Author Archives: yodamo

The Young Shakespeare (14): Ireland, Scotland & Denmark

Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years

Shakespeare joins the Queen’s Players

The parallels between Shakespeare’s plays & the Queen’s plays,’ writes Terence G Schoone-Jongen, ‘are substantial & intricate.’ That Shakespeare was a member of the Queen’s Players seems likely. A number of their recorded plays would be rewritten by Shakespeare, with lines & phrases from the Ur-types popping all across his extensive ouvre. Where the Queen’s Players produced Richard III & King Leir, so Shakespeare wrote a version of Richard III & the spell’d slightly differently, King Lear. Elsewhere, The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth forms the entire foundation for the material of 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V, while their Troublesome Reign of King John is simply a redaction of Shakespeare’s King John. So much so, that in the 1611 quarto printing of the Troublesome Reign, the authorship was assigned to ‘W. Sh’ which was elongated in the 1622 printing into ‘W. Shakespeare.

Among the many similarities which have been observ’d, Launce’s rebuking of his dog, Crab, in Two Gentlemen, finds a precedent in Sir Clyomon & Sir Clamydes. Regarding the two Leirs, Sir Walter Greg suggested that, ‘ideas, phrases, cadences from the old play still floated in his memory below the level of conscious thought, &… now & again one or another helped to fashion the words that flowed from his pen.’ Elsewhere, Brian Walsh remarks on Shakespeare’s acute familiarity with the ‘recitation of genealogy from plays in the Queen’s Men repertory,’ & also observes how Shakespeare’s King John keeps the line, ‘For that my grandsire was an Englishman,’ & the two Hamlets share, ‘the screeking Raven sits croking for revenge.

Shakespeare’s entry into the Queen’s might be realted to the absence from the troupe of that most famous of Elizabethan actors, & Queen’s Man, Richard Tarleton. He had died in September 1588 & the Men would have been in need of fresh blood – & who better than the brilliant Young Shakespeare to step into the role. Incidentally, Tarleton was a West Midlands lad just like Shakespeare, a remembrance to whom is  contained thro the Hamlet’s court jester, to whose skull is spoken the ever famous line, ‘alas poor Yorick, I knew him so well. Coincidence or not, a certain trustee of Tarleton’s will, William Johnson, would one day become a trustee on Shakespeare’s purchase of a house in Blackfriars.

Shakespeare gets involved with the Blackfriars Theatre

Blackfriars2All through his life Shakespeare would be involved in every aspect of the stage, taking part-shares in theatres, writing the plays, & even bloody acting in them. He was a veritable Mr.Theatre. His first venture into the financial side of things was in 1589, when he took a share in the Blackfriars Theatre. Evidence for this comes through a manuscript which had passed into the hands of Lord Ellesmere, the then attorney-general, in the 1840s. The manuscript reveals how Shakespeare’s name stands twelfth in the enumeration of the members of the company;

These are to certifie your right Honble Lordships, that her majesty’s poore playeres, James Burbadge, Richard Burbadge, John Laneham, Thomas Greene, Robert Wilson, John Taylor, Anth. Wadeson, Thomas Pope, George Peele, Augustine Phillipps, Nicholas Towley, William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Johnson, Baptiste Goodale, & Robert Armyn, being all of them sharers in the black Fryers playehouse, have never given cause of displeasure, in that they have brought into their playes maters of state & Religion, unfitt to be handled by them, or to be presentved before lewde spectators: neither hath anie complaynte in that kinde ever bene preferrd against them, or anie of them. Wherefore, they trust most humblie in your Lordships consideration of their former good behaviour, being at all tymes readie, & willing, to yeelde obedience to any command whatsoever your Lordships in your wisdome may thinke in such case meete, &c.

Shakespeare reads out Venus & Adonis

One hot summer’s day in London, 1589, perhaps on the lawn of Fisher’s Folly, Shakespeare was reading Venus & Adonis to a select crowd. He was 25 – a fun-loving age if ever there was one – & to have been in attendance at a drunken evening filled with the early stanzas of Shakespeare’s erotic masterpiece would have been great fun. One man that felt the poem more than most was Thomas Lodge, whose 1589 poem ‘Scillaes Metamorphosis,’ has many captivating echoes of V&A. Lodge also spent time in the Earl of Derby’s household in the 1580s, which ensures his admission into the private circle about Stanley & Shakespeare. As for his ‘Scillaes Metamorphosis, Shakespeare’s words are taken almost wholesale;

But like a stormy day, now wind, now rain,
Sighs dry her cheeks V&A

And when my tears had ceas’d their stormy shower
He dried my cheeks Lodge

Sometimes she shakes her head, and then his hand,
Sometime her arms infold him like a band  V&A

Some chafe his temples with their lovely hands,
Some weep, some wake, some curse affection’s bands Lodge

Lodge’s poem uses the same 6-lined stanza & rhyme scheme of Venus & Adonis, & even pays tribute to Shakespeare’s master-class with the following stanzas;

He that hath seen the sweet Arcadian boy
Wiping the purple from his forced wound,
His pretty tears betokening his annoy,
His sighs, his cries, his falling on the ground,
The echoes ringing from the rocks his fall,
The trees with tears reporting of his thrall:

And Venus starting at her love-mate’s cry,
Forcing her birds to haste her chariot on;
And full of grief at last with piteous eye
Seeing where all pale with death he lay alone,
Whose beauty quail’d, as wont the lilies droop
When wasteful winter winds do make them stoop:

Her dainty hand address’d to daw her dear,
Her roseal lip allied to his pale cheek,
Her sighs, and then her looks and heavy cheer,
Her bitter threats, and then her passions meek;
How on his senseless corpse she lay a-crying,
As if the boy were then but new a-dying.

Shakespeare Visits Ireland

Richard Tarleton

Richard Tarleton

Since their formation in 1583, the Queen’s Players had been the leading troupe of actors in the land, travelling widely, with prominent performances at court over the prestigious festive seasons. Shakespeare joined the Queen’s Players at a time when they were dividing themselves into sub-troupes. ‘By 1589,’ writes Terence G Schoone-Jongen, ‘each branch – one apparently led by John & Laurence Dutton, the other by John Laneham – was sometimes identified by its leader as well as patron. Initially, the divided branches may have been a touring practice.’

Through Shakespeare’s presence among the Queen’s Players, we can now place him in Ireland. Shakespeare. An entry in the Ancient Treasury Book of Dublin reveals that in 1589, four pounds was paid to troupes called The Queen’s Players and The Queen and Earl of Essex Players ‘for showing their sports.’ These two troupes then travel over the Irish Sea to Lancashire, where at Knowsley the Queen’s Men performed in the evening of 6th Sept. and in the afternoon of 7th Sept., and then Essex’s Players performed in the evening of 7th Sept.

While in Ireland Shakespeare would have heard the word, Púca, which means ghost & went on to become ‘Puck’, the name of a ‘spirit’ in Midsummer Nights Dream (Act II Scene 1). He might have also heard phrases like “A hundred thousand welcomes” – Coriolanus (Act II Scene I) & “Did you ever hear the like?…….Did you ever dream of such a thing?” (Pericles Act IV Scene IV 1). The Irish were & still are world renownwed for the music, &  famous. The phrase  “Calin o custure me” in Henry V is taken from an Old Irish harp melody called “Cailín ó cois Stúir mé”;

When as I view your comely grace
Caleno custurame
Your golden hairs, your angel’s face,
Caleno custurame

W.H. Gratton Flood in his ‘History of Irish Music’ devotes a whole chapter to Shakespeare’s knowledge of 11 Irish songs, being;

1. Callino casturame – Mentioned as an Irish tune in ‘A handful of Pleasant dities’ (1594).
2. Ducdame – a corruption of An d-tiocfaidh from Eileen A Rún .
3. “Fortune my Foe” – (Merry Wives of Windsor Act II Scene III) ‘reckoned always an Irish tune’.
4. “Peg a Ramsay” – (Twelfth Night Act II Scene III) A ‘dump tune’ which Flood states  were played on a small Irish harp called a tiompán
5. “Bonny Sweet Robin”
6. “Whoop do me no harm, good man”- (A Winter’s Tale Act IV Scene III) known in Ireland as “Paddy whack.”
7. “Welladay; or Essex’s last Good-Night” – about the death of the Earl of Essex in Ireland in 1576.
8. “The Fading ” or “Witha a fading” – (“A Winter’s Tale” Act IV) “is, even on the testimony of the late Mr William Chappell (an uncompromising advocate of English music) undoubtedly an Irish dance tune. Also called the ‘Rince Fada’.”
9. “Light o’ Love” – (Two Gentlemen of Verona Act I Scene 2) an allusion is made to the tune of ‘light o’love’ another Irish tune.
10. “Yellow Stockings” – Known in Gaelic as “Cuma, liom” and the reference is to the saffron ‘truis’ of the medieval Irish.
11. “Edgar: Wantest thou eyes at trial, madam ? Come o’er the bourn, Bessie, to me.” – (King Lear Act III Scene VI)

The Queen’s Players are sent to the court of King James

King James VI of Scotland clearly loved the theatre, surrounded himself with artists and musicians, collectively known as the Castalian Band. He even composed many decent enough poems of his own. To help celebrate his upcoming marriage to a princess of Denmark called Anna, he asked Queen Elizabeth of England if he could borrow some of her actors, & it is Her Majesty’s granting of her royal cousin’s request that commences Shakespeare’s first visit to Scotland. The statement of the Revels tells us in that in September 1589 money was paid; ‘ for the furnishing of a mask for six maskers and six torchbearers, and of such persons as were to utter speeches at the shewing of the same maske, sent into Scotland to the King of Scotts mariage, by her Majestieís commanundement.’ Among the ‘six maskers,’ we shall place William Shakespeare, now a fully-fledg’d member of one of the half-troupes into which the Queen’s Players were dividing in 1589.

After the request had reached Knowsley, & after their last performance there on the afternoon of the 7th, it seems that it took the Queen’s Players three days to travel the 100 miles or so between Knowsley & Carlisle by the 10th September. The governor of Carlisle, Baron Scroop of Bolton, soon found himself involv’d in this high proflie case of pass the parcel, writing;

After my verie hartie comendacions: vpon a letter receyved from Mr. Roger Asheton, signifying vnto me that yt was the kinges earnest desire for to have her Majesties players for to repayer into Scotland to his grace : I dyd furthwith dispatche a servant of my owen unto them wheir they were in the furthest part of Langkeshire, wherevpon they made their returne heather to Carliell, wher they are, and have stayed for the space of ten dayes, whereof I thought good to gyve yow notice in the respect of the great desyre that the king had to have the same Come unto his grace: And withall to praye yow to gyve knowledg therof to his Majestie. So for the present, I bydd yow right hartelie farewell

The xxth of Septemre, 1589
Yowr verie assured loving friend
H Scrope

What Shaksepeare got up to in those 10 days in Cumbria we do not know – there are no traces of the county in his works. One expects they were rehearsing hard for the forthcoming nuptuals, & maybe a little carousing with the locals. Its a nice city.

Shakespeare in Scotland

As storms raged across the North Sea, Princess Anna of Denmark was unable to make the treacherous crossing, leading to James camping up at Seton Castle to watch the Firth of Forth for her ship. A letter from William Asheby to Walsingham. [Sept. 8, 1589) reads;

With the first wind the Queen is expected out of Denmark. It is thought that she embarked about the 2nd instant, but that contrary winds keep the fleet back. Great preparation is made at Leith to receive her, and to lodge her till the solemnity, which shall be twelve days after her arrival. The King is at Seaton till her arrival.

A week later, William Asheby wrote;

We dailie now expect the fleet of De[nmark]. The Quene embarqued at Copmanhaven [on] Moundaie the first of this moneth, and [hath] not set foote on ground sithence, except [the] last storme, which continued the 12 and thirten of this present southwest, haith driven the fleet back into Norwaie, [as] in all likliehode it haith done.

The Lord Dingwall arrived here this [day]. He left the Quene and the whole fleet on [this] side of Elsenoure, and had sight of the same nere the Skaw. It is certen[ly] looked that the Quene shall arrive in this Firth within as shorte space as [wind] and wether cane serve from Norwaie [to] this cost, which maie be in foure or fi[ve] daies, if thei have keapt the seas, and not entred over farr the Sound of .

The wind haith ben southwest and gre[at] this foure daies last past. This daie it groweth calmer and northwest, so as in . . . daies the Quenes arrivall is expected at Le[ith], where great preparacion is made to receave her.

The wait dragg’d on & on & a very impatient & romantically-minded James, ‘passionate as true lovers be’, was on the 8th of October said to ‘lyeth at Cragmillar, hard by Edenbrowghe, retyred, and as a kind lover spends the t[yme] in sighing.’ His malaise was soon converted to action & he  decided that instead of waiting he would risk the crossing & marry his young bride in Norway instead. Bring the mountain to Mohammed.

With him went Shakespeare, but before they sailed from Leith on October 24th, Shakespeare clearly spent time perusing the Royal Library in Edinburgh. In 1589 it held the single, 43,000 lines-long manuscript copy of William Stewart’s Chronicle of Scotland. Written in the Scottish vernacular, there are positive parrallels with Macbeth, including one of sixty-five lines which elucidates the murderous motives of Macbeth and his wife. Wilson notes that, ‘Boece and Holinshed have nothing corresponding to this, and yet how well it sums up the pity of Macbeth’s fall as Shakespeare represents it.’ Another chronicle-marker is the 26-line tirade by Lady Macbeth as she taunts her husband as being a coward and unmanly and breaking his vow to seek the crown (1.7.36–61). ‘In every case in which Stewart differs from Holinshed,’ says Stopes, ‘Shakespeare follows Stewart.’

images (1)Other sources for Macbeth which Shakespeare would have studied in the Royal Scottish Library include Andrew Wyntoun’s metrical ‘Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland’ & also the ‘Flyting betwixt Montgomerie and Polwart,’ a poem which contains the three wyrd sisters. In the latter text After their bewitching curses come to a close, they begin to speak to each in turn, just as they deliver their prophecies in Macbeth.

The first said, ‘surelie of a shot;’
The second, ‘of a running knot;’
The third, ‘be throwing of the throate,
Like a tyke ouer a tree (Flyting)

When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.

Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air (Macbeth)

We also have two allusions are to Scots law: “double trust” and “interdiction.” the Oxfordian Richard F. Whalen explains it all quite succinctly’

Macbeth says of Duncan: “He’s here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed; then as his host, who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself” The “double trust” concept was enacted into law in 1587 when the Scottish Parliament raised from mere homicide to treason the slaying of someone of rank who was also a guest of his slayer, with the trial to be held in the highest court.

The legal term “interdiction” occurs in the strange colloquy between Macduff and Malcolm. Macduff laments that Malcolm, the heir to the throne, “by his own interdiction stands accused and does blaspheme his breed” This refers in Scots law to someone conscious of his failings who gives up or is forced to give up the management of his own affairs, which is what Malcolm seemed to be doing, much to Macduff’s dismay.

The thing about Oxfordians is that they are the most meticulous researchers – they turn over stone several times & check for how it looks for the light, & their research has been invaluable to tell you the truth – team work!

One of the most important piecs of local knowledge embedded in the play is that of Macbeth’s armor-bearer being named Seton. The legends of Macbeth do not mention any Setons, but Professor Wilson of the University of Edinburgh was astonish’d that “somehow or other” Shakespeare learned that the Setons were the hereditary armor-bearers to the kings of Scotland. But of course Shakespeare was on the very Seton spot with King James.

Finally, the date of Shakespeare’s visit to Macbeth country is intriguing, as the plays spirit seems to have fused with a contemporary event – the murder of the Duke of Guise by Henry III of France in December 1588. Eva Turner Clark, in her ‘Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays ‘(1931), observed ‘many points in common’ between the Killing of Duncan by Macbeth and the murder of Guise by Henry III, citing ‘the power and influence’ of Catherine De’ Medici, who was inside the Chateau of Blois in France when the murder took place, just as Lady Macbeth is in Macbeth’s Castle in Scotland during the murder of Duncan.

Shakespeare sails to Norway

That Shakespeare & the Queen’s Players went with King James in his large wedding entourage can be discerned through an epigram in John Davies of Hereford’s The Scourge of Folly (c.1610). Dedicated to, ‘our English Terence Mr. Will: Shake-speare,’  it begins;

SOME say good Will (which I, in sport, do sing)
Had’st thou not plaid some Kingly parts in sport,
Thou hadst bin a companion for a King

Scholars have scratched their heads over this passage for centuries, but there is a starkness to it which fits with consummate ease into the Queen’s Player’s accompanying of King James VI to Denmark.

So Shakespeare & James had set off for Norway, with the king’s the journey being described thus;

He was more than fortunate than his bride in having four days of fair weather, but on the fifth a storm arose & a day later he landed at Flekkefjord in Norway.

It must have been quite a poetic moment for our young bard, leaving him verteux & receptive to the energies which would one day manifest themselves in Hamlet. From Flekkefjord Shakespeare & James proceeded to Oslo. In the Danish cccount of the day, translated by Peter Graves, we observe how Shakespeare fbecame acquainted with the figure who would be creochisped into ‘Hamlet’ as Guildenstern, the friend of Rosencrantz.

When his majesty arrived, he went to to Old Bishop’s palace to meet her ladyship. this was the order of the procession: first walked two Scottish noblemen (who were his majesty’s heralds) each bearing a white stick as a sign of peace; next came Steen Brahe, Henning Gioye, Axel Gyldenstierne, Hans Pederson, Ove Juel, Captain Noimand & Peter Iversen; then came his majesty between the Scottish earl & another Scottish lord; after them came the king’s courtiers & the Scottish nobility, all with their hats in their hands

As for Rosencrantz, he would have been about somewhere, for among the Danish signatories to the prenuptual demands made by Scottish enjoys on behalf of the King (9th July 1589), we can observe a certain ‘Jørgen Rozenkrantz.’

Shakespeare visits Kronborg Castle

James and Anne were married in Oslo, November 23rd, at the great hall in Christen Mule’s house with all the splendour possible at that time & place. As they drove from the church James arranged a curious spectacle for the entertainment of the people of Oslo. By his orders four young “blackamoors” danced naked in the snow in front of the royal carriage, but the cold was so intense that they died a little later of pneumonia. After the nuptuals, most of the entourage returned to Scotland, but others – including the Queen’s Players – accompanied the royal couple to Kronborg Castle in Denmark.

The King was in a great mood, & wrote home that, ‘we are drinking & dryving (killing time) in the auld manner.’ Kronborg is the very place in which Hamlet as we know it was set, yet the original story, as given by Saxo Grammaticus, shows how Hamlet’s father was the govenor of Jutland. Kronborg, however, is on Zealand. Then why did Shakespeare move the scene?

download1We may now assume that on his visit to Denmark, Shakespeare began to revise his Hamlet, adding genuine on-the-spot location stuff to an earlier verision of the play. Shakespeare’s presence at Kronborg as part of a wandering troupe of players echoes out into Hamlet’s famous ‘play-within-the-play,’ where a troupe of traveling players enact a ‘Dumb-Show’ call’d the Murder of Gonzaga (or the Mousetrap).

Enter a King and a Queen, very lovingly: the Queen embracing him, and he her. She kneels and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck: lays him down upon a bank of flowers: she, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the Kingís ears, and exit. The Queen returns;  finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The Poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts; she seems loath and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts his love.

There is a definitive nod to James in Shakespeare’s play. Just as Hamlet’s father is the King in the Dumb-Show was murdered by having poison administered to his ear,  a French surgeon, Ambrosie Parex, was suspected of killing the French King, Francis II, by giving him an ear infection during the course of treatment. Francis was the first husband of James’ mother, Mary Queen of Scots. That the Gonzaga family heralded from Mantua, & of course we have already plaved Shakespeare in thhat city with Stanley.

It must be noted that while half of the Queen’s Players are in Denmark, the others are performing over the festive season for Queen Elizabeth, where for a performance at Richmond court on the 26th December, they recieved the princely sum of £20.

Shakespeare returns to Scotland

English troupes tour’d the continent regularly in Shakespeare’s time – from the Album of Franz Hartmann, of Frankfort on Oder

In early 1590, James returned to Scotland with his new wife. That Shakespeare was back in Scotland in wintry months is reflected by his uncanny observation in Macbeth of “so fair and foul a day I have not seen.”  During the coronation ceremonies in Edinburgh, the masque ordered by James the previous September finally got its chance to be aired. Although Shakespeare is not mentioned by name, the clothes he & his five other masquers are, as given in Lansd.MSS 59.

A maske of six coates of purple gold tinsell, garded with purple & black clothe of silver striped. Bases of crimson clothe of gold, with pendants of maled purple silver tinsell. Twoe paire of sleves to the same of red cloth of gold, & four paire of sleves to the same of white clothe of copper, silvered. Six partletts of purplee clothe of silver knotted/ Six hed peces, whereof foure of clothe of gold, knotted, & twoe of purple clothe of gold braunched. Six fethers to the same hed peces. Six mantles, whereof four of oringe clothe of gold braunched, & twoe of purple & white clot of silver braunched. Six vizardes, & siz fawchins guilded.

Six cassocks for torche bearers of damaske; three of yellowe, & three of red, garded with red & yellow damaske counterchaunged. Six paire of hose of damaske; three of yellow, & three of red, garded with red & yellowe damaske counterchaunged. Six hatts of crimson clothe of gold, & six fethers to the same. Six vizardes.

Four heares of silke, & four garlandes of flowers, for the attire of them that are to utter certaine speeches at the shewing of the same maske.

The masque may have been part of the luscious celebrations made during the procession up the Royal Mile made by the new queen, or perhaps performed at the festivities in Edinburgh castle. That Shakespeare was under the Stuart wing at this time seems to reflect itself into Macbeth again, in particular the 1590 witch trials of Denmark & North Berwick, near Edinburgh. The poor ‘witches’ had been given the blame for the bad weather keeping Anna from James, & also the terrible storms they had to endure on the return voyage. No-one dared to mention that winter might have had something to do with it, & more than a hundred suspected witches in North Berwick were arrested. Many would soon be confessing – under torture of course – to having met with the Devil in the church at night, and devoted themselves to doing evil, including poisoning the King and other members of his household, and attempting to sink the King’s ship. When writing Macbeth, Shakespeare would adapt many concepts from the trials, including the rituals confessed by the witches & the borrowing of  quotes from the treaties, such as spells, ‘purposely to be cassin into the sea to raise winds for destruction of ships.’

