The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 1, Scenes 4-6

SCENE 4: The Red Square

Napoleon is standing with Berthier & Eugene

Napoleon
Gourgaud, this is a sorry sight to see
The diminuation of our army
Disenergizes recent victories
Men sensing tensions in this phyrric post
Might dismoralize them in the fighting
Next time arrange the lines two deep, not three

Gourgaud
Yes, sire, of course

Napoleon
{Addressing the troops}
Soldiers of the Eagles
Today is a day of celebration
Of medals & promotions battle forg’d,
Deserving all corners I gaze upon,
Where men who washed their blood so many times,
Across contested continental fields,
Hold guns which shot our glory like a dart
Into the stately heart of Russian realms
Where all of us bore witness to a crime,
The grossest deconstruction of Moscow
By its own citizens, however base,
Has proven their need to be civilized,
Such matter will take time, of course, & toil,
But Moscow yields fruitful stores to furnish
Our cause with winter quarters, & supplies
More than another place, we shall convert
Monasteries, convents & the Kremlin
Into a state of highly-tun’d defence
We are to be heavily reinforced
By fresh levied men hard marching from France,
Troops of Polish Cossacks too advance,
The wonders of our thunder incomplete,
For new adventures let us steel ourselves
Enflame firm hearts, throw frailty from the beat,
& send to France her greatest ever news!

Exit Napoleon & the entourage


SCENE 5: Inside the Kremlin

Caulaincourt is pacing in a state of some agitation / Enter Napoleon, Eugene & Berthier

Napoleon
Yesterday’s courier as yet arrives
From Paris

Caulaincourt
At present we wait still

Napoleon
How can this be? It has been as easy
To reach Moscow from Paris as Marseille,
Fatiloquence curses perilous days
Give me a drop of imperial mail
It was never lately so late delay’d
When organizing empires at the root
One cannot bare to lose a single hour

Caulaincourt
The longer the line the shorter the odds
Of uncourteous disentegrations

Napoleon
& what of Alexander, is there word

Caulaincourt
No reply has been received

Napoleon
Not one

Caulaincourt
No sire

Napoleon
His silence sheds the taint of disrespect
Of criminals caught in inquisition
I am amazed by my adversary
This wordlack steals the thunder of my guns
Successes in the Spring will be too late
All Europe’s eyes would view it a reverse
I never reckon’d on the Tsar’s strange hush
We have play’d out the game with each other
What is there now to do but fold the board
Not one offensive insult was exchang’d
& now our noble duelling is over
We should come to terms, remain best of friends
When no animosities would prevent
Our signing preliminaries of peace
To instigate dequandreal withdrawl
From our menacing presence in Moscow

Caulaincourt
The delegation to the Tsar has fail’d
To stay by day expands infeasible
Our soldiers cannot stand without a drink
Their strength diminishes each precious hour,
While the winter will masticate, surely,
Most of our couriers

Napoleon
Russia’s winter?
It seems to be a common fairy tale
This Autumn finer than at Fontainbleu

Caulaincourt
You have not seen the dark days here, I have,
We must avoid a protracted sojurn

Napoleon
You seem half-frozen from your memory
Besides, winter’s extremliest rigours
Will not arrive within the short, sharp span
Of twenty four hours, & tho’ we might be
Less accliamtised than the enemy
We are fundamentally more robust

Caulaincourt
Winter shall explode like tunell’d fuse-mines
Beneath sleeping cities, in two swift weeks
Nails drop off first then fingers follow suit

Enter Gourgaud is some distress holding a despatch

Gourgaud
Your majesty

Napoleon
Yes

Gourgaud
The courier

Napoloeon
Finally

Gourgaud
No, sire, it has been attack’d
The riders all captur’d, their packages
Confiscated by a swarm of Cossacks

Napoleon
Then what is that you hold?

Gourgaud
Word from Murat
There has been a battle your majesty

Napoleon
A battle

Gourgaud
Yes

Napoleon
Where

Gourgaud
The south screen

Napoleon
Give it me
{Napoleon reads the despatch}
This news distresses most emunctory,
Miroladovitch breaks the armistice
King Murat is defeated & at rout
From Woronovo, I knew it, just knew

Berthier
How many dead

Gourgaud
A thousand

Berthier
& the guns

Gourgaud
Thirty six lost, while fifteen hundred men
Were by Fedorovitch made prisoners

Eugene
The Cossacks must have rused him all along

Napoleon
What folly of the King, this changes all

Caulaincourt
What do you mean your majesty,

Napoleon
We must
Outwipe the fray’d effects of this surprise
Punishing the Russian impertinance
Re-establish upon the battlefield
The honour of our arms, before the snare
Encloses us completely, take battle
To our hideous, perfidious foes,
Then winter in Smolensk, from there to march
On Petersburg, when flows fine-weather’d Spring.

Caulaincourt
You mean we are to leave Moscow

Napoleon
At once
How is the army at the last account

Berthier
There are 95,000 soldiers, sire
Five thousand infantry of the Old Guard
& a thousand of the Young

Napoleon
Cavalry

Eugene
Fifteen thousand regular, the Guard four

Napoleon
& cannon

Gourgaud
Five hundred fit for service

Napoleon
Well they should see us safely thro the weeks
It takes to reach Smolensk, Prince Neuchetal

Berthier
Yes, sire

Napoleon
I have a special job for you

Berthier
What is it

Napoleon
You must burn down the Kremlin,
The brandy stores, barracks & palaces,
Destroy sulphur, saltpetre, stables, magazines
Break muskets in pieces, smash caisson wheels
But, as I might return to Moscow yet,
Save everything of value to our arms –
Powder, cannonballs, cartridges & lead.

Berthier
Yes Sire

Eugene
& your orders for the army

Napoleon
We march on the morrow – rest well tonight
Sleepless-started journies rarely fare well.


SCENE 6: The Gates of Moscow

Bourgogne is marching with his company / he is wearing a yellow silk waistcoat over a shirt padded on the inside, & a large ermine cape

Bourgogne
O what a sight this monstrous caravan
Of carts & wagons rumbling four abreast
Look, Boquet, some are shatter’d already,
Wheels sinking deep ruts in the sandy road
Listen, as twenty nationalities
Converse cacophonic by Babel’s walls
There’s swearing in French, oaths in Low German,
Italians entreating the almighty,
While Portuguese the Holy Virgin praise,
There are so many countries & dialects,
It seems as if the Grecian games remade,
But one where reigns anarchy & chaos.

Boquet
With all our beer & brandy abandon’d!
A tragedy, Bourgogne, what need have we
Upon long marches of heavy treasures
With all that fur & fabric on their backs
They seem a people of the patriarchs

Bourgogne
They do indeed, how the loot weighs them down
As I too carry the weight of trinkets
But looking at those broken wagon wheels
I think a little lightening of load
Prudent & sensible in the halting
I’ll catch up soon

Leboude
I’ll wait with you sergent

Bourgogne
Now let me see what my not little greed
Made ventures on my knapsack & my belt –
Some rice & several pounds of sugar
Some biscuit, half a bottle of liqueur
A red silk dress all the way from China
Some ornamental gold & pieces carv’d
& a little bit of the silver gilt
That cover’d the cross of Ivan the Great
A large riding cloak lined with green velvet
Two silver pictures, each ten inches high,
The judgement of Paris on Mount Ida
The other Neptune, on chariot shell
Drawn by sea-horses, both are angels’ work,
& what is this – ah! some prince’s spitton
Such stunning set of presents for my friends
So they must all remain – perhaps my clothes
Would serve me better absent from my bags,
I will not wear these trouser whites again,
& what about my pouch, what lies in there…
I’ll need to keep this crucifix for luck
& adore this porcelain Shanghai vase,
They both must stay curated for the march,
My wee museum of two thousand miles!
But there is more, a dark grey overcoat
& weighty box knotted in handkerchief

Leboude
I travel lightly sergent, give them me
& you’ll recieve them safe on our return

Bourgogne
Are you sure

Leboude
Quite sure

Bourgogne
Good man

Leboude
Good sergent

Bourgogne laughs / a sound of firearms in the distance – enter Legrand

Legrand
To arms, to arms, six thousand cossack horse
Fair favourd by the fog did now emerge
Upon the flanks – our fightback has begun.

Exit Bourgogne & Legrand hastily

End of Act I


THE CONCHORDIA FOLIO

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

 

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

Posted on April 4, 2020, in White Eagles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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