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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 3 - Scene 1. Boulogne. The Chateau At Pont-De-Briques
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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 3 - Scene 1. Boulogne. The Chateau At Pont-De-Briques Post by :anonym2006 Category :Plays Author :Thomas Hardy Date :May 2012 Read :3065

Click below to download : The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 3 - Scene 1. Boulogne. The Chateau At Pont-De-Briques (Format : PDF)

The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 3 - Scene 1. Boulogne. The Chateau At Pont-De-Briques

PART FIRST. ACT THIRD. SCENE I.

(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.


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

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