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The Dynasts - An Epic-Drama Of The War With Napoleon, In Three Parts, - Nineteen Acts, And One Hundred And Thirty Scenes
by Thomas Hardy
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Artillery, cavalry, and infantry, English and Hanoverian, are drawn up for review under the DUKE OF CUMBERLAND and officers of the staff, forming a vast military array, which extends three miles, and as far as the downs are visible.

In the centre by the Royal Standard appears KING GEORGE on horseback, and his suite. In a coach drawn by six cream- coloured Hanoverian horses, QUEEN CHARLOTTE sits with three Princesses; in another carriage with four horses are two more Princesses. There are also present with the Royal Party the LORD CHANCELLOR, LORD MULGRAVE, COUNT MUNSTER, and many other luminaries of fashion and influence.

The Review proceeds in dumb show; and the din of many bands mingles with the cheers. The turf behind the saluting-point is crowded with carriages and spectators on foot.]

A SPECTATOR

And you've come to the sight, like the King and myself? Well, one fool makes many. What a mampus o' folk it is here to-day! And what a time we do live in, between wars and wassailings, the goblin o' Boney, and King George in flesh and blood!

SECOND SPECTATOR

Yes. I wonder King George is let venture down on this coast, where he might be snapped up in a moment like a minney by a her'n, so near as we be to the field of Boney's vagaries! Begad, he's as like to land here as anywhere. Gloucester Lodge could be surrounded, and George and Charlotte carried off before he could put on his hat, or she her red cloak and pattens!

THIRD SPECTATOR

'Twould be so such joke to kidnap 'em as you think. Look at the frigates down there. Every night they are drawn up in a line across the mouth of the Bay, almost touching each other; and ashore a double line of sentinels, well primed with beer and ammunition, one at the water's edge and the other on the Esplanade, stretch along the whole front. Then close to the Lodge a guard is mounted after eight o'clock; there be pickets on all the hills; at the Harbour mouth is a battery of twenty four-pounders; and over-right 'em a dozen six-pounders, and several howitzers. And next look at the size of the camp of horse and foot up here.

FIRST SPECTATOR

Everybody however was fairly gallied this week when the King went out yachting, meaning to be back for the theatre; and the eight or nine o'clock came, and never a sign of him. I don't know when 'a did land; but 'twas said by all that it was a foolhardy pleasure to take.

FOURTH SPECTATOR

He's a very obstinate and comical old gentleman; and by all account 'a wouldn't make port when asked to.

SECOND SPECTATOR

Lard, Lard, if 'a were nabbed, it wouldn't make a deal of difference! We should have nobody to zing, and play singlestick to, and grin at through horse-collars, that's true. And nobody to sign our few documents. But we should rub along some way, goodnow.

FIRST SPECTATOR

Step up on this barrow; you can see better. The troopers now passing are the York Hussars—foreigners to a man, except the officers—the same regiment the two young Germans belonged to who were shot four years ago. Now come the Light Dragoons; what a time they take to get all past! Well, well! this day will be recorded in history.

SECOND SPECTATOR

Or another soon to follow it! [He gazes over the Channel.] There's not a speck of an enemy upon that shiny water yet; but the Brest fleet is zaid to have put to sea, to act in concert with the army crossing from Boulogne; and if so the French will soon be here; when God save us all! I've took to drinking neat, for, say I, one may as well have innerds burnt out as shot out, and 'tis a good deal pleasanter for the man that owns 'em. They say that a cannon-ball knocked poor Jim Popple's maw right up into the futtock-shrouds at the Nile, where 'a hung like a nightcap out to dry. Much good to him his obeying his old mother's wish and refusing his allowance o' rum!

[The bands play and the Review continues till past eleven o'clock. Then follows a sham fight. At noon precisely the royal carriages draw off the ground into the highway that leads down to the town and Gloucester Lodge, followed by other equipages in such numbers that the road is blocked. A multitude comes after on foot. Presently the vehicles manage to proceed to the watering-place, and the troops march away to the various camps as a sea-mist cloaks the perspective.]



SCENE V

THE SAME. RAINBARROW'S BEACON, EGDON HEATH

[Night in mid-August of the same summer. A lofty ridge of heathland reveals itself dimly, terminating in an abrupt slope, at the summit of which are three tumuli. On the sheltered side of the most prominent of these stands a hut of turves with a brick chimney. In front are two ricks of fuel, one of heather and furze for quick ignition, the other of wood, for slow burning. Something in the feel of the darkness and in the personality of the spot imparts a sense of uninterrupted space around, the view by day extending from the cliffs of the Isle of Wight eastward to Blackdon Hill by Deadman's Bay westward, and south across the Valley of the Froom to the ridge that screens the Channel.

Two men with pikes loom up, on duty as beacon-keepers beside the ricks.]

OLD MAN

Now, Jems Purchess, once more mark my words. Black'on is the point we've to watch, and not Kingsbere; and I'll tell 'ee for why. If he do land anywhere hereabout 'twill be inside Deadman's Bay, and the signal will straightaway come from Black'on. But there thou'st stand, glowering and staring with all thy eyes at Kingsbere! I tell 'ee what 'tis, Jem Purchess, your brain is softening; and you be getting too old for business of state like ours!

YOUNG MAN

You've let your tongue wrack your few rames of good breeding, John.

OLD MAN

The words of my Lord-Lieutenant was, whenever you see Kingsbere-Hill Beacon fired to the eastward, or Black'on to the westward, light up; and keep your second fire burning for two hours. Was that our documents or was it not?

YOUNG MAN

I don't gainsay it. And so I keep my eye on Kingsbere because that's most likely o' the two, says I.

OLD MAN

That shows the curious depths of your ignorance. However, I'll have patience, and say on. Didst ever larn geography?

YOUNG MAN

No. Nor no other corrupt practices.

OLD MAN

Tcht-tcht!—Well, I'll have patience, and put it to him in another form. Dost know the world is round—eh? I warrant dostn't!

YOUNG MAN

I warrant I do!

OLD MAN

How d'ye make that out, when th'st never been to school?

YOUNG MAN

I larned it at church, thank God.

OLD MAN

Church? What have God A'mighty got to do with profane knowledge? Beware that you baint blaspheming, Jems Purchess!

YOUNG MAN

I say I did, whether or no! 'Twas the zingers up in gallery that I had it from. They busted out that strong with "the round world and they that dwell therein," that we common fokes down under could do no less than believe 'em.

OLD MAN

Canst be sharp enough in the wrong place as usual—I warrant canst! However, I'll have patience with 'en and say on!—Suppose, now, my hat is the world; and there, as might be, stands the Camp of Belong, where Boney is. The world goes round, so, and Belong goes round too. Twelve hours pass; round goes the world still—so. Where's Belong now?

[A pause. Two other figures, a man's and a woman's, rise against the sky out of the gloom.]

OLD MAN [shouldering his pike]

Who goes there? Friend or foe, in the King's name!

WOMAN

Piece o' trumpery! "Who goes" yourself! What d'ye talk o', John Whiting! Can't your eyes earn their living any longer, then, that you don't know your own neighbours? 'Tis Private Cantle of the Locals and his wife Keziar, down at Bloom's-End—who else should it be!

OLD MAN [lowering his pike]

A form o' words, Mis'ess Cantle, no more; ordained by his Majesty's Gover'ment to be spoke by all we on sworn duty for the defence o' the country. Strict rank-and-file rules is our only horn of salvation in these times.—But, my dear woman, why ever have ye come lumpering up to Rainbarrows at this time o' night?

WOMAN

We've been troubled with bad dreams, owing to the firing out at sea yesterday; and at last I could sleep no more, feeling sure that sommat boded of His coming. And I said to Cantle, I'll ray myself, and go up to Beacon, and ask if anything have been heard or seen to- night. And here we be.

OLD MAN

Not a sign or sound—all's as still as a churchyard. And how is your good man?

PRIVATE [advancing]

Clk. I be all right! I was in the ranks, helping to keep the ground at the review by the King this week. We was a wonderful sight— wonderful! The King said so again and again.—Yes, there was he, and there was I, though not daring to move a' eyebrow in the presence of Majesty. I have come home on a night's leave—off there again to- morrow. Boney's expected every day, the Lord be praised! Yes, our hopes are to be fulfilled soon, as we say in the army.

OLD MAN

There, there, Cantle; don't ye speak quite so large, and stand so over-upright. Your back is as holler as a fire-dog's. Do ye suppose that we on active service here don't know war news? Mind you don't go taking to your heels when the next alarm comes, as you did at last year's.

PRIVATE

That had nothing to do with fighting, for I'm as bold as a lion when I'm up, and "Shoulder Fawlocks!" sounds as common as my own name to me. 'Twas—- [lowering his voice.] Have ye heard?

OLD MAN

To be sure we have.

PRIVATE

Ghastly, isn't it!

OLD MAN

Ghastly! Frightful!

YOUNG MAN [to Private]

He don't know what it is! That's his pride and puffery. What is it that' so ghastly—hey?

PRIVATE

Well, there, I can't tell it. 'Twas that that made the whole eighty of our company run away—though we be the bravest of the brave in natural jeopardies, or the little boys wouldn't run after us and call us and call us the "Bang-up-Locals."

WOMAN [in undertones]

I can tell you a word or two on't. It is about His victuals. They say that He lives upon human flesh, and has rashers o' baby every morning for breakfast—for all the world like the Cernal Giant in old ancient times!

YOUNG MAN

Ye can't believe all ye hear.

PRIVATE

I only believe half. And I only own—such is my challengeful character—that perhaps He do eat pagan infants when He's in the desert. But not Christian ones at home. Oh no—'tis too much.

WOMAN

Whether or no, I sometimes—God forgive me!—laugh wi' horror at the queerness o't, till I am that weak I can hardly go round the house. He should have the washing of 'em a few times; I warrant 'a wouldn't want to eat babies any more!

[A silence, during which they gaze around at the dark dome of the starless sky.]

YOUNG MAN

There'll be a change in the weather soon, by the look o't. I can hear the cows moo in Froom Valley as if I were close to 'em, and the lantern at Max Turnpike is shining quite plain.

OLD MAN

Well, come in and taste a drop o' sommat we've got here, that will warm the cockles of your heart as ye wamble homealong. We housed eighty tuns last night for them that shan't be named—landed at Lullwind Cove the night afore, though they had a narrow shave with the riding-officers this run.

[They make toward the hut, when a light on the west horizon becomes visible, and quickly enlarges.]

YOUNG MAN

He's come!

OLD MAN

Come he is, though you do say it! This, then, is the beginning of what England's waited for!

[They stand and watch the light awhile.]

YOUNG MAN

Just what you was praising the Lord for by-now, Private Cantle.

