Part 7 out of 16
times, staggering the pursuers. Exeunt French dragoons, giving
up the pursuit. The coughing sergeant and the remnant of the
Forty-third march on.]
FOURTH DESERTER (to a woman lying beside him)
What d'ye think o' that, my honey? It fairly makes me a man again.
Come, wake up! We must be getting along somehow. (He regards the
woman more closely.) Why--my little chick? Look here, friends.
(They look, and the woman is found to be dead.) If I didn't think
that her poor knees felt cold! . . . And only an hour ago I swore
to marry her!
[They remain silent. The Retreat continues in the snow without,
now in the form of a file of ox-carts, followed by a mixed rabble
of English and Spanish, and mules and muleteers hired by English
officers to carry their baggage. The muleteers, looking about
and seeing that the French dragoons gave been there, cut the bands
which hold on the heavy packs, and scamper off with their mules.]
A VOICE (behind)
The Commander-in-Chief is determined to maintain discipline, and
they must suffer. No more pillaging here. It is the worst case
of brutality and plunder that we have had in this wretched time!
[Enter an English captain of hussars, a lieutenant, a guard of
about a dozen, and three men as prisoner.]
If they choose to draw lots, only one need be made an example of.
But they must be quick about it. The advance-guard of the enemy
is not far behind.
[The three prisoners appear to draw lots, and the one on whom the
lot falls is blindfolded. Exeunt the hussars behind a wall, with
carbines. A volley is heard and something falls. The wretched
in the cellar shudder.]
'Tis the same for us but for this heap of straw. Ah--my doxy is the
only one of us who is safe and sound! (He kisses the dead woman.)
[Retreat continues. A train of six-horse baggage-waggons lumbers
past, a mounted sergeant alongside. Among the baggage lie wounded
soldiers and sick women.]
SERGEANT OF THE WAGGON-TRAIN
If so be they are dead, ye may as well drop 'em over the tail-board.
'Tis no use straining the horses unnecessary.
[Waggons halt. Two of the wounded who have just died are taken
out, laid down by the roadside, and some muddy snow scraped over
them. Exeunt waggons and sergeant.
An interval. More English troops pass on horses, mostly shoeless
Enter SIR JOHN MOORE and officers. MOORE appears on the pale
evening light as a handsome man, far on in the forties, the
orbits of his dark eyes showing marks of deep anxiety. He is
talking to some of his staff with vehement emphasis and gesture.
They cross the scene and go on out of sight, and the squashing
of their horses' hoofs in the snowy mud dies away.]
FIFTH DESERTER (incoherently in his sleep)
Poise fawlocks--open pans--right hands to pouch--handle ca'tridge--
bring it--quick motion-bite top well off--prime--shut pans--cast
FIRST DESERTER (throwing a shoe at the sleeper)
Shut up that! D'ye think you are a 'cruity in the awkward squad
I don't know what he thinks, but I know what I feel! Would that I
were at home in England again, where there's old-fashioned tipple,
and a proper God A'mighty instead of this eternal 'Ooman and baby;
--ay, at home a-leaning against old Bristol Bridge, and no questions
asked, and the winter sun slanting friendly over Baldwin Street as
'a used to do! 'Tis my very belief, though I have lost all sure
reckoning, that if I were there, and in good health, 'twould be New
Year's day about now. What it is over here I don't know. Ay, to-
night we should be a-setting in the tap of the "Adam and Eve"--
lifting up the tune of "The Light o' the Moon." 'Twer a romantical
thing enough. 'A used to go som'at like this (he sings in a nasal
"O I thought it had been day,
And I stole from here away;
But it proved to be the light o' the moon!"
[Retreat continues, with infantry in good order. Hearing the
singing, one of the officers looks around, and detaching a patrol
enters the ruined house with the file of men, the body of soldiers
marching on. The inmates of the cellar bury themselves in the
straw. The officer peers about, and seeing no one prods the straw
with his sword.
VOICES (under the straw)
Oh! Hell! Stop it! We'll come out! Mercy! Quarter!
[The lurkers are uncovered.]
If you are well enough to sing bawdy songs, you are well enough to
march. So out of it--or you'll be shot, here and now!
You may shoot us, captain, or the French may shoot us, or the devil
may take us; we don't care which! Only we can't stir. Pity the
women, captain, but do what you will with us!
[The searchers pass over the wounded, and stir out those capable
of marching, both men and women, so far as they discover them.
They are pricked on by the patrol. Exeunt patrol and deserters
in its charge.
Those who remain look stolidly at the highway. The English Rear-
guard of cavalry crosses the scene and passes out. An interval.
It grows dusk.]
Quaint poesy, and real romance of war!
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
Mock on, Shade, if thou wilt! But others find
Poesy ever lurk where pit-pats poor mankind!
[The scene is cloaked in darkness.]
[It is nearly midnight. The fugitives who remain in the cellar
having slept off the effects of the wine, are awakened by a new
tramping of cavalry, which becomes more and more persistent. It
is the French, who now fill the road. The advance-guard having
passed by, DELABORDE'S division, LORGE'S division, MERLE'S
division, and others, successively cross the gloom.
Presently come the outlines of the Imperial Guard, and then, with
a start, those in hiding realize their situation, and are wide
awake. NAPOLEON enters with his staff. He has just been overtaken
by a courier, and orders those round him to halt.]
Let there a fire be lit: Ay, here and now.
The lines within these letters brook no pause
In mastering their purport.
[Some of the French approach the ruined house and, appropriating
what wood is still left there, heap it by the roadside and set it
alight. A mixed rain and snow falls, and the sputtering flames
throw a glare all round.]
SECOND DESERTER (under his voice)
We be shot corpses! Ay, faith, we be! Why didn't I stick to
England, and true doxology, and leave foreign doxies and their
wine alone! . . . Mate, can ye squeeze another shardful from the
cask there, for I feel my time is come! . . . O that I had but the
barrel of that firelock I throwed away, and that wasted powder to
prime and load! This bullet I chaw to squench my hunger would do
the rest! . . . Yes, I could pick him off now!
You lie low with your picking off, or he may pick off you! Thank
God the babies are gone. Maybe we shan't be noticed, if we've but
the courage to do nothing, and keep hid.
[NAPOLEON dismounts, approaches the fire, and looks around.]
Another of their dead horses here, I see.
Yes, sire. We have counted eighteen hundred odd
From Benavente hither, pistoled thus.
Some we'd to finish for them: headlong haste
Spared them no time for mercy to their brutes.
One-half their cavalry now tramps afoot.
And what's the tale of waggons we've picked up?
Spanish and all abandoned, some four hundred;
Of magazines and firelocks, full ten load;
And stragglers and their girls a numerous crew.
Ay, devil--plenty those! Licentious ones
These English, as all canting peoples are.--
Seven hundred English, sire;
Spaniards five thousand more.
'Tis not amiss.
To keep the new year up they run away!
(He soliloquizes as he begins tearing open the dispatches.)
Nor Pitt nor Fox displayed such blundering
As glares in this campaign! It is, indeed,
Enlarging Folly to Foolhardiness
To combat France by land! But how expect
Aught that can claim the name of government
From Canning, Castlereagh, and Perceval,
Caballers all--poor sorry politicians--
To whom has fallen the luck of reaping in
The harvestings of Pitt's bold husbandry.
[He unfolds a dispatch, and looks for something to sit on. A cloak
is thrown over a log, and he settles to reading by the firelight.
The others stand round. The light, crossed by the snow-flakes,
flickers on his unhealthy face and stoutening figure. He sinks
into the rigidity of profound thought, till his features lour.]
So this is their reply! They have done with me!
Britain declines negotiating further--
Flouts France and Russia indiscriminately.
"Since one dethrones and keeps as prisoners
The most legitimate kings"--that means myself--
"The other suffers their unworthy treatment
For sordid interests"--that's for Alexander! . . .
And what is Georgy made to say besides?--
"Pacific overtures to us are wiles
Woven to unnerve the generous nations round
Lately escaped the galling yoke of France,
Or waiting so to do. Such, then, being seen,
These tentatives must be regarded now
As finally forgone; and crimson war
Be faced to its fell worst, unflinchingly."
--The devil take their lecture! What am I,
That England should return such insolence?
[He jumps up, furious, and walks to and fro beside the fire.
By and by cooling he sits down again.]
Now as to hostile signs in Austria. . . .
(He breaks another seal and reads.)
Ah,--swords to cross with her some day in spring!
Thinking me cornered over here in Spain
She speaks without disguise, the covert pact
'Twixt her and England owning now quite frankly,
Careless how works its knowledge upon me.
She, England, Germany: well--I can front them!
That there is no sufficient force of French
Between the Elbe and Rhine to prostrate her,
Let new and terrible experience
Soon disillude her of! Yea; she may arm:
The opportunity she late let slip
Will not subserve her now!
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
Has he no heart-hints that this Austrian court,
Whereon his mood takes mould so masterful,
Is rearing naively in its nursery-room
A future wife for him?
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Thou dost but guess it,
And how should his heart know?
NAPOLEON (opening and reading another dispatch)
Now eastward. Ohe!--
The Orient likewise looms full somberly. . . .
The Turk declines pacifically to yield
What I have promised Alexander. Ah! . . .
As for Constantinople being his prize
I'll see him frozen first. His flight's too high!
And showing that I think so makes him cool. (Rises.)
Is Soult the Duke Dalmatia yet at hand?
He has arrived along the Leon road
Just now, your Majesty; and only waits
The close of your perusals.
[Enter SOULT, who is greeted by NAPOLEON.]
Good Lord deliver us from all great men, and take me back again to
humble life! That's Marshal Soult the Duke of Dalmatia!
The Duke of Damnation for our poor rear, by the look on't!
Yes--he'll make 'em rub their poor rears before he has done with
'em! But we must overtake 'em to-morrow by a cross-cut, please God!
NAPOLEON (pointing to the dispatches)
Here's matter enough for me, Duke, and to spare.
The ominous contents are like the threats
The ancient prophets dealt rebellious Judah!
Austria we soon shall have upon our hands,
And England still is fierce for fighting on,--
Strange humour in a concord-loving land!
So now I must to Paris straight away--
At least, to Valladolid; so as to stand
More apt for couriers than I do out here
In this far western corner, and to mark
The veerings of these new developments,
And blow a counter-breeze. . . .
Then, too, there's Lannes, still sweating at the siege
Of sullen Zaragoza as 'twere hell.
Him I must further counsel how to close
His twice too tedious battery.--You, then, Soult--
Ney is not yet, I gather, quite come up?
He's near, sire, on the Benavente road;
But some hours to the rear I reckon, still.
NAPOLEON (pointing to the dispatches)
Him I'll direct to come to your support
In this pursuit and harassment of Moore
Wherein you take my place. You'll follow up
And chase the flying English to the sea.
Bear hard on them, the bayonet at their loins.
With Merle's and Mermet's corps just gone ahead,
And Delaborde's, and Heudelet's here at hand.
While Lorge's and Lahoussaye's picked dragoons
Will follow, and Franceschi's cavalry.
To Ney I am writing, in case of need,
He will support with Marchand and Mathieu.--
Your total thus of seventy thousand odd,
Ten thousand horse, and cannon to five score,
Should near annihilate this British force,
And carve a triumph large in history.
(He bends over the fire and makes some notes rapidly.)
I move into Astorga; then turn back,
(Though only in my person do I turn)
And leave to you the destinies of Spain.
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
More turning may be here than he design.
In this small, sudden, swift turn backward, he
Suggests one turning from his apogee!
[The characters disperse, the fire sinks, and snowflakes and
darkness blot out all.]
[The town, harbour, and hills at the back are viewed from an
aerial point to the north, over the lighthouse known as the
Tower of Hercules, rising at the extremity of the tongue of
land on which La Coruna stands, the open ocean being in the
In the foreground the most prominent feature is the walled old
town, with its white towers and houses, shaping itself aloft
over the harbour. The new town, and its painted fronts, show
bright below, even on this cloudy winter afternoon. Further
off, behind the harbour--now crowded with British transports
of all sizes--is a series of low broken hills, intersected by
hedges and stone walls.
A mile behind these low inner hills is beheld a rocky chain of
outer and loftier heights that completely command the former.
Nothing behind them is seen but grey sky.
On the inner hills aforesaid the little English army--a pathetic
fourteen thousand of foot only--is just deploying into line: HOPE'S
division is on the left, BAIRD'S to the right. PAGET with the
reserve is in the hollow to the left behind them; and FRASER'S
division still further back shapes out on a slight rise to the right.
This harassed force now appears as if composed of quite other than
the men observed in the Retreat insubordinately straggling along
like vagabonds. Yet they are the same men, suddenly stiffened and
grown amenable to discipline by the satisfaction of standing to the
enemy at last. They resemble a double palisade of red stakes, the
only gaps being those that the melancholy necessity of scant numbers
entails here and there.
Over the heads of these red men is beheld on the outer hills the
twenty thousand French that have been pushed along the road at the
heels of the English by SOULT. They have an ominous superiority,
both in position and in their abundance of cavalry and artillery,
over the slender lines of English foot. The left of this background,
facing HOPE, is made up of DELABORDE'S and MERLE'S divisions, while
in a deadly arc round BAIRD, from whom they are divided only by the
village of Elvina, are placed MERMET'S division, LAHOUSSAYE'S and
LORGE'S dragoons, FRANCESCHI'S cavalry, and, highest up of all, a
formidable battery of eleven great guns that rake the whole British
It is now getting on for two o'clock, and a stir of activity has
lately been noticed along the French front. Three columns are
discerned descending from their position, the first towards the
division of SIR DAVID BAIRD, the weakest point in the English line,
the next towards the centre, the third towards the left. A heavy
cannonade from the battery supports this advance.
The clash ensues, the English being swept down in swathes by the
enemy's artillery. The opponents meet face to face at the village
in the valley between them, and the fight there grows furious.
SIR JOHN MOORE is seen galloping to the front under the gloomy sky.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
I seem to vision in San Carlos' garden,
That rises salient in the upper town,
His name, and date, and doing, set within
A filmy outline like a monument,
Which yet is but the insubstantial air.
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Read visions as conjectures; not as more.
When MOORE arrives at the front, FRASER and PAGET move to the right,
where the English are most sorely pressed. A grape-shot strikes
off BAIRD'S arm. There is a little confusion, and he is borne to
the rear; while MAJOR NAPIER disappears, a prisoner.
Intelligence of these misfortunes is brought to SIR JOHN MOORE.
He goes further forward, and precedes in person the Forty-second
regiment and a battalion of the Guards who, with fixed bayonets,
bear the enemy back, MOORE'S gestures in cheering them being
notably energetic. Pursuers, pursued, and SIR JOHN himself pass
out of sight behind the hill. Dumb Show ends.
[The point of vision descends to the immediate rear of the
English position. The early January evening has begun to spread
its shades, and shouts of dismay are heard from behind the hill
over which MOORE and the advancing lines have vanished.
Straggling soldiers cross in the gloom.]
He's struck by a cannon-ball, that I know; but he's not killed,
that I pray God A'mighty.
Better he were. His shoulder is knocked to a bag of splinters.
As Sir David was wownded, Sir John was anxious that the right
should not give way, and went forward to keep it firm.
He didn't keep YOU firm, howsomever.
Nor you, for that matter.
Well, 'twas a serious place for a man with no priming-horn, and
a character to lose, so I judged it best to fall to the rear by
lying down. A man can't fight by the regulations without his
priming-horn, and I am none of your slovenly anyhow fighters.
'Nation, having dropped my flit-pouch, I was the same. If you'd
had your priming-horn, and I my flints, mind ye, we should have
been there now? Then, forty-whory, that we are not is the fault
o' Government for not supplying new ones from the reserve!
What did he say as he led us on?
"Forty-second, remember Egypt!" I heard it with my own ears. Yes,
that was his strict testament.
"Remember Egypt." Ay, and I do, for I was there! . . . Upon my
salvation, here's for back again, whether or no!
But here. "Forty-second, remember Egypt," he said in the very
eye of that French battery playing through us. And the next omen
was that he was struck off his horse, and fell on his back to the
ground. I remembered Egypt, and what had just happened too, so
thorough well that I remembered the way over this wall!--Captain
Hardinge, who was close to him, jumped off his horse, and he and
one in the ranks lifted him, and are now bringing him along.
Nevertheless, here's for back again, come what will. Remember
[Exit First straggler. Second straggler ponders, then suddenly
follows First. Enter COLONEL ANDERSON and others hastily.]
Now fetch a blanker. He must be carried in.
That means we are gaining ground! Had fate but left
This last blow undecreed, the hour had shone
A star amid these girdling days of gloom!
[Exit. Enter in the obscurity six soldiers of the Forty-second
bearing MOORE on their joined hands. CAPTAIN HARDINGE walks
beside and steadies him. He is temporarily laid down in the
shelter of a wall, his left shoulder being pounded away, the arm
dangling by a shred of flesh.
Enter COLONEL GRAHAM and CAPTAIN WOODFORD.]
The wound is more than serious, Woodford, far.
Ride for a surgeon--one of those, perhaps,
Who tend Sir David Baird? (Exit Captain Woodford.)
His blood throbs forth so fast, that I have dark fears
He'll drain to death ere anything can be done!
I'll try to staunch it--since no skill's in call.
[He takes off his sash and endeavours to bind the wound with it.
MOORE smiles and shakes his head.]
There's not much checking it! Then rent's too gross.
A dozen lives could pass that thoroughfare!
[Enter a soldier with a blanket. They lift MOORE into it. During
the operation the pommel of his sword, which he still wears, is
accidentally thrust into the wound.]
I'll loose the sword--it bruises you, Sir John.
[He begins to unbuckle it.]
No. Let it be! One hurt more matters not.
I wish it to go off the field with me.
I like the sound of that. It augurs well
For your much-hoped recovery.
MOORE (looking sadly at his wound)
Nature is nonplussed there! My shoulder's gone,
And this left side laid open to my lungs.
There's but a brief breath now for me, at most. . . .
Could you--move me along--that I may glimpse
Still how the battle's going?
Ay, Sir John--
A few yard higher up, where we can see.
[He is borne in the blanket a little way onward, and lifted so
that he can view the valley and the action.]
They seem to be advancing. Yes, it is so!
[Enter SIR JOHN HOPE.]
Ah, Hope!--I am doing badly here enough;
But they are doing rarely well out there. (Presses HOPE'S hand.)
Don't leave! my speech may flag with this fierce pain,
But you can talk to me.--Are the French checked?
My dear friend, they are borne back steadily.
MOORE (his voice weakening)
I hope England--will be satisfied--
I hope my native land--will do me justice! . . .
I shall be blamed for sending Craufurd off
Along the Orense road. But had I not,
Bonaparte would have headed us that way. . . .
O would that Soult had but accepted battle
By Lugo town! We should have crushed him there.
Yes . . . yes.--But it has never been my lot
To owe much to good luck; nor was it then.
Good fortune has been mine, but (bitterly) mostly so
By the exhaustion of all shapes of bad! . . .
Well, this does not become a dying man;
And others have been chastened more than I
By Him who holds us in His hollowed hand! . . .
I grieve for Zaragoza, if, as said,
The siege goes sorely with her, which it must.
I heard when at Dahagun that late day
That she was holding out heroically.
But I must leave such now.--You'll see my friends
As early as you can? Tell them the whole;
Say to my mother. . . . (His voice fails.)
Hope, Hope, I have so much to charge you with,
But weakness clams my tongue! . . . If I must die
Without a word with Stanhope, ask him, Hope,
To--name me to his sister. You may know
Of what there was between us? . . .
Is Colonel Graham well, and all my aides?
My will I have made--it is in Colborne's charge
With other papers.
He's now coming up.
[Enter MAJOR COLBORNE, principal aide-de-camp.]
Are the French beaten, Colborne, or repulsed?
Alas! you see what they have done too me!
I do, Sir John: I am more than sad thereat!
In brief time now the surgeon will be here.
The French retreat--pushed from Elvina far.
That's good! Is Paget anywhere about?
He's at the front, Sir John.
Remembrance to him!
[Enter two surgeons.]
Ah, doctors,--you can scarcely mend up me.--
And yet I feel so tough--I have feverish fears
My dying will waste a long and tedious while;
But not too long, I hope!
SURGEONS (after a hasty examination)
You must be borne
In to your lodgings instantly, Sir John.
Please strive to stand the motion--if you can;
They will keep step, and bear you steadily.
Anything. . . . Surely fainter ebbs that fire?
Yes: we must be advancing everywhere:
Colbert their General, too, they have lost, I learn.
[They lift him by stretching their sashes under the blanket, and
begin moving off. A light waggon enters.]
Who's in that waggon?
Colonel Wynch, Sir John.
He's wounded, but he urges you to take it.
No. I will not. This suits. . . . Don't come with me;
There's more for you to do out here as yet. (Cheerful shouts.)
A-ha! 'Tis THIS way I have wished to die!
[Exeunt slowly in the twilight MOORE, bearers, surgeons, etc.,
towards Coruna. The scene darkens.]
CORUNA. NEAR THE RAMPARTS
[It is just before dawn on the following morning, objects being
still indistinct. The features of the elevated enclosure of San
Carlos can be recognized in dim outline, and also those of the
Old Town of Coruna around, though scarcely a lamp is shining.
The numerous transports in the harbour beneath have still their
In a nook of the town walls a lantern glimmers. Some English
soldiers of the Ninth regiment are hastily digging a grave there
with extemporized tools.]
A VOICE (from the gloom some distance off)
"I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that
believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."
[The soldiers look up, and see entering at the further end of the
patch of ground a slow procession. It advances by the light of
lanterns in the hands of some members of it. At moments the fitful
rays fall upon bearers carrying a coffinless body rolled in a
blanket, with a military cloak roughly thrown over by way of pall.
It is brought towards the incomplete grave, and followed by HOPE,
GRAHAM, ANDERSON, COLBORNE, HARDINGE, and several aides-de-camp,
a chaplain preceding.]
They are here, almost as quickly as ourselves.
There is no time to dig much deeper now:
Level a bottom just as far's we've got.
He'll couch as calmly in this scrabbled hole
As in a royal vault!
Would it had been a foot deeper, here among foreigners, with strange
manures manufactured out of no one knows what! Surely we can give
him another six inches?
There is no time. Just make the bottom true.
[The meagre procession approaches the spot, and waits while the
half-dug grave is roughly finished by the men of the Ninth.
They step out of it, and another of them holds a lantern to the
chaplain's book. The winter day slowly dawns.]
"Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is
full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he
fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay."
[A gun is fired from the French battery not far off; then another.
The ships in the harbour take in their riding lights.]
COLBORNE (in a low voice)
I knew that dawn would see them open fire.
We must perforce make swift use of out time.
Would we had closed our too sad office sooner!
[As the body is lowered another discharge echoes. They glance
gloomily at the heights where the French are ranged, and then
into the grave.]
"We therefore commit his body to the ground. Earth to earth, ashes
to ashes, dust to dust." (Another gun.)
[A spent ball falls not far off. They put out their lanterns.
Continued firing, some shot splashing into the harbour below
In mercy to the living, who are thrust
Upon our care for their deliverance,
And run much hazard till they are embarked,
We must abridge these duties to the dead,
Who will not mind be they abridged or no.
And could he mind, would be the man to bid it. . . .
We shall do well, then, curtly to conclude
These mutilated prayers--our hurried best!--
And what's left unsaid, feel.
CHAPLAIN (his words broken by the cannonade)
" . . . . We give Thee hearty thanks for that it hath pleased
Thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this
sinful world. . . . Who also hath taught us not to be sorry, as
men without hope, for them that sleep in Him. . . . Grant this,
through Jesus Christ our Mediator and Redeemer."
OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS
[The diggers of the Ninth hastily fill in the grave, and the scene
shuts as the mournful figures retire.]
VIENNA. A CAFE IN THE STEPHANS-PLATZ
[An evening between light and dark is disclosed, some lamps being
lit. The huge body and tower of St. Stephen's rise into the sky
some way off, the western gleam still touching the upper stonework.
Groups of people are seated at the tables, drinking and reading
the newspapers. One very animated group, which includes an
Englishman, is talking loudly. A citizen near looks up from his
CITIZEN (to the Englishman)
I read, sir, here, the troubles you discuss
Of your so gallant army under Moore.
His was a spirit baffled but not quelled,
And in his death there shone a stoicism
That lent retreat the rays of victory.
It was so. While men chide they will admire him,
And frowning, praise. I could nigh prophesy
That the unwonted crosses he has borne
In his career of sharp vicissitude
Will tinct his story with a tender charm,
And grant the memory of his strenuous feats
As long a lease within the minds of men
As conquerors hold there.--Does the sheet give news
Of how the troops reached home?
CITIZEN (looking up again at the paper)
Yes; from your press
It quotes that they arrived at Plymouth Sound
Mid dreadful weather and much suffering.
It states they looked the very ghosts of men,
So heavily had hunger told on them,
And the fatigues and toils of the retreat.
Several were landed dead, and many died
As they were borne along. At Portsmouth, too,
Sir David Baird, still helpless from his wound,
Was carried in a cot, sheet-pale and thin,
And Sir John Hope, lank as a skeleton.--
Thereto is added, with authority,
That a new expedition soon will fit,
And start again for Spain.
I have heard as much.
You'll do it next time, sir. And so shall we!
SECOND CITIZEN (regarding the church tower opposite)
You witnessed the High Service over there
They held this morning? (To the Englishman.)
Ay; I did get in;
Though not without hard striving, such the throng;
But travellers roam to waste who shyly roam
And I pushed like the rest.
Our young Archduchess
Maria Louisa was, they tell me, present?
O yes: the whole Imperial family,
And when the Bishop called all blessings down
Upon the Landwehr colours there displayed,
Enthusiasm touched the sky--she sharing it.
Commendable in her, and spirited,
After the graceless insults to the Court
The Paris journals flaunt--not voluntarily,
But by his ordering. Magician-like
He holds them in his fist, and at his squeeze
They bubble what he wills! . . . Yes, she's a girl
Of patriotic build, and hates the French.
Quite lately she was overheard to say
She had met with most convincing auguries
That this year Bonaparte was starred to die.
Your arms must render its fulfilment sure.
Right! And we have the opportunity,
By upping to the war in suddenness,
And catching him unaware. The pink and flower
Of all his veteran troops are now in Spain
Fully engaged with yours; while those he holds
In Germany are scattered far and wide.
FIRST CITIZEN (looking up again from his newspaper)
I see here that he vows and guarantees
Inviolate bounds to all our territories
If we but pledge to carry out forthwith
A prompt disarmament. Since that's his price
Hell burn his guarantees! Too long he has fooled us.
(To the Englishman) I drink, sir, to your land's consistency.
While we and all the kindred Europe States
Alternately have wooed and warred him,
You have not bent to blowing hot and cold,
But held you sturdily inimical!
Less Christian-like forgiveness mellows us
Than Continental souls! (They drink.)
[A band is heard in a distant street, with shouting. Enter third
and fourth citizens, followed by others.]
More news afloat?
THIRD AND FOURTH CITIZENS
Yea; an announcement that the Archduke Charles
Is given the chief command.
FIRST, SECOND, ETC., CITIZENS
Huzza! Right so!
[A clinking of glasses, rising from seats, and general enthusiasm.]
If war had not so patly been declared,
Our howitzers and firelocks of themselves
Would have gone off to shame us! This forenoon
Some of the Landwehr met me; they are hot
For setting out, though but few months enrolled.
That moves reflection somewhat. They are young
For measuring with the veteran file of France!
Napoleon's army swarms with tender youth,
His last conscription besomed into it
Thousands of merest boys. But he contrives
To mix them in the field with seasoned frames.
The sadly-seen mistake this country made
Was that of grounding hostile arms at all.
We should have fought irreconcilably--
Have been consistent as the English are.
The French are our hereditary foes,
And this adventurer of the saucy sword,
This sacrilegious slighter of our shrines,
Stands author of all our ills . . .
Our harvest fields and fruits he trample on,
Accumulating ruin in our land.
Think of what mournings in the last sad war
'Twas his to instigate and answer for!
Time never can efface the glint of tears
In palaces, in shops, in fields, in cots,
From women widowed, sonless, fatherless,
That then oppressed our eyes. There is no salve
For such deep harrowings but to fight again;
The enfranchisement of Europe hangs thereon,
And long she has lingered for the sign to crush him:
That signal we have given; the time is come! (Thumping on the table.)
FIFTH CITIZEN (at another table, looking up from his paper and
I see that Russia has declined to aid us,
And says she knows that Prussia likewise must;
So that the mission of Prince Schwarzenberg
To Alexander's Court has closed in failure.
Ay--through his being honest--fatal sin!--
Probing too plainly for the Emperor's ears
His ominous friendship with Napoleon.
Some say he was more than honest with the Tsar;
Hinting that his becoming an ally
Makes him accomplice of the Corsican
In the unprincipled dark overthrow
Of his poor trusting childish Spanish friends--
Which gave the Tsar offence.
And our best bid--
The last, most delicate dish--a tastelessness.
What was Prince Schwarzenberg's best bid, I pray?
The offer of the heir of Austria's hand
For Alexander's sister the Grand-Duchess.
He could not have accepted, if or no:
She is inscribed as wife for Bonaparte.
I doubt that text!
Time's context soon will show.
The Russian Cabinet can not for long
Resist the ardour of the Russian ranks
To march with us the moment we achieve
Our first loud victory!
[A band is heard playing afar, and shouting. People are seen
hurrying past in the direction of the sounds. Enter sixth
The Archduke Charles
Is passing the Ringstrasse just by now,
His regiment at his heels!
[The younger sitters jump up with animation, and go out, the
elder mostly remaining.]
Realm never faced
The grin of a more fierce necessity
For horrid war, than ours at this tense time!
[The sounds of band-playing and huzzaing wane away. Citizens
More news, my friends, of swiftly swelling zeal?
Ere passing down the Ring, the Archduke paused
And gave the soldiers speech, enkindling them
As sunrise a confronting throng of panes
That glaze a many-windowed east facade:
Hot volunteers vamp in from vill and plain--
More than we need in the furthest sacrifice!
FIRST, SECOND, ETC., CITIZENS
Huzza! Right so! Good! Forwards! God be praised!
[They stand up, and a clinking of glasses follows, till they
subside to quietude and a reperusal of newspapers. Nightfall
succeeds. Dancing-rooms are lit up in an opposite street, and
dancing begins. The figures are seen gracefully moving round
to the throbbing strains of a string-band, which plays a new
waltzing movement with a warlike name, soon to spread over
Europe. The dancers sing patriotic words as they whirl. The
night closes over.]
A ROAD OUT OF VIENNA
[It is morning in early May. Rain descends in torrents, accompanied
by peals of thunder. The tepid downpour has caused the trees to
assume as by magic a clothing of limp green leafage, and has turned
the ruts of the uneven highway into little canals.
A drenched travelling-chariot is passing, with a meagre escort.
In the interior are seated four women: the ARCHDUCHESS MARIA
LOUISA, in age about eighteen; her stepmother the EMPRESS OF
AUSTRIA, third wife of FRANCIS, only four years older than the
ARCHDUCHESS; and two ladies of the Austrian Court. Behind come
attendant carriages bearing servants and luggage.
The inmates remain for the most part silent, and appear to be in a
gloomy frame of mind. From time to time they glance at the moist
spring scenes which pass without in a perspective distorted by the
rain-drops that slide down the panes, and by the blurring effect
of the travellers' breathings. Of the four the one who keeps in
the best spirits is the ARCHDUCHESS, a fair, blue-eyed, full-
figured, round-lipped maiden.]
Whether the rain comes in or not I must open the window. Please
allow me. (She straightway opens it.)
Yes--open or shut it--I don't care. I am too ill to care for
anything! (The carriage jolts into a hole.) O woe! To think that
I am driven away from my husband's home in such a miserable
conveyance, along such a road, and in such weather as this. (Peal
of thunder.) There are his guns!
No, my dear one. It cannot be his guns. They told us when we
started that he was only half-way from Ratisbon hither, so that he
must be nearly a hundred miles off as yet; and a large army cannot
He should never have been let come nearer than Ratisbon! The victory
at Echmuhl was fatal for us. O Echmuhl, Echmuhl! I believe he will
overtake us before we get to Buda.
If so, your Majesty, shall we be claimed as prisoners and marched
Undoubtedly. But I shouldn't much care. It would not be worse than
this. . . . I feel sodden all through me, and frowzy, and broken!
(She closes her eyes as if to doze.)
It is dreadful to see her suffer so! (Shutting the window.) If
the roads were not so bad I should not mind. I almost wish we had
stayed; though when he arrives the cannonade will be terrible.
I wonder if he will get into Vienna. Will his men knock down all
the houses, madam?
If he do get in, I am sure his triumph will not be for long. My
uncle the Archduke Charles is at his heels! I have been told many
important prophecies about Bonaparte's end, which is fast nearing,
it is asserted. It is he, they say, who is referred to in the
Apocalypse. He is doomed to die this year at Cologne, in an inn
called "The Red Crab." I don't attach too much importance to all
these predictions, but O, how glad I should be to see them come true!
So should we all, madam. What would become of his divorce-scheme
Perhaps there is nothing in that report. One can hardly believe
But they say, your Imperial Highness, that he certainly has decided
to sacrifice the Empress Josephine, and that at the meeting last
October with the Emperor Alexander at Erfurt, it was even settled
that he should marry as his second wife the Grand-Duchess Anne.
I am sure that the Empress her mother will never allow one of the
house of Romanoff to marry with a bourgeois Corsican. I wouldn't
if I were she!
Perhaps, your Highness, they are not so particular in Russia, where
they are rather new themselves, as we in Austria, with your ancient
dynasty, are in such matters.
Perhaps not. Though the Empress-mother is a pompous old thing, as
I have been told by Prince Schwarzenberg, who was negotiating there
last winter. My father says it would be a dreadful misfortune for
our country if they were to marry. Though if we are to be exiled
I don't see how anything of that sort can matter much. . . . I hope
my father is safe!
[An officer of the escort rides up to the carriage window, which
EMPRESS (unclosing her eyes)
Any more misfortunes?
A rumour is a-wind, your Majesty,
That the French host, the Emperor in its midst,
Lannes, Massena, and Bessieres in its van,
Advancing hither along the Ratisbon road,
Has seized the castle and town of Ebersberg,
And burnt all down, with frightful massacre,
Vast heaps of dead and wounded being consumed,
So that the streets stink strong with frizzled flesh.--
The enemy, ere this, has crossed the Traun,
Hurling brave Hiller's army back on us,
And marches on Amstetten--thirty miles
Less distant from Vienna from before!
The Lord show mercy to us! But O why
Did not the Archdukes intercept the foe?
His Highness Archduke Charles, your Majesty,
After his sore repulse Bohemia-wards,
Could not proceed with strength and speed enough
To close in junction with the Archduke John
And Archduke Louis, as was their intent.
So Marshall Lannes swings swiftly on Vienna,
With Oudinot's and Demont's might of foot;
Then Massena and all his mounted men,
And then Napoleon, Guards, Cuirassiers,
And the main body of the Imperial Force.
Alas for poor Vienna!
Your Majesty has fled it none too soon.
[The window is shut, and the procession disappears behind the
sheets of rain.]
THE ISLAND OF LOBAU, WITH WAGRAM BEYOND
[The northern horizon at the back of the bird's-eye prospect is
the high ground stretching from the Bisamberg on the left to the
plateau of Wagram on the right. In front of these elevations
spreads the wide plain of the Marchfeld, open, treeless, and with
scarcely a house upon it.(16)
In the foreground the Danube crosses the scene with a graceful
slowness, looping itself round the numerous wooded islands therein.
The largest of these, immediately under the eye, is the Lobau,
which stands like a knot in the gnarled grain represented by the
On this island can be discerned, closely packed, an enormous dark
multitude of foot, horse, and artillery in French uniforms, the
numbers reaching to a hundred and seventy thousand.
Lifting our eyes to discover what may be opposed to them we
perceive on the Wagram plateau aforesaid, and right and left in
front of it, extended lines of Austrians, whitish and glittering,
to the number of a hundred and forty thousand.
The July afternoon turns to evening, the evening to twilight.
A species of simmer which pervades the living spectacle raises
expectation till the very air itself seems strained with suspense.
A huge event of some kind is awaiting birth.]
The first change under the cloak of night is that the tightly packed
regiments on the island are got under arms. The soldiery are like
a thicket of reeds in which every reed should be a man.
A large bridge connects the island with the further shore, as well
as some smaller bridges. Opposite are high redoubts and ravelins
that the Austrians have constructed for opposing the passage across,
which the French ostentatiously set themselves to attempt by the
large bridge, amid heavy cannonading.
But the movement is a feint, though this is not perceived by the
Austrians as yet. The real movement is on the right hand of the
foreground, behind a spur of the isle, and out of sight of the
enemy; where several large rafts and flat boats, each capable of
carrying three hundred men, are floated out from a screened creek.
Chosen battalions enter upon these, which immediately begin to cross
with their burden. Simultaneously from other screened nooks
secretly prepared floating bridges, in sections, are moved forth,
joined together, and defended by those who crossed on the rafts.
At two o'clock in the morning the thousands of cooped soldiers begin
to cross the bridges, producing a scene which, on such a scale, was
never before witnessed in the history of war. A great discharge
from the batteries accompanies this manoeuvre, arousing the Austrians
to a like cannonade.
The night has been obscure for summer-time, and there is no moon.
The storm now breaks in a tempestuous downpour, with lightning and
thunder. The tumult of nature mingles so fantastically with the
tumult of projectiles that flaming bombs and forked flashes cut the
air in company, and the noise from the mortars alternates with the
noise from the clouds.
From bridge to bridge and back again a gloomy-eyed figure stalks, as
it has stalked the whole night long, with the restlessness of a wild
animal. Plastered with mud, and dribbling with rain-water, it bears
no resemblance to anything dignified or official. The figure is that
of NAPOLEON, urging his multitudes over.
By daylight the great mass of the men is across the water. At
six the rain ceases, the mist uncovers the face of the sun, which
bristles on the helmets and bayonets of the French. A hum of
amazement rises from the Austrian hosts, who turn staring faces
southward and perceive what has happened, and the columns of
their enemies standing to arms on the same side of the stream
with themselves, and preparing to turn their left wing.
NAPOLEON rides along the front of his forces, which now spread out
upon the plain, and are ranged in order of battle.
Dumb Show ends, and the point of view changes.
THE FIELD OF WAGRAM
[The battlefield is now viewed reversely, from the windows of a
mansion at Wolkersdorf, to the rear of the Austrian position.
The aspect of the windows is nearly south, and the prospect includes
the plain of the Marchfeld, with the isled Danube and Lobau in the
extreme distance. Ten miles to the south-west, rightwards, the
faint summit of the tower of St. Stephen's, Vienna, appears. On
the middle-left stands the compact plateau of Wagram, so regularly
shaped as to seem as if constructed by art. On the extreme left
the July sun has lately risen.
Inside the room are discovered the EMPEROR FRANCIS and some house-
hold officers in attendance; with the War-Minister and Secretaries
at a table at the back. Through open doors can be seen in an outer
apartment adjutants, equerries, aides, and other military men. An
officer in waiting enters.]
During the night the French have shifted, sire,
And much revised their stations of the eve
By thwart and wheeling moves upon our left,
And on our centre--projects unforeseen
Till near accomplished.
But I am advised
By oral message that the Archduke Charles,
Since the sharp strife last night, has mended, too,
His earlier dispositions, and has sped
Strong orders to the Archduke John, to bring
In swiftest marches all the force he holds,
And fall with heavy impact on the French
From nigh their rear?
'Tis good, sire; such a swoop
Will raise an obstacle to their retreat
And refuge in the fastness of the isle;
And show this victory-gorged adventurer
That striking with a river in his rear
Is not the safest tactic to be played
Against an Austrian front equipt like ours!
[The EMPEROR FRANCIS and others scrutinize through their glasses
the positions and movements of the Austrian divisions, which appear
on the plain as pale masses, emitting flashes from arms and helmets
under the July rays, and reaching from the Tower of Neusiedel on
the left, past Wagram, into the village of Stammersdorf on the
right. Beyond their lines are spread out the darker-hued French,
almost parallel to the Austrians.]
Those moving masses toward the right I deem
The forces of Klenau and Kollowrath,
Sent to support Prince John of Lichtenstein
I his attack that way?
Now that they've gained
The right there, why is not the attack begun?
They are beginning on the left wing, sire.
[The EMPEROR resumes his glass and beholds bodies of men descending
from the hills by Neusiedel, and crossing the Russbach river towards
the French--a movement which has been going on for some time.]
FRANCIS (turning thither)
Where we are weakest! It surpasses me
To understand why was our centre thinned
To pillar up our right already strong,
Where nought is doing, while our left assault
[Time passes in silence.]
Yes, it is so. See,
The enemy strikes Rossenberg in flank,
Compelling him to fall behind the Russbach!
[The EMPEROR gets excited, and his face perspires. At length he
cannot watch through his glass, and walks up and down.]
Penned useless here my nerves annoy my sight!
Inform me what you note.--I should opine
The Wagram height behind impregnable?
[Another silence, broken by the distant roar of the guns.]
Klenau and Kollowrath are pounding on!
To turn the enemy's left with our strong right
Is, after all, a plan that works out well.
Hiller and Lichtenstein conjoin therein.
I hear from thence appalling cannonades.
'Tis their, your Majesty. Now we shall see
If the French read that there the danger lies.
I only pray that Bonaparte refrain
From spying danger there till all too late!
OFFICER (involuntarily, after a pause)
FRANCIS (turning sharply)
Well, well? What changes figure now?
They pierce our centre, sire! We are, despite,
Not centrally so weak as I supposed.
Well done, Bellegarde!
FRANCIS (glancing to the centre)
And what has he well done?
The French in fierce fume broke through Aderklaa;
But Bellegarde, pricking along the plain behind,
Has charged and driven them back disorderly.
The Archduke Charles bounds thither, as I shape,
In person to support him!
[The EMPEROR returns to his spyglass; and they and others watch in
silence, sometimes the right of their front, sometimes the centre.]
It is so!
That the right attack of ours spells victory,
And Austria's grand salvation! . . . (Times passes.) Turn your glass,
And closely scan Napoleon and his aides
Hand-galloping towards his centre-left
To strengthen it against the brave Bellegarde.
Does your eye reach him?--That white horse, alone
In front of those that move so rapidly.
It does, sire; though my glass can conjure not
So cunningly as yours. . . . that horse must be
The famed Euphrates--him the Persian king
Sent Bonaparte as gift.
[A silence. NAPOLEON reaches a carriage that is moving across.
It bears MASSENA, who, having received a recent wound, in unable
See, the white horse and horseman pause beside
A coach for some strange reason rolling there. . . .
That white-horsed rider--yes!--is Bonaparte,
By the aides hovering round. . . .
New war-wiles have been worded; we shall spell
Their purport soon enough! (An interval.)
The French take heart
To stand to our battalions steadfastly,
And hold their ground, having the Emperor near!
[Time passes. An aide-de-camp enters.]
The Archduke Charles is pierced in the shoulder, sire;
He strove too far in beating back the French
At Aderklaa, and was nearly ta'en.
The wound's not serious.--On our right we win,
And deem the battle ours.
[Enter another aide-de-camp.]
We have borne them back through Aspern village-street
And Essling is recovered. What counts more,
Their bridges to the rear we have nearly grasped,
And panic-struck they crowd the few left free,
Choking the track, with cries of "All is lost!"
Then is the land delivered. God be praised!
[Exeunt aides. An interval, during which the EMPEROR and his
companions again remain anxiously at their glasses.]
There is a curious feature I discern
To have come upon the battle. On our right
We gain ground rapidly; towards the left
We lose it; and the unjudged consequence
Is that the armies; whole commingling mass
Moves like a monstrous wheel. I like it not!
[Enter another aide-de-camp.]
Our left wing, sire, recedes before Davout,
Whom nothing can withstand! Two corps he threw
Across the Russbach up to Neusiedel,
While he himself assailed the place in front.
Of the divisions one pressed on and on,
Till lodged atop. They would have been hurled back---
But how goes it with us in sum? pray say!
We have been battered off the eastern side
Of Wagram plateau.
Where's the Archduke John?
Why comes he not? One man of his here now
Were worth a host anon. And yet he tarries!
[Exit third aide. Time passes, while they reconnoitre the field
with strained eyes.]
Our centre-right, it seems, round Neusiedel,
Is being repulsed! May the kind Heaven forbid
That Hesse Homberg should be yielding there!
[The Minister in attendance comes forward, and the EMPEROR consults
him; then walking up and down in silence. Another aide-de-camp
Sire, Neusiedel has just been wrenched from us,
And the French right is on the Wagram crest;
Nordmann has fallen, and Veczay: Hesse Homberg,
Warteachben, Muger--almost all our best--
Bleed more or less profusely!
[A gloomy silence. Exit fourth side. Ten minutes pass. Enter an
officer in waiting.]
What guns are those that groan from Wagram height?
Alas, Davout's! I have climbed the roof-top, sire,
And there discerned the truth.
[Cannonade continues. A long interval of suspense. The EMPEROR
returns to his glass.]
A part of it!
There seems to be a grim, concerted lunge
By the whole strength of France upon our right,
Centre, and left wing simultaneously!
Most viciously upon the centre, sire,
If I mistook not, hard by Sussenbrunn;
The assault is led by Bonaparte in person,
Who shows himself with marvellous recklessness,
Yet like a phantom-fiend receives no hurt.
FRANCIS (still gazing)
Ha! Now the Archduke Charles has seen the intent,
And taken steps against it. Sussenbrunn
Must be the threatened thing. (Silence.) What an advance!--
Straight hitherward. Our centre girdles them.--
Surely they'll not persist? Who heads that charge?
They say Macdonald, sire.
Will there be soon of those in that advance!
We are burning them to bones by our hot fire.
They are almost circumscribed: if fully so
The battle's ours! What's that behind them, eh?
Their last reserves, that they may feed the front,
And sterilize our hope!
Yes, their reserve--
Dragoons and cuirassiers--charge in support.
You see their metal gleaming as they come.
Well, it is neck or nothing for them now!
It's nothing, sire. Their charge of cavalry
Has desperately failed.
Their foot press on,
However, with a battery in front
Which deals the foulest damage done us yet. (Time passes.)
They ARE effecting lodgment, after all.
Who would have reckoned on't--our men so firm!
[Re-enter first aide-de-camp.]
The Archduke Charles retreats, your majesty;
And the issue wears a dirty look just now.
Yes: I have seen the signs for some good while.
But he retreats with blows, and orderly.
[Time passes, till the sun has rounded far towards the west. The
features of the battle now materially change. The French have
regained Aspern and Essling; the Austrian army is doubled back
from the Danube and from the heights of Wagram, which, as
viewed from Wolkersdorf, face the afternoon shine, the French
established thereon glittering in the rays.
FRANCIS (choking a sigh)
The turn has passed. We are worsted, but not overwhelmed! . . .
The French advance is laboured, and but slow.
--This might have been another-coloured day
If but the Archduke John had joined up promptly;
Yet still he lags!
ANOTHER OFFICER (lately entered)
He's just now coming, sire.
His columns glimmer in the Frenchmen's rear.
Past Siebenbrunn's and Loebensdorf's smoked hills.
Ay--coming NOW! Why could he not be COME!
(They watch intently.)
We can see nothing of that side from here.
[Enter a general officer, who speaks to the Minister at the back
of the room.]
MINISTER (coming forward)
Your Majesty, I now have to suggest,
Pursuant to conclusions reached this morn,
That since the front and flower of all our force
Is seen receding to the Bisamberg,
These walls no longer yield safe shade for you,
Or facile outlook. Scouts returning say
Either Davout, or Bonaparte himself,
With the mid-columns of his forward corps,