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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 4 - Scene 1. The Upper Rhine
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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 4 - Scene 1. The Upper Rhine Post by :TopKat Category :Plays Author :Thomas Hardy Date :May 2012 Read :713

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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 4 - Scene 1. The Upper Rhine

PART THIRD. ACT FOURTH. SCENE I.

(The view is from a vague altitude over the beautiful country traversed by the Upper Rhine, which stretches through it in birds-eye perspective. At this date in Europe's history the stream forms the frontier between France and Germany.

It is the morning of New Year's Day, and the shine of the tardy sun reaches the fronts of the beetling castles, but scarcely descends far enough to touch the wavelets of the river winding leftwards across the many-leagued picture from Schaffhausen to Coblenz.)


DUMB SHOW

At first nothing--not even the river itself--seems to move in the panorama. But anon certain strange dark patches in the landscape, flexuous and riband-shaped, are discerned to be moving slowly. Only one movable object on earth is large enough to be conspicuous herefrom, and that is an army. The moving shapes are armies.

The nearest, almost beneath us, is defiling across the river by a bridge of boats, near the junction of the Rhine and the Neckar, where the oval town of Mannheim, standing in the fork between the two rivers, has from here the look of a human head in a cleft stick. Martial music from many bands strikes up as the crossing is effected, and the undulating columns twinkle as if they were scaly serpents.


SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

It is the Russian host, invading France!


Many miles to the left, down-stream, near the little town of Caube, another army is seen to be simultaneously crossing the pale current, its arms and accoutrements twinkling in like manner.


SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

Thither the Prussian levies, too, advance!


Turning now to the right, far away by Basel (beyond which the Swiss mountains close the scene), a still larger train of war- geared humanity, two hundred thousand strong, is discernible. It has already crossed the water, which is much narrower here, and has advanced several miles westward, where its ductile mass of greyness and glitter is beheld parting into six columns, that march on in flexuous courses of varying direction.


SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

There glides carked Austria's invading force!--
Panting, too, Paris-wards with foot and horse,
Of one intention with the other twain,
And Wellington, from the south, in upper Spain.


All these dark and grey columns, converging westward by sure degrees, advance without opposition. They glide on as if by gravitation, in fluid figures, dictated by the conformation of the country, like water from a burst reservoir; mostly snake-
shaped, but occasionally with batrachian and saurian outlines. In spite of the immensity of this human mechanism on its surface, the winter landscape wears an impassive look, as if nothing were happening.

Evening closes in, and the Dumb Show is obscured.

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