Malmaison: Scenes 7-8

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Scene 6: Malmaison, Josephine’s Bedroom

Josephine is sat at her dressing table. Odette is tinting her hair & smoothing it with cream. Fleur is powdering her face with white & rouge.

Josephine
I expect him any hour, the hero
Of Austerlitz returns to me tonight,
Not even death could still my flutter’d heart,
My love for His majesty must outlive
My breath, my body, & my faithful bones.

Odette
Today all France is aflame with his fame
& your name sing in celebration too
In company together you defy
The very bounds of Human endeavour

Fleur
As if the Holy Spirit moved on earth
& settl’d in two vessels good & pure
Inspiring us all clean beakers to be,
So when your essence pours into our hearts
We too shall know a hint of the divine

Enter Napoleon, undressing quickly, throwing his great coat on the floor & placing his hat on a chair

Napoleon
Josephine, queen effigy of passion,
I am returned to sweep you to the seas
That deep across your bed entranquil’d lie,
But first we shall open every portal,
Draw in the air which God made for us all.

Josephine
You startle me, darling, but I am glad
To see you here, come press these waiting lips
To yours, & hold me tight as my husband.

They embrace, exit the maids.

Napoleon
Come let us stand together at the bay,
The evening drips a gorgeous net of stars,
The peace in your presence a thousand miles
From those starch’d fields about the Pratzen Heights
Where I became the best of emperors,
A masterpiece of cunning deception
Put paid to ill-conceiv’d alliances,
Ill-omen’d, grandiose, a ratsbane rout,
With one sharp blow the war was over, won
By brutal logic of the bayonet,
Triumph more clear than Ceasar ever saw.

Josephine
For you, I am as overjoyed as June
When roses grace long days, but did you think
Of me, my dear, when victory was yours,
Your little Josephine?

Napoleon
Of nothing else,
In the midst of military affairs
At the head of my troops, inspecting camps,
Over my heart an adorable sway
Is held by an image of your sweet face,
Alive in my mind as if it were real,
A mind you possess undisputedly
Engrossing all thought.

Jospehine
This cheers me to hear,
Your absences manifest as sickness
I cannot keep you from my intellect
Trampling serenity with hardest hooves.

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Napoleon
Forgive me, empress, all I do I do
For you, my captivated faculties
Focus every conscious iota
Into & onto you, oblivion
Strikes me when we part, deadly sense of death,
There is no survival for me, except
In you – condemn’d to live thro’ Josephine
That was, that is, the story of my life.

Josephine
That may be so, but tell me, mon cherie,
Tell me you were not abed with strumpets,
Perhaps some young actress of Vienna,
Distracting with assumption of beauty.

Napoleon
Please put no faith in jackal rumours spread,
Never doubt the reach of deepest feelings,
I love only my little Josephine –
Kindly, sulky, capricous – who quarrels
As gracefully as does she all things else;
& adorable always, excepting
When she screams suspicion, then she becomes
A regular devil.

Josephine
Could you betray
All that we are when we are led unclothed
In bed, in love, in passion’s pilgrim shrine.

Napoleon
Betray you? You betray me with such doubts,
I love with a love beyond the limits
Of imagination, all my minutes
Of living life are yours, consecrated,
I’ve never thought of another woman
When private in my mind & paused from war,
They lack – in my eyes – beauty, wit & grace
You alone & all of you, as I see
You as you are – only you can please me,
Absorbing all the faculties of soul;
You pervade mine to its furthest reaches;
There is no corner of my open heart
You do not see, there is no thought of mine
Which prospers insubordinate to you,
The day on which you change or cease to live
Would be my day of death.

Josephine
Dear Bonaparte
You are so dramatic – but I love it.

Napoleon
The world is only beautiful because…

Josephine
It is I who inhabit it

Napoleon
Quite true,
You must believe me else do not love me.

Josephine
Aha! It is the man who takes a sulk,
Come to my breast ye mighty warrior,
I barely slept to think you in the field
With all those guns & bullets.

Napoleon
I could feel
Your worries, some rare magnetic fluids
Flow between persons who love each other.

Josephine
I always want to see me in your eyes
As you desire me now, I shall remain
Devoted to your love & happiness.

Napoleon
I am in love & I am very happy
A banquet of excitable moods
Wondering what my precious victory
Could achieve, in our day no-one conceives
Anything great – we can set examples,
Balancing for good the nation’s budget,
Design a law code memorised by all,
Illuminate the night-streets of Paris
With gas lamps, pave the quais beside the Seine,
& best of all erect a marble arch
Surmounted by the horses of Saint Mark’s,
Perpetuate the glory of our arms
For all who visit Paris evermore.

Josephine
Forget those arms, let these arms curl caress
Across your chest, then let these tresses fall
Asplash your face as I descend a kiss,
Come swiftly to my bed, come lie with me,
& see how much of comfort it can bring.

Napoleon
I will, I thought of nothing else, but first,
Let us discuss occasional reports
Of wanton, boundless generosity
Indiscriminate, restless & impulsive,
You never wear a pair of stockings twice,
The smallest party merely an excuse
To order some new dress, in one season
You flit from polka dots to lacy ruffs,
You waste your life deciding what to wear,
So much discussion; petticoats, dresses,
Golden gowns cover’d in ostrich feathers,
Thirty-eight hats in September alone,
Cashmere shawls, silver slippers…

Josephine
Yes, so what?
I am Empress – you are the Emperor,
Do not impinge on my duties & I
Shall not impinge on yours, together we
Will complement each other & our roles;
I master curriculi you send me
Of Europe’s courts I know the hiostory,
Including boring genealogies
Of all those royal houses, I am not
Ideal, but whenever we are present
At gatherings of crown’d & coquette heads,
I never put a foot or eyelash wrong.

Napoleon
Well I appreciate your elegance,
Your magnificence on state occasions,
Attending grand galas especially,
But darling you are drowning under bills,
If anybody asks you won’t refuse,
You scatter pensions like them chicken feed,
Only supersceded by your spending
On shoes – if somebody shows you something,
You buy it then forget at once what bought,
Because all this has made common knowledge
Your waiting rooms teem with panting merchants,
Tongues dribbling out vastly inflated sums.

Josephine
But all of them, they are so very good
At what they make, I can never summon
Up the courage to turn just one away.

Napoleon
If sometimes I refuse to pay your bills ,
It is because you are so much imposed
Upon by tradesmen, & thus I cannot
Conscientiously sanction abuses…
I know about the necklace, Bourrienne
Gave me exact & staggering figures,
One million, two hundred thousand francs!

Josephine
{obtaining necklace from her table}
But look at it, so pretty in the light
Of morning, then better by candlelight,
Could you put it on me, around my neck,
You have always wish’d for me to dazzle,
Yet when I spend a little more than norm
You reproach me with Corsican tantrums,
I do not throw phantastical parties
Or run up millions at the tables,
I am no thrifty Marie Antionette
Nor Madame du Barry, she gladly made
A diamond necklace for her yappy dog,
I do it all for love, & love of you.

Napoleon
You charm me yet again, I shall repent,
Hanging divinely on your perfect neck
Let your necklace adorn my victor’s ball
Tonight at the giddy Tuilerries.

Josephine
We are the oddest couple you & I
Nature has made you strong & resolute,
While I am lace & gauze, I sail a swan
You fly an eagle

Napoleon
So perfect a thing!
We two have more in common than you think
We are both outliers & islanders
My Corsica, your little Martinique,
You brought it with you, stole my wintry heart
Its warmth & seductiveness fills your eyes.

Josephine
I see it in reflection

Napoleon
Kiss my lips…

Napoleon & Josephine kiss


INTRINSIC LOVERS

I won’t lie I dont care,
I’ll sing until the world’s aware
I feel pride by your side,
When we are sharing pleasure domes together
Together

& its true, I feel blue,
When I’ve been forced to part from you,
But I’m back to my bride
You know I am you saw I am
We’re living to your higher plan
Im/you’re woman to your/my man

Cos you’re the lover
I’ve always been dreaming of

I sing songs I say psalms
I’m tingling to your tender charms
& this world becomes ours
When two intrinsic lovers come together
Together

We’ve align’d in our minds
Cos this is destiny’s design,
Our fate fell from the stars
You know it would, you saw it would,
The glory your womanhood
Is glowing/flowing in/thro my blood

Cos you’re the lover
I’ve always been dreaming of

The world is unworthy of
The majesty of your throne
Come lie by my side my love
This bed is so cold alone

I love you Napoleon
I love you dear Josephine
I hate it when you are gone
But now you’ve come back to me

Cos you’re the lover…


Scene 7: Malmaison, Napoleon’s Apartments

The secretaries Marcel & Chapentier are setting their desks – enter secretary Desmarais

Desmarais
Good morning gentlemen, I am Jean-Claude.

Marcel
Good Morning – will you be working with us?

Desmarais
I shall.

Marcel
Are you a stenograph?

Desmarais
I am
Sufficient – is there anything to know?

Chapentier
You’ll need to be as fast as hunted fox.

Marcel
Rapidity the order of the day,
Ability to differentiate
For whom the dictation is essential,
He possesses a mind like no other,
His memory furnishes him with all
He needs when commanding written discourse,
He compares it to a furniture piece
Composed of a great number of drawers,
Pulls out the one which each new moment needs,
The classification of everything
Is done as if automatically,
Nothing remains but to utter the words.

Desmarais
Are we to transcribe any of his notes?

Chapentier
The Emperor is too hyperactive
To write himself, & even when he does
Tho’ his first lines are passably composed,
Those that follow are illegible,
One very much accustomed has to be
To the form of his letters, of his words,
To the way they run together, then hope
To divine meanings in a hieroglyph,
Producing a decipher, more or less,
Counterpoising with clarity acute .

Marcel
I can never make out his strange letters,
He writes like a cat, one deranged at that.

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Enter Napoleon in a dressing gown & leather slippers

Napoleon
Good morning gentlemen, how are we all?

Marcel
We are well your majesty

Chapentier
Very well

Napoloen
{pinching ears}
My rascal scribes, it is always wondrous
To see you, reminding me, above all,
That I am still alive… & who is this?

Desmarais
I am Monsieur Desmarais, Your Majesty.

Napoleon
Where are you from?

Desmarais
Five miles from Avignon.

Napoleon
I thought you were Provencal… very well
Let us begin, Marcel take the soldiers
& disputation to the deputies,
Chapentier the letter to my wife
In which the King of Rome shall hear my voice,
Young Desmarais, the English Regent, yours;
All four are more than vital, but before
Commencing, let me take a little snuff.

Napoleon takes out an oval snuff box made of tortoise shell lined with gold – on the cover is a silver portrait of the King of Rome, set in a circle of gold. He takes a sniff.

Napoleon
Men of the Provisional Government,
Disasters quake, but these we shall resist,
The enemy is on our native soil,
I propose my return to the army
To take advantage of any errors
The enemy commits, for I expect
To stimulate the national honour,
If all we do is argue all is lost,
Let not the fate Byzantium be ours;
My darling wife, empress Marie-Louise,
Do you remember the road to Soissons,
When first we met, from romantic meeting
Sprung the King of Rome – precious, perfect child,
How fares he now, I think of him each day,
Thro’ saddening times of strenuous strain,
The army has been exterminated,
The mood among the Representatives
More hostile than ever, I never should
Have come to Paris… To my dear soldiers
I have yielded to necessity,
& tho’ command no more our brave army,
I take away the happy certainty
That it will justify, by eminent
Service, all that the nation will expect;
To my gracious enemy of twenty years,
The most powerful, the most generous,
Your Royal Highness, I am made victim
To the factions distracting my country,
I live for peace & when I terminate
My political career, my true hope
Is to throw myself like Themistocles
Upon the gracious hospitality
Of Britisher civility & laws…
Exactly & precisely how they were
She preserves my apartments, as if I
Were still her dear husband…

Desmarais
Your majesty?

Marcel
Learn to differentiate

Chapentier
Between the Emperor’s thoughts & his words

Napoleon
Where was I? O yes… sweet Marie Louise,
What brilliant qualities adorn you,
Inspiring me with a desire to serve
You, your father, our nations & our child,
Despite the trying nature of these days,
I shall strive with an Assyrian will
To bring us back together in one heart
& on our kisses crown the God of bliss;
Soldiers of France, I follow all your steps,
With just a few more efforts from each corps
The coalition of our enemies
Will inevitably droop & dissolve,
Napoleon will recognise you all
Thro’ breathless blows yet struck, save the honour,
The independence of France & remain
To the very end, as I have known you
These twenty years past, the invincible.

Enter Gourgaud, Caulaincourt & Lucien

Gourgaud
My God, am I such a man to be born
To see my emperor a prisoner
Of his people at pretty Malmaison.

Napoleon
Gourgaud, Caulincourt… brother Lucien.

Lucien
How are you keeping?

Napoleon
Things could be better.

Général_baron_Gaspard_Gourgaud

Gaspard Gourgaud

Gourgaud
With your permission, sire, I shall assume
Command of the Gaurd, we shall take careful
Watch over the safety of your person.

Caulaincourt
While you remain in France, he means to say,
The country no longer can sustain you.

Gourgaud
Our enemies declared this current war
On you, a single person, & not France,
The nation must now be seperated
From Napoleon, you are all that stands
Between France & peace, a fresh new breeze blows,
Tho’ fidelity is not in question,
Our duty now is the welfare of France.

Lucien
The tide has turned against you, & the sea
It seems has chained the next in captive waves

Caulaincourt
We travell’d, sire, to the Pont de Neuilly,
The bridge was barricaded so I inch’d
Along the parapet, then found a chaise
& drove it on to the Tuileries;
The commision of government was sat
In council, Fouche was most astonish’d
To see me, I read out your last letter,
Inform’d them of patriotic duty
In demanding your presence at their head,
But Fouche’s reply, rebuking candour,
Complain’d of imposts & grave vexations.

Napoleon
Enough, how can they want to overthrow
The government, when mortal enemies
Snarl at the gates, the Representatives
Opposing me are thick, ungrateful swine,
I showered them with honours & treasures
Now all they do is swivel backs & grunt.

Lucien
The paths to power beyond redemption,
Your fate away from France & Paris lies,
I have already asked Decres to find
Two frigates to place at your disposal.

A silent pause descends for a while

Napoleon
There will be civic bloodshed if I stay,
I must not wade in blood, and be abhorred,
Far better to offer abdicatio
In favor of my son, all my glories
Concentrated in him, and leave the rest
Handling present difficulties themselves,
Then they will see it was not I alone
The Allies wished destroy’d, but all of France!

Lucien
To abdicate once more your wisest course,
Your legacy ensured, despite the pain.

Napoleon
If I must go then gentlemen obtain
The necessary vitals of the road,
Gourgaud, go to the kennels at Versaille,
At stag-hoof speed, ask there for sporting guns,
Marcel, Charpentier &… Desmarais,
Deliver your letters, I have finished,
But let me sign them first, who has a pen?

Charpentier gives Napoleon a pen – he signs the letters

Napoleon
Now everybody leave but Lucien

Marcel & Charpentier
Your majesty

Caulaincourt
Sire

Gourgaud
Sire

Desmarais
Your majesty

Exit all but Napoleon & Lucien

Napoleon
Take a pen, Lucien, are you ready?

Lucien
I am, but what for?

Napoleon
My abdication…
Frenchmen! Tho’ I commenc’d the recent War,
Maintaining national independence,
I relied on the total union
Of all our efforts, of all our desires,
In which all French authorities concur,
I had reason to hope for great success,
Braving all the Allied Declarations,
But circumstances appear to have chang’d,
My political life is terminated;
& I proclaim my son Napoleon
The Second, the Emperor of the French,
Under him, & for the public safety,
Let all unite, in order to remain
The independent nation we adore.

Napoleon takes the pen from Lucien, signs the abdication & leaves the room. Lucien follows.

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THE CONCHORDIA FOLIO

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

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Posted on December 4, 2019, in Conchordia, Malmaison. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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