Alaric Alexander Watts

(1797-1864 / England)

Napoleon's Dream - Poem by Alaric Alexander Watts

It was the dead midnight;
No star was in the sky;
The struggling moon shed a troubled light
As she won her way on high;
And deepest silence hung,
Like a garment, o'er the land;
When a loud and shrill reveillé rung
From a grisly drummer's hand!
It rolled through the startled space,
That wild, unearthly sound;
'Till the martyred dead of a doomed race,
Uprose, and crowded 'round!
From the sleeping City near;
From the bright and genial South;
From the sands of Egypt's deserts drear;
From the Danube's stormy mouth;
From the ice-realms of the North;
From devoted Moscow's plain;
Burst the might of armed myriads forth
To that stirring call again!
From the depths of Lybian seas;
From the Tyrol's mountains blue;
From the base of the snowy Pyrenees;
From the deadly Waterloo!
For, many a far-off land,
And many a wandering wave,
Had heard that loud and stern command,
And had yielded up its brave!
A trumpet-peal is blown;
Those scattered hosts combine;
And the soldier-slaves of the Iron Crown
Arise, and make their sign.
On shadowy chargers mounted,
With swords uplifted high,
From battle-fields uncounted,
The' Imperial Guards draw nigh;—
A legion old and hoary,
With cheeks all ghastly white;
With bosoms gashed and gory,
But Eagles golden bright;
They raise their pallid brows,
In the wan moon's sickly glare;—
But, vain the once-loved sight to rouse
Napoleon's deep despair!
Still, the Drummer by his side
Plies his bleached and fleshless arm;
Till, surging on like the ocean tide,
Those grisly spectres swarm!
They shout no vivats now,
For the chieftain once so dear;
For curses deep, though murmured low,
Alone salute his ear.
Ha! whence that phantom throng
That file before him now,
And drag their maimed limbs along
So painfully and slow!
From Jaffa's burning plain
Those shadowy forms have wended;
With cool and sordid treachery slain,
When the battle-strife had ended.
He shuts his conscious eyes,
Their shrinking sense to save;
But a darker scene within them lies;
'Tis the gallant Enghein's grave!
The torches glare around
Where the dauntless Bourbon kneels,
In the castle fosse, on the damp, chill ground,
As the murderous volley peals!
The muffled drum tolls out
The youthful hero's knell:—
Napoleon starts, 'tis the battle shout,
And the roll of the shrill reveil!
Myriads before him spread,
Their standards rear on high;
But the flags are white as the charnelled dead,
For the grave hath the victory!
He strains his sight to look
Beyond that shadowy train;
What doth he see but a barren rock,
A vulture, and a chain!
The drum hath ceased to roll;
That despot's dreams are o'er;
And the ebbs and flows of his stormy soul
Are stayed for evermore!
His empires all are gone;
His trappings, once so proud;
A rock-bound grave is his only throne,
And his kingly robe a shroud:
And he, whose dread commands
To millions once were doom,
Hath claimed, at length, from alien hands,
A lone, unhonoured tomb.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010



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