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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 3 - Scene 5. The Same. A Street Near The Ranstadt Gate
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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 3 - Scene 5. The Same. A Street Near The Ranstadt Gate Post by :Cheese Category :Plays Author :Thomas Hardy Date :May 2012 Read :2074

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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 3 - Scene 5. The Same. A Street Near The Ranstadt Gate

PART THIRD. ACT THIRD. SCENE V.

(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.

(A third citizen enters from the direction NAPOLEON has taken.)


THIRD CITIZEN (breathlessly)

I have seen him go!
And while he passed the gate I stood i' the crowd
So close I could have touched him! Few discerned
In one so soiled the erst Arch-Emperor!--
In the lax mood of him who has lost all
He stood inert there, idly singing thin:
"Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre!"--until his suite
Came up with horses.


SECOND CITIZEN (still gazing afar)

Poniatowski's Poles
Wearily walk the level causeway now;
Also, meseems, Macdonald's corps and Reynier's.
The frail-framed, new-built bridge has broken down:
They've but the old to cross by.


FIRST CITIZEN

Feeble foresight!
They should have had a dozen.


SECOND CITIZEN

All the corps--
Macdonald's, Poniatowski's, Reynier's--all--
Confusedly block the entrance to the bridge.
And--verily Blucher's troops are through the town,
And are debouching from the Ranstadt Gate
Upon the Frenchmen's rear!

(A thunderous report stops his words, echoing through the city from the direction in which he is gazing, and rattling all the windows. A hoarse chorus of cries becomes audible immediately after.)


FIRST, THIRD, ETC., CITIZENS

Ach, Heaven!--what's that?


SECOND CITIZEN

The bridge of Lindenau has been upblown!


SEMICHORUS I OF THE PITIES (aerial music)

There leaps to the sky and earthen wave,
And stones, and men, as though
Some rebel churchyard crew updrave
Their sepulchres from below.


SEMICHORUS II

To Heaven is blown Bridge Lindenau;
Wrecked regiments reel therefrom;
And rank and file in masses plough
The sullen Elster-Strom.


SEMICHORUS I

A gulf is Lindenau; and dead
Are fifties, hundreds, tens;
And every current ripples red
With marshals' blood and men's.


SEMICHORUS II

The smart Macdonald swims therein,
And barely wins the verge;
Bold Poniatowski plunges in
Never to re-emerge!


FIRST CITIZEN

Are not the French across as yet, God save them?


SECOND CITIZEN (still gazing above)

Nor Reynier's corps, Macdonald's, Lauriston's,
Nor yet the Poles. . . . And Blucher's troops approach,
And all the French this side are prisoners.
--Now for our handling by the Prussian host;
Scant courtesy for our king!

(Other citizens appear beside him at the window, and further
conversation continues entirely above.)


CHORUS OF IRONIC SPIRITS

The Battle of the Nations now is closing,
And all is lost to One, to many gained;
The old dynastic routine reimposing,
The new dynastic structure unsustained.

Now every neighbouring realm is France's warder,
And smirking satisfaction will be feigned:
The which is seemlier?--so-called ancient order,
Or that the hot-breath'd war-horse ramp unreined?

(The October night thickens and curtains the scene.)

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