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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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CHORUS

Marmont's aide, then, like a swallow Let us follow, follow, follow, Over hill and over hollow, Past the plains of Teute and Pole!

[There is semblance of a sound in the darkness as of a rushing through the air.]



SCENE IV

THE FIELD OF BORODINO

[Borodino, seventy miles west of Moscow, is revealed in a bird's- eye view from a point above the position of the French Grand Army, advancing on the Russian capital.

We are looking east, towards Moscow and the army of Russia, which bars the way thither. The sun of latter summer, sinking behind our backs, floods the whole prospect, which is mostly wild, uncultivated land with patches of birch-trees. NAPOLEON'S army has just arrived on the scene, and is making its bivouac for the night, some of the later regiments not having yet come up. A dropping fire of musketry from skirmishers ahead keeps snapping through the air. The Emperor's tent stands in a ravine in the foreground amid the squares of the Old Guard. Aides and other officers are chatting outside.

Enter NAPOLEON, who dismounts, speaks to some of his suite, and disappears inside his tent. An interval follows, during which the sun dips.

Enter COLONEL FABVRIER, aide-de-camp of MARMONT, just arrived from Spain. An officer-in-waiting goes into NAPOLEON'S tent to announce FABVRIER, the Colonel meanwhile talking to those outside.]

AN AIDE

Important tidings thence, I make no doubt?

FABVRIER

Marmont repulsed on Salamanca field, And well-nigh slain, is the best tale I bring!

[A silence. A coughing heard in NAPOLEON'S tent.]

Whose rheumy throat distracts the quiet so?

AIDE

The Emperor's. He is thus the livelong day.

[COLONEL FABVRIER is shown into the tent. An interval. Then the husky accents of NAPOLEON within, growing louder and louder.]

VOICE OF NAPOLEON

If Marmont—so I gather from these lines— Had let the English and the Spanish be, They would have bent from Salamanca back, Offering no battle, to our profiting! We should have been delivered this disaster, Whose bruit will harm us more than aught besides That has befallen in Spain!

VOICE OF FABVRIER

I fear so, sire.

VOICE OF NAPOLEON

He forced a conflict, to cull laurel crowns Before King Joseph should arrive to share them!

VOICE OF FABVRIER

The army's ardour for your Majesty, Its courage, its devotion to your cause, Cover a myriad of the Marshal's sins.

VOICE OF NAPOLEON

Why gave he battle without biddance, pray, From the supreme commander? Here's the crime Of insubordination, root of woes!... The time well chosen, and the battle won, The English succours there had sidled off, And their annoy in the Peninsula Embarrassed us no more. Behoves it me, Some day, to face this Wellington myself! Marmont too plainly is no match for him.... Thus he goes on: "To have preserved command I would with joy have changed this early wound For foulest mortal stroke at fall of day. One baleful moment damnified the fruit Of six weeks' wise strategics, whose result Had loomed so certain!"—[Satirically] Well, we've but his word As to their wisdom! To define them thus Would not have struck me but for his good prompting!... No matter: On Moskowa's banks to-morrow I'll mend his faults upon the Arapeile. I'll see how I can treat this Russian horde Which English gold has brought together here From the four corners of the universe.... Adieu. You'd best go now and take some rest.

[FABVRIER reappears from the tent and goes. Enter DE BAUSSET.]

DE BAUSSET

The box that came—has it been taken in?

AN OFFICER

Yes, General 'Tis laid behind a screen In the outer tent. As yet his Majesty Has not been told of it.

[DE BAUSSET goes into the tent. After an interval of murmured talk an exclamation bursts from the EMPEROR. In a few minutes he appears at the tent door, a valet following him bearing a picture. The EMPEROR'S face shows traces of emotion.]

NAPOLEON

Bring out a chair for me to poise it on.

[Re-enter DE BAUSSET from the tent with a chair.]

They all shall see it. Yes, my soldier-sons Must gaze upon this son of mine own house In art's presentment! It will cheer their hearts. That's a good light—just so.

[He is assisted by DE BAUSSET to set up the picture in the chair. It is a portrait of the young King of Rome playing at cup-and-ball being represented as the globe. The officers standing near are attracted round, and then the officers and soldiers further back begin running up, till there is a great crowd.]

Let them walk past, So that they see him all. The Old Guard first.

[The Old Guard is summoned, and marches past surveying the picture; then other regiments.]

SOLDIERS

The Emperor and the King of Rome for ever!

[When they have marched past and withdrawn, and DE BAUSSET has taken away the picture, NAPOLEON prepares to re-enter his tent. But his attention is attracted to the Russians. He regards them through his glass. Enter BESSIERES and RAPP.]

NAPOLEON

What slow, weird ambulation do I mark, Rippling the Russian host?

BESSIERES

A progress, sire, Of all their clergy, vestmented, who bear An image, said to work strange miracles.

[NAPOLEON watches. The Russian ecclesiastics pass through the regiments, which are under arms, bearing the icon and other religious insignia. The Russian soldiers kneel before it.]

NAPOLEON

Ay! Not content to stand on their own strength, They try to hire the enginry of Heaven. I am no theologian, but I laugh That men can be so grossly logicless, When war, defensive or aggressive either, Is in its essence pagan, and opposed To the whole gist of Christianity!

BESSIERES

'Tis to fanaticize their courage, sire.

NAPOLEON

Better they'd wake up old Kutuzof.—Rapp, What think you of to-morrow?

RAPP

Victory; But, sire, a bloody one!

NAPOLEON

So I foresee.

[The scene darkens, and the fires of the bivouacs shine up ruddily, those of the French near at hand, those of the Russians in a long line across the mid-distance, and throwing a flapping glare into the heavens. As the night grows stiller the ballad-singing and laughter from the French mixes with a slow singing of psalms from their adversaries.

The two multitudes lie down to sleep, and all is quiet but for the sputtering of the green wood fires, which, now that the human tongues are still, seem to hold a conversation of their own.]



SCENE V

THE SAME

[The prospect lightens with dawn, and the sun rises red. The spacious field of battle is now distinct, its ruggedness being bisected by the great road from Smolensk to Moscow, which runs centrally from beneath the spectator to the furthest horizon. The field is also crossed by the stream Kalotcha, flowing from the right-centre foreground to the left-centre background, thus forming an "X" with the road aforesaid, intersecting it in mid- distance at the village of Borodino.

Behind this village the Russians have taken their stand in close masses. So stand also the French, who have in their centre the Shevardino redoubt beyond the Kalotcha. Here NAPOLEON, in his usual glue-grey uniform, white waistcoat, and white leather breeches, chooses his position with BERTHIER and other officers of his suite.]

DUMB SHOW

It is six o'clock, and the firing of a single cannon on the French side proclaims that the battle is beginning. There is a roll of drums, and the right-centre masses, glittering in the level shine, advance under NEY and DAVOUT and throw themselves on the Russians, here defended by redoubts.

The French enter the redoubts, whereupon a slim, small man, GENERAL BAGRATION, brings across a division from the Russian right and expels them resolutely.

Semenovskoye is a commanding height opposite the right of the French, and held by the Russians. Cannon and columns, infantry and cavalry, assault it by tens of thousands, but cannot take it.

Aides gallop through the screeching shot and haze of smoke and dust between NAPOLEON and his various marshals. The Emperor walks about, looks through his glass, goes to a camp-stool, on which he sits down, and drinks glasses of spirits and hot water to relieve his still violent cold, as may be discovered from his red eyes, raw nose, rheumatic manner when he moves, and thick voice in giving orders.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

So he fulfils the inhuman antickings He thinks imposed upon him.... What says he?

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

He says it is the sun of Austerlitz!

The Russians, so far from being driven out of their redoubts, issue from them towards the French. But they have to retreat, BAGRATION and his Chief of Staff being wounded. NAPOLEON sips his grog hopefully, and orders a still stronger attack on the great redoubt in the centre.

It is carried out. The redoubt becomes the scene of a huge massacre. In other parts of the field also the action almost ceases to be a battle, and takes the form of wholesale butchery by the thousand, now advantaging one side, now the other.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Thus do the mindless minions of the spell In mechanized enchantment sway and show A Will that wills above the will of each, Yet but the will of all conjunctively; A fabric of excitement, web of rage, That permeates as one stuff the weltering whole.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

The ugly horror grossly regnant here Wakes even the drowsed half-drunken Dictator To all its vain uncouthness!

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

Murat cries That on this much-anticipated day Napoleon's genius flags inoperative.

The firing from the top of the redoubt has ceased. The French have got inside. The Russians retreat upon their rear, and fortify themselves on the heights there. PONIATOWSKI furiously attacks them. But the French are worn out, and fall back to their station before the battle. So the combat dies resultlessly away. The sun sets, and the opposed and exhausted hosts sink to lethargic repose. NAPOLEON enters his tent in the midst of his lieutenants, and night descends.

SHADE OF THE EARTH

The fumes of nitre and the reek of gore Make my airs foul and fulsome unto me!

SPIRIT IRONIC

The natural nausea of a nurse, dear Dame.

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

Strange: even within that tent no notes of joy Throb as at Austerlitz! [signifying Napoleon's tent].

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

But mark that roar— A mash of men's crazed cries entreating mates To run them through and end their agony; Boys calling on their mothers, veterans Blaspheming God and man. Those shady shapes Are horses, maimed in myriads, tearing round In maddening pangs, the harnessings they wear Clanking discordant jingles as they tear!

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

It is enough. Let now the scene be closed.

The night thickens.



SCENE VI

MOSCOW

[The foreground is an open place amid the ancient irregular streets of the city, which disclose a jumble of architectural styles, the Asiatic prevailing over the European. A huge triangular white- walled fortress rises above the churches and coloured domes on a hill in the background, the central feature of which is a lofty tower with a gilded cupola, the Ivan Tower. Beneath the battlements of this fortress the Moskva River flows.

An unwonted rumbling of wheels proceeds from the cobble-stoned streets, accompanied by an incessant cracking of whips.]

DUMB SHOW

Travelling carriages, teams, and waggons, laden with pictures, carpets, glass, silver, china, and fashionable attire, are rolling out of the city, followed by foot-passengers in streams, who carry their most precious possessions on their shoulders. Others bear their sick relatives, caring nothing for their goods, and mothers go laden with their infants. Others drive their cows, sheep, and goats, causing much obstruction. Some of the populace, however, appear apathetic and bewildered, and stand in groups asking questions.

A thin man with piercing eyes gallops about and gives stern orders.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Whose is the form seen ramping restlessly, Geared as a general, keen-eyed as a kite, Mid this mad current of close-filed confusion; High-ordering, smartening progress in the slow, And goading those by their own thoughts o'er-goaded; Whose emissaries knock at every door In rhythmal rote, and groan the great events The hour is pregnant with?

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Rostopchin he, The city governor, whose name will ring Far down the forward years uncannily!

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

His arts are strange, and strangely do they move him:— To store the stews with stuffs inflammable, To bid that pumps be wrecked, captives enlarged And primed with brands for burning, are the intents His warnings to the citizens outshade!

When the bulk of the populace has passed out eastwardly the Russian army retreating from Borodino also passes through the city into the country beyond without a halt. They mostly move in solemn silence, though many soldiers rush from their ranks and load themselves with spoil.

When they are got together again and have marched out, there goes by on his horse a strange scarred old man with a foxy look, a swollen neck and head and a hunched figure. He is KUTUZOF, surrounded by his lieutenants. Away in the distance by other streets and bridges with other divisions pass in like manner GENERALS BENNIGSEN, BARCLAY DE TOLLY, DOKHTOROF, the mortally wounded BAGRATION in a carriage, and other generals, all in melancholy procession one way, like autumnal birds of passage. Then the rear-guard passes under MILORADOVITCH.

Next comes a procession of another kind.

A long string of carts with wounded men is seen, which trails out of the city behind the army. Their clothing is soiled with dried blood, and the bandages that enwrap them are caked with it.

The greater part of this migrant multitude takes the high road to Vladimir.



SCENE VII

THE SAME. OUTSIDE THE CITY

[A hill forms the foreground, called the Hill of Salutation, near the Smolensk road.

Herefrom the city appears as a splendid panorama, with its river, its gardens, and its curiously grotesque architecture of domes and spires. It is the peacock of cities to Western eyes, its roofs twinkling in the rays of the September sun, amid which the ancient citadel of the Tsars—the Kremlin—forms a centre-piece.

There enter on the hill at a gallop NAPOLEON, MURAT, EUGENE, NEY, DARU, and the rest of the Imperial staff. The French advance- guard is drawn up in order of battle at the foot of the hill, and the long columns of the Grand Army stretch far in the rear. The Emperor and his marshals halt, and gaze at Moscow.]

NAPOLEON

Ha! There she is at last. And it was time.

[He looks round upon his army, its numbers attenuated to one-fourth of those who crossed the Niemen so joyfully.]

Yes: it was time.... NOW what says Alexander!

DARU

This is a foil to Salamanca, sire!

DAVOUT

What scores of bulbous church-tops gild the sky! Souls must be rotten in this region, sire, To need so much repairing!

NAPOLEON

Ay—no doubt.... Prithee march briskly on, to check disorder, [to Murat]. Hold word with the authorities forthwith, [to Durasnel]. Tell them that they may swiftly swage their fears, Safe in the mercy I by rule extend To vanquished ones. I wait the city keys, And will receive the Governor's submission With courtesy due. Eugene will guard the gate To Petersburg there leftward. You, Davout, The gate to Smolensk in the centre here Which we shall enter by.

VOICES OF ADVANCE-GUARD

Moscow! Moscow! This, this is Moscow city. Rest at last!

[The words are caught up in the rear by veterans who have entered every capital in Europe except London, and are echoed from rank to rank. There is a far-extended clapping of hands, like the babble of waves, and companies of foot run in disorder towards high ground to behold the spectacle, waving their shakos on their bayonets.

The army now marches on, and NAPOLEON and his suite disappear citywards from the Hill of Salutation.

The day wanes ere the host has passed and dusk begins to prevail, when tidings reach the rear-guard that cause dismay. They have been sent back lip by lip from the front.]

SPIRIT IRONIC

An anticlimax to Napoleon's dream!

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

They say no governor attends with keys To offer his submission gracefully. The streets are solitudes, the houses sealed, And stagnant silence reigns, save where intrudes The rumbling of their own artillery wheels, And their own soldiers' measured tramp along. "Moscow deserted? What a monstrous thing!"— He shrugs his shoulders soon, contemptuously; "This, then is how Muscovy fights!" cries he.

Meanwhile Murat has reached the Kremlin gates, And finds them closed against him. Battered these, The fort reverberates vacant as the streets But for some grinning wretches gaoled there. Enchantment seems to sway from quay to keep, And lock commotion in a century's sleep.

[NAPOLEON, reappearing in front of the city, follows MURAT, and is again lost to view. He has entered the Kremlin. An interval. Something becomes visible on the summit of the Ivan Tower.]

CHORUS OF RUMOURS [aerial music]

Mark you thereon a small lone figure gazing Upon his hard-gained goal? It is He! The startled crows, their broad black pinions raising, Forsake their haunts, and wheel disquietedly.

[The scene slowly darkens. Midnight hangs over the city. In blackness to the north of where the Kremlin stands appears what at first seems a lurid, malignant star. It waxes larger. Almost simultaneously a north-east wind rises, and the light glows and sinks with the gusts, proclaiming a fire, which soon grows large enough to irradiate the fronts of adjacent buildings, and to show that it is creeping on towards the Kremlin itself, the walls of that fortress which face the flames emerging from their previous shade.

The fire can be seen breaking out also in numerous other quarters. All the conflagrations increase, and become, as those at first detached group themselves together, one huge furnace, whence streamers of flame reach up to the sky, brighten the landscape far around, and show the houses as if it were day. The blaze gains the Kremlin, and licks its walls, but does not kindle it. Explosions and hissings are constantly audible, amid which can be fancied cries and yells of people caught in the combustion. Large pieces of canvas aflare sail away on the gale like balloons. Cocks crow, thinking it sunrise, ere they are burnt to death.]



SCENE VIII

THE SAME. THE INTERIOR OF THE KREMLIN

[A chamber containing a bed on which NAPOLEON has been lying. It is not yet daybreak, and the flapping light of the conflagration without shines in at the narrow windows.

NAPOLEON is discovered dressed, but in disorder and unshaven. He is walking up and down the room in agitation. There are present CAULAINCOURT, BESSIERES, and many of the marshals of his guard, who stand in silent perplexity.]

NAPOLEON [sitting down on the bed]

No: I'll not go! It is themselves who have done it. My God, they are Scythians and barbarians still!

[Enter MORTIER [just made Governor].]

MORTIER

Sire, there's no means of fencing with the flames. My creed is that these scurvy Muscovites Knowing our men's repute for recklessness, Have fired the town, as if 'twere we had done it, As by our own crazed act!

[GENERAL LARIBOISIERE, and aged man, enters and approaches NAPOLEON.]

LARIBOISIERE

The wind swells higher! Will you permit one so high-summed in years, One so devoted, sire, to speak his mind? It is that your long lingering here entails Much risk for you, your army, and ourselves, In the embarrassment it throws on us While taking steps to seek security, By hindering venturous means.

[Enter MURAT, PRINCE EUGENE, and the PRINCE OF NEUFCHATEL.]

MURAT

There is no choice But leaving, sire. Enormous bulks of powder Lie housed beneath us; and outside these panes A park of our artillery stands unscreened.

NAPOLEON [saturninely]

What have I won I disincline to cede!

VOICE OF A GUARD [without]

The Kremlin is aflame!

[The look at each other. Two officers of NAPOLEON'S guard and an interpreter enter, with one of the Russian military police as a prisoner.]

FIRST OFFICER

We have caught this man Firing the Kremlin: yea, in the very act! It is extinguished temporarily, We know not for how long.

NAPOLEON

Inquire of him What devil set him on. [They inquire.]

SECOND OFFICER

The governor, He says; the Count Rostopchin, sire.

NAPOLEON

So! Even the ancient Kremlin is not sanct From their infernal scheme! Go, take him out; Make him a quick example to the rest.

[Exeunt guard with their prisoner to the court below, whence a musket-volley resounds in a few minutes. Meanwhile the flames pop and spit more loudly, and the window-panes of the room they stand in crack and fall in fragments.]

Incendiarism afoot, and we unware Of what foul tricks may follow, I will go. Outwitted here, we'll march on Petersburg, The Devil if we won't!

[The marshals murmur and shake their heads.]

BESSIERES

Your pardon, sire, But we are all convinced that weather, time, Provisions, roads, equipment, mettle, mood, Serve not for such a perilous enterprise.

[NAPOLEON remains in gloomy silence. Enter BERTHIER.]

NAPOLEON [apathetically]

Well, Berthier. More misfortunes?

BERTHIER

News is brought, Sire, of the Russian army's whereabouts. That fox Kutuzof, after marching east As if he were conducting his whole force To Vladimir, when at the Riazan Road Down-doubled sharply south, and in a curve Has wheeled round Moscow, making for Kalouga, To strike into our base, and cut us off.

MURAT

Another reason against Petersburg! Come what come may, we must defeat that army, To keep a sure retreat through Smolensk on To Lithuania.

NAPOLEON [jumping up]

I must act! We'll leave, Or we shall let this Moscow be our tomb. May Heaven curse the author of this war— Ay, him, that Russian minister, self-sold To England, who fomented it.—'Twas he Dragged Alexander into it, and me!

[The marshals are silent with looks of incredulity, and Caulaincourt shrugs his shoulders.]

Now no more words; but hear. Eugene and Ney With their divisions fall straight back upon The Petersburg and Zwenigarod Roads; Those of Davout upon the Smolensk route. I will retire meanwhile to Petrowskoi. Come, let us go.

