The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 5, Scenes 7-8

SCENE 7: Elbling

Bourgogne is asleep in a bed – enter Madame Gentil & her German servant, Billy, who carries a bowl of broth – Gentil opens the curtains letting in golden sunlight

Good morning, your privations are over

What? Where? Who? How?

You do not remember

No… you are so beautiful, am I dead

Well, Elbling is the nearest thing to death
In this life anyway, a quiet town
Render’d carnival by your Grand Armee
Or whats left of it, not much now at all

I’m in Elbling

Yes, I am your hostess
You came to me two days ago, have slept
Ever since

Hah! Picart, the Jew, the sledge

Yes, Picart
Is the man’s name, he’s been some seven times
Rnquiring on the status of your health
We’ve all been very worried

I feel fine
But hungry, by god, what is that I smell

A hearty garbure

But that dish is french

Yes, you are in the house of a Frenchman
& I his wife

His wife! what woes are mine
I thought you had been sent me by Cupid

You Frenchmen are masters of flattery
But need you not to try, I gladly come
To soothe as if you were kin of mine own
When you arrived in so much suffering
Slinging gibberish, I swore to nurse you

{tasting food}
To savour flavour is to paradise
A moment spent admiring god’s gardens
So very kind of you to take pity
On Sergeant Bourgogne, another fair stroke
Of fortune that delivers me alive
To this fantastic bed, of heaven’s felt
& eider down, where wearsome muscles melt

You are comfortable then

Beyond words
But tell me please, lady, my saviour’s name

Madame Gentil

Gentle appellation
& your servant

I am Billy

This broth
Is the greatest thing to have ever existed, sir
But then unfortunately quite finite
Is there any more

There’s some in the pan

Go fill another bowl for the sergeant

Exit Billy with the bowl

How cameth you to become the madame

Five years ago a convoy from Dantzig
Entere’d Elbling with wagons of wounded
A handsome hussar billeted with us
His breast bore musketball, his arm sword slash
My mother & I nurs’d him to his life

In gratitude he wed you for your care?

That is the case

I would have done the same
You are the most beautiful of women
Dark eyes of the deer, skin of pink-red rose
My soul has been imprison’d by your smile

Madame Gentil laughs & blushes

Your compliments are tonic to me sir
Perhaps we might havr married if, of course
I was not so already, but I love
my husband

It would give me great pleasure
To meet him, is that possible madame

He is with my father in the Baltic
On business, has been gone for some days
But should be back tomorrow or the next

Soon enough, but I am in such a state
To meet him, anyone, even myself
In the mirror, what a sight I must be
I ought to have a bath, find a barber
& make myself presentable erewhile

Enter Billy with a fresh bowl

A fresh bowl of garbure for you sergeant

Most kind… where are the nearest public baths

Unfortunately very far away
But, if you like, one ready may be made
in the house

That would be perfect


Yes mistress

Exit Billy

It is good to see you eat
When first you came I thought you’d die that night

No fear, madame, your fretting was futile
We warriors do not die in our beds

I shall call you when you bath is ready

Will it be hot

It shall

What ecstasy!

SCENE 8: The Same House – downstairs

Bourgogne is in thee bath – singing to the tune of The Cure (Priest) de Pomponne

Ah tun t’en souviendra, la-ri-la
Du depart de Boulogne

Enter Billy

Is anything amiss at all, sergeant
You have been soaking an awful long time

Amiss, no, bliss? Yes! I cannot express
What comfort am I fullily immersed

Enter Gentil with Graingier from the street

You are scrubbing up a rum young fellow
& now for your barber, he informs me
Of taking preen your beard & locks before

Before, but when?

The sixteenth I recall

Graingier – is that you

It is my old friend, how are you faring

Much better than the last time we conversed

& you smell it, too – I’ve scissors & blade
To end the job of reforging your youth
Soap please –
{Graingier makes a froth}
Head back – apply evenly… &

Graingier begins to shave Bourgogne’s beard & cut & curry comb his hair

Stop, this is agony inglorious
You flay my face, your razor cuts like saws

Your skin harden’d by cold continuous
Here, numb the pain, with some ten year brandy

You lie

It is true

From where

The citizens of France are sending gifts
For Christmas to their soldiers half-way home
Take this bottle’s contents in perfect peace
The Russians have retired from pursuing

Hah – is there anything left to pursue

Less than fifteen thousand, & most of them
Never march’d on moscow, the garrisons
Of Smolensk, Minsk & Vilnius

Mon dieu
How we surviv’d that carnival of death
I shall never understand

But we did

There is a knock at the door – Gentil answers – Legrand is there


Is this the house of Madame Gentil

I am she

Then you might have my sergeant




How is he

He is in the bath

Sergeant, you look well

I feel it

& you Graingier

I’m good

What joy it is to view your fresh faces

& you, Legrand, you look more than healthy

I am, & I am happy for my life
I also bring fresh clothes for the sergeant
Come to clad him in costume vermin-free

Perfect timings, I shall straightwise don them
If you do not mind, madame

Gentil turns away – Bourgogne steps out of the bath naked – Billy presents him with a towel

What do you have

These trousers ‘a la Cosaque’ should fit snug
The cloth is fine, the dark-red dye drawn deep

Where are they from

Some trooper or other
Probably an aide-de-camp belonging
To King Murat

I shall try them on – yes
They fit to perfection, & warm, so warm

This war commissary shirt also yours

Bourgogne stretches out his arms to put on the white shirt

Why, you look an eagle, a white eagle

Soar’d home

This calls for celebration
Our sickly sergeant summon’d from the dead
Delighting spirits with his tender smile
Lets toast the moment with my husband’s wine
Come help me, Billy, with the cellar door

Yes mistress

A knock on the door

Answer that first

Yes mistress

Enter a clean shaven Picart, wearing a white cloak & a black Russian fox cap – he is smoking meerschaum pipe

Apologies again for disturbance
But has my friend awoken yet

He has

Enter Picart – Billy goes to join Madame Gentil

Hello Graingier
{to Bourgogne, but not recognizing him}

Excuse me


Is it not I you are looking for



Is it you

I hope so

What a miraculous transformation
Your shakefork face I’d truly forgotten
How do you feel, you seem’d so close to death

Much better than when sitting on that sledge
When each thick bump made murder in my bones
Come here, embrace me, friend who saved my life+

You would have done the same

A knock on the door

Let me get that
{opening the door to Leboude}
Leboude, Leboude, can this be really you
Look who has come to join this antiwake
This lazarean festival of friends

Hello my boys, bless god you all survived
A treasury of everlasting joy
I saw you last by Berezhina’s banks
I was order’d to bury poor corpses
Frozen by exposre, lagging behind
The regiment, I listen’d to some Poles
Who sent me to their country, but the road
Along which the regiment was routed
So follow’d a month of meandering
Deserted wastelands always deep in snow
Not knowing where I was or where to go
I spoke no Polish & the Poles no French,
Confusions exhausting in excresence
My money useless, & could only barter
Milk & dripping when exchanging eagles’
Buttons, or fine handkerchiefs kept by chance
& chance it is, & only that I’m sure
Which brings us all to company once more
To be alive together one more day

Enter Gentil & Billy

& many more to come brave sons of France
embarking for fresh towns & pastures new
But, before all that, you are in Elbling
Under my roof, where we shall make merry
There is plenty of food & drink – coffee
Tea, bread rolls, rhine wine, fine Dantzig gin

Madame you spoil us

Before I forget
I have something to hand to you sergent
Do you recall the day we left Moscow
& entrusted me with a small parcel

I do

Here it is – just as you gave it
Never once taken out of my knapscask

Leboude, you are the legend of my life
{taking out a dark grey overcoat}
You necer thought to wear this coat at all

Twas not mine to wear

Pockets keep secrets
What is this – an Indian handkerchief
Made from best Bengalese silkworm, & here
Knotted in its corner is a small box
Aha! its precious contents I recall
See for yourself, madame, five golden rings
The first for you,

How courteous

The next
For you Leboude

Is the ceremony
Over yet, this feast is beckoning me

Not quite, I wish to speak a few sound words
Madame – if you could fill all our vessels
Those who traverse thro’ this lamentable
But glorious adventure must have been
Coated in iron to bear so many trials
The greatest test to which men were exposed
Remember thoes memories & the fates
Of friends we left to perish, dissapear’d
Or dead upon some sombre battlefield
Come toast the regiment – la Garde

Bourgogne, Graingier, Picart, Leboude, Legrande

Can you believe we ever saw Moscow

Not only that we slept in palaces

& feasted like tsarinas at a ball

Do you recall our own informal ball

Of course, what fun, what luxury, what life



We were resting in bubble beds of silk, furs & feathers
In the nest of the double-headed eagle
We were blest with abundance & the punch does me wonders
In the nest of the double headed eagle

& I know that I’d do it all again
When I’m ready to hit the road again
Cos to be with my sweet Napoleon
Means more than my life to me

Remember when we saw stardust
Come a tumbling down
On the dancefloor, we saw ballerinas

In the flight of the Snow White Eagles
Only the strongest might survive
But when comes the majestic sequel
I’ll be alive

We were marching thro troublespots of big bloody Cossack
In the land of the double headed eagles

Our numbers were plummeting in terrible weathers
In the land of the double headed eagles

Remember all the men we lost
& the friendless cost as we crossed
The freezing Berezhina

In the flight of the Snow White Eagles
Only the strongest might survive
But when comes the majestic sequel
I’ll be alive

& all the memories that I remember
I shall write them down to survive
So that all my friendships forever
Will be kept alive

One-by-one the hosts of dead soldiers join their living comrades in song

Rossi, Vachain, Cesarisse, Peniaux
Vachain, Leboude, Bodet, Melle, Monfort
Legrand, Boqet, Izambert, Maujard
Hourex, Pavart, Graingier, Picart

We are the Guard! La Guarde! La Guarde!




“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse



Composing Conchordia, Provence

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 5, Scenes 4-6

SCENE 4: Eve, a small town

Inside a small hut there is a fire – Foucart is there in some distress – Madame Dubois is sitting quietly on soldier’s napsacks under a great coat, head in hands, elbows resting on knees, silk dress in tatters & wearing a sheepskin cap – Graingier is attending the fire & boiling tea & cooking food – enter Bourgogne & Rossi – Rossi collapses at the door – Bourgogne staggers to the fire

Adrien! Adrien! You are alive!
{preparing straw}
So many times your death-sonmg have I heard
But know now they were the pipes of phantoms
Lie down upon this straw, I have some broth
With seasalt season’d, not gunpowder dull’d




Our quartermaster?

Bourgogne points towards the door – Graingier goes to Rossi

Wake-up quartermaster, you have made it
To safety with your brothers once again

Graingier moves Rossi to the fire

Feel, my friend, the thermodryad warmth
There’s wood enough to burn the hole night through
& roast away your rheumatismal woes
{to Bourgogne}
I’m glad to see your famous appetite
Is still as legendary as Ceres
& see, I have some tea in a kettle
Its leaves left Moscow seven weeks ago
I had forgotten I had pack’d them deep
Drink, it will do you a great deal of good

Bourgogne drinks

Ah, what nectar! Comrade, you have saved me

An awful noise erupts from Foucart

Who is that


Foucart! How is he!

Foucart sits up with a face full of blood

Not so good
{Foucart begins eating his hand}
No – you mustn’t eat your hand
A Barrack-master of the Chevaliers
Of the Legion of Honour does not eat
His hand, you must stop this madness at once

Graingier pulls Foucart’s hand from his mouth / Foucart then takes bunches of mud & straw & shoves them in his mouth

Foucart, my friend, stop this, that is not food
You must spit it, spit it out

Graingier tries to pull the straw & mud from Foucart’s mouth – Foucart bites Graingier

Ah! my hand
Graingier strikes Foucart, who whimpers & curls up into a ball

He cannot swallow, his throat seizes small

Who is that soldier

That is no solider

Dubois sits up to reveal herself

Madame Dubois, my darling

Be quiet
I am nobody’s darling

Have mercy
Can you find me a droplet of Royome

Royome – you know very well I have none

This is a moment of no cautious smile
Well before the Berezhinan passage
I met myself imagining the crows
Made fristouille a la neige of your carcass

Wretch! They will eat you before they do me
Three months withour spirits for ye drunkards
Used to wassailing lasciviously
Must feel a lifetimes tragedy of want

That is not so, I’ve had my share of booze
But every sip’s a momentary bliss
Of warm escape from this dejective freeze

The thing that astonishes me, Sergeant
Is you’re not dead of drink, so many brave
Fellows left down yonder, while good for naughts
Live life still,

Stop there, madame, I object
You might slay & slate my reputation
But stop short of bad soldier, halte la!

Dubois frowns & bends her head – she raises it again & smiles a sad smile

What dwells within a tireless mind, madame
To form a smile as sad & strain’d as this

Can you guess



I faint for eating

& now there is only drink to be had

So you do have some

Infuriate child
Be silent as I dream of suppers past

Since yestereen all I’ve really eaten
Was half a dead raven found by the road
& a few spoons of powder-salted gruel
Anything is edible no matter
How disgusting, all devour’d like beef steaks
Sizzling savoury in onions & wine

Stop that talk, or I’ll soon be eating you

Madame Dubois!

I am still here Rossi
Tho we have reach’d the lowermost limits
Of human sufferance

My legs, my legs

What is it sergeant

Hot knives in my thighs
Incredible pains of burning needles
Rip through my flesh, relieve me, please no more!

I think you shan’t be leaving tomorrow
Incapable of moving a muscle
You seem

& me

I agree… Graingier
Please do me the noblest of services
Once more tonight, I wish to make my will.

Your will


That is the will of death
Where is the will which surges on the hope
Once more you’ll see fair France, if there’s a chance

I’m cool enough to bargain with reason
So ask you, no I BEG you, undertake
The charge of some delicate articles
Transport them to my family in Conde

Of course, my friend, what are they

Where’s your hand
Tell them these came from Moscow

I shall that

This is a gold & silver crucifix
& this little blue vase of porcelain
Was made in China by a finer hand
& wait- my money – when tomorrow comes
Bringing Russians, I’d rather it were gone
Take it please

Hold back a few gold pieces
Secrete them in the sheepskins round your feet
No soldier will search among footfilth
I am sure of that… but, sergeant, listen
Is this all not but fever-taking talk

I am in fever, but quite clear-headed

Then let me remonstrate against your will
Have you not demonstrated great courage
In torried situations worse than this

I may have done, but I was stronger then

We are so close to Kownow, two days march
Fatigue is never fatal, try & rest,
Place these things once more about your person
I shalll take them in the morning if you wish

I love you Graingier

I love you too

Bourgogne goes to sleep – Graingier goes to check on Rossi

Madame Dubois, please sing a lullaby

Au clair de la lune,
Mon ami Pierrot,
Prête-moi ta plume
Pour écrire un mot.
Ma chandelle est morte,
Je n’ai plus de feu.
Ouvre-moi ta porte
Pour l’amour de Dieu.”

Going quieter as the men go to sleep

Au clair de la lune,
Pierrot répondit :
“Je n’ai pas de plume,
Je suis dans mon lit.
Va chez la voisine,
Je crois qu’elle y est,
Car dans sa cuisine
On bat le briquet.”

Foucart suddenly sits up with a start & a groan, then slumps down dead

SCENE 5: The Tuileries – the quarters of the ladies-in-waiting to the Empress

It is night – enter Caulaincourt – a few moments later enter two ladies-in-waiting – Celeste & Giselle – they are taken aback by the sight of Caulaincourt

What are you doing here, rough brute, begone

How on earth did you gain access

Be calm
I am Caulaincourt


You are not he

He has no beard

Nor would he ever wear
Such ruffian rags as these

Ladies please
Be assur’d I am monseiur Caulaincourt
Outside that door the Emperor awaits
As is the custom, so I can announce
His presence to the Empress

Did you say
The Emperor’s here

Return’d from Russia?

Does he seem in appearance as yourself

Is he an apparition ghoulish hewn

Enter Napoleon

See for yourself

Your majesty?

Let me
Examine your features for some moments
{Celeste checking with a lamp}
You are the Emperor

Yes, I am he
& am impatient to see the Empress
Good night, Caulaincourt, you too will need some rest

Exit Caulanicourt – Napoleon enters the Empress’s room

The Empress
{from her room}
Napoleon, Napoleon , my love!

We’d better pour the Emperor a bath

Yes, & send out for the strongest perfume
In Paris

But he is back among us

The Emperor is home & all is well

Exit Ladies-In-Waiting

SCENE 6: A small hut in Eve

Dawn breaks – a trumpet blares – Graingier wakes up, leaves the hut – Dubois wakes up, stands with difficulty & brushes herself down

I’d best be off, in these day’s of long night
Each minute’s precious illumination
Inches me to safety – goodbye old friends

Dubois leans on a stick & exits the hut – Graingier returns

Allez, allez, the company musters
Foucart, Rossi, Bourgogne, awake, arise
We take ourselves parading in the square

Foucart is dead, I heard him in te enight
Stilling the crude death rattle of his breath

Pour soul, but so, his fate shall not be yours
Get up, stand up,

I cannot move my legs
They are uselessly numb, & look at this
{unwrapping his sheepskin}
More than half of my toes are now missing
The remainder are readying to fall
Do you not see my feet, how they are blue
As if lain on some mortuary slab

You must try, Rossi, the Russians are near

I will take my chances, there’s always Ney
He’ll arrive before the Russians, if I
Rest a few hours longer, gain back strength,
I might do well to join with the Rear gaurd

I am also utterly unable
To leave, or even take a paltry step
I am as bad as Rossi

But then what
If you cannot keep up with the marshall?

We shall find the first house or village
& put ourselves under the protection
Of baron or master, praying he will
Take pity on us ’til healthier made

Could you do me a great service Graingier
If you gain happiness in seeing France
Here is a little packet of papers
To send to my mother, there is a sheet
Of paper which sports her name & address
Could you add in the space my condition
As you leave me, but not to let her lose
Her hopes for the thought of me returning

Take mine back also, my friend

Of course I shall,
But beg you both never abandon hope
& summon every strength that yet remains
To haul yourslves to safety by nightfall
You are a couple of mad bedlamites
To think you are to end your days today

We shall see how strong Death’s urge, how loud his knell
Soon enough my friend, Goodbye Graingier

Goodbye Bourgogne, goodbye Rossi, good luck

Exit Graingier

If you have tears prepare to shed them now!
Farewell my mother, farewell to my dear
& Bonnie sophie, farewell to fair Nantes
Where I have lived a happy life, farewell
Beautiful France, my patriotic pearl
Farewell old world, I quit this life, farewell,

Rossi collapses

Rossi, Rossi, are you dead

I’m sleeping
Or trying to

Of course, it might be hours
Before the rearguard comes, are you hungry

I am sleeping sergeant, please

Ah, sorry

Bourgogne begins to scrape out a bowl of horse broth for scraps – enter Picart

Jour di Dieu, it is my friend, my sergeant
Why do you not depart with King Murat

Picart, no, I must be delirious

You are not, my friend, listen to my voice
Relish living life in its cognizance
I must iterate & reiterate
You cannot stay here, it is dangerous

Outwith your twingle-twangle sentiment
This is the end for me, unless I rest

As your colonel I order you to stand

My what – where did you get that uniform

A deliciously simple ruse de guerre
Since Vilnius the key to good lodgings
& best of all this morning I procured
A sledge! the jew who owns it waits outside

A sledge you mean…

He’ll take us to Prussia

Is there room for Rossi


He’s there
But very badly off

I am alive Picart, but cannot walk

We can squeeze you in, yes, but are the last
Friends step outside, your chariot awaits

You are the miracle of this campaign

Yes, yes… don’t forget to call me colonel

Yes colonel

He also thinks I’m Jewish

Exit Picart – Rossi & Bourgogne stand with some difficulty & leave the hut


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse



Composing Conchordia, Provence

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 5, Scenes 1-3

SCENE 1: The Hill of Three Crosses over Vilna

Vasalisa, Albina, Vitaly, Valentina, Angelina & Natasha are looking down on Vilna

Look how they stream like rats into Smolensk
A flailing army wedded to its fate
This settlement of luxuries foresworn
Is nothing but the tombstone of thousands

When reaching Europa’s icy regions
Napoleon could not nature subdue
Was precipitated from the summit
By forceful instigation of our arms –
Irresistible, invulnerable
& wonderful Russia, we love you so!



He is proud as Ceasar
Accidental Ceasar, Bonaparte
Abandoning his army
He heard his Guards say please Bonaparte
Titi Bonparte
Toto Bonaparte
Don’t ever forget us

Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon, ran off

He slips away from Russia
As swiftly as the wind, Bonaparte
His freezing royal highness
Disguis’d upon a sled Bonaparte
Titi Bonparte
Toto Bonaparte
Will never forget Rus

Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon, ran away


We were surprised to hear
He did not make decrees, Bonaparte
Abolishing the winter
Banishing the snow, Bonaparte
Titi Bonparte
Toto Bonaparte
Will never forget us

Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon, ran off


My grandfather spoke of a prophecy
That conjur’d a time when the Tartar host
Would surge to the banks of the Gallic Seine
Behold the first steps taken to its truth
Set steady & at liberty to pass
These overthrown French forces as they drag
In a startling, debacling parade.

Mistress Vasalisa, what is this cross
Among the other wooden ones, atop
This hill, arot with worms & badly aged

A gloomy legend fixes to this place
Seven franciscan friars were beheaded
For badmouthing Lithuanian idols
& by the city walls, commutual,
Another seven crucified or toss’d
Into the river clad in chains

{sounds of gunfire}

Shots! Shots!

Enter Vladamir

Mistress Vasalisa

Is it the French

Soldiers in dozens ascending the hill

We had better move off

{more gun shots, louder}

That sounds closer

Quickly to the treeline

All except Vitaly make a dash for the trees – Vitaly stands looking down the hill with a scythe

Vitaly run!

A shot rings out that fells Vitaly – he is wounded


{trying to holding him back}
Vladamir, no

He needs help

Vladamir breaks free & runs to Vitaly but is felled dead from a shot by Picard – the rest of the partisans flee

That’s right, flee ye pathetic partisans
Cowardly chickens, too afraid to fight
{To Vitaly}
Well, it looks like you’re abandon’d, young man,
Bleeding to death to boot, at least I can
Release ye from your mortal agonies
{Picart shoots Vitaly dead}
Frighten’d canaries come back here & fight
Ye raggedy crew of peasants & hinds
Ye craven, dastard, recreant poltroons!
{Picard turns to look on the army retreating from Vilna}
See how they go again into the snow
Better to see it softening the blow
Of horrors seeing in that sad city,
It is impossible to show pity,
Insensible to our own sufferings,
Let alone the miseries of others –
I saw formaldehyde-soaked specimens
From university laboratories
Funell’d into starving maws like mutton
Five months before, on our march east, we sang
Songs of pure rejoicing, now just silence
Accompanies our fugitive retreat
Blinded by snowfall, ice-crusted by sleet
Footdragging thro’ a universe congeal’d
By dismal Death’s murmourless murderfield
As out of air beside drop dead-frozen birds
Men fall down still without complaint or words
& breathe their last with calm resignation
Releas’d from this pain’s peregrination
The blood now freezing in their seizing veins
Oblivion, at last, each man obtains.

Exit Picart


SCENE 2: An inn between Leipzig & Erfut

An Innkeeper is showing Napoleon & Caulaincourt their room

Here you are, make yourselves comfortable
This might not be Paris, but in Leipzig
We like to think our guests will come again
My wife’s already cooking for that cause

How long before the sledge is fixed

An hour
Maybe two, but there lies not enough snow
For such a mode of travel, better swap
Your sled for a carriage down in Erfut

We shall, & thank-you


Yes, sir

What think you of the war & Bonaparte

Well… Bonaparte, the Emperor, is good
In constant service to this modern world
With more common sense than many a man
At the head of affairs, he is no mere

& the war

A waste of life
There’s not so many paying customers
Since half of Europe march’d towards the East

Enter Innkeeper’s Wife

Innkeeper’s Wife
Good morning… here are fried & eggs & white bread
Freshly baked this morning, a little game

I caught the rabbit yesterday myself

A hearty breakfast, & is that coffee

Innkeeper’s wife


We shall leave you to it

Innkeeper’s Wife
Eat & drink, & if you like, be merry

Exit Innkeeper & his Wife – Napoleon & Caulaincourt begin to eat their breakfast

I am much taken by that warm couple
Their kindness & sincerity delights

The closer that we are to France, the less
Preoccupied & careworn do you seem

Perhaps, but I cannot, will not relax
Until we reach our borders – do you think
I was recognized by the innkeeper

Napoleon has never grown a beard
You are quite safe

I fear an ambuscade
Secret assassination in the night

Sire, if Eighteen Twelve was your year to die
It should have happen’d by now, you will reach
Paris, alive

Yes, & see the Empress
My cherub offspring hold aloft & smile
At words he tries to mumble with sweet sounds
How is the meat?

Balanced & peppery

I was most dissapointed by Poland

What do you mean?

Why they refused to rise
& thwart the Russian’s behemoth’s advance

I suspect it is the uncertain vale
Of future spread, they supplied the campaign
More than any other nation, even
The richest have but pennies to their name
While gossips spreading danger, scatter doubts
Of economy far too exhausted
To contemplate a war against the Tsar

But for the winter they would have risen
Who wants to war in cold, grey drudgery
But come the spring we’ll need their buffer’s edge
& Poland must be made more powerful
It must have Danzig & a coastal strip
To outlet the markets of its produce
&, also, it must have a foreign king
A Pole would conjure many jealousies
Murat would suit, but has so little sense
Jerome too vain, a blundersom buffoon
Whom would you have made king

I, your highness,
Who never before has laurell’d a brow
With crowns, am unqualified to answer
But there is one caution I might advise
The establishment of your dynasty
Across the thrones of Europe undermines
A cordial respect for your embrace
When nations are transform’d to prefectures
& kings only proconsuls, who might be
Removed at any whim by your highness.

Hmm – I think you you would make a better king
Than any of my brothers ever will

A knock on the door

{drawing sword & pistol}
Who is it

Innkeeper’s Wife
The lady of the house, sir

Enter Innkeeper’s Wife & Stella

Innkeeper’s Wife
Sorry to disturb, but this is my niece
She sells beads, you see, & was wondering
If your lady folk would like their allure

Let us see

Innkeeper’s Wife
I shall leave you three to it
With God’s peace, which passeth understanding

Exit Innkeeper’s Wife

Hello men of France, welcome to Leipzig
I have fine beads of glass, necklaces, rings
All locally crafted with expertise
Come look…

Yes, there are many pretty things
I will take them all as a souvenir
Of this journey for my wife

All of them?

Yes, all, in return take these golden coins,
That must be seven times your trinkets worth

You are too kind, a gracious traveller
God bless you on your journies to your wives

Exit Stella

We should divide them between us, take half
For the lady of your heart

I shall, sire

Caulaincourt begins to divide the jewels – there is a knock on the door – enter Innkeeper

That is the runner fix’d, your sled renew’d

You are a legendary engineer
Do take these gold napoleons, each one
Worth twenty francs, & add to them our thanks
For such a pleasant stay, however short

It is my duty sirs, to humble serve
God’s children if they ever step inside
My humble home

& a dear godfather
You are to us all

Exit Napoleon

Your companion…
An interesting fellow, magnetic,

Indeed he is, indeed he is, goodbye

Exit Caulanicourt – The Innkeeper collects the plates & exits

SCENE 3: The Russian Wastes

Bourgogne is resting on a tree stump

What a dream we are all wander’d into
A stream of shadows under leaden sky
Enwrapp’d in snow, tight-sewn in silent shroud
Absorb’d in private thoughts & lonely fears
Watch’d on by those foggy & frozen ghosts
Of buglers, sat bolt upright in saddles,
Still as lizards, quarelling with blizzards
To mouths of stone their copper lips glued fast
While, above, driving snow & writhing wind
Leave the hearts of warriors well broken

Enter Rossi – he is in a bad way & walking painfully crutch’d by a musket – there are sheepskins hung over his shoulders & wrapping his feet – he is leaning on musket

Rossi, is that really you

How flush am I to see your face old friend
But to my fibres wholly astonish’d
To witness your liberty warms me, sir
Our friends were growing very uneasy
There’ll be unbound gladnesses when they know

You are alone


Where are the others

Well, both my feet are frozen to the bone
Unable thus to walk as well & swift
As the poor remnant of our regiment
I am become the seperated slice
But gain coactivity each fresh night
When fire spreads heat & horseflesh boils oer blaze
{Rossi collapses}
But this day I shall not make it I fear,
My strength the weakest it has clearly been
Upon this dreary hike, each step saps more
My poor mother, if you could see me now
I shall never leave this devil country
Nor again see beautiful Montauban

I, too, am exhausted quartermaster
But look how far we’ve come, full eighty leagues
Since Berezina, now only fifteen
More to Kowno, fifteen of three hundred,
We are so close, we can help each other

Maybe today we can go together
But these will be the last stretch of my legs
I sense it well, my end has all but come
I am undone, there is no living, none
But I would rather transpass in some warmth
Than on this spot of untranspeciate earth
Entering frozen sleep that never wakes
So easy just to sleep the peace of dreams

To dream of peaceful sleeping is to die
Salvation does not hide behind the eyes
Rossi, Rossi, wake up,

Wait, what, what is it

The one thing it is not, sir, is your time
Can you stand


Let us march my friend
Or shuffle rather, one last time abreast
& ward away the sting of death alike

I would not feel it anyway, Bourgogne,
My brains are frozen, there’s no feeling left

Exit Bourgogne & Rossi in some discomfort


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse



Composing Conchordia, Provence

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 4, Scene 7

SCENE 7: Smogorny

Bertheir, Eugene, Prince Emile, Gourgaud & Murat are gathered around a table

This could be the utter ruin of France

Silent your seditious understanding
The Emporer shall be among us soon

I am not the only one who says so
Am I

A distinct silence of brooding underlooks

You might be right, but this no time
To think such things, we must prioritize
Our goal, for now, to guide the army home

What army? We are hardly ten thousand
& half of them too weak to even stand

He is coming

Well, on with the charade

Enter Napoleon & Caulaincourt

Good morning

Good morning, sire

Please sit down
{everybody takes a place at the table}
Each man within this room I love untold
The bravest & the loyalest I know
Who have, with impeccable conduction,
Fought nobly thro’ this drastical campaign

Thank you, sire

To see you all safely seated this side
Of Berezhina’s ice, blankets my heart
With joy & warmth, we have done a fine thing
With that obstinate obstacle behind
I gather ye my leaders to inform
Thee of my decision to directly
Leave the army, privately, & today

Leave sire?

Yes leave, I depart for Paris
At noon, my regal duties to resume
Our disasters will make a sensation
But my arrival will counter-balance
Their bad effects & rouse the French to arms
It is only from the Tuileries
My grip on Europe truly be sustain’d
There I shall raise an army to replace
This one born to an unfortunate fate
Within three months I shall have an army
As magnificent as that which began
This perturbably instructive campaign
Tha aresnals are full – remember Esslaing,
Marengo, we almost lost thos ebattles
But given time the victory turn’d ours
Placing Austria at our disposal

Then how are you to travel, & with whom

By sled, with Caulanicourt & hand-pick’d guards
These events have proved the man a prophet
Therefore he’ll be my lone companion
En route are many projects to discuss
The rest of you remain with the army
Of whom Murat shall have the full command

I shall serve you well

Blend caution with steel

You must return to Paris

Prince Emile
I concur
For the Revolution to continue
You must be there to emanate its heart
To elevate its light, to steer its course
You are its elemental genius
When asham’d of its brutal excesses
France crumpl’d tranquescent in obeyance
Before your precious, deconvulsing voice
Admir’d herself in you, precipitates
Herself into thy glory, without thee
At France’s head I fear the King’s return

To defend our indeposable rights
You must head home, your majesty, & now

Beneath you sceptre, sire, all France unites
Sixteen years of invincible success
Shone thro’ us all in bright deliverance
The most civilised nation in Europe
Wide reigns as if the Mughals of the West.

But where art now our noble countenance
Traversing scenes of famous victory
Rag-cover’d, feet torn & naked in snow
Supporting our frames with branches of fir
When all the strength & perservering force
Invested in conquest syphon’d for flight
Catastrophes of immense distances
& terrible frost sends our edifice

Not the frost, Holland Ninety-Five
& Eylau drove thermometers lower
In both these campaigns the men had food
& wine, trekking daily on full bellies
While recently the only certainty
Is… tomorrow must be worse than today

Defeatism leads to dereliction
Of duty, dejectism invites death,
There shall be no remission of the sins
That gave the Revolution its purpose

We all know more than well, your majesty
You have not been conquer’d by force of arms
But by this climate unendurable

My affairs were miscarried completely
That fine weather trick’d me, we should have left
Moscow a fortnight sooner, we should be
Perch’d safely at Witespk for the winter
But as things stand we only can adapt
Reaching a new page in the age of France
When I return to the magnificent
& peaceful bosom of the fatherland
I shall claim her frontiers immutable
All her future wars purely defensive
All aggrandisment antinational
Paris shall be the global capital
The envy & the pride of all nations
& I, with the empress, shall spend our years
Attending the royal apprenticeship
Of our son, & visit like gentle folk
On horses all corners of the empire
Receiving complaints, redressing ill’d wrongs,
Scatter benefactions, public buildings
& call them all the bones of Bonaparte



I’m on the drive to greatness
I’m like a king o’ clubs with no aces
I’m gonna play my hand
I’m gonna make my stand
Cos I’m the great Napoleon

I’m on the surge to glory
Each soul’s a slice of story
But the biggest part
Must go to Bonaparte
Cos I’m the great Napoleon

Who’s in my way
I don’t give a damn about what you say
There’s no better man alive today
Yes I’m the great Napoleon
Great Napoleon
Great Napoleon

Oo-oo! I’ve never been the one to back me down
Oo-oo! Cos I’m the coolest cat in town
{who’s got the crown)



I’m on a higher mission
Ya gotta bow on down to my vision
I’m gonna haul you all into the golden goal
Cos I’m the great Napoleon

I am the top cock of the steeple
I’m like a cannonball of the people
Fraternetie & Libertie
I am the great Napoleon

Who’s in my way
I don’t give a damn about what you say
There’s no better man alive today
Yes I’m the great Napoleon
Great Napoleon
Great Napoleon

Oo-oo! I’ve never been the one to back me down
Oo-oo! Cos I’m the coolest cat in town
{who’s got the crown)


But what will France say of this debacle


Yes sire, hundreds of thousands
Are dead & yet to die before the end

Of the four hundred thousand men who cross’d
The Vistula, most were Austrians
Prussians, Saxons, Wurtembergers, Spaniards,
Bavarians, Neopolitans, Poles
Italians, Belgians, Meckenbergers,
Swiss, Tuscans, Piedmontese, Genoese
Hollanders, Hamburgers & Bremenish
Scarcely a hundred & forty thousand
Spoke French, tens of thousands of whom live still
& Vilna shall be to them a Verdun
At Vilna there are copious supplies
& reinforcements easily in reach
Once the army replenishes its might
We’l push right back the Cossacks, hold a line
Until the Spring, when I shall lead to war,
Three Hundred thousand soldiers for the cause

That is a bold projection, your highness

& unreasonable, not fit to stand
The army are, half of them quite harmless,
Nor could they recuperate in ruins
Vilna crumbles to roofless skeletals

If we cannot hold Vilna, let us march
For France, for glory, as when Xenophon
Deep stranded in Persia with ten thousand
Went trekking deserts, climbing snow passes
Cordyenean, Armenian natives
Harassing every step with sleepless spears
Until the ships of Trezibond beheld
From Theches lofty peaks, as one they cried
Exultingly, ‘Thalatta! Thalatta!’ –
The Sea! The Sea! So shall we Prussia praise
On piercing her borders

Well spake Murat
The army will honour such a spirit
& now I must be bidding you adieu
But Berthier, Eugene please remain
A little longer – come to me comrades
To pinch thine ears

All rise from the tables – one-by-one Prince Emile, Gourgaud & Murat have their ears ceremonially pinched by Napoleon then leave

One hour more Caulaincourt

Exit Caulaincourt

I shall not be going with you it seems

No – better only Caulaincourt, I sense
An incognito mission means less chance
A face might be remember’d thro’ the mist,
More prudent to remain with the army
The presence of somebody accustom’d
To his total obeysance paramount
If morale to be maintain’d

Of course, sire
With heartfelt attachment & devotion
To yourself, I shall strive for best success
With step on Western step reinforcements
Made easy, while Kutusoff drifts further
Thro’ countryside utterly exhausted

The Russians will be as tired as we are,
& suffer just as much from this foul cold
They are certain to enter cantonments

But rallying the army will be hard
Without its beating heart, that heart is you
Whose departure might pretext disorder

They are too close on home to fall apart
Meanwhile, upon my passage thro’ Poland
I shall rouse them against the colossus
Of Russia, their nationhood is threaten’d,
Both baring witness to them on the field
Individually heroical
What mighty pillars should erect from pride
When national prosperity at stake
Beyond Warsaw all Europe’s cabinets
Tho’ wounded most by the power of France
Will cry anxiety that the Cossacks
The scourge of a civilised continent,
Should not be permitted Nieman’s crossing
& the reverses France has just suffer’d
Shall put an end to jealosies upsrung
From all our imperial influence
To think of a singular enemy
Point millions of muskets to the east
My dear, dear prince of Neuchetal, stout be,
Fear not, but trust in providence

Yes sire

The key is to save every soldier
The forced abandoment of imploring
Companions breeds dismoralizations

Eugene is right, leave no man behind
Your goal must be above all things, bar one –
That is to see your Emporer again

Napoleon pinches Berthier’s ear

I shall see you in Paris, sire

I know

Travel safely & speedily

I shall

Exit Berthier

My son, how are you

I am more than fine
Sharing the stark privations with my men
Has harden’d my torso with spartan steel

I wish you were beside me on the sled
But as the only one I truly trust
I need you with the men for their own good

& Caulaincourt

I do possess his trust
But crushing pessimism sours the curd

There’s some who praise his realism, sire

You too?

You must admit, even yourself
These are our darkest days, all we have dream’d
Burn’d nightmare by the summits of the Gods
As when peat bogs & marshes of the Picts
Rejected the surge of the Ceasars, sire

Call me Papa, it always comforts me

You will be miss’d, Papa, the army feeds
Upon your spirit

I am confident
In your abilities as commanders
But enough of combat & all of that
I call’d upon your mother just before
I left Paris, & she made me promise
You would stay safe enough to see her face
Pack’d full of smiles on your healthy return

I am very happy it nigh fulfill’d
On many levels, Papa

Hah – & I

You love my mother still?

Of course I do,
Being carv’d from the self-same rock of fate
An entwination of the our love took hold
Renaming us Emperor & Empress

Then how can you be happy in the heart
With this second marriage

I love her too
Marie-Louise, she is so innocent
Totally devoted to my dynasty
How could I not fall for such an angel

Papa, Pray tell me, how do they compare

There is, nor ever was, comparison
There is nothing they do not differ on
As far apart as India & Lille
While your mother’s beauty troubl’d the gods
The goddesses admir’d the new empress
Where the walls of Malmasion had grown ears
Marie-Louise enslav’d by discretion
Shyly delighting to ever receive
Ten thousand francs, your mother tyrannized
My finances with promises unkept

You sound as if the Austrian preferr’d

I do love Marie-Louise sincerely
& miss her as we speak, Eugene, much
But higher love hold I for your mother
In fitting fashion & most natural
For she flew on the tail of my comet
Shooting thro’ the stratosphere these years past

The brightest in the cosmos

But it fades
& my marital alliance error,
I should never have march’d on Russia
Without security bought by the ties
To Papa Beau-bere, forg’d thro’ his daughter…
& there we go again, back to the wars
Nothing can escape its odour’s stale stench

There is work to do yet

Stay safe my son

Napoleon & Eugene embrace

As soon as you reach Paris, come find me

I shall endeavour to serve the empire

Exit Eugene – Napoleon slumps on a chair, exhausted


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”



Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 4, Scenes 3-6c


Scene 3: The French Camp

A young woman is sat on the snow holding her dying husband’s head between her knees – she sheds no tears – leaning on her shoulder is her 13-year old daughter, sobbing bitterly – her tears fall & freeze on her father’s face – near them a soldier stands in silence – enter Vachain & Valentina

{to Soldier}
Excuse me, friend, my company I seek
Have you seen the Guard within the camp

Perhaps, but everything is confusion
& thro this growing gloom one better try
To call their names, & hope above the din
They hear your voice, but best to keep your breath
& send warm blows enthawing thro’ your hands

Thank-you… wait… yes it is, Madame Dubois
Madame Dubois, over here, over here!

Enter Madame Dubois

Madame Dubois
Why, Captain Vachain, we thought you done for

I might have been but for my bonnie beau,
This masterpiece of nature saved my life

Madame Dubois
I’ve seen your face before… now where was it

Moscow, Madame, I am Valentina

Madame Dubois
The Russian girl… what… how…

I shall explain
The queerling quirks of fate that caught our love

Madame Dubois

Yes love, we love one another

Madame Dubois
Well… enjoy love while love lasts, be in love
The hues of bliss grow brightly in thy smile
& why not, in this constant spectacle
Of distresses, miseries, oerwhelming,
You offer proofs that beauty still may move
Thro this stupid world

Love is beauty, yes
Madame, we are to marry in Auzin
Your attendance would delight us

Please come

Madame Dubois
I think you would be very fortunate
& ought to thank Heaven if you make it
As far as France

Our love will take us there

Sharing incredible concaulescence
What jot could halt our fate’s inburning drive

Madame Dubois
Bless you both, whatever may befall ye
Preordained has been from everlasting,
But from such oracles I’ll take my leave
& seek a fire, without one I should die

Before you off, where is my company

Madame Dubois
You are the first of them I’ve seen in days

Very well, Madame, good luck tomorrow

Madame Dubois
& you

Exit Madame Dubois

Come Valentina, let us share
Each other’s heat beneath my dry warm cape

I love you so much

& I you, darling

Vachain & Valentina huddle under a cape & begin to kiss


SCENE 4: The French Camp

Bourgogne & his company are sleeping soundly – the morning is beginning but the sun is not yet risen – there is a sound of gunfire in the distance – Bourgogne wakes

Wake up Graingier, wake up

What is it

The bridge is completely empty, lets go

There’ll be time for that later – let me sleep



Come with me across the bridge

Leboude shrugs off Bourgogne with a grunt

There will come to pass an almighty crush
We need to leave now

Let us catch you up


It is freezing sergeant


Bourgogne collects his firearms & exits


SCENE 5: The western end of the bridge

A soldier, Marcelin, is guarding the bridge – he is immaculately presented – enter Borgogne

Halt, who goes thee

I am sergeant Bourgogne
Of the Guard



Well off you step
I am Marcelin

May I please admire
A moment your astonishing attire
So smart, well-fed, clean shaven, are you real?

We have spent the Autumn with Oudinot
On the banks of the Davina River
When first I saw the army how I swoon’d
As if enchaunted by evil spectres
Feebling & emaciated phantoms
Unfit for the struggles of existence
Are these the men who march’d with dash & fire
To scuttle Russia’s capital, I said
Aloud & to my colonel in the shock –
He simply nodded back in silent gloom
& watch’d still silent as they came like tears
An unmanicured mob of tatter’d ghosts
Drap’d in woman’s clothes, old carpet pieces
Dragging feet wrapp’d in all sorts of rough rags
Gaunt grey faces neath disfiguring heads
Marching shamelessly out of step, heads low,
Eyes to the ground like an old convict gang

We are in a sorry state, that’s for sure,
& foolish too, all night the bridge like this,
The crossing would have taken a minute
But no, each content in their symmory
Out of Athens they think the world a dirge
Civilisation is precarious
& if a panic starts, then…

A panic?

The Russians are expected to attack

Cannon shots are heard – one ball splashes in the river

Sometimes it is better to say nothing

Soldiers & stragglers start to rush by (until the end of the scene)

What adverse planet heaves against our star
The camp is stirring slowly, the army
Now a wounded animal, its paths block’d
Impassable, fleeing its predator
It will enact all efforts to escape
I fear today a tragedy unfolds
On that bank lies destruction, this bank hope

The icy paralysis of the night
Is melting fast in a furnace of fear
Candent with excitement & sheer terror
Chaos is rising & doth fling itself
Fat surge of fleshment to a dread exploit
Towards the eastern bank, look Marcelin
It appears already heavy-headed
Block’d by a broken carriage on the planks

Indeed! Into that incredible press
Cannonballs are falling, fell five at once
& the spaces fill’d up in mere moments
Horses leap on horses, trampled beneath
People scream shoot me or stab me to death

Into the waters some are stumbling now
Push’d by the crush, it looks like a sheep dip
Where bobbing heads of men & horses sink
& never more shall rise

I cannot watch

A cannonball strikes Marcelin, killing him instantly

Poor Marcelin, how lucky you are!

Bourgogne gazes once more on the bridge, then leaves


SCENE 6a: The French Camp

Valentina is sleeping – enter Vachain in some agitation



You gotta stand up my love
You gotta get up & go

I cannot stand up my love
I’m frozen in all this snow

You gotta stand up my love
We’ve gotta get up my dear

I cannnot stand up my love
I’m frozen with all this fear

They’re crossing the bridge, they’re crossing the bridge, I’ve seen it
Crossing the bridge, they’re crossing the bridge, I mean it
Gotta get up & cross the Berezina
Gotta get up my darling Valentina






You gotta get up my love
We’ve gotta get up & go

I cannot get up my love
To stumble through all that snow

You gotta stand up my dear
We’ve gotta get outta here

I cannnot stand up my love
I’m frozen with all this fear

They’re crossing the bridge, they’re crossing the bridge, I’ve seen it
Crossing the bridge, they’re crossing the bridge, I mean it
Gotta get up & cross the Berezhina
Gotta get up & see the grass is greener
Crossing the bridge, they’re crossing the bridge, I’ve seen it
Crossing the bridge, they’re crossing the bridge, I mean it
Gotta get up across the Berezhina
Gotta get up my darling Valentina


Scene 6b: The eastern end of the bridge

Vachain & Valentina enter the press at the bridgehead

They’re rushing the bridge
They’re pushing the bridge
They’re crushing the bridge
Russians on the ridge

Prince Emile & several bodyguards arrive from the western bank, pushing the crowd back with brutal strikes from the flats of the swords – as they push their way through the crush, some unfortunates fall into the river

Prince Emile
Back, you swine, everybody must go back

Remove yourselves at once

But why should we

Not me

Prince Emile
Take one more step & you’ll be shot

Be cautious man, retrorse yourself at once

Straggler 1
I cannot remain another second

Man attempts to break through the bodyguards & is shot dead

Prince Emile
Anybody else

Straggler 2
What are you doing

Prince Emile
In order to halt Kutuzoff’s forces
Aslant this bank, we must destroy the bridge

I am with the Gaurd, you must let me cross

Straggler 3
I am with the gaurd

Straggler 4 (Female)
I am with the gaurd

Prince Emile
The Guard crossed half an hour ago

Straggler 1
Not me

Straggler 4 (Female)
Nor me

Prince Emile
It is too late, the flames are set

Straggler 3
You cannot just leave us to the Russians
It will be the most morbid massacre

Prince Emile
Get back! you are too late – do not attempt
To cross the bridge else suffer musket balls

Sir, we need to return now before flames
Prevent the passage

Emile leads this bodyguards back over the bridge

Back, get back, get back

Straggler 2

Prince Emile
Your sacrifice will be remembered
We burn the bridge to save the emporer

Straggler 3
Vive l’empreur

Exit Valentina & Vachain


SCENE 6c: The River Bank

Enter Vachain & Valentina – the river is full of human corpses – some are beginning to freeze – a woman has fallen thro the ice & is frozen in, but still alive – one of her arms is cut & hangs loosely – her other arm holds a suckling baby which has wound itself around her neck – the woman is staring at a dead man frozen in the ice nearby – between them a dead child lies spread out on the ice

Let us swim oer the water

It will be too cold – look at the bodies

But look up there, dispiteous Cssacks
Make orgiastic continguities
Murd’rous upon the comprecative mob

I would not wish to die by native hand
I would rather hold yours in the water

You will fare much better without your shawl
Save vital seconds vanish’d in its drag

Valentina takes off her shawl

I love you

They kiss

I love you too
{Vachain takes Valentina by the hand}


Vachain & Valentina wade into the river hand-in-hand


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”





Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse


The Young Shakespeare (14): Ireland, Scotland & Denmark

Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years

Shakespeare joins the Queen’s Players

The parallels between Shakespeare’s plays & the Queen’s plays,’ writes Terence G Schoone-Jongen, ‘are substantial & intricate.’ That Shakespeare was a member of the Queen’s Players seems likely. A number of their recorded plays would be rewritten by Shakespeare, with lines & phrases from the Ur-types popping all across his extensive ouvre. Where the Queen’s Players produced Richard III & King Leir, so Shakespeare wrote a version of Richard III & the spell’d slightly differently, King Lear. Where The Two Gentlemen of Verona shares much with the Queen’s Players’ Felix & Philomena, so the playlet of the mechanicals in Act V of A Midsummer Night’s Dream bears a strong resemblance to the Players’ Clyomon and Clamydes. Likewise, while The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth forms the entire foundation for the material of 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V; their Troublesome Reign of King John is simply a redaction of Shakespeare’s King John. So much so, that in the 1611 quarto printing of the Troublesome Reign, the authorship was assigned to ‘W. Sh’ which was elongated in the 1622 printing into ‘W. Shakespeare.

Among the many similarities which have been observ’d, Launce’s rebuking of his dog, Crab, in Two Gentlemen, finds a precedent in Sir Clyomon & Sir Clamydes. Regarding the two Leirs, Sir Walter Greg suggested that, ‘ideas, phrases, cadences from the old play still floated in his memory below the level of conscious thought, &… now & again one or another helped to fashion the words that flowed from his pen.’ Elsewhere, Brian Walsh remarks on Shakespeare’s acute familiarity with the ‘recitation of genealogy from plays in the Queen’s Men repertory,’ & also observes how Shakespeare’s King John keeps the line, ‘For that my grandsire was an Englishman,’ & the two Hamlets share, ‘the screeking Raven sits croking for revenge.

Shakespeare’s entry into the Queen’s might be realted to the absence from the troupe of that most famous of Elizabethan actors, & Queen’s Man, Richard Tarleton. He had died in September 1588 & the Men would have been in need of fresh blood – & who better than the brilliant Young Shakespeare to step into the role. Incidentally, Tarleton was a West Midlands lad just like Shakespeare, a remembrance to whom is  contained thro the Hamlet’s court jester, to whose skull is spoken the ever famous line, ‘alas poor Yorick, I knew him so well. Coincidence or not, a certain trustee of Tarleton’s will, William Johnson, would one day become a trustee on Shakespeare’s purchase of a house in Blackfriars.

Shakespeare gets involved with the Blackfriars Theatre

Blackfriars2All through his life Shakespeare would be involved in every aspect of the stage, taking part-shares in theatres, writing the plays, & even bloody acting in them. He was a veritable Mr.Theatre. His first venture into the financial side of things was in 1589, when he took a share in the Blackfriars Theatre. Evidence for this comes through a manuscript which had passed into the hands of Lord Ellesmere, the then attorney-general, in the 1840s. The manuscript reveals how Shakespeare’s name stands twelfth in the enumeration of the members of the company;

These are to certifie your right Honble Lordships, that her majesty’s poore playeres, James Burbadge, Richard Burbadge, John Laneham, Thomas Greene, Robert Wilson, John Taylor, Anth. Wadeson, Thomas Pope, George Peele, Augustine Phillipps, Nicholas Towley, William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Johnson, Baptiste Goodale, & Robert Armyn, being all of them sharers in the black Fryers playehouse, have never given cause of displeasure, in that they have brought into their playes maters of state & Religion, unfitt to be handled by them, or to be presentved before lewde spectators: neither hath anie complaynte in that kinde ever bene preferrd against them, or anie of them. Wherefore, they trust most humblie in your Lordships consideration of their former good behaviour, being at all tymes readie, & willing, to yeelde obedience to any command whatsoever your Lordships in your wisdome may thinke in such case meete, &c.

Shakespeare reads out Venus & Adonis

One hot summer’s day in London, 1589, perhaps on the lawn of Fisher’s Folly, Shakespeare was reading Venus & Adonis to a select crowd. He was 25 – a fun-loving age if ever there was one – & to have been in attendance at a drunken evening filled with the early stanzas of Shakespeare’s erotic masterpiece would have been great fun. One man that felt the poem more than most was Thomas Lodge, whose 1589 poem ‘Scillaes Metamorphosis,’ has many captivating echoes of V&A. Lodge also spent time in the Earl of Derby’s household in the 1580s, which ensures his admission into the private circle about Stanley & Shakespeare. As for his ‘Scillaes Metamorphosis, Shakespeare’s words are taken almost wholesale;

But like a stormy day, now wind, now rain,
Sighs dry her cheeks V&A

And when my tears had ceas’d their stormy shower
He dried my cheeks Lodge

Sometimes she shakes her head, and then his hand,
Sometime her arms infold him like a band  V&A

Some chafe his temples with their lovely hands,
Some weep, some wake, some curse affection’s bands Lodge

Lodge’s poem uses the same 6-lined stanza & rhyme scheme of Venus & Adonis, & even pays tribute to Shakespeare’s master-class with the following stanzas;

He that hath seen the sweet Arcadian boy
Wiping the purple from his forced wound,
His pretty tears betokening his annoy,
His sighs, his cries, his falling on the ground,
The echoes ringing from the rocks his fall,
The trees with tears reporting of his thrall:

And Venus starting at her love-mate’s cry,
Forcing her birds to haste her chariot on;
And full of grief at last with piteous eye
Seeing where all pale with death he lay alone,
Whose beauty quail’d, as wont the lilies droop
When wasteful winter winds do make them stoop:

Her dainty hand address’d to daw her dear,
Her roseal lip allied to his pale cheek,
Her sighs, and then her looks and heavy cheer,
Her bitter threats, and then her passions meek;
How on his senseless corpse she lay a-crying,
As if the boy were then but new a-dying.

Shakespeare Visits Ireland

Richard Tarleton

Richard Tarleton

Since their formation in 1583, the Queen’s Players had been the leading troupe of actors in the land, travelling widely, with prominent performances at court over the prestigious festive seasons. Shakespeare joined the Queen’s Players at a time when they were dividing themselves into sub-troupes. ‘By 1589,’ writes Terence G Schoone-Jongen, ‘each branch – one apparently led by John & Laurence Dutton, the other by John Laneham – was sometimes identified by its leader as well as patron. Initially, the divided branches may have been a touring practice.’

Through Shakespeare’s presence among the Queen’s Players, we can now place him in Ireland. Shakespeare. An entry in the Ancient Treasury Book of Dublin reveals that in 1589, four pounds was paid to troupes called The Queen’s Players and The Queen and Earl of Essex Players ‘for showing their sports.’ These two troupes then travel over the Irish Sea to Lancashire, where at Knowsley the Queen’s Men performed in the evening of 6th Sept. and in the afternoon of 7th Sept., and then Essex’s Players performed in the evening of 7th Sept.

While in Ireland Shakespeare would have heard the word, Púca, which means ghost & went on to become ‘Puck’, the name of a ‘spirit’ in Midsummer Nights Dream (Act II Scene 1). He might have also heard phrases like “A hundred thousand welcomes” – Coriolanus (Act II Scene I) & “Did you ever hear the like?…….Did you ever dream of such a thing?” (Pericles Act IV Scene IV 1). The Irish were & still are world renownwed for the music, &  famous. The phrase  “Calin o custure me” in Henry V is taken from an Old Irish harp melody called “Cailín ó cois Stúir mé”;

When as I view your comely grace
Caleno custurame
Your golden hairs, your angel’s face,
Caleno custurame

W.H. Gratton Flood in his ‘History of Irish Music’ devotes a whole chapter to Shakespeare’s knowledge of 11 Irish songs, being;

1. Callino casturame – Mentioned as an Irish tune in ‘A handful of Pleasant dities’ (1594).
2. Ducdame – a corruption of An d-tiocfaidh from Eileen A Rún .
3. “Fortune my Foe” – (Merry Wives of Windsor Act II Scene III) ‘reckoned always an Irish tune’.
4. “Peg a Ramsay” – (Twelfth Night Act II Scene III) A ‘dump tune’ which Flood states  were played on a small Irish harp called a tiompán
5. “Bonny Sweet Robin”
6. “Whoop do me no harm, good man”- (A Winter’s Tale Act IV Scene III) known in Ireland as “Paddy whack.”
7. “Welladay; or Essex’s last Good-Night” – about the death of the Earl of Essex in Ireland in 1576.
8. “The Fading ” or “Witha a fading” – (“A Winter’s Tale” Act IV) “is, even on the testimony of the late Mr William Chappell (an uncompromising advocate of English music) undoubtedly an Irish dance tune. Also called the ‘Rince Fada’.”
9. “Light o’ Love” – (Two Gentlemen of Verona Act I Scene 2) an allusion is made to the tune of ‘light o’love’ another Irish tune.
10. “Yellow Stockings” – Known in Gaelic as “Cuma, liom” and the reference is to the saffron ‘truis’ of the medieval Irish.
11. “Edgar: Wantest thou eyes at trial, madam ? Come o’er the bourn, Bessie, to me.” – (King Lear Act III Scene VI)

The Queen’s Players are sent to the court of King James

King James VI of Scotland clearly loved the theatre, surrounded himself with artists and musicians, collectively known as the Castalian Band. He even composed many decent enough poems of his own. To help celebrate his upcoming marriage to a princess of Denmark called Anna, he asked Queen Elizabeth of England if he could borrow some of her actors, & it is Her Majesty’s granting of her royal cousin’s request that commences Shakespeare’s first visit to Scotland. The statement of the Revels tells us in that in September 1589 money was paid; ‘ for the furnishing of a mask for six maskers and six torchbearers, and of such persons as were to utter speeches at the shewing of the same maske, sent into Scotland to the King of Scotts mariage, by her Majestieís commanundement.’ Among the ‘six maskers,’ we shall place William Shakespeare, now a fully-fledg’d member of one of the half-troupes into which the Queen’s Players were dividing in 1589.

After the request had reached Knowsley, & after their last performance there on the afternoon of the 7th, it seems that it took the Queen’s Players three days to travel the 100 miles or so between Knowsley & Carlisle by the 10th September. The governor of Carlisle, Baron Scroop of Bolton, soon found himself involv’d in this high proflie case of pass the parcel, writing;

After my verie hartie comendacions: vpon a letter receyved from Mr. Roger Asheton, signifying vnto me that yt was the kinges earnest desire for to have her Majesties players for to repayer into Scotland to his grace : I dyd furthwith dispatche a servant of my owen unto them wheir they were in the furthest part of Langkeshire, wherevpon they made their returne heather to Carliell, wher they are, and have stayed for the space of ten dayes, whereof I thought good to gyve yow notice in the respect of the great desyre that the king had to have the same Come unto his grace: And withall to praye yow to gyve knowledg therof to his Majestie. So for the present, I bydd yow right hartelie farewell

The xxth of Septemre, 1589
Yowr verie assured loving friend
H Scrope

What Shaksepeare got up to in those 10 days in Cumbria we do not know – there are no traces of the county in his works. One expects they were rehearsing hard for the forthcoming nuptuals, & maybe a little carousing with the locals. Its a nice city.

Shakespeare in Scotland

As storms raged across the North Sea, Princess Anna of Denmark was unable to make the treacherous crossing, leading to James camping up at Seton Castle to watch the Firth of Forth for her ship. A letter from William Asheby to Walsingham. [Sept. 8, 1589) reads;

With the first wind the Queen is expected out of Denmark. It is thought that she embarked about the 2nd instant, but that contrary winds keep the fleet back. Great preparation is made at Leith to receive her, and to lodge her till the solemnity, which shall be twelve days after her arrival. The King is at Seaton till her arrival.

A week later, William Asheby wrote;

We dailie now expect the fleet of De[nmark]. The Quene embarqued at Copmanhaven [on] Moundaie the first of this moneth, and [hath] not set foote on ground sithence, except [the] last storme, which continued the 12 and thirten of this present southwest, haith driven the fleet back into Norwaie, [as] in all likliehode it haith done.

The Lord Dingwall arrived here this [day]. He left the Quene and the whole fleet on [this] side of Elsenoure, and had sight of the same nere the Skaw. It is certen[ly] looked that the Quene shall arrive in this Firth within as shorte space as [wind] and wether cane serve from Norwaie [to] this cost, which maie be in foure or fi[ve] daies, if thei have keapt the seas, and not entred over farr the Sound of .

The wind haith ben southwest and gre[at] this foure daies last past. This daie it groweth calmer and northwest, so as in . . . daies the Quenes arrivall is expected at Le[ith], where great preparacion is made to receave her.

The wait dragg’d on & on & a very impatient & romantically-minded James, ‘passionate as true lovers be’, was on the 8th of October said to ‘lyeth at Cragmillar, hard by Edenbrowghe, retyred, and as a kind lover spends the t[yme] in sighing.’ His malaise was soon converted to action & he  decided that instead of waiting he would risk the crossing & marry his young bride in Norway instead. Bring the mountain to Mohammed.

With him went Shakespeare, but before they sailed from Leith on October 24th, Shakespeare clearly spent time perusing the Royal Library in Edinburgh. In 1589 it held the single, 43,000 lines-long manuscript copy of William Stewart’s Chronicle of Scotland. Written in the Scottish vernacular, there are positive parrallels with Macbeth, including one of sixty-five lines which elucidates the murderous motives of Macbeth and his wife. Wilson notes that, ‘Boece and Holinshed have nothing corresponding to this, and yet how well it sums up the pity of Macbeth’s fall as Shakespeare represents it.’ Another chronicle-marker is the 26-line tirade by Lady Macbeth as she taunts her husband as being a coward and unmanly and breaking his vow to seek the crown (1.7.36–61). ‘In every case in which Stewart differs from Holinshed,’ says Stopes, ‘Shakespeare follows Stewart.’

images (1)Other sources for Macbeth which Shakespeare would have studied in the Royal Scottish Library include Andrew Wyntoun’s metrical ‘Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland’ & also the ‘Flyting betwixt Montgomerie and Polwart,’ a poem which contains the three wyrd sisters. In the latter text After their bewitching curses come to a close, they begin to speak to each in turn, just as they deliver their prophecies in Macbeth.

The first said, ‘surelie of a shot;’
The second, ‘of a running knot;’
The third, ‘be throwing of the throate,
Like a tyke ouer a tree (Flyting)

When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.

Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air (Macbeth)

We also have two allusions are to Scots law: “double trust” and “interdiction.” the Oxfordian Richard F. Whalen explains it all quite succinctly’

Macbeth says of Duncan: “He’s here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed; then as his host, who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself” The “double trust” concept was enacted into law in 1587 when the Scottish Parliament raised from mere homicide to treason the slaying of someone of rank who was also a guest of his slayer, with the trial to be held in the highest court.

The legal term “interdiction” occurs in the strange colloquy between Macduff and Malcolm. Macduff laments that Malcolm, the heir to the throne, “by his own interdiction stands accused and does blaspheme his breed” This refers in Scots law to someone conscious of his failings who gives up or is forced to give up the management of his own affairs, which is what Malcolm seemed to be doing, much to Macduff’s dismay.

The thing about Oxfordians is that they are the most meticulous researchers – they turn over stone several times & check for how it looks for the light, & their research has been invaluable to tell you the truth – team work!

Finally, in the play Macbeth’s armor-bearer is named Seton. The legends of Macbeth do not mention any Setons, but Professor Wilson of the University of Edinburgh was astonish’d that “somehow or other” Shakespeare learned that the Setons were the hereditary armor-bearers to the kings of Scotland. But of course Shakespeare was on the very Seton spot with King James.

Shakespeare sails to Norway

That Shakespeare & the Queen’s Players went with King James in his large wedding entourage can be discerned through an epigram in John Davies of Hereford’s The Scourge of Folly (c.1610). Dedicated to, ‘our English Terence Mr. Will: Shake-speare,’  it begins;

SOME say good Will (which I, in sport, do sing)
Had’st thou not plaid some Kingly parts in sport,
Thou hadst bin a companion for a King

Scholars have scratched their heads over this passage for centuries, but there is a starkness to it which fits with consummate ease into the Queen’s Player’s accompanying of King James VI to Denmark.

So Shakespeare & James had set off for Norway, with the king’s the journey being described thus;

He was more than fortunate than his bride in having four days of fair weather, but on the fifth a storm arose & a day later he landed at Flekkefjord in Norway.

It must have been quite a poetic moment for our young bard, leaving him verteux & receptive to the energies which would one day manifest themselves in Hamlet. From Flekkefjord Shakespeare & James proceeded to Oslo. In the Danish cccount of the day, translated by Peter Graves, we observe how Shakespeare fbecame acquainted with the figure who would be creochisped into ‘Hamlet’ as Guildenstern, the friend of Rosencrantz.

When his majesty arrived, he went to to Old Bishop’s palace to meet her ladyship. this was the order of the procession: first walked two Scottish noblemen (who were his majesty’s heralds) each bearing a white stick as a sign of peace; next came Steen Brahe, Henning Gioye, Axel Gyldenstierne, Hans Pederson, Ove Juel, Captain Noimand & Peter Iversen; then came his majesty between the Scottish earl & another Scottish lord; after them came the king’s courtiers & the Scottish nobility, all with their hats in their hands

As for Rosencrantz, he would have been about somewhere, for among the Danish signatories to the prenuptual demands made by Scottish enjoys on behalf of the King (9th July 1589), we can observe a certain ‘Jørgen Rozenkrantz.’

Shakespeare visits Kronborg Castle

James and Anne were married in Oslo, November 23rd, at the great hall in Christen Mule’s house with all the splendour possible at that time & place. As they drove from the church James arranged a curious spectacle for the entertainment of the people of Oslo. By his orders four young “blackamoors” danced naked in the snow in front of the royal carriage, but the cold was so intense that they died a little later of pneumonia. After the nuptuals, most of the entourage returned to Scotland, but others – including the Queen’s Players – accompanied the royal couple to Kronborg Castle in Denmark.

The King was in a great mood, & wrote home that, ‘we are drinking & dryving (killing time) in the auld manner.’ Kronborg is the very place in which Hamlet as we know it was set, yet the original story, as given by Saxo Grammaticus, shows how Hamlet’s father was the govenor of Jutland. Kronborg, however, is on Zealand. Then why did Shakespeare move the scene?

download1We may now assume that on his visit to Denmark, Shakespeare began to revise his Hamlet, adding genuine on-the-spot location stuff to an earlier verision of the play. Shakespeare’s presence at Kronborg as part of a wandering troupe of players echoes out into Hamlet’s famous ‘play-within-the-play,’ where a troupe of traveling players enact a ‘Dumb-Show’ call’d the Murder of Gonzaga (or the Mousetrap).

Enter a King and a Queen, very lovingly: the Queen embracing him, and he her. She kneels and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck: lays him down upon a bank of flowers: she, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the Kingís ears, and exit. The Queen returns;  finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The Poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts; she seems loath and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts his love.

There is a definitive nod to James in Shakespeare’s play. Just as Hamlet’s father is the King in the Dumb-Show was murdered by having poison administered to his ear,  a French surgeon, Ambrosie Parex, was suspected of killing the French King, Francis II, by giving him an ear infection during the course of treatment. Francis was the first husband of James’ mother, Mary Queen of Scots. That the Gonzaga family heralded from Mantua, & of course we have already plaved Shakespeare in thhat city with Stanley.

It must be noted that while half of the Queen’s Players are in Denmark, the others are performing over the festive season for Queen Elizabeth, where for a performance at Richmond court on the 26th December, they recieved the princely sum of £20.

Shakespeare returns to Scotland

English troupes tour’d the continent regularly in Shakespeare’s time – from the Album of Franz Hartmann, of Frankfort on Oder

In early 1590, James returned to Scotland with his new wife. That Shakespeare was back in Scotland in wintry months is reflected by his uncanny observation in Macbeth of “so fair and foul a day I have not seen.”  During the coronation ceremonies in Edinburgh, the masque ordered by James the previous September finally got its chance to be aired. Although Shakespeare is not mentioned by name, the clothes he & his five other masquers are, as given in Lansd.MSS 59.

A maske of six coates of purple gold tinsell, garded with purple & black clothe of silver striped. Bases of crimson clothe of gold, with pendants of maled purple silver tinsell. Twoe paire of sleves to the same of red cloth of gold, & four paire of sleves to the same of white clothe of copper, silvered. Six partletts of purplee clothe of silver knotted/ Six hed peces, whereof foure of clothe of gold, knotted, & twoe of purple clothe of gold braunched. Six fethers to the same hed peces. Six mantles, whereof four of oringe clothe of gold braunched, & twoe of purple & white clot of silver braunched. Six vizardes, & siz fawchins guilded.

Six cassocks for torche bearers of damaske; three of yellowe, & three of red, garded with red & yellow damaske counterchaunged. Six paire of hose of damaske; three of yellow, & three of red, garded with red & yellowe damaske counterchaunged. Six hatts of crimson clothe of gold, & six fethers to the same. Six vizardes.

Four heares of silke, & four garlandes of flowers, for the attire of them that are to utter certaine speeches at the shewing of the same maske.

The masque may have been part of the luscious celebrations made during the procession up the Royal Mile made by the new queen, or perhaps performed at the festivities in Edinburgh castle. That Shakespeare was under the Stuart wing at this time seems to reflect itself into Macbeth again, in particular the 1590 witch trials of Denmark & North Berwick, near Edinburgh. The poor ‘witches’ had been given the blame for the bad weather keeping Anna from James, & also the terrible storms they had to endure on the return voyage. No-one dared to mention that winter might have had something to do with it, & more than a hundred suspected witches in North Berwick were arrested. Many would soon be confessing – under torture of course – to having met with the Devil in the church at night, and devoted themselves to doing evil, including poisoning the King and other members of his household, and attempting to sink the King’s ship. When writing Macbeth, Shakespeare would adapt many concepts from the trials, including the rituals confessed by the witches & the borrowing of  quotes from the treaties, such as spells, ‘purposely to be cassin into the sea to raise winds for destruction of ships.’

There are in Macbeth quite canny descriptions of Scottish weather, when ‘so fair and foul a day I have not seen.’ Shakespeare also describes how the, ‘air nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses‘ to which Banquo adds ‘Heaven’s breath smells woo­ingly here. The air is delicate,’ Is this a remembrance in Shaksepeare of visiting some Highland scene, especially the castle of Macbaeth, described by Shakespeare as a ‘pleasant seat.’ Arthur Clark also notes that Inverness has an unusually mild “microclimate” distinct from the rest of Scotland, and he too wonders how Shakespeare could have known about it without hav­ing visited Inverness. Clark also shows how Shakespeare caccuraelty locates Dunsinane, Great Birnam Wood, Forres, Inverness, the Western Isles, Colmekill, Saint Colme, and the lands that gave their names to the thanes: Fife, Glamis, Cawdor, Ross, Lennox, Mentieth, Angus and Caithness. Again, on the spot knowledge seems likely.

Flight of the White Eagles: Act 4 Scenes 1-2


SCENE 1: Studianka

The French pontonieres are building a bridge across the Berezhina River – they are encouraged by Gourgogne – some are stood in the water up to their shoulders & even their mouths


Acapella to percussive sounds of bridge building

As the gates of Victory
Open wide for us & sing
Our Liberty all people there shall guide

From the North to the South
Bugle blows are echoing
Out for the battles fought for Gallic pride

Tremble ye enemies of France
& the bad Kings drunk & depraved
As sov’reign commoners advance
Tyrants go down to your graves

The Republic is calling us
Learn to vanquish & to never fly
A Frenchman lives for the Republic
& for her Frenchmen must die
Un Fran ais doit vivre pour elle
Pour elle un Fran ais doit mourir.


May their fathers’ blade be placed
In the hands of the brave,
Remember us upon the Field of Mars

Come baptise in the blood
Of the king & of the slave
While shining elders look down from the stars

Tremble ye enemies of France
& the bad Kings drunk & depraved
As sov’reign commoners advance
Tyrants go down to your graves

What wounds & virtues running deep
We shall bring back from the war
Return’d to shut our eyes & sleep
When the tyrants are no more

The Republic is calling us
Learn to vanquish & to never fly
A Frenchman lives for the Republic
& for her Frenchmen must die
Un Fran ais doit vivre pour elle
Pour elle un Fran ais doit mourir.


Enter Napoleon & Berthier with two gaurds who are carrying cases of wine.

Your majesty


Vive L’Empreur

Soldier, you, yes you, come here if you will

Enter a cold, wet, shivering pontonierre

Your highness

How are you handling the cold

It is nothing, I am fine, we all are
Allow me to return to my work sire

Of course, but first, distribute these bottles
Of red wine from my personal supply

You are most generous

Build me that bridge

Yes sire

Berthier, help him with a case

Berthier & the Pontonierre take the cases of wine to the pontonierres

Our causeway catterpillars cross the stream

Indeed, sire with what zest our sappers task
Self-sacrifice engage without limits
In spite of drifting ice & armpit deep
They trestles fix in place ’til capp’d are beams

Your projective platform shows genius
Gourgaud, of priscillian precision,
Your active coolness in the foreseeing
Secures a worthy spot to organise
This feat, some would say miracle, of arms

Listen sire, not a murmour to be heard
Of discontent in the situation –
They curse the elements, but not the day
For glory still an elevate of hope

Hope, yes we have, yet reality bites
The cavalry secured the western bank
This morning by fording upon horses
But unsupported shall not last the night
We must send reinforcements there, & soon

Tho’ slow & painful work, we shall succeed

Excellent, but Gourgaud

Your majesty

Only let troops & artillery cross
The camp followers will only impede
Prevent them all from passage ’til the end
A strong intactive army will prevent
Total annhialation – understood

Yes sire

Good, carry on this famous work
{to the soldiers}
Pontonierres of France I salute you

Vive L’empreur, Napoleon will save us

Exit Napoleon & guards

Our stragglers are a multitude ill-starr’d

Just do your work Gourgaud, & duty too



SCENE 2: Studianka, the French camp

Enter Graingier, Foucart, Leboude, Legrande & Rossi

Pandemonia’s principality
Encapital’d upon these troubleslopes
Condensing with with frightful laxydaisy

What is that singing?

Men cross the bridge
Still gay & careless, death counts for nothing
To the soldiers of France, spirits exalt
For we are all together

Rings as if on the eve of great battles
Aromatizing these downtrodden scenes

What is pain & destruction & dying
When the matter of the empire at stake
Not melting down our youth in beds of lust
But facing dangers headlong without stir
If such excesses of adversity
Our nation’s honour paramountly reigns

Enter Bourgone

Lads, start a fire, it will not be till Dawn
Before our turn to cross the bridge has come

Leboude & Rossi begin building a fire

How does it stand

By god’s will I expect
‘Tis a rickety construct of matchsticks
But on its timber we shall soon emerge
From the darkest caverns of misery
Where we have dwelt these soul-exhausting days

Are we to see our little homes again?

We are, Foucart, I know as much, I feel
These stinking tribulations are a test
Seeking weakness thro’ elaborate traps
When responsive complacencies relapse
& truth’s coalesces to deception
By arrogance our successes consumed
Stimulating ego, made us immune
To squads of malignancies besetting
Cautious steps of glory, let this proud host
Of oceanic natures rejoice in trials,
To spout its tales of conquerors unvex’d,
Valour is the chieftan of our virtues
& dignifies the haver’s panting breast
Stood naked before shunless destiny,
& valour is the force that binds us, boys,
Together we shall spend the night this bank
Together we shall cross aspiringly
Then leave the warp of Russian wilds behind.

That’s the fire started, boys

Good work Leboude

Another supper of horsemeat awaits

Better than feasting on one another

What, like those Croatians encraz’d

Curs’d curs
Remember how they dragg’d away bodies
Of men death-barbecued, from that dark barn
Then sliced apart the flesh & gulp’d it down

Horrific sights

The devil will have them

Aye, he will, that is for certain my friend
When that fire became a vast tossing mass
Full of convulsive efforts of wretches
Each one of us observ’d the heart of Hell
& I saw Satan slouch’d within the flames

Is it evil to eat our fellow man
When we are starving

Folly slays the soul
Dooming its eventual destruction

Come, let us be noble in suffering
& eat this meat ungarnish’d in silence

Rossi passes the horse meat around – each soldier sits eating in silence, to the cacophony of a camp in chaos


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”


Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 3, Scenes 5-7

SCENE 3: A Russian Farm

In the main hall of the village, Nikolai the Cossack is counting money behind a desk – he is wearing a long coat lined with sheepskin & a fur cap – there is a quantity of military equipment on the floor including pistols, carbines, swords, cartridges, uniforms & hats – enter Vasalisa, Vitaly & Vladamir, Albina & Valentina with Bodet & Vachain

Well, well, well, look at these happy hunters
Inbringing two fine looking officers

Indeed we have, Nikolai, that will be
One hundred & fifty for the Colonel
Fifty for the Captain, is that correct?

It is – have they been thoroughly disarm’d

They have

& fed

A little bread & lard

Good, good… officers of the Grand Armee
I am the commander of the Cossacks
In the area, please take this sauerkraut
& beer at my behest, tho’ enemies
We are all Adam’s sons, wormwood still grows
Upon its own root, help yourselves, please do.

Bodet & Vachain ravenously fall on the food & drink

Better to be a heated prisoner
& eating well, than freezing in freedom
Feasting on finger’s flesh to break the fast

So you think this is cold, this is nothing
Wait until you reach wild Siberia
Remote from all the pleasures of the world
You will wish for this warm wintry weather


Of course Siberia,
Until the war is over, & well won
By one emperor over another –
Your own three months ago a giant oak
That suffers today first strokes of an axe
Hard held by all countries of Europa
That stroke-by-stroke shall sever liberty
From that black tree, daemonic Bonaparte,
Acting a Genghis & Caligula
He murders honest innocents & turns
Our churches into stables, in a rage
Of bloodshed, but tyranny is finite
This contree is the sponge that sucks him dry
Selected by god defender of truth
Archangel Michael climbs thro’ Kutuzoff
Moscow was sacrificed to save the world
At Borodino you thought us beaten
Then camp’d in the Kremlin like conquerors
Battles won does not a conquest make
Glorious deeds may turn indignitie
The force deciding the fate of people
Lies not with the charge of battalions
But somewhere else, of quality sublime,
In Vasalisa runs that current strong,
When you are back in Paris tell your friends
You were caught by a true Russian hero
As long as Slavs are honour’d in this world
Vasalisa’s vow shall be remember’d
Driving invaders from a native soil
Remember Vasalisa, & her name,
Eternally miraculous it soars,
Swift winds & thunder cannot knock it down
Nor demoilsh’d be by the flight of time
Syllables baffle death, escape decay
To be recited Black Sea to the White

Such flattery will get you everywhere
Do you have any vodka we can share
Just you & I

I do – its getting late
{to Bodet & Vachain}
Who is the higher rank

I am colonel

Then you shall have the bed – he wil need guards

Albina, Vladamir, take up the task

Yes mistress

This way colonel, follow us

Exit Albina & Vladamir with Bodet

&, you, what is your rank?

I am captain

You shall remain in here, there is a couch
To lie on if you wish to sleep


{pointing to Valentina & Vitaly}
You two shall be his guards

{taking the money}
Then we are done
& Vasalisa, stardust of my dreams
We’ll get the hot flames blazing in my rooms

Exit Vasalisa & Nikolai

Hey new girl… yes you… I am grown weary
& sleep beside this fire, watch the captain
As hawks would, wake me at trouble’s breaking

{to Vachain}
You do not recognize me

Why, should I?

We have kiss’d


Kiss’d you! I would remember
Gracing pair’d lips so beauteous & rare

Our lips have met, tho’ I was laughter drunk
& you stood unimpress’d before the scene

Wait a moment – yes, you were in Moscow
At the party

I chose to remain there
There with my sister when the French march’d west

& now you are against us, why the change

I am Russian, your great liberator
Napoleon, at first signs of struggle
Abandon’d principles loudly proclaim’d
Of freeing us from serfdom, then fled home
Leaving us pandering eternally
To the glory of our wonderful tsar

To watch you speak impresses of the worth
Contain’d within the augurs of that kiss
Scarce remembered but wish’d to be renew’d

You’d kiss again

I would, the want stirs deep

Valentina & Vachain kiss passionately

Tell me, what is your name


Ah, Valentina, Valentine, love’s name
Itself, you are a woman to be loved

You are not so unrosy yourself, sir

Sir! to call me sir when I am captive
The captive captain, its assonance chimes
Like spoken words we worldfolk sometimes rhyme
& lovelier seem each in each entwin’d
When in the weighted game of human love
Two spirits sound in harmony, or clash
Twyx poetry & base tongues guttural,
The latter shoot on the coriolis
While true loves fuse with chrysostomic kiss


Yes, dear, sweet Valentina
I felt a poet when our lips first met
In spite of my inebriated mind
My soul ascended mountains in a gust
Of lust, of trust, & love in rarest robes
& rushing out of doors to see the sun
Set or rise, in your eyes I see that sun,
Can we escape?



Shh – quiet
What do you mean

Come live with me in France
& nourish each other with days of love
& never sleep a wink for lovemaking

Escape? but how?

