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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 2 - Act 1 - Scene 4. The Field Of Jena
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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 2 - Act 1 - Scene 4. The Field Of Jena Post by :dhubbs Category :Plays Author :Thomas Hardy Date :May 2012 Read :3226

Click below to download : The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 2 - Act 1 - Scene 4. The Field Of Jena (Format : PDF)

The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 2 - Act 1 - Scene 4. The Field Of Jena

PART SECOND. ACT FIRST. SCENE IV.

(Day has just dawned through a grey October haze. The French, with their backs to the nebulous light, loom out and show themselves to be already under arms; LANNES holding the centre, NEY the right, SOULT the extreme right, and AUGEREAU the left. The Imperial Guard and MURAT'S cavalry are drawn up on the Landgrafenberg, behind the centre of the French position. In a valley stretching along to the rear of this height flows northward towards the Elbe the little river Saale, on which the town of Jena stands.

On the irregular plateaux in front of the French lines, and almost close to the latter, are the Prussians un TAUENZIEN; and away on their right rear towards Weimar the bulk of the army under PRINCE HOHENLOHE. The DUKE OF BRUNSWICK (father of the Princess of Wales) is twelve miles off with his force at Auerstadt, in the valley of the Ilm.

Enter NAPOLEON, and men bearing torches who escort him. He moves along the front of his troops, and is lost to view behind the mist and surrounding objects. But his voice is audible.)


NAPOLEON

Keep you good guard against their cavalry,
In past repute the formidablest known,
And such it may be now; so asks our heed.
Receive it, then, in square, unflinchingly.--
Remember, men, last year you captured Ulm,
So make no doubt that you will vanquish these!


SOLDIERS

Long live the Emperor! Advance, advance!


DUMB SHOW

Almost immediately glimpses reveal that LANNES' corps is moving forward, and amid an unbroken clatter of firelocks spreads out further and wider upon the stretch of country in front of the Landgrafenberg. The Prussians, surprised at discerning in the fog such masses of the enemy close at hand, recede towards the Ilm.

From PRINCE HOHENLOHE, who is with the body of the Prussians on the Weimar road to the south, comes perspiring the bulk of the infantry to rally the retreating regiments of TAUENZIEN, and he hastens up himself with the cavalry and artillery. The action is renewed between him and NEY as the clocks of Jena strike ten.

But AUGEREAU is seen coming to Ney's assistance on one flank of the Prussians, SOULT bearing down on the other, while NAPOLEON on the Landgrafenberg orders the Imperial Guard to advance. The doomed Prussians are driven back, this time more decisively, falling in great numbers and losing many as prisoners as they reel down the sloping land towards the banks of the Ilm behind them. GENERAL RUCHEL, in a last despairing effort to rally, faces the French onset in person and alone. He receives a bullet through the chest and falls dead.

The crisis of the struggle is reached, though the battle is not over. NAPOLEON, discerning from the Landgrafenberg that the decisive moment has come, directs MURAT to sweep forward with all his cavalry. It engages the shattered Prussians, surrounds them, and cuts them down by thousands.

From behind the horizon, a dozen miles off, between the din of guns in the visible battle, there can be heard an ominous roar, as of a second invisible battle in progress there. Generals and other officers look at each other and hazard conjectures between whiles, the French with exultation, the Prussians gloomily.


HOHENLOHE

That means the Duke of Brunswick, I conceive,
Impacting on the enemy's further force
Led by, they say, Davout and Bernadotte.
God grant his star less lurid rays then ours,
Or this too pregnant, hoarsely-groaning day
Shall, ere its loud delivery be done,
Have twinned disasters to the fatherland
That fifty years will fail to sepulchre!


Enter a straggler on horseback.


STRAGGLER

Prince, I have circuited by Auerstadt,
And bring ye dazzling tidings of the fight,
Which, if report by those who saw't be true,
Has raged thereat from clammy day-dawn on,
And left us victors!


HOHENLOHE

Thitherward go I,
And patch the mischief wrought upon us here!


Enter a second and then a third straggler.

Well, wet-faced men, whence come ye? What d'ye bring?


STRAGGLER II

Your Highness, I rode straight from Hassenhausen,
Across the stream of battle as it boiled
Betwixt that village and the banks of Saale,
And such the turmoil that no man could speak
On what the issue was!


HOHENLOHE (To Straggler III)

Can you add aught?


STRAGGLER III

Nothing that's clear, your Highness.


HOHENLOHE

Man, your mien
Is that of one who knows, but will not say.
Detain him here.


STRAGGLER III

The blackness of my news,
Your Highness, darks my sense! . . . I saw this much:
His charging grenadiers, received in the face
A grape-shot stroke that gouged out half of it,
Proclaiming then and there his life fordone.


HOHENLOHE

Fallen? Brunswick! Reed in council, rock in fire . . .
Ah, this he looked for. Many a time of late
Has he, by some strange gift of foreknowing,
Declared his fate was hovering in such wise!


STRAGGLER III

His aged form being borne beyond the strife,
The gallant Moellendorf, in flushed despair,
Swore he would not survive; and, pressing on,
He, too, was slaughtered. Patriotic rage
Brimmed marshals' breasts and men's. The King himself
Fought like the commonest. But nothing served.
His horse is slain; his own doom yet unknown.
Prince William, too, is wounded. Brave Schmettau
Is broke; himself disabled. All give way,
And regiments crash like trees at felling-time!


HOHENLOHE

No more. We match it here. The yielding lines
Still sweep us backward. Backward we must go!

(Exeunt HOHENLOHE, Staff, stragglers, etc.)


The Prussian retreat from Jena quickens to a rout, many thousands taken prisoners by MURAT, who pursues them to Weimar, where the inhabitants fly shrieking through the streets.

The October day closes in to evening. By this time the troops retiring with the King of Prussia from the second battlefield of Auerstadt have intersected RUCHEL'S and HOHENLOHE'S flying battalions from Jena. The crossing streams of fugitives strike panic into each other, and the tumult increases with the thickening darkness till night renders the scene invisible, and nothing remains but a confused diminishing noise, and fitful lights here and there.

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