[NAPOLEON and the marshals move to the door. In leaving, the Emperor pauses and looks back.]

I fear that this event Marks the beginning of a train of ills.... Moscow was meant to be my rest, My refuge, and—it vanishes away!

[Exeunt NAPOLEON, marshals, etc. The smoke grows denser and obscures the scene.]



SCENE IX

THE ROAD FROM SMOLENSKO INTO LITHUANIA

[The season is far advanced towards winter. The point of observation is high amongst the clouds, which, opening and shutting fitfully to the wind, reveal the earth as a confused expanse merely.]

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Where are we? And why are we where we are?

SHADE OF THE EARTH

Above a wild waste garden-plot of mine Nigh bare in this late age, and now grown chill, Lithuania called by some. I gather not Why we haunt here, where I can work no charm Either upon the ground or over it.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

The wherefore will unfold. The rolling brume That parts, and joins, and parts again below us In ragged restlessness, unscreens by fits The quality of the scene.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

I notice now Primeval woods, pine, birch—the skinny growths That can sustain life well where earth affords But sustenance elsewhere yclept starvation.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

And what see you on the far land-verge there, Labouring from eastward towards our longitude?

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

An object like a dun-piled caterpillar, Shuffling its length in painful heaves along, Hitherward.... Yea, what is this Thing we see Which, moving as a single monster might, Is yet not one but many?

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Even the Army Which once was called the Grand; now in retreat From Moscow's muteness, urged by That within it; Together with its train of followers— Men, matrons, babes, in brabbling multitudes.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

And why such flight?

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Recording Angels, say.

RECORDING ANGEL I [in minor plain-song]

The host has turned from Moscow where it lay, And Israel-like, moved by some master-sway, Is made to wander on and waste away!

ANGEL II

By track of Tarutino first it flits; Thence swerving, strikes at old Jaroslawitz; The which, accurst by slaughtering swords, it quits.

ANGEL I

Harassed, it treads the trail by which it came, To Borodino, field of bloodshot fame, Whence stare unburied horrors beyond name!

ANGEL II

And so and thus it nears Smolensko's walls, And, stayed its hunger, starts anew its crawls, Till floats down one white morsel, which appals.

[What has floated down from the sky upon the Army is a flake of snow. Then come another and another, till natural features, hitherto varied with the tints of autumn, are confounded, and all is phantasmal grey and white.

The caterpillar shape still creeps laboriously nearer, but instead, increasing in size by the rules of perspective, it gets more attenuated, and there are left upon the ground behind it minute parts of itself, which are speedily flaked over, and remain as white pimples by the wayside.]

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

These atoms that drop off are snuffed-out souls Who are enghosted by the caressing snow.

[Pines rise mournfully on each side of the nearing object; ravens in flocks advance with it overhead, waiting to pick out the eyes of strays who fall. The snowstorm increases, descending in tufts which can hardly be shaken off. The sky seems to join itself to the land. The marching figures drop rapidly, and almost immediately become white grave-mounds.

Endowed with enlarged powers of audition as of vision, we are struck by the mournful taciturnity that prevails. Nature is mute. Save for the incessant flogging of the wind-broken and lacerated horses there are no sounds.

With growing nearness more is revealed. In the glades of the forest, parallel to the French columns, columns of Russians are seen to be moving. And when the French presently reach Krasnoye they are surrounded by packs of cloaked Cossacks, bearing lances like huge needles a dozen feet long. The fore-part of the French army gets through the town; the rear is assaulted by infantry and artillery.]

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

The strange, one-eyed, white-shakoed, scarred old man, Ruthlessly heading every onset made, I seem to recognize.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Kutuzof he: The ceaselessly-attacked one, Michael Ney; A pair as stout as thou, Earth, ever hast twinned! Kutuzof, ten years younger, would extirp The invaders, and our drama finish here, With Bonaparte a captive or a corpse. But he is old; death even has beckoned him; And thus the so near-seeming happens not.

[NAPOLEON himself can be discerned amid the rest, marching on foot through the snowflakes, in a fur coat and with a stout staff in his hand. Further back NEY is visible with the remains of the rear.

There is something behind the regular columns like an articulated tail, and as they draw on, it shows itself to be a disorderly rabble of followers of both sexes. So the whole miscellany arrives at the foreground, where it is checked by a large river across the track. The soldiers themselves, like the rabble, are in motley raiment, some wearing rugs for warmth, some quilts and curtains, some even petticoats and other women's clothing. Many are delirious from hunger and cold.

But they set about doing what is a necessity for the least hope of salvation, and throw a bridge across the stream.

The point of vision descends to earth, close to the scene of action.]



SCENE X

THE BRIDGE OF THE BERESINA

[The bridge is over the Beresina at Studzianka. On each side of the river are swampy meadows, now hard with frost, while further back are dense forests. Ice floats down the deep black stream in large cakes.]

DUMB SHOW

The French sappers are working up to their shoulders in the water at the building of the bridge. Those so immersed work till, stiffened with ice to immobility, they die from the chill, when others succeed them.

Cavalry meanwhile attempt to swim their horses across, and some infantry try to wade through the stream.

Another bridge is begun hard by, the construction of which advances with greater speed; and it becomes fit for the passage of carriages and artillery.

NAPOLEON is seen to come across to the homeward bank, which is the foreground of the scene. A good portion of the army also, under DAVOUT, NEY, and OUDINOT, lands by degrees on this side. But VICTOR'S corps is yet on the left or Moscow side of the stream, moving toward the bridge, and PARTONNEAUX with the rear-guard, who has not yet crossed, is at Borissow, some way below, where there is an old permanent bridge partly broken.

Enter with speed from the distance the Russians under TCHAPLITZ. More under TCHICHAGOFF enter the scene down the river on the left or further bank, and cross by the old bridge of Borissow. But they are too far from the new crossing to intercept the French as yet.

PLATOFF with his Cossacks next appears on the stage which is to be such a tragic one. He comes from the forest and approaches the left bank likewise. So also does WITTGENSTEIN, who strikes in between the uncrossed VICTOR and PARTONNEAUX. PLATOFF thereupon descends on the latter, who surrenders with the rear-guard; and thus seven thousand more are cut off from the already emaciated Grand Army.

TCHAPLITZ, of TCHICHAGOFF'S division, has meanwhile got round by the old bridge at Borissow to the French side of the new one, and attacks OUDINOT; but he is repulsed with the strength of despair. The French lose a further five thousand in this.

We now look across the river at VICTOR, and his division, not yet over, and still defending the new bridges. WITTGENSTEIN descends upon him; but he holds his ground.

The determined Russians set up a battery of twelve cannon, so as to command the two new bridges, with the confused crowd of soldiers, carriages, and baggage, pressing to cross. The battery discharges into the surging multitude. More Russians come up, and, forming a semicircle round the bridges and the mass of French, fire yet more hotly on them with round shot and canister. As it gets dark the flashes light up the strained faces of the fugitives. Under the discharge and the weight of traffic, the bridge for the artillery gives way, and the throngs upon it roll shrieking into the stream and are drowned.

SEMICHORUS I OF THE PITIES [aerial music]

So loudly swell their shrieks as to be heard above the roar of guns and the wailful wind, Giving in one brief cry their last wild word on that mock life through which they have harlequined!

SEMICHORUS II

To the other bridge the living heap betakes itself, the weak pushed over by the strong; They loop together by their clutch like snakes; in knots they are submerged and borne along.

CHORUS

Then women are seen in the waterflow—limply bearing their infants between wizened white arms stretching above; Yea, motherhood, sheerly sublime in her last despairing, and lighting her darkest declension with limitless love.

Meanwhile, TCHICHAGOFF has come up with his twenty-seven thousand men, and falls on OUDINOT, NEY, and the "Sacred Squadron." Altogether we see forty or fifty thousand assailing eighteen thousand half-naked, badly armed wretches, emaciated with hunger and encumbered with several thousands of sick, wounded, and stragglers.

VICTOR and his rear-guard, who have protected the bridges all day, come over themselves at last. No sooner have they done so than the final bridge is set on fire. Those who are upon it burn or drown; those who are on the further side have lost their last chance, and perish either in attempting to wade the stream or at the hands of the Russians.

SEMICHORUS OF THE PITIES [aerial music]

What will be seen in the morning light? What will be learnt when the spring breaks bright, And the frost unlocks to the sun's soft sight?

SEMICHORUS II

Death in a thousand motley forms; Charred corpses hooking each other's arms In the sleep that defies all war's alarms!

CHORUS

Pale cysts of souls in every stage, Still bent to embraces of love or rage,— Souls passed to where History pens no page.

The flames of the burning bridge go out as it consumes to the water's edge, and darkness mantles all, nothing continuing but the purl of the river and the clickings of floating ice.



SCENE XI

THE OPEN COUNTRY BETWEEN SMORGONI AND WILNA

[The winter is more merciless, and snow continues to fall upon a deserted expanse of unenclosed land in Lithuania. Some scattered birch bushes merge in a forest in the background.

It is growing dark, though nothing distinguishes where the sun sets. There is no sound except that of a shuffling of feet in the direction of a bivouac. Here are gathered tattered men like skeletons. Their noses and ears are frost-bitten, and pus is oozing from their eyes.

These stricken shades in a limbo of gloom are among the last survivors of the French army. Few of them carry arms. One squad, ploughing through snow above their knees, and with icicles dangling from their hair that clink like glass-lustres as they walk, go into the birch wood, and are heard chopping. They bring back boughs, with which they make a screen on the windward side, and contrive to light a fire. With their swords they cut rashers from a dead horse, and grill them in the flames, using gunpowder for salt to eat them with. Two others return from a search, with a dead rat and some candle-ends. Their meal shared, some try to repair their gaping shoes and to tie up their feet, that are chilblained to the bone.

A straggler enters, who whispers to one or two soldiers of the group. A shudder runs through them at his words.]

FIRST SOLDIER [dazed]

What—gone, do you say? Gone?

STRAGGLER

Yes, I say gone! He left us at Smorgoni hours ago. The Sacred Squadron even he has left behind. By this time he's at Warsaw or beyond, Full pace for Paris.

SECOND SOLDIER [jumping up wildly]

Gone? How did he go? No, surely! He could not desert us so!

STRAGGLER

He started in a carriage, with Roustan The Mameluke on the box: Caulaincourt, too, Was inside with him. Monton and Duroc Rode on a sledge behind.—The order bade That we should not be told it for a while.

[Other soldiers spring up as they realize the news, and stamp hither and thither, impotent with rage, grief, and despair, many in their physical weakness sobbing like children.]

SPIRIT SINISTER

Good. It is the selfish and unconscionable characters who are so much regretted.

STRAGGLER

He felt, or feigned, he ought to leave no longer A land like Prussia 'twixt himself and home. There was great need for him to go, he said, To quiet France, and raise another army That shall replace our bones.

SEVERAL [distractedly]

Deserted us! Deserted us!—O, after all our pangs We shall see France no more!

[Some become insane, and go dancing round. One of them sings.]

MAD SOLDIER'S SONG

I Ha, for the snow and hoar! Ho, for our fortune's made! We can shape our bed without sheets to spread, And our graves without a spade. So foolish Life adieu, And ingrate Leader too. —Ah, but we loved you true! Yet—he-he-he! and ho-ho-ho-!— We'll never return to you.

II

What can we wish for more? Thanks to the frost and flood We are grinning crones—thin bags of bones Who once were flesh and blood. So foolish Life adieu, And ingrate Leader too. —Ah, but we loved you true! Yet—he-he-he! and ho-ho-ho!— We'll never return to you.

[Exhausted, they again crouch round the fire. Officers and privates press together for warmth. Other stragglers arrive, and sit at the backs of the first. With the progress of the night the stars come out in unusual brilliancy, Sirius and those in Orion flashing like stilettos; and the frost stiffens.

The fire sinks and goes out; but the Frenchmen do not move. The day dawns, and still they sit on.

In the background enter some light horse of the Russian army, followed by KUTUZOF himself and a few of his staff. He presents a terrible appearance now—bravely serving though slowly dying, his face puffed with the intense cold, his one eye staring out as he sits in a heap in the saddle, his head sunk into his shoulders. The whole detachment pauses at the sight of the French asleep. They shout; but the bivouackers give no sign.

KUTUZOF

Go, stir them up! We slay not sleeping men.

[The Russians advance and prod the French with their lances.]

RUSSIAN OFFICER

Prince, here's a curious picture. They are dead.

KUTUZOF [with indifference]

Oh, naturally. After the snow was down I marked a sharpening of the air last night. We shall be stumbling on such frost-baked meat Most of the way to Wilna.

OFFICER [examining the bodies]

They all sit As they were living still, but stiff as horns; And even the colour has not left their cheeks, Whereon the tears remain in strings of ice.— It was a marvel they were not consumed: Their clothes are cindered by the fire in front, While at their back the frost has caked them hard.

KUTUZOF

'Tis well. So perish Russia's enemies!

[Exeunt KUTUZOF, his staff, and the detachment of horse in the direction of Wilna; and with the advance of day the snow resumes its fall, slowly burying the dead bivouackers.]



SCENE XII

PARIS. THE TUILERIES

[An antechamber to the EMPRESS MARIE LOUISE'S bedroom, at half-past eleven on a December night. The DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO and another lady-in-waiting are discovered talking to the Empress.]

MARIE LOUISE

I have felt unapt for anything to-night, And I will now retire.

[She goes into her child's room adjoining.]

DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO

For some long while There has come no letter from the Emperor, And Paris brims with ghastly rumourings About the far campaign. Not being beloved, The town is over dull for her alone.

[Re-enter MARIE LOUISE.]

MARIE LOUISE

The King of Rome is sleeping in his cot Sweetly and safe. Now, ladies, I am going.

[She withdraws. Her tiring-women pass through into her chamber. They presently return and go out. A manservant enters, and bars the window-shutters with numerous bolts. Exit manservant. The Duchess retires. The other lady-in-waiting rises to go into her bedroom, which adjoins that of the Empress.

Men's voices are suddenly heard in the corridor without. The lady- in-waiting pauses with parted lips. The voices grow louder. The lady-in-waiting screams.

MARIE LOUISE hastily re-enters in a dressing-gown thrown over her night-clothes.]

MARIE LOUISE

Great God, what altercation can that be? I had just verged on sleep when it aroused me!

[A thumping is heard at the door.]

VOICE OF NAPOLEON [without]

Hola! Pray let me in! Unlock the door!

LADY-IN-WAITING

Heaven's mercy on us! What man may it be At such and hour as this?

MARIE LOUISE

O it is he!

[The lady-in-waiting unlocks the door. NAPOLEON enters, scarcely recognizable, in a fur cloak and hood over his ears. He throws off the cloak and discloses himself to be in the shabbiest and muddiest attire. Marie Louise is agitated almost to fainting.]

SPIRIT IRONIC

Is it with fright or joy?

MARIE LOUISE

I scarce believe What my sight tells me! Home, and in such garb!

[NAPOLEON embraces her.]

NAPOLEON

I have had great work in getting in, my dear! They failed to recognize me at the gates, Being sceptical at my poor hackney-coach And poorer baggage. I had to show my face In a fierce light ere they would let me pass, And even then they doubted till I spoke.— What think you, dear, of such a tramp-like spouse? [He warms his hands at the fire.] Ha—it is much more comfortable here Than on the Russian plains!

MARIE LOUISE [timidly]

You have suffered there?— Your face is thinner, and has line in it; No marvel that they did not know you!

NAPOLEON

Yes: Disasters many and swift have swooped on me!— Since crossing—ugh!—the Beresina River I have been compelled to come incognito; Ay—as a fugitive and outlaw quite.

MARIE LOUISE

We'll thank Heaven, anyhow, that you are safe. I had gone to bed, and everybody almost! what, now, do require? Some food of course?

[The child in the adjoining chamber begins to cry, awakened by the loud tones of NAPOLEON.]

NAPOLEON

Ah—that's his little voice! I'll in and see him.

MARIE LOUISE

I'll come with you.

[NAPOLEON and the EMPRESS pass into the other room. The lady-in- waiting calls up yawning servants and gives orders. The servants go to execute them. Re-enter NAPOLEON and MARIE LOUISE. The lady- in-waiting goes out.]

NAPOLEON

I have said it, dear! All the disasters summed in the bulletin Shall be repaired.

MARIE LOUISE

And are they terrible?

NAPOLEON

Have you not read the last-sent bulletin, Dear friend?

MARIE LOUISE

No recent bulletin has come.

NAPOLEON

Ah—I must have outstripped it on the way!

MARIE LOUISE

And where is the Grand Army?

NAPOLEON

Oh—that's gone.

MARIE LOUISE

Gone? But—gone where?

NAPOLEON

Gone all to nothing, dear.

MARIE LOUISE [incredulously]

But some six hundred thousand I saw pass Through Dresden Russia-wards?

NAPOLEON [flinging himself into a chair]

Well, those men lie— Or most of them—in layers of bleaching bones 'Twixt here and Moscow.... I have been subdued; But by the elements; and them alone. Not Russia, but God's sky has conquered me! [With an appalled look she sits beside him.] From the sublime to the ridiculous There's but a step!—I have been saying it All through the leagues of my long journey home— And that step has been passed in this affair!... Yes, briefly, it is quite ridiculous, Whichever way you look at it.—Ha, ha!

MARIE LOUISE [simply]

But those six hundred thousand throbbing throats That cheered me deaf at Dresden, marching east So full of youth and spirits—all bleached bones— Ridiculous? Can it be so, dear, to— Their mothers say?

NAPOLEON [with a twitch of displeasure]

You scarcely understand. I meant the enterprise, and not its stuff.... I had no wish to fight, nor Alexander, But circumstance impaled us each on each; The Genius who outshapes my destinies Did all the rest! Had I but hit success, Imperial splendour would have worn a crown Unmatched in long-scrolled Time!... Well, leave that now.— What do they know about all this in Paris?

MARIE LOUSE

I cannot say. Black rumours fly and croak Like ravens through the streets, but come to me Thinned to the vague!—Occurrences in Spain Breed much disquiet with these other things. Marmont's defeat at Salamanca field Ploughed deep into men's brows. The cafes say Your troops must clear from Spain.

NAPOLEON

We'll see to that! I'll find a way to do a better thing; Though I must have another army first— Three hundred thousand quite. Fishes as good Swim in the sea as have come out of it. But to begin, we must make sure of France, Disclose ourselves to the good folk of Paris In daily outing as a family group, The type and model of domestic bliss [Which, by the way, we are]. And I intend, Also, to gild the dome of the Invalides In best gold leaf, and on a novel pattern.

MARIE LOUISE

To gild the dome, dear? Why?

NAPOLEON

To give them something To think about. They'll take to it like children, And argue in the cafes right and left On its artistic points.—So they'll forget The woes of Moscow.

[A chamberlain-in-waiting announces supper. MARIE LOUISE and NAPOLEON go out. The room darkens and the scene closes.]



ACT SECOND

SCENE I

THE PLAIN OF VITORIA

[It is the eve of the longest day of the year; also the eve of the battle of Vitoria. The English army in the Peninsula, and their Spanish and Portuguese allies, are bivouacking on the western side of the Plain, about six miles from the town.

On some high ground in the left mid-distance may be discerned the MARQUIS OF WELLINGTON'S tent, with GENERALS HILL, PICTON, PONSONBY, GRAHAM, and others of his staff, going in and out in consultation on the momentous event impending. Near the foreground are some hussars sitting round a fire, the evening being damp; their horses are picketed behind. In the immediate front of the scene are some troop-officers talking.]

FIRST OFFICER

This grateful rest of four-and-twenty hours Is priceless for our jaded soldiery; And we have reconnoitred largely, too; So the slow day will not have slipped in vain.

SECOND OFFICER [looking towards the headquarter tent]

By this time they must nearly have dotted down The methods of our master-stroke to-morrow: I have no clear conception of its plan, Even in its leading lines. What is decided?

FIRST OFFICER

There are outshaping three supreme attacks, As I decipher. Graham's on the left, To compass which he crosses the Zadorra, And turns the enemy's right. On our right, Hill Will start at once to storm the Puebla crests. The Chief himself, with us here in the centre, Will lead on by the bridges Tres-Puentes Over the ridge there, and the Mendoza bridge A little further up.—That's roughly it; But much and wide discretionary power Is left the generals all.

[The officers walk away, and the stillness increases, so the conversation at the hussars' bivouac, a few yards further back, becomes noticeable.]

SERGEANT YOUNG[19]

I wonder, I wonder how Stourcastle is looking this summer night, and all the old folks there!

SECOND HUSSAR

You was born there, I think I've heard ye say, Sergeant?

SERGEANT YOUNG

I was. And though I ought not to say it, as father and mother are living there still, 'tis a dull place at times. Now Budmouth-Regis was exactly to my taste when we were there with the Court that summer, and the King and Queen a-wambling about among us like the most everyday old man and woman you ever see. Yes, there was plenty going on, and only a pretty step from home. Altogether we had a fine time!

THIRD HUSSAR

You walked with a girl there for some weeks, Sergeant, if my memory serves?

SERGEANT YOUNG

I did. And a pretty girl 'a was. But nothing came on't. A month afore we struck camp she married a tallow-chandler's dipper of Little Nicholas Lane. I was a good deal upset about it at the time. But one gets over things!

SECOND HUSSAR

'Twas a low taste in the hussy, come to that.—Howsomever, I agree about Budmouth. I never had pleasanter times than when we lay there. You had a song on it, Sergeant, in them days, if I don't mistake?

SERGEANT YOUNG

I had; and have still. 'Twas made up when we left by our bandmaster that used to conduct in front of Gloucester Lodge at the King's Mess every afternoon.

[The Sergeant is silent for a minute, then suddenly bursts into melody.]

SONG "BUDMOUTH DEARS"

I

When we lay where Budmouth Beach is, O, the girls were fresh as peaches, With their tall and tossing figures and their eyes of blue and brown! And our hearts would ache with longing As we paced from our sing-songing, With a smart CLINK! CLINK! up the Esplanade and down

II

They distracted and delayed us By the pleasant pranks they played us, And what marvel, then, if troopers, even of regiments of renown, On whom flashed those eyes divine, O, Should forget the countersign, O, As we tore CLINK! CLINK! back to camp above the town.

III

Do they miss us much, I wonder, Now that war has swept us sunder, And we roam from where the faces smile to where the faces frown? And no more behold the features Of the fair fantastic creatures, And no more CLINK! CLINK! past the parlours of the town?

IV

Shall we once again there meet them? Falter fond attempts to greet them? Will the gay sling-jacket[20] glow again beside the muslin gown?— Will they archly quiz and con us With a sideways glance upon us, While our spurs CLINK! CLINK! up the Esplanade and down?

[Applause from the other hussars. More songs are sung, the night gets darker, the fires go out, and the camp sleeps.]



SCENE II

THE SAME, FROM THE PUEBLA HEIGHTS

[It is now day; but a summer fog pervades the prospect. Behind the fog is heard the roll of bass and tenor drums and the clash of cymbals, with notes of the popular march "The Downfall of Paris."

By degrees the fog lifts, and the Plain is disclosed. From this elevation, gazing north, the expanse looks like the palm of a monstrous right hand, a little hollowed, some half-dozen miles across, wherein the ball of the thumb is roughly represented by heights to the east, on which the French centre has gathered; the "Mount of Mars" and the "Moon" [the opposite side of the palm] by the position of the English on the left or west of the plain; and the "Line of Life" by the Zadorra, an unfordable river running from the town down the plain, and dropping out of it through a pass in the Puebla Heights to the south, just beneath our point of observation—that is to say, toward the wrist of the supposed hand. The left of the English army under GRAHAM would occupy the "mounts" at the base of the fingers; while the bent finger-tips might represent the Cantabrian Hills beyond the plain to the north or back of the scene.

From the aforesaid stony crests of Puebla the white town and church towers of Vitoria can be descried on a slope to the right- rear of the field of battle. A warm rain succeeds the fog for a short while, bringing up the fragrant scents from fields, vineyards, and gardens, now in the full leafage of June.]

DUMB SHOW

All the English forces converge forward—that is, eastwardly—the centre over the ridges, the right through the Pass to the south, the left down the Bilbao road on the north-west, the bands of the divers regiments striking up the same quick march, "The Downfall of Paris."

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

You see the scene. And yet you see it not. What do you notice now?

There immediately is shown visually the electric state of mind that animates WELLINGTON, GRAHAM, HILL, KEMPT, PICTON, COLVILLE, and other responsible ones on the British side; and on the French KING JOSEPH stationary on the hill overlooking his own centre, and surrounded by a numerous staff that includes his adviser MARSHAL JOURDAN, with, far away in the field, GAZAN, D'ERLON, REILLE, and other marshals. This vision, resembling as a whole the interior of a beating brain lit by phosphorescence, in an instant fades back to normal.

Anon we see the English hussars with their flying pelisses galloping across the Zadorra on one of the Tres-Puentes in the midst of the field, as had been planned, the English lines in the foreground under HILL pushing the enemy up the slopes; and far in the distance, to the left of Vitoria, whiffs of grey smoke followed by low rumbles show that the left of the English army under GRAHAM is pushing on there.

Bridge after bridge of the half-dozen over the Zadorra is crossed by the British; and WELLINGTON, in the centre with PICTON, seeing the hill and village of Arinez in front of him [eastward] to be weakly held, carries the regiments of the seventh and third divisions in a quick run towards it. Supported by the hussars, they ultimately fight their way to the top, in a chaos of smoke, flame, and booming echoes, loud-voiced PICTON, in an old blue coat and round hat, swearing as he goes.

Meanwhile the French who are opposed to the English right, in the foreground, have been turned by HILL; the heights are all abandoned, and the columns fall back in a confused throng by the road to Vitoria, hard pressed by the British, who capture abandoned guns amid indescribable tumult, till the French make a stand in front of the town.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

What's toward in the distance?—say!

SEMICHORUS I OF RUMOURS [aerial music]

Fitfully flash strange sights there; yea, Unwonted spectacles of sweat and scare Behind the French, that make a stand With eighty cannon, match in hand.— Upon the highway from the town to rear An eddy of distraction reigns, Where lumbering treasure, baggage-trains, Padding pedestrians, haze the atmosphere.

SEMICHORUS II

Men, women, and their children fly, And when the English over-high Direct their death-bolts, on this billowy throng Alight the too far-ranging balls, Wringing out piteous shrieks and calls From the pale mob, in monotones loud and long.

SEMICHORUS I

To leftward of the distant din Reille meantime has been driven in By Graham's measure overmastering might.— Henceforward, masses of the foe Withdraw, and, firing as they go, Pass rightwise from the cockpit out of sight.

CHORUS

The sunset slants an ochreous shine Upon the English knapsacked line, Whose glistering bayonets incline As bends the hot pursuit across the plain; And tardily behind them goes Too many a mournful load of those Found wound-weak; while with stealthy crawl, As silence wraps the rear of all, Cloaked creatures of the starlight strip the slain.



SCENE III

THE SAME. THE ROAD FROM THE TOWN

[With the going down of the sun the English army finds itself in complete possession of the mass of waggons and carriages distantly beheld from the rear—laden with pictures, treasure, flour, vegetables, furniture, finery, parrots, monkeys, and women—most of the male sojourners in the town having taken to their heels and disappeared across the fields.

The road is choked with these vehicles, the women they carry including wives, mistresses, actresses, dancers, nuns, and prostitutes, which struggle through droves of oxen, sheep, goats, horses, asses, and mules— a Noah's-ark of living creatures in one vast procession.

There enters rapidly in front of this throng a carriage containing KING JOSEPH BONAPARTE and an attendant, followed by another vehicle with luggage.]

JOSEPH [inside carriage]

The bare unblinking truth hereon is this: The Englishry are a pursuing army, And we a flying brothel! See our men— They leave their guns to save their mistresses!

[The carriage is fired upon from outside the scene. The KING leaps from the vehicle and mounts a horse.

Enter at full gallop from the left CAPTAIN WYNDHAM and a detachment of the Tenth Hussars in chase of the King's carriage; and from the right a troop of French dragoons, who engage with the hussars and hinder pursuit. Exit KING JOSEPH on horseback; afterwards the hussars and dragoons go out fighting.

The British infantry enter irregularly, led by a sergeant of the Eighty-seventh, mockingly carrying MARSHAL JOURDAN'S baton. The crowd recedes. The soldiers ransack the King's carriages, cut from their frames canvases by Murillo, Velasquez, and Zurbaran, and use them as package-wrappers, throwing the papers and archives into the road.

They next go to a waggon in the background, which contains a large chest. Some of the soldiers burst it with a crash. It is full of money, which rolls into the road. The soldiers begin scrambling, but are restored to order; and they march on.

Enter more companies of infantry, out of control of their officers, who are running behind. They see the dollars, and take up the scramble for them; next ransacking other waggons and abstracting therefrom uniforms, ladies raiment, jewels, plate, wines, and spirits.

Some array them in the finery, and one soldier puts on a diamond necklace; others load themselves with the money still lying about the road. It begins to rain, and a private who has lost his kit cuts a hole in the middle of a deframed old master, and, putting it over his head, wears it as a poncho.

Enter WELLINGTON and others, grimy and perspiring.]

FIRST OFFICER

The men are plundering in all directions!

WELLINGTON

Let 'em. They've striven long and gallantly. —What documents do I see lying there?

SECOND OFFICER [examining]

The archives of King Joseph's court, my lord; His correspondence, too, with Bonaparte.

WELLINGTON

We must examine it. It may have use.

[Another company of soldiers enters, dragging some equipages that have lost their horses by the traces being cut. The carriages contain ladies, who shriek and weep at finding themselves captives.]

What women bring they there?

THIRD OFFICER

Mixed sorts, my lord. The wives of many young French officers, The mistresses of more—in male attire. Yon elegant hussar is one, to wit; She so disguised is of a Spanish house,— One of the general's loves.

WELLINGTON

Well, pack them off To-morrow to Pamplona, as you can; We've neither list nor leisure for their charms. By God, I never saw so many wh—-s In all my life before!

[Exeunt WELLINGTON, officers, and infantry. A soldier enters with his arm round a lady in rich costume.]

SOLDIER

We must be married, my dear.

LADY [not knowing his language]

Anything, sir, if you'll spare my life!

SOLDIER

There's neither parson nor clerk here. But that don't matter—hey?

LADY

Anything, sir, if you'll spare my life!

SOLDIER

And if we've got to unmarry at cockcrow, why, so be it—hey?

LADY

Anything, sir, if you'll spare my life!

SOLDIER

A sensible 'ooman, whatever it is she says; that I can see by her pretty face. Come along then, my dear. There'll be no bones broke, and we'll take our lot with Christian resignation.

[Exeunt soldier and lady. The crowd thins away as darkness closes in, and the growling of artillery ceases, though the wheels of the flying enemy are still heard in the distance. The fires kindled by the soldiers as they make their bivouacs blaze up in the gloom, and throw their glares a long way, revealing on the slopes of the hills many suffering ones who have not yet been carried in. The last victorious regiment comes up from the rear, fifing and drumming ere it reaches its resting-place the last bars of "The Downfall of Paris":—

Transcriber's Note: There follows in musical notation four bars from that song in 2/4 time, key of C—

E EF G FE EF G FE EC D DBC



SCENE IV

A FETE AT VAUXHALL

[It is the Vitoria festival at Vauxhall. The orchestra of the renowned gardens exhibits a blaze of lamps and candles arranged in the shape of a temple, a great artificial sun glowing at the top, and under it in illuminated characters the words "Vitoria" and "Wellington." The band is playing the new air "The Plains of Vitoria."

All round the colonnade of the rotunda are to be read in the illumination the names of Peninsular victories, underneath them figuring the names of British and Spanish generals who led at those battles, surmounted by wreaths of laurel The avenues stretching away from the rotunda into the gardens charm the eyes with their mild multitudinous lights, while festoons of lamps hang from the trees elsewhere, and transparencies representing scenes from the war.

The gardens and saloons are crowded, among those present being the KING'S sons—the DUKES OF YORK, CLARENCE, KENT, and CAMBRIDGE— Ambassadors, peers, and peeresses, and other persons of quality, English and foreign.

In the immediate foreground on the left hand is an alcove, the interior of which is in comparative obscurity. Two foreign attaches enter it and sit down.]

FIRST ATTACHE

Ah—now for the fireworks. They are under the direction of Colonel Congreve.

[At the end of an alley, purposely kept dark, fireworks are discharged.]

SECOND ATTACHE

Very good: very good.—This looks like the Duke of Sussex coming in, I think. Who the lady is with him I don't know.

[Enter the DUKE OF SUSSEX in a Highland dress, attended by several officers in like attire. He walks about the gardens with LADY CHARLOTTE CAMPBELL.]

FIRST ATTACHE

People have been paying a mighty price for tickets—as much as fifteen guineas has been offered, I hear. I had to walk up to the gates; the number of coaches struggling outside prevented my driving near. It was as bad as the battle of Vitoria itself.

SECOND ATTACHE

So Wellington is made Field-Marshal for his achievement.

FIRST ATTACHE

Yes. By the by, you have heard of the effect of the battle upon the Conference at Reichenbach?—that Austria is to join Russia and Prussia against France? So much for Napoleon's marriage! I wonder what he thinks of his respected father-in-law now.

SECOND ATTACHE

Of course, an enormous subsidy is paid to Francis by Great Britain for this face-about?

FIRST ATTACHE

Yes. As Bonaparte says, English guineas are at the bottom of everything!—Ah, here comes Caroline.

[The PRINCESS OF WALES arrives, attended by LADY ANNE HAMILTON and LADY GLENBERVIE. She is conducted forward by the DUKE OF GLOUCESTER and COLONEL ST. LEDGER, and wears a white satin train with a dark embroidered bodice, and a green wreath with diamonds.

Repeated hurrahs greet her from the crowd. She bows courteously.]

SECOND ATTACHE

The people are staunch for her still!... You heard, sir, what Austrian Francis said when he learnt of Vitoria?—"A warm climate seems to agree with my son-in-law no better than a cold one."

FIRST ATTACHE

Ha-ha-ha! Marvellous it is how this loud victory Has couched the late blind Europe's Cabinets. Would I could spell precisely what was phrased 'Twixt Bonaparte and Metternich at Dresden— Their final word, I ween, till God knows when!—

SECOND ATTACHE

I own to feeling it a sorry thing That Francis should take English money down To throw off Bonaparte. 'Tis sordid, mean! He is his daughter's husband after all.

FIRST ATTACHE

Ay; yes!... They say she knows not of it yet.

SECOND ATTACHE

Poor thing, I daresay it will harry her When all's revealed. But the inside o't is, Since Castlereagh's return to power last year Vienna, like Berlin and Petersburg, Has harboured England's secret emissaries, Primed, purse in hand, with the most lavish sums To knit the league to drag Napoleon down.... [More fireworks.] That's grand.—Here comes one Royal item more.

[The DUCHESS OF YORK enters, attended by her ladies and by the HON. B. CRAVEN and COLONEL BARCLAY. She is received with signals of respect.]

FIRST ATTACHE

She calls not favour forth as Caroline can!

SECOND ATTACHE

To end my words:—Though happy for this realm, Austria's desertion frankly is, by God, Rank treachery!

FIRST ATTACHE

Whatever it is, it means Two hundred thousand swords for the Allies, And enemies in batches for Napoleon Leaping from unknown lairs.—Yes, something tells me That this is the beginning of the end For Emperor Bonaparte!

[The PRINCESS OF WALES prepares to leave. An English diplomatist joins the attaches in the alcove. The PRINCESS and her ladies go out.]

DIPLOMATIST

I saw you over here, and I came round. Cursed hot and crowded, isn't it?

SECOND ATTACHE

What is the Princess leaving so soon for?

DIPLOMATIST

Oh, she has not been received in the Royal box by the other members of the Royal Family, and it has offended her, though she was told beforehand that she could not be. Poor devil! Nobody invited her here. She came unasked, and she has gone unserved.

FIRST ATTACHE

We shall have to go unserved likewise, I fancy. The scramble at the buffets is terrible.

DIPLOMATIST

And the road from here to Marsh Gate is impassable. Some ladies have been sitting in their coaches for hours outside the hedge there. We shall not get home till noon to-morrow.

A VOICE [from the back]

Take care of your watches! Pickpockets!

FIRST ATTACHE

Good. That relieves the monotony a little.

[Excitement in the throng. When it has subsided the band strikes up a country dance, and stewards with white ribbons and laurel leaves are seen bustling about.]

SECOND ATTACHE

Let us go and look at the dancing. It is "Voulez-vous danser"—no, it is not,—it is "Enrico"—two ladies between two gentlemen.

[They go from the alcove.]

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

From this phantasmagoria let us roam To the chief wheel and capstan of the show, Distant afar. I pray you closely read What I reveal—wherein each feature bulks In measure with its value humanly.

[The beholder finds himself, as it were, caught up on high, and while the Vauxhall scene still dimly twinkles below, he gazes southward towards Central Europe—the contorted and attenuated ecorche of the Continent appearing as in an earlier scene, but now obscure under the summer stars.]

Three cities loom out large: Vienna there, Dresden, which holds Napoleon, over here, And Leipzig, whither we shall shortly wing, Out yonderwards. 'Twixt Dresden and Vienna What thing do you discern?

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Something broad-faced, Flat-folded, parchment-pale, and in its shape Rectangular; but moving like a cloud The Dresden way.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Yet gaze more closely on it.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

The object takes a letter's lineaments Though swollen to mainsail measure,—magically, I gather from your words; and on its face Are three vast seals, red—signifying blood Must I suppose? It moves on Dresden town, And dwarfs the city as it passes by.— You say Napoleon's there?

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

The document, Sized to its big importance, as I told, Bears in it formal declaration, signed, Of war by Francis with his late-linked son, The Emperor of France. Now let us go To Leipzig city, and await the blow.

[A chaotic gloom ensues, accompanied by a rushing like that of a mighty wind.]



ACT THIRD

SCENE I

LEIPZIG. NAPOLEON'S QUARTERS IN THE REUDNITZ SUBURB

[The sitting-room of a private mansion. Evening. A large stove- fire and candles burning. The October wind is heard without, and the leaded panes of the old windows shake mournfully.]

SEMICHORUS I OF IRONIC SPIRITS [aerial music]

We come; and learn as Time's disordered dear sands run That Castlereagh's diplomacy has wiled, waxed, won. The beacons flash the fevered news to eyes keen bent That Austria's formal words of war are shaped, sealed, sent.

SEMICHORUS II

So; Poland's three despoilers primed by Bull's gross pay To stem Napoleon's might, he waits the weird dark day; His proffered peace declined with scorn, in fell force then They front him, with yet ten-score thousand more massed men.

[At the back of the room CAULAINCOURT, DUKE OF VICENZA, and JOUANNE, one of Napoleon's confidential secretaries, are unpacking and laying out the Emperor's maps and papers. In the foreground BERTHIER, MURAT, LAURISTON, and several officers of Napoleon's suite, are holding a desultory conversation while they await his entry. Their countenances are overcast.]

