Dramatic Romances, by Robert Browning

Incident of the French Camp

I

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.

II

Just as perhaps he mused, “My plans

10

That soar, to earth may fall,

Let once my army-leader Lannes

Waver at yonder wall.”

0ut ‘twixt the battery-smokes there flew

A rider, bound on bound

Full-galloping; nor bridle drew

Until he reached the mound.

III

Then off there flung in smiling joy,

And held himself erect

By just his horse’s mane, a boy:

20

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.

IV

“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

30

Where I, to heart’s desire,

Perched him —” The chief’s eye flashed; his plans

Soared up again like fire.

V

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 the quick, he said:

“I’m killed, Sire!” And his chief beside,

40

Smiling the boy fell dead.

“Incident of the French Camp.” A story of modest heroism. The incident related is said by Mrs. Orr to be a true one of the siege of Ratisbon by Napoleon in 1809 — except that the real hero was a man. I. Ratisbon: (German Regensburg), an ancient city of Bavaria on the right bank of the Danube, has endured seventeen sieges since the tenth century, the last one being that of Napoleon, 1809.

II. Lannes: Duke of Montebello, one of Napoleon’s generals.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/browning/robert/dramatic/poem1.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32