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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 3 - Scene 3. The Same, From The Tower Of The Pleissenburg
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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 3 - Scene 3. The Same, From The Tower Of The Pleissenburg Post by :webforce Category :Plays Author :Thomas Hardy Date :May 2012 Read :836

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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 3 - Scene 3. The Same, From The Tower Of The Pleissenburg

PART THIRD. ACT THIRD. SCENE III.

(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.)

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