MURAT

At least, the scheme of marching on Berlin Is now abandoned.

LAURISTON

Not without high words: He yielded and gave order prompt for Leipzig But coldness and reserve have marked his mood Towards us ever since.

BERTHIER

The march hereto He has looked on as a retrogressive one, And that, he ever holds, is courting woe. To counsel it was doubtless full of risk, And heaped us with responsibilities; —Yet 'twas your missive, sire, that settled it [to MURAT]. How stirred he was! "To Leipzig, or Berlin?" He kept repeating, as he drew and drew Fantastic figures on the foolscap sheet,— "The one spells ruin—t'other spells success, And which is which?"

MURAT [stiffly]

What better could I do? So far were the Allies from sheering off As he supposed, that they had moved in march Full fanfare hither! I was duty-bound To let him know.

LAURISTON

Assuming victory here, If he should let the advantage slip him by As on the Dresden day, he wrecks us all! 'Twas damnable—to ride back from the fight Inside a coach, as though we had not won!

CAULAINCOURT [from the back]

The Emperor was ill: I have ground for knowing.

[NAPOLEON enters.]

NAPOLEON [buoyantly]

Comrades, the outlook promises us well!

MURAT [dryly]

Right glad are we you tongue such tidings, sire. To us the stars have visaged differently; To wit: we muster outside Leipzig here Levies one hundred and ninety thousand strong. The enemy has mustered, OUTSIDE US, Three hundred and fifty thousand—if not more.

NAPOLEON

All that is needful is to conquer them! We are concentred here: they lie a-spread, Which shrinks them to two-hundred-thousand power:— Though that the urgency of victory Is absolute, I admit.

MURAT

Yea; otherwise The issue will be worse than Moscow, sire!

[MARMONT, DUKE OF RAGUSA [Wellington's adversary in Spain], is announced, and enters.]

NAPOLEON

Ah, Marmont; bring you in particulars?

MARMONT

Some sappers I have taken captive, sire, Say the Allies will be at stroke with us The morning next to to-morrow's.—I am come, Now, from the steeple-top of Liebenthal, Where I beheld the enemy's fires bespot The horizon round with raging eyes of flame:— My vanward posts, too, have been driven in, And I need succours—thrice ten thousand, say.

NAPOLEON [coldly]

The enemy vexes not your vanward posts; You are mistaken.—Now, however, go; Cross Leipzig, and remain as the reserve.— Well, gentlemen, my hope herein is this: The first day to annihilate Schwarzenberg, The second Blucher. So shall we slip the toils They are all madding to enmesh us in.

BERTHIER

Few are our infantry to fence with theirs!

NAPOLEON [cheerfully]

We'll range them in two lines instead of three, And so we shall look stronger by one-third.

BERTHIER [incredulously]

Can they be thus deceived, sire?

NAPOLEON

Can they? Yes! With all my practice I can err in numbers At least one-quarter; why not they one-third? Anyhow, 'tis worth trying at a pinch....

[AUGEREAU is suddenly announced.]

Good! I've not seen him yet since he arrived.

[Enter AUGEREAU.

Here you are then at last, old Augereau! You have been looked for long.—But you are no more The Augereau of Castiglione days!

AUGEREAU

Nay, sire! I still should be the Augereau Of glorious Castiglione, could you give The boys of Italy back again to me!

NAPOLEON

Well, let it drop.... Only I notice round me An atmosphere of scopeless apathy Wherein I do not share.

AUGEREAU

There are reasons, sire, Good reasons for despondence! As I came I learnt, past question, that Bavaria Swerves on the very pivot of desertion. This adds some threescore thousand to our foes.

NAPOLEON [irritated]

That consummation long has threatened us!... Would that you showed the steeled fidelity You used to show! Except me, all are slack! [To Murat] Why, even you yourself, my brother-in-law, Have been inclining to abandon me!

MURAT [vehemently]

I, sire? It is not so. I stand and swear The grievous imputation is untrue. You should know better than believe these things, And well remember I have enemies Who ever wait to slander me to you!

NAPOLEON [more calmly]

Ah yes, yes. That is so.—And yet—and yet You have deigned to weigh the feasibility Of treating me as Austria has done!... But I forgive you. You are a worthy man; You feel real friendship for me. You are brave. Yet I was wrong to make a king of you. If I had been content to draw the line At vice-king, as with young Eugene, no more, As he has laboured you'd have laboured, too! But as full monarch, you have foraged rather For your own pot than mine!

[MURAT and the marshal are silent, and look at each other with troubled countenances. NAPOLEON goes to the table at the back, and bends over the charts with CAULAINCOURT, dictating desultory notes to the secretaries.]

SPIRIT IRONIC

A seer might say This savours of a sad Last-Supper talk 'Twixt his disciples and this Christ of war!

[Enter an attendant.]

ATTENDANT

The Saxon King and Queen and the Princess Enter the city gates, your Majesty. They seek the shelter of the civic walls Against the risk of capture by Allies.

NAPOLEON

Ah, so? My friend Augustus, is he near? I will be prompt to meet him when he comes, And safely quarter him. [He returns to the map.]

[An interval. The clock strikes midnight. The EMPEROR rises abruptly, sighs, and comes forward.]

I now retire, Comrades. Good-night, good-night. Remember well All must prepare to grip with gory death In the now voidless battle. It will be A great one and a critical; one, in brief, That will seal France's fate, and yours, and mine!

ALL [fervidly]

We'll do our utmost, by the Holy Heaven!

NAPOLEON

Ah—what was that? [He pulls back the window-curtain.]

SEVERAL

It is our enemies, Whose southern hosts are signalling to their north.

[A white rocket is beheld high in the air. It is followed by a second, and a third. There is a pause, during which NAPOLEON and the rest wait motionless. In a minute or two, from the opposite side of the city, three coloured rockets are sent up, in evident answer to the three white ones. NAPOLEON muses, and lets the curtain drop.]

NAPOLEON

Yes, Schwarzenberg to Blucher.... It must be To show that they are ready. So are we!

[He goes out without saying more. The marshals and other officers withdraw. The room darkens and ends the scene.]



SCENE II

THE SAME. THE CITY AND THE BATTLEFIELD

[Leipzig is viewed in aerial perspective from a position above the south suburbs, and reveals itself as standing in a plain, with rivers and marshes on the west, north, and south of it, and higher ground to the east and south-east.

At this date it is somewhat in she shape of the letter D, the straight part of which is the river Pleisse. Except as to this side it is surrounded by armies—the inner horseshoe of them being the French defending the city; the outer horseshoe being the Allies about to attack it.

Far over the city—as it were at the top of the D—at Lindenthal, we see MARMONT stationed to meet BLUCHER when he arrives on that side. To the right of him is NEY, and further off to the right, on heights eastward, MACDONALD. Then round the curve towards the south in order, AUGEREAU, LAURISTON [behind whom is NAPOLEON himself and the reserve of Guards], VICTOR [at Wachau], and PONIATOWSKI, near the Pleisse River at the bottom of the D. Near him are the cavalry of KELLERMANN and MILHAUD, and in the same direction MURAT with his, covering the great avenues of approach on the south.

Outside all these stands SCHWARZENBERG'S army, of which, opposed to MACDONALD and LAURISTON, are KLEINAU'S Austrians and ZIETEN'S Prussians, covered on the flank by Cossacks under PLATOFF. Opposed to VICTOR and PONIATOWSKI are MEERFELDT and Hesse-Homburg's Austrians, WITTGENSTEIN'S Russians, KLEIST'S Prussians, GUILAY'S Austrians, with LICHTENSTEIN'S and THIELMANN'S light troops: thus reaching round across the Elster into the morass on our near left— the lower point of the D.]

SEMICHORUS I OF RUMOURS [aerial music]

This is the combat of Napoleon's hope, But not of his assurance! Shrunk in power He broods beneath October's clammy cope, While hemming hordes wax denser every hour.

SEMICHORUS II

He knows, he knows that though in equal fight He stand s heretofore the matched of none, A feeble skill is propped by numbers' might, And now three hosts close round to crush out one!

DUMB SHOW

The Leipzig clocks imperturbably strike nine, and the battle which is to decide the fate of Europe, and perhaps the world, begins with three booms from the line of the allies. They are the signal for a general cannonade of devastating intensity.

So massive is the contest that we soon fail to individualize the combatants as beings, and can only observe them as amorphous drifts, clouds, and waves of conscious atoms, surging and rolling together; can only particularize them by race, tribe, and language. Nationalities from the uttermost parts of Asia here meet those from the Atlantic edge of Europe for the first and last time. By noon the sound becomes a loud droning, uninterrupted and breve-like, as from the pedal of an organ kept continuously down.

CHORUS OF RUMOURS

Now triple battle beats about the town, And now contracts the huge elastic ring Of fighting flesh, as those within go down, Or spreads, as those without show faltering!

It becomes apparent that the French have a particular intention, the Allies only a general one. That of the French is to break through the enemy's centre and surround his right. To this end NAPOLEON launches fresh columns, and simultaneously OUDINOT supports VICTOR against EUGENE OF WURTEMBERG'S right, while on the other side of him the cavalry of MILHAUD and KELLERMAN prepares to charge. NAPOLEON'S combination is successful, and drives back EUGENE. Meanwhile SCHWARZENBERG is stuck fast, useless in the marshes between the Pleisse and the Elster.

By three o'clock the Allied centre, which has held out against the assaults of the French right and left, is broken through by cavalry under MURAT, LATOUR-MAUBOURG, and KELLERMANN.

The bells of Leipzig ring.

CHORUS OF THE PITIES

Those chimings, ill-advised and premature! Who knows if such vast valour will endure?

The Austro-Russians are withdrawn from the marshes by SCHWARZENBERG. But the French cavalry also get entangled in the swamps, and simultaneously MARMONT is beaten at Mockern.

Meanwhile NEY, to the north of Leipzig, having heard the battle raging southward, leaves his position to assist it. He has nearly arrived when he hears BLUCHER attacking at the point he came from, and sends back some of his divisions.

BERTRAND has kept open the west road to Lindenau and the Rhine, the only French line of retreat.

Evening finds the battle a drawn one. With the nightfall three blank shots reverberate hollowly.

SEMICHORUS I OF RUMOURS

They sound to say that, for this moaning night, As Nature sleeps, so too shall sleep the fight; Neither the victor.

SEMICHORUS II

But, for France and him, Half-won is losing!

CHORUS

Yea, his hopes drop dim, Since nothing less than victory to-day Had saved a cause whose ruin is delay!

The night gets thicker and no more is seen.



SCENE III

THE SAME, FROM THE TOWER OF THE PLEISSENBURG

[The tower commands a view of a great part of the battlefield. Day has just dawned, and citizens, saucer-eyed from anxiety and sleeplessness, are discover watching.]

FIRST CITIZEN

The wind increased at midnight while I watched, With flapping showers, and clouds that combed the moon, Till dawn began outheaving this huge day, Pallidly—as if scared by its own issue; This day that the Allies with bonded might Have vowed to deal their felling finite blow.

SECOND CITIZEN

So must it be! They have welded close the coop Wherein our luckless Frenchmen are enjailed With such compression that their front has shrunk From five miles' farness to but half as far.— Men say Napoleon made resolve last night To marshal a retreat. If so, his way Is by the Bridge of Lindenau.

[They look across in the cold east light at the long straight causeway from the Ranstadt Gate at the north-west corner of the town, and the Lindenau bridge over the Elster beyond.]

FIRST CITIZEN

Last night I saw, like wolf-packs, hosts appear Upon the Dresden road; and then, anon, The already stout arrays of Schwarzenberg Grew stoutened more. I witnessed clearly, too, Just before dark, the bands of Bernadotte Come, hemming in the north more thoroughly. The horizon glowered with a thousand fires As the unyielding circle shut around.

[As it grows light they scan and define the armies.]

THIRD CITIZEN

Those lying there, 'twixt Connewitz and Dolitz, Are the right wing of horse Murat commands. Next, Poniatowski, Victor, and the rest. Out here, Napoleon's centre at Probstheida, Where he has bivouacked. Those round this way Are his left wing with Ney, that face the north Between Paunsdorf and Gohlis.—Thus, you see They are skilfully sconced within the villages, With cannon ranged in front. And every copse, Dingle, and grove is packed with riflemen.

[The heavy sky begins to clear with the full arrival of the morning. The sun bursts out, and the previously dark and gloomy masses glitter in the rays. It is now seven o'clock, and with the shining of the sun, the battle is resumed.

The army of Bohemia to the south and east, in three great columns, marches concentrically upon NAPOLEON'S new and much-contracted line —the first column of thirty-five thousand under BENNIGSEN; the second, the central, forty-five thousand under BARCLAY DE TOLLY; the third, twenty-five thousand under the PRINCE OF HESSE-HOMBURG.

An interval of suspense.]

FIRST CITIZEN

Ah, see! The French bend, falter, and fall back.

[Another interval. Then a huge rumble of artillery resounds from the north.]

SEMICHORUS OF RUMOURS [aerial music]

Now Blucher has arrived; and now falls to! Marmont withdraws before him. Bernadotte Touching Bennigsen, joins attack with him, And Ney must needs recede. This serves as sign To Schwarzenberg to bear upon Probstheida— Napoleon's keystone and dependence here. But for long whiles he fails to win his will, The chief being nigh—outmatching might with skill.

SEMICHORUS II

Ney meanwhile, stung still sharplier, still withdraws Nearer the town, and met by new mischance, Finds him forsaken by his Saxon wing— Fair files of thrice twelve thousand footmanry. But rallying those still true with signs and calls, He warely closes up his remnant to the walls.

SEMICHORUS I

Around Probstheida still the conflict rolls Under Napoleon's eye surpassingly. Like sedge before the scythe the sections fall And bayonets slant and reek. Each cannon-blaze Makes the air thick with human limbs; while keen Contests rage hand to hand. Throats shout "advance," And forms walm, wallow, and slack suddenly. Hot ordnance split and shiver and rebound, And firelocks fouled and flintless overstrew the ground.

SEMICHORUS II

At length the Allies, daring tumultuously, Find them inside Probstheida. There is fixed Napoleon's cardinal and centre hold. But need to loose it grows his gloomy fear As night begins to brown and treacherous mists appear.

CHORUS

Then, on the three fronts of this reaching field, A furious, far, and final cannonade Burns from two thousand mouths and shakes the plain, And hastens the sure end! Towards the west Bertrand keeps open the retreating-way, Along which wambling waggons since the noon Have crept in closening file. Dusk draws around; The marching remnants drowse amid their talk, And worn and harrowed horses slumber as the walk.

[In the darkness of the distance spread cries from the maimed animals and the wounded men. Multitudes of the latter contrive to crawl into the city, until the streets are full of them. Their voices are heard calling.]

SECOND CITIZEN

They cry for water! Let us go down, And do what mercy may.

[Exeunt citizens from the tower.]

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

A fire is lit Near to the Thonberg wind-wheel. Can it be Napoleon tarries yet? Let us go see.

[The distant firelight becomes clearer and closer.]



SCENE IV

THE SAME. AT THE THONBERG WINDMILL

[By the newly lighted fire NAPOLEON is seen walking up and down, much agitated and worn. With him are MURAT, BERTHIER, AUGEREAU, VICTOR, and other marshals of corps that have been engaged in this part of the field—all perspiring, muddy, and fatigued.]

NAPOLEON

Baseness so gross I had not guessed of them!— The thirty thousand false Bavarians I looked on losing not unplacidly; But these troth-swearing sober Saxonry I reckoned staunch by virtue of their king! Thirty-five thousand and gone! It magnifies A failure into a catastrophe.... Murat, we must retreat precipitately, And not as hope had dreamed! Begin it then This very hour.—Berthier, write out the orders.— Let me sit down.

[A chair is brought out from the mill. NAPOLEON sinks into it, and BERTHIER, stooping over the fire, begins writing to the Emperor's dictation, the marshals looking with gloomy faces at the flaming logs.

NAPOLEON has hardly dictated a line when he stops short. BERTHIER turns round and finds that he has dropt asleep.]

MURAT [sullenly]

Far better not disturb him; He'll soon enough awake!

[They wait, muttering to one another in tones expressing weary indifference to issues. NAPOLEON sleeps heavily for a quarter of and hour, during which the moon rises over the field. At the end he starts up stares around him with astonishment.]

NAPOLEON

Am I awake? Or is this all a dream?—Ah, no. Too real!... And yet I have seen ere now a time like this.

[The dictation is resumed. While it is in progress there can be heard between the words of NAPOLEON the persistent cries from the plain, rising and falling like those of a vast rookery far away, intermingled with the trampling of hoofs and the rumble of wheels. The bivouac fires of the engirdling enemy glow all around except for a small segment to the west—the track of retreat, still kept open by BERTRAND, and already taken by the baggage-waggons.

The orders for its adoption by the entire army being completed, NAPOLEON bids adieu to his marshals, and rides with BERTHIER and CAULAINCOURT into Leipzig. Exeunt also the others.]

SEMICHORUS I OF THE PITIES

Now, as in the dream of one sick to death, There comes a narrowing room That pens him, body and limbs and breath, To wait a hideous doom,

SEMICHORUS II

So to Napoleon in the hush That holds the town and towers Through this dire night, a creeping crush Seems inborne with the hours.

[The scene closes under a rimy mist, which makes a lurid cloud of the firelights.]



SCENE V

THE SAME. A STREET NEAR THE RANSTADT GATE

[High old-fashioned houses form the street, along which, from the east of the city, is streaming a confusion of waggons, in hurried exit through the gate westward upon the highroad to Lindenau, Lutzen, and the Rhine.

In front of an inn called the "Prussian Arms" are some attendants of NAPOLEON waiting with horses.]

FIRST OFFICER

He has just come from bidding the king and queen A long good-bye.... Is it that they will pay For his indulgence of their past ambition By sharing now his ruin? Much the king Did beg him to leave them to their lot, And shun the shame of capture needlessly. [He looks anxiously towards the door.] I would he'd haste! Each minute is of price.

SECOND OFFICER

The king will come to terms with the Allies. They will not hurt him. Though he has lost his all, His case is not like ours!

[The cheers of the approaching enemy grow louder. NAPOLEON comes out from the "Prussian Arms," haggard and in disordered attire. He is about to mount, but, perceiving the blocked state of the street, he hesitates.]

NAPOLEON

God, what a crowd! I shall more quickly gain the gate afoot. There is a byway somewhere, I suppose?

[A citizen approaches out of the inn.]

CITIZEN

This alley, sire, will speed you to the gate; I shall be honoured much to point the way.

NAPOLEON

Then do, good friend. [To attendants] Bring on the horses there; I if arrive soonest I will wait for you.

[The citizen shows NAPOLEON the way into the alley.]

CITIZEN

A garden's at the end, your Majesty, Through which you pass. Beyond there is a door That opens to the Elster bank unbalked.

[NAPOLEON disappears into the alley. His attendants plunge amid the traffic with the horses, and thread their way down the street.

Another citizen comes from the door of the inn and greets the first.]

FIRST CITIZEN

He's gone!

SECOND CITIZEN

I'll see if he succeed.

[He re-enters the inn and soon appears at an upper window.]

FIRST CITIZEN [from below]

You see him?

SECOND CITIZEN [gazing]

He is already at the garden-end; Now he has passed out to the river-brim, And plods along it toward the Ranstadt Gate.... He finds no horses for him!... And the crowd Thrusts him about, none recognizing him. Ah—now the horses do arrive. He mounts, And hurries through the arch.... Again I see him— Now he's upon the causeway in the marsh; Now rides across the bridge of Lindenau... And now, among the troops that choke the road I lose all sight of him.

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