PRIVATE

My meaning was—-

WOMAN [simpering]

Oh that I hadn't married a fiery sojer, to make me bring fatherless children into the world, all through his dreadful calling! Why didn't a man of no sprawl content me!

OLD MAN [shouldering his pike]

We can't heed your innocent pratings any longer, good neighbours, being in the King's service, and a hot invasion on. Fall in, fall in, mate. Straight to the tinder-box. Quick march!

[The two men hasten to the hut, and are heard striking a flint and steel. Returning with a lit lantern they ignite a blaze. The private of the Locals and his wife hastily retreat by the light of the flaming beacon, under which the purple rotundities of the heath show like bronze, and the pits like the eye-sockets of a skull.]

SPIRIT SINISTER

This is good, and spells blood. [To the Chorus of the Years.] I assume that It means to let us carry out this invasion with pleasing slaughter, so as not to disappoint my hope?

SEMICHORUS I OF THE YEARS [aerial music]

We carry out? Nay, but should we Ordain what bloodshed is to be it!

SEMICHORUS II

The Immanent, that urgeth all, Rules what may or may not befall!

SEMICHORUS I

Ere systemed suns were globed and lit The slaughters of the race were writ,

SEMICHORUS II

And wasting wars, by land and sea, Fixed, like all else, immutably!

SPIRIT SINISTER

Well; be it so. My argument is that War makes rattling good history; but Peace is poor reading. So I back Bonaparte for the reason that he will give pleasure to posterity.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Gross hypocrite!

CHORUS OF THE YEARS

We comprehend him not.

[The day breaks over the heathery upland, on which the beacon is still burning. The morning reveals the white surface of a highway which, coming from the royal watering-place beyond the hills, stretched towards the outskirts of the heath and passes away eastward.]

DUMB SHOW

Moving figures and vehicles dot the surface of the road, all progressing in one direction, away from the coast. In the foreground the shapes appear as those of civilians, mostly on foot, but many in gigs and tradesmen's carts and on horseback. When they reach an intermediate hill some pause and look back; others enter on the next decline landwards without turning their heads.

From the opposite horizon numerous companies of volunteers, in the local uniform of red with green facings,[5] are moving coastwards in companies; as are also irregular bodies of pikemen without uniform; while on the upper slopes of the downs towards the shore regiments of the line are visible, with cavalry and artillery; all passing over to the coast.

At a signal from the Chief Intelligences two Phantoms of Rumour enter on the highway in the garb of country-men.

FIRST PHANTOM [to Pedestrians]

Wither so fast, good neighbours, and before breakfast, too? Empty bellies be bad to vamp on.

FIRST PEDESTRIAN

He's landed west'ard, out by Abbot's Beach. And if you have property you'll save it and yourselves, as we are doing!

SECOND PEDESTRIAN

All yesterday the firing at Boulogne Was like the seven thunders heard in Heaven When the fierce angel spoke. So did he draw Full-manned, flat-bottomed for the shallowest shore, Dropped down to west, and crossed our frontage here. Seen from above they specked the water-shine As will a flight of swallows toward dim eve, Descending on a smooth and loitering stream To seek some eyot's sedge.

SECOND PHANTOM

We are sent to enlighten you and ease your soul. Even now a courier canters to the port To check the baseless scare.

FIRST PEDESTRIAN

These be inland men who, I warrant 'ee, don't know a lerret from a lighter! Let's take no heed of such, comrade; and hurry on!

FIRST PHANTOM

Will you not hear That what was seen behind the midnight mist, Their oar-blades tossing twinkles to the moon, Was but a fleet of fishing-craft belated By reason of the vastness of their haul?

FIRST PEDESTRIAN

Hey? And d'ye know it?—Now I look back to the top o' Rudgeway the folk seem as come to a pause there.—Be this true, never again do I stir my stumps for any alarm short of the Day of Judgment! Nine times has my rheumatical rest been broke in these last three years by hues and cries of Boney upon us. 'Od rot the feller; now he's made a fool of me once more, till my inside is like a wash-tub, what wi' being so gallied, and running so leery!—But how if you be one of the enemy, sent to sow these tares, so to speak it, these false tidings, and coax us into a fancied safety? Hey, neighbours? I don't, after all, care for this story!

SECOND PEDESTRIAN

Onwards again! If Boney's come, 'tis best to be away; And if he's not, why, we've a holiday!

[Exeunt Pedestrians. The Spirits of Rumour vanish, while the scene seems to become involved in the smoke from the beacon, and slowly disappears.[6]]



ACT THIRD

SCENE I

BOULOGNE. THE CHATEAU AT PONT-DE-BRIQUES

[A room in the Chateau, which is used as the Imperial quarters. The EMPEROR NAPOLEON, and M. GASPARD MONGE, the mathematician and philosopher, are seated at breakfast.]

OFFICER

Monsieur the Admiral Decres awaits A moment's audience with your Majesty, Or now, or later.

NAPOLEON

Bid him in at once— At last Villeneuve has raised the Brest blockade!

[Enter DECRES.]

What of the squadron's movements, good Decres? Brest opened, and all sailing Channelwards, Like swans into a creek at feeding-time?

DECRES

Such news was what I'd hoped, your Majesty, To send across this daybreak. But events Have proved intractable, it seems, of late; And hence I haste in person to report The featless facts that just have dashed my—-

NAPOLEON [darkening]

Well?

DECRES

Sire, at the very juncture when the fleets Sailed out from Ferrol, fever raged aboard "L'Achille" and "l'Algeciras": later on, Mischief assailed our Spanish comrades' ships; Several ran foul of neighbours; whose new hurts, Being added to their innate clumsiness, Gave hap the upper hand; and in quick course Demoralized the whole; until Villeneuve, Judging that Calder now with Nelson rode, And prescient of unparalleled disaster If he pushed on in so disjoint a trim, Bowed to the inevitable; and thus, perforce, Leaving to other opportunity Brest and the Channel scheme, with vast regret Steered southward into Cadiz.

NAPOLEON [having risen from the table]

What!—Is, then, My scheme of years to be disdained and dashed By this man's like, a wretched moral coward, Whom you must needs foist on me as one fit For full command in pregnant enterprise!

MONGE [aside]

I'm one too many here! Let me step out Till this black squall blows over. Poor Decres. Would that this precious project, disinterred From naval archives of King Louis' reign, Had ever lingered fusting where 'twas found.[7]

[Exit Monge.]

NAPOLEON

To help a friend you foul a country's fame!— Decres, not only chose you this Villeneuve, But you have nourished secret sour opinions Akin to his, and thereby helped to scathe As stably based a project as this age Has sunned to ripeness. Ever the French Marine Have you decried, ever contrived to bring Despair into the fleet! Why, this Villeneuve, Your man, this rank incompetent, this traitor— Of whom I asked no more than fight and lose, Provided he detain the enemy— A frigate is too great for his command! what shall be said of one who, at a breath, When a few casual sailors find them sick, When falls a broken boom or slitten sail, When rumour hints that Calder's tubs and Nelson's May join, and bob about in company, Is straightway paralyzed, and doubles back On all his ripened plans!— Bring him, ay, bodily; hale him out from Cadiz, Compel him up the Channel by main force, And, having doffed him his supreme command, Give the united squadrons to Ganteaume!

DECRES

Your Majesty, while umbraged, righteously, By an event my tongue dragged dry to tell, Makes my hard situation over-hard By your ascription to the actors in't Of motives such and such. 'Tis not for me To answer these reproaches, Sire, and ask Why years-long mindfulness of France's fame In things marine should win no confidence. I speak; but am unable to convince!

True is it that this man has been my friend Since boyhood made us schoolmates; and I say That he would yield the heel-drops of his heart With joyful readiness this day, this hour, To do his country service. Yet no less Is it his drawback that he sees too far. And there are times, Sire, when a shorter sight Charms Fortune more. A certain sort of bravery Some people have—to wit, this same Lord Nelson— Which is but fatuous faith in one's own star Swoln to the very verge of childishness, [Smugly disguised as putting trust in God, A habit with these English folk]; whereby A headstrong blindness to contingencies Carries the actor on, and serves him well In some nice issues clearer sight would mar. Such eyeless bravery Villeneuve has not; But, Sire, he is no coward.

NAPOLEON

Well, have it so!—What are we going to do? My brain has only one wish—to succeed!

DECRES

My voice wanes weaker with you, Sire; is nought! Yet these few words, as Minister of Marine, I'll venture now.—My process would be thus:— Our projects for a junction of the fleets Being well-discerned and read by every eye Through long postponement, England is prepared. I would recast them. Later in the year Form sundry squadrons of this massive one, Harass the English till the winter time, Then rendezvous at Cadiz; where leave half To catch the enemy's eye and call their cruizers, While rounding Scotland with the other half, You make the Channel by the eastern strait, Cover the passage of our army-boats, And plant the blow.

NAPOLEON

And what if they perceive Our Scottish route, and meet us eastwardly?

DECRES

I have thought of it, and planned a countermove; I'll write the scheme more clearly and at length, And send it hither to your Majesty.

NAPOLEON

Do so forthwith; and send me in Daru.

[Exit DECRES. Re-enter MONGE.]

Our breakfast, Monge, to-day has been cut short, And these discussions on the ancient tongues Wherein you shine, must yield to modern moils. Nay, hasten not away; though feeble wills, Incompetence, ay, imbecility, In some who feign to serve the cause of France, Do make me other than myself just now!— Ah—here's Daru.

[DARU enters. MONGE takes his leave.]

Daru, sit down and write. Yes, here, at once, This room will serve me now. What think you, eh? Villeneuve has just turned tail and run to Cadiz. So quite postponed—perhaps even overthrown— My long-conned project against yonder shore As 'twere a juvenile's snow-built device But made for melting! Think of it, Daru,— My God, my God, how can I talk thereon! A plan well judged, well charted, well upreared, To end in nothing!... Sit you down and write.

[NAPOLEON walks up and down, and resumes after a silence.]

Write this.—A volte-face 'tis indeed!—Write, write!

DARU [holding pen to paper]

I wait, your Majesty.

NAPOLEON

First Bernadotte— Yes; "Bernadotte moves out from Hanover Through Hesse upon Wurzburg and the Danube.— Marmont from Holland bears along the Rhine, And joins at Mainz and Wurzburg Bernadotte...

While these prepare their routes the army here Will turn its back on Britain's tedious shore, And, closing up with Augereau at Brest, Set out full force due eastward.... By the Black forest feign a straight attack, The while our purpose is to skirt its left, Meet in Franconia Bernadotte and Marmont; Traverse the Danube somewhat down from Ulm; Entrap the Austrian column by their rear; Surround them, cleave them; roll upon Vienna, Where, Austria settled, I engage the Tsar, While Massena detains in Italy The Archduke Charles.

