Robert Browning

(1812-1889 / London / England)

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
``That soar, to earth may fall,
``Let once my army-leader Lannes
``Waver at yonder wall,''---
Out '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:
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
``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
Smiling the boy fell dead.

Submitted: Sunday, May 13, 2001
Edited: Sunday, May 13, 2001

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