There are in Macbeth quite canny descriptions of Scottish weather, when ‘so fair and foul a day I have not seen.’ Shakespeare also describes how the, ‘air nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses‘ to which Banquo adds ‘Heaven’s breath smells woo­ingly here. The air is delicate,’ Is this a remembrance in Shaksepeare of visiting some Highland scene, especially the castle of Macbaeth, described by Shakespeare as a ‘pleasant seat.’ Arthur Clark also notes that Inverness has an unusually mild “microclimate” distinct from the rest of Scotland, and he too wonders how Shakespeare could have known about it without hav­ing visited Inverness. Clark also shows how Shakespeare caccuraelty locates Dunsinane, Great Birnam Wood, Forres, Inverness, the Western Isles, Colmekill, Saint Colme, and the lands that gave their names to the thanes: Fife, Glamis, Cawdor, Ross, Lennox, Mentieth, Angus and Caithness. Again, on the spot knowledge seems likely, while in Banquo’s question: “How far is it called to Forres”? the use of the word “Called,” reflects a typical Scots locution of the time.

Flight of the White Eagles: Act 4 Scenes 1-2


SCENE 1: Studianka

The French pontonieres are building a bridge across the Berezhina River – they are encouraged by Gourgogne – some are stood in the water up to their shoulders & even their mouths


Acapella to percussive sounds of bridge building

As the gates of Victory
Open wide for us & sing
Our Liberty all people there shall guide

From the North to the South
Bugle blows are echoing
Out for the battles fought for Gallic pride

Tremble ye enemies of France
& the bad Kings drunk & depraved
As sov’reign commoners advance
Tyrants go down to your graves

The Republic is calling us
Learn to vanquish & to never fly
A Frenchman lives for the Republic
& for her Frenchmen must die
Un Fran ais doit vivre pour elle
Pour elle un Fran ais doit mourir.


May their fathers’ blade be placed
In the hands of the brave,
Remember us upon the Field of Mars

Come baptise in the blood
Of the king & of the slave
While shining elders look down from the stars

Tremble ye enemies of France
& the bad Kings drunk & depraved
As sov’reign commoners advance
Tyrants go down to your graves

What wounds & virtues running deep
We shall bring back from the war
Return’d to shut our eyes & sleep
When the tyrants are no more

The Republic is calling us
Learn to vanquish & to never fly
A Frenchman lives for the Republic
& for her Frenchmen must die
Un Fran ais doit vivre pour elle
Pour elle un Fran ais doit mourir.


Enter Napoleon & Berthier with two gaurds who are carrying cases of wine.

Your majesty


Vive L’Empreur

Soldier, you, yes you, come here if you will

Enter a cold, wet, shivering pontonierre

Your highness

How are you handling the cold

It is nothing, I am fine, we all are
Allow me to return to my work sire

Of course, but first, distribute these bottles
Of red wine from my personal supply

You are most generous

Build me that bridge

Yes sire

Berthier, help him with a case

Berthier & the Pontonierre take the cases of wine to the pontonierres

Our causeway catterpillars cross the stream

Indeed, sire with what zest our sappers task
Self-sacrifice engage without limits
In spite of drifting ice & armpit deep
They trestles fix in place ’til capp’d are beams

Your projective platform shows genius
Gourgaud, of priscillian precision,
Your active coolness in the foreseeing
Secures a worthy spot to organise
This feat, some would say miracle, of arms

Listen sire, not a murmour to be heard
Of discontent in the situation –
They curse the elements, but not the day
For glory still an elevate of hope

Hope, yes we have, yet reality bites
The cavalry secured the western bank
This morning by fording upon horses
But unsupported shall not last the night
We must send reinforcements there, & soon

Tho’ slow & painful work, we shall succeed

Excellent, but Gourgaud

Your majesty

Only let troops & artillery cross
The camp followers will only impede
Prevent them all from passage ’til the end
A strong intactive army will prevent
Total annhialation – understood

Yes sire

Good, carry on this famous work
{to the soldiers}
Pontonierres of France I salute you

Vive L’empreur, Napoleon will save us

Exit Napoleon & guards

Our stragglers are a multitude ill-starr’d

Just do your work Gourgaud, & duty too



SCENE 2: Studianka, the French camp

Enter Graingier, Foucart, Leboude, Legrande & Rossi

Pandemonia’s principality
Encapital’d upon these troubleslopes
Condensing with with frightful laxydaisy

What is that singing?

Men cross the bridge
Still gay & careless, death counts for nothing
To the soldiers of France, spirits exalt
For we are all together

Rings as if on the eve of great battles
Aromatizing these downtrodden scenes

What is pain & destruction & dying
When the matter of the empire at stake
Not melting down our youth in beds of lust
But facing dangers headlong without stir
If such excesses of adversity
Our nation’s honour paramountly reigns

Enter Bourgone

Lads, start a fire, it will not be till Dawn
Before our turn to cross the bridge has come

Leboude & Rossi begin building a fire

How does it stand

By god’s will I expect
‘Tis a rickety construct of matchsticks
But on its timber we shall soon emerge
From the darkest caverns of misery
Where we have dwelt these soul-exhausting days

Are we to see our little homes again?

We are, Foucart, I know as much, I feel
These stinking tribulations are a test
Seeking weakness thro’ elaborate traps
When responsive complacencies relapse
& truth’s coalesces to deception
By arrogance our successes consumed
Stimulating ego, made us immune
To squads of malignancies besetting
Cautious steps of glory, let this proud host
Of oceanic natures rejoice in trials,
To spout its tales of conquerors unvex’d,
Valour is the chieftan of our virtues
& dignifies the haver’s panting breast
Stood naked before shunless destiny,
& valour is the force that binds us, boys,
Together we shall spend the night this bank
Together we shall cross aspiringly
Then leave the warp of Russian wilds behind.

That’s the fire started, boys

Good work Leboude

Another supper of horsemeat awaits

Better than feasting on one another

What, like those Croatians encraz’d

Curs’d curs
Remember how they dragg’d away bodies
Of men death-barbecued, from that dark barn
Then sliced apart the flesh & gulp’d it down

Horrific sights

The devil will have them

Aye, he will, that is for certain my friend
When that fire became a vast tossing mass
Full of convulsive efforts of wretches
Each one of us observ’d the heart of Hell
& I saw Satan slouch’d within the flames

Is it evil to eat our fellow man
When we are starving

Folly slays the soul
Dooming its eventual destruction

Come, let us be noble in suffering
& eat this meat ungarnish’d in silence

Rossi passes the horse meat around – each soldier sits eating in silence, to the cacophony of a camp in chaos


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


Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 3, Scenes 5-7

SCENE 3: A Russian Farm

In the main hall of the village, Nikolai the Cossack is counting money behind a desk – he is wearing a long coat lined with sheepskin & a fur cap – there is a quantity of military equipment on the floor including pistols, carbines, swords, cartridges, uniforms & hats – enter Vasalisa, Vitaly & Vladamir, Albina & Valentina with Bodet & Vachain

Well, well, well, look at these happy hunters
Inbringing two fine looking officers

Indeed we have, Nikolai, that will be
One hundred & fifty for the Colonel
Fifty for the Captain, is that correct?

It is – have they been thoroughly disarm’d

They have

& fed

A little bread & lard

Good, good… officers of the Grand Armee
I am the commander of the Cossacks
In the area, please take this sauerkraut
& beer at my behest, tho’ enemies
We are all Adam’s sons, wormwood still grows
Upon its own root, help yourselves, please do.

Bodet & Vachain ravenously fall on the food & drink

Better to be a heated prisoner
& eating well, than freezing in freedom
Feasting on finger’s flesh to break the fast

So you think this is cold, this is nothing
Wait until you reach wild Siberia
Remote from all the pleasures of the world
You will wish for this warm wintry weather


Of course Siberia,
Until the war is over, & well won
By one emperor over another –
Your own three months ago a giant oak
That suffers today first strokes of an axe
Hard held by all countries of Europa
That stroke-by-stroke shall sever liberty
From that black tree, daemonic Bonaparte,
Acting a Genghis & Caligula
He murders honest innocents & turns
Our churches into stables, in a rage
Of bloodshed, but tyranny is finite
This contree is the sponge that sucks him dry
Selected by god defender of truth
Archangel Michael climbs thro’ Kutuzoff
Moscow was sacrificed to save the world
At Borodino you thought us beaten
Then camp’d in the Kremlin like conquerors
Battles won does not a conquest make
Glorious deeds may turn indignitie
The force deciding the fate of people
Lies not with the charge of battalions
But somewhere else, of quality sublime,
In Vasalisa runs that current strong,
When you are back in Paris tell your friends
You were caught by a true Russian hero
As long as Slavs are honour’d in this world
Vasalisa’s vow shall be remember’d
Driving invaders from a native soil
Remember Vasalisa, & her name,
Eternally miraculous it soars,
Swift winds & thunder cannot knock it down
Nor demoilsh’d be by the flight of time
Syllables baffle death, escape decay
To be recited Black Sea to the White

Such flattery will get you everywhere
Do you have any vodka we can share
Just you & I

I do – its getting late
{to Bodet & Vachain}
Who is the higher rank

I am colonel

Then you shall have the bed – he wil need guards

Albina, Vladamir, take up the task

Yes mistress

This way colonel, follow us

Exit Albina & Vladamir with Bodet

&, you, what is your rank?

I am captain

You shall remain in here, there is a couch
To lie on if you wish to sleep


{pointing to Valentina & Vitaly}
You two shall be his guards

{taking the money}
Then we are done
& Vasalisa, stardust of my dreams
We’ll get the hot flames blazing in my rooms

Exit Vasalisa & Nikolai

Hey new girl… yes you… I am grown weary
& sleep beside this fire, watch the captain
As hawks would, wake me at trouble’s breaking

{to Vachain}
You do not recognize me

Why, should I?

We have kiss’d


Kiss’d you! I would remember
Gracing pair’d lips so beauteous & rare

Our lips have met, tho’ I was laughter drunk
& you stood unimpress’d before the scene

Wait a moment – yes, you were in Moscow
At the party

I chose to remain there
There with my sister when the French march’d west

& now you are against us, why the change

I am Russian, your great liberator
Napoleon, at first signs of struggle
Abandon’d principles loudly proclaim’d
Of freeing us from serfdom, then fled home
Leaving us pandering eternally
To the glory of our wonderful tsar

To watch you speak impresses of the worth
Contain’d within the augurs of that kiss
Scarce remembered but wish’d to be renew’d

You’d kiss again

I would, the want stirs deep

Valentina & Vachain kiss passionately

Tell me, what is your name


Ah, Valentina, Valentine, love’s name
Itself, you are a woman to be loved

You are not so unrosy yourself, sir

Sir! to call me sir when I am captive
The captive captain, its assonance chimes
Like spoken words we worldfolk sometimes rhyme
& lovelier seem each in each entwin’d
When in the weighted game of human love
Two spirits sound in harmony, or clash
Twyx poetry & base tongues guttural,
The latter shoot on the coriolis
While true loves fuse with chrysostomic kiss


Yes, dear, sweet Valentina
I felt a poet when our lips first met
In spite of my inebriated mind
My soul ascended mountains in a gust
Of lust, of trust, & love in rarest robes
& rushing out of doors to see the sun
Set or rise, in your eyes I see that sun,
Can we escape?



