The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 4, Scene 7

SCENE 7: Smogorny

Bertheir, Eugene, Prince Emile, Gourgaud & Murat are gathered around a table

Gourgaud
This could be the utter ruin of France

Murat
Silent your seditious understanding
The Emporer shall be among us soon

Gourgaud
I am not the only one who says so
Am I

A distinct silence of brooding underlooks

Eugene
You might be right, but this no time
To think such things, we must prioritize
Our goal, for now, to guide the army home

Berthier
What army? We are hardly ten thousand
& half of them too weak to even stand

Emile
He is coming

Gourgaud
Well, on with the charade

Enter Napoleon & Caulaincourt

Napoleon
Good morning

Murat
Good morning, sire

Napoleon
Please sit down
{everybody takes a place at the table}
Each man within this room I love untold
The bravest & the loyalest I know
Who have, with impeccable conduction,
Fought nobly thro’ this drastical campaign

Eugene
Thank you, sire

Napoleon
To see you all safely seated this side
Of Berezhina’s ice, blankets my heart
With joy & warmth, we have done a fine thing
With that obstinate obstacle behind
I gather ye my leaders to inform
Thee of my decision to directly
Leave the army, privately, & today

Berthier
Leave sire?

Napoleon
Yes leave, I depart for Paris
At noon, my regal duties to resume
Our disasters will make a sensation
But my arrival will counter-balance
Their bad effects & rouse the French to arms
It is only from the Tuileries
My grip on Europe truly be sustain’d
There I shall raise an army to replace
This one born to an unfortunate fate
Within three months I shall have an army
As magnificent as that which began
This perturbably instructive campaign
Tha aresnals are full – remember Esslaing,
Marengo, we almost lost thos ebattles
But given time the victory turn’d ours
Placing Austria at our disposal

Berthier
Then how are you to travel, & with whom

Napoleon
By sled, with Caulanicourt & hand-pick’d guards
These events have proved the man a prophet
Therefore he’ll be my lone companion
En route are many projects to discuss
The rest of you remain with the army
Of whom Murat shall have the full command

Murat
I shall serve you well

Napoleon
Blend caution with steel

Gourgaud
You must return to Paris

Prince Emile
I concur
For the Revolution to continue
You must be there to emanate its heart
To elevate its light, to steer its course
You are its elemental genius
When asham’d of its brutal excesses
France crumpl’d tranquescent in obeyance
Before your precious, deconvulsing voice
Admir’d herself in you, precipitates
Herself into thy glory, without thee
At France’s head I fear the King’s return

Berthi
To defend our indeposable rights
You must head home, your majesty, & now

Gourgaud
Beneath you sceptre, sire, all France unites
Sixteen years of invincible success
Shone thro’ us all in bright deliverance
The most civilised nation in Europe
Wide reigns as if the Mughals of the West.

Napoleon
But where art now our noble countenance
Traversing scenes of famous victory
Rag-cover’d, feet torn & naked in snow
Supporting our frames with branches of fir
When all the strength & perservering force
Invested in conquest syphon’d for flight
Catastrophes of immense distances
& terrible frost sends our edifice
Toppling

Murat
Not the frost, Holland Ninety-Five
& Eylau drove thermometers lower
In both these campaigns the men had food
& wine, trekking daily on full bellies
While recently the only certainty
Is… tomorrow must be worse than today

Napoleon
Defeatism leads to dereliction
Of duty, dejectism invites death,
There shall be no remission of the sins
That gave the Revolution its purpose

Berthier
We all know more than well, your majesty
You have not been conquer’d by force of arms
But by this climate unendurable

Napoleon
My affairs were miscarried completely
That fine weather trick’d me, we should have left
Moscow a fortnight sooner, we should be
Perch’d safely at Witespk for the winter
But as things stand we only can adapt
Reaching a new page in the age of France
When I return to the magnificent
& peaceful bosom of the fatherland
I shall claim her frontiers immutable
All her future wars purely defensive
All aggrandisment antinational
Paris shall be the global capital
The envy & the pride of all nations
& I, with the empress, shall spend our years
Attending the royal apprenticeship
Of our son, & visit like gentle folk
On horses all corners of the empire
Receiving complaints, redressing ill’d wrongs,
Scatter benefactions, public buildings
& call them all the bones of Bonaparte

***

THE GREAT NAPOLEON

I’m on the drive to greatness
I’m like a king o’ clubs with no aces
I’m gonna play my hand
I’m gonna make my stand
Cos I’m the great Napoleon

I’m on the surge to glory
Each soul’s a slice of story
But the biggest part
Must go to Bonaparte
Cos I’m the great Napoleon

Who’s in my way
I don’t give a damn about what you say
There’s no better man alive today
Yes I’m the great Napoleon
Bon-a-part-e!
Great Napoleon
Everbody!
Great Napoleon

Oo-oo! I’ve never been the one to back me down
Oo-oo! Cos I’m the coolest cat in town
{who’s got the crown)

 

 

I’m on a higher mission
Ya gotta bow on down to my vision
I’m gonna haul you all into the golden goal
Cos I’m the great Napoleon

I am the top cock of the steeple
I’m like a cannonball of the people
Fraternetie & Libertie
I am the great Napoleon

Who’s in my way
I don’t give a damn about what you say
There’s no better man alive today
Yes I’m the great Napoleon
Bon-a-part-e!
Great Napoleon
Everbody!
Great Napoleon

Oo-oo! I’ve never been the one to back me down
Oo-oo! Cos I’m the coolest cat in town
{who’s got the crown)

***

Gourgaud
But what will France say of this debacle

Napoleon
Debacle?

Gourgaud
Yes sire, hundreds of thousands
Are dead & yet to die before the end

Napoleon
Of the four hundred thousand men who cross’d
The Vistula, most were Austrians
Prussians, Saxons, Wurtembergers, Spaniards,
Bavarians, Neopolitans, Poles
Italians, Belgians, Meckenbergers,
Swiss, Tuscans, Piedmontese, Genoese
Hollanders, Hamburgers & Bremenish
Scarcely a hundred & forty thousand
Spoke French, tens of thousands of whom live still
& Vilna shall be to them a Verdun
At Vilna there are copious supplies
& reinforcements easily in reach
Once the army replenishes its might
We’l push right back the Cossacks, hold a line
Until the Spring, when I shall lead to war,
Three Hundred thousand soldiers for the cause

Caulaincourt
That is a bold projection, your highness

Gourgaud
& unreasonable, not fit to stand
The army are, half of them quite harmless,
Nor could they recuperate in ruins
Vilna crumbles to roofless skeletals

Murat
If we cannot hold Vilna, let us march
For France, for glory, as when Xenophon
Deep stranded in Persia with ten thousand
Went trekking deserts, climbing snow passes
Cordyenean, Armenian natives
Harassing every step with sleepless spears
Until the ships of Trezibond beheld
From Theches lofty peaks, as one they cried
Exultingly, ‘Thalatta! Thalatta!’ –
The Sea! The Sea! So shall we Prussia praise
On piercing her borders

Napoleon
Well spake Murat
The army will honour such a spirit
& now I must be bidding you adieu
But Berthier, Eugene please remain
A little longer – come to me comrades
To pinch thine ears

All rise from the tables – one-by-one Prince Emile, Gourgaud & Murat have their ears ceremonially pinched by Napoleon then leave

Napoleon
One hour more Caulaincourt

Exit Caulaincourt

Berthier
I shall not be going with you it seems

Napoleon
No – better only Caulaincourt, I sense
An incognito mission means less chance
A face might be remember’d thro’ the mist,
More prudent to remain with the army
The presence of somebody accustom’d
To his total obeysance paramount
If morale to be maintain’d

Berthier
Of course, sire
With heartfelt attachment & devotion
To yourself, I shall strive for best success
With step on Western step reinforcements
Made easy, while Kutusoff drifts further
Thro’ countryside utterly exhausted

Napoleon
The Russians will be as tired as we are,
& suffer just as much from this foul cold
They are certain to enter cantonments

Berthier
But rallying the army will be hard
Without its beating heart, that heart is you
Whose departure might pretext disorder

Napoleon
They are too close on home to fall apart
Meanwhile, upon my passage thro’ Poland
I shall rouse them against the colossus
Of Russia, their nationhood is threaten’d,
Both baring witness to them on the field
Individually heroical
What mighty pillars should erect from pride
When national prosperity at stake
Beyond Warsaw all Europe’s cabinets
Tho’ wounded most by the power of France
Will cry anxiety that the Cossacks
The scourge of a civilised continent,
Should not be permitted Nieman’s crossing
& the reverses France has just suffer’d
Shall put an end to jealosies upsrung
From all our imperial influence
To think of a singular enemy
Point millions of muskets to the east
My dear, dear prince of Neuchetal, stout be,
Fear not, but trust in providence

Berthier
Yes sire

Eugene
The key is to save every soldier
The forced abandoment of imploring
Companions breeds dismoralizations

Napoleon
Eugene is right, leave no man behind
Your goal must be above all things, bar one –
That is to see your Emporer again

Napoleon pinches Berthier’s ear

Berthier
I shall see you in Paris, sire

Napoleon
I know

Berthier
Travel safely & speedily

Napoleon
I shall

Exit Berthier

Napoleon
My son, how are you

Eugene
I am more than fine
Sharing the stark privations with my men
Has harden’d my torso with spartan steel

Napoleon
I wish you were beside me on the sled
But as the only one I truly trust
I need you with the men for their own good

Eugene
& Caulaincourt

Napoleon
I do possess his trust
But crushing pessimism sours the curd

Eugene
There’s some who praise his realism, sire

Napoleon
You too?

Eugene
You must admit, even yourself
These are our darkest days, all we have dream’d
Burn’d nightmare by the summits of the Gods
As when peat bogs & marshes of the Picts
Rejected the surge of the Ceasars, sire

Napoleon
Call me Papa, it always comforts me

Eugene
You will be miss’d, Papa, the army feeds
Upon your spirit

Napoleon
I am confident
In your abilities as commanders
But enough of combat & all of that
I call’d upon your mother just before
I left Paris, & she made me promise
You would stay safe enough to see her face
Pack’d full of smiles on your healthy return

Eugene
I am very happy it nigh fulfill’d
On many levels, Papa

Napoleon
Hah – & I

Eugene
You love my mother still?

Napoleon
Of course I do,
Being carv’d from the self-same rock of fate
An entwination of the our love took hold
Renaming us Emperor & Empress

Eugene
Then how can you be happy in the heart
With this second marriage

Napoleon
I love her too
Marie-Louise, she is so innocent
Totally devoted to my dynasty
How could I not fall for such an angel

Eugene
Papa, Pray tell me, how do they compare

Napoleon
There is, nor ever was, comparison
There is nothing they do not differ on
As far apart as India & Lille
While your mother’s beauty troubl’d the gods
The goddesses admir’d the new empress
Where the walls of Malmasion had grown ears
Marie-Louise enslav’d by discretion
Shyly delighting to ever receive
Ten thousand francs, your mother tyrannized
My finances with promises unkept

Eugene
You sound as if the Austrian preferr’d

Napoleon
I do love Marie-Louise sincerely
& miss her as we speak, Eugene, much
But higher love hold I for your mother
In fitting fashion & most natural
For she flew on the tail of my comet
Shooting thro’ the stratosphere these years past

Eugene
The brightest in the cosmos

Napoleon
But it fades
& my marital alliance error,
I should never have march’d on Russia
Without security bought by the ties
To Papa Beau-bere, forg’d thro’ his daughter…
& there we go again, back to the wars
Nothing can escape its odour’s stale stench

Eugene
There is work to do yet

Napoleon
Stay safe my son

Napoleon & Eugene embrace

Napoleon
As soon as you reach Paris, come find me

Eugene
{saluting}
I shall endeavour to serve the empire

Exit Eugene – Napoleon slumps on a chair, exhausted


THE CONCHORDIA FOLIO

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

 

 

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse

Posted on May 23, 2020, in Conchordia, White Eagles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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