The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 5, Scenes 1-3

SCENE 1: The Hill of Three Crosses over Vilna

Vasalisa, Albina, Vitaly, Valentina, Angelina & Natasha are looking down on Vilna

Vitaly
Look how they stream like rats into Smolensk
A flailing army wedded to its fate
This settlement of luxuries foresworn
Is nothing but the tombstone of thousands

Natasha
When reaching Europa’s icy regions
Napoleon could not nature subdue
Was precipitated from the summit
By forceful instigation of our arms –
Irresistible, invulnerable
& wonderful Russia, we love you so!

***

COMPERE GUILLERIE

He is proud as Ceasar
Accidental Ceasar, Bonaparte
Abandoning his army
He heard his Guards say please Bonaparte
Titi Bonparte
Toto Bonaparte
Don’t ever forget us

Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon, ran off

He slips away from Russia
As swiftly as the wind, Bonaparte
His freezing royal highness
Disguis’d upon a sled Bonaparte
Titi Bonparte
Toto Bonaparte
Will never forget Rus

Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon, ran away

 

We were surprised to hear
He did not make decrees, Bonaparte
Abolishing the winter
Banishing the snow, Bonaparte
Titi Bonparte
Toto Bonaparte
Will never forget us

Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon, ran off

***

Angelina
My grandfather spoke of a prophecy
That conjur’d a time when the Tartar host
Would surge to the banks of the Gallic Seine
Behold the first steps taken to its truth
Set steady & at liberty to pass
These overthrown French forces as they drag
In a startling, debacling parade.

Albina
Mistress Vasalisa, what is this cross
Among the other wooden ones, atop
This hill, arot with worms & badly aged

Vasalisa
A gloomy legend fixes to this place
Seven franciscan friars were beheaded
For badmouthing Lithuanian idols
& by the city walls, commutual,
Another seven crucified or toss’d
Into the river clad in chains

{sounds of gunfire}

Valentina
Shots! Shots!

Enter Vladamir

Vladamir
Mistress Vasalisa

Vasalisa
Is it the French

Vladamir
Soldiers in dozens ascending the hill

Vasalisa
We had better move off

{more gun shots, louder}

Angelina
That sounds closer

Vasalisa
Quickly to the treeline

All except Vitaly make a dash for the trees – Vitaly stands looking down the hill with a scythe

Vladamir
Vitaly run!

A shot rings out that fells Vitaly – he is wounded

Vladamir
VITALY!

Vasalisa
{trying to holding him back}
Vladamir, no

Vladamir
He needs help

Vladamir breaks free & runs to Vitaly but is felled dead from a shot by Picard – the rest of the partisans flee

Picart
That’s right, flee ye pathetic partisans
Cowardly chickens, too afraid to fight
{To Vitaly}
Well, it looks like you’re abandon’d, young man,
Bleeding to death to boot, at least I can
Release ye from your mortal agonies
{Picart shoots Vitaly dead}
Frighten’d canaries come back here & fight
Ye raggedy crew of peasants & hinds
Ye craven, dastard, recreant poltroons!
{Picard turns to look on the army retreating from Vilna}
See how they go again into the snow
Better to see it softening the blow
Of horrors seeing in that sad city,
It is impossible to show pity,
Insensible to our own sufferings,
Let alone the miseries of others –
I saw formaldehyde-soaked specimens
From university laboratories
Funell’d into starving maws like mutton
Five months before, on our march east, we sang
Songs of pure rejoicing, now just silence
Accompanies our fugitive retreat
Blinded by snowfall, ice-crusted by sleet
Footdragging thro’ a universe congeal’d
By dismal Death’s murmourless murderfield
As out of air beside drop dead-frozen birds
Men fall down still without complaint or words
& breathe their last with calm resignation
Releas’d from this pain’s peregrination
The blood now freezing in their seizing veins
Oblivion, at last, each man obtains.

Exit Picart


MUS-FAPC1114_850

SCENE 2: An inn between Leipzig & Erfut

An Innkeeper is showing Napoleon & Caulaincourt their room

Innkeeper
Here you are, make yourselves comfortable
This might not be Paris, but in Leipzig
We like to think our guests will come again
My wife’s already cooking for that cause

Napoleon
How long before the sledge is fixed

Innkeeper
An hour
Maybe two, but there lies not enough snow
For such a mode of travel, better swap
Your sled for a carriage down in Erfut

Caulaincourt
We shall, & thank-you

Napoleon
Innkeeper

Innkeeper
Yes, sir

Napoleon
What think you of the war & Bonaparte

Innkeeper
Well… Bonaparte, the Emperor, is good
In constant service to this modern world
With more common sense than many a man
At the head of affairs, he is no mere
Courtier

Napoleon
& the war

Innkeeper
A waste of life
There’s not so many paying customers
Since half of Europe march’d towards the East

Enter Innkeeper’s Wife

Innkeeper’s Wife
Good morning… here are fried & eggs & white bread
Freshly baked this morning, a little game

Innkeeper
I caught the rabbit yesterday myself

Napoleon
A hearty breakfast, & is that coffee

Innkeeper’s wife
Yes

Napoleon
Excellent

Innkeeper
We shall leave you to it

Innkeeper’s Wife
Eat & drink, & if you like, be merry

Exit Innkeeper & his Wife – Napoleon & Caulaincourt begin to eat their breakfast

Napoleon
I am much taken by that warm couple
Their kindness & sincerity delights

Caulaincourt
The closer that we are to France, the less
Preoccupied & careworn do you seem

Napoleon
Perhaps, but I cannot, will not relax
Until we reach our borders – do you think
I was recognized by the innkeeper

Caulaincourt
Napoleon has never grown a beard
You are quite safe

Napoleon
I fear an ambuscade
Secret assassination in the night

Caulaincourt
Sire, if Eighteen Twelve was your year to die
It should have happen’d by now, you will reach
Paris, alive

Napoleon
Yes, & see the Empress
My cherub offspring hold aloft & smile
At words he tries to mumble with sweet sounds
How is the meat?

Caulincourt
Balanced & peppery

Napoleon
I was most dissapointed by Poland

Caulaincourt
What do you mean?

Napoleon
Why they refused to rise
& thwart the Russian’s behemoth’s advance

Caulaincourt
I suspect it is the uncertain vale
Of future spread, they supplied the campaign
More than any other nation, even
The richest have but pennies to their name
While gossips spreading danger, scatter doubts
Of economy far too exhausted
To contemplate a war against the Tsar

Napoleon
But for the winter they would have risen
Who wants to war in cold, grey drudgery
But come the spring we’ll need their buffer’s edge
& Poland must be made more powerful
It must have Danzig & a coastal strip
To outlet the markets of its produce
&, also, it must have a foreign king
A Pole would conjure many jealousies
Murat would suit, but has so little sense
Jerome too vain, a blundersom buffoon
Whom would you have made king

Caulaincourt
I, your highness,
Who never before has laurell’d a brow
With crowns, am unqualified to answer
But there is one caution I might advise
The establishment of your dynasty
Across the thrones of Europe undermines
A cordial respect for your embrace
When nations are transform’d to prefectures
& kings only proconsuls, who might be
Removed at any whim by your highness.

Napoleon
Hmm – I think you you would make a better king
Than any of my brothers ever will

A knock on the door

Caulaincourt
{drawing sword & pistol}
Who is it

Innkeeper’s Wife
The lady of the house, sir

Enter Innkeeper’s Wife & Stella

Innkeeper’s Wife
Sorry to disturb, but this is my niece
She sells beads, you see, & was wondering
If your lady folk would like their allure

Napoleon
Let us see

Innkeeper’s Wife
I shall leave you three to it
With God’s peace, which passeth understanding

Exit Innkeeper’s Wife

Stella
Hello men of France, welcome to Leipzig
I have fine beads of glass, necklaces, rings
All locally crafted with expertise
Come look…

Napoleon
Yes, there are many pretty things
I will take them all as a souvenir
Of this journey for my wife

Stella
All of them?

Napoleon
Yes, all, in return take these golden coins,
That must be seven times your trinkets worth

Stella
You are too kind, a gracious traveller
God bless you on your journies to your wives

Exit Stella

Napoleon
We should divide them between us, take half
For the lady of your heart

Caulaincourt
I shall, sire

Caulaincourt begins to divide the jewels – there is a knock on the door – enter Innkeeper

Innkeeper
That is the runner fix’d, your sled renew’d

Caulaincourt
You are a legendary engineer
Do take these gold napoleons, each one
Worth twenty francs, & add to them our thanks
For such a pleasant stay, however short

Innkeeper
It is my duty sirs, to humble serve
God’s children if they ever step inside
My humble home

Napoleon
& a dear godfather
You are to us all

Exit Napoleon

Innkeeper
Your companion…
An interesting fellow, magnetic,

Caulaincourt
Indeed he is, indeed he is, goodbye

Exit Caulanicourt – The Innkeeper collects the plates & exits


SCENE 3: The Russian Wastes

Bourgogne is resting on a tree stump

Bourgogne
What a dream we are all wander’d into
A stream of shadows under leaden sky
Enwrapp’d in snow, tight-sewn in silent shroud
Absorb’d in private thoughts & lonely fears
Watch’d on by those foggy & frozen ghosts
Of buglers, sat bolt upright in saddles,
Still as lizards, quarelling with blizzards
To mouths of stone their copper lips glued fast
While, above, driving snow & writhing wind
Leave the hearts of warriors well broken

Enter Rossi – he is in a bad way & walking painfully crutch’d by a musket – there are sheepskins hung over his shoulders & wrapping his feet – he is leaning on musket

Bourgogne
Rossi, is that really you

Rossi
Adrien!
How flush am I to see your face old friend
But to my fibres wholly astonish’d
To witness your liberty warms me, sir
Our friends were growing very uneasy
There’ll be unbound gladnesses when they know

Bourgogne
You are alone

Rossi
Yes

Bourgogne
Where are the others

Rossi
Well, both my feet are frozen to the bone
Unable thus to walk as well & swift
As the poor remnant of our regiment
I am become the seperated slice
But gain coactivity each fresh night
When fire spreads heat & horseflesh boils oer blaze
{Rossi collapses}
But this day I shall not make it I fear,
My strength the weakest it has clearly been
Upon this dreary hike, each step saps more
My poor mother, if you could see me now
I shall never leave this devil country
Nor again see beautiful Montauban

Bourgogne
I, too, am exhausted quartermaster
But look how far we’ve come, full eighty leagues
Since Berezina, now only fifteen
More to Kowno, fifteen of three hundred,
We are so close, we can help each other

Rossi
Maybe today we can go together
But these will be the last stretch of my legs
I sense it well, my end has all but come
I am undone, there is no living, none
But I would rather transpass in some warmth
Than on this spot of untranspeciate earth
Entering frozen sleep that never wakes
So easy just to sleep the peace of dreams

Bourgogne
To dream of peaceful sleeping is to die
Salvation does not hide behind the eyes
Rossi, Rossi, wake up,

Rossi
Wait, what, what is it

Bourgogne
The one thing it is not, sir, is your time
Can you stand

Rossie
Feebly

Bourgogne
Let us march my friend
Or shuffle rather, one last time abreast
& ward away the sting of death alike

Rossi
I would not feel it anyway, Bourgogne,
My brains are frozen, there’s no feeling left

Exit Bourgogne & Rossi in some discomfort


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

***

Articles:

Composing Conchordia, Provence

Posted on May 24, 2020, in Conchordia, White Eagles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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