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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 4 - Scene 4. Fontainebleau. A Room In The Palace
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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 4 - Scene 4. Fontainebleau. A Room In The Palace Post by :g_lintern Category :Plays Author :Thomas Hardy Date :May 2012 Read :1787

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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 4 - Scene 4. Fontainebleau. A Room In The Palace


(NAPOLEON is discovered walking impatiently up and down, and glancing at the clock every few minutes. Enter NEY.)

NAPOLEON (without a greeting)

Well--the result? Ah, but your looks display
A leaden dawning to the light you bring!
What--not a regency? What--not the Empress
To hold it in trusteeship for my son?


Sire, things like revolutions turn back,
But go straight on. Imperial governance
Is coffined for your family and yourself!
It is declared that military repose,
And France's well-doing, demand of you
Your abdication--unconditioned, sheer.
This verdict of the sovereigns cannot change,
And I have pushed on hot to let you know.

NAPOLEON (with repression)

I am obliged to you. You have told me promptly!--
This was to be expected. I had learnt
Of Marmont's late defection, and the Sixth's;
The consequence I easily inferred.


The Paris folk are flaked with white cockades;
Tricolors choke the kennels. Rapturously
They clamour for the Bourbons and for peace.

NAPOLEON (tartly)

I can draw inferences without assistance!

NEY (persisting)

They see the brooks of blood that have flowed forth;
They feel their own bereavements; so their mood
Asked no deep reasoning for its geniture.


I have no remarks to make on that just now.
I'll think the matter over. You shall know
By noon to-morrow my definitive.

NEY (turning to go)

I trust my saying what had to be said
Has not affronted you?

NAPOLEON (bitterly)

No; but your haste
In doing it has galled me, and has shown me
A heart that heaves no longer in my cause!
The skilled coquetting of the Government
Has nearly won you from old fellowship! . . .
Well; till to-morrow, marshal, then Adieu.


Ney has got here before you; and, I deem,
Has truly told me all?


We thought at first
We should have had success. But fate said No;
And abdication, making no reserves,
Is, sire, we are convinced, with all respect,
The only road, if you care not to risk
The Empress; loss of every dignity,
And magnified misfortunes thrown on France.


I have heard it all; and don't agree with you.
My assets are not quite so beggarly
That I must close in such a shameful bond!
What--do you rate as naught that I am yet
Full fifty thousand strong, with Augereau,
And Soult, and Suchet true, and many more?
I still may know to play the Imperial game
As well as Alexander and his friends!
So--you will see. Where are my maps?--eh, where?
I'll trace campaigns to come! Where's my paper, ink,
To schedule all my generals and my means!


Sire, you have not the generals you suppose.


And if you had, the mere anatomy
Of a real army, sire, that's left to you,
Must yield the war. A bad example tells.


Ah--from your manner it is worse, I see,
Than I cognize! . . . O Marmont, Marmont,--yours,
Yours was the bad sad lead!--I treated him
As if he were a son!--defended him,
Made him a marshal out of sheer affection,
Built, as 'twere rock, on his fidelity!
"Forsake who may," I said, "I still have him."
Child that I was, I looked for faith in friends! . . .

Then be it as you will. Ney's manner shows
That even he inclines to Bourbonry.--
I faint to leave France thus--curtailed, pared down
From her late spacious borders. Of the whole
This is the keenest sword that pierces me. . . .
But all's too late: my course is closed, I see.
I'll do it--now. Call in Bertrand and Ney;
Let them be witness to my finishing!

(In much agitation he goes to the writing-table and begins drawing up a paper. BERTRAND and NEY enter; and behind them are seen through the doorway the faces of CONSTANT the valet, ROUSTAN the Mameluke, and other servants. All wait in silence till the EMPEROR has done writing. He turns in his seat without looking up.)

NAPOLEON (reading)

"It having been declared by the Allies
That the prime obstacle to Europe's peace
Is France's empery by Napoleon,
This ruler, faithful to his oath of old,
Renounces for himself and for his heirs
The throne of France and that of Italy;
Because no sacrifice, even of his life,
Is he averse to make for France's gain."
--And hereto do I sign. (He turns to the table and signs.)

(The marshals, moved, rush forward and seize his hand.)

Mark, marshals, here;
It is a conquering foe I covenant with,
And not the traitors at the Tuileries
Who call themselves the Government of France!
Caulaincourt, go to Paris as before,
Ney and Macdonald too, and hand in this
To Alexander, and to him alone.

(He gives the document, and bids them adieu almost without speech. The marshals and others go out. NAPOLEON continues sitting with his chin on his chest.

An interval of silence. There is then heard in the corridor a sound of whetting. Enter ROUSTAN the Mameluke, with a whetstone in his belt and a sword in his hand.)


