Incident of the French Camp
- YOU know, we French stormed Ratisbon:
- A mile or so away
- On a little mound, Napoleon
- Stood on our storming-day;
- With neck out-thrust, you fancy how,
- Legs wide, arms locked behind,
- As if to balance the prone brow
- Oppressive with its mind.
- Just as pehaps he mused, "My plans
- That soar, to earth may fall,
- Let once my army-leader Lannes
- Waver a yonder wall," --
- Out 'twixt the battery-smokes there flew
- A rider, bound on bound
- Full-galloping; nor bridle drew
- Until he reached the mound.
- Then off there flung in smiling joy,
- And held himself erect
- By just his horse's mane, a boy:
- You hardly could suspect --
- (So tight he kept his lips compressed,
- Scarce any blood came through)
- You looked twice ere you saw his breast
- Was all but shot in two.
- "Well," cried he, "Emperor, by God's grace
- We've got you Ratisbon!
- The Marshal's in the market-place,
- And you'll be there anon
- To see your flag-bird flap his vans
- Where I, to heart's desire,
- Perched him!" The chief's eye flashed; his plans
- Soared up again like fire.
- The chief's eye flashed; but presently
- Softened itself, as sheathes
- A film the mother-eagle's eye
- When her bruised eaglet breathes:
- "You're wounded!" "Nay", the soldier's pride
- Touched to quick, he said:
- "I'm killed, Sire!" And his chief beside,
- Smiling the boy fell dead.
- Robert Browning (1812-1889)
is based on a true story that happened in Regensburg (Rattisbone in French) which stood in Napoleon's
way of conquering Bavaria
after he had beaten back the Austrians
in Germany in 1809
. This is the scene of Browning's Incident of the French Camp
(from Dramatic Lyrics
, 1843) . Napoleon had assumed the throne in France in 1804
stabilized the State finances, and restored religion, but it was his military adventures that resulted in his and France's ruin by 1814 that is written most about by historians. Even so, it was his victories that made his men love him and fiercely loyal.
Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner: