The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 1, Scene 2

SCENE 2: The Kremlin

Napoleon is in the Tsar’s apartments, being entertained by the Italian tenor, Tarquinio, & Martini, a pianist / with him are Berthier, Prince Eugene, General Gourgaud & Caulaincourt

***

PLAISIR D’AMOUR

Tarquinio
Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment,
Chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.
J’ai tout quitte pour l’ingrate Sylvie,
Elle me quitte et prend un autre amant.
Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment,
Chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.
Tant que cette eau coulera doucement
Vers ce ruisseau qui borde la prairie,
Je t’aimerai”, te repetait Sylvie,
L’eau coule encor, elle a change pourtant.
Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment,
Chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.

 

***

Napoleon
A wonderful piece, eternal even
Your dear father, Martini, would be proud
To hear it played so magical abroad,
& Tarquinio how well you sing it,
Choiring as if a young-eye’d cherubim

Did court the gods on lofty Olympus
I wish my officers to hear the same
Promotion to a mental dignity
Could you prepare a concert for Sunday

Martini
Certainly sire

Napoleon
Today I shall decree
To open Moscow’s standing theatres
To see her noble boards restor’d to life
& have them play French comedies – perhaps
Italian – the troops are fond of those,
All actors & musicians shall be paid
Six months advance for each, do you accept

Martini
To furnish your best victory with art
Would be the perfect honour of my life

Napoleon
Good, if you will inform your close colleagues
Of this conversation’s fidelity
You are dismissed

Exit Tarquinio & Martini

Louis-Alexandre Berthier, Prince of Neuchetal

Berthier
Such timescale terrifies me, six months, sire!
When Moscow burn’d your dreams, too, turn’d to flames
I hear full well the warnings of Winter
The planet Saturn broods, by gloomy gaze,
Forebodings of terrible disaster
Shake me to my boots with unborn sorrows

Napoleon
What would you have me do my nervous prince
Seeing you are so wise?

Neuchetal
Return at once
To Paris & proclaim a victory
With ashes of Muscovite palaces
In your pockets

Napoleon
Release your ill censure
What frightful series of dangerous wars
Would follow from the first stepp’d retrograde,
Death is nothing, but to live defeated
& inglorious is to daily die
That self-same sun which led us to glory
Brightening our victory each morning,
Shall set not now leading us to darkness,
No, we shall face the rising sun, Moscow
From a pure military point of view
Holds no real value, but its name’s prestige
Remains untarnish’d, thus, if politics
Were a game of chess, the black queen is trapp’d,
Her trembling king helpless behind his pawns
Besides, in politics, one shoud never
Recede, never admit to being wrong

Caulaincourt
Sire, the city is in a dreadful state
The Russians left us nothing but ruin

Napoleon
Well, at least we are quiet among them
Eh, Caulaincourt?

Caulaincourt
That is true, I suppose

Napoleon
We have reduced Mother Russia to rags
Her warcry tongue turn’d stringless instrument
Her commerce set back half a century
Such violent shocks convulsing thro’ his throne
The Tsar, I’m sure, shall certain sue for peace

Eugene
I agree with positivities, sire,
The occupation of his capital
Is hampering aristocratic rents
Their revenues drifting with the peasants
Gone eating up the provinces, until
The whole of Russia gurgles on the blood
Drawn by the blade that was our Moscow march

Gourgaud
By number & by nature, the extant
Buildings & resources throughout Moscow
Offer a military position
Preferable to any other site
This side of the River Nieman, sire

Caulaincourt
But as you said yourself, there is in war
A singular favorable moment,
The great art is to seize it, we should leave

Napoleon
Gourgaud, explain to Caulaincourt, simply,
How well the army has been provided for

Gourgaud
For half a year our larders shall remain
With beets abundant, round as bowling balls,
Plump cabbages gathering like oceans,
Each passing hour discoveries are made
In shops & cellars; foodstuffs, clothes & drink
The deep-detritus of the bourgeoisie

Napoleon
You see, Caulaincourt, if we must remain
We shall do so, quartering in comfort
Designate the order of the season
Forage for furniture & firewood
& bring in all the hay for fifteen miles

Caulaincourt
This is a reckless gamble, if retreat
Will come, we are completely unprepar’d,
With wheat showing scarce, cattle dwindling fast
With no preparation for departure
When cold comes in we dare not take a step
Else lose our feet & fingers in the frosts
& while the horses shooed a pinless smooth
They’ll slip on ice & break their slender legs

Napoleon
Ha – like a fusswife you worry too much,
The ever, over-cautious Caulaincourt

Berthier
But sire, I urge on you heed his advice
Your hopes for peace keeping you prisoner
In this queer, gremlin castle call’d Kremlin

Napoleon
Eugene?

Eurgene remains silent

Eugène_de_Beauharnais,_vice-roi_d'Italie.jpg

Eugène de Beauharnais

Caulaincourt
What harm will come of idle hours
Spent lining coats with fur, or sewing hats
& gloves, constructing sledges just in case

Napoleon
Do what you will if it will ease my ears
This is no time to worry of biscuits
There are more pressing businesses at hand
Prince Neuchetal, you have read the despatch
From Murat

Berthier
I have, sire

Napoleon
What are its bones?

Berthier
The King of Naples full of flattery
Pays tribute to his Cossack counterpart
His linguals spun infloraling with praise
& says how Russian arms are readying
Capitulation, & how the Cossacks,
Embroil’d beneath mourning despondancy,
Could even fight for France, oppose the Tsar

Caulaincourt
But the Cossack could just be blowing dust
Into his eyes, blaming the wand’ring wind

Napoleon
So you see, Caulaincourt, it is only
A time or two before my fate’s fair tide
Oerwhelms this state

Caulaincourt
Do not trust half-accounts
They might be mischievous exaggerations
Look where we are, men of twenty nations
Secure within the city of the Tsars
Emanating European progress
Against this explicit, Asiatic
Barbarianism, this serf-struck land
Of strict taboos & prohibitive chains
Must make a common cause with our reforms

Eugene
Allow me to interject a moment

Napoleon
Of course Eugene, what patterns form your thoughts

Eugene
Like deer enstartl’d by a hunter’s gun
At a pace Petersburg is emptying
They flee to England those who can afford
Already the Tsarina’s jewellry
& royal archives heav’d off to London
With all the strength & purpose of his mind
The Tsar should be eager to make profit
Sire, seize this opportunity, enter
Negotiations, appease the nobles,
For the folly of Moscow’s flameletting
Is one that forms a madman’s boast today
But tomorrrow must end in penitence

Napoleon
I agree – & I thank you for your time
All of you, & now if you could all depart
Except for Caulaincourt, enjoy your day

Exit Eugene, Gourgaud & Berthier

Napoleon
Brandy?

Caulaincourt
I shall refrain your majesty

Napoleon
{pouring out a glass of brandy}
No other issue than peace, fair & prompt
Seems possible, I would hate to destroy
Alexander – I love the man too much
We must make peace – will you go Caulaincourt

Caulaincourt
Go

Napoleon
Yes, go, to Petersburg & the Tsar
Deliver my proposition of peace

Caulaincourt
He will refuse

Napoleon
What makes you so certain

Caulaincourt
He said to me if you’d make war on him
It is possible, even probable
He’d be defeated, but that would not mean
You could dictate a peace, an exemplar
Was made of Spain, tho’ beaten many times
Them no submittance pled, & are not so
Far away from Paris as we now stand,
Lacking recourse to call on resources
& climate, as the Russian calculates

Napoleon
Piffle! I have been proffer’d fairy tales
Upon your Russian climate – it is, well,
Pleasant

Caulaincourt
It is unseasonable sire

Napoleon
Whenever have the vanquish’d set the terms

Caulaincourt
He marvels at your abilities, sire
But not that of your marshalls, he will fight
& take no risk, use his natural room
Telling me frankly about Kamchatka
How he would set his court up in the east
Rather than ceding provinces & sign
A treaty more finite truce expected

Napoleon
Expel those thoughts at once, unhappiness
At all the punishments I’ve dealt your friend
Undermines your loyalty to this crown,
Cramm’d deep within some crannied hole or chink
When pressur’d by a tough reality
A sentence said in safety falls apart
Will you go

Caulaincourt
I will not be received, sire,
For certain, as he knows I know his mind,
To be there on such terms insult would prove
As such would tarnish everything hard wrought
Thro’ all my months in Petersburhg

Napoleon
You fear
Repugnancy to serve this task I ask

Caulaincourt
He will not sign peace in his capital
Until entirely evacuated
From his territories he will not hear
A word of your proposal, your letter
Will not be read

Napoleon
The Tsar is surrounded
By English partisans, who’d cut his throat
Before peace made with France, Alexander
Said to me himself he hates the English
As much as France does
{Napoleon takes Caulaincourt by the arm & paces to & fro}
You must go to him
Solicit peace upon your hands & knees
If it would deign be granted – but if not
We will march on the northern capital
From whose conquest conspiracy must fray
His sacred kingship, rip him from the throne
Thro’ circumstances well avoidable

Caulaincourt
The roads to distant Petersburg are long
Inching thro’ morrasses, impassable
Made by three hundred pitchfork peasants
Barring the advance, what of the wounded
Do we simply leave them for Kutusoff
Who would then snap at our heels all the way
As if we were fleeing to a conquest

Napoleon
Kutosoff is beaten, but I accept
The season for Petrsburg is passing
But if not the whole army, then just you,
Will you go

Caulaincourt
Not willfully to folly
Why would he set his capital on fire
To make peace in the ashes & the char
Only from facing banks of Nieman’s flow
Could understanding come

Napoleon
Where is your faith
It seems the Tsar infects your very thoughts
I ought to strip you of all your titles
Shall I send instead Monsieur Toutalmine
As my plenipotentiary, shall I

Caulaincourt
As you wish, sire, it will be of no use

Napoleon
I must have peace, I absolutely must
I want this peace, my honour must be saved
But if you dare not deliver my words
You can at least inscribe them on the page

Armand-Augustin-Louis de Caulaincourt

Caulaincourt
Yes Sire… they will be considered but proof
Of the poor state of your embarassment

Napoleon
Enough – remember, I am emporer,
Who thinks & acts in realms unknown to all
Except for those who lord oer millions
I shall begin

Caulaincourt
Sire

Napoleon
Dear Alexander
Russia’s emperor, I wish you no harm
This superb city exists no longer
Its governor had given the order
To burn the ornate work of centuries
But fires, at last, appearing to have ceas’d
Only a quarter of Moscow remains
Such conduct is uselessly atrocious
That leaves to ghosts each village from Smolensk
Since Moscow was exposed by Russian arms
In the interests of your majesty,
Humanity & its inhabitants,
Its care to me was confided in trust
Administration, magistrates & gaurds
Are set in place as to plans adopted
In Vienna, Madrid & Berlin twice
I know well your majesty’s principles
For justice, without animosity
While we were waging war a single note
Would have halted my march at any time
Sacrificing the advantage at once
Of entering Moscow – if you retain
Some remains of your former sentiments
You will take this letter in a good part
By this, my dear sir, my brother, I pray
To God he will preserve your majesty…
Is it neat

Caulaincourt
Yes

Napoleon
Then I shall sign straightways
{Napoleon signs the decree}
Have it despatched to Petersburg today
With Moseiur Toutalmine & twenty gaurds

Caulaincourt
Yes, your majesty

Napoleon
O, & Caulaincourt
Do not ever, ever, doubt ,me again

Exit Napoleon / Caulaincourt reads through the letter shaking his head


THE CONCHORDIA FOLIO

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

 

 

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

Posted on March 25, 2020, in Conchordia, White Eagles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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