After this fall, your Majesty, 'tis plain
You will not choose to live; and knowing this
I bring to you my sword.

NAPOLEON (with a nod)

I see you do, Roustan.


Will you, sire, use it on yourself,
Or shall I pass it through you?

NAPOLEON (coldly)

Neither plan
Is quite expedient for the moment, man.




There may be, in some suited time,
Some cleaner means of carrying out such work.


Sire, you refuse? Can you support vile life
A moment on such terms? Why then, I pray,
Dispatch me with the weapon, or dismiss me.
(He holds the sword to NAPOLEON, who shakes his head.)
I live no longer under such disgrace!

(Exit ROUSTAN haughtily. NAPOLEON vents a sardonic laugh, and throws himself on a sofa, where he by and by falls asleep. The door is softly opened. ROUSTAN and CONSTANT peep in.)


To-night would be as good a time to go as any. He will sleep there for hours. I have my few francs safe, and I deserve them; for I have stuck to him honourably through fourteen trying years.


How many francs have you secured?


Well--more than you can count in one breath, or even two.




In a hollow tree in the Forest. And as for YOUR reward, you can easily get the keys of that cabinet, where there are more than enough francs to equal mine. He will not have them, and you may as well take them as strangers.


It is not money that I want, but honour. I leave, because I can no longer stay with self-respect.


And I because there is no other such valet in the temperate zone, and it is for the good of society that I should not be wasted here.


Well, as you propose going this evening I will go with you, to lend a symmetry to the drama of our departure. Would that I had served a more sensitive master! He sleeps there quite indifferent to the dishonour of remaining alive!

(NAPOLEON shows signs of waking. CONSTANT and ROUSTAN disappear. NAPOLEON slowly sits up.)


Here the scene lingers still! Here linger I! . . .
Things could not have gone on as they were going;
I am amazed they kept their course so long.
But long or short they have ended now--at last!
(Footsteps are heard passing through the court without.)
Hark at them leaving me! So politic rats
Desert the ship that's doomed. By morrow-dawn
I shall not have a man to shake my bed
Or say good-morning to!


Herein behold
How heavily grinds the Will upon his brain,
His halting hand, and his unlighted eye.


A picture this for kings and subjects too!


Yet is it but Napoleon who has failed.
The pale pathetic peoples still plod on
Through hoodwinkings to light!

NAPOLEON (rousing himself)

This now must close.
Roustan misunderstood me, though his hint
Serves as a fillip to a flaccid brain. . . .
--How gild the sunset sky of majesty
Better than by the act esteemed of yore?
Plutarchian heroes outstayed not their fame,
And what nor Brutus nor Themistocles
Nor Cato nor Mark Antony survived,
Why, why should I? Sage Canabis, you primed me!

(He unlocks a case, takes out a little bag containing a phial, pours from it a liquid into a glass, and drinks. He then lies down and falls asleep again.

Re-enter CONSTANT softly with a bunch of keys in his hand. On his way to the cabinet he turns and looks at NAPOLEON. Seeing the glass and a strangeness in the EMPEROR, he abandons his object, rushes out, and is heard calling.


BERTRAND (shaking the Emperor)

What is the matter, sire? What's this you've done?

NAPOLEON (with difficulty)

Why did you interfere!--But it is well;
Call Caulaincourt. I'd speak with him a trice
Before I pass.

(MARET hurries out. Enter IVAN the physician, and presently CAULAINCOURT.)

Ivan, renew this dose;
'Tis a slow workman, and requires a fellow;
Age has impaired its early promptitude.

(Ivan shakes his head and rushes away distracted. CAULAINCOURT seizes NAPOLEON'S hand.)


Why should you bring this cloud upon us now!


Restrain your feelings. Let me die in peace.--
My wife and son I recommend to you;
Give her this letter, and the packet there.
Defend my memory, and protect their lives.
(They shake him. He vomits.)


He's saved--for good or ill-as may betide!


God--here how difficult it is to die:
How easy on the passionate battle-plain!

(They open a window and carry him to it. He mends.)

Fate has resolved what man could not resolve.
I must live on, and wait what Heaven may send!

(MACDONALD and other marshals re-enter. A letter is brought from MARIE LOUISE. NAPOLEON reads it, and becomes more animated.

They are well; and they will join me in my exile.
Yes: I will live! The future who shall spell?
My wife, my son, will be enough for me.--
And I will give my hours to chronicling
In stately words that stir futurity
The might of our unmatched accomplishments;
And in the tale immortalize your names
By linking them with mine.

(He soon falls into a convalescent sleep. The marshals, etc. go out. The room is left in darkness.)

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