Foreseeing such might shape, Each high-and by-way to the Danube hence I have of late had measured, mapped, and judged; Such spots as suit for depots chosen and marked; Each regiment's daily pace and bivouac Writ tablewise for ready reference; All which itineraries are sent herewith."

So shall I crush the two gigantic sets Upon the Empire, now grown imminent. —Let me reflect.—First Bernadotte—-but nay, The courier to Marmont must go first. Well, well.—The order of our march from hence I will advise.... My knock at George's door With bland inquiries why his royal hand Withheld due answer to my friendly lines, And tossed the irksome business to his clerks, Is thus perforce delayed. But not for long. Instead of crossing, thitherward I tour By roundabout contrivance not less sure!

DARU

I'll bring the writing to your Majesty.

[NAPOLEON and DARU go out severally.]

CHORUS OF THE YEARS [aerial music]

Recording Angel, trace This bold campaign his thought has spun apace— One that bids fair for immortality Among the earthlings—if immortal deeds May be ascribed to so extemporary And transient a race! It will be called, in rhetoric and rhyme, As son to sire succeeds, A model for the tactics of all time; "The Great Campaign of that so famed year Five," By millions of mankind not yet alive.



SCENE II

THE FRONTIERS OF UPPER AUSTRIA AND BAVARIA

[A view of the country from mid-air, at a point south of the River Inn, which is seen as a silver thread, winding northward between its junction with the Salza and the Danube, and forming the boundaries of the two countries. The Danube shows itself as a crinkled satin riband, stretching from left to right in the far background of the picture, the Inn discharging its waters into the larger river.]

DUMB SHOW

A vast Austrian army creeps dully along the mid-distance, in the detached masses and columns of a whitish cast. The columns insensibly draw nearer to each other, and are seen to be converging from the east upon the banks of the Inn aforesaid.

A RECORDING ANGEL [in recitative]

This movement as of molluscs on a leaf, Which from our vantage here we scan afar, Is one manoeuvred by the famous Mack To countercheck Napoleon, still believed To be intent on England from Boulogne, And heedless of such rallies in his rear. Mack's enterprise is now to cross Bavaria— Beneath us stretched in ripening summer peace As field unwonted for these ugly jars—

Outraged Bavaria, simmering in disquiet At Munich down behind us, Isar-fringed, And torn between his fair wife's hate of France And his own itch to gird at Austrian bluff For riding roughshod through his territory, Wavers from this to that. The while Time hastes The eastward streaming of Napoleon's host, As soon we see.

The silent insect-creep of the Austrian columns towards the banks of the Inn continues to be seen till the view fades to nebulousness and dissolves.



SCENE III

BOULOGNE. THE ST. OMER ROAD

[It is morning at the end of August, and the road stretches out of the town eastward.

The divisions of the "Army-for-England" are making preparations to march. Some portions are in marching order. Bands strike up, and the regiments start on their journey towards the Rhine and Danube. Bonaparte and his officers watch the movements from an eminence. The soldiers, as they pace along under their eagles with beaming eyes, sing "Le Chant du Depart," and other martial songs, shout "Vive l'Empereur!" and babble of repeating the days of Italy, Egypt, Marengo, and Hohenlinden.]

NAPOLEON

Anon to England!

CHORUS OF INTELLIGENCES [aerial music]

If Time's weird threads so weave!

[The scene as it lingers exhibits the gradual diminishing of the troops along the roads through the undulating August landscape, till each column is seen but as a train of dust; and the disappearance of each marching mass over the eastern horizon.]



ACT FOURTH

SCENE I

KING GEORGE'S WATERING-PLACE, SOUTH WESSEX

[A sunny day in autumn. A room in the red-brick royal residence know as Gloucester Lodge.[8]

At a front triple-lighted window stands a telescope on a tripod. Through the open middle sash is visible the crescent-curved expanse of the Bay as a sheet of brilliant translucent green, on which ride vessels of war at anchor. On the left hand white cliffs stretch away till they terminate in St. Aldhelm's Head, and form a background to the level water-line on that side. In the centre are the open sea and blue sky. A near headland rises on the right, surmounted by a battery, over which appears the remoter bald grey brow of the Isle of Slingers.

In the foreground yellow sands spread smoothly, whereon there are sundry temporary erections for athletic sports; and closer at hand runs an esplanade on which a fashionable crowd is promenading. Immediately outside the Lodge are companies of soldiers, groups of officers, and sentries.

Within the room the KING and PITT are discovered. The KING'S eyes show traces of recent inflammation, and the Minister has a wasted look.]

KING

Yes, yes; I grasp your reasons, Mr. Pitt, And grant you audience gladly. More than that, Your visit to this shore is apt and timely, And if it do but yield you needful rest From fierce debate, and other strains of office Which you and I in common have to bear, 'Twill be well earned. The bathing is unmatched Elsewhere in Europe,—see its mark on me!— The air like liquid life.—But of this matter: What argue these late movements seen abroad? What of the country now the session's past; What of the country, eh? and of the war?

PITT

The thoughts I have laid before your Majesty Would make for this, in sum:— That Mr. Fox, Lord Grenville, and their friends, Be straightway asked to join. With Melville gone, With Sidmouth, and with Buckinghamshire too, The steerage of affairs has stood of late Somewhat provisional, as you, sir, know, With stop-gap functions thrust on offices Which common weal can tolerate but awhile. So, for the weighty reasons I have urged, I do repeat my most respectful hope To win your Majesty's ungrudged assent To what I have proposed.

KING

But nothing, sure, Has been more plain to all, dear Mr. Pitt, Than that your own proved energy and scope Is ample, without aid, to carry on Our just crusade against the Corsican. Why, then, go calling Fox and Grenville in? Such helps we need not. Pray you think upon't, And speak to me again.—We've had alarms Making us skip like crackers at our heels, That Bonaparte had landed close hereby.

PITT

Such rumours come as regularly as harvest.

KING

And now he has left Boulogne with all his host? Was it his object to invade at all, Or was his vast assemblage there a blind?

PITT

Undoubtedly he meant invasion, sir, Had fortune favoured. He may try it yet. And, as I said, could we but close with Fox—-

KING

But, but;—I ask, what is his object now? Lord Nelson's Captain—Hardy—whose old home Stands in a peaceful vale hard by us here— Who came two weeks ago to see his friends, I talked to in this room a lengthy while. He says our navy still is in thick night As to the aims by sea of Bonaparte Now the Boulogne attempt has fizzled out, And what he schemes afloat with Spain combined. The "Victory" lay that fortnight at Spithead, And Nelson since has gone aboard and sailed; Yes, sailed again. The "Royal Sovereign" follows, And others her. Nelson was hailed and cheered To huskiness while leaving Southsea shore, Gentle and simple wildly thronging round.

PITT

Ay, sir. Young women hung upon his arm, And old ones blessed, and stroked him with their hands.

KING

Ah—you have heard, of course. God speed him, Pitt.

PITT

Amen, amen!

KING

I read it as a thing Of signal augury, and one which bodes Heaven's confidence in me and in my line, That I should rule as King in such an age!... Well, well.—So this new march of Bonaparte's Was unexpected, forced perchance on him?

PITT

It may be so, your Majesty; it may. Last noon the Austrian ambassador, Whom I consulted ere I posted down, Assured me that his latest papers word How General Mack and eighty thousand men Have made good speed across Bavaria To wait the French and give them check at Ulm, That fortress-frontier-town, entrenched and walled, A place long chosen as a vantage-point Whereon to encounter them as they outwind From the blind shades and baffling green defiles Of the Black Forest, worn with wayfaring. Here Mack will intercept his agile foe Hasting to meet the Russians in Bohemia, And cripple him, if not annihilate.

Thus now, sir, opens out this Great Alliance Of Russia, Austria, England, whereto I Have lent my earnest efforts through long months, And the realm gives her money, ships, and men.— It claps a muffler round the Cock's steel spurs, And leaves me sanguine on his overthrow. But, then,—this coalition of resources Demands a strong and active Cabinet To aid your Majesty's directive hand; And thus I urge again the said additions— These brilliant intellects of the other side Who stand by Fox. With us conjoined, they—-

KING

What, what, again—in face of my sound reasons! Believe me, Pitt, you underrate yourself; You do not need such aid. The splendid feat Of banding Europe in a righteous cause That you have achieved, so soon to put to shame This wicked bombardier of dynasties That rule by right Divine, goes straight to prove We had best continue as we have begun, And call no partners to our management. To fear dilemmas horning up ahead Is not your wont. Nay, nay, now, Mr. Pitt, I must be firm. And if you love your King You'll goad him not so rashly to embrace This Fox-Grenville faction and its friends. Rather than Fox, why, give me civil war! Hey, what? But what besides?

PITT

I say besides, sir,... nothing!

[A silence.]

KING [cheerfully]

The Chancellor's here, and many friends of mine: Lady Winchelsea, Lord and Lady Chesterfield, Lady Bulkeley, General Garth, and Mr. Phipps the oculist—not the least important to me. He is a worthy and a skilful man. My eyes, he says, are as marvellously improved in durability as I know them to be in power. I have arranged to go to-morrow with the Princesses, and the Dukes of Cumberland, Sussex, and Cambridge [who are also here] for a ride on the Ridgeway, and through the Camp on the downs. You'll accompany us there?

PITT

I am honoured by your Majesty's commands.

[PITT looks resignedly out of the window.]

What curious structure do I see outside, sir?

KING

It's but a stage, a type of all the world. The burgesses have arranged it in my honour. At six o'clock this evening there are to be combats at single-stick to amuse the folk; four guineas the prize for the man who breaks most heads. Afterward there is to be a grinning match through horse-collars—a very humorous sport which I must stay here and witness; for I am interested in whatever entertains my subjects.

PITT

Not one in all the land but knows it, sir.

KING

Now, Mr. Pitt, you must require repose; Consult your own convenience then, I beg, On when you leave.

PITT

I thank your Majesty.

[He departs as one whose purpose has failed, and the scene shuts.]



SCENE II

BEFORE THE CITY OF ULM

[A prospect of the city from the east, showing in the foreground a low-lying marshy country bounded in mid-distance by the banks of the Danube, which, bordered by poplars and willows, flows across the picture from the left to the Elchingen Bridge near the right of the scene, and is backed by irregular heights and terraces of espaliered vines. Between these and the river stands the city, crowded with old gabled houses and surrounded by walls, bastions, and a ditch, all the edifices being dominated by the nave and tower of the huge Gothic Munster.

On the most prominent of the heights at the back—the Michaelsberg —to the upper-right of the view, is encamped the mass of the Austrian army, amid half-finished entrenchments. Advanced posts of the same are seen south-east of the city, not far from the advanced corps of the French Grand-Army under SOULT, MARMONT, LANNES, NEY, and DUPONT, which occupy in a semicircle the whole breadth of the flat landscape in front, and extend across the river to higher ground on the right hand of the panorama.

Heavy mixed drifts of rain and snow are descending impartially on the French and on the Austrians, the downfall nearly blotting out the latter on the hills. A chill October wind wails across the country, and the poplars yield slantingly to the gusts.]

DUMB SHOW

Drenched peasants are busily at work, fortifying the heights of the Austrian position in the face of the enemy. Vague companies of Austrians above, and of the French below, hazy and indistinct in the thick atmosphere, come and go without apparent purpose near their respective lines.

Closer at hand NAPOLEON, in his familiar blue-grey overcoat, rides hither and thither with his marshals, haranguing familiarly the bodies of soldiery as he passes them, and observing and pointing out the disposition of the Austrians to his companions.

Thicker sheets of rain fly across as the murk of evening increases, which at length entirely obscures the prospect, and cloaks its bleared lights and fires.



SCENE III

ULM. WITHIN THE CITY

[The interior of the Austrian headquarters on the following morning. A tempest raging without.

GENERAL MACK, haggard and anxious, the ARCHDUKE FERDINAND, PRINCE SCHWARZENBERG, GENERAL JELLACHICH, GENERALS RIESC, BIBERBACH, and other field officers discovered, seated at a table with a map spread out before them. A wood fire blazes between tall andirons in a yawning fireplace. At every more than usually boisterous gust of wind the smoke flaps into the room.]

MACK

The accursed cunning of our adversary Confounds all codes of honourable war, Which ever have held as granted that the track Of armies bearing hither from the Rhine— Whether in peace or strenuous invasion— Should pierce the Schwarzwald, and through Memmingen, And meet us in our front. But he must wind And corkscrew meanly round, where foot of man Can scarce find pathway, stealing up to us Thiefwise, by out back door! Nevertheless, If English war-fleets be abreast Boulogne, As these deserters tell, and ripe to land there, It destines Bonaparte to pack him back Across the Rhine again. We've but to wait, And see him go.

ARCHDUKE

But who shall say if these bright tales be true?

MACK

Even then, small matter, your Imperial Highness; The Russians near us daily, and must soon— Ay, far within the eight days I have named— Be operating to untie this knot, If we hold on.

ARCHDUKE

Conjectures these—no more; I stomach not such waiting. Neither hope Has kernel in it. I and my cavalry With caution, when the shadow fall to-night, Can bore some hole in this engirdlement; Outpass the gate north-east; join General Werneck, And somehow cut our way Bohemia-wards: Well worth the hazard, in our straitened case!

MACK [firmly]

The body of our force stays here with me. And I am much surprised, your Highness, much, You mark not how destructive 'tis to part! If we wait on, for certain we should wait In our full strength, compacted, undispersed By such partition as your Highness plans.

SCHWARZENBERG

There's truth in urging we should not divide, But weld more closely.—Yet why stay at all? Methinks there's but one sure salvation left, To wit, that we conjunctly march herefrom, And with much circumspection, towards the Tyrol. The subtle often rack their wits in vain— Assay whole magazines of strategy— To shun ill loomings deemed insuperable, When simple souls by stumbling up to them Find the grim shapes but air. But let use grant That the investing French so ring us in As to leave not a span for such exploit; Then go we—throw ourselves upon their steel, And batter through, or die!— What say you, Generals? Speak your minds, I pray.

JELLACHICH

I favour marching out—the Tyrol way.

RIESC

Bohemia best! The route thereto is open.

ARCHDUKE

My course is chosen. O this black campaign, Which Pitt's alarmed dispatches pricked us to, All unforseeing! Any risk for me Rather than court humiliation here!

[MACK has risen during the latter remarks, walked to the window, and looked out at the rain. He returns with an air of embarrassment.]

MACK [to Archduke]

It is my privilege firmly to submit That your Imperial Highness undertake No venturous vaulting into risks unknown.— Assume that you, Sire, as you have proposed, With your light regiments and the cavalry, Detach yourself from us, to scoop a way By circuits northwards through the Rauhe Alps And Herdenheim, into Bohemia: Reports all point that you will be attacked, Enveloped, borne on to capitulate. What worse can happen here?— Remember, Sire, the Emperor deputes me, Should such a clash arise as has arisen, To exercise supreme authority. The honour of our arms, our race, demands That none of your Imperial Highness' line Be pounded prisoner by this vulgar foe, Who is not France, but an adventurer, Imposing on that country for his gain.

ARCHDUKE

But it seems clear to me that loitering here Is full as like to compass our surrender As moving hence. And ill it therefore suits The mood of one of my high temperature To pause inactive while await me means Of desperate cure for these so desperate ills!

[The ARCHDUKE FERDINAND goes out. A troubled, silence follows, during which the gusts call into the chimney, and raindrops spit on the fire.]

SCHWARZENBERG

The Archduke bears him shrewdly in this course. We may as well look matters in the face, And that we are cooped and cornered is most clear; Clear it is, too, that but a miracle Can work to loose us! I have stoutly held That this man's three years' ostentatious scheme To fling his army on the tempting shores Of our Allies the English was a—well— Scarce other than a trick of thimble-rig To still us into false security.

JELLACHICH

Well, I know nothing. None needs list to me, But, on the whole, to southward seems the course For lunging, all in force, immediately.

[Another pause.]

SPIRIT SINISTER

The Will throws Mack again into agitation: Ho-ho—what he'll do now!

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Nay, hard one, nay; The clouds weep for him!

SPIRIT SINISTER

If he must; And it's good antic at a vacant time!

[MACK goes restlessly to the door, and is heard pacing about the vestibule, and questioning the aides and other officers gathered there.]

A GENERAL

He wavers like this smoke-wreath that inclines Or north, or south, as the storm-currents rule!

MACK [returning]

Bring that deserter hither once again.

[A French soldier is brought in, blindfolded and guarded. The bandage is removed.]

Well, tell us what he says.

AN OFFICER [after speaking to the prisoner in French]

He still repeats That the whole body of the British strength Is even now descending on Boulogne, And that self-preservation must, if need, Clear us from Bonaparte ere many days, Who momently is moving.

MACK

Still retain him.

[He walks to the fire, and stands looking into it. The soldier is taken out.]

JELLACHICH [bending over the map in argument with RIESC]

I much prefer our self-won information; And if we have Marshal Soult at Landsberg here, [Which seems to be truth, despite this man,] And Dupont hard upon us at Albeck, With Ney not far from Gunzburg; somewhere here, Or further down the river, lurking Lannes, Our game's to draw off southward—if we can!

MACK [turning]

I have it. This we'll do. You Jellachich, Unite with Spangen's troops at Memmingen, To fend off mischief there. And you, Riesc, Will make your utmost haste to occupy The bridge and upper ground at Elchingen, And all along the left bank of the stream, Till you observe whereon to concentrate And sever their connections. I couch here, And hold the city till the Russians come.

A GENERAL [in a low voice]

Disjunction seems of all expedients worst: If any stay, then stay should every man, Gather, inlace, and close up hip to hip, And perk and bristle hedgehog-like with spines!

MACK

The conference is ended, friends, I say, And orders will be issued here forthwith.

[Guns heard.]

AN OFFICER

Surely that's from the Michaelsberg above us?

MACK

Never care. Here we stay. In five more days The Russians hail, and we regain our bays.

[Exeunt severally.]



SCENE IV

BEFORE ULM. THE SAME DAY

[A high wind prevails, and rain falls in torrents. An elevated terrace near Elchingen forms the foreground.]

DUMB SHOW

From the terrace BONAPARTE surveys and dictates operations against the entrenched heights of the Michaelsberg that rise in the middle distance on the right above the city. Through the gauze of descending waters the French soldiery can be discerned climbing to the attack under NEY.

They slowly advance, recede, re-advance, halt. A time of suspense follows. Then they are seen in a state of irregular movement, even confusion; but in the end they carry the heights with the bayonet.

Below the spot whereon NAPOLEON and his staff are gathered, glistening wet and plastered with mud, obtrudes on the left the village of Elchingen, now in the hands of the French. Its white- walled monastery, its bridge over the Danube, recently broken by the irresistible NEY, wear a desolated look, and the stream, which is swollen by the rainfall and rasped by the storm, seems wanly to sympathize.

Anon shells are dropped by the French from the summits they have gained into the city below. A bomb from an Austrian battery falls near NAPOLEON, and in bursting raises a fountain of mud. The Emperor retreats with his officers to a less conspicuous station.

Meanwhile LANNES advances from a position near NAPOLEON till his columns reach the top of the Frauenberg hard by. The united corps of LANNES and NEY descend on the inner slope of the heights towards the city walls, in the rear of the retreating Austrians. One of the French columns scales a bastion, but NAPOLEON orders the assault to be discontinued, and with the wane of day the spectacle disappears.



SCENE V

THE SAME. THE MICHAELSBERG

[A chilly but rainless noon three days later. At the back of the scene, northward, rise the Michaelsberg heights; below stretches the panorama of the city and the Danube. On a secondary eminence forming a spur of the upper hill, a fire of logs is burning, the foremost group beside it being NAPOLEON and his staff, the former in his shabby greatcoat and plain turned-up hat, walking to and fro with his hands behind him, and occasionally stopping to warm himself. The French infantry are drawn up in a dense array at the back of these.

The whole Austrian garrison of Ulm marches out of the city gate opposite NAPOLEON. GENERAL MACK is at the head, followed by GIULAY, GOTTESHEIM, KLINAU, LICHTENSTEIN, and many other officers, who advance to BONAPARTE and deliver their swords.]

MACK

Behold me, Sire. Mack the unfortunate!

NAPOLEON

War, General, ever has its ups and downs, And you must take the better and the worse As impish chance or destiny ordains. Come near and warm you here. A glowing fire Is life on the depressing, mired, moist days Of smitten leaves down-dropping clammily, And toadstools like the putrid lungs of men. [To his Lieutenants.] Cause them so stand to right and left of me.

[The Austrian officers arrange themselves as directed, and the body of the Austrians now file past their Conqueror, laying down their arms as they approach; some with angry gestures and words, others in moody silence.]

Listen, I pray you, Generals gathered her. I tell you frankly that I know not why Your master wages this wild war with me. I know not what he seeks by such injustice, Unless to give me practice in my trade— That of a soldier—whereto I was bred: Deemed he my craft might slip from me, unplied? Let him now own me still a dab therein!

MACK

Permit me, your Imperial Majesty, To speak one word in answer; which is this, No war was wished for by my Emperor: Russia constrained him to it!

NAPOLEON

If that be, You are no more a European power.— I would point out to him that my resources Are not confined to these my musters here; My prisoners of war, in route for France, Will see some marks of my resources there! Two hundred thousand volunteers, right fit, Will join my standards at a single nod, And in six weeks prove soldiers to the bone, Whilst you recruits, compulsion's scavengings, Scarce weld to warriors after toilsome years.

