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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 4 - Scene 3. Ulm. Within The City
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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 4 - Scene 3. Ulm. Within The City Post by :ABSTRACTOR Category :Plays Author :Thomas Hardy Date :May 2012 Read :3004

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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 4 - Scene 3. Ulm. Within The City

PART FIRST. ACT FOURTH. SCENE III.

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

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


MACK

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


ARCHDUKE

But who shall say if these bright tales be true?


MACK

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


ARCHDUKE

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


MACK (firmly)

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


SCHWARZENBERG

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


JELLACHICH

I favour marching out--the Tyrol way.


RIESC

Bohemia best! The route thereto is open.


ARCHDUKE

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

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


MACK (to Archduke)

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


ARCHDUKE

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

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


SCHWARZENBERG

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


JELLACHICH

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

(Another pause.)


SPIRIT SINISTER

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


SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

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


SPIRIT SINISTER

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

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


A GENERAL

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


MACK (returning)

Bring that deserter hither once again.

(A French soldier is brought in, blindfolded and guarded. The bandage is removed.)

Well, tell us what he says.


AN OFFICER (after speaking to the prisoner in French)

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


MACK

Still retain him.

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


JELLACHICH (bending over the map in argument with RIESC)

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


MACK (turning)

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


A GENERAL (in a low voice)

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


MACK

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

(Guns heard.)


AN OFFICER

Surely that's from the Michaelsberg above us?


MACK

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

(Exeunt severally.)

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