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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 2 - Scene 3. The Camp And Harbour Of Boulogne
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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 2 - Scene 3. The Camp And Harbour Of Boulogne Post by :Timaay Category :Plays Author :Thomas Hardy Date :May 2012 Read :1235

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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 2 - Scene 3. The Camp And Harbour Of Boulogne

PART FIRST. ACT SECOND. SCENE III.

(The English coast in the distance. Near the Tour d'Ordre stands a hut, with sentinels and aides outside; it is NAPOLEON's temporary lodging when not at his headquarters at the Chateau of Pont-de-Briques, two miles inland.)


DUMB SHOW

A courier arrives with dispatches, and enters the Emperor's quarters, whence he emerges and goes on with other dispatches to the hut of DECRES, lower down. Immediately after, NAPOLEON comes out from his hut with a paper in his hand, and musingly proceeds towards an eminence commanding the Channel.

Along the shore below are forming in a far-reaching line more than a hundred thousand infantry. On the downs in the rear of the camps fifteen thousand cavalry are manoeuvring, their accoutrements flashing in the sun like a school of mackerel. The flotilla lies in and around the port, alive with moving figures.

With his head forward and his hands behind him the Emperor surveys these animated proceedings in detail, but more frequently turns his face toward the telegraph on the cliff to the southwest, erected to signal when VILLENEUVE and the combined squadrons shall be visible on the west horizon.

He summons one of the aides, who descends to the hut of DECRES. DECRES comes out from his hut, and hastens to join the Emperor. Dumb show ends.

(NAPOLEON and DECRES advance to the foreground of the scene.)


NAPOLEON

Decres, this action with Sir Robert Calder
Three weeks ago, whereof we dimly heard,
And clear details of which I have just unsealed,
Is on the whole auspicious for our plan.
It seems that twenty of our ships and Spain's--
None over eighty-gunned, and some far less--
Engaged the English off Cape Finisterre
With fifteen vessels of a hundred each.
We coolly fought and orderly as they,
And, but for mist, we had closed with victory.
Two English were much mauled, some Spanish damaged,
And Calder then drew off with his two wrecks
And Spain's in tow, we giving chase forthwith.
Not overtaking him our admiral,
Having the coast clear for his purposes,
Entered Coruna, and found order there
To open the port of Brest and come on hither.
Thus hastes the moment when the double fleet
Of Villeneuve and of Ganteaume should appear.

(He looks again towards the telegraph.)


DECRES (with hesitation)

And should they not appear, your Majesty?


NAPOLEON

Not? But they will; and do it early, too!
There's nothing hinders them. My God, they must,
For I have much before me when this stroke
At England's dealt. I learn from Talleyrand
That Austrian preparations threaten hot,
While Russia's hostile schemes are ripening,
And shortly must be met.--My plan is fixed:
I am prepared for each alternative.
If Villeneuve come, I brave the British coast,
Convulse the land with fear ('tis even now
So far distraught, that generals cast about
To find new modes of warfare; yea, design
Carriages to transport their infantry!).--
Once on the English soil I hold it firm,
Descend on London, and the while my men
Salute the dome of Paul's I cut the knot
Of all Pitt's coalitions; setting free
From bondage to a cold manorial caste
A people who await it.

(They stand and regard the chalky cliffs of England, till NAPOLEON resumes):

Should it be
Even that my admirals fail to keep the tryst--
A thing scarce thinkable, when all's reviewed--
I strike this seaside camp, cross Germany,
With these two hundred thousand seasoned men,
And pause not till within Vienna's walls
I cry checkmate. Next, Venice, too, being taken,
And Austria's other holdings down that way,
The Bourbons also driven from Italy,
I strike at Russia--each in turn, you note,
Ere they can act conjoined.
Report to me
What has been scanned to-day upon the main,
And on your passage down request them there
To send Daru this way.


DECRES (as he withdraws)

The Emperor can be sanguine. Scarce can I.
His letters are more promising than mine.
Alas, alas, Villeneuve, my dear old friend,
Why do you pen me this at such a time!

(He retires reading VILLENEUVE'S letter. The Emperor walks up and down till DARU, his private secretary, joins him.)


NAPOLEON

Come quick, Daru; sit down upon the grass,
And write whilst I am in mind.

First to Villeneuve:--

"I trust, Vice-Admiral, that before this date
Your fleet has opened Brest, and gone. If not,
These lines will greet you there. But pause not, pray:
Waste not a moment dallying. Sail away:
Once bring my coupled squadrons Channelwards
And England's soil is ours. All's ready here,
The troops alert, and every store embarked.
Hold the nigh sea but four-and-twenty hours
And our vast end is gained."

Now to Ganteaume:--

"My telegraphs will have made known to you
My object and desire to be but this,
That you forbid Villeneuve to lose an hour
In getting fit and putting forth to sea,
To profit by the fifty first-rate craft
Wherewith I now am bettered. Quickly weigh,
And steer you for the Channel with all your strength.
I count upon your well-known character,
Your enterprize, your vigour, to do this.
Sail hither, then; and we will be avenged
For centuries of despite and contumely."


DARU

Shall a fair transcript, Sire, be made forthwith?


NAPOLEON

This moment. And the courier will depart
And travel without pause.

(DARU goes to his office a little lower down, and the Emperor lingers on the cliffs looking through his glass.

The point of view shifts across the Channel, the Boulogne cliffs sinking behind the water-line.)

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