Shh – quiet
What do you mean

Come live with me in France
& nourish each other with days of love
& never sleep a wink for lovemaking

Escape? but how?

First unlooosen my bonds

Vitaly stirs in his sleep – Valentina unties the ropes – they embrace with a kiss – Vitaly sneaks to the weapons & deftly takes some guns & cartridges – Vitaly awakes

What, what is it

Nothing Vitaly, sleep



Lets go

Wait, no, my sister
I cannot just leave without seeing her
I must find her

But that is dangerous
For you, for us, & most of all for her
Better she lives in ignorance, than die
Banded in damn’d collusion with the deed

Kiss me captain
{they kiss}
As lips conceal secrets
The giving fibres of your very soul
Sing to my own & woo her with the truth

We must leave now



Exit Vachain & Valentina

SCENE 6: The Russian Wastes

Picart & Bourgogne emerge out of the woods just as the advance elements of the army pass – those on foot drag themselves painfully along, almost all of them having their feet wrapp’d in rags or in bits of sheepskin, nearly all are dying of hunger

Look, we were right to follow the sunset
& appear to have emerg’d just ahead
Of the army as they detour’d round the wood

The Emperor – he is there – look Picart

It is him – I must upsmarten myself

Picart doffs his fur cap & takes off his white cloak, hanging it over his left arm – The Emperor passes next on foot, carrying a baton & wearing a large cloak lined with fur, a dark-red velvet cap with black fox fur on his head – Murat walks on foot at his right, on his left the Prince Eugène – Napoloen turns to look at Bourgogne & Picart briefly – Next comes Berthier, Caulaincourt & Gourgaud, followed by other officers and non-commissioned officers, walking in order and perfect silence, carrying the eagles of their different regiments

Look at the eagles, each cover’d in snow
White eagles, yes, white eagles soaring home



You’ve gotta fly, fly home, ye white eagles
You’re soarin’ over frozen snow
You’ve gotta fly, fly, fly, fly, ye white eagles
You’re goin soarin’ homeover frozen snow

You’re going home to the town where your love lies sleeping
where the bed is so warm & the fire it blazes for you
You’ll be home with your family by this chistmas
In the house where your memories best were form’d




come Next the Imperial Gaurd on foot – Picart gazes in silence, striking the ground with the butt of his musket, then his breast and forehead with his clenched hand. Great tears fall from his eyes, roll down his cheeks, and freeze in his moustache

Am I awake or are my dreams claw-gorg’d
By isolated devils in the dark,
It breaks my heart to see our Emperor,
Like lukewarm lava below volcano
Clutching sacred caduceous on foot
Holding that baton in his hand, so great,
He who made us all so proud to know him.

My heart shares the break

Did you not notice
How he loook’d at us – he recognized me
I saw it in the trembling of his eye

He shall always rise a great genius
However miserable be our plight
With him we are assured of victory.
Wait – my company, or what’s left of it

Enter Legrande, Leboude, Foucart, Rossi & Graingier – their feet & hands are frozen, most are without firarms, many lean on sticks; covered with cloaks and coats all torn and burnt, wrapped in bits of cloth, in sheepskin & rags – Foucart & Graingier support Rossi by each arm

Rest lads, the entire coloumn is halting
Ease your limbs Old Gaurd, soon fades the respite


Hallo, poor Bourgogne! Is that you?


You are alive

We thought you dead
Behind us, here you are alive in front!

This is first-rate, where on earth have you been

I was lost

Until I found him

You old devil, you have done very well
Delivering our comrade to his arms

Speaking of comrades, I see mine behind
Adrien – it has been an adventure

Until the next time, keep on surviving

Exit Picart

Seeing you all together, I shall not
Leave you again my friends, except to die

Tell us how we became seperated

I rested with a fever for a while
& in a flash of snow your tracks were wiped

A fever, were you ill?

Very much so
& still am

You should have told us you fool
For those who cannot follow help is there
We are one family, we Grenadiers,
We’ve help’d Rossi along for two days now
Sharing his weight as if it was our own

The emperor!


Is coming to us

Soldiers of the Old Guard – stand attention

Enter Napoleon with King Murat and Prince Eugène.

How are we faring today my children

Never better sire

Hah – good! the Old Guard
Is the heart of my army, this is why
I stand among you here in clear address
The Russians hard by the Berezhina
Have sworn not one of us should cross the banks
{Napoleon draws his sword & raises his voice}
But when an army such as ours contends
Against the worst misfortune could obtain
What sublime courage capable becomes
Convented in each for the cause
of seeing France again, better to fight
In battle side-by-side than to accept
We’ll never feel sophisticates again

The soldiers erupt in shouts & cheers of Vive l’Empereur!’ – bearskins and caps are waved at the points of bayonets, and shouts

SCENE 7: Borisow

Napoleon is in council with Bertheir, Eugene, Caulaincourt & Prince Emile – Enter Murat

Apologies, sire, for my tardiness
We had a sharp encounter with Cossacks

Yes, yes, successful I hope

It was sire

Good, every positivity bodes well
But there is a drastical negative
The Russians have burn’d the one bridge for miles
& keep us penn’d up between two forests
In the middle of a marsh, Caulaincourt

The situation is very grave; sire
Any detour would take up many days
Of forced hard marches to Gloubokoje
Or Vileika

Then let us force our way
Thro,’ & beyond, the Berezhinan marsh

Indeed, but if my senior leaders
Set proper examples, we will succeed,
I am still stronger than the enemy,
& can quite afford to disregard
Each Russian gun that dares stand in our way

How do we cross the river, sire

With thought

Prince Emile
My thoughts are for a powerful balloon

What for?

Prince Emile
To carry Your Majesty home

Good God! I am not afraid of battle
I have acted Emperor long enough
It is time to act the old general
The passage of this river shall take place
Tomorrow morning

But how


I’m inclined to think not, at least as far
As rivers are concerned

But did not Ney
Cross the Dnieper over sheets of ice,
When it was not so cold as is today?

I would not risk it

Enter Gourgaud

Your serene highness,
I have promising news

Is there a ford

Yes, sire, at Studianka


A small detachment, but we drove them off
With cannon, & then forded the waters
About three & one half deep, but rising

Could we construct a pontoon at the site

I would say yes, sire

Berthier, my horse
& Murat too, we shall ride there together
& take a look ourselves, in the meantime
Make feints on Ukholoda and Stakow

Yes sire!

Dismissing attendant dangers
Innovating well, & excuting,
We shall use every endeavour
To build the bridge, it cross by morrow’s eve,
Whn once we’ve gain’d the other bank in strength
The passage of the army will commence

Exit Napoleon with Murat & Berthier


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


Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 3, Scenes 3-4

SCENE 3: A Forest Clearing

Enter Vasalisa, Angelina, Albina, Vladamir & Vitaly

This clearing is as good as any space
To build a base from whence to pounce upon
The straggling French bestruggl’d from Smolensk

Angelina, you’ve been crying, what for?

Mother, what is it?

It is nothing, well…
I’d hoped to hear my husband’s voice today
I miss you father dearly but am proud
To know he fights the French, I heard him take
The sacred oath upon that mountain height
To never see our faces’ light until
Napoleon defeated & expung’d
From Russia on the spirit of vengeance



Well my husband is off to the war
O when is it going to end
I miss him each day more & more
He’s my family, lover & friend

& the way that he looks in the morning
When he wakes with a wink & a smile
Makes me bless how my wonderful fortune
Shares his talents, his beauty, his style

My husband’s so champion warlike
Outstanding he fights in the field
But when he’s asleep in the dawn light
All my worryful weepings are heal’d

Then the way that he looks in the morning
When he wakes with a wink & a smile
Makes me bless how my wonderful Husband
Offers talents & beauty & style

Well my husband’s so splendidly handsome
As far as my travels can see
There are multiple men in the country
But none are as handsome as he


Such love for the fatherland’s warriors
Empowers the souls & hands to noble feats

& from those feats our triumph shall prevail,
The French have been belittled in battles
The fox escapes across the barren land
Abandoning swords & encampments, flies
Thro’ slain brothers blood, painting ghastly sights,
As all around the woods & mountains shout
‘O victory to Rus, O victory
To the terryifying might of old Rus.’


Enter Natasha & Valentina, hurriedly

Be quiet everybody, still your sound

Two French officers approach us alone

Hide yourselves as salt’s secret of the seas

The Partisans hide in the undergrowth – enter Vachain & Bodet

What is this special enigma, Colonel
Which lures us deep into this creaking wood
Is it some wild pretence

This is quite real
As we are both noble officers, sir,
We will share the best table, in this case
A genuine bottle of best vodka
From the Tsar’s very own cellar

My God

I shall go first, as deem’d by higher rank

I defer to that & your gratitude

My word, there is the fire, first it burns throat
Then belly, how it feels to feel alive!
Here you are my man – prepare for fierce flame

Vachain drinks with splutters & coughs / Bodet laughs

That is a mighty blast, no vulgo draught
For one raw moment lends me forgetting,
From being the most affected ever
At the loss of the effectivity
Of our once supreme sword, how our famous
Columns made now disorder’d, prideless mass
We fools who purchas’d our own mockery,
Who were called all sides ‘Indestructables,’
Who swept all Europe before us, broken
Into myriad ruthless parts, striving
To lives preserve at anyworth expense.

So many miseries have crazed my voice
This breakdown of order is challenging
Made thrice as complicated by the theft
& plundering of clothing thro’ all ranks
Confusing insignias meaningless
Rather than attempting to discover
True ranks, comrogean soldiers assume
True officers really enlisted men
& flagrantly refused orders obey’d

Such things are the current of time’s river
Which carries to oblivion our deeds
Unfeasible it is to stem its flow
& think of desolation’s fate uncheck’d
If I were to die on this faithless march
My memories shall drift into the snow,
With last breath-whisps, of twenty great battles
Thro’ ten years service with the Emperor

Napoloen! He does not give a damn
Soldiers supraconstantly collapsing
Upon the road, dismiss’d without a glance
For the sick & dying offers only
Unstricken unsentimentality.

So long has Fortune shower’d her favours
He barely believes she deserts him now
& blunders under constant delusion
Proven amply by fatal insistence
That every little thing be brought away
To clog the roads, then lost are in the end

The end – what will that be for you & I
When some are murder’d for a pinch of bread
& who shall mourn us here – coldbloodedly
Upon pale, lamenting faces I peer,
This awful war’s dismembrator’d faces,
The wounded, frozen, burn’d – only to turn
Away & think of other trinket things
From all the sad finales I have seen
The worst are those who freeze before a fire
Takes hold & gives out heat, but I have slept
Upon these poor, unfortunate pillows
Too often – enough, let us quaff some more

Bodet drinks & hands the bottle to Vachain

So bitter – refuses to taste better

Oh lord, look, Captain Vachain, look upwards
Thro’ clearing tops upon a starry sky

A hard frost, Colonel,

Yes, that might be so
But now is the night’s tremendous disport
Flaring stars, vanishing stars, stars trembling
Star on stars on stars, busy whispering
Gladsome mysteries to one another

When gazing on the stars & crystal spheres
From myself I remove myself, become
A portion of all that passes about me
Stirring feelings of the infinite felt
In solitude, where we are least alone

This vodka works well, you speak poetry

I do? Then let us drink some more

Bodet drinks then passes Vachain the bottle

Drink deep

Vachain drinks

Still no better, what ingredient does
Russia inject into this burning wine

Enter Vasalisa

It is a symphony to savour, made
From potatoes, fermented, then distill’d

Who are you woman, what is your business?

I am Vasalisa Kharzina
Of the partisan army of the Tsar
A savage disease needs a savage cure
& leaves befallen from a wither’d tree
Up scoop, you two my captives on parole
& these, these are my country warriors

Enter the partisans, armed – Bodel & Vachain draw their swords

Put down your swords or we will shoot you dead

What use are you to anyone that way,
Your roubles’ worth quadruples when alive

Bodet & Vachain drop their swords – they are search’d for more weapons – Vitaly drinks the vodka

It is vodka – it is good

Let me try

Vladmir drinks the vodka

Give me a drop Vitaly
{Angelina drinks the vodka}
That is good
Where did you get this from – it is Russian
Who made it murder’d somewhere in these lands

I found it deep in the Kremlin’s cellars

Found it, stole it, no matter, have a drink

Vasalisa drinks

The good stuff – Let us dissappear from here
These French are of the Guard, & will send out
No doubt, seach parties, you two , follow us
If refusing you’ll be shot, understand?

We understand

My partisans, depart


SCENE 4: Another Forest Clearing

Bourgogne is alone & struggling through the bad weather. Dead bodies line the road. The ground is covered as far as the eye can see with helmets, shakos, swords, cuirasses, broken chests, empty portmanteaus, bits of torn clothing, saddles & costly schabraques / he reaches a cart

I curse the snow which hides the azure sphere
& makes an entire army dissappear
It seems as if broad heaven joins the earth
Immelding snowflakes dragging heavy girth
We march without thought, lost & unsteady,
Where whirlwinds of sleet dreadfully eddy
& swarm-drifted snow heap’d up collected
Chasms shyly conceal unexpected
Ingulphing the weakest, whom no more rise
Weak & confounded compounded by sighs
& if standing still we hammer thro the blast
That whips up wild snow, & won’t let us past
With obstinate fury blocking our way
Freezing our clothes with a knife-icy spray
Stiffening tremble-limbs, chattering teeth,
Flat falling in snow the only relief
But only for brief, the skies leaden flight
Buries them in a sepulcher of white,
See how the road to Poland undulates!
Intrepids apathetic to their fates
Hurry by with eyes elsewhere averted
Earth in one vast winding-sheet beshirted!
Dullblank expanse, where only pines emerge
A few gloomy funereals averge
Endless universal desolation,
Where life is but a silly esperance,
Sends instincts pressing self-preservation
Cross-paths down, searching friendly farms, but meet
Screeching Cossacks, peasants gadling in arms,
Who surround us, wound us, strip us to the skin
& leave us expiring with incisive grin
I curse this snow which fills up the traces
Of columns gone before me, just spaces
Of silence, this immense cemetery
That seperates us insalutary
Brings tears to me not shed since I was child,
Now who is this strange creature quite defiled

A wounded French soldier, wrapped in a great fur-lined cloak, crawls on the floor to Bourgogne

Soldier, what is your name? Your regiment?

The soldier says nothing, then collapses & dies – Bourgogne goes to see if he is alive when an arm from a second soldier led on the floor, grabs him by the legs

Stop! help me! Don’t you know, please don’t forget!
{a maniacal laugh}
Marie, Marie, give me food, I’m dying
{he tries to throw off his coat}

Stop that, please, you’ll surely die without it
Come on, stand up, I will help your comrade

As Bourgogne tires to lift the soldier by the arm he notices that he wears officer epaulettes

Ah, you are an officer, what rank, sir
& regiment

The regiment needs me
To organise reviews, bolster morale
& perfect parades, let us go at once

The soldier gets up to rise but falls on one side with his face in the snow – Bourgogne passes his hand over the soldier’s face & finds there is no sign of life – Bourgogne finds a few fragments of wood & with great difficulty gets them alight – very soon flames crackle up into quite a large fire – he collects a number of schabraques to sit on, and wrapping in his bearskin cape, with his back against the waggon, arranges himself for the night – a Cossack on all fours crawls into the camp – Bourgogne notices, draws his sword & starts to advance – on reaching the Cossack he points his sword in his back

Are you bear or a man, growl or answer…

The Cossack looks up – he has a long beard which along with his his thick hair is red and thick – his shoulders are of Herculean proportions

You are Cossack!

The Cossack throw himself down in supplication, trying to kiss Bourgogne’s feet

Dobray Frantsouz

Get off !!

Dobray Frantsouz, Frenchie, Dobray Frantsouz

The Cossack kneels upright & is so tall his head reaches Bourgogne’s shoulders – he shows him a fightful sword-cut he had had on his face. Bourgogne signs the Cossack to come near the fire; the Cossack reveals a ball wound to the stomach then turns on his side to writh & wail in pain, & grind his teeth – Bourgogne settles down by the fire

I would normally aid your pain’s relief
But am so numb to suffering your wails
Run like water on my ears, like my words
On yours, my Cossack foe, what is that noise
Ah – they are trumpets somewhere in the field
Too far away to find them, & this fire
So mindful of my life, for what it is

With a huge groan Picart emerges from the waggon, holding up the top of the waggon with one hand, and having a drawn sword in the other – Bourgogne draws his sword – Picart is trying, without success, to unfasten the great white cloak it wore with the hand which held the sword, as the other was engaged in holding up the top of the waggon

Are you a Frenchman?

Yes, of course I am!
What a damn’d silly question! There you stand
Like a church candle! You see what a fix
I am in, why have you not attempted
To help me out of this coffin. I seem,
My good fellow, to have frightened you white

You frighten’d me, yes, I thought you might be
{pointing to the Cossack}
Another of these noble beauties

Bourgogne helps Picart out of the waggon, who throws off his cloak


{examining Bourgogne}
Adrien, Adrien Bourgogne?

It is me mon pays & you are Picart

Picart by name & Picard by nation

What angel or fiend throws us together
I know now I am to make it back home
To speak of this encounter in the snow
With tactile ghost as clean & well as thee

As clean & well as me! How gruff & rough
Are you & thin to boot, veritable
Robinson Crusoe of the Guard, so strange
I scarcely know my friend, your alter’d mein
So miserable – tell me by what luck
Or misfortune do I find you alone
In the woods with this villainous Cossack
Just look at him! See his eyes! He’s been here
Since yesterday, and then he disappeared,
I cannot think at all why he’s come back,
And also you, sergeant, why are you here

I am feverish on a lazy ledge
I paus’d to rest a moment, else drop dead
The company moved on & in an hour
The tracks were completely cover’d by snow
Three days I’ve been alone now in these woods
Subkingdom of stravation & despair
Have you a bit of something I can eat

I have a little biscuit if you care

Picart opens his knapsack and draws out a piece of biscuit the size of his hand, which Bourgogne devours at once

O what medicine rests in firm friendship
I haven’t tasted bread since October
Twenty seventh – this is heaven to taste
But have you any brandy?

No, mon pays

I thought I smelt something rather like it

You are right! Yesterday, when we pillag’d
This waggon there was a brandy bottle
The source of a detestable quarrel
Which sharded glass & snow-wards hard stuff spill’d,

I should like to see the place where it happened

Behind the back right wheel snow turns golden gold
There was the scuffle & your nectar find

Bourgogne goes to the wagon, picks up a clump of snow & holds it up to check

The water of life, frozen in a ball
We’ll melt it in a pan & get quite drunk

I never thought of doing that, we shall
Surely be drunk, several bottles worth
Were smash’d in ugly distraughtation
{Bourgogne puts snow in the pan – it begins to melt}
An alchemist, alcohol alchemy

Just flames & a pan, no sorcery here

You are a great magician all the same

Do you remember the day of Eylau
When we were stood on the right of the church?’

Of course, we had weather just like to-day

I have good reason to remember it,
A brutal Russian bullet carried off
My saucepan. Have you forgotten it,

Certainly not, no more than the far heads
Of Gregoire and Lemoine it swept off too

How the devil do you recall their names?

I cannot forget them, they were both good friends

That day I had haricots in the pan
With a little biscuit

I remember
They ended up splashed all over us both

Great God! what a day that was!’
Drink, my friend, this liquid asterism

I curse the God of Russia & the Conscript


Our emperor is nothing but
A regular fool to dally so long
In Moscow, a fortnight was long enough
To eat and drink everything we found there;
But thirty-four days waiting for winter
I call that folly & If he were here,
I’d tell him as much to his regal face
This is not the way to lead men, good God
Plodding like the pen of a bad poet
The dances he has led me sixteen years
We suffered enough in Syrian sands
They were nothing to these deserts of snow

Picart begins blowing on his hands

But who on earth would be our interrex
Napoleon we need now more than ever

A bugle sounds in the distance

What was that

That was a Russian bugle

Are you sure

It’s rings unmistakable
Haunt thro’ my dreams or wake me from those dreams

It sound like the Horse-Grenadiers’ reveille
To the air ‘Fillettes, auprès des amoureux
Tenez bien votre serieux,’

Not so
That would be most impossible, mon pays
There has been not one first bugle or reveille
For the last fortnight; our cavalry’s cull’d
No, it is Russian – they will be here soon

Very well, we had better put our arms
In order, first of all my musket find
I have never, ever lost it before
Have carried it six years, all hours of night
I’ll know it by mere touch – even the noise
It makes in falling

There, beside that log
Is that it?

It is, good man

The Cossack starts rolling about in the snow in the most terrible sufferings, with his head almost in the fire

Let us melt
More of this precious snowbrandy, enough
For a bottle each, then reach a safe spot

& what about our wounded bear

I doubt
He’ll live another hour, best leave him be

At least help him to die comfortably
Pass me some schabraques

Picart & Bourgogne lay the cossack on some sheepskin schabraques

He’ll not die just yet
Look at his eyes: they shine like candle twins

The Cossack is placed sitting up, they holds by his arms / as soon as we let him go he fell down again, his face in the fire / they drag him out only just in time to prevent his being burnt – they lean him the other way

Now let us leave
With rapid steps towards the setting sun
Thro’ this silent and lonely old forest

An idea has occurred to me, man
You shall be the rear-guard, and I the van
A double eagle, with two eyes in front
& two behind espial, if we meet
The foe, you load, allow me to engage
To bring them down like fat ducks that they are

France is that way, mon pays, let us fly home,
Swift-scurried like a hurried polatouche


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





Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

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

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

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

What are Napoleonic promises
These days

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

We are as dry as Syrian desert

Then I had better die

Leboude draws a bottle of brandy from his pocket

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

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

I am fine

For the Brandy

I shall wait
For our ration

The right sort never die


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;

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

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

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

Enter Rossi

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

Rossi, you beauty

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

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

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

Suit yourself

Where did you get such gold from

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

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

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

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

Of course not, on my honour
What was that?


That sound

I cannot hear


There it is again

You are hearing things

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



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

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

Quite beautiful

You look half seas over

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

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

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

I have a litte rice & biscuit spare

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

You would do the same

Bourgogne muses quietly a moment on the potato incident

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

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



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

& 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

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

& 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


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



Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The Young Shakespeare (part 13): Christmas With the Stanleys 1588-89


In 1588 Shakespeare joined the Stanleys at Knowsley for a very special festive season. Ferdinando Stanley was becoming a very important figure in English theatre When the Earl of Leicester died on the 4th September, 1588, his theatrical troupe merged with Ferdinando’s Lord Strange’s Men. This infusion of lifeblood really helped ressurect the company, which had not done anything for years. Both the Theatre & the Curtain playhouses in London were then used by the company in 1588 & 1589, which brings them into the Shakesperean orbit.

The Stanleys were Oxford University boys, & would had grown up with the long-standing tradition of plays being acted out over the festive season. MJ Davis writes, ‘Christ Church & St Johns were the two colleges where drama flourished most. At Christ Church there was a decree that two comedies & two tragedies – one of each in Greek &, the others in Latin – were to be acted during the Christmas season each year. Whereas Cambride excelled in comedy, Oxford excelled in tragedy, with Seneca’s plays prominent towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign.’ In the same fashion, over the Festive season of 1588-89, two different plays were acted to a great pantheon of northern dignitaries. The Household Accounts book describe the events of the theatrical festive seasons;

29 December 1588 – 4th January 1589

Sondaye Mr Carter pretched at which was dyvers strandgers, on mondaye came mr stewarde, on Tuesday the reste of my lords cownsell & also Sir Ihon Savadge, at nyghte a play was had in the halle & the same nyght my Lord strandge came home, on wednesdaye mr fletewod pretched, & the same daye yonge mr halsall & his wiffe came on thursedaye mr Irelande of the hutte, on frydaye Sir Ihon savadge departed & the same daie mr hesketh mr anderton & mr asheton came & also my lord bushoppe & sir Ihon byron

This tells us that ‘a play was had in the halle’ on New Years Eve, on the very same night ‘Lord strandge came home.’ When Four days later Thomas Hesketh also arrives at Lathom, we get the idea that Shakespeare was also in the vicinity. The play would have been performed in the Derby’s private theatre at Knowsley, which survived until 1902 as ‘Flatiron House.’ It had been built on the waste by Richard Harrington, a tennant of Prescot Hall, of which place Richard Wilson writes, ‘the Elizabethan playhouse at Knowsley, near Liverpool, remains one of the dark secrets of Shakesperian England. Very few commentators are aware of even the existence of this theatre, built by the Stewards of Henry Stanley, Earl of Derby, on the site of his cockpit, some time in the 1580s.’ Other visitors that Christmas include some of the most important men in the north of England, such as the Bishop of Chester, William Chanderton & Sir John Byron, an ancestor of the poet Lord Byron. It is clear that they came to see a play, for the next entry in the household book reads;

5th January to 10th January

sondaye mr caldwell pretched, & that nyght plaiers plaied, mondaye my Lord bushop pretched, & the same daye mr trafforth mr Edward stanley, mr mydleton of Leighton came on Tuesdaye Sir Richard shirbon mr stewarde my Lord bushoppe Sir Ihon byron & many others departed, wednesdaye my lord removed to new parke, on frydaye mr norres & mr tarbocke & mr Tildesley came & went

The key information here is that a second play was performed on the evening of 5th January – a time known to the Church of England as ‘Twelfth Night.’ A similar timed performance was played at court & recorded as, ‘1583. Jan. 5. A mask of iiadies on Twelfth Eve.’ Looking at the Shakespearean ouevre, it makes sense that his early-feeling Twelfth Night was played on this occasion. Samuel Pepys recorded on January 6th, 1662; ‘Dinner to the Duke’s house, & there saw ‘Twelfth-Night’ acted well, though it be but a silly play, & not related at all to the name or day.’

There is a notice of a lost play by Shakespeare, whose sole mention comes in the 1598 Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury, by Francis Meres. The passage basically tells us what Shakespeare had produced by that time;

As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras, so the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece his sugared Sonnets among his private friends…. As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latins, so Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage…. for Comedy, witness his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Love Labours Lost, his Love Labours Won, his Midsummer Night’s Dream, and his Merchant of Venice; for Tragedy his Richard the 2, Richard the 3, Henry the 4, King John, Titus Andronicus, and Romeo and Juliet.

The presence of Loves Labour Lost right next to Loves Labours Won suggest that they were originally played in sequence, which fits in perfectly with the festivities at Knowsley. Loves Labours Lost would have been performed at Christmas, with Love’s Labours Won/Twelfth Night being performed on the evening of January 5th. Stylistically & linguistically, the frantic energetic comedy of Love’s Labours Won/Twelfth Night resembles the Comedy of Errors, which we have dated to 1588.



On 1600 we have the first ‘official’ record of a performance of Twelfth Night, when we hear’ ‘Feb. 2.–At our feast wee had a play called ‘Twelve Night, or What you Will,’ much like the Commedy of Errores, or Menechmi in Plautus, but most like and neere to that in Italian called Inganni. A good practise in it to make the steward beleeue his Lady widdowe was in love with him, by counterfayting a lettre as from his Lady in generall termes, telling him what shee liked best in him, and prescribing his gesture in smiling, his apparraile, etc., and then when he came to practise making him beleeue they tooke him to be mad.; Most scholars presume this to be the first performance of Twelfth Night – but I would like to propose that it was first played twelve years earlier at Lathom. Both performances come in the middle of Leap Years, which connects to the play’s reference to the woman-in-charge Leap Year rule;

Praise we may afford To any lady that subdues a lord

If we bounce our investigation off the Stanley-Shakespeare romance, Twelfth night is also full of sexually unusual pairings, a feast of homerotic feelings erupting from its chief author & its muse, who seem mirrored in the absolute bonding between Antonio & Sebastian. There are also many subtextual echoes of the sonnets in Twelfth Night, especially in its handling of the humiliation of rejected love. Interestingly, the romantic wool seems to have fallen from Antonio’s eyes, whose god seems now more of a ‘vile idol.’ There is also an echo of the sonnets’ menage a Trois in the Orsino, his boy & his lady triangle.

As for Loves Labours Lost, Alfred Harbage once wrote, ‘I think that this play is more likely than any other to suggest the avenues of investigation if there is ever to be a ‘breakthrough’ in our knowledge of Shakespeare’s theatrical beginnings.’ Another scholar, Harley Granville-Barker, adds, ‘it abounds in jokes for the elect, were you not numbered among them you laughed, for safety, in the likeliest places. A year or two later the elect themselves might be hard put to it to remember what the joke was…. it’s a time-sensitive play for a very specific and select audience. Once we figure out who that audience is, we’ll know when the play was first written.’ When we observe there are a number of nods to the Stanleys throughout the play, surely we can answer Mr Harbage’s question. The play contains, for example, several references to the eagle; an important Stanley symbol as found on the family crest to the Eagle Tower at Latham.

What peremptory eagle-sighted eye
Dares looke upon the heaven of her brow
That is not blinded by her majestie



Earl Henry would loved to have heard about his beloved Navarre, the play’s setting, while Ferdinando would have been amused by his name being used as the main character. The Stanley household would have noticed that Malvolio was based upon steward, William Farrington. The play contains a masque – the Nine Worthies – identical to the one performed annually at nearby Chester. In a commentary on Love’s Labour’s Lost by Charles Knight, we read; ‘in this manuscript of… a Chester pageant …the Four Seasons concludes the representation of The Nine Worthies. Shakespeare must have seen such an exhibition, and have thence derived the songs of Ver and Hiems.’ This gives us a firm link to William Stanley, whose tutor, Richard Lloyd, wrote, ‘A brief discourse of the most renowned acts and right valiant conquests of those puissant Princes called the Nine Worthies.‘ Shakespeare must have seen Lloyd’s mask at some point in order to import the songs into his own play. Lefranc found many correspondences between Lloyd’s Nine Worthies and the masque in Love’s Labour’s Lost, and even reminiscent lines: In The Nine Worthies we read: ‘This puissant prince and conqueror bare in his shield a Lyon or, Wich sitting in a chaire bent a battel axe in his paw argent,‘ and in Love’s Labour’s Lost: ‘Your lion, that holds his poll-axe sitting on a close-stool, will be given to Ajax.’

With Shakespeare fresh from his Continental sonnettering, it is now wonder that sonnets take an importent cameo in the LLL. There is an extremely famous & charming sonnet-reading scene, which shows how much the art form was on Shakespeare’s mind at the time. Examples include;

So sweet a kiss the golden sun gives not
To those fresh morning drops upon the rose,
As thy eye-beams, when their fresh rays have smote
The night of dew that on my cheeks down flows:
Nor shines the silver moon one half so bright
Through the transparent bosom of the deep,
As doth thy face through tears of mine give light;
Thou shinest in every tear that I do weep:
No drop but as a coach doth carry thee;
So ridest thou triumphing in my woe.
Do but behold the tears that swell in me,
And they thy glory through my grief will show:
But do not love thyself; then thou wilt keep
My tears for glasses, and still make me weep.

Did not the heavenly rhetoric of thine eye,
‘Gainst whom the world cannot hold argument,
Persuade my heart to this false perjury?
Vows for thee broke deserve not punishment.
A woman I forswore; but I will prove,
Thou being a goddess, I forswore not thee:
My vow was earthly, thou a heavenly love;
Thy grace being gain’d cures all disgrace in me.
Vows are but breath, and breath a vapour is:
Then thou, fair sun, which on my earth dost shine,
Exhalest this vapour-vow; in thee it is:
If broken then, it is no fault of mine:
If by me broke, what fool is not so wise
To lose an oath to win a paradise?


That Love’s Labours Lost is one of Shakepeare’s earliest plays was recognized as far back as 1710. when Charles Gildon opined, ‘since it is one of the worst of Shakespeare’s Plays, nay I think I may say the very worst, I cannot but think that it is his first.’ To this, Clare Asquith adds, ‘now the first and dominant conviction at which we arrive in a rapid reading of the text is that Loves Labours Lost was written as a topical play; that it bristles throughout with topical allusion; and that most, if not all, of its characters were meant by shakespeare to be portraits or caricatures of living persons.‘ The name ‘Armardo’ is a clear reference to the armada, while the play also makes reference to the Martin Marprelate controversy which raged from 1588-89. Of the latter reference, ‎George Richard Hibbard describes, ‘the ‘clue’ provided by Hercules’ killing of Cerberus, that three-headed Canis,’… a reference to ‘Nashe’s prowess in 1589 against the three-headed Martin – Martin Marprelate, Martin senior & Martin Junior.’

With the composition of LLL having taken place not long after Shakespeare had experienced the turmoil of his Turkish menage a trois, we can see how the Dark Lady of the sonnets found her way into LLL, when the beauties of a certain sable-skinned lady called ‘Rosaline’ are described. Biron’s passage beginning ‘devils soonest tempt’ could well have been a sonnet originally, which wound its way into LLL instead.

FERDINAND – By heaven, thy love is black as ebony.

BIRON – Is ebony like her? O wood divine!
A wife of such wood were felicity.
O, who can give an oath? where is a book?
That I may swear beauty doth beauty lack,
If that she learn not of her eye to look:
No face is fair that is not full so black.

FERDINAND – O paradox! Black is the badge of hell,
The hue of dungeons and the suit of night;
And beauty’s crest becomes the heavens well.

BIRON – Devils soonest tempt, resembling spirits of light.
O, if in black my lady’s brows be deck’d,
It mourns that painting and usurping hair
Should ravish doters with a false aspect;
And therefore is she born to make black fair.
Her favour turns the fashion of the days,
For native blood is counted painting now;
And therefore red, that would avoid dispraise,
Paints itself black, to imitate her brow.

DUMAIN – To look like her are chimney-sweepers black.

LONGAVILLE – And since her time are colliers counted bright.

FERDINAND – And Ethiopes of their sweet complexion crack.

Coompare the above with sonnet 127

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name;
But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame:
For since each hand hath put on Nature’s power,
Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress’ eyes are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Sland’ring creation with a false esteem:
Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so.


Before Shakesepeare leaves Knowsley, I’d like to now suggest that he borrowed a book from the Stanleys Stanley – North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives. This is one of the most important source texts for the Shakespearean plays, & a paper survives noting that a copy of North’s translation was loaned to a certain “Wilhelmi” by Ferdinando’s wife, Alice, and returned in 1611. The latter year, is of course, the date of the Tempest, Shakespeare’s latest play to be performed & to many the moment he give sup writing – he won’t be needing that Plutarch anymore!

The Young Shakespeare (12): Return to England

Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years


Shakespeare Sails Home

The Grafton Portrait - Shakespeare as he looked on his return from the Continent

The Grafton Portrait – Shakespeare as he looked on his return from the Continent

In the noble houses of Elizabethan England, the ‘household book’ would record the toings & froings of visitors to the estate. The vast majority of these have been lost, but at Knowsley, however, one of these little diaries miraculously survived the ravagings of time, written down with meticulous energy by the Stanley steward, William Ffarington. Crucially, the book supplies us with information for the three-year period between 1587 & 1589, providing the precise date for Stanley’s return to Knowsley… December 1587. With the lunar eclipse recorded in one of Shakespeare’s Turkish sonnets occurring in September, we are given a three month window for Stanley to be freed from prison & to travel from Constantinople to Lancashire. Intriguingly, in one of Lorenzo Bernardo’s dispatches, we hear of an English Catholic gentleman who was acting quite suspiciously bout Constantinople in that very time period.

November 11th: An English gentleman arrived here on board the ships ‘Salvagna.’ He says he is a Catholic; that he left England at the end of May with the intention of going to Jerusalem, but on his arrival here he changed his mind, & after staying a few days he left for Patras, there to embark on board an English ship for England. This roused great suspicions, & I succeeded in keeping him under observation

Whoever that mysterious Catholic was, if he had been on the trail of Stanley he was too late; for he & Shakespeare were already scudding the sea-lanes home. In the age of Elizabethan sail, Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind had a top speed of 8 knots, about 9.2 mph. With the port of London lying 3627 nautical miles from Constantinople, the voyage would have taken about 19 days of unbroken sailing. Slowing down the ship to the speed of a merchant vessel, perhaps 4 or 5 knots, the same voyage would have taken just over a month. Ample time for Stanley to return to Lancashire by December. In, ‘The Travels of John Sanderson in the Levant,’ we read of the probable route taken from the eastern Meditterranean only a few months after Stanley, picking up the journey at Crete (Candia) in 1588. It took Sanderson 2 months to get to England, but he has several pauses such as the fortnight near the rock of Goletta.

The 23th January [1588] we weare ashore at an iland of[f] Candia, cauled Christiana^. The 25th we cast ancore at Caldarona. The 11th and 12th of Febrewary we passed betwene Sisilia and Malta. The 13th to Pantalaria. The 14th we weare in sight of Cape Bon one Barbarie side. The 15th we sawe Goletta, a rocke a little of[f] of Carthadge. The last of Febrewary we arived in Argier [Algiers]. Sett saile from thence the 2d of March. The 6th came in sight of Cape d’ Gatt.  The 7th at night we passed by Jebberaltare, and so throughe the Streyghts. Frome Suta [Ceuta] we weare espied, who shott  twise. In the morninge we had Cape Spratt [Spartel] about six leagues asterne. The 11th we weare as highe as Cape St. Vincent.  The 19th we weare even with Cape Fenister ; frome thence caped  [i.e. bore] NNW. The 22th, beinge Friday, we came to the soundinges; threwe the lead at night, and found 92 fathome.  Then we caped NE. and by E. The next day in the morninge we  found 70 fathom, and at none [i.e. noon] 55. The next day we  fell with Portland 3 , which was the first of Ingland we had sight  of. Then to the Downes, and so to Gravesend; frome thence in a wherry to Blackewale; so by land to London, the 29th of March 1588.

It is on this voyage that Shakespeare would have gained his knowledge of the Bay of Portugal (the Bay of Biscay), an unusually deep body of water that would have been unsoundable by the plumbing methods of Shakespeare’s time. Memory of the Bard’s time on the Bay can be found in As You Like It;

ROSALIND: O coz, coz, coz, my pretty little coz, that thou didst know how many fathom deep I am in love! But it cannot be sounded: my affection hath an unknown bottom, like the bay of Portugal

The long hours of tedium that a sea-voyage entails provided a perfect atmosphere in which Shakespeare could compose his poetry. As our two lovers drifted home, sharing, it is possible that Shakespeare found a serene moment to compose yet another sonnet of the series to his ‘Handsome Youth.’ There is one sonnet in particular that can be accurately dated to the Stanleyan Grand Tour.

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride;
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned
In process of the seasons have I seen;
Three April pérfumes in three hot Junes burned,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah yet doth beauty, like a dial hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived.
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.

If the twelve seasons mentioned begin with that of winter 1584-85, then it is the three Mediterranean ‘hot Junes’ of ’85, ’86 & ’87 which Shakespeare spent with Stanley that are meant. This means the sonnet was composed at the end of autumn, 1587, just as they were sailing home.


Stanley Spends Christmas in Lancashire

In the year of 1587 the plague came to the good folk of Lancashire. This was pterry bad, of course, but the return of our gallant & sun-bronzed adventurers cheered up the county, no end. Stanley would have cut a dashing image; 25 years old, fully tanned & bubbling with exciting tales from his travels – there were sea-battles, death-row prisons, duels, magicians & a sordid love triangle – its had everything really. There is an account made in that very year by William Harrison of how Stanley might have appeared to English on his return.

The usual sending of noblemen’s and mean gentlemen’s sons into Italy, from whence they bring home nothing but mere atheism, infidelity, vicious conversation, and ambitious and proud behaviour, whereby it cometh to pass that they return far worse men than they went out….. they have learned in Italy to go up and down also in England with pages at their heels finely apparelled, whose face and countenance shall be such as sheweth the master not to be blind in his choice

Might Stanley have even taken his great new friend Shakespeare with him to Lancashire. Our young bard was 23, fresh from a Grand Tour, & flush with the creativity that would soon manifest itself as some of the greatest plays the world has ever seen. It is no wonder that after travelling Europe in such a fashion that the young Shakespeare, verteux – as the French say – & amorous – as the French do -, would find his mind & spirit filling with so much poesis it would take years to spill onto the page. How it became such stellar poetry was down, of course, to his flowering genius, which surely was first nourished in the fertile bedsoil of the Stanleyan Grand Tour – a perfect start for a career of high genius. The dramatic continental output of the Shakesperean ouvre is, in all essence, a grand & brilliant creochisp of the Swan of Avon’s especial flight abroad. Some plays were being penned already, some may have only been a title with a few scraps of notes, some were yet to be born.

There seems an incredible dedication by Shakespeare to recording as many details of the Grand Tour is possible in his plays. As our party arrived at Knowsley, Shakespeare’s knapsack would have contained the manuscript copies of his & Stanley’s co-written plays, such as Titus Andronicus, & Pericles. These two might even have been performed that Christmas at Knowsley, when the Household Books record a visit by ‘Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers’ in December 1587;

On fryday my Lord the earle came home from cowrte & the same night came my Lord bishoppe, mr stewarde mr recyver mr foxe, on saturday Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers went awaie

This could well have been the performance that won the newly-emerging playwright his first laurels of appreciation. That the disembarkation of the flower-garlanded galleon that was England’s true bard occurred at Knowsley, introduces Stanley’s brother, Ferdinando Stanley, into the equasion. Taking the bardic baton from his brother, who had his education to continue, Ferdinando would drag our boy back to London, & into the realisation of his prenominate destiny.



Shakespeare in London

On the 24th April 1588, William Shakespeare turn’d 24. He was now in the full prime of youth & beauty, bubbling with a particular propensity for sheer genius. As for his sexuality, falling in love with William Stanley seems to have had a hand in some kind of alteration, for it must be noted that from this moment on Shakespeare sires no more children, & would eventually leave his bequeath his wife their ‘second best bed’ in his will. The timing of his return coincided with an epoch of great national importance – the Spanish were assembling a huge fleet ready to sail up the channel in order to help ferry across the Channel a great army of invasion they were massing at the French coast.

The England the Spanish were aiming to attack was on the rise; possessing a fledgeling colony in America & mercantile interests across the globe. Just as it is today, London was both a thriving international sea-port & a cosmopolitan national capital. The city was fueled by such a melting-pot of culture, attracting the best of the provincial talents, that Elizabethan theatre would evolve into its capsules of dramaturgical, philosophical brilliance, helped no end by having the genius of Shakespeare in the mix. ‘He began early to make essayes at Dramatique Poetry,’ recorded Aubrey, ‘which at that time was very lowe; and his Playes tooke well. He was a handsome, well-shap’t man: very good company, and of a very readie and pleasant smoothe Witt.’


Shakespeare Enters Thomas Watson’s Circle

Watson-WGB-242x300 Enter Thomas Watson. The English College diary at Douay records on October 15, 1576, ‘Dominus Watson went from here to Paris.’ Like Shakespeare, who also benefitted from the poetically-charged atmosphere of the English College, Watson would become a profound & prolific poet. In a verse preface to his Latin version of the Antigone (1581), he gives us a little gloss concerning his life;

I spent seven or eight years far from my homeland, and learned to speak in diverse tongues. Then I became well versed in Italy’s language and manners, and also thy our tongue and ways, learned France. Wherever I was wafted, I cultivated the Muses as best I could

Watson, born in St Olave Parish in 1555. There is a record for him studying at Winchester College in 1567, & when he supplied verses to Greene’s Ciceronis Amor (1589), Watson signed himself an Oxford man – which means that he studied at the that university at some point. This is confirmed by the Oxford antiquarian Anthony à Wood (Athenae Oxonienses 1691) who stated, “Thomas Watson, a Londoner born, did spend his time in this university, not in logic and philosophy, as he ought to have done, but in the smooth and pleasant studies of poetry and romance, whereby he obtained an honourable name among the students of those faculties.” One of these students could well have been William Stanley, who was 6 years younger than Watson & who studied at St Johns. William Stanley may also have met Watson in Paris 1582, as fourteen years afterwards, in 1596,  the anonymous author of Ulysses upon Ajax  describes a certain, ‘Tom Watson’s jests, I heard them at Paris fourteen years ago: besides what balductum play is not full of them?” 

