The Dynasts - An Epic-Drama Of The War With Napoleon, In Three Parts, - Nineteen Acts, And One Hundred And Thirty Scenes
by Thomas Hardy
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
Home - Random Browse


To his shame. We must discount war's generous impulses I sadly see.


Be mute, and let spin on This whirlwind of the Will!

[As NEY'S cavalry ascends the English position the swish of the horses' breasts through the standing corn can be heard, and the reverberation of hoofs increases in strength. The English gunners stand with their portfires ready, which are seen glowing luridly in the daylight. There is comparative silence.]


Now, captains, are you loaded?


Yes, my lord.


Point carefully, and wait till their whole height Shows above the ridge.

[When the squadrons rise in full view, within sixty yards of the cannon-mouths, the batteries fire, with a concussion that shakes the hill itself. Their shot punch holes through the front ranks of the cuirassiers, and horse and riders fall in heaps. But they are not stopped, hardly checked, galloping up to the mouths of the guns, passing between the pieces, and plunging among the Allied infantry behind the ridge, who, with the advance of the horsemen, have sprung up from their prone position and formed into squares.]


Ney guides the fore-front of the carabineers Through charge and charge, with rapid recklessness. Horses, cuirasses, sabres, helmets, men, Impinge confusedly on the pointed prongs Of the English kneeling there, whose dim red shapes Behind their slanted steel seem trampled flat And sworded to the sward. The charge recedes, And lo, the tough lines rank there as before, Save that they are shrunken.


Hero of heroes, too, Ney, [not forgetting those who gird against him].— Simple and single-souled lieutenant he; Why should men's many-valued motions take So barbarous a groove!

[The cuirassiers and lancers surge round the English and Allied squares like waves, striking furiously on them and well-nigh breaking them. They stand in dogged silence amid the French cheers.]

WELLINGTON [to the nearest square]

Hard pounding this, my men! I truly trust You'll pound the longest!



MUFFLING [again referring to his watch]

However firmly they may stand, in faith, Their firmness must have bounds to it, because There are bounds to human strength!... Your, Grace, To leftward now, to spirit Zieten on.


Good. It is time! I think he well be late, However, in the field.

[MUFFLING goes. Enter an aide, breathless.]


Your Grace, the Ninety-fifth are patience-spent With standing under fire so passing long. They writhe to charge—or anything but stand!


Not yet. They shall have at 'em later on. At present keep them firm.

[Exit aide. The Allied squares stand like little red-brick castles, independent of each other, and motionless except at the dry hurried command "Close up!" repeated every now and then as they are slowly thinned. On the other hand, under their firing and bayonets a disorder becomes apparent among the charging horse, on whose cuirasses the bullets snap like stones on window-panes. At this the Allied cavalry waiting in the rear advance; and by degrees they deliver the squares from their enemies, who are withdrawn to their own position to prepare for a still more strenuous assault. The point of view shifts.]



[On the sheltered side of a clump of trees at the back of the English position camp-fires are smouldering. Soldiers' wives, mistresses, and children from a few months to five or six years of age, sit on the ground round the fires or on armfuls of straw from the adjoining farm. Wounded soldiers lie near the women. The wind occasionally brings the smoke and smell of battle into the encampment, the noise being continuous. Two waggons stand near; also a surgeon's horse in charge of a batman, laden with bone-saws, knives, probes, tweezers, and other surgical instruments. Behind lies a woman who has just given birth to a child, which a second woman is holding.

Many of the other women are shredding lint, the elder children assisting. Some are dressing the slighter wounds of the soldiers who have come in here instead of going further. Along the road near is a continual procession of bearers of wounded men to the rear. The occupants of the camp take hardly any notice of the thundering of the cannon. A camp-follower is playing a fiddle near. Another woman enters.]


There's no sign of my husband any longer. His battalion is half-a- mile from where it was. He looked back as they wheeled off towards the fighting-line, as much as to say, "Nancy, if I don't see 'ee again, this is good-bye, my dear." Yes, poor man!... Not but what 'a had a temper at times!


I'm out of all that. My husband—as I used to call him for form's sake—is quiet enough. He was wownded at Quarter-Brass the day before yesterday, and died the same night. But I didn't know it till I got here, and then says I, "Widder or no widder, I mean to see this out."

[A sergeant staggers in with blood dropping from his face.]


Damned if I think you will see it out, mis'ess, for if I don't mistake there'll be a retreat of the whole army on Brussels soon. We can't stand much longer!—For the love of God, have ye got a cup of water, if nothing stronger? [They hand a cup.]

THIRD WOMAN [entering and sinking down]

The Lord send that I may never see again what I've been seeing while looking for my poor galliant Joe! The surgeon asked me to lend a hand; and 'twas worse than opening innerds at a pig-killing! [She faints.]

FOURTH WOMAN [to a little girl]

Never mind her, my dear; come and help me with this one. [She goes with the girl to a soldier in red with buff facings who lies some distance off.] Ah—'tis no good. He's gone.


No, mother. His eyes are wide open, a-staring to get a sight of the battle!


That's nothing. Lots of dead ones stare in that silly way. It depends upon where they were hit. I was all through the Peninsula; that's how I know. [She covers the horny gaze of the man. Shouts and louder discharges are heard.]—Heaven's high tower, what's that?

[Enter an officer's servant.[24]]


Waiting with the major's spare hoss—up to my knees in mud from the rain that had come down like baccy-pipe stems all the night and morning—I have just seen a charge never beholded since the days of the Amalekites! The squares still stand, but Ney's cavalry have made another attack. Their swords are streaming with blood, and their horses' hoofs squash out our poor fellow's bowels as they lie. A ball has sunk in Sir Thomas Picton's forehead and killed him like Goliath the Philistine. I don't see what's to stop the French. Well, it's the Lord's doing and marvellous in our eyes. Hullo, who's he? [They look towards the road.] A fine hale old gentleman, isn't he? What business has a man of that sort here?

[Enter, on the highway near, the DUKE OF RICHMOND in plain clothes, on horseback, accompanied by two youths, his sons. They draw rein on an eminence, and gaze towards the battlefields.]

RICHMOND [to son]

Everything looks as bad as possible just now. I wonder where your brother is? However, we can't go any nearer.... Yes, the bat- horses are already being moved off, and there are more and more fugitives. A ghastly finish to your mother's ball, by Gad if it isn't!

[They turn their horses towards Brussels. Enter, meeting them, MR. LEGH, a Wessex gentleman, also come out to view the battle.]


Can you tell me, sir, how the battle is going?


Badly, badly, I fear, sir. There will be a retreat soon, seemingly.


Indeed! Yes, a crowd of fugitives are coming over the hill even now. What will these poor women do?


God knows! They will be ridden over, I suppose. Though it is extraordinary how they do contrive to escape destruction while hanging so close to the rear of an action! They are moving, however. Well, we will move too.

[Exeunt DUKE OF RICHMOND, sons, and MR. LEGH. The point of view shifts.]



[NEY'S charge of cavalry against the opposite upland has been three times renewed without success. He collects the scattered squadrons to renew it a fourth time. The glittering host again ascends the confronting slopes over the bodies of those previously left there, and amid horses wandering about without riders, or crying as they lie with entrails trailing or limbs broken.]

NAPOLEON [starting up]

A horrible dream has gripped me—horrible! I saw before me Lannes—just as he looked That day at Aspern: mutilated, bleeding! "What—blood again?" he said to me. "Still blood?"

[He further arouses himself, takes snuff vehemently, and looks through his glass.]

What time is it?—Ah, these assaults of Ney's! They are a blunder; they've been enterprised An hour too early!... There Lheritier goes Onward with his division next Milhaud; Now Kellermann must follow up with his. So one mistake makes many. Yes; ay; yes!


I fear that Ney has compromised us here Just as at Jena; even worse!


No less Must we support him now he is launched on it.... The miracle is that he is still alive!

[NEY and his mass of cavalry again pass the English batteries and disappear amid the squares beyond.]

Their cannon are abandoned; and their squares Again environed—see! I would to God Murat could be here! Yet I disdained His proffered service.... All my star asks now Is to break some half-dozen of those blocks Of English yonder. He was the man to do it.

[NEY and D'ERLON'S squadrons are seen emerging from the English squares in a disorganized state, the attack having failed like the previous ones. An aide-de-camp enters to NAPOLEON.]


The Prussians have debouched on our right rear From Paris-wood; and Losthin's infantry Appear by Plancenoit; Hiller's to leftwards. Two regiments of their horse protect their front, And three light batteries.

[A haggard shade crosses NAPOLEON'S face.]


What then! That's not a startling force as yet. A counter-stroke by Domon's cavalry Must shatter them. Lobau must bring his foot Up forward, heading for the Prussian front, Unrecking losses by their cannonade.

[Exit aide. The din of battle continues. DOMON'S horse are soon seen advancing towards and attacking the Prussian hussars in front of the infantry; and he next attempts to silence the Prussian batteries playing on him by leading up his troops and cutting down the gunners. But he has to fall back upon the infantry of LOBAU. Enter another aide-de-camp.]


These tiding I report, your Majesty:— Von Ryssel's and von Hacke's Prussian foot Have lately sallied from the Wood of Paris, Bearing on us; no vast array as yet; But twenty thousand loom not far behind These vanward marchers!


Ah! They swarm thus thickly? But be they hell's own legions we'll defy them!— Lobau's men will stand firm.

[He looks in the direction of the English lines, where NEY'S cavalry-assaults still linger furiously on.]

But who rides hither, Spotting the sky with clods in his high haste?


It looks like Colonel Heymes—come from Ney.

NAPOLEON [sullenly]

And his face shows what clef his music's in!

[Enter COLONEL HEYMES, blood-stained, muddy, and breathless.]


The Prince of Moscow, sire, the Marshal Ney, Bids me implore that infantry be sent Immediately, to further his attack. They cannot be dispensed with, save we fail!

NAPOLEON [furiously]

Infantry! Where the sacred God thinks he I can find infantry for him! Forsooth, Does he expect me to create them—eh? Why sends he such a message, seeing well How we are straitened here!


Such was the prayer Of my commission, sire. And I say That I myself have seen his strokes must waste Without such backing.




Our cavalry Lie stretched in swathes, fronting the furnace-throats Of the English cannon as a breastwork built Of reeking copses. Marshal Ney's third horse Is shot. Besides the slain, Donop, Guyot, Lheritier, Piquet, Travers, Delort, more, Are vilely wounded. On the other hand Wellington has sought refuge in a square, Few of his generals are not killed or hit, And all is tickle with him. But I see, Likewise, that I can claim no reinforcement, And will return and say so.


NAPOLEON [to Soult, sadly]

Ney does win me! I fain would strengthen him.—Within an ace Of breaking down the English as he is, 'Twould write upon the sunset "Victory!"— But whom may spare we from the right here now? So single man!

[An interval.]

Life's curse begins, I see, With helplessness!... All I can compass is To send Durutte to fall on Papelotte, And yet more strongly occupy La Haye, To cut off Bulow's right from bearing up And checking Ney's attack. Further than this None but the Gods can scheme!

[SOULT hastily begins writing orders to that effect. The point of view shifts.]



[The din of battle continues. WELLINGTON, UXBRIDGE, HILL, DE LANCEY, GORDON, and others discovered near the middle of the line.]


It is a moment when the steadiest pulse Thuds pit-a-pat. The crisis shapes and nears For Wellington as for his counter-chief.


The hour is shaking him, unshakeable As he may seem!


Know'st not at this stale time That shaken and unshaken are alike But demonstrations from the Back of Things? Must I again reveal It as It hauls The halyards of the world?

[A transparency as in earlier scenes again pervades the spectacle, and the ubiquitous urging of the Immanent Will becomes visualized. The web connecting all the apparently separate shapes includes WELLINGTON in its tissue with the rest, and shows him, like them, as acting while discovering his intention to act. By the lurid light the faces of every row, square, group, and column of men, French and English, wear the expression of that of people in a dream.]

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES [tremulously]

Yea, sire; I see. Disquiet me, pray, no more!

[The strange light passes, and the embattled hosts on the field seem to move independently as usual.]

WELLINGTON [to Uxbridge]

Manoeuvring does not seem to animate Napoleon's methods now. Forward he comes, And pounds away on us in the ancient style, Till he is beaten back in the ancient style; And so the see-saw sways!

[The din increases. WELLINGTON'S aide-de-camp, Sir A. GORDON, a little in his rear, falls mortally wounded. The DUKE turns quickly.]

But where is Gordon? Ah—hit is he! That's bad, that's bad, by God.

[GORDON is removed. An aide enters.]


Your Grace, the Colonel Ompteda has fallen, And La Haye Sainte is now a bath of blood. Nothing more can be done there, save with help. The Rifles suffer sharply!

[An aide is seen coming from KEMPT.]


What says he?


He says that Kempt, being riddled through and thinned, Sends him for reinforcements.

WELLINGTON [with heat]

Reinforcements? And where am I to get him reinforcements In Heaven's name! I've no reinforcements here, As he should know.

AIDE [hesitating]

What's to be done, your Grace?


Done? Those he has left him, be they many or few, Fight till they fall, like others in the field!

[Exit aide. The Quartermaster-General DE LANCEY, riding by WELLINGTON, is struck by a lobbing shot that hurls him over the head of his horse. WELLINGTON and others go to him.]

DE LANCEY [faintly]

I may as well be left to die in peace!


He may recover. Take him to the rear, And call the best attention up to him.

[DE LANCEY is carried off. The next moment a shell bursts close to WELLINGTON.]

HILL [approaching]

I strongly feel you stand too much exposed!


I know, I know. It matters not one damn! I may as well be shot as not perceive What ills are raging here.


Conceding such, And as you may be ended momently, A truth there is no blinking, what commands Have you to leave me, should fate shape it so?


These simply: to hold out unto the last, As long as one man stands on one lame leg With one ball in his pouch!—then end as I.

[He rides on slowly with the others. NEY'S charges, though fruitless so far, are still fierce. His troops are now reduced to one-half. Regiments of the BACHELU division, and the JAMIN brigade, are at last moved up to his assistance. They are partly swept down by the Allied batteries, and partly notched away by the infantry, the smoke being now so thick that the position of the battalions is revealed only by the flashing of the priming- pans and muzzles, and by the furious oaths heard behind the cloud. WELLINGTON comes back. Enter another aide-de-camp.]


We bow to the necessity of saying That our brigade is lessened to one-third, Your Grace. And those who are left alive of it Are so unmuscled by fatigue and thirst That some relief, however temporary, Becomes sore need.


Inform your general That his proposal asks the impossible! That he, I, every Englishman afield, Must fall upon the spot we occupy, Our wounds in front.


It is enough, your Grace. I answer for't that he, those under him, And I withal, will bear us as you say.

[Exit aide. The din of battle goes on. WELLINGTON is grave but calm. Like those around him, he is splashed to the top of his hat with partly dried mire, mingled with red spots; his face is grimed in the same way, little courses showing themselves where the sweat has trickled down from his brow and temples.]

CLINTON [to Hill]

A rest would do our chieftain no less good, In faith, than that unfortunate brigade! He is tried damnably; and much more strained Than I have ever seen him.


Endless risks He's running likewise. What the hell would happen If he were shot, is more than I can say!

WELLINGTON [calling to some near]

At Talavera, Salamanca, boys, And at Vitoria, we saw smoke together; And though the day seems wearing doubtfully, Beaten we must not be! What would they say Of us at home, if so?

A CRY [from the French]

Their centre breaks! Vive l'Empereur!

[It comes from the FOY and BACHELU divisions, which are rushing forward. HALKETT'S and DUPLAT'S brigades intercept. DUPLAT falls, shot dead; but the venturesome French regiments, pierced with converging fires, and cleft with shells, have to retreat.]

HILL [joining Wellington]

The French artillery-fire To the right still renders regiments restive there That have to stand. The long exposure galls them.


They must be stayed as our poor means afford. I have to bend attention steadfastly Upon the centre here. The game just now Goes all against us; and if staunchness fail But for one moment with these thinning foot, Defeat succeeds!

[The battle continues to sway hither and thither with concussions, wounds, smoke, the fumes of gunpowder, and the steam from the hot viscera of grape-torn horses and men. One side of a Hanoverian square is blown away; the three remaining sides form themselves into a triangle. So many of his aides are cut down that it is difficult for WELLINGTON to get reports of what is happening afar. It begins to be discovered at the front that a regiment of hussars, and others without ammunition, have deserted, and that some officers in the rear, honestly concluding the battle to be lost, are riding quietly off to Brussels. Those who are left unwounded of WELLINGTON'S staff show gloomy misgivings at such signs, despite their own firmness.]


One needs must be a ghost To move here in the midst 'twixt host and host! Their balls scream brisk and breezy tunes through me As I were an organ-stop. It's merry so; What damage mortal flesh must undergo!

[A Prussian officer enters to MUFFLING, who has again rejoined the DUKE'S suite. MUFFLING hastens forward to WELLINGTON.]


Blucher has just begun to operate; But owing to Gneisenau's stolid stagnancy The body of our army looms not yet! As Zieten's corps still plod behind Smohain Their coming must be late. Blucher's attack Strikes the remote right rear of the enemy, Somewhere by Plancenoit.


A timely blow; But would that Zieten sped! Well, better late Than never. We'll still stand.

[The point of observation shifts.]



[NEY'S long attacks on the centre with cavalry having failed, those left of the squadrons and their infantry-supports fall back pell-mell in broken groups across the depression between the armies.

Meanwhile BULOW, having engaged LOBAU'S Sixth Corps, carries Plancenoit.

The artillery-fire between the French and the English continues. An officer of the Third Foot-guards comes up to WELLINGTON and those of his suite that survive.]


Our Colonel Canning—coming I know not whence—


I lately sent him with important words To the remoter lines.


As he returned A grape-shot struck him in the breast; he fell, At once a dead man. General Halkett, too, Has had his cheek shot through, but still keeps going.


And how proceeds De Lancey?


I am told That he forbids the surgeons waste their time On him, who well can wait till worse are eased.


A noble fellow.

[NAPOLEON can now be seen, across the valley, pushing forward a new scheme of some sort, urged to it obviously by the visible nearing of further Prussian corps. The EMPEROR is as critically situated as WELLINGTON, and his army is now formed in a right angle ["en potence"], the main front to the English, the lesser to as many of the Prussians as have yet arrived. His gestures show him to be giving instructions of desperate import to a general whom he has called up.]


He bids La Bedoyere to speed away Along the whole sweep of the surging line, And there announce to the breath-shotten bands Who toil for a chimaera trustfully, With seventy pounds of luggage on their loins, That the dim Prussian masses seen afar Are Grouchy's three-and-thirty thousand, come To clinch a victory.


But Ney demurs!


Ney holds indignantly that such a feint Is not war-worthy. Says Napoleon then, Snuffing anew, with sour sardonic scowl, That he is choiceless.


Excellent Emperor! He tops all human greatness; in that he To lesser grounds of greatness adds the prime, Of being without a conscience.

[LA BEDOYERE and orderlies start on their mission. The false intelligence is seen to spread, by the excited motion of the columns, and the soldiers can be heard shouting as their spirits revive.

WELLINGTON is beginning to discern the features of the coming onset, when COLONEL FRASER rides up.]


We have just learnt from a deserting captain, One of the carabineers who charged of late, That an assault which dwarfs all instances— The whole Imperial Guard in welded weight— Is shortly to be made.


For your smart speed My thanks. My observation is confirmed. We'll hasten now along the battle-line [to Staff], As swiftest means for giving orders out Whereby to combat this.

[The speaker, accompanied by HILL, UXBRIDGE, and others—all now looking as worn and besmirched as the men in the ranks—proceed along the lines, and dispose the brigades to meet the threatened shock. The infantry are brought out of the shelter they have recently sought, the cavalry stationed in the rear, and the batteries of artillery hitherto kept in reserve are moved to the front.

The last Act of the battle begins.

There is a preliminary attack by DONZELOT'S columns, combined with swarms of sharpshooters, to the disadvantage of the English and their Allies. WELLINGTON has scanned it closely. FITZROY SOMERSET, his military secretary, comes up.]


What casualty has thrown its shade among The regiments of Nassau, to shake them so?


The Prince of Orange has been badly struck— A bullet through his shoulder—so they tell; And Kielmansegge has shown some signs of stress. Kincaird's tried line wanes leaner and more lean— Whittled to a weak skein of skirmishers; The Twenty-seventh lie dead.


Ah yes—I know!

[While they watch developments a cannon-shot passes and knocks SOMERSET'S right arm to a mash. He is assisted to the rear.

NEY and FRIANT now lead forward the last and most desperate assault of the day, in charges of the Old and Middle Guard, the attack by DONZELOT and ALLIX further east still continuing as a support. It is about a quarter-past eight, and the midsummer evening is fine after the wet night and morning, the sun approaching its setting in a sky of gorgeous colours.

The picked and toughened Guard, many of whom stood in the ranks at Austerlitz and Wagram, have been drawn up in three or four echelons, the foremost of which now advances up the slopes to the Allies' position. The others follow at intervals, the drummers beating the "pas de charge."]

CHORUS OF RUMOURS [aerial music]

Twice thirty throats of couchant cannonry— Ranked in a hollow curve, to close their blaze Upon the advancing files—wait silently Like to black bulls at gaze.

The Guard approaches nearer and more near: To touch-hole moves each match of smoky sheen: The ordnance roars: the van-ranks disappear As if wiped off the scene.

The aged Friant falls as it resounds; Ney's charger drops—his fifth on this sore day— Its rider from the quivering body bounds And forward foots his way.

The cloven columns tread the English height, Seize guns, repulse battalions rank by rank, While horse and foot artillery heavily bite Into their front and flank.

It nulls the power of a flesh-built frame To live within that zone of missiles. Back The Old Guard, staggering, climbs to whence it came. The fallen define its track.

[The second echelon of the Imperial Guard has come up to the assault. Its columns have borne upon HALKETT'S right. HALKETT, desperate to keep his wavering men firm, himself seizes and waves the flag of the Thirty-third, in which act he falls wounded. But the men rally. Meanwhile the Fifty-second, covered by the Seventy-first, has advanced across the front, and charges the Imperial Guard on the flank.

The third echelon next arrives at the English lines and squares; rushes through the very focus of their fire, and seeing nothing more in front, raises a shout.


The Emperor! It's victory!


Stand up, Guards! Form line upon the front face of the square!

[Two thousand of MAITLAND'S Guards, hidden in the hollow roadway, thereupon spring up, form as ordered, and reveal themselves as a fence of leveled firelocks four deep. The flints click in a multitude, the pans flash, and volley after volley is poured into the bear-skinned figures of the massed French, who kill COLONEL D'OYLEY in returning fire.]


Now drive the fellows in! Go on; go on! You'll do it now!

[COLBORNE converges on the French guard with the Fifty-second, and The former splits into two as the climax comes. ADAM, MAITLAND, and COLBORNE pursue their advantage. The Imperial columns are broken, and their confusion is increased by grape-shot from BOLTON'S battery.]

Campbell, this order next: Vivian's hussars are to support, and bear Against the cavalry towards Belle Alliance. Go—let him know.

[Sir C. CAMPBELL departs with the order. Soon VIVIAN'S and VANDELEUR'S light horse are seen advancing, and in due time the French cavalry are rolled back.

WELLINGTON goes in the direction of the hussars with UXBRIDGE. A cannon-shot hisses past.]

UXBRIDGE [starting]

I have lost my leg, by God!


By God, and have you! Ay—the wind o' the shot Blew past the withers of my Copenhagen Like the foul sweeping of a witch's broom.— Aha—they are giving way!

[While UXBRIDGE is being helped to the rear, WELLINGTON makes a sign to SALTOUN, Colonel of the First Footguards.]

SALTOUN [shouting]

Boys, now's your time; Forward and win!


The Guard gives way—we are beaten!

[They recede down the hill, carrying confusion into NAPOLEON'S centre just as the Prussians press forward at a right angle from the other side of the field. NAPOLEON is seen standing in the hollow beyond La Haye Sainte, alone, except for the presence of COUNT FLAHAULT, his aide-de-camp. His lips move with sudden exclamation.


He says "Now all is lost! The clocks of the world Strike my last empery-hour."

[Towards La Haye Sainte the French of DONZELOT and ALLIX, who are fighting KEMPT, PACK, KRUSE, and LAMBERT, seeing what has happened to the Old and Middle Guard, lose heart and recede likewise; so that the whole French line rolls back like a tide. Simultaneously the Prussians are pressing forward at Papelotte and La Haye. The retreat of the French grows into a panic.]

FRENCH VOICES [despairingly]

We are betrayed!

[WELLINGTON rides at a gallop to the most salient point of the English position, halts, and waves his hat as a signal to all the army. The sign is answered by a cheer along the length of the line.]


No cheering yet, my lads; but bear ahead, Before the inflamed face of the west out there Dons blackness. So you'll round your victory!

[The few aides that are left unhurt dart hither and thither with this message, and the whole English host and it allies advance in an ordered mass down the hill except some of the artillery, who cannot get their wheels over the bank of corpses in front. Trumpets, drums, and bugles resound with the advance.

The streams of French fugitives as they run are cut down and shot by their pursuers, whose clothes and contracted features are blackened by smoke and cartridge-biting, and soiled with loam and blood. Some French blow out their own brains as they fly. The sun drops below the horizon while the slaughter goes on.]


Is this the last Esdraelon of a moil For mortal man's effacement?


Warfare, mere, Plied by the Managed for the Managers; To wit: by frenzied folks who profit nought For those who profit all!


Between the jars Of these who live, I hear uplift and move The bones of those who placidly have lain Within the sacred garths of yon grey fanes— Nivelles, and Plancenoit, and Braine l'Alleud— Beneath the unmemoried mounds through deedless years Their dry jaws quake: "What Sabaoath is this, That shakes us in our unobtrusive shrouds, As though our tissues did not yet abhor The fevered feats of life?"


Mere fancy's feints! How know the coffined what comes after them, Even though it whirl them to the Pleiades?— Turn to the real.


That hatless, smoke-smirched shape There in the vale, is still the living Ney, His sabre broken in his hand, his clothes Slitten with ploughing ball and bayonet, One epaulette shorn away. He calls out "Follow!" And a devoted handful follow him Once more into the carnage. Hear his voice.

NEY [calling afar]

My friends, see how a Marshal of France can die!


Alas, not here in battle, something hints, But elsewhere!... Who's the sworded brother-chief Swept past him in the tumult?


D'Erlon he. Ney cries to him:


Be sure of this, my friend, If we don't perish here at English hands, Nothing is left us but the halter-noose The Bourbons will provide!


A caustic wit, And apt, to those who deal in adumbrations!

[The brave remnant of the Imperial Guard repulses for a time the English cavalry under Vivian, in which MAJOR HOWARD and LIEUTENANT GUNNING of the Tenth Hussars are shot. But the war-weary French cannot cope with the pursuing infantry, helped by grape-shot from the batteries.

NAPOLEON endeavours to rally them. It is his last effort as a warrior; and the rally ends feebly.]


They are crushed! So it has ever been since Crecy!

[He is thrown violently off his horse, and bids his page bring another, which he mounts, and is lost to sight.]


He loses his last chance of dying well!

[The three or four heroic battalions of the Old and Middle Guard fall back step by step, halting to reform in square when they get badly broken and shrunk. At last they are surrounded by the English Guards and other foot, who keep firing on them and smiting them to smaller and smaller numbers. GENERAL CAMBRONNE is inside the square.]


Surrender! And preserve those heroes' lives!

CAMBRONNE [with exasperation]

Mer-r-rde!... You've to deal with desperates, man, today: Life is a byword here!

[Hollow laughter, as from people in hell, comes approvingly from the remains of the Old Guard. The English proceed with their massacre, the devoted band thins and thins, and a ball strikes CAMBRONNE, who falls, and is trampled over.]


Observe that all wide sight and self-command Desert these throngs now driven to demonry By the Immanent Unrecking. Nought remains But vindictiveness here amid the strong, And there amid the weak an impotent rage.


Why prompts the Will so senseless-shaped a doing?


I have told thee that It works unwittingly, As one possessed, not judging.


Of Its doings if It knew, What It does It would not do!


Since It knows not, what far sense Speeds Its spinnings in the Immense?


None; a fixed foresightless dream Is Its whole philosopheme.


Just so; an unconscious planning, Like a potter raptly panning!


Are then, Love and Light Its aim— Good Its glory, Bad Its blame? Nay; to alter evermore Things from what they were before.


Your knowings of the Unknowable declared, Let the last pictures of the play be bared.

[Enter, fighting, more English and Prussians against the French. NEY is caught by the throng and borne ahead. RULLIERE hides an eagle beneath his coat and follows Ney. NAPOLEON is involved none knows where in the crowd of fugitives.

WELLINGTON and BLUCHER come severally to the view. They meet in the dusk and salute warmly. The Prussian bands strike up "God save the King" as the two shake hands. From his gestures of assent it can be seen that WELLINGTON accepts BLUCHER'S offer to pursue.

The reds disappear from the sky, and the dusk grows deeper. The action of the battle degenerates to a hunt, and recedes further and further into the distance southward. When the tramplings and shouts of the combatants have dwindled, the lower sounds are noticeable that come from the wounded: hopeless appeals, cries for water, elaborate blasphemies, and impotent execrations of Heaven and hell. In the vast and dusky shambles black slouching shapes begin to move, the plunderers of the dead and dying.

The night grows clear and beautiful, and the moon shines musingly down. But instead of the sweet smell of green herbs and dewy rye as at her last beaming upon these fields, there is now the stench of gunpowder and a muddy stew of crushed crops and gore.]


So hath the Urging Immanence used to-day Its inadvertent might to field this fray: And Europe's wormy dynasties rerobe Themselves in their old gilt, to dazzle anew the globe!

[The scene us curtained by a night-mist.[25]]



[It is midnight. NAPOLEON enters a glade of the wood, a solitary figure on a faded horse. The shadows of the boughs travel over his listless form as he moves along. The horse chooses its own path, comes to a standstill, and feeds. The tramp of BERTRAND, SOULT, DROUOT, and LOBAU'S horses, gone forward in hope to find a way of retreat, is heard receding over the hill.]

NAPOLEON [to himself, languidly]

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

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


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

NAPOLEON [starting]

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

[He drowses again.]


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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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



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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


September 25, 1907


[Footnote 1: Schlegel.]

[Footnote 2: Introduction to the Choephori.]

[Footnote 3: It is now called an Epic-drama, Footnote 1909.]

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 8: This weather-beaten old building, though now an hotel, is but little altered.]

[Footnote 9: Soph. Trach. 1266-72.]

[Footnote 10: This scene is a little antedated, to include it in the Act to which it essentially belongs.]

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

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

[Footnote 13: This General's name should, it is said, be pronounced in three syllables, nearly PRESH-EV-SKY.]

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

[Footnote 15: The traditional present of the rose was probably on this occasion, though it is not quite matter of certainty.]

[Footnote 16: At this date.]

[Footnote 17: So Madame Metternich to her husband in reporting this interview. But who shall say!]

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

[Footnote 19: Thomas Young of Sturminster-Newton; served twenty-one years in the Fifteenth [Footnote King's: Hussars; died 1853; fought at Vitoria, and Waterloo.]

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

[Footnote 21: Sheridan.]

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

[Footnote 23: The spelling of the date is used.]

[Footnote 24: Samuel Clark; born 1779, died 1857. Buried at West Stafford, Dorset.]

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

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

[Footnote 27: Hor. Epis. i, 12.]


Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
Home - Random Browse