First unlooosen my bonds

Vitaly stirs in his sleep – Valentina unties the ropes – they embrace with a kiss – Vitaly sneaks to the weapons & deftly takes some guns & cartridges – Vitaly awakes

What, what is it

Nothing Vitaly, sleep



Lets go

Wait, no, my sister
I cannot just leave without seeing her
I must find her

But that is dangerous
For you, for us, & most of all for her
Better she lives in ignorance, than die
Banded in damn’d collusion with the deed

Kiss me captain
{they kiss}
As lips conceal secrets
The giving fibres of your very soul
Sing to my own & woo her with the truth

We must leave now



Exit Vachain & Valentina

SCENE 6: The Russian Wastes

Picart & Bourgogne emerge out of the woods just as the advance elements of the army pass – those on foot drag themselves painfully along, almost all of them having their feet wrapp’d in rags or in bits of sheepskin, nearly all are dying of hunger

Look, we were right to follow the sunset
& appear to have emerg’d just ahead
Of the army as they detour’d round the wood

The Emperor – he is there – look Picart

It is him – I must upsmarten myself

Picart doffs his fur cap & takes off his white cloak, hanging it over his left arm – The Emperor passes next on foot, carrying a baton & wearing a large cloak lined with fur, a dark-red velvet cap with black fox fur on his head – Murat walks on foot at his right, on his left the Prince Eugène – Napoloen turns to look at Bourgogne & Picart briefly – Next comes Berthier, Caulaincourt & Gourgaud, followed by other officers and non-commissioned officers, walking in order and perfect silence, carrying the eagles of their different regiments

Look at the eagles, each cover’d in snow
White eagles, yes, white eagles soaring home



You’ve gotta fly, fly home, ye white eagles
You’re soarin’ over frozen snow
You’ve gotta fly, fly, fly, fly, ye white eagles
You’re goin soarin’ homeover frozen snow

You’re going home to the town where your love lies sleeping
where the bed is so warm & the fire it blazes for you
You’ll be home with your family by this chistmas
In the house where your memories best were form’d




come Next the Imperial Gaurd on foot – Picart gazes in silence, striking the ground with the butt of his musket, then his breast and forehead with his clenched hand. Great tears fall from his eyes, roll down his cheeks, and freeze in his moustache

Am I awake or are my dreams claw-gorg’d
By isolated devils in the dark,
It breaks my heart to see our Emperor,
Like lukewarm lava below volcano
Clutching sacred caduceous on foot
Holding that baton in his hand, so great,
He who made us all so proud to know him.

My heart shares the break

Did you not notice
How he loook’d at us – he recognized me
I saw it in the trembling of his eye

He shall always rise a great genius
However miserable be our plight
With him we are assured of victory.
Wait – my company, or what’s left of it

Enter Legrande, Leboude, Foucart, Rossi & Graingier – their feet & hands are frozen, most are without firarms, many lean on sticks; covered with cloaks and coats all torn and burnt, wrapped in bits of cloth, in sheepskin & rags – Foucart & Graingier support Rossi by each arm

Rest lads, the entire coloumn is halting
Ease your limbs Old Gaurd, soon fades the respite


Hallo, poor Bourgogne! Is that you?


You are alive

We thought you dead
Behind us, here you are alive in front!

This is first-rate, where on earth have you been

I was lost

Until I found him

You old devil, you have done very well
Delivering our comrade to his arms

Speaking of comrades, I see mine behind
Adrien – it has been an adventure

Until the next time, keep on surviving

Exit Picart

Seeing you all together, I shall not
Leave you again my friends, except to die

Tell us how we became seperated

I rested with a fever for a while
& in a flash of snow your tracks were wiped

A fever, were you ill?

Very much so
& still am

You should have told us you fool
For those who cannot follow help is there
We are one family, we Grenadiers,
We’ve help’d Rossi along for two days now
Sharing his weight as if it was our own

The emperor!


Is coming to us

Soldiers of the Old Guard – stand attention

Enter Napoleon with King Murat and Prince Eugène.

How are we faring today my children

Never better sire

Hah – good! the Old Guard
Is the heart of my army, this is why
I stand among you here in clear address
The Russians hard by the Berezhina
Have sworn not one of us should cross the banks
{Napoleon draws his sword & raises his voice}
But when an army such as ours contends
Against the worst misfortune could obtain
What sublime courage capable becomes
Convented in each for the cause
of seeing France again, better to fight
In battle side-by-side than to accept
We’ll never feel sophisticates again

The soldiers erupt in shouts & cheers of Vive l’Empereur!’ – bearskins and caps are waved at the points of bayonets, and shouts

SCENE 7: Borisow

Napoleon is in council with Bertheir, Eugene, Caulaincourt & Prince Emile – Enter Murat

Apologies, sire, for my tardiness
We had a sharp encounter with Cossacks

Yes, yes, successful I hope

It was sire

Good, every positivity bodes well
But there is a drastical negative
The Russians have burn’d the one bridge for miles
& keep us penn’d up between two forests
In the middle of a marsh, Caulaincourt

The situation is very grave; sire
Any detour would take up many days
Of forced hard marches to Gloubokoje
Or Vileika

Then let us force our way
Thro,’ & beyond, the Berezhinan marsh

Indeed, but if my senior leaders
Set proper examples, we will succeed,
I am still stronger than the enemy,
& can quite afford to disregard
Each Russian gun that dares stand in our way

How do we cross the river, sire

With thought

Prince Emile
My thoughts are for a powerful balloon

What for?

Prince Emile
To carry Your Majesty home

Good God! I am not afraid of battle
I have acted Emperor long enough
It is time to act the old general
The passage of this river shall take place
Tomorrow morning

But how


I’m inclined to think not, at least as far
As rivers are concerned

But did not Ney
Cross the Dnieper over sheets of ice,
When it was not so cold as is today?

I would not risk it

Enter Gourgaud

Your serene highness,
I have promising news

Is there a ford

Yes, sire, at Studianka


A small detachment, but we drove them off
With cannon, & then forded the waters
About three & one half deep, but rising

Could we construct a pontoon at the site

I would say yes, sire

Berthier, my horse
& Murat too, we shall ride there together
& take a look ourselves, in the meantime
Make feints on Ukholoda and Stakow

Yes sire!

Dismissing attendant dangers
Innovating well, & excuting,
We shall use every endeavour
To build the bridge, it cross by morrow’s eve,
Whn once we’ve gain’d the other bank in strength
The passage of the army will commence

Exit Napoleon with Murat & Berthier


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”


Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 3, Scenes 3-4

SCENE 3: A Forest Clearing

Enter Vasalisa, Angelina, Albina, Vladamir & Vitaly

This clearing is as good as any space
To build a base from whence to pounce upon
The straggling French bestruggl’d from Smolensk

Angelina, you’ve been crying, what for?

Mother, what is it?

It is nothing, well…
I’d hoped to hear my husband’s voice today
I miss you father dearly but am proud
To know he fights the French, I heard him take
The sacred oath upon that mountain height
To never see our faces’ light until
Napoleon defeated & expung’d
From Russia on the spirit of vengeance



Well my husband is off to the war
O when is it going to end
I miss him each day more & more
He’s my family, lover & friend

& the way that he looks in the morning
When he wakes with a wink & a smile
Makes me bless how my wonderful fortune
Shares his talents, his beauty, his style

My husband’s so champion warlike
Outstanding he fights in the field
But when he’s asleep in the dawn light
All my worryful weepings are heal’d

Then the way that he looks in the morning
When he wakes with a wink & a smile
Makes me bless how my wonderful Husband
Offers talents & beauty & style

Well my husband’s so splendidly handsome
As far as my travels can see
There are multiple men in the country
But none are as handsome as he


Such love for the fatherland’s warriors
Empowers the souls & hands to noble feats

& from those feats our triumph shall prevail,
The French have been belittled in battles
The fox escapes across the barren land
Abandoning swords & encampments, flies
Thro’ slain brothers blood, painting ghastly sights,
As all around the woods & mountains shout
‘O victory to Rus, O victory
To the terryifying might of old Rus.’


Enter Natasha & Valentina, hurriedly

Be quiet everybody, still your sound

Two French officers approach us alone

Hide yourselves as salt’s secret of the seas

The Partisans hide in the undergrowth – enter Vachain & Bodet

What is this special enigma, Colonel
Which lures us deep into this creaking wood
Is it some wild pretence

This is quite real
As we are both noble officers, sir,
We will share the best table, in this case
A genuine bottle of best vodka
From the Tsar’s very own cellar

My God

I shall go first, as deem’d by higher rank

I defer to that & your gratitude

My word, there is the fire, first it burns throat
Then belly, how it feels to feel alive!
Here you are my man – prepare for fierce flame

Vachain drinks with splutters & coughs / Bodet laughs

That is a mighty blast, no vulgo draught
For one raw moment lends me forgetting,
From being the most affected ever
At the loss of the effectivity
Of our once supreme sword, how our famous
Columns made now disorder’d, prideless mass
We fools who purchas’d our own mockery,
Who were called all sides ‘Indestructables,’
Who swept all Europe before us, broken
Into myriad ruthless parts, striving
To lives preserve at anyworth expense.

So many miseries have crazed my voice
This breakdown of order is challenging
Made thrice as complicated by the theft
& plundering of clothing thro’ all ranks
Confusing insignias meaningless
Rather than attempting to discover
True ranks, comrogean soldiers assume
True officers really enlisted men
& flagrantly refused orders obey’d

Such things are the current of time’s river
Which carries to oblivion our deeds
Unfeasible it is to stem its flow
& think of desolation’s fate uncheck’d
If I were to die on this faithless march
My memories shall drift into the snow,
With last breath-whisps, of twenty great battles
Thro’ ten years service with the Emperor

Napoloen! He does not give a damn
Soldiers supraconstantly collapsing
Upon the road, dismiss’d without a glance
For the sick & dying offers only
Unstricken unsentimentality.

So long has Fortune shower’d her favours
He barely believes she deserts him now
& blunders under constant delusion
Proven amply by fatal insistence
That every little thing be brought away
To clog the roads, then lost are in the end

The end – what will that be for you & I
When some are murder’d for a pinch of bread
& who shall mourn us here – coldbloodedly
Upon pale, lamenting faces I peer,
This awful war’s dismembrator’d faces,
The wounded, frozen, burn’d – only to turn
Away & think of other trinket things
From all the sad finales I have seen
The worst are those who freeze before a fire
Takes hold & gives out heat, but I have slept
Upon these poor, unfortunate pillows
Too often – enough, let us quaff some more

Bodet drinks & hands the bottle to Vachain

So bitter – refuses to taste better

Oh lord, look, Captain Vachain, look upwards
Thro’ clearing tops upon a starry sky

A hard frost, Colonel,

Yes, that might be so
But now is the night’s tremendous disport
Flaring stars, vanishing stars, stars trembling
Star on stars on stars, busy whispering
Gladsome mysteries to one another

When gazing on the stars & crystal spheres
From myself I remove myself, become
A portion of all that passes about me
Stirring feelings of the infinite felt
In solitude, where we are least alone

This vodka works well, you speak poetry

I do? Then let us drink some more

Bodet drinks then passes Vachain the bottle

Drink deep

Vachain drinks

Still no better, what ingredient does
Russia inject into this burning wine

Enter Vasalisa

It is a symphony to savour, made
From potatoes, fermented, then distill’d

Who are you woman, what is your business?

I am Vasalisa Kharzina
Of the partisan army of the Tsar
A savage disease needs a savage cure
& leaves befallen from a wither’d tree
Up scoop, you two my captives on parole
& these, these are my country warriors

Enter the partisans, armed – Bodel & Vachain draw their swords

Put down your swords or we will shoot you dead

What use are you to anyone that way,
Your roubles’ worth quadruples when alive

Bodet & Vachain drop their swords – they are search’d for more weapons – Vitaly drinks the vodka

It is vodka – it is good

Let me try

Vladmir drinks the vodka

Give me a drop Vitaly
{Angelina drinks the vodka}
That is good
Where did you get this from – it is Russian
Who made it murder’d somewhere in these lands

I found it deep in the Kremlin’s cellars

Found it, stole it, no matter, have a drink

Vasalisa drinks

The good stuff – Let us dissappear from here
These French are of the Guard, & will send out
No doubt, seach parties, you two , follow us
If refusing you’ll be shot, understand?

We understand

My partisans, depart


SCENE 4: Another Forest Clearing

Bourgogne is alone & struggling through the bad weather. Dead bodies line the road. The ground is covered as far as the eye can see with helmets, shakos, swords, cuirasses, broken chests, empty portmanteaus, bits of torn clothing, saddles & costly schabraques / he reaches a cart

I curse the snow which hides the azure sphere
& makes an entire army dissappear
It seems as if broad heaven joins the earth
Immelding snowflakes dragging heavy girth
We march without thought, lost & unsteady,
Where whirlwinds of sleet dreadfully eddy
& swarm-drifted snow heap’d up collected
Chasms shyly conceal unexpected
Ingulphing the weakest, whom no more rise
Weak & confounded compounded by sighs
& if standing still we hammer thro the blast
That whips up wild snow, & won’t let us past
With obstinate fury blocking our way
Freezing our clothes with a knife-icy spray
Stiffening tremble-limbs, chattering teeth,
Flat falling in snow the only relief
But only for brief, the skies leaden flight
Buries them in a sepulcher of white,
See how the road to Poland undulates!
Intrepids apathetic to their fates
Hurry by with eyes elsewhere averted
Earth in one vast winding-sheet beshirted!
Dullblank expanse, where only pines emerge
A few gloomy funereals averge
Endless universal desolation,
Where life is but a silly esperance,
Sends instincts pressing self-preservation
Cross-paths down, searching friendly farms, but meet
Screeching Cossacks, peasants gadling in arms,
Who surround us, wound us, strip us to the skin
& leave us expiring with incisive grin
I curse this snow which fills up the traces
Of columns gone before me, just spaces
Of silence, this immense cemetery
That seperates us insalutary
Brings tears to me not shed since I was child,
Now who is this strange creature quite defiled

A wounded French soldier, wrapped in a great fur-lined cloak, crawls on the floor to Bourgogne

Soldier, what is your name? Your regiment?

The soldier says nothing, then collapses & dies – Bourgogne goes to see if he is alive when an arm from a second soldier led on the floor, grabs him by the legs

Stop! help me! Don’t you know, please don’t forget!
{a maniacal laugh}
Marie, Marie, give me food, I’m dying
{he tries to throw off his coat}

Stop that, please, you’ll surely die without it
Come on, stand up, I will help your comrade

As Bourgogne tires to lift the soldier by the arm he notices that he wears officer epaulettes

Ah, you are an officer, what rank, sir
& regiment

The regiment needs me
To organise reviews, bolster morale
& perfect parades, let us go at once

The soldier gets up to rise but falls on one side with his face in the snow – Bourgogne passes his hand over the soldier’s face & finds there is no sign of life – Bourgogne finds a few fragments of wood & with great difficulty gets them alight – very soon flames crackle up into quite a large fire – he collects a number of schabraques to sit on, and wrapping in his bearskin cape, with his back against the waggon, arranges himself for the night – a Cossack on all fours crawls into the camp – Bourgogne notices, draws his sword & starts to advance – on reaching the Cossack he points his sword in his back

Are you bear or a man, growl or answer…

The Cossack looks up – he has a long beard which along with his his thick hair is red and thick – his shoulders are of Herculean proportions

You are Cossack!

The Cossack throw himself down in supplication, trying to kiss Bourgogne’s feet

Dobray Frantsouz

Get off !!

Dobray Frantsouz, Frenchie, Dobray Frantsouz

The Cossack kneels upright & is so tall his head reaches Bourgogne’s shoulders – he shows him a fightful sword-cut he had had on his face. Bourgogne signs the Cossack to come near the fire; the Cossack reveals a ball wound to the stomach then turns on his side to writh & wail in pain, & grind his teeth – Bourgogne settles down by the fire

I would normally aid your pain’s relief
But am so numb to suffering your wails
Run like water on my ears, like my words
On yours, my Cossack foe, what is that noise
Ah – they are trumpets somewhere in the field
Too far away to find them, & this fire
So mindful of my life, for what it is

With a huge groan Picart emerges from the waggon, holding up the top of the waggon with one hand, and having a drawn sword in the other – Bourgogne draws his sword – Picart is trying, without success, to unfasten the great white cloak it wore with the hand which held the sword, as the other was engaged in holding up the top of the waggon

Are you a Frenchman?

Yes, of course I am!
What a damn’d silly question! There you stand
Like a church candle! You see what a fix
I am in, why have you not attempted
To help me out of this coffin. I seem,
My good fellow, to have frightened you white

You frighten’d me, yes, I thought you might be
{pointing to the Cossack}
Another of these noble beauties

Bourgogne helps Picart out of the waggon, who throws off his cloak


{examining Bourgogne}
Adrien, Adrien Bourgogne?

It is me mon pays & you are Picart

Picart by name & Picard by nation

What angel or fiend throws us together
I know now I am to make it back home
To speak of this encounter in the snow
With tactile ghost as clean & well as thee

As clean & well as me! How gruff & rough
Are you & thin to boot, veritable
Robinson Crusoe of the Guard, so strange
I scarcely know my friend, your alter’d mein
So miserable – tell me by what luck
Or misfortune do I find you alone
In the woods with this villainous Cossack
Just look at him! See his eyes! He’s been here
Since yesterday, and then he disappeared,
I cannot think at all why he’s come back,
And also you, sergeant, why are you here

I am feverish on a lazy ledge
I paus’d to rest a moment, else drop dead
The company moved on & in an hour
The tracks were completely cover’d by snow
Three days I’ve been alone now in these woods
Subkingdom of stravation & despair
Have you a bit of something I can eat

I have a little biscuit if you care

Picart opens his knapsack and draws out a piece of biscuit the size of his hand, which Bourgogne devours at once

O what medicine rests in firm friendship
I haven’t tasted bread since October
Twenty seventh – this is heaven to taste
But have you any brandy?

No, mon pays

I thought I smelt something rather like it

You are right! Yesterday, when we pillag’d
This waggon there was a brandy bottle
The source of a detestable quarrel
Which sharded glass & snow-wards hard stuff spill’d,

I should like to see the place where it happened

Behind the back right wheel snow turns golden gold
There was the scuffle & your nectar find

Bourgogne goes to the wagon, picks up a clump of snow & holds it up to check

The water of life, frozen in a ball
We’ll melt it in a pan & get quite drunk

I never thought of doing that, we shall
Surely be drunk, several bottles worth
Were smash’d in ugly distraughtation
{Bourgogne puts snow in the pan – it begins to melt}
An alchemist, alcohol alchemy

Just flames & a pan, no sorcery here

You are a great magician all the same

Do you remember the day of Eylau
When we were stood on the right of the church?’

Of course, we had weather just like to-day

I have good reason to remember it,
A brutal Russian bullet carried off
My saucepan. Have you forgotten it,

Certainly not, no more than the far heads
Of Gregoire and Lemoine it swept off too

How the devil do you recall their names?

I cannot forget them, they were both good friends

That day I had haricots in the pan
With a little biscuit

I remember
They ended up splashed all over us both

Great God! what a day that was!’
Drink, my friend, this liquid asterism

I curse the God of Russia & the Conscript


Our emperor is nothing but
A regular fool to dally so long
In Moscow, a fortnight was long enough
To eat and drink everything we found there;
But thirty-four days waiting for winter
I call that folly & If he were here,
I’d tell him as much to his regal face
This is not the way to lead men, good God
Plodding like the pen of a bad poet
The dances he has led me sixteen years
We suffered enough in Syrian sands
They were nothing to these deserts of snow

Picart begins blowing on his hands

But who on earth would be our interrex
Napoleon we need now more than ever

A bugle sounds in the distance

What was that

That was a Russian bugle

Are you sure

It’s rings unmistakable
Haunt thro’ my dreams or wake me from those dreams

It sound like the Horse-Grenadiers’ reveille
To the air ‘Fillettes, auprès des amoureux
Tenez bien votre serieux,’

Not so
That would be most impossible, mon pays
There has been not one first bugle or reveille
For the last fortnight; our cavalry’s cull’d
No, it is Russian – they will be here soon

Very well, we had better put our arms
In order, first of all my musket find
I have never, ever lost it before
Have carried it six years, all hours of night
I’ll know it by mere touch – even the noise
It makes in falling

There, beside that log
Is that it?

It is, good man

The Cossack starts rolling about in the snow in the most terrible sufferings, with his head almost in the fire

Let us melt
More of this precious snowbrandy, enough
For a bottle each, then reach a safe spot

& what about our wounded bear

I doubt
He’ll live another hour, best leave him be

At least help him to die comfortably
Pass me some schabraques

Picart & Bourgogne lay the cossack on some sheepskin schabraques

He’ll not die just yet
Look at his eyes: they shine like candle twins

The Cossack is placed sitting up, they holds by his arms / as soon as we let him go he fell down again, his face in the fire / they drag him out only just in time to prevent his being burnt – they lean him the other way

Now let us leave
With rapid steps towards the setting sun
Thro’ this silent and lonely old forest

An idea has occurred to me, man
You shall be the rear-guard, and I the van
A double eagle, with two eyes in front
& two behind espial, if we meet
The foe, you load, allow me to engage
To bring them down like fat ducks that they are

France is that way, mon pays, let us fly home,
Swift-scurried like a hurried polatouche


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”





Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 3, Scenes 1-2

faur-77-in-the-suburbs-of-smolensk-12-november-cropped.jpgScene 1: Smolensk

Bourgogne, Leboude, Legrand & Foucart arrive at a large fire in a roofless house / an old Chasseur, Roland, sits by the fire / his feet are wrapped up in a sheepskin / his beard, whiskers, and moustache were filled with icicles

This devastated ruin is Smolensk?
A town existing only by its name
There’s nothing but rubble & troubles
No houses for shelter, no provisions
To feed us

Be tranquil, Foucart, Rossi
Has gone to collect protected rations

What are Napoleonic promises
These days

His hederated majesty
Is not to blame, his fame shines insolate,
This present discomfiture not his fault
I curse this land & all its mad-bred flaws
& all who call its catacoombs a home,
The worst of which is Alexander, Tsar!
Now whom among ye brave kind lads has beer

We are as dry as Syrian desert

Then I had better die

Leboude draws a bottle of brandy from his pocket

Here you are comrade,
I have a drop or two, please help yourself

Roland drains the bottle – hands it back — Leboude tries to drink but finds it empty

You save my life & If I ever have
An opportunity to save yours back
At the cost of my own, you may be sure
I shall not hesitate for a second
Remember Roland, Chasseur of the Guard,
Now on foot, or to be exact, no feet
Converted to a crude roturier
I had to leave my horse three days ago,
Blew out his brains to banish sufferings
But here is a piece of his leg – have some

I am fine

For the Brandy

I shall wait
For our ration

The right sort never die


Not true at all, that speech was foolish
There were many as good as men as me
Among the thousands dead these last three days
I have soldier’d in Egypt, and, by God!
Could it never be compar’d with all this
I hope to goodness our troubles ended;

Veritable Pittacus Sarapus!
For us our troubles only just begun
The cold intensifying as each night
Lengthens abreast the darkness of winter
& falls again by four each afternoon
No wonder numerous fools lose their way
Gone blundering thro dusk & darkness both
While others sleep too late waiting for sun
Like drunken palliards in farmer’s barns
& find the Russians rousing them with knives

It seems as if the Emperor expects
Some miracle to alter the climate
& ruin end descending every side.

So what if desolation devastates
The greater the suffering & danger
The greater the honour & the glory

Enter Rossi

I have your beef, boys, beef, come take a share

Rossi, you beauty

That looks amazing

The soldiers rush to get their share & fall on the meat like like wild beasts – Foucart, Bourgogne & Leboude star to cook theres on the fire – Legrand starts to devour his raw

What are you doing, it must first be cooked
Are you a man or monstrous chimeran

I cannot wait another second, sir,
This is the very ecstasy of life

Suit yourself

Where did you get such gold from

We were lucky, I had to swift become
Hannibal riding Surus to persuade
The Gauls of my importance, & the Guard –
This is no promised land but Fratricide
Frenchman kills Frenchman in his search for food
& fortunes trade for bottles of brandy

Real meat! the quintessence of survival
During all this miserable campaign
I never saw as much as cow or sheep
It is the devil’s country, hell all through
Having scour’d hundreds of wretched hovels
To discover what these peasants lived on
Long struggling with unhappy tenantships
All I could find was bread as black as coal,
Too hard for teeth

{to Rossi}
Give me Graingier’s share
I’ll seek him out about Smolensk before

Here you are sergeant, don’t take it
For yourself

Of course not, on my honour
What was that?


That sound

I cannot hear


There it is again

You are hearing things

No – there is Graingier, I can sense it

Exit Bourgogne in the direction of the leibmotif

Scene 2: Smolensk, a Church

It is smoky from a fire – Graingier & several other soldiers, some of whom are musicians, are gatherer’d around a church organ in a state of some drunkenness – enter Bourgogne – the singers perform Compère Guilleri



It is my sergeant! boys, Sergeant Bourgogne
The hardiest warrior of the Guard
Comrade, interpose yourself among us
& meet my great new friends, Cuirassieres
Of the Fourth Cavalry

Drunk Cuirassier
{offering silver cup}
Want some brandy

Thank you very much, man, here, Graingier,
Come take your allocation of fresh beef

Quite beautiful

You look half seas over

But happy & warm, you should stay here sir
& join us in our joyous revelries

I’ll take a little drink, but best I think
To lie beside the fire

Do what you please
There’s straw & fodder everywhere, ’twere meant
For the horses, but most of them are dead

I have a litte rice & biscuit spare

In these days of evictive confusion
When food not to be had for even gold,
The greatest proof of friendship one could give
Are such act as these

You would do the same

Bourgogne muses quietly a moment on the potato incident

My mind & limbs grow heavy in the heat
I think I’ll burrow deep into the straw

Sleep well, I go to merrymake some more

Graingier rejoins the Cuirassiers – Bourgogne places his head on his knapsack & with his feet to the fire, goes to sleep



Cuirassiers & Graingier
Here we are
Still surviving for Napoleon
Never doubt
He’s the one to raise us up again
& we know it dont make no sense
We’ve been robb’d of our innocence

& I know that that the road is hard
But when you’re with the Old Guard
You’ll never fade away
& I know
That a life’s austere
For the Grenadier
In his coat of grey

Drunken Cuirassier
This is no cautionary tale
For the vision must still prevail



Bourgogne passes his hand over his chest and other parts of his body / to his horror he discovers he was covered with lice

What the – lice – hundreds of them – all over

Bourgogne jumps up & strips off, throwing his shirt & trousers into the fire – They make a crackling like a brisk firing – Bourgogne shakes the rest of his clothes over the fire, then strips a corpse of trousers & shirt -moves away from the straw & sits on his knapsack, covered by his bearskin, his head in his hands in a state of dejection


Cuirassiers & Graingier
Here we stand
Making sounds in perfect unison
Organ chimes as in Madame de Stael’s salon
& we know that our lives might change
& our fates’ never been so strange

& I know that that the road is hard
But when you’re with the Old Guard
You’ll never fade away
& I know
That a life’s austere
For the Grenadier
In his coat of grey

Drunken Cuirassier
& then when our fate intends
We’ll be seeking the recompense


“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”



Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen