[SOULT, supported by BERNADOTTE and OUDINOT, having cleared and
secured the Pratzen height, his battalions are perceived descending
from it on this side, behind DOKHTOROF'S division, so placing the
latter between themselves and the pools.]
You cannot tell the Frenchmen from ourselves!
These are the victors.--Ah--Dokhtorof--lost!
[DOKHTOROF'S troops are seen to be retreating towards the water.
The watchers stand in painful tenseness.]
Dokhtorof tell to save him as he may!
We, Count, must gather up our shaken flesh
And hurry them by the road through Austerlitz.
[BUXHOVDEN'S regiments and the remains of LANGERON'S are rallied
and collected, and they retreat by way of the hamlet of Aujezd.
As they go over the summit of a hill BUXHOVDEN looks back.
LANGERON'S columns, which were behind his own, have been cut
off by VANDAMME'S division coming down from the Pratzen plateau.
This and some detachments from DOKHTOROF'S column rush towards
the Satschan lake and endeavour to cross it on the ice. It
cracks beneath their weight. At the same moment NAPOLEON and
his brilliant staff appear on the top of the Pratzen.
The Emperor watches the scene with a vulpine smile; and directs
a battery near at hand to fire down upon the ice on which the
Russians are crossing. A ghastly crash and splashing follows
the discharge, the shining surface breaking into pieces like a
mirror, which fly in all directions. Two thousand fugitives are
engulfed, and their groans of despair reach the ears of the
watchers like ironical huzzas.
A general flight of the Russian army from wing to wing is now
disclosed, involving in its current the EMPEROR ALEXANDER and
the EMPEROR FRANCIS, with the reserve, who are seen towards
Austerlitz endeavouring to rally their troops in vain. They
are swept along by the disordered soldiery.]
THE SAME. NEAR THE WINDMILL OF PALENY
[The mill is about seven miles to the southward, between French
advanced posts and the Austrians.
A bivouac fire is burning. NAPOLEON, in grey overcoat and
beaver hat turned up front to back, rides to the spot with
BERTHIER, SAVARY, and his aides, and alights. He walks to
and fro complacently, meditating or talking to BERTHIER. Two
groups of officers, one from each army, stand in the background
on their respective sides.]
What's this of Alexander? Weep, did he,
Like his old namesake, but for meaner cause?
Word goes, you Majesty, that Colonel Toll,
One of Field-Marshal Price Kutuzof's staff,
In the retreating swirl of overthrow,
Found Alexander seated on a stone,
Beneath a leafless roadside apple-tree,
Out here by Goding on the Holitsch way;
His coal-black uniform and snowy plume
Unmarked, his face disconsolate, his grey eyes
Mourning in tears the fate of his brave array--
All flying southward, save the steadfast slain.
Poor devil!--But he'll soon get over it--
Sooner than his employers oversea!--
Ha!--this well make friend Pitt and England writhe,
And cloud somewhat their lustrous Trafalgar.
[An open carriage approaches from the direction of Holitsch,
accompanied by a small escort of Hungarian guards. NAPOLEON
walks forward to meet it as it draws up, and welcomes the
Austrian Emperor, who alights. He is wearing a grey cloak
over a white uniform, carries a light walking-cane, and is
attended by PRINCE JOHN OF LICHTENSTEIN, SWARZENBERG, and
others. His fresh-coloured face contrasts strangely with the
bluish pallor of NAPOLEON'S; but it is now thin and anxious.
They formally embrace. BERTHIER, PRINCE JOHN, and the rest
retire, and the two Emperors are left by themselves before the
Here on the roofless ground do I receive you--
My only mansion for these two months past!
Your tenancy thereof has brought such fame
That it must needs be one which charms you, Sire.
Good! Now this war. It has been forced on me
Just at a crisis most inopportune,
When all my energies and arms were bent
On teaching England that her watery walls
Are no defence against the wrath of France
Aroused by breach of solemn covenants.
