Bonaparte Poem by Sir Walter Scott


Rating: 2.8

From a rude isle, his ruder lineage came.
The spark, that, from a suburb hovel's hearth
Ascending, wraps some capital in flame,
Hath not a meaner or more sordid birth.
And for the soul that bade him waste the earth—
The sable land-flood from some swamp obscure,
That poisons the glad husband-field with dearth,
And by destruction bids its fame endure,
Hath not a source more sullen, stagnant, and impure.

Before that Leader strode a shadowy form,
Her limbs like mist, her torch like meteor shew'd;
With which she beckon'd him through fight and storm,
And all he crush'd that cross'd his desp'rate road,
Nor thought, nor fear'd, nor look'd on what he trode;
Realms could not glut his pride, blood not slake,
So oft as e'er she shook her torch abroad—
It was Ambition bade his terrors wake;
Nor deign'd she, as of yore, a milder form to take.

No longer now she spurn'd at mean revenge,
Or stay'd her hand for conquer'd freeman's moan,
As when, the fates of aged Rome to change,
By Caesar's side she cross'd the Rubicon;
Nor joy'd she to bestow the spoils she won,
As when the banded Powers of Greece were task'd
To war beneath the Youth of Macedon:
No seemly veil her modern minion ask'd,
He saw her hideous face, and lov'd the fiend unmask'd.

That Prelate mark'd his march—On banners blaz'd
With battles won in many a distant land.
On eagle standards and on arms he gaz'd;
'And hop'st thou, then,' he said, 'thy power shall stand?
O! thou hast builded on the shifting sand,
And thou hast temper'd it with slaughter's flood;
And know, fell scourge in the Almighty's hand,
Gore-moisten'd trees shall perish in the bud,
And, by a bloody death, shall die the Man of Blood.'

The ruthless Leader beckon'd from his train
A wan, paternal shade, and bade him kneel,
And pale his temples with the Crown of Spain,
While trumpets rang, and Heralds cried, 'Castile!'
Not that he lov'd him—No!—in no man's weal,
Scarce in his own, e'er joy'd that sullen heart;
Yet round that throne he bade his warriors wheel,
That the poor puppet might perform his part,
And be a scepter'd slave, at his stern beck to start.

Dr Dillip K Swain 28 May 2023

However, I award full marks to this extraordinary poem that goes beyond the understanding of an ordinary reader like me!

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Dr Dillip K Swain 28 May 2023

It's very difficult to grasp this inflexible poem of Sir Walter Scott. I have the choice to read this poem as it is reflected as POD but I am not able to grasp it properly as it requires fair amount of time to grasp it thoroughly. I totally agree with poet Kim Barney!

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Upendra Upm 07 April 2017

By Ceaser 's side she crossed the rubicon.brilliant poem.He saw her hideous face and liked the fiend unmasked.

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Kim Barney 12 February 2015

Why does PH keep choosing poems for Poem of the Day that nobody seems to like? The 61 people who have voted on this poem so far have only ranked it as 5.3 out of ten. If I were still teaching school, that would be an F in my class!

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Gajanan Mishra 25 January 2013

The ruthless leader beckoned from his train. good.

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Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott

Edinburgh / Scotland
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