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

Foucart
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

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

Leboude
What are Napoleonic promises
These days

Roland
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

Bourgogne
We are as dry as Syrian desert

Roland
Then I had better die

Leboude draws a bottle of brandy from his pocket

Leboude
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

Roland
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

Leboude
I am fine

Roland
For the Brandy

Leboude
I shall wait
For our ration

Roland
The right sort never die

Leboude
True

Roland
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;

Foucart
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

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

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

Enter Rossi

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

Legrand
Rossi, you beauty

Foucart
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

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

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

Rossi
Suit yourself

Legrand
Where did you get such gold from

Rossi
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

Foucart
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

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

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

Bourgogne
Of course not, on my honour
{leibmotif}
What was that?

Rossi
What?

Bourgogne
That sound

Rossi
I cannot hear

{leibmotif}

Bourgogne
There it is again

Rossi
You are hearing things

Bourgogne
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

 

 

Graingier
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

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

Graingier
Quite beautiful

Bourgogne
You look half seas over

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

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

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

Rossi
I have a litte rice & biscuit spare

Bourgogne
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

Graingier
You would do the same

Bourgogne muses quietly a moment on the potato incident

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

Graingier
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

***

SONG OF THE LORICATED LEGION

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

Graingier
& 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

Bourgogne
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

Graingier
& 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


THE CONCHORDIA FOLIO

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

 

 

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

Posted on May 3, 2020, in Conchordia, White Eagles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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