I had no zeal for violating peace
Till ominous events in Italy
Revealed the gloomy truth that France aspires
To conquest there, and undue sovereignty.
Since when mine eyes have seen no sign outheld
To signify a change of purposings.
Yet there were terms distinctly specified
To General Giulay in November past,
Whereon I'd gladly fling the sword aside.
To wit: that hot armigerent jealousy
Stir us no further on transalpine rule,
I'd take the Isonzo River as our bounds.
Roundly, that I cede all!--And how may stand
Your views as to the Russian forces here?
You have all to lose by that alliance, Sire.
Leave Russia. Let the Emperor Alexander
Make his own terms; whereof the first must be
That he retire from Austrian territory.
I'll grant an armistice therefor. Anon
I'll treat with him to weld a lasting peace,
Based on some simple undertakings; chief,
That Russian armies keep to the ports of his domain.
Meanwhile to you I'll tender this good word:
Keep Austria to herself. To Russia bound,
You pay your own costs with your provinces,
Alexander's likewise therewithal.
I see as much, and long have seen it, Sire;
And standing here the vanquished, let me own
What happier issues might have left unsaid:
Long, long I have lost the wish to bind myself
To Russia's purposings and Russia's risks;
Little do I count these alliances
With Powers that have no substance seizable!
[As they converse they walk away.]
AN AUSTRIAN OFFICER
O strangest scene of an eventful life,
This junction that I witness here to-day!
An Emperor--in whose majestic veins
Aeneas and the proud Caesarian line
Claim yet to live; and, those scarce less renowned,
The dauntless Hawks'-Hold Counts, of gallantry
So great in fame one thousand years ago--
To bend with deference and manners mild
In talk with this adventuring campaigner,
Raised but by pikes above the common herd!
ANOTHER AUSTRIAN OFFICER
Ay! There be Satschan swamps and Pratzen heights
In royal lines, as here at Austerlitz.
[The Emperors again draw near.]
Then, to this armistice, which shall be called
Immediately at all points, I agree;
And pledge my word that my august ally
Accept it likewise, and withdraw his force
By daily measured march to his own realm.
For him I take your word. And pray believe
That rank ambitions are your own, not mine;
That though I have postured as your enemy,
And likewise Alexander's, we are one
In interests, have in all things common cause.
One country sows these mischiefs Europe through
By her insidious chink of luring ore--
False-featured England, who, to aggrandize
Her name, her influence, and her revenues,
Schemes to impropriate the whole world's trade,
And starves and bleeds the folk of other lands.
Her rock-rimmed situation walls her off
Like a slim selfish mollusk in its shell
From the wide views and fair fraternities
Which on the mainland we reciprocate,
And quicks her quest for profit in our woes!
I am not competent, your Majesty,
To estimate that country's conscience now,
Nor engage on my ally's behalf
That English ships be shut from Russian trade.
But joyful am I that in all things else
My promise can be made; and that this day
Our conference ends in friendship and esteem.
I will send Savary at to-morrow's blink
And make all lucid to the Emperor.
For us, I wholly can avow as mine
The cordial spirit of your Majesty.
[They retire towards the carriage of FRANCIS. BERTHIER, SAVARY,
LICHTENSTEIN, and the suite of officers advance from the background,
and with mutual gestures of courtesy and amicable leave-takings
the two Emperors part company.]
CHORUS OF THE PITIES (aerial music)
Each for himself, his family, his heirs;
For the wan weltering nations who concerns, who cares?
CHORUS OF IRONIC SPIRITS
A pertinent query, in truth!--
But spoil not the sport by your ruth:
'Tis enough to make half
Yonder zodiac laugh
When rulers begin to allude
To their lack of ambition,
And strong opposition
To all but the general good!
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Hush levities. Events press: turn ye westward.
[A nebulous curtain draws slowly across.]
SHOCKERWICK HOUSE, NEAR BATH
[The interior of the Picture Gallery. Enter WILTSHIRE, the owner,
and Pitt, who looks emaciated and walks feebly.]
WILTSHIRE (pointing to a portrait)
Now here you have the lady we discussed:
A fine example of his manner, sir?
It is a fine example, sir, indeed,--
With that transparency amid the shades,
And those thin blue-green-grayish leafages
Behind the pillar in the background there,
Which seem the leaves themselves.--Ah, this is Quin.
[Moving to another picture.]
Yes, Quin. A man of varied parts, though rough
And choleric at times. Yet, at his best,
As Falstaff, never matched, they say. But I
Had not the fate to see him in the flesh.
Churchill well carves him in his "Character":--
"His eyes, in gloomy socket taught to roll,
Proclaimed the sullen habit of his soul.
In fancied scenes, as in Life's real plan,
He could not for a moment sink the man:
Nature, in spite of all his skill, crept in;
Horatio, Dorax, Falstaff--stile 'twas Quin."
--He was at Bath when Gainsborough settled there
In that house in the Circus which we know.--
I like the portrait much.--The brilliancy
Of Gainsborough lies in this his double sway:
Sovereign of landscape he; of portraiture
Joint monarch with Sir Joshua. . . . Ah?--that's--hark!
Is that the patter of horses's hoofs
Along the road?
I notice nothing, sir.
It is a gallop, growing quite distinct.
And--can it be a messenger for me!
I hope no ugly European news
To stop the honour of this visit, sir!
[They listen. The gallop of the horse grows louder, and is
checked at the door of the house. There is a hasty knocking,
and a courier, splashed with mud from hard riding, is shown
into the gallery. He presents a dispatch to PITT, who sits
down and hurriedly opens it.]
PITT (to himself)
O heavy news indeed! . . . Disastrous; dire!
[He appears overcome as he sits, and covers his forehead with
I trust you are not ill, sir?
PITT (after some moments)
Could I have
A little brandy, sir, quick brought to me?
In one brief minute.
[Brandy is brought in, and PITT takes it.]
Now leave me, please, alone. I'll call anon.
Is there a map of Europe handy here?
[WILTSHIRE fetches a map from the library, and spreads it before
the minister. WILTSHIRE, courier, and servant go out.]
O God that I should live to see this day!
[He remains awhile in a profound reverie; then resumes the reading
of the dispatch.]
"Defeated--the Allies--quite overthrown
At Austerlitz--last week."--Where's Austerlitz?
--But what avails it where the place is now;
What corpse is curious on the longitude
And situation of his cemetery! . . .
The Austrians and the Russians overcome,
That vast adventuring army is set free
To bend unhindered strength against our strand. . . .
So do my plans through all these plodding years
Announce them built in vain!
His heel on Europe, monarchies in chains
To France, I am as though I had never been!
[He gloomily ponders the dispatch and the map some minutes longer.
At last he rises with difficulty, and rings the bell. A servant
Call up my carriage, please you, now at once;
And tell your master I return to Bath
This moment--I may want a little help
In getting to the door here.
Sir, I will,
And summon you my master instantly.
[He goes out and re-enters with WILTSHIRE. PITT is assisted from
Roll up that map. 'Twill not be needed now
These ten years! Realms, laws, peoples, dynasties,
Are churning to a pulp within the maw
Of empire-making Lust and personal Gain!
[Exeunt PITT, WILTSHIRE, and the servant; and in a few minutes the
carriage is heard driving off, and the scene closes.]
PARIS. A STREET LEADING TO THE TUILERIES
[It is night, and the dim oil lamps reveal a vast concourse of
citizens of both sexes around the Palace gates and in the
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS (to the Spirit of Rumour)
Thou may'st descend and join this crowd awhile,
And speak what things shall come into they mouth.
I'll harken! I wouldn't miss it for the groans on another
[The Spirit of Rumour enters on the scene in the disguise of a
SPIRIT (to a street-woman)
Lady, a late hour this to be afoot!
Poor profit, then, to me from my true trade,
Wherein hot competition is so rife
Already, since these victories brought to town
So many foreign jobbers in my line,
That I'd best hold my tongue from praise of fame!
However, one is caught by popular zeal,
And though five midnights have not brought a sou,
I, too, chant _Jubilate_ like the rest.--
In courtesies have haughty monarchs vied
Towards the Conqueror! who, with men-at-arms
One quarter theirs, has vanquished by his nerve
Vast mustering four-hundred-thousand strong,
And given new tactics to the art of war
Unparalleled in Europe's history!
What man is this, whose might thou blazonest so--
Who makes the earth to tremble, shakes old thrones,
And turns the plains to wilderness?
As ignorant, yet asking can define?
What mean you, traveller?
I am a stranger here,
A wandering wight, whose life has not been spent
This side the globe, though I can speak the tongue.
Your air has truth in't; but your state is strange!
Had I a husband he should tackle thee.
Dozens thou hast had--batches more than she
Samaria knew, if now thou hast not one!
Wilt take the situation from this hour?
Thou know'st not what thy frailty asks, good dame!
Well, learn in small the Emperor's chronicle,
As gleaned from what my soldier-husbands say:--
some five-and-forty standards of his foes
Are brought to Paris, borne triumphantly
In proud procession through the surging streets,
Ever as brands of fame to shine aloft
In dim-lit senate-halls and city aisles.
Fair Munich sparkled with festivity
As there awhile he tarried, and was met
By the gay Josephine your Empress here.--
There, too, Eugene--
Napoleon's stepson he---
Received for gift the hand of fair Princess
Augusta (daughter of Bavaria's crown,
Forced from her plighted troth to Baden's heir),
And, to complete his honouring, was hailed
Successor to the throne of Italy.
How know you, ere this news has got abroad?
Channels have I the common people lack.--
There, on the nonce, the forenamed Baden prince
Was joined to Stephanie Beauharnais, her
Who stands as daughter to the man we wait,
Some say as more.
They do? Then such not I.
Can revolution's dregs so soil thy soul
That thou shouldst doubt the eldest son thereof?
'Tis dangerous to insinuate nowadays!
Right! Lady many-spoused, more charity
Upbrims in thee than in some loftier ones
Who would not name thee with their white-washed tongues.--
Enough. I am one whom, didst thou know my name,
Thou would'st not grudge a claim to speak his mind.
A thousand pardons, sir.
Resume thy tale
If so thou wishest.
Nay, but you know best---
How laurelled progress through applauding crowds
Have marked his journey home. How Strasburg town,
Stuttgart, Carlsruhe, acclaimed him like the rest:
How pageantry would here have welcomed him,
Had not his speed outstript intelligence
--Now will a glimpse of him repay thee. Hark!
[Shouts arise and increase in the distance, announcing BONAPARTE'S
Well, Buonaparte has revived by land,
But not by sea. On that thwart element
Never will he incorporate his dream,
And float as master!
What shall hinder him?
That which has hereto. England, so to say.
But she's in straits. She lost her Nelson now,
(A worthy man: he loved a woman well!)
George drools and babbles in a darkened room;
Her heaven-born Minister declines apace;
All smooths the Emperor's sway.
Tales have two sides,
Sweet lady. Vamped-up versions reach thee here.--
That Austerlitz was lustrous none ignores,
But would it shock thy garrulousness to know
That the true measure of this Trafalgar--
Utter defeat, ay, France's naval death--
Your Emperor bade be hid?
The seer's gift
Has never plenteously endowed me, sir,
As in appearance you. But to plain sense
Thing's seem as stated.
We'll let seemings be.--
But know, these English take to liquid life
Right patly--nursed therefor in infancy
By rimes and rains which creep into their blood,
Till like seeks like. The sea is their dry land,
And, as on cobbles you, they wayfare there.
Heaven prosper, then, their watery wayfarings
If they'll leave us the land!--(The Imperial carriage appears.)
Long live the Emperor!--He's the best by land.
[BONAPARTE'S carriage arrives, without an escort. The street
lamps shine in, and reveal the EMPRESS JOSEPHINE seated beside
him. The plaudits of the people grow boisterous as they hail
him Victor of Austerlitz. The more active run after the carriage,
which turns in from the Rue St. Honore to the Carrousel, and
thence vanishes into the Court of the Tuileries.]
May all success attend his next exploit!
Namely: to put the knife in England's trade,
And teach her treaty-manners--if he can!
I like not your queer knowledge, creepy man.
There's weirdness in your air. I'd call you ghost
Had not the Goddess Reason laid all such
Past Mother Church's cunning to restore.
--Adieu. I'll not be yours to-night. I'd starve first!
[She withdraws. The crowd wastes away, and the Spirit vanishes.]
PUTNEY. BOWLING GREEN HOUSE
[PITT'S bedchamber, from the landing without. It is afternoon.
At the back of the room as seen through the doorway is a curtained
bed, beside which a woman sits, the LADY HESTER STANHOPE. Bending
over a table at the front of the room is SIR WALTER FARQUHAR, the
physician. PARSLOW the footman and another servant are near the
door. TOMLINE, the Bishop of Lincoln, enters.]
FARQUHAR (in a subdued voice)
I grieve to call your lordship up again,
But symptoms lately have disclosed themselves
That mean the knell to the frail life in him.
And whatsoever thing of gravity
It may be needful to communicate,
Let them be spoken now. Time may not serve
If they be much delayed.
Ah, stands it this? . . .
The name of his disease is--Austerlitz!
His brow's inscription has been Austerlitz
From that dire morning in the month just past
When tongues of rumour twanged the word across
From its hid nook on the Moravian plains.
And yet he might have borne it, had the weight
Of governmental shackles been unclasped,
Even partly, from his limbs last Lammastide,
When that despairing journey to the King
At Gloucester Lodge by Wessex shore was made
To beg such. But relief the King refused.
"Why want you Fox? What--Grenville and his friends?"
He harped. "You are sufficient without these--
Rather than Fox, why, give me civil war!"
And fibre that would rather snap than shrink
Held out no longer. Now the upshot nears.
[LADY HESTER STANHOPE turns her head and comes forward.]
I am grateful you are here again, good friend!
He's sleeping some light seconds; but once more
Has asked for tidings of Lord Harrowby,
And murmured of his mission to Berlin
As Europe's haggard hope; if, sure, it be
That any hope remain!
There's no news yet.--
These several days while I have been sitting by him
He has inquired the quarter of the wind,
And where that moment beaked the stable-cock.
When I said "East," he answered "That is well!
Those are the breezes that will speed him home!"
So cling his heart-strings to his country's cause.
I fear that Wellesley's visit here by now
Strung him to tensest strain. He quite broke down,
And has fast faded since.
Ah! now he wakes.
Please come and speak to him as you would wish (to TOMLINE).
[LADY HESTER, TOMLINE,and FARQUHAR retire behind the bed, where
in a short time voices are heard in prayer. Afterwards the
Bishop goes to a writing-table, and LADY HESTER comes to the
doorway. Steps are heard on the stairs, and PITT'S friend ROSE,
the President of the Board of Trade, appears on the landing and
LADY HESTER (whispering)
He wills the wardenry of his affairs
To his old friend the Bishop. But his words
Bespeak too much anxiety for me,
And underrate his services so far
That he has doubts if his high deeds deserve
Such size of recognition by the State
As would award slim pensions to his kin.
He had been fain to write down his intents,
But the quill dropped from his unmuscled hand.--
Now his friend Tomline pens what he dictates
And gleans the lippings of his last desires.
[ROSE and LADY HESTER turn. They see the Bishop bending over
the bed with a sheet of paper on which he has previously been
writing. A little later he dips a quill and holds it within
the bed-curtain, spreading the paper beneath. A thin white
hand emerges from behind the curtain and signs the paper. The
Bishop beckons forward the two servants, who also sign.
FARQUHAR on one side of the bed, and TOMLINE on the other, are
spoken to by the dying man. The Bishop afterwards withdraws
from the bed and comes to the landing where the others are.]