But I want nothing on this Continent: The English only are my enemies. Ships, colonies, and commerce I desire, Yea, therewith to advantage you as me. Let me then charge your Emperor, my brother, To turn his feet the shortest way to peace.— All states must have an end, the weak, the strong; Ay; even may fall the dynasty of Lorraine!

[The filing past and laying down of arms by the Austrian army continues with monotonous regularity, as if it would never end.]

NAPOLEON [in a murmur, after a while]

Well, what cares England! She has won her game; I have unlearnt to threaten her from Boulogne....

Her gold it is that forms the weft of this Fair tapestry of armies marshalled here! Likewise of Russia's drawing steadily nigh. But they may see what these see, by and by.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

So let him speak, the while we clearly sight him Moved like a figure on a lantern-slide. Which, much amazing uninitiate eyes, The all-compelling crystal pane but drags Wither the showman wills.

SPIRIT IRONIC

And yet, my friend, The Will itself might smile at this collapse Of Austria's men-at-arms, so drolly done; Even as, in your phantasmagoric show, The deft manipulator of the slide Might smile at his own art.

CHORUS OF THE YEARS [aerial music]

Ah, no: ah, no! It is impassible as glacial snow.— Within the Great Unshaken These painted shapes awaken A lesser thrill than doth the gentle lave Of yonder bank by Danube's wandering wave Within the Schwarzwald heights that give it flow!

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

But O, the intolerable antilogy Of making figments feel!

SPIRIT IRONIC

Logic's in that. It does not, I must own, quite play the game.

CHORUS OF IRONIC SPIRITS [aerial music]

And this day wins for Ulm a dingy fame, Which centuries shall not bleach from her name!

[The procession of Austrians continues till the scene is hidden by haze.]



SCENE VI

LONDON. SPRING GARDENS

[Before LORD MALMESBURY'S house, on a Sunday morning in the same autumn. Idlers pause and gather in the background.

PITT enters, and meets LORD MULGRAVE.]

MULGRAVE

Good day, Pitt. Ay, these leaves that skim the ground With withered voices, hint that sunshine-time Is well-nigh past.—And so the game's begun Between him and the Austro-Russian force, As second movement in the faceabout From Boulogne shore, with which he has hocussed us?— What has been heard on't? Have they clashed as yet?

PITT

The Emperor Francis, partly at my instance, Has thrown the chief command on General Mack, A man most capable and far of sight. He centres by the Danube-bank at Ulm, A town well-walled, and firm for leaning on To intercept the French in their advance From the Black Forest toward the Russian troops Approaching from the east. If Bonaparte Sustain his marches at the break-neck speed That all report, they must have met ere now. —There is a rumour... quite impossible!...

MULGRAVE

You still have faith in Mack as strategist? There have been doubts of his far-sightedness.

PITT [hastily]

I know, I know.—I am calling here at Malmesbury's At somewhat an unceremonious time To ask his help to translate this Dutch print The post has brought. Malmesbury is great at Dutch, Learning it long at Leyden, years ago.

[He draws a newspaper from his pocket, unfolds it, and glances it down.]

There's news here unintelligible to me Upon the very matter! You'll come in?

[They call at LORD MAMESBURY'S. He meets them in the hall, and welcomes them with an apprehensive look of foreknowledge.]

PITT

Pardon this early call. The packet's in, And wings me this unreadable Dutch paper, So, as the offices are closed to-day, I have brought it round to you.

[Handling the paper.]

What does it say? For God's sake, read it out. You know the tongue.

MALMESBURY [with hesitation]

I have glanced it through already—more than once— A copy having reached me, too, by now... We are in the presence of a great disaster! See here. It says that Mack, enjailed in Ulm By Bonaparte—from four side shutting round— Capitulated, and with all his force Laid down his arms before his conqueror!

[PITT's face changes. A silence.]

MULGRAVE

Outrageous! Ignominy unparalleled!

PITT

By God, my lord, these statement must be false! These foreign prints are trustless as Cheap Jack Dumfounding yokels at a country fair. I heed no word of it.—Impossible. What! Eighty thousand Austrians, nigh in touch With Russia's levies that Kutuzof leads, To lay down arms before the war's begun? 'Tis too much!

MALMESBURY

But I fear it is too true! Note the assevered source of the report— One beyond thought of minters of mock tales. The writer adds that military wits Cry that the little Corporal now makes war In a new way, using his soldiers' legs And not their arms, to bring him victory. Ha-ha! The quip must sting the Corporal's foes.

PITT [after a pause]

O vacillating Prussia! Had she moved, Had she but planted one foot firmly down, All this had been averted.—I must go. 'Tis sure, 'tis sure, I labour but in vain!

[MALMESBURY accompanies him to the door, and PITT walks away disquietedly towards Whitehall, the other two regarding him as he goes.]

MULGRAVE

Too swiftly he declines to feebleness, And these things well might shake a stouter frame!

MALMESBURY

Of late the burden of all Europe's cares, Of hiring and maintaining half her troops, His single pair of shoulders has upborne, Thanks to the obstinacy of the King.— His thin, strained face, his ready irritation, Are ominous signs. He may not be for long.

MULGRAVE

He alters fast, indeed,—as do events.

MALMESBURY

His labour's lost; and all our money gone! It looks as if this doughty coalition On which we have lavished so much pay and pains Would end in wreck.

MULGRAVE

All is not over yet; The gathering Russian forces are unbroke.

MALMESBURY

Well; we shall see. Should Boney vanquish these, And silence all resistance on that side, His move will then be backward to Boulogne, And so upon us.

MULGRAVE

Nelson to our defence!

MALMESBURY

Ay; where is Nelson? Faith, by this time He may be sodden; churned in Biscay swirls; Or blown to polar bears by boreal gales; Or sleeping amorously in some calm cave On the Canaries' or Atlantis' shore Upon the bosom of his Dido dear, For all that we know! Never a sound of him Since passing Portland one September day— To make for Cadiz; so 'twas then believed.

MULGRAVE

He's staunch. He's watching, or I am much deceived.

[MULGRAVE departs. MALMESBURY goes within. The scene shuts.]



ACT FIFTH

SCENE I

OFF CAPE TRAFALGAR

[A bird's eye view of the sea discloses itself. It is daybreak, and the broad face of the ocean is fringed on its eastern edge by the Cape and the Spanish shore. On the rolling surface immediately beneath the eye, ranged more or less in two parallel lines running north and south, one group from the twain standing off somewhat, are the vessels of the combined French and Spanish navies, whose canvases, as the sun edges upward, shine in its rays like satin.

On the western horizon two columns of ships appear in full sail, small as moths to the aerial vision. They are bearing down towards the combined squadrons.]

RECORDING ANGEL I [intoning from his book]

At last Villeneuve accepts the sea and fate, Despite the Cadiz council called of late, Whereat his stoutest captains—men the first To do all mortals durst— Willing to sail, and bleed, and bear the worst, Short of cold suicide, did yet opine That plunging mid those teeth of treble line In jaws of oaken wood Held open by the English navarchy With suasive breadth and artful modesty, Would smack of purposeless foolhardihood.

RECORDING ANGEL II

But word came, writ in mandatory mood, To put from Cadiz, gain Toulon, and straight At a said sign on Italy operate. Moreover that Villeneuve, arrived as planned, Would find Rosily in supreme command.— Gloomy Villeneuve grows rash, and, darkly brave, Leaps to meet war, storm, Nelson—even the grave.

SEMICHORUS I OF THE YEARS [aerial music]

Ere the concussion hurtle, draw abreast Of the sea.

SEMICHORUS II

Where Nelson's hulls are rising from the west, Silently.

SEMICHORUS I

Each linen wing outspread, each man and lad Sworn to be

SEMICHORUS II

Amid the vanmost, or for Death, or glad Victory!

[The point of sight descends till it is near the deck of the "Bucentaure," the flag-ship of VILLENEUVE. Present thereupon are the ADMIRAL, his FLAG-CAPTAIN MAGENDIE, LIEUTENANT DAUDIGNON, other naval officers and seamen.]

MAGENDIE

All night we have read their signals in the air, Whereby the peering frigates of their van Have told them of our trend.

VILLENEUVE

The enemy Makes threat as though to throw him on our stern: Signal the fleet to wear; bid Gravina To come in from manoeuvring with his twelve, And range himself in line.

[Officers murmur.]

I say again Bid Gravina draw hither with his twelve, And signal all to wear!—and come upon The larboard tack with every bow anorth!— So we make Cadiz in the worst event. And patch our rags up there. As we head now Our only practicable thoroughfare Is through Gibraltar Strait—a fatal door!

Signal to close the line and leave no gaps. Remember, too, what I have already told: Remind them of it now. They must not pause For signallings from me amid a strife Whose chaos may prevent my clear discernment, Or may forbid my signalling at all. The voice of honour then becomes the chief's; Listen they thereto, and set every stitch To heave them on into the fiercest fight. Now I will sum up all: heed well the charge; EACH CAPTAIN, PETTY OFFICER, AND MAN IS ONLY AT HIS POST WHEN UNDER FIRE.

[The ships of the whole fleet turn their bows from south to north as directed, and close up in two parallel curved columns, the concave side of each column being towards the enemy, and the interspaces of the first column being, in general, opposite the hulls of the second.]

AN OFFICER [straining his eyes towards the English fleet]

How they skip on! Their overcrowded sail Bulge like blown bladders in a tripeman's shop The market-morning after slaughterday!

PETTY OFFICER

It's morning before slaughterday with us, I make so bold to bode!

[The English Admiral is seen to be signalling to his fleet. The signal is: "ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN TO DO HIS DUTY." A loud cheering from all the English ships comes undulating on the wind when the signal is read.]

VILLENEUVE

They are signalling too—Well, business soon begins! You will reserve your fire. And be it known That we display no admirals' flags at all Until the action's past. 'Twill puzzle them, And work to our advantage when we close.— Yes, they are double-ranked, I think, like us; But we shall see anon.

MAGENDIE

The foremost one Makes for the "Santa Ana." In such case The "Fougueux" might assist her.

VILLENEUVE

Be it so— There's time enough.—Our ships will be in place, And ready to speak back in iron words When theirs cry Hail! in the same sort of voice.

[They prepare to receive the northernmost column of the enemy's ships headed by the "Victory," trying the distance by an occasional single shot. During their suspense a discharge is heard southward, and turning they behold COLLINGWOOD at the head of his column in the "Royal Sovereign," just engaging with the Spanish "Santa Ana." Meanwhile the "Victory's" mizzen-topmast, with spars and a quantity of rigging, is seen to have fallen, her wheel to be shot away, and her deck encumbered with dead and wounded men.]

VILLENEUVE

'Tis well! But see; their course is undelayed, And still they near in clenched audacity!

DAUDIGNON

Which aim deft Lucas o' the "Redoubtable" Most gallantly bestirs him to outscheme.— See, how he strains, that on his timbers fall Blows that were destined for his Admiral!

[During this the French ship "Redoubtable" is moving forward to interpose itself between the approaching "Victory" and the "Bucentaure."]

VILLENEUVE

Now comes it! The "Santisima Trinidad," The old "Redoubtable's" hard sides, and ours, Will take the touse of this bombastic blow. Your grapnels and your boarding-hatchets—ready! We'll dash our eagle on the English deck, And swear to fetch it!

CREW

Ay! We swear. Huzza Long live the Emperor!

[But the "Victory" suddenly swerves to the rear of the "Bucentaure," and crossing her stern-waters, discharges a broadside into her and the "Redoubtable" endwise, wrapping the scene in folds of smoke. The point of view changes.]



SCENE II

THE SAME. THE QUARTER-DECK OF THE "VICTORY"

[The van of each division of the English fleet has drawn to the windward side of the combined fleets of the enemy, and broken their order, the "Victory" being now parallel to and alongside the "Redoubtable," the "Temeraire" taking up a station on the other side of that ship. The "Bucentaure" and the "Santisima Trinidad" become jammed together a little way ahead. A smoke and din of cannonading prevail, amid which the studding-sail booms are shot away.

NELSON, HARDY, BLACKWOOD, SECRETARY SCOTT, LIEUTENANT PASCO, BURKE the Purser, CAPTAIN ADAIR of the Marines, and other officers are on or near the quarter-deck.]

NELSON

See, there, that noble fellow Collingwood, How straight he helms his ship into the fire!— Now you'll haste back to yours [to BLACKWOOD]. —We must henceforth Trust to the Great Disposer of events, And justice of our cause!...

[BLACKWOOD leaves. The battle grows hotter. A double-headed shot cuts down seven or eight marines on the "Victory's" poop.]

Captain Adair, part those marines of yours, And hasten to disperse them round the ship.— Your place is down below, Burke, not up here; Ah, yes; like David you would see the battle!

[A heavy discharge of musket-shot comes from the tops of the "Santisima Trinidad. ADAIR and PASCO fall. Another swathe of Marines is mowed down by chain-shot.]

SCOTT

My lord, I use to you the utmost prayers That I have privilege to shape in words: Remove your stars and orders, I would beg; That shot was aimed at you.

NELSON

They were awarded to me as an honour, And shall I do despite to those who prize me, And slight their gifts? No, I will die with them, If die I must.

[He walks up and down with HARDY.]

HARDY

At least let's put you on Your old greatcoat, my lord—[the air is keen.].— 'Twill cover all. So while you still retain Your dignities, you baulk these deadly aims

NELSON

Thank 'ee, good friend. But no,—I haven't time, I do assure you—not a trice to spare, As you well will see.

[A few minutes later SCOTT falls dead, a bullet having pierced his skull. Immediately after a shot passes between the Admiral and the Captain, tearing the instep of Hardy's shoe, and striking away the buckle. They shake off the dust and splinters it has scattered over them. NELSON glances round, and perceives what has happened to his secretary.]

NELSON

Poor Scott, too, carried off! Warm work this, Hardy; Too warm to go on long.

HARDY

I think so, too; Their lower ports are blocked against our hull, And our charge now is less. Each knock so near Sets their old wood on fire.

NELSON

Ay, rotten as peat. What's that? I think she has struck, or pretty nigh!

[A cracking of musketry.]

HARDY

Not yet.—Those small-arm men there, in her tops, Thin our crew fearfully. Now, too, our guns Have dipped full down, or they would rake The "Temeraire" there on the other side.

NELSON

True.—While you deal good measure out to these, Keep slapping at those giants over here— The "Trinidad," I mean, and the "Bucentaure," To win'ard—swelling up so pompously.

HARDY

I'll see no slackness shall be shown that way.

[They part and go in their respective directions. Gunners, naked to the waist and reeking with sweat, are now in swift action on the several decks, and firemen carry buckets of water hither and thither. The killed and wounded thicken around, and are being lifted and examined by the surgeons. NELSON and HARDY meet again.]

NELSON

Bid still the firemen bring more bucketfuls, And dash the water into each new hole Our guns have gouged in the "Redoubtable," Or we shall all be set ablaze together.

HARDY

Let me once more advise, entreat, my lord, That you do not expose yourself so clearly. Those fellows in the mizzen-top up there Are peppering round you quite perceptibly.

NELSON

Now, Hardy, don't offend me. They can't aim; They only set their own rent sails on fire.— But if they could, I would not hide a button To save ten lives like mine. I have no cause To prize it, I assure 'ee.—Ah, look there, One of the women hit,—and badly, too. Poor wench! Let some one shift her quickly down.

HARDY

My lord, each humblest sojourner on the seas, Dock-labourer, lame longshore-man, bowed bargee, Sees it as policy to shield his life For those dependent on him. Much more, then, Should one upon whose priceless presence here Such issues hang, so many strivers lean, Use average circumspection at an hour So critical for us all.

NELSON

Ay, ay. Yes, yes; I know your meaning, Hardy,; and I know That you disguise as frigid policy What really is your honest love of me. But, faith, I have had my day. My work's nigh done; I serve all interests best by chancing it Here with the commonest.—Ah, their heavy guns Are silenced every one! Thank God for that.

HARDY

'Tis so. They only use their small arms now.

[He goes to larboard to see what is progressing on that side between his ship and the "Santisima Trinidad."]

OFFICER [to seaman]

Swab down these stairs. The mess of blood about Makes 'em so slippery that one's like to fall In carrying the wounded men below.

[While CAPTAIN HARDY is still a little way off, LORD NELSON turns to walk aft, when a ball from one of the muskets in the mizzen- top of the "Redoubtable" enters his left shoulder. He falls upon his face on the deck. HARDY looks round, and sees what has happened.]

HARDY [hastily]

Ah—what I feared, and strove to hide I feared!...

[He goes towards NELSON, who in the meantime has been lifted by SERGEANT-MAJOR SECKER and two seamen.]

NELSON

Hardy, I think they've done for me at last!

HARDY

I hope not!

NELSON

Yes. My backbone is shot through. I have not long to live.

[The men proceed to carry him below.]

Those tiller ropes They've torn away, get instantly repaired!

[At sight of him borne along wounded there is great agitation among the crew.]

Cover my face. There will be no good be done By drawing their attention off to me. Bear me along, good fellows; I am but one Among the many darkened here to-day!

[He is carried on to the cockpit over the crowd of dead and wounded.]

Doctor, I'm gone. I am waste o' time to you.

HARDY [remaining behind]

Hills, go to Collingwood and let him know That we've no Admiral here.

[He passes on.]

A LIEUTENANT

Now quick and pick him off who did the deed— That white-bloused man there in the mizzen-top.

POLLARD, a midshipman [shooting]

No sooner said than done. A pretty aim!

[The Frenchman falls dead upon the poop.

The spectacle seems now to become enveloped in smoke, and the point of view changes.]



SCENE III

THE SAME. ON BOARD THE "BUCENTAURE"

[The bowsprit of the French Admiral's ship is stuck fast in the stern-gallery of the "Santisima Trinidad," the starboard side of the "Bucentaure" being shattered by shots from two English three- deckers which are pounding her on that hand. The poop is also reduced to ruin by two other English ships that are attacking her from behind.

On the quarter-deck are ADMIRAL VILLENEUVE, the FLAG-CAPTAIN MAGENDIE, LIEUTENANTS DAUDIGNON, FOURNIER, and others, anxiously occupied. The whole crew is in desperate action of battle and stumbling among the dead and dying, who have fallen too rapidly to be carried below.]

VILLENEUVE

We shall be crushed if matters go on thus.— Direct the "Trinidad" to let her drive, That this foul tangle may be loosened clear!

DAUDIGNON

It has been tried, sir; but she cannot move.

VILLENEUVE

Then signal to the "Hero" that she strive Once more to drop this way.

MAGENDIE

We may make signs, But in the thickened air what signal's marked?— 'Tis done, however.

VILLENEUVE

The "Redoubtable" And "Victory" there,—they grip in dying throes! Something's amiss on board the English ship. Surely the Admiral's fallen?

A PETTY OFFICER

Sir, they say That he was shot some hour, or half, ago.— With dandyism raised to godlike pitch He stalked the deck in all his jewellery, And so was hit.

MAGENDIE

Then Fortune shows her face! We have scotched England in dispatching him. [He watches.] Yes! He commands no more; and Lucas, joying, Has taken steps to board. Look, spars are laid, And his best men are mounting at his heels.

VILLENEUVE

Ah, God—he is too late! Whence came the hurl Of heavy grape? The smoke prevents my seeing But at brief whiles.—The boarding band has fallen, Fallen almost to a man.—'Twas well assayed!

MAGENDIE

That's from their "Temeraire," whose vicious broadside Has cleared poor Lucas' decks.

VILLENEUVE

And Lucas, too. I see him no more there. His red planks show Three hundred dead if one. Now for ourselves!

[Four of the English three-deckers have gradually closed round the "Bucentaure," whose bowsprit still sticks fast in the gallery of the "Santisima Trinidad." A broadside comes from one of the English, resulting in worse havoc on the "Bucentaure." The main and mizzen masts of the latter fall, and the boats are beaten to pieces. A raking fire of musketry follows from the attacking ships, to which the "Bucentaure" heroically continues still to keep up a reply.

CAPTAIN MAGENDIE falls wounded. His place is taken by LIEUTENANT DAUDIGNON.]

VILLENEUVE

Now that the fume has lessened, code my biddance Upon our only mast, and tell the van At once to wear, and come into the fire. [Aside] If it be true that, as HE sneers, success Demands of me but cool audacity, To-day shall leave him nothing to desire!

[Musketry continues. DAUDIGNON falls. He is removed, his post being taken by LIEUTENANT FOURNIER. Another crash comes, and the deck is suddenly encumbered with rigging.]

FOURNIER

There goes our foremast! How for signalling now?

VILLENEUVE

To try that longer, Fournier, is in vain Upon this haggard, scorched, and ravaged hulk, Her decks all reeking with such gory shows, Her starboard side in rents, her stern nigh gone! How does she keep afloat?— "Bucentaure," O lucky good old ship! My part in you is played. Ay—I must go; I must tempt Fate elsewhere,—if but a boat Can bear me through this wreckage to the van.

FOURNIER

Our boats are stove in, or as full of holes As the cook's skimmer, from their cursed balls!

[Musketry. VILLENEUVE'S Head-of-Staff, DE PRIGNY, falls wounded, and many additional men. VILLENEUVE glances troublously from ship to ship of his fleet.]

VILLENEUVE

How hideous are the waves, so pure this dawn!— Red-frothed; and friends and foes all mixed therein.— Can we in some way hail the "Trinidad" And get a boat from her?

[They attempt to distract the attention of the "Santisima Trinidad" by shouting.]

Impossible; Amid the loud combustion of this strife As well try holloing to the antipodes!... So here I am. The bliss of Nelson's end Will not be mine; his full refulgent eve Becomes my midnight! Well; the fleets shall see That I can yield my cause with dignity.

[The "Bucentaure" strikes her flag. A boat then puts off from the English ship "Conqueror," and VILLENEUVE, having surrendered his sword, is taken out from the "Bucentaure." But being unable to regain her own ship, the boat is picked up by the "Mars," and the French admiral is received aboard her. Point of view changes.]



SCENE IV

THE SAME. THE COCKPIT OF THE "VICTORY"

[A din of trampling and dragging overhead, which is accompanied by a continuos ground-bass roar from the guns of the warring fleets, culminating at times in loud concussions. The wounded are lying around in rows for treatment, some groaning, some silently dying, some dead. The gloomy atmosphere of the low- beamed deck is pervaded by a thick haze of smoke, powdered wood, and other dust, and is heavy with the fumes of gunpowder and candle-grease, the odour of drugs and cordials, and the smell from abdominal wounds.

NELSON, his face now pinched and wan with suffering, is lying undressed in a midshipman's berth, dimly lit by a lantern. DR. BEATTY, DR. MAGRATH, the Rev. DR. SCOTT the Chaplain, BURKE the Purser, the Steward, and a few others stand around.]

MAGRATH [in a low voice]

Poor Ram, and poor Tom Whipple, have just gone..

BEATTY

There was no hope for them.

NELSON [brokenly]

Who have just died?

BEATTY

Two who were badly hit by now, my lord; Lieutenant Ram and Mr. Whipple.

NELSON

Ah! So many lives—in such a glorious cause.... I join them soon, soon, soon!—O where is Hardy? Will nobody bring Hardy to me—none? He must be killed, too. Surely Hardy's dead?

A MIDSHIPMAN

He's coming soon, my lord. The constant call On his full heed of this most mortal fight Keeps him from hastening hither as he would.

NELSON

I'll wait, I'll wait. I should have thought of it.

[Presently HARDY comes down. NELSON and he grasp hands.]

Hardy, how goes the day with us and England?

HARDY

Well; very well, thank God for't, my dear lord. Villeneuve their Admiral has this moment struck, And put himself aboard the "Conqueror." Some fourteen of their first-rates, or about, Thus far we've got. The said "Bucentaure" chief: The "Santa Ana," the "Redoubtable," The "Fougueux," the "Santisima Trinidad," "San Augustino, "San Francisco," "Aigle"; And our old "Swiftsure," too, we've grappled back, To every seaman's joy. But now their van Has tacked to bear round on the "Victory" And crush her by sheer weight of wood and brass: Three of our best I am therefore calling up, And make no doubt of worsting theirs, and France.

NELSON

That's well. I swore for twenty.—But it's well.

HARDY

We'll have 'em yet! But without you, my lord, We have to make slow plodding do the deeds That sprung by inspiration ere you fell; And on this ship the more particularly.

NELSON

No, Hardy.—Ever 'twas your settled fault So modestly to whittle down your worth. But I saw stuff in you which admirals need When, taking thought, I chose the "Victory's" keel To do my business with these braggarts in. A business finished now, for me!—Good friend, Slow shades are creeping me... I scarce see you.

HARDY

The smoke from ships upon our win'ard side, And the dust raised by their worm-eaten hulks, When our balls touch 'em, blind the eyes, in truth.

NELSON

No; it is not that dust; 'tis dust of death That darkens me.

[A shock overhead. HARDY goes up. On or two other officers go up, and by and by return.]

What was that extra noise?

OFFICER

The "Formidable' passed us by, my lord, And thumped a stunning broadside into us.— But, on their side, the "Hero's" captain's fallen; The "Algeciras" has been boarded, too, By Captain Tyler, and the captain shot: Admiral Gravina desperately holds out; They say he's lost an arm.

NELSON

And we, ourselves— Who have we lost on board here? Nay, but tell me!

BEATTY

Besides poor Scott, my lord, and Charles Adair, Lieutenant Ram, and Whipple, captain's clerk, There's Smith, and Palmer, midshipmen, just killed. And fifty odd of seamen and marines.

NELSON

Poor youngsters! Scarred old Nelson joins you soon.

BEATTY

And wounded: Bligh, lieutenant; Pasco, too, and Reeves, and Peake, lieutenants of marines, And Rivers, Westphall, Bulkeley, midshipmen, With, of the crew, a hundred odd just now, Unreckoning those late fallen not brought below.

BURKE

That fellow in the mizzen-top, my lord, Who made it his affair to wing you thus, We took good care to settle; and he fell Like an old rook, smack from his perch, stone dead.

NELSON

'Twas not worth while!—He was, no doubt, a man Who in simplicity and sheer good faith Strove but to serve his country. Rest be to him! And may his wife, his friends, his little ones, If such be had, be tided through their loss, And soothed amid the sorrow brought by me.

[HARDY re-enters.]

Who's that? Ah—here you come! How, Hardy, now?

HARDY

The Spanish Admiral's rumoured to be wounded, We know not with what truth. But, be as 'twill, He sheers away with all he could call round, And some few frigates, straight to Cadiz port.

[A violent explosion is heard above the confused noises on deck. A midshipman goes above and returns.]

MIDSHIPMAN [in the background]

It is the enemy's first-rate, the "Achille," Blown to a thousand atoms!—While on fire, Before she burst, the captain's woman there, Desperate for life, climbed from the gunroom port Upon the rudder-chains; stripped herself stark, And swam for the Pickle's boat. Our men in charge, Seeing her great breasts bulging on the brine, Sang out, "A mermaid 'tis, by God!"—then rowed And hauled her in.—

BURKE

Such unbid sights obtrude On death's dyed stage!

MIDSHIPMAN

Meantime the "Achille" fought on, Even while the ship was blazing, knowing well The fire must reach their powder; which it did. The spot is covered now with floating men, Some whole, the main in parts; arms, legs, trunks, heads, Bobbing with tons of timber on the waves, And splinter looped with entrails of the crew.

NELSON [rousing]

Our course will be to anchor. Let me know.

HARDY

But let me ask, my lord, as needs I must, Seeing your state, and that our work's not done, Shall I, from you, bid Admiral Collingwood Take full on him the conduct of affairs?

NELSON [trying to raise himself]

Not while I live, I hope! No, Hardy; no. Give Collingwood my order. Anchor all!

HARDY [hesitating]

You mean the signal's to be made forthwith?

NELSON

I do!—By God, if but our carpenter Could rig me up a jury-backbone now, To last one hour—until the battle's done, I'd see to it! But here I am—stove in— Broken—all logged and done for! Done, ay done!

BEATTY [returning from the other wounded]

My lord, I must implore you to lie calm! You shorten what at best may not be long.

NELSON [exhausted]

I know, I know, good Beatty! Thank you well Hardy, I was impatient. Now I am still. Sit here a moment, if you have time to spare?

[BEATTY and others retire, and the two abide in silence, except for the trampling overhead and the moans from adjoining berths. NELSON is apparently in less pain, seeming to doze.]

NELSON [suddenly]

What are you thinking, that you speak no word?

HARDY [waking from a short reverie]

Thoughts all confused, my lord:—their needs on deck, Your own sad state, and your unrivalled past; Mixed up with flashes of old things afar— Old childish things at home, down Wessex way. In the snug village under Blackdon Hill Where I was born. The tumbling stream, the garden, The placid look of the grey dial there, Marking unconsciously this bloody hour, And the red apples on my father's trees, Just now full ripe.

NELSON

Ay, thus do little things Steal into my mind, too. But ah, my heart Knows not your calm philosophy!—There's one— Come nearer to me, Hardy.—One of all, As you well guess, pervades my memory now; She, and my daughter—I speak freely to you. 'Twas good I made that codicil this morning That you and Blackwood witnessed. Now she rests Safe on the nation's honour.... Let her have My hair, and the small treasured things I owned, And take care of her, as you care for me!

[HARDY promises.]

NELSON [resuming in a murmur]

Does love die with our frame's decease, I wonder, Or does it live on ever?...

[A silence. BEATTY approaches.]

HARDY Now I'll leave, See if your order's gone, and then return.

NELSON [symptoms of death beginning to change his face]

Yes, Hardy; yes; I know it. You must go.— Here we shall meet no more; since Heaven forfend That care for me should keep you idle now, When all the ship demands you. Beatty, too. Go to the others who lie bleeding there; Them can you aid. Me you can render none! My time here is the briefest.—If I live But long enough I'll anchor.... But—too late— My anchoring's elsewhere ordered!... Kiss me, Hardy:

[HARDY bends over him.]

I'm satisfied. Thank God, I have done my duty!

[HARDY brushes his eyes with his hand, and withdraws to go above, pausing to look back before he finally disappears.]

BEATTY [watching Nelson]

Ah!—Hush around!... He's sinking. It is but a trifle now Of minutes with him. Stand you, please, aside, And give him air.

[BEATTY, the Chaplain, MAGRATH, the Steward, and attendants continue to regard NELSON. BEATTY looks at his watch.]

BEATTY

Two hours and fifty minutes since he fell, And now he's going.

[They wait. NELSON dies.]

CHAPLAIN

Yes.... He has homed to where There's no more sea.

BEATTY

We'll let the Captain know, Who will confer with Collingwood at once. I must now turn to these.

[He goes to another part of the cockpit, a midshipman ascends to the deck, and the scene overclouds.]

CHORUS OF THE PITIES [aerial music]

His thread was cut too slowly! When he fell. And bade his fame farewell, He might have passed, and shunned his long-drawn pain, Endured in vain, in vain!

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Young Spirits, be not critical of That Which was before, and shall be after you!

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

But out of tune the Mode and meritless That quickens sense in shapes whom, thou hast said, Necessitation sways! A life there was Among these self-same frail ones—Sophocles— Who visioned it too clearly, even while He dubbed the Will "the gods." Truly said he, "Such gross injustice to their own creation Burdens the time with mournfulness for us, And for themselves with shame."[9]—Things mechanized By coils and pivots set to foreframed codes Would, in a thorough-sphered melodic rule, And governance of sweet consistency, Be cessed no pain, whose burnings would abide With That Which holds responsibility, Or inexist.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Yea, yea, yea! Thus would the Mover pay The score each puppet owes, The Reaper reap what his contrivance sows! Why make Life debtor when it did not buy? Why wound so keenly Right that it would die?

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Nay, blame not! For what judgment can ye blame?— In that immense unweeting Mind is shown One far above forethinking; processive, Yet superconscious; a Clairvoyancy That knows not what It knows, yet works therewith.— The cognizance ye mourn, Life's doom to feel, If I report it meetly, came unmeant, Emerging with blind gropes from impercipience By listless sequence—luckless, tragic Chance, In your more human tongue.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

And hence unneeded In the economy of Vitality, Which might have ever kept a sealed cognition As doth the Will Itself.

CHORUS OF THE YEARS [aerial music]

Nay, nay, nay; Your hasty judgments stay, Until the topmost cyme Have crowned the last entablature of Time. O heap not blame on that in-brooding Will; O pause, till all things all their days fulfil!



SCENE V

LONDON. THE GUILDHALL

[A crowd of citizens has gathered outside to watch the carriages as they drive up and deposit guests invited to the Lord Mayor's banquet, for which event the hall is brilliantly lit within. A cheer rises when the equipage of any popular personage arrives at the door.

FIRST CITIZEN

Well, well! Nelson is the man who ought to have been banqueted to-night. But he is coming to Town in a coach different from these.!

SECOND CITIZEN

Will they bring his poor splintered body home?

FIRST CITIZEN

Yes. They say he's to be tombed in marble, at St. Paul's or Westminster. We shall see him if he lays in state. It will make a patriotic spectacle for a fine day.

BOY

How can you see a dead man, father, after so long?

FIRST CITIZEN

They'll embalm him, my boy, as they did all the great Egyptian admirals.

BOY

His lady will be handy for that, won't she?

FIRST CITIZEN

Don't ye ask awkward questions.

SECOND CITIZEN

Here's another coming!

FIRST CITIZEN

That's my Lord Chancellor Eldon. Wot he'll say, and wot he'll look! Mr. Pitt will be here soon.

BOY

I don't like Billy. He killed Uncle John's parrot.

SECOND CITIZEN

How may ye make that out, youngster?

BOY

Mr. Pitt made the war, and the war made us want sailors; and Uncle John went for a walk down Wapping High Street to talk to the pretty ladies one evening; and there was a press all along the river that night—a regular hot one—and Uncle John was carried on board a man-of-war to fight under Nelson; and nobody minded Uncle John's parrot, and it talked itself to death. So Mr. Pitt killed Uncle John's parrot; see it, sir?

SECOND CITIZEN

You had better have a care of this boy, friend. His brain is too precious for the common risks of Cheapside. Not but what he might as well have said Boney killed the parrot when he was about it. And as for Nelson—who's now sailing shinier seas than ours, if they've rubbed Her off his slate where he's gone to,—the French papers say that our loss in him is greater than our gain in ships; so that logically the victory is theirs. Gad, sir, it's almost true!

[A hurrahing is heard from Cheapside, and the crowd in that direction begins to hustle and show excitement.]

FIRST CITIZEN

He's coming, he's coming! Here, let me lift you up, my boy.— Why, they have taken out the horses, as I am man alive!

SECOND CITIZEN

Pitt for ever!—Why, here's a blade opening and shutting his mouth like the rest, but never a sound does he raise!

THIRD CITIZEN

I've not too much breath to carry me through my day's work, so I can't afford to waste it in such luxuries as crying Hurrah to aristocrats. If ye was ten yards off y'd think I was shouting as loud as any.

SECOND CITIZEN

It's a very mean practice of ye to husband yourself at such a time, and gape in dumbshow like a frog in Plaistow Marshes.

THIRD CITIZEN

No, sir; it's economy; a very necessary instinct in these days of ghastly taxations to pay half the armies in Europe! In short, in the word of the Ancients, it is scarcely compass-mentas to do otherwise! Somebody must save something, or the country will be as bankrupt as Mr. Pitt himself is, by all account; though he don't look it just now.

[PITT's coach passes, drawn by a troop of running men and boy. The Prime Minister is seen within, a thin, erect, up-nosed figure, with a flush of excitement on his usually pale face. The vehicle reached the doorway to the Guildhall and halts with a jolt. PITT gets out shakily, and amid cheers enters the building.]

FOURTH CITIZEN

Quite a triumphal entry. Such is power; Now worshipped, now accursed! The overthrow Of all Pitt's European policy When his hired army and his chosen general Surrendered them at Ulm a month ago, Is now forgotten! Ay; this Trafalgar Will botch up many a ragged old repute, Make Nelson figure as domestic saint No less than country's saviour, Pitt exalt As zenith-star of England's firmament, And uncurse all the bogglers of her weal At this adventurous time.

THIRD CITIZEN

Talk of Pitt being ill. He looks hearty as a buck.

FIRST CITIZEN

It's the news—no more. His spirits are up like a rocket for the moment.

BOY

Is it because Trafalgar is near Portugal that he loves Port wine?

SECOND CITIZEN

Ah, as I said, friend; this boy must go home and be carefully put to bed!

FIRST CITIZEN

Well, whatever William's faults, it is a triumph for his virtues to-night!

[PITT having disappeared, the Guildhall doors are closed, and the crowd slowly disperses, till in the course of an hour the street shows itself empty and dark, only a few oil lamps burning.

The SCENE OPENS, revealing the interior of the Guildhall, and the brilliant assembly of City magnates, Lords, and Ministers seated there, Mr. PITT occupying a chair of honour by the Lord Mayor. His health has been proposed as that of the Saviour of England, and drunk with acclamations.]

PITT [standing up after repeated calls]

My lords and gentlemen:—You have toasted me As one who has saved England and her cause. I thank you, gentlemen, unfeignedly. But—no man has saved England, let me say: England has saved herself, by her exertions: She will, I trust, save Europe by her example!

[Loud applause, during which he sits down, rises, and sits down again. The scene then shuts, and the night without has place.]

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Those words of this man Pitt—his last large words, As I may prophesy—that ring to-night In their first mintage to the feasters here, Will spread with ageing, lodge, and crystallize, And stand embedded in the English tongue Till it grow thin, outworn, and cease to be.— So is't ordained by That Which all ordains; For words were never winged with apter grace. Or blent with happier choice of time and place, To hold the imagination of this strenuous race.



SCENE VI[10]

AN INN AT RENNES

[Night. A sleeping-chamber. Two candles are burning near a bed in an alcove, and writing-materials are on the table.

The French admiral, VILLENEUVE, partly undressed, is pacing up and down the room.]

VILLENEUVE

These hauntings have at last nigh proved to me That this thing must be done. Illustrious foe And teacher, Nelson: blest and over blest In thy outgoing at the noon of strife When glory clasped thee round; while wayward Death Refused my coaxings for the like-timed call! Yet I did press where thickest missiles fell, And both by precept and example showed Where lay the line of duty, patriotism, And honour, in that combat of despair.

[He see himself in the glass as he passes.]

Unfortunate Villeneuve!—whom fate has marked To suffer for too firm a faithfulness.— An Emperor's chide is a command to die.— By him accursed, forsaken by my friend, Awhile stern England's prisoner, then unloosed Like some poor dolt unworth captivity, Time serves me now for ceasing. Why not cease?... When, as Shades whisper in the chasmal night, "Better, far better, no percipience here."— O happy lack, that I should have no child To come into my hideous heritage, And groan beneath the burden of my name![11]

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

I'll speak. His mood is ripe for such a parle. [Sending a voice into VILLENEUVE'S ear.]

Thou dost divine the hour!

VILLENEUVE

But those stern Nays, That heretofore were audible to me At each unhappy time I strove to pass?

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Have been annulled. The Will grants exit freely; Yea, It says "Now." Therefore make now thy time.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

May his sad sunken soul merge into nought Meekly and gently as a breeze at eve!

VILLENEUVE

From skies above me and the air around Those callings which so long have circled me At last do whisper "Now." Now it shall be!

[He seals a letter, and addresses it to his wife; then takes a dagger from his accoutrements that are hanging alongside, and, lying down upon his back on the bed, stabs himself determinedly in many places, leaving the weapon in the last wound.]

Ungrateful master; generous foes; Farewell!

[VILLENEUVE dies; and the scene darkens.]



SCENE VII

KING GEORGE'S WATERING-PLACE, SOUTH WESSEX

[The interior of the "Old Rooms" Inn. Boatmen and burghers are sitting on settles round the fire, smoking and drinking.

FIRST BURGHER

So they've brought him home at last, hey? And he's to be solemnized with a roaring funeral?

FIRST BOATMAN

Yes, thank God.... 'Tis better to lie dry than wet, if canst do it without stinking on the road gravewards. And they took care that he shouldn't.

SECOND BOATMAN

'Tis to be at Paul's; so they say that know. And the crew of the "Victory" have to walk in front, and Captain Hardy is to carry his stars and garters on a great velvet pincushion.

FIRST BURGHER

Where's the Captain now?

SECOND BOATMAN [nodding in the direction of Captain Hardy's house]

Down at home here biding with his own folk a bit. I zid en walking with them on the Esplanade yesterday. He looks ten years older than he did when he went. Ay—he brought the galliant hero home!

SECOND BURGHER

Now how did they bring him home so that he could lie in state afterwards to the naked eye!

FIRST BOATMAN

Well, as they always do,—in a cask of sperrits.

SECOND BURGHER

Really, now!

FIRST BOATMAN [lowering his voice]

But what happened was this. They were a long time coming, owing to contrary winds, and the "Victory" being little more than a wreck. And grog ran short, because they'd used near all they had to peckle his body in. So—they broached the Adm'l!

SECOND BURGHER

How?

FIRST BOATMAN

Well; the plain calendar of it is, that when he came to be unhooped, it was found that the crew had drunk him dry. What was the men to do? Broke down by the battle, and hardly able to keep afloat, 'twas a most defendable thing, and it fairly saved their lives. So he was their salvation after death as he had been in the fight. If he could have knowed it, 'twould have pleased him down to the ground! How 'a would have laughed through the spigot-hole: "Draw on, my hearties! Better I shrivel that you famish." Ha-ha!

SECOND BURGHER

It may be defendable afloat; but it seems queer ashore.

FIRST BOATMAN

Well, that's as I had it from one that knows—Bob Loveday of Overcombe—one of the "Victory" men that's going to walk in the funeral. However, let's touch a livelier string. Peter Green, strike up that new ballet that they've lately had prented here, and were hawking about town last market-day.



SONG

THE NIGHT OF TRAFALGAR

I

In the wild October night-time, when the wind raved round the land, And the Back-sea[12] met the Front-sea, and our doors were blocked with sand, And we heard the drub of Dead-man's Bay, where bones of thousands are, We knew not what the day had done for us at Trafalgar. [All] Had done, Had done, For us at Trafalgar!

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