The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 5, Scenes 7-8

SCENE 7: Elbling

Bourgogne is asleep in a bed – enter Madame Gentil & her German servant, Billy, who carries a bowl of broth – Gentil opens the curtains letting in golden sunlight

Gentil
Good morning, your privations are over

Bourgogne
What? Where? Who? How?

Gentil
You do not remember

Bourgogne
No… you are so beautiful, am I dead

Gentil
Well, Elbling is the nearest thing to death
In this life anyway, a quiet town
Render’d carnival by your Grand Armee
Or whats left of it, not much now at all

Bourgogne
I’m in Elbling

Gentil
Yes, I am your hostess
You came to me two days ago, have slept
Ever since

Bourgogne
Hah! Picart, the Jew, the sledge

Gentil
Yes, Picart
Is the man’s name, he’s been some seven times
Rnquiring on the status of your health
We’ve all been very worried

Bourgogne
I feel fine
But hungry, by god, what is that I smell

Gentil
A hearty garbure

Bourgogne
But that dish is french

Gentil
Yes, you are in the house of a Frenchman
& I his wife

Bourgogne
His wife! what woes are mine
I thought you had been sent me by Cupid

Gentil
You Frenchmen are masters of flattery
But need you not to try, I gladly come
To soothe as if you were kin of mine own
When you arrived in so much suffering
Slinging gibberish, I swore to nurse you

Bourgogne
{tasting food}
To savour flavour is to paradise
A moment spent admiring god’s gardens
So very kind of you to take pity
On Sergeant Bourgogne, another fair stroke
Of fortune that delivers me alive
To this fantastic bed, of heaven’s felt
& eider down, where wearsome muscles melt

Gentil
You are comfortable then

Bourgogne
Beyond words
But tell me please, lady, my saviour’s name

Gentil
Madame Gentil

Bourgogne
Gentle appellation
& your servant

Billy
I am Billy

Bourgogne
This broth
Is the greatest thing to have ever existed, sir
But then unfortunately quite finite
Is there any more

Billy
There’s some in the pan

Gentil
Go fill another bowl for the sergeant

Exit Billy with the bowl

Bourgogne
How cameth you to become the madame

Gentil
Five years ago a convoy from Dantzig
Entere’d Elbling with wagons of wounded
A handsome hussar billeted with us
His breast bore musketball, his arm sword slash
My mother & I nurs’d him to his life

Bourgogne
In gratitude he wed you for your care?

Gentil
That is the case

Bourgogne
I would have done the same
You are the most beautiful of women
Dark eyes of the deer, skin of pink-red rose
My soul has been imprison’d by your smile

Madame Gentil laughs & blushes

Gentil
Your compliments are tonic to me sir
Perhaps we might havr married if, of course
I was not so already, but I love
my husband

Bourgogne
It would give me great pleasure
To meet him, is that possible madame

Gentil
He is with my father in the Baltic
On business, has been gone for some days
But should be back tomorrow or the next

Bourgogne
Soon enough, but I am in such a state
To meet him, anyone, even myself
In the mirror, what a sight I must be
I ought to have a bath, find a barber
& make myself presentable erewhile

Enter Billy with a fresh bowl

Billy
A fresh bowl of garbure for you sergeant

Bourgogne
Most kind… where are the nearest public baths

Gentil
Unfortunately very far away
But, if you like, one ready may be made
in the house

Bourgogne
That would be perfect

Gentil
Billy…

Billy
Yes mistress

Exit Billy

Gentil
It is good to see you eat
When first you came I thought you’d die that night

Bourgogne
No fear, madame, your fretting was futile
We warriors do not die in our beds

Gentil
I shall call you when you bath is ready

Bourgogne
Will it be hot

Gentil
It shall

Bourgogne
What ecstasy!


SCENE 8: The Same House – downstairs

Bourgogne is in thee bath – singing to the tune of The Cure (Priest) de Pomponne

Bourgogne
Ah tun t’en souviendra, la-ri-la
Du depart de Boulogne

 

Enter Billy

Billy
Is anything amiss at all, sergeant
You have been soaking an awful long time

Bourgogne
Amiss, no, bliss? Yes! I cannot express
What comfort am I fullily immersed

Enter Gentil with Graingier from the street

Gentil
You are scrubbing up a rum young fellow
& now for your barber, he informs me
Of taking preen your beard & locks before

Bourgogne
Before, but when?

Gentil
The sixteenth I recall

Bourgogne
Graingier – is that you

Graingier
It is my old friend, how are you faring

Bourgogne
Much better than the last time we conversed

Graingier
& you smell it, too – I’ve scissors & blade
To end the job of reforging your youth
Soap please –
{Graingier makes a froth}
Head back – apply evenly… &

Graingier begins to shave Bourgogne’s beard & cut & curry comb his hair

Bourgogne
Stop, this is agony inglorious
You flay my face, your razor cuts like saws

Graingier
Your skin harden’d by cold continuous
Here, numb the pain, with some ten year brandy

Bourgogne
You lie

Graingier
It is true

Bourgogne
From where

Graingier
Gascony
The citizens of France are sending gifts
For Christmas to their soldiers half-way home
Take this bottle’s contents in perfect peace
The Russians have retired from pursuing

Bourgogne
Hah – is there anything left to pursue

Graingier
Less than fifteen thousand, & most of them
Never march’d on moscow, the garrisons
Of Smolensk, Minsk & Vilnius

Bourgogne
Mon dieu
How we surviv’d that carnival of death
I shall never understand

Graingier
But we did

There is a knock at the door – Gentil answers – Legrand is there

Gentil
Yes

Legrand
Is this the house of Madame Gentil

Gentil
I am she

Legrand
Then you might have my sergeant

Gentil
Enter

Graingier
Legrand

Legrand
Graingier!

Legrand
How is he

Bourgogne
He is in the bath

Legrand
Sergeant, you look well

Bourgogne
I feel it

Legrand
& you Graingier

Graingier
I’m good

Legrande
What joy it is to view your fresh faces

Bourgogne
& you, Legrand, you look more than healthy

Legrand
I am, & I am happy for my life
I also bring fresh clothes for the sergeant
Come to clad him in costume vermin-free

Bourgogne
Perfect timings, I shall straightwise don them
If you do not mind, madame

Gentil turns away – Bourgogne steps out of the bath naked – Billy presents him with a towel

Bourgogne
What do you have

Legrand
These trousers ‘a la Cosaque’ should fit snug
The cloth is fine, the dark-red dye drawn deep

Bourgogne
Where are they from

Legrand
Some trooper or other
Probably an aide-de-camp belonging
To King Murat

Bourgogne
I shall try them on – yes
They fit to perfection, & warm, so warm

Legrand
This war commissary shirt also yours

Bourgogne stretches out his arms to put on the white shirt

Legran
Why, you look an eagle, a white eagle

Bourgogne
Soar’d home

Gentil
This calls for celebration
Our sickly sergeant summon’d from the dead
Delighting spirits with his tender smile
Lets toast the moment with my husband’s wine
Come help me, Billy, with the cellar door

Billy
Yes mistress

A knock on the door

Gentil
Answer that first

Billy
Yes mistress

Enter a clean shaven Picart, wearing a white cloak & a black Russian fox cap – he is smoking meerschaum pipe

Picart
Apologies again for disturbance
But has my friend awoken yet

Billy
He has

Enter Picart – Billy goes to join Madame Gentil

Picart
Hello Graingier
{to Bourgogne, but not recognizing him}
Hello

Bourgogne
Excuse me

Picart
Yes

Bourgogne
Is it not I you are looking for

Picart
Adrien

Bourgogne
Yes

Picart
Is it you

Bourgogne
I hope so

Picart
What a miraculous transformation
Your shakefork face I’d truly forgotten
How do you feel, you seem’d so close to death

Bourgogne
Much better than when sitting on that sledge
When each thick bump made murder in my bones
Come here, embrace me, friend who saved my life+

Picart
You would have done the same

A knock on the door

Legrande
Let me get that
{opening the door to Leboude}
Leboude, Leboude, can this be really you
Look who has come to join this antiwake
This lazarean festival of friends

Legrand
Hello my boys, bless god you all survived
A treasury of everlasting joy
I saw you last by Berezhina’s banks
I was order’d to bury poor corpses
Frozen by exposre, lagging behind
The regiment, I listen’d to some Poles
Who sent me to their country, but the road
Along which the regiment was routed
So follow’d a month of meandering
Deserted wastelands always deep in snow
Not knowing where I was or where to go
I spoke no Polish & the Poles no French,
Confusions exhausting in excresence
My money useless, & could only barter
Milk & dripping when exchanging eagles’
Buttons, or fine handkerchiefs kept by chance
& chance it is, & only that I’m sure
Which brings us all to company once more
To be alive together one more day

Enter Gentil & Billy

Gentil
& many more to come brave sons of France
embarking for fresh towns & pastures new
But, before all that, you are in Elbling
Under my roof, where we shall make merry
There is plenty of food & drink – coffee
Tea, bread rolls, rhine wine, fine Dantzig gin

Graingier
Madame you spoil us

Leboude
Before I forget
I have something to hand to you sergent
Do you recall the day we left Moscow
& entrusted me with a small parcel

Bourgogne
I do

Leboude
Here it is – just as you gave it
Never once taken out of my knapscask

Bourgogne
Leboude, you are the legend of my life
{taking out a dark grey overcoat}
You necer thought to wear this coat at all

Leboude
Twas not mine to wear

Bourgogne
Pockets keep secrets
What is this – an Indian handkerchief
Made from best Bengalese silkworm, & here
Knotted in its corner is a small box
Aha! its precious contents I recall
See for yourself, madame, five golden rings
The first for you,

Gentil
How courteous

Bourgogne
The next
For you Leboude

Picart
Is the ceremony
Over yet, this feast is beckoning me

Graingier
Not quite, I wish to speak a few sound words
Madame – if you could fill all our vessels
Those who traverse thro’ this lamentable
But glorious adventure must have been
Coated in iron to bear so many trials
The greatest test to which men were exposed
Remember thoes memories & the fates
Of friends we left to perish, dissapear’d
Or dead upon some sombre battlefield
Come toast the regiment – la Garde

Bourgogne, Graingier, Picart, Leboude, Legrande
LA GARDE!

Legrand
Can you believe we ever saw Moscow

Leboude
Not only that we slept in palaces

Picart
& feasted like tsarinas at a ball

Bourgogne
Do you recall our own informal ball

Graingier
Of course, what fun, what luxury, what life

***

 THE MARCH FROM MOSCOW

We were resting in bubble beds of silk, furs & feathers
In the nest of the double-headed eagle
We were blest with abundance & the punch does us wonders
In the nest of the double headed eagle

& I know that I’d do it all again
When I’m ready to hit the road again
Cos to be with my sweet Napoleon
Means more than my life to me

Remember when we saw stardust
Come a tumbling down
On the dancefloor, we saw ballerinas

In the flight of the Snow White Eagles
Only the strongest might survive
But when comes the majestic sequel
I’ll be alive

Our numbers were plummeting in terrible weathers
In the land of the double headed eagles

We were marching thro troublespots of big bloody Cossacks
In the land of the double headed eagles

& I know that I’d do it all again
When I’m ready to hit the road again
Cos to be with my sweet Napoleon
Means more than my life to me

Remember all the men we lost
& the friendless cost as we crossed
The freezing Berezhina

In the flight of the Snow White Eagles
Only the strongest might survive
But when comes the majestic sequel
I’ll be alive

Bourgogne
& all the memories that I remember
I shall write them down to survive
So that all my friendships forever
Will be kept alive

One-by-one the hosts of dead soldiers join their living comrades in song

Bourgogne
Rossi, Vachain, Cesarisse, Peniaux
Vachain, Leboude, Bodet, Melle, Monfort
Legrand, Boqet, Izambert, Maujard
Hourex, Pavart, Graingier, Picart

We are the Guard! La Guarde! La Guarde! We’re the Guard

***

THE END


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 28, 2020, in Conchordia, White Eagles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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