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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 6 - Scene 3. The Same. The French Position
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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 6 - Scene 3. The Same. The French Position Post by :lonch Category :Plays Author :Thomas Hardy Date :May 2012 Read :3594

Click below to download : The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 6 - Scene 3. The Same. The French Position (Format : PDF)

The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 1 - Act 6 - Scene 3. The Same. The French Position

PART FIRST. ACT SIXTH. SCENE III.

(Shortly before dawn on the morning of the 2nd of December. A white frost and fog still prevail in the low-lying areas; but overhead the sky is clear. A dead silence reigns.

NAPOLEON, on a grey horse, closely attended by BERTHIER, and surrounded by MARSHALS SOULT, LANNES, MURAT, and their aides-de camp, all cloaked, is discernible in the gloom riding down from the high ground before Bellowitz, on which they have bivouacked, to the village of Puntowitz on the Goldbach stream, quite near the front of the Russian position of the day before on the Pratzen crest. The Emperor and his companions come to a pause, look around and upward to the hills, and listen.)


NAPOLEON

Their bivouac fires, that lit the top last night,
Are all extinct.


LANNES

And hark you, Sire; I catch
A sound which, if I err not, means the thing
We have hoped, and hoping, feared fate would not yield!


NAPOLEON

My God, it surely is the tramp of horse
And jolt of cannon downward from the hill
Toward our right here, by the swampy lakes
That face Davout? Thus, as I sketched, they work!


MURAT

Yes! They already move upon Tilnitz.


NAPOLEON

Leave them alone! Nor stick nor stone we'll stir
To interrupt them. Nought that we can scheme
Will help us like their own stark sightlessness!--
Let them get down to those white lowlands there,
And so far plunge in the level that no skill,
When sudden vision flashes on their fault,
Can help them, though despair-stung, to regain
The key to mastery held at yestereve!

Meantime move onward these divisions here
Under the fog's kind shroud; descend the slope,
And cross the stream below the Russian lines:
There halt concealed, till I send down the word.

(NAPOLEON and his staff retire to the hill south-east of Bellowitz and the day dawns pallidly.)

'Tis good to get above that rimy cloak
And into cleaner air. It chilled me through.

(When they reach the summit they are over the fog: and suddenly the sun breaks forth to the left of Pratzen, illuminating the ash-hued face of NAPOLEON and the faces of those around him. All eyes are turned first to the sun, and thence to look for the dense masses of men that had occupied the upland the night before.)

MURAT

I see them not. The plateau seems deserted!


NAPOLEON

Gone; verily!--Ah, how much will you bid,
An hour hence, for the coign abandoned now!
The battle's ours.--It was, then, their rash march
Downwards to Tilnitz and the Goldbach swamps
Before dawn, that we heard.--No hurry, Lannes!
Enjoy this sun, that rests its chubby jowl
Upon the plain, and thrusts its bristling beard
Across the lowlands' fleecy counterpane,
Peering beneath our broadest hat-brims' shade. . . .
Soult, how long hence to win the Pratzen top?


SOULT

Some twenty minutes or less, your Majesty:
Our troops down there, still mantled by the mist,
Are half upon the way.


NAPOLEON

Good! Set forthwith
Vandamme and Saint Hilaire to mount the slopes---

(Firing begins in the marsh to the right by Tilnitz and the pools, though the thick air yet hides the operations.)

O, there you are, blind boozy Buxhovden!
Achieve your worst. Davout will hold you firm.

(The head of and aide-de-camp rises through the fog on that side, and he hastens up to NAPOLEON and his companions, to whom the officer announces what has happened. DAVOUT rides off, disappearing legs first into the white stratum that covers the
attack.)

Lannes and Murat, you have concern enough
Here on the left, with Prince Bagration
And all the Austro-Russian cavalry.
Haste off. The victory promising to-day
Will, like a thunder-clap, conclude the war!

(The Marshals with their aides gallop away towards their respective divisions. Soon the two divisions under SOULT are seen ascending in close column the inclines of the Pratzen height. Thereupon the heads of the Russian centre columns disclose themselves, breaking the sky-line of the summit from the other side, in a desperate attempt to regain the position vacated by the Russian left. A fierce struggle develops there between SOULT'S divisions and these, who, despite their tardy attempt to recover the lost post of dominance, are pressed by the French off the slopes into the lowland.)


SEMICHORUS I OF THE PITIES (aerial music)

O Great Necessitator, heed us now!
If it indeed must be
That this day Austria smoke with slaughtery,
Quicken the issue as Thou knowest how;
And dull their lodgment in a flesh that galls!


SEMICHORUS II

If it be in the future human story
To lift this man to yet intenser glory,
Let the exploit be done
With the least sting, or none,
To those, his kind, at whose expense such pitch is won!


SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Again ye deprecate the World-Soul's way
That I so long have told? Then note anew
(Since ye forget) the ordered potencies,
Nerves, sinews, trajects, eddies, ducts of It
The Eternal Urger, pressing change on change.

(At once, as earlier, a preternatural clearness possesses the atmosphere of the battle-field, in which the scene becomes anatomized and the living masses of humanity transparent. The controlling Immanent Will appears therein, as a brain-like network of currents and ejections, twitching, interpenetrating, entangling, and thrusting hither and thither the human forms.)


SEMICHORUS I OF IRONIC SPIRITS (aerial music)

O Innocents, can ye forget
That things to be were shaped and set
Ere mortals and this planet met?


SEMICHORUS II

Stand ye apostrophizing That
Which, working all, works but thereat
Like some sublime fermenting-vat.


SEMICHORUS I

Heaving throughout its vast content
With strenuously transmutive bent
Though of its aim insentient?--


SEMICHORUS II

Could ye have seen Its early deeds
Ye would not cry, as one who pleads
For quarter, when a Europe bleeds!


SEMICHORUS I

Ere ye, young Pities, had upgrown
From out the deeps where mortals moan
Against a ruling not their own,


SEMICHORUS II

He of the Years beheld, and we,
Creation's prentice artistry
Express in forms that now unbe


SEMICHORUS I

Tentative dreams from day to day;
Mangle its types, re-knead the clay
In some more palpitating way;


SEMICHORUS II

Beheld the rarest wrecked amain,
Whole nigh-perfected species slain
By those that scarce could boast a brain;


SEMICHORUS I

Saw ravage, growth, diminish, add,
Here peoples sane, there peoples mad,
In choiceless throws of good and bad;


SEMICHORUS II

Heard laughters at the ruthless dooms
Which tortured to the eternal glooms
Quick, quivering hearts in hecatombs.


CHORUS

Us Ancients, then, it ill befits
To quake when Slaughter's spectre flits
Athwart this field of Austerlitz!


SHADE OF THE EARTH

Pain not their young compassions by such lore,
But hold you mute, and read the battle yonder:
The moment marks the day's catastrophe.

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