Dramatic Romances and Lyrics

Incident of the French Camp

Robert Browning

YOU know, we French stormed Ratisbon:
    A mile or so away,
On a little mound, Napoléon
    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 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.

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 the quick, he said:
“I’m killed, Sire!” And his chief beside
    Smiling the boy fell dead.

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