Malmaison: Scenes 8-9

DSC00415.JPG


Scene 8: Malmaison, Dining Hall

Josephine & Napoleon are sat for dinner but none are touching their food, not speaking – Napoleon is tapping a plate with his spoon – two servants wait nearby, Achille & Joseph Archambault.

Napoleon
Take it away

Achille
Yes sire

Napoleon
& the Empress also

Servants begin clearing the table

Napoleon
Let us take some coffee
{to Achille & Joseph}
You may leave

Napoleon & Josephine move to the coffee table. Napoleon pours them both a cup

Napoleon
So many die in Spain, imperil’d force
Raking raw at my imperial crown
Their sacrifice must ne’er enfalter vain,
Their swords not stab the loud winds without wounds
The revolution embodies in them
As I, their man of state, its fate upholds
Spreading wide its enlighten’d ideals
For perfect, rapturised posterities,
From Russia’s icy wastes to the Tagus
From Hamburg to the toe of Italy
Seventy million subjects are mine,
Where prefects & monarchs exist simply
To carry out my will… one thing remains
Beyond control… if tomorrow I die
In battle, everything I have built up
Degenerates into dull nothingness,
I must, I must, I MUST, create an heir,
Else old crown’d heads crawl’d out from under rocks
Resume rotten regimes

Josephine
I’ll try again
The thermal spa at Plombieres-les-bains
Follow strict courses, tonics & potions,
Mineral baths & periodic rest.

Napoleon
These may restore your menses to full flow
But guarantees not your fertility,
Let us abandon contriving events
We both know beloft beyond redemption;
Such motions past, the people pressure me
To sire healthy successor sons, & soon!

Josephine
Then darling, there is one way that we may
Avoid the odium of forc’d rupture,
If it would ever please you so we could
Father a child with another woman,
& let me pretend pregnancy the while
She comes to term, & pay her handsomely

Napoleon
No, no, Doctor Covisart refuses
Anything to do with such proposals
Disclaiming it dishonorable deed!

Josephine
Harsh opinions may slay us, my love,
To circumvent draining situations
Still possible, maybe your family…

Napoleon
Impossible, each of them are unfit
Reprobates of royal insignia
Jerome is feckless, Pauline scandalous,
Incompetent scoundrels all the others,
Grown insubordinate, at drop of scarf
My throat to slash they would not hesitate,
Swapping walking staffs for silver sceptres
On making them monarchs they soon were up
Imagining t’were god who gave them thrones,
Not I, their one singular deity.

Josephine
Even upon the summit of greatness
Your ambition reaches greedy for clouds
In thy deepest distress I sense sea-change,
No longer am I indispensable
To the happinesses of my husband
Spurning the dedication of your wife
Your expressions of love are faltering
Your countenance alters to stern reason
My hour is come at last

Napoleon
Give me your hand
& let it press against my woeful heart,
Chastise the desperation of my blood,
That bleeds insensible on both our lives
Josephine, my excellent Josephine,
Thou knowest alone if I have loved thee,
To thee & thee alone I only owe
My happy moments in these mousetrap spheres,
But destiny overmasters my will
My dearest affections forc’d to silence
Before the best expectations of France


SIGNET DYNASTY

Napoleon
Josephine, Josephine
You & I were swans a-sail the silver stream
Germany, Italy,
We were set to seal our signet dynasty
All I ever wanted was your child
All I ever wanted was my, my, my, my

Jospehine
Napoleon, Napoleon
All I ever wanted was to sire your son
Every dress, every rose
I would swap them all for those 10 twinkle toes

All I ever wanted was my child
All I ever needed was your child
Let him run thro’ Malmaison piglet wild
All I ever wanted was my, my, my, my

Josephine
Many say Middle age
Is a time for one’s leisure
But I would sacrifice
Just to satisfy you
Come with me, let us lie
In the glow of our treasure
Make a son, raise him up
On our heavenly dew

Napoleon
Josephine, Josephine
You & I transcended all those kings & queens
I used to think my life’s truth
Was not to conquer empires
But to lie with you
But now our Signet Dynasty must fly from you
Has died in you…


Josephine
Sing – say – no more – for this I was prepar’d
But the blow lands no less mortal

Napoleon
My love
It must be done, all France calls for divorce

Josephine wails while rolling on the floor

Josephine
{beginning to weep}
Please God, no, I shall never survive it
You cannot do it, surely I’d be slain

Napoleon
Believe me, this does violence to my heart
But irrevocable the decision
You are the last obstacle to my reign
Nothing will move me, not prayers nor tears,
My resolve remains unalterable,
If fifty thousand men for France would die
For their fate, yes, I should certainly grieve
But still will feel that Reasons of the State
Must be my only consideration,
Reasons of State transcends all you can say
You must submit with good grace, for whether
You will or will not, I am determined.

Josephine
The People & the Papacy shall blame
The one who tramples down his holy vows
With callousness & cruelty so vain

Napoleon
The ceremony was irregular
Your parish priest witness’d not proceedings
& so our marriage legally dissolves

Josephine
{standing up}
You dare to shame me with the dross of law,
Withdraw the stamp of honour from our love
Confound & bruise me with your scorn & flout!
Our solemn oaths were heard by God’s first voice
Thro’ him love’s rites fair Christendom heard loud,
So many sacrifices I have made
Tho’ these were sweet because them made for you
These interests, you say, of France, they seem
A pretext to my poor immolation
Your dissembl’d gut-thirsting for glory
Which guided you to endless victory
Now urges you disasterwards

Napoleon
It does?
Perhaps it may, but I am driven on
By daemon or angel, I know not which,
Hounded & surrounded by tormentors
Squeezing on me unite with another
But I am only marrying a womb.

Josephine
You are, whose womb, the choice already made?

Napoleon
Yes, the arch-duchess, Maria-Louise

Josephine
That Hapsburg whore, how old is she?

Napoleon
Eighteen

Josephine
Eighteen! What? She is younger than Hortense

Napoleon
There are rubies worth a million francs
On the billiard table, your titles
Now Duchess of Navarre & Normandy

Josephine
You try & buy me off, make ME the whore

Napoleon
It has to be so, if ever I see
A child, Heaven knows I am envious
A deadly poison darts into my heart
On viewing rosy cheekpuffs of infants,
Near joys of mothers, by hopes of fathers
Dwell I in androgynous barrenness

Josephine
Stop talking

Napoleon
It is true

Josephine
Please stop talking

Napoleon
You must listen –

Josephine
I said stop talking

Napoleon
But-

Josephine
Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!

Josephine faints

Napoleon
Jospehine, my darling, I am sorry

Napoleon rushes to door. On opening it Hortense, Odette, Fleur Joseph & Achille fall in after listening at the door.

Hortense
Mother… what have you done Napoleon!?

Napoleon
She has had some sort of nervous attack

Hortense
Odette sniffing salts, Joseph, Achille,
Carry mother to her rooms, Fleur… hot tea!
Shame on you father

Napoleon
Just take her away

Josephine
{raising briefly from her feint}
Not so hard, you are holding me too tight

Josephine returns to her feigned faint


Marie Walewska

Scene 9: Malmaison, Dining Hall

Napoleon & Maria Walewska are together – the table is being set including soup by Achille & Joseph

Napoleon
Many thanks, Maria, for joining me,
Both you & Malmaison tender my heart
With soothing mists, denying harsher truths

Maria
I had to see you, Bonaparte, of course
Presenting tidings of our little child
Before flotsam tides of pernicious fate
Carry you forever from Europa,
With all of your enemies approaching,
With Prussians encroaching upon Versaille
Why dare dally, Paris too dangerous,
Protracted delayments may be fatal
I urge you with good reason to depart

Napoleon
Procrastinations are necessary
I intend to sail for America
Thus fresh victuals & passports must prepare,
But here we are safe until tomorrow,
We dine & talk like happy times of old.

Maria
In this house all the memories are hers

Napoleon
She dreamt of you, before we ever met
I got a letter in desperate script
Describing how I had fallen in love
With a Polish beauty, swift I replied
Do not be silly, then one week later
We collide in miraculous meeting.

Maria
I was a dove, you a swooping eagle
Came to your claws only for my country
The tyranny of Russia drove desire
I curs’d my enemies with our kisses
& still… three perfect weeks at Finkenstein
Forever follow by me, at strange times
Flashes of remembrance rustle my thoughts –
Our long field walks, our talks, our burning bed –
Awakening my sensuality,
Where moons conceal’d emotions in our moans
I grew into this elated fondness
Which sees me dedicated to your fate,
Until the passing of my final breath,
Your name the very last words on my lips.

Napoleon
But never love?

Maria
How could I be in love
With one who lov’d another, even now
We are prepar’d to settle for a meal
At the very table you once declar’d,
I’m sure, sweet Josephine your only love.

Napoleon
I was – I am – will always be in love
With you my pretty volcano, with you,
Once I was an acorn, then I was oak
Yet when I was an oak to all others,
I was glad to be an acorn to you,
Who drives the shadows back across the hills,
Angelical, furtively unselfish,
Your charm & your enchanting gentleness,
Connect me to a cosmos of content,
& glad your special qualities reside
With our young son, how is our little bird?

Maria
He is happy, healthy, in his prayers
He hopes his Papa Empereur is safe,
You should have married me & made him heir,
When you married the Austrian princess,
Whom I hate with redoubtable candour,
My heart grew darker than a moonless night.
Enter Hortense

Hortense
Madame Walewska, welcome to my home,
Father the rest of our dining party
Assembl’d, are you ready to receive?

Napoleon
Show them to their seats, sit here Maria,
Beside me, would you like a little soup?
{Napoleon tries the soup}
Take it away, this sea of frozen ice
It must be hot… hot-hot-hot-Hot-HOt-HOT!

Enter the rest of the party- Caulincourt, Lucien & Gourgaud

Caulaincourt
Your majesty

Napoleon
Gentlemen, welcome, sit

Hortense
{raising the food pots}
We shall have eggs; boiled, poached, broke in omelettes,
Beef fillets, broiled lamb-breasts, lentils & beans,

Caulaincourt
Delightful &, I am sure, delicious

The servants begin bringing out dishes of food – the diners choose what they wish & begin to eat

Maria
Malmaison seems so deserted these days
There are more pretty paintings than people

Lucien
But with Van Dyck, Holbein, Rembrandt, Rubens,
Leonardo, Titian, Raphael,
This is a sophisticated silence.

Napoleon
Indeed, in each a laurell’d memory
Of famous days of triumph… & how close
We were to adding to them, Waterloo!
Ah Waterloo! Such brutal, sluggish fight,
But a battle most inevitable
When they made me the king of that pebble
Within earshot of Parisian streets,
It seem’d as if they’d left unlock’d the cage,
My first hope came when I saw the gazettes
Where foolish King Louis insulted me
With rudest words unroyally spoken
In pamphlets & in private, losing friends,
That fat & gouty pile of impotence,
Who refuses to pay my pension! Non!
France did not choose to lose their Emperor
& have foisted on them an ousted king;
I am a man, and acting like a man
I felt I the need to show I was alive,
& so returned.

Caulaincourt
It was a joyous day!
The march you made from Antibes to Paris
Long-lined with celebrations never seen

Gourgaud
By the boldness and sheer audacity
Of your return to France you gave the lie
To those wiping noses in newspapers.

Napoleon
I left my fortune for war on Elba,
Methinks, forgotten in the secret flit,
One commonly, when looking at results,
Perceives what the person ought to have done,
My plan was working to perfection
The English and the Prussians were surprised
In their cantonments, & the conditions
All set to crush the Duke of Wellington,
I still envisage all advantages.
If only the day could be fought again!
If only Ney would not have hurl’d the horse
When I was absent from the field

Lucien
He lost
His head, a sense of past conduct impaired
His energy, however splendidly
Cuirassiers charge, without infantry
Marching in support, all won ground soon lost.

Gourgaud
His attack on La Haie-Sainte a mistake,
Repositioning my well-posted guns
Reduced vital efficiency of fire.

Napoleon
True… true… both Soult & Suchet better knew
My way of making war than e’er could Ney

Lucien
It was the impeccable discipline
Of the English that gained that deadly day
They advance thirty yards, halt, fire, go back,
Fire, and come thirty yards forward again,
Without breaking line, without disorder.

Napoleon
Poor France! to have been beaten, defeated
By those English rascals! Yes, it is true
The same sad thing happened at Agincourt
& Crecy before, but I was so certain
I should beat them, I had divined their plans,
& when at last had nail’d them to a field
They fought with unusual stubbornness,
Yet would have lost had Blucher not arrived.

Maria
I have heard that the Madame Hamelin
Thinks the Duke of Wellington talentless
& afraid of you, for once fortunate
& knows you would not lose a second time
Daring not risk his reputation so.

Napoleon
He will know, very well, he was lucky,
Regrets not for myself, unhappy France
With twenty thousand less of your soldiers
We should have won the battle, it was fate
That made me lose it.

Hortense
Dwell not on this defeat
Let us toast instead those majestic arms
Which carv’d an empire, gentlemen, to
France

All
To France

Maria
& to its shining emperor

Napoleon
The empire, O beautiful creation
Twenty-Eight millions, one grand nation,
We sent the revolution thro’ the world
When all would have been equal under me
Instead young men prefer’d to fight for kings
Who yoked them to unequal existence,
Led by the sly & obstinate bulldog
Reveal’d in Englishmen when interests
Of England at stake, robust patriots
They fight for their slavemasters, while Russia
Spews out countless peasants into armies
Manpower as prolific as the steppes!

Caulaincourt
Tis three years today we crossed the Neman

Napoleon
Three years, you say, what changes time has wrought

Hortense
Enough of solemn war-talk & regrets,
Posterity shall see your history
As if some supernatural romance,
The peals of praise shall evermore be yours,
Those fiery energies of youthful years,
Yielding to the magnificent progress
Of your irrisistable ambition,
Combining into visions of grandeur
As if you were a gift from heaven’s vaults.

Maria
You are indeed a greater man, when all
The lesser men & tumults of our age
Are pass’d away into oblivion,
Futurity shall dedicate these years
To your famous name of Napoleon.

Lucien
Remember, brother, you have transform’d France,
Imposing government that we desir’d,
Honest, efficient administration,
Guaranteeing the rules of free reason,
Designing law codes memorised by all,
Illuminating Parisian streets
With gas lamps, paving quais beside the Seine,
New harbours, canals, your poplar-lined roads,
You set examples to inspire our lives.

Napoleon
Yes… yes… bring the cheeses sil vous plait
But what use of my legacy to me
When I am not yet dead to celebrate
& cannot still decide on best passage
America has many assassins,
I may live longer among the English.

Armand-Augustin-Louis Caulaincourt

Caulaincourt
England, your enemies?

Napoleon
Yes, it tempts me
The Britons’ inviolable hearts deem
Sanctuaries of generosity,
I could find scenic rural seclusion
Ending my days gracious with nostalgia.

Lucien
I think it would be foolish in this clime
Of conquerors dictating to the French,
I have heard Blucher wants you delivered
To the Chateau at Vincennes, where the Duke
Of Enghien was shot, & the same spot
A pungent thought, a sordid phantasie
Better proceed you to America
Where Bolivars direct & ride the storms.

Napoleon
I need not resolute on this tonight
Instead to rest awhile & contemplate
Every angle drawn in my perception
Ruminating each expediancy –
The meal is done, I hope you found yours fine
If everyone could leave I wish to sit
Alone beside the fire, & with my thoughts.

While staff attend to clearing the table, everyone leaves saying ‘your majesty’ & ‘sire’

Maria
Shall I stay? Play a little vingt-et-un

Napoleon
I’d rather not, my love, my mind complains
To me each minute of pressing problems

Maria
You need not be alone, I’m here to share
All of your woes, even your exile, know
I’ll go where you go, flying on your flow.

Napoleon
I love you too much to put you thro’ such
Pain,

Maria
I understand… I’ll be in my rooms

Exit Maria, Napoleon is left standing alone staring into the fire


THE CONCHORDIA FOLIO

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

35062508_10156430365647520_5136386788406853632_n.jpg

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

Posted on December 6, 2019, in Conchordia, Malmaison. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: