Part 8 out of 16
Will bear up hitherward in fierce pursuit,
And may intrude beneath this very roof.
Not yet, I think; it may not be to-night;
But we should stand prepared.
If we must go
We'll go with a good grace, unfeignedly!
Who knows to-morrow may not see regained
What we have lost to-day?
[Re-enter fourth aide-de-camp.]
FOURTH AIDE (breathlessly)
The Archduke John,
Discerning our main musters in retreat,
Abandons an advance that throws on him
The enemy's whole brunt if he bear on.
Alas for his devotion! Let us go.
Such weight of sadness as we shoulder now
Will wring us down to sleep in stall or stye,
If even that be found! . . . Think! Bonaparte,
By reckless riskings of his life and limb,
Has turned the steelyard of our strength to-day
Whilst I have idled here! . . . May brighter times
Attend the cause of Europe far in Spain,
And British blood flow not, as ours, in vain!
[Exeunt the EMPEROR FRANCIS, minister, officers, and attendants.
The night comes, and the scene is obscured.]
THE FIELD OF TALAVERA
[It is the same month and weather as in the preceding scene.
Talavera town, on the river Tagus, is at the extreme right of the
foreground; a mountain range on the extreme left.
The allied army under SIR ARTHUR WELLESLEY stretches between--the
English on the left, the Spanish on the right--part holding a hill
to the left-centre of the scene, divided from the mountains by a
valley, and part holding a redoubt to the right-centre. This army
of more than fifty thousand all told, of which twenty-two thousand
only are English, has its back to the spectator.
Beyond, in a wood of olive, oak, and cork, are the fifty to sixty
thousand French, facing the spectator and the allies. Their right
includes a strong battery upon a hill which fronts the one on the
Behind all, the heights of Salinas close the prospect, the small
river Alberche flowing at their foot from left to right into the
Tagus, which advances in foreshortened perspective to the town at
the right front corner of the scene as aforesaid.]
The hot and dusty July afternoon having turned to twilight, shady
masses of men start into motion from the French position, come towards
the foreground, silently ascend the hill on the left of the English,
and assail the latter in a violent outburst of fire and lead. They
nearly gain possession of the hill ascended.
CHORUS OF RUMOURS (aerial music)
Talavera tongues it as ten o' the night-time:
Now come Ruffin's slaughterers surging upward,
Backed by bold Vilatte's! From the vale Lapisse, too,
Darkly outswells there!
Down the vague veiled incline the English fling them,
Bended bayonets prodding opponents backward:
So the first fierce charge of the ardent Frenchmen
England repels there!
Having fallen back into the darkness the French presently reascend
in yet larger masses. The high square knapsack which every English
foot-soldier carries, and his shako, and its tuft, outline themselves
against the dim light as the ranks stand awaiting the shock.
CHORUS OF RUMOURS
Pushing spread they!--shout as they reach the summit!--
Strength and stir new-primed in their plump battalions:
Puffs of barbed flame blown on the lines opposing
Higher and higher.
There those hold them mute, though at speaking distance--
Mute, while clicking flints, and the crash of volleys
Whelm the weighted gloom with immense distraction
Pending their fire.
Fronting heads, helms, brows can each ranksman read there,
Epaulettes, hot cheeks, and the shining eyeball,
(Called a trice from gloom by the fleeting pan-flash)
Pressing them nigher!
The French again fall back in disorder into the hollow, and LAPISSE
draws off on the right. As the sinking sound of the muskets tells
what has happened the English raise a shout.
CHORUS OF PITIES
Thus the dim nocturnal embroil of conflict
Closes with the roar of receding gun-fire.
Harness loosened then, and their day-long strenuous
Worn-out lines lie down where they late stood staunchly--
Cloaks around them rolled--by the bivouac embers:
There at dawn to stake in the dynasts' death-game
All, till the ending!
DUMB SHOW (continued)
The morning breaks. There is another murderous attempt to dislodge the
English from the hill, the assault being pressed with a determination
that excites the admiration of the English themselves.
The French are seen descending into the valley, crossing it, and
climbing it on the English side under the fire of HILL'S whole
division, all to no purpose. In their retreat they leave behind
them on the slopes nearly two thousand lying.
The day advances to noon, and the air trembles in the intense heat.
The combat flags, and is suspended.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
What do I see but thirsty, throbbing bands
From these inimic hosts defiling down
In homely need towards the little stream
That parts their enmities, and drinking there!
They get to grasping hands across the rill,
Sealing their sameness as earth's sojourners.--
What more could plead the wryness of the time
Than such unstudied piteous pantomimes!
It is only that Life's queer mechanics chance to work out in this
grotesque shape just now. The groping tentativeness of an Immanent
Will (as grey old Years describes it) cannot be asked to learn logic
at this time of day! The spectacle of Its instruments, set to riddle
one another through, and then to drink together in peace and concord,
is where the humour comes in, and makes the play worth seeing!
Come, Sprite, don't carry your ironies too far, or you may wake up
the Unconscious Itself, and tempt It to let all the gory clock-work
of the show run down to spite me!
DUMB SHOW (continuing)
The drums roll, and the men of the two nations part from their
comradeship at the Alberche brook, the dark masses of the French
army assembling anew. SIR ARTHUR WELLESLEY has seated himself on
a mound that commands a full view of the contested hill, and
remains there motionless a long time. When the French form for
battle he is seen to have come to a conclusion. He mounts, gives
his orders, and the aides ride off.
The French advance steadily through the sultry atmosphere, the
skirmishers in front, and the columns after, moving, yet seemingly
motionless. Their eighty cannon peal out and their shots mow every
space in the line of them. Up the great valley and the terraces of
the hill whose fame is at that moment being woven, comes VILLATE,
boring his way with foot and horse, and RUFFIN'S men following
According to the order given, the Twenty-third Light Dragoons and
the German Hussars advance at a chosen moment against the head of
these columns. On the way they disappear.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
Why this bedevilment? What can have chanced?
SPIRIT OF RUMOUR
It so befalls that as their chargers near
The inimical wall of flesh with its iron frise,
A treacherous chasm uptrips them: zealous men
And docile horses roll to dismal death
And horrid mutilation.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
Those who live
Even now advance! I'll see no more. Relate.
SPIRIT OF RUMOUR
Yes, those pant on. Then further Frenchmen cross,
And Polish Lancers, and Westphalian Horse,
Who ring around these luckless Islanders,
And sweep them down like reeds by the river-bank
In scouring floods; till scarce a man remains.
Meanwhile on the British right SEBASTIANI'S corps has precipitated
itself in column against GENERAL CAMPBELL'S division, the division
of LAPISSE against the centre, and at the same time the hill on the
English left is again assaulted. The English and their allies are
pressed sorely here, the bellowing battery tearing lanes through
SPIRIT OF RUMOUR (continuing)
The French reserves of foot and horse now on,
Smiting the Islanders in breast and brain
Till their mid-lines are shattered. . . . Now there ticks
The moment of the crisis; now the next,
Which brings the turning stroke.
SIR ARTHUR WELLESLEY sends down the Forty-eighth regiment under
COLONEL DONELLAN to support the wasting troops. It advances amid
those retreating, opening to let them pass.
SPIRIT OF THE RUMOUR (continuing)
The pales, enerved,
The hitherto unflinching enemy!
Lapisse is pierced to death; the flagging French
Decline into the hollows whence they came.
The too exhausted English and reduced
Lack strength to follow.--Now the western sun,
Conning with unmoved visage quick and dead,
Gilds horsemen slackening, and footmen stilled,
Till all around breathes drowsed hostility.
Last, the swealed herbage lifts a leering light,
And flames traverse the field; and hurt and slain
Opposed, opposers, in a common plight
Are scorched together on the dusk champaign.
The fire dies down, and darkness enwraps the scene.
BRIGHTON. THE ROYAL PAVILION
[It is the birthday dinner-party of the PRINCE OF WALES. In the
floridly decorated banqueting-room stretch tables spread with gold
and silver plate, and having artificial fountains in their midst.
Seated at the tables are the PRINCE himself as host--rosy, well
curled, and affable--the DUKES OF YORK, CLARENCE, KENT, SUSSEX,
CUMBERLAND, and CAMBRIDGE, with many noblemen, including LORDS
HEADFORT, BERKELEY, EGREMONT, CHICHESTER, DUDLEY, SAY AND SELE,
SOUTHAMPTON, HEATHFIELD, ERSKINE, KEITH, C. SOMERSET, G. CAVENDISH,
R. SEYMOUR, and others; SIR C. POLE, SIR E.G. DE CRESPIGNY, MR.
SHERIDAN; Generals, Colonels, and Admirals, and the REV. MR. SCOTT.
The PRINCE'S band plays in the adjoining room. The banquet is
drawing to its close, and a boisterous conversation is in progress.
Enter COLONEL BLOOMFIELD with a dispatch for the PRINCE, who looks
it over amid great excitement in the company. In a few moments
silence is called.]
PRINCE OF WALES
I have the joy, my lords and gentlemen,
To rouse you with the just imported tidings
From General Wellesley through Lord Castlereagh
Of a vast victory (noisy cheers) over the French in Spain.
The place--called Talavera de la Reyna
(If I pronounce it rightly)--long unknown,
Wears not the crest and blazonry of fame! (Cheers.)
The heads and chief contents of the dispatch
I read you as succinctly as I can. (Cheers.)
SHERIDAN (singing sotto voce)
"Now foreign foemen die and fly,
Dammy, we'll drink little England dry!"
[The PRINCE reads the parts of the dispatch that describe the
battle, amid intermittent cheers.]
PRINCE OF WALES (continuing)
Such is the substance of the news received,
Which, after Wagram, strikes us genially
As sudden sunrise through befogged night shades!
By God, that's good, sir! You are a poet born, while the rest of us
are but made, and bad at that.
[The health of the army in Spain is drunk with acclamations.]
PRINCE OF WALES (continuing)
In this achievement we, alas! have lost
Too many! Yet suck blanks must ever be.--
Mackenzie, Langworth, Beckett of the Guards,
Have fallen of ours; while of the enemy
Generals Lapisse and Morlot are laid low.--
Drink to their memories!
[They drink in silence.]
Other news, my friends,
Received to-day is of like hopeful kind.
The Great War-Expedition to the Scheldt (Cheers.)
Which lately sailed, has found a favouring wind,
And by this hour has touched its destined shores.
The enterprise will soon be hot aglow,
The invaders making first the Cadsand coast,
And then descending on Walcheren Isle.
But items of the next step are withheld
Till later days, from obvious policy. (Cheers.)
[Faint throbbing sounds, like the notes of violincellos and
contrabassos, reach the ear from some building without as the
In worthy emulation of us here
The county holds to-night a birthday ball,
Which flames with all the fashion of the town.
I have been asked to patronize their revel,
And sup with them, and likewise you, my guests.
We have good reason, with such news to bear!
Thither we haste and join our loyal friends,
And stir them with this live intelligence
Of our staunch regiments on the Spanish plains. (Applause.)
With them we'll now knit hands and beat the ground,
And bring in dawn as we whirl round and round!
There are some fair ones in their set to-night,
And such we need here in our bachelor-plight. (Applause.)
[The PRINCE, his brothers, and a large proportion of the other
Pavilion guests, swagger out in the direction of the Castle
assembly-rooms adjoining, and the deserted banqueting-hall grows
dark. In a few moments the back of the scene opens, revealing
the assembly-rooms behind.]
THE SAME. THE ASSEMBLY ROOMS
[The rooms are lighted with candles in brass chandeliers, and a
dance is in full movement to the strains of a string-band. A
signal is given, shortly after the clock has struck eleven, by
MR. FORTH, Master of Ceremonies.]
His Royal Highness comes, though somewhat late,
But never too late for welcome! (Applause.) Dancers, stand,
That we may do fit homage to the Prince
Who soon may shine our country's gracious king.
[After a brief stillness a commotion is heard at the door, the band
strikes up the National air, and the PRINCE enters, accompanied by
the rest of the visitors from the Pavilion. The guests who have
been temporarily absent now crowd in, till there is hardly space
PRINCE OF WALES (wiping his face and whispering to Sheridan)
What shall I say to fit their feeling here?
Damn me, that other speech has stumped me quite!
If heat be evidence of loy---
PRINCE OF WALES
If heat be evidence of loyalty,
Et caetera--something quaint like that might please 'em.
PRINCE OF WALES (to the company)
If heat be evidence of loyalty,
This room affords it truly without question;
If heat be not, then its accompaniment
Most surely 'tis to-night. The news I bring,
Good ladies, friends, and gentlemen, perchance
You have divined already? That our arms--
Engaged to thwart Napoleon's tyranny
Over the jaunty, jocund land of Spain
Even to the highest apex of our strength--
Are rayed with victory! (Cheers.) Lengthy was the strife
And fierce, and hot; and sore the suffering;
But proudly we endured it; and shall hear,
No doubt, of its far consequence
Ere many days. I'll read the details sent. (Cheers.)
[He reads again from the dispatch amid more cheering, the ball-
room guests crowding round. When he has done he answers questions;
Meanwhile our interest is, if possible,
As keenly waked elsewhere. Into the Scheldt
Some forty thousand bayonets and swords,
And twoscore ships o' the line, with frigates, sloops,
And gunboats sixty more, make headway now,
Bleaching the waters with their bellying sails;
Or maybe they already anchor there,
And that level ooze of Walcheren shore
Ring with the voices of that landing host
In every twang of British dialect,
Clamorous to loosen fettered Europe's chain! (Cheers.)
A NOBLE LORD (aside to Sheridan)
Prinny's outpouring tastes suspiciously like your brew, Sheridan.
I'll be damned if it is his own concoction. How d'ye sell it a
I don't deal that way nowadays. I give the recipe, and charge a
duty on the gauging. It is more artistic, and saves trouble.
[The company proceed to the supper-rooms, and the ball-room sinks
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
So they pass on. Let be!--But what is this--
A moan?--all frailly floating from the east
To usward, even from the forenamed isle? . . .
Would I had not broke nescience, to inspect
A world so ill-contrived!
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
But since thou hast
We'll hasten to the isle; and thou'lt behold--
Such as it is--the scene its coasts enfold.
[A marshy island at the mouth of the Scheldt, lit by the low
sunshine of an evening in late summer. The horizontal rays from
the west lie in yellow sheaves across the vapours that the day's
heat has drawn from the sweating soil. Sour grasses grow in
places, and strange fishy smells, now warm, now cold, pass along.
Brass-hued and opalescent bubbles, compounded of many gases, rise
where passing feet have trodden the damper spots. At night the
place is the haunt of the Jack-lantern.]
A vast army is encamped here, and in the open spaces are infantry on
parade--skeletoned men, some flushed, some shivering, who are kept
moving because it is dangerous to stay still. Every now and then
one falls down, and is carried away to a hospital with no roof, where
he is laid, bedless, on the ground.
In the distance soldiers are digging graves for the funerals which
are to take place after dark, delayed till then that the sight of
so many may not drive the living melancholy-mad. Faint noises are
heard in the air.
SHADE OF THE EARTH
What storm is this of souls dissolved in sighs,
And what the dingy doom it signifies?
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
We catch a lamentation shaped thuswise:
CHORUS OF THE PITIES (aerial music)
"We who withstood the blasting blaze of war
When marshalled by the gallant Moore awhile,
Beheld the grazing death-bolt with a smile,
Closed combat edge to edge and bore to bore,
Now rot upon this Isle!
"The ever wan morass, the dune, the blear
Sandweed, and tepid pool, and putrid smell,
Emaciate purpose to a fractious fear,
Beckon the body to its last low cell--
A chink no chart will tell.
"O ancient Delta, where the fen-lights flit!
Ignoble sediment of loftier lands,
Thy humour clings about our hearts and hands
And solves us to its softness, till we sit
As we were part of it.
"Such force as fever leaves maddened now,
With tidings trickling in from day to day
Of others' differing fortunes, wording how
They yield their lives to baulk a tyrant's sway--
Yield them not vainly, they!
"In champaigns green and purple, far and near,
In town and thorpe where quiet spire-cocks turn,
Through vales, by rocks, beside the brooding burn
Echoes the aggressor's arrogant career;
And we pent pithless here!
"Here, where each creeping day the creeping file
Draws past with shouldered comrades score on score,
Bearing them to their lightless last asile,
Where weary wave-wails from the clammy shore
Will reach their ears no more.
"We might have fought, and had we died, died well,
Even if in dynasts' discords not our own;
Our death-spot some sad haunter might have shown,
Some tongue have asked our sires or sons to tell
The tale of how we fell;
"But such be chanced not. Like the mist we fade,
No lustrous lines engrave in story we,
Our country's chiefs, for their own fames afraid,
Will leave our names and fates by this pale sea,
To perish silently!"
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Why must ye echo as mechanic mimes
These mortal minion's bootless cadences,
Played on the stops of their anatomy
As is the mewling music on the strings
Of yonder ship-masts by the unweeting wind,
Or the frail tune upon this withering sedge
That holds its papery blades against the gale?
--Men pass to dark corruption, at the best,
Ere I can count five score: these why not now?--
The Immanent Shaper builds Its beings so
Whether ye sigh their sighs with them or no!
The night fog enwraps the isle and the dying English army.
PARIS. A BALLROOM IN THE HOUSE OF CAMBACERES
[The many-candled saloon at the ARCH-CHANCELLOR'S is visible
through a draped opening, and a crowd of masked dancers in
fantastic costumes revolve, sway, and intermingle to the music
that proceeds from an alcove at the further end of the same
apartment. The front of the scene is a withdrawing-room of
smaller size, now vacant, save for the presence of one sombre
figure, that of NAPOLEON, seated and apparently watching the
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
Napoleon even now embraces not
From stress of state affairs, which hold him grave
Through revels that might win the King of Spleen
To toe a measure! I would speak with him.
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Speak if thou wilt whose speech nor mars nor mends!
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES (into Napoleon's ear)
Why thus and thus Napoleon? Can it be
That Wagram with its glories, shocks, and shames,
Still leaves athirst the palate of thy pride?
NAPOLEON (answering as in soliloquy)
The trustless, timorous lease of human life
Warns me to hedge in my diplomacy.
The sooner, then, the safer! Ay, this eve,
This very night, will I take steps to rid
My morrows of the weird contingencies
That vision round and make one hollow-eyed. . . .
The unexpected, lurid death of Lannes--
Rigid as iron, reaped down like a straw--
Tiptoed Assassination haunting round
In unthought thoroughfares, the near success
Of Staps the madman, argue to forbid
The riskful blood of my previsioned line
And potence for dynastic empery
To linger vialled in my veins alone.
Perhaps within this very house and hour,
Under an innocent mask of Love or Hope,
Some enemy queues my ways to coffin me. . . .
When at the first clash of the late campaign,
A bold belief in Austria's star prevailed,
There pulsed quick pants of expectation round
Among the cowering kings, that too well told
What would have fared had I been overthrown!
So; I must send down shoots to future time
Who'll plant my standard and my story there;
And a way opens.--Better I had not
Bespoke a wife from Alexander's house.
Not there now lies my look. But done is done!
[The dance ends and masks enter, BERTHIER among them. NAPOLEON
beckons to him, and he comes forward.]
God send you find amid this motley crew
Frivolities enough, friend Berthier--eh?
My thoughts have worn oppressive shades despite such!
What scandals of me do they bandy here?
These close disguises render women bold--
Their shames being of the light, not of the thing--
And your sagacity has garnered much,
I make no doubt, of ill and good report,
That marked our absence from the capital?
Methinks, your Majesty, the enormous tale
Of your campaign, like Aaron's serpent-rod,
Has swallowed up the smaller of its kind.
Some speak, 'tis true, in counterpoise thereto,
Of English deeds by Talavera town,
Though blurred by their exploit at Walcheren,
And all its crazy, crass futilities.
Yet was the exploit well featured in design,
Large in idea, and imaginative;
I had not deemed the blinkered English folk
So capable of view. Their fate contrived
To place an idiot at the helm of it,
Who marred its working, else it had been hard
If things had not gone seriously for us.
--But see, a lady saunters hitherward
Whose gait proclaims her Madame Metternich,
One that I fain would speak with.
[NAPOLEON rises and crosses the room toward a lady-masker who has
just appeared in the opening. BERTHIER draws off, and the EMPEROR,
unceremoniously taking the lady's arm, brings her forward to a
chair, and sits down beside her as dancing is resumed.]
In a flash
I recognized you, sire; as who would not
The bearer of such deep-delved charactery?
The devil, madame, take your piercing eyes!
It's hard I cannot prosper in a game
That every coxcomb plays successfully.
--So here you are still, though your loving lord
Disports him at Vienna?
Still holds me; though in quiet, save to-night,
When I have been expressly prayed come hither,
Or I had not left home.
I sped that Prayer!--
I have a wish to put a case to you,
Wherein a woman's judgment, such as yours,
May be of signal service. (He lapses into reverie.)
Well? The case--
It is beyond me, sire!
You glean that I have decided to dissolve
(Pursuant to monitions murmured long)
My union with the present Empress--formed
Without the Church's due authority?
Vaguely. And that light tentatives have winged
Betwixt your Majesty and Russia's court,
To moot that one of their Grand Duchesses
Should be your Empress-wife. Nought else I know.
There have been such approachings; more, worse luck.
Last week Champagny wrote to Alexander
Asking him for his sister--yes or no.
What "worse luck" lies in that, your Majesty,
If severance from the Empress Josephine
Be fixed unalterably?
This worse luck lies there:
If your Archduchess, Marie Louise the fair,
Would straight accept my hand, I'd offer it,
And throw the other over. Faith, the Tsar
Has shown such backwardness in answering me,
Time meanwhile trotting, that I have ample ground
For such withdrawal.--Madame, now, again,
Will your Archduchess marry me of no?
Your sudden questions quite confound my sense!
It is impossible to answer them.
Well, madame, now I'll put it to you thus:
Were you in the Archduchess Marie's place
Would you accept my hand--and heart therewith?
I should refuse you--most assuredly!(17)
NAPOLEON (laughing roughly)
Ha-ha! That's frank. And devilish cruel too!
--Well, write to your husband. Ask him what he thinks,
And let me know.
Indeed, sire, why should I?
There goes the Ambassador, Prince Schwarzenberg,
Successor to my spouse. He's now the groove
And proper conduit of diplomacy
Through whom to broach this matter to his Court.
Do you, then, broach it through him, madame, pray;
Now, here, to-night.
I will, informally,
To humour you, on this recognizance,
That you leave not the business in my hands,
But clothe your project in official guise
Through him to-morrow; so safeguarding me
From foolish seeming, as the babbler forth
Of a fantastic and unheard of dream.
I'll send Eugene to him, as you suggest.
Meanwhile prepare him. Make your stand-point this:
Children are needful to my dynasty,
And if one woman cannot mould them for me,
Why, then, another must.
[Exit NAPOLEON abruptly. Dancing continues. MADAME METTERNICH
sits on, musing. Enter SCHWARZENBERG.]
The Emperor has just left me. We have tapped
This theme and that; his empress and--his next.
Ay, so! Now, guess you anything?
No more than that the stock of Romanoff
Will not supply the spruce commodity.
And that the would-be customer turns toe
To our shop in Vienna.
And comprehensible but as the dream
Of Delaborde, of which I have lately heard.
It will not work!--What think you, madame, on't?
That it will work, and is as good as wrought!--
I break it to you thus, at his request.
In brief time Prince Eugene will wait on you,
And make the formal offer in his name.
Which I can but receive _ad referendum_,
And shall initially make clear as much,
Disclosing not a glimpse of my own mind!
Meanwhile you make good Metternich aware?
I write this midnight, that amaze may pitch
To coolness ere your messenger arrives.
This radiant revelation flicks a gleam
On many circling things!--the courtesies
Which graced his bearing toward our officer
Amid the tumults of the late campaign,
His wish for peace with England, his affront
At Alexander's tedious-timed reply . . .
Well, it will thrust a thorn in Russia's side,
If I err not, whatever else betide!
[Exeunt. The maskers surge into the foreground of the scene, and
their motions become more and more fantastic. A strange gloom
begins and intensifies, until only the high lights of their
grinning figures are visible. These also, with the whole ball-
room, gradually darken, and the music softens to silence.]
PARIS. THE TUILERIES
[The evening of the next day. A saloon of the Palace, with
folding-doors communicating with a dining-room. The doors are
flung open, revealing on the dining-table an untouched dinner,
NAPOLEON and JOSEPHINE rising from it, and DE BAUSSET, chamberlain-
in-waiting, pacing up and down. The EMPEROR and EMPRESS come
forward into the saloon, the latter pale and distressed, and
patting her eyes with her handkerchief.
The doors are closed behind them; a page brings in coffee; NAPOLEON
signals to him to leave. JOSEPHINE goes to pour out the coffee,
but NAPOLEON pushes her aside and pours it out himself, looking at
her in a way which causes her to sink cowering into a chair like a
I see my doom, my friend, upon your face!
You see me bored by Cambaceres' ball.
It means divorce!--a thing more terrible
Than carrying elsewhere the dalliances
That formerly were mine. I kicked at that;
But now agree, as I for long have done,
To any infidelities of act
May I be yours in name!
My mind must bend
To other things than our domestic petting:
The Empire orbs above our happiness,
And 'tis the Empire dictates this divorce.
I reckon on your courage and calm sense
To breast with me the law's formalities,
And get it through before the year has flown.
But are you REALLY going to part from me?
O no, no, my dear husband; no, in truth,
It cannot be my Love will serve me so!
I mean but mere divorcement, as I said,
On simple grounds of sapient sovereignty.
But nothing have I done save good to you:--
Since the fond day we wedded into one
I never even have THOUGHT you jot of harm!
Many the happy junctures when you have said
I stood as guardian-angel over you,
As your Dame Fortune, too, and endless things
Of such-like pretty tenour--yes, you have!
Then how can you so gird against me now?
You had not pricked upon it much of late,
And so I hoped and hoped the ugly spectre
Had been laid dead and still.
I tell you, dear,
The thing's decreed, and even the princess chosen.
Ah--so--the princess chosen! . . . I surmise
It is none else than the Grand-Duchess Anne:
Gossip was right--though I would not believe.
She's young; but no great beauty!--Yes, I see
Her silly, soulless eyes and horrid hair;
In which new gauderies you'll forget sad me!
Upon my soul you are childish, Josephine:
A woman of your years to pout it so!--
I say it's not the Tsar's Grand-Duchess Anne.
Some other Fair, then. You whose name can nod
The flower of all the world's virginity
Into your bed, will well take care of that!
(Spitefully.) She may not have a child, friend, after all.
You hope she won't, I know!--But don't forget
Madame Walewska did, and had she shown
Such cleverness as yours, poor little fool,
Her withered husband might have been displaced,
And her boy made my heir.--Well, let that be.
The severing parchments will be signed by us
Upon the fifteenth, prompt.
What--I have to sign
My putting away upon the fifteenth next?
Ay--both of us.
JOSEPHINE (falling on her knees)
So far advanced--so far!
Fixed?--for the fifteenth? O I do implore you,
My very dear one, by our old, old love,
By my devotion, don't cast me off
Now, after these long years!
Heavens, how you jade me!
Must I repeat that I don't cast you off;
We merely formally arrange divorce--
We live and love, but call ourselves divided.
JOSEPHINE (with sudden calm)
Very well. Let it be. I must submit! (Rises.)
And this much likewise you must promise me,
To act in the formalities thereof
As if you shaped them of your own free will.
How can I--when no freewill's left in me?
You are a willing party--do you hear?
I hardly--can--bear this!--It is--too much
For a poor weak and broken woman's strength!
But--but I yield!--I am so helpless now:
I give up all--ay, kill me if you will,
I won't cry out!
And one thing further still,
You'll help me in my marriage overtures
To win the Duchess--Austrian Marie she,--
Concentrating all your force to forward them.
It is the--last humiliating blow!--
I cannot--O, I will not!
But you SHALL!
And from your past experience you may know
That what I say I mean!
JOSEPHINE (breaking into sobs)
O my dear husband--do not make me--don't!
If you but cared for me--the hundredth part
Of how--I care for you, you could not be
So cruel as to lay this torture on me.
It hurts me so!--it cuts me like a sword.
Don't make me, dear! Don't, will you! O,O,O!
(She sinks down in a hysterical fit.)
[Enter DE BAUSSET, Chamberlain-in-waiting.]
Bausset, come in and shut the door.
Assist me here. The Empress has fallen ill.
Don't call for help. We two can carry her
By the small private staircase to her rooms.
Here--I will take her feet.
[They lift JOSEPHINE between them and carry her out. Her moans
die away as they recede towards the stairs. Enter two servants,
who remove coffee-service, readjust chairs, etc.]
So, poor old girl, she's wailed her _Missere Mei_, as Mother Church
says. I knew she was to get the sack ever since he came back.
Well, there will be a little civil huzzaing, a little crowing and
cackling among the Bonapartes at the downfall of the Beauharnais
family at last, mark me there will! They've had their little hour,
as the poets say, and now 'twill be somebody else's turn. O it is
droll! Well, Father Time is a great philosopher, if you take him
right. Who is to be the new woman?
She that contains in her own corporation the necessary particular.
And what may they be?
She must be young.
Good. She must. The country must see to that.
And she must be strong.
Good again. She must be strong. The doctors will see to that.
And she must be fruitful as the vine.
Ay, by God. She must be fruitful as the vine. That, Heaven help
him, he must see to himself, like the meanest multiplying man in
[Exeunt servant. Re-enter NAPOLEON with his stepdaughter, Queen
Your mother is too rash and reasonless--
Wailing and fainting over statesmanship
Which is no personal caprice of mine,
But policy most painful--forced on me
By the necessities of this country's charge.
Go to her; see if she be saner now;
Explain it to her once and once again,
And bring me word what impress you may make.
[HORTENSE goes out. CHAMPAGNY is shown in.]
Champagny, I have something clear to say
Now, on our process after the divorce.
The question of the Russian Duchess Anne
Was quite inept for further toying with.
The years rush on, and I grow nothing younger.
So I have made up my mind--committed me
To Austria and the Hapsburgs--good or ill!
It was the best, most practicable plunge,
And I have plunged it.
Austria say you, sire?
I reckoned that but a scurrying dream!
Well, so it was. But such a pretty dream
That its own charm transfixed it to a notion,
That showed itself in time a sanity,
Which hardened in its turn to a resolve
As firm as any built by mortal mind.--
The Emperor's consent must needs be won;
But I foresee no difficulty there.
The young Archduchess is a bright blond thing
By general story; and considering, too,
That her good mother childed seventeen times,
It will be hard if she can not produce
The modest one or two that I require.
[Enter DE BAUSSET with dispatches.]
The courier, sire, from Petersburg is here,
And brings these letters for your Majesty.
[Exit DE BAUSSET.]
NAPOLEON (after silently reading)
Ha-ha! It never rains unless it pours:
Now I can have the other readily.
The proverb hits me aptly: "Well they do
Who doff the old love ere they don the new!"
(He glances again over the letter.)
Yes, Caulaincourt now writes he has every hope
Of quick success in settling the alliance!
The Tsar is willing--even anxious for it,
His sister's youth the single obstacle.
The Empress-mother, hitherto against me,
Ambition-fired, verges on suave consent,
Likewise the whole Imperial family.
What irony is all this to me now!
Time lately was when I had leapt thereat.
You might, of course, sire, give th' Archduchess up,
Seeing she looms uncertainly as yet,
While this does so no longer.
My sense of my own dignity forbids
My watching the slow clocks of Muscovy!
Why have they dallied with my tentatives
In pompous silence since the Erfurt day?
--And Austria, too, affords a safer hope.
The young Archduchess is much less a child
Than is the other, who, Caulaincourt says,
Will be incapable of motherhood
For six months yet or more--a grave delay.
Your Majesty appears to have trimmed your sail
For Austria; and no more is to be said!
Except that there's the house of Saxony
If Austria fail.--then, very well, Champagny,
Write you to Caulaincourt accordingly.
I will, your Majesty.
[Exit CHAMPAGNY. Re-enter QUEEN HORTENSE.]
Ah, dear Hortense,
How is your mother now?
Calm; quite calm, sire.
I pledge me you need have no further fret
From her entreating tears. She bids me say
That now, as always, she submits herself
With chastened dignity to circumstance,
And will descend, at notice, from your throne--
As in days earlier she ascended it--
In questionless obedience to your will.
It was your hand that crowned her; let it be
Likewise your hand that takes her crown away.
As for her children, we shall be but glad
To follow and withdraw ourselves with her,
The tenderest mother children ever knew,
From grandeurs that have brought no happiness!
NAPOLEON (taking her hand)
But, Hortense, dear, it is not to be so!
You must stay with me, as I said before.
Your mother, too, must keep her royal state,
Since no repudiation stains this need.
Equal magnificence will orb her round
In aftertime as now. A palace here,
A palace in the country, wealth to match,
A rank in order next my future wife's,
And conference with me as my truest friend.
Now we will seek her--Eugene, you, and I--
And make the project clear.
[Exeunt NAPOLEON and HORTENSE. The scene darkens and shuts.]
VIENNA. A PRIVATE APARTMENT IN THE IMPERIAL PALACE
[The EMPEROR FRANCIS discovered, paler than usual, and somewhat
flurried. Enter METTERNICH the Prime Minister--a thin-lipped,
long-nosed man with inquisitive eyes.]
I have been expecting you some minutes here,
The thing that fronts us brooking brief delay.--
Well, what say you by now on this strange offer?
My views remain the same, your Majesty:
The policy of peace that I have upheld,
Both while in Paris and of late time here,
Points to this step as heralding sweet balm
And bandaged veins for our late crimsoned realm.
Agreed. As monarch I perceive therein
A happy doorway for my purposings.
It seems to guarantee the Hapsburg crown
A quittance of distractions such as those
That leave their shade on many a backward year!--
There is, forsooth, a suddenness about it,
And it would aid us had we clearly keyed
The cryptologues of which the world has heard
Between Napoleon and the Russian Court--
Begun there with the selfsame motiving.
I would not, sire, one second ponder it.
It was an obvious first crude cast-about
In the important reckoning of means
For his great end, a strong monarchic line.
The more advanced the more it profits us;
For sharper, then, the quashing of such views,
And wreck of that conjunction in the aims
Of France and Russia, marked so much of late
As jeopardizing quiet neighbours' thrones.
If that be so, on the domestic side
There seems no bar. Speaking as father solely,
I see secured to her the proudest fate
That woman can daydream. And I could hope
That private bliss would not be wanting her!
A hope well seated, sire. The Emperor,
Imperious and determined in his rule,
Is easy-natured in domestic life,
As my long time in Paris amply proved.
Moreover, the accessories of his glory
Have been, and will be, admirably designed
To fire the fancy of a young princess.
Thus far you satisfy me. . . . So, to close,
Or not to close with him, is now the thing.
Your Majesty commands the issue quite:
The father of his people can alone
In such a case give answer--yes or no.
Vagueness and doubt have ruined Russia's chance;
Let not, then, such be ours.
You mean, if I,
You'd answer straight. What would that answer be?
In state affairs, sire, as in private life,
Times will arise when even the faithfullest squire
Finds him unfit to jog his chieftain's choice,
On whom responsibility must lastly rest.
And such times are pre-eminently, sire,
Those wherein thought alone is not enough
To serve the head as guide. As Emperor,
As father, both, to you, to you in sole
Must appertain the privilege to pronounce
Which track stern duty bids you tread herein.
Affection is my duty, heart my guide.--
Without constraint or prompting I shall leave
The big decision in my daughter's hands.
Before my obligations to my people
Must stand her wish. Go, find her, Metternich,
Take her the tidings. She is free with you,
And will speak out. (Looking forth from the terrace.)
She's here at hand, I see:
I'll call her in. Then tell me what's her mind.
[He beckons from the window, and goes out in another direction.]
So much for form's sake! Can the river-flower
The current drags, direct its face up-stream?
What she must do she will; nought else at all.
[Enter through one of the windows MARIA LOUISA in garden-costume,
fresh-coloured, girlish, and smiling. METTERNICH bends.]
O how, dear Chancellor, you startled me!
Please pardon my so brusquely bursting in.
I saw you not.--Those five poor little birds
That haunt out there beneath the pediment,
Snugly defended from the north-east wind,
Have lately disappeared. I sought a trace
Of scattered feathers, which I dread to find!
They are gone, I ween, the way of tender flesh
At the assaults of winter, want, and foes.
It is too melancholy thinking, that!
Don't say it.--But I saw the Emperor here?
Surely he beckoned me?
Sure, he did,
Your gracious Highness; and he has left me here
To break vast news that will make good his call.
Then do. I'll listen. News from near or far?
[She seats herself.]
From far--though of such distance-dwarfing might
That far may read as near eventually.
But, dear Archduchess, with your kindly leave
I'll speak straight out. The Emperor of the French
Has sent to-day to make, through Schwarzenberg,
A formal offer of his heart and hand,
His honours, dignities, imperial throne,
To you, whom he admires above all those
The world can show elsewhere.
MARIA LOUISA (frightened)
What, an old man like him!
He's scarcely old,
Dear lady. True, deeds densely crowd in him;
Turn months to years calendaring his span;
Yet by Time's common clockwork he's but young.
So wicked, too!
Well-that's a point of view.
But, Chancellor, think what things I have said to him!
Can women marry where they have taunted so?
Things? Nothing inexpungeable, I deem,
By time and true good humour.
O I have!
Horrible things. Why--ay, a hundred times--
I have said I wished him dead! At that strained hour
When the first voicings of the late war came,
Thrilling out how the French were smitten sore
And Bonaparte retreating, I clapped hands
And answered that I hoped he'd lose his head
As well as lose the battle!
Words. But words!
Born like the bubbles of a spring that come
Of zest for springing--aimless in their shape.
It seems indecent, mean, to wed a man
Whom one has held such fierce opinions of!
My much beloved Archduchess, and revered,
Such things have been! In Spain and Portugal
Like enmities have led to intermarriage.
In England, after warring thirty years
The Red and White Rose wedded.
MARIA LOUISA (after a silence)
Tell me, now,
What does my father wish?
His wish is yours.
Whatever your Imperial Highness feels
On this grave verdict of your destiny,
Home, title, future sphere, he bids you think
Not of himself, but of your own desire.
MARIA LOUISA (reflecting)
My wish is what my duty bids me wish.
Where a wide Empire's welfare is in poise,
That welfare must be pondered, not my will.
I ask of you, then, Chancellor Metternich,
Straightway to beg the Emperor my father
That he fulfil his duty to the realm,
And quite subordinate thereto all thought
Of how it personally impinge on me.
[A slight noise as of something falling is heard in the room. They
glance momentarily, and see that a small enamel portrait of MARIE
ANTOINETTE, which was standing on a console-table, has slipped down
on its face.]
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
What mischief's this? The Will must have its way.
Perhaps Earth shivered at the lady's say?
SHADE OF THE EARTH
I own hereto. When France and Austria wed
My echoes are men's groans, my dews are red;
So I have reason for a passing dread!
Right nobly phrased, Archduchess; wisely too.
I will acquaint your sire the Emperor
With these your views. He waits them anxiously. (Going.)
Let me go first. It much confuses me
To think--But I would fain let thinking be!
[She goes out trembling. Enter FRANCIS by another door.]
I was about to seek your Majesty.
The good Archduchess luminously holds
That in this weighty question you regard
The Empire. Best for it is best for her.
My daughter's views thereon do not surprise me.
She is too staunch to pit a private whim
Against the fortunes of a commonwealth.
During your speech with her I have taken thought
To shape decision sagely. An assent
Would yield the Empire many years of peace,
And leave me scope to heal those still green sores
Which linger from our late unhappy moils.
Therefore, my daughter not being disinclined,
I know no basis for a negative.
Send, then, a courier prompt to Paris: say
The offer made for the Archduchess' hand
I do accept--with this defined reserve,
That no condition, treaty, bond, attach
To such alliance save the tie itself.
There are some sacrifices whose grave rites
No bargain must contaminate. This is one--
This personal gift of a beloved child!
I'll see to it this hour, your Majesty,
And cant the words in keeping with your wish.
To himself as he goes.)
Decently done! . . . He slipped out "sacrifice,"
And scarce could hide his heartache for his girl.
Well ached it!--But when these things have to be
It is as well to breast them stoically.
[Exit METTERNICH. The clouds draw over.]
LONDON. A CLUB IN ST. JAMES'S STREET
[A winter midnight. Two members are conversing by the fire, and
others are seen lolling in the background, some of them snoring.]
I learn from a private letter that it was carried out in the
Emperor's Cabinet at the Tuileries--just off the throne-room, where
they all assembled in the evening,--Boney and the wife of his bosom
(In pure white muslin from head to foot, they say), the Kings and
Queens of Holland, Whestphalia, and Naples, the Princess Pauline,
and one or two more; the officials present being Cambaceres the
Chancellor, and Count Regnaud. Quite a small party. It was over
in minutes--short and sweet, like a donkey's gallop.
Anything but sweet for her. How did she stand it?
Serenely, I believe, while the Emperor was making his speech
renouncing her; but when it came to her turn to say she renounced
him she began sobbing mightily, and was so completely choked up that
she couldn't get out a word.
Poor old dame! I pity her, by God; though she had a rattling good
spell while it lasted.
They say he was a bit upset, too, at sight of her tears But I
dare vow that was put on. Fancy Boney caring a curse what a woman
feels. She had learnt her speech by heart, but that did not help
her: Regnaud had to finish it for her, the ditch that overturned
her being where she was made to say that she no longer preserved
any hope of having children, and that she was pleased to show her
attachment by enabling him to obtain them by another woman. She
was led off fainting. A turning of the tables, considering how
madly jealous she used to make him by her flirtations!
[Enter a third member.]
How is the debate going? Still braying the Government in a mortar?
They are. Though one thing every body admits: young Peel has
made a wonderful first speech in seconding the address. There
has been nothing like it since Pitt. He spoke rousingly of
Austria's misfortunes--went on about Spain, of course, showing
that we must still go on supporting her, winding up with a
brilliant peroration about--what were the words--"the fiery eyes
of the British soldier!"--Oh, well: it was all learnt before-hand,
I wish I had gone down. But the wind soon blew the other way.
Then Gower rapped out his amendment. That was good, too, by God.
Well, the war must go on. And that being the general conviction
this censure and that censure are only so many blank cartridges.
Blank? Damn me, were they! Gower's was a palpable hit when he said
that Parliament had placed unheard-of resources in the hands of the
Ministers last year, to make this year's results to the country
worse than if they had been afforded no resources at all. Every
single enterprise of theirs had been a beggarly failure.
Anybody could have said it, come to that.
Yes, because it is so true. However, when he began to lay on with
such rhetoric as "the treasures of the nation lavished in wasteful
thoughtlessness,"--"thousands of our troops sacrificed wantonly in
pestilential swamps of Walcheren," and gave the details we know so
well, Ministers wriggled a good one, though 'twas no news to 'em.
Castlereagh kept on starting forward as if he were going to jump up
and interrupt, taking the strictures entirely as a personal affront.
[Enter a fourth member.]
Who's speaking now?
I don't know. I have heard nobody later than Ward.
The fact is that, as Whitbread said to me to-day, the materials for
condemnation are so prodigious that we can scarce marshal them into
argument. We are just able to pour 'em out one upon t'other.
Ward said, with the blandest air in the world: "Censure? Do his
Majesty's Ministers expect censure? Not a bit. They are going
about asking in tremulous tones if anybody has heard when their
impeachment is going to begin."
Then he made another point. After enumerating our frightful
failures--Spain, Walcheren, and the rest--he said: "But Ministers
have not failed in everything. No; in one thing they have been
strikingly successful. They have been successful in their attack
upon Copenhagen--because it was directed against an ally!" Mighty
fine, wasn't it?
How did Castlereagh stomach that?
He replied then. Donning his air of injured innocence he proved the
honesty of his intentions--no doubt truly enough. But when he came
to Walcheren nothing could be done. The case was hopeless, and he
knew it, and foundered. However, at the division, when he saw what
a majority was going out on his side he was as frisky as a child.
Canning's speech was grave, with bits of shiny ornament stuck on--
like the brass nails on a coffin, Sheridan says.
[Fifth and sixth members stagger in, arm-and-arm.]
The 'vision is---'jority of ninety-six againsht--Gov'ment--I mean--
againsht us. Which is it--hey? (To his companion.)
Damn majority of--damn ninety-six--against damn amendment! (They
sink down on a sofa.)
Gad, I didn't expect the figure would have been quite so high!
The one conviction is that the war in the Peninsula is to go on, and
as we are all agreed upon that, what the hell does it matter what
their majority was?
[Enter SHERIDAN. They all look inquiringly.]
Have ye heard the latest?
Ninety-six against us.
O no-that's ancient history. I'd forgot it.
A revolution, because Ministers are not impeached and hanged?
That's in contemplation, when we've got their confessions. But what
I meant was from over the water--it is a deuced sight more serious
to us than a debate and division that are only like the Liturgy on
a Sunday--known beforehand to all the congregation. Why, Bonaparte
is going to marry Austria forthwith--the Emperor's daughter Maria
The Lord look down! Our late respected crony of Austria! Why, in
this very night's debate they have been talking about the laudable
principles we have been acting upon in affording assistance to the
Emperor Francis in his struggle against the violence and ambition
Boney safe on that side, what may not befall!
We had better make it up with him, and shake hands all round.