It seems that Watson’s own time on the continent was a surreptitious escapade in Catholic scholarship. It is likely that he met the Italian Jesuit Metteo Ricci during this period, for a system of local memory training Watson would publish as a treatise in 1585 was identical to the one used by Matteo to wow the Chinese. In 1577 Watson was back in Douay, where we read ‘August: on the seventh day Master Watson, Master Robinson, Master Griffith, and some others left for England because of the riots.’ On this new return to England, Watson began living in Westminster, where he began to write poems for his ‘Passionate Century of Love’ (1582) – the first significant sonnet sequence of the age. These 18 line ‘sonnets’ were actually three comblended sestets – ABABCC – the form which Shakespeare would us for his Venus & Adonis. Indeed, in the Polimanteia (1595) a certain WC describes a ‘Wanton Adonis’  (Shakespeare had just published Venus & Adonis) as ‘Watson’s heyre.’  In addition, Watson’s 1585 Latin poem, Amyntas, ends with their heroes transforming into flowers (as in V&A), while Watson’s translation of Coluthus’ erotic Raprus Helenae (1586) may also have influenced the poem at some point before Shakespeare prepared it for printing.

By 1589 Watson had become the tutor to John Cornwallis, son of William, a high-ranking, yet Catholic, advocate of the Queen’s Bench. William Cornwallis described Watson as being able to, ‘deuise twenty fictions and knaveryes in a play, which was his daily practyse and his liuing.’ Watson’s own theatrical bent is confirmed in the Palladis Tamia of Francis Meres in 1598, which places him among such eminent company as Shakespeare, Marlowe, Drayton, Johnson & Kyd as being ‘our best for tragedie.’  Only one of Watson’s plays survives, from 1589, called ‘The Trewe Misterie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke’ with its obvious Shakesperean connotations.

That Shakespeare was actually Watson’s friend can be discerned thro’ analyzing a line in sonnet 32, the full text of which reads;

If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bett’ring of the time,
And though they be outstripped by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O! then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage:
But since he died and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love.

The key line is ‘march in ranks of better equipage’ which connects to a statement by Nash, in his preface to Greene’s Menaphon (1589) which expresses that Watson’s works, ‘march in equipage of honour.‘ Watson died in 1592, & if I am right, then this sonnet was written after that occasion, & when Shakespeare writes, ‘had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age, A dearer birth than this his love had brought, To march in ranks of better equipage: But since he died and poets better prove, Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love,’ he is stating that tho’ better exist than Watson, the love he professes in his poetry is worth emulating.

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In the National Archives there is the Prerogative Court of Canterbury copy of the will of Sir William Cornwallis, from 1611, which tells us that he became owner of an enormous mansion known as Fisher’s Folly in 1588, on the site of the present Devonshire Square. Described as a huge structure with ‘gardens of pleasure, bowling-alleys and the like,’ it had up til then been in possession of the Earl Of Oxford, who made the place the, ‘headquarters for the school of poets and dramatists who openly acknowledged his patronage and leadership,’ a fertile breeding ground indeed. One person in the household was Cornelia Cornwallis, one of the younger daughters, who would eventually – in 1601 – marry Sir Richard Fermor of Somerton, Oxfordshire. His auntie, Anne(d.1550), had been the wife of William Lucy (d.1551), & thus the mother of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, Warwickshire, the very estate where the young Shakespeare was caught stealing deer!

In 1588, another of Cornwallis’ daughters, Anne, became the transcriber of a short anthology of sixteenth century poetry known as the Cornwallis-Lysons manuscript. This leather-bound quarto bears the large feminine signature, “Anne Cornwaleys her booke,” & contains an attribution to a certain WS. After coming into the possession of James Orchard Halliwell in 1852. He soon became convinced that one poem in particular would appear as Shakespeare’s in the 1599 collection of poems attributed to Shakespeare known as the Passionate Pilgrim.

Now hoe, inoughe, too much I fear; For if my ladye heare this songe, She will not sticke to ringe my eare, To teache my tongue to be soe longe; Yet would she blushe, here be it saide, To heare her secrets thus bewrayede. Cornwallis-Lysons

But soft; enough, too much I fear, Lest that my mistress hear my song; She’ll not stick to round me i’ the ear, To teach my tongue to be so long: Yet will she blush, here be it said, To hear her secrets so bewray’d. Poem XIX, The Passionate Pilgrim

The language, spelling & rhythms of the Shakespeare poem in the Cornwallis-Lyon possess an extremely similar ring to the language, spelling & rhythms of the poem attributed to WS in 1577, which I gave in an earlier post, but shall give again the first seven libes;

W.S. in Commendation of the author begins

Of silver pure thy penne is made, dipte in the Muses well
They eloquence & loftie style all other doth excell:
Thy wisedom great & secrete sense diffusedly disguysde,
Doth shew how Pallas rules thy minde, & Phoebus hath devisde
Those Golden lines, which polisht are with Tagus glittering sandes.
A pallace playne of pleasures great unto the vewers handes.
Thy learning doth bewray itselfe and worthie prayse dothe crave,

James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips had this to say about the comparison between the Cornwallis-Lyon & the Passionate Pilgrim stanzas;

In this (manuscript) reading, we get rid of the harsh and false metre of the third (printed) line, and obtain a more natural imagery; the lady wringing, her lover’s ear for betraying her secrets, being certainly a more appropriate punishment for his fault than that of merely whispering (to) him.

Invention has been racked to account for the utter disappearance of the poems of Shakespeare in his own hand. The Rev. Mr. Hunter, in his recently published New Illustrations of the Life and Writings of Shakespeare, ingeniously supposes that the last descendant of the Poet, Lady Barnard (granddaughter of the Stratford citizen) in her over-religious zeal, may have destroyed any writings that remained in her hands. Whatever cause it may be owing, it is a certain fact that, at the present time, not a line of (William Shakspere’s) writing is known to exist. In the absence of his (literary) autographs, any contemporaneous manuscript is of importance; and in this view the present (Cornwallis) one may justly be deemed a literary curiosity of high interest.

In conclusion, I may observe that during a search of ten years later extended to about fifty years and after a careful examination of every collection of the kind I could meet with, either in public or private libraries, the present is the only specimen of any of Shakespeare’s writings I have seen which was written in the sixteenth century. Scraps may be occasionally met with in miscellanies of a later date, but this volume, in point of antiquity, may be fairly considered to be unique in its kind, and as one of the most interesting illustrations of Shakespeare known to exist


Shakespeare Gets To Work

download (2)Whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line Ben Johnson

His mind and hand went together: And what he thought, he uttered with that easinesse, that wee have scarse received from him a blot in his papers Preface to the First Folio

In 1588, Shakespeare began working on converting into theatrical gold dust all the materials he had collected on his travels. His mind would have been burgeoning with ideas; bubbling with a few rough sketches of scenes & storylines, & nibbled at by a number of drafted passages of poetic speech, for in the words of William Wordsworth, ‘poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.’ Samuel Johnson’s opinion of Shakespeare’s career path should also be taken into account;

He found the English stage in a state of utmost rudeness; no essays either in tragedy or comedy had appeared, from which it could be discovered to what degree of delight either one or other might be carried. Neither character nor dialogue were yet understood. Shakespeare may be truly said to have introduced them both amongst us, & in some of his happier scenes to have carried them to the utmost height. 

In 1588 George Puttenham entered his Arte of English Poesie at the Stationers’ Hall, published by Richard Field the following year, which Shakespeare was definitely familiar with. WL Rushton has identified over 200 literary links between Puttenham’s Arte & the works of Shakespeare, & there is one passage in particular that seems to be the Shakesperian manifesto;

There were also poets that wrote openly for the stage, I mean plays & interludes, to recreate the people with matters of disport, & to that intent did set forth in shows & pagaents common behaviours & manner of life as were the meaner sort of men, & they were called comical poets, of whom among the greeks Meander & Aristophanes were most excellent, with the Latins Terence & Plautus. Besides those poets comic there were others, but meddled not with so base matters: for they set forth doleful falls of unfortunate & afflicted princes, & were called poets tragical. Such were euripedes among the others who mounted nothing so high as any of them both, but in based & humble style, by manner of dialogue, uttered the private & familar talk of the meanest sort of men, as shepherds, haywards & such like

John Shakespeare – Our Poet’s Poppa


Shakespeare In Court

On Michalemas (September 29th), 1588, the Court of Common Pleas in London heard a case between William Burbage of Stratford and John Shakespeare, the poet’s father. The matter concerned was John’s remortgaged property at Wilmcote. Another John, surnamed Lambert, had taken on the property, but refused to pay £20 that he owed our poet’s father. In the Bill of complainant in Queen’s Bench case of Shackespere v. Lambert, William is named twice as his son.

What is fascinating about the case, is that of all the attorneys in London John Shakespeare could have chosen, he selected John Harborne, the son of William Harborne, the very ambassador in Constantinople where we had just placed William Shakespeare. Scholars have brushed over John Harborne, imagining there to be no relevance in the quest for the historical Shakespeare – that Harborne’s father was an ambassador in Constantinople would have been irrelevant, for the academic community has scoffed at Shakespeare’s presence in Italy, let alone Turkey.

Harborne was trained at Clement’s Inn, & he seems to be satirised as Justice Shallow in Henry IV Part 1, who is also said to have studied law at Clements. One passage in particular relates to our investigation

SHALLOW By yea and nay, sir, I dare say my cousin William is become a good scholar: he is at Oxford still, is he not?
SILENCE Indeed, sir, to my cost.
SHALLOW A’ must, then, to the inns o’ court shortly. I was once of Clement’s Inn, where I think they will talk of mad Shallow yet.

Where Justice Shallow refers to ‘my cousin William’ who was at Oxford and who ‘must then to the Inns of Court shortly,’ we gain a complete match for William Stanley, also an Oxford man, whose 1588 enrollment at Lincoln’s Inn supports his being a ‘good scholar.’


The Comedy of Errors

Our budding bard would have been inspired by the growing popularity of the theatrical profession; the likes of Thomas Kyd, whose Spanish Tragedy had just taken London by storm, & Christopher Marlowe, the writer of such fantastic pieces as Dido, Queen of Carthage, Tamburlaine the Great, & Doctor Faustus. The keen-eyed Shakespearean scholar, TW Baldwin, highlights allusions in the Comedy of Errors play to both the Armada & to Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, published in 1588. COE also contains a clever pun about France, ‘making war against her hair,‘ referring to the ‘War of the Three Henries’ fought between 1585 & 1589. The same passage also suggests the Spanish Armarda of 1588.

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE In her forehead, armed and reverted, making war against her heir.
DROMIO OF SYRACUSE Sir, upon her nose, all o’er-embellished with rubies, carbuncles, sapphires, declining their rich aspect to the hot breath of Spain, who sent whole armadas of caracks to be ballast at her nose.

Baldwin also points to a passage in the play which seems to describe Finsbury Fields, one of the sites of London’s public executions;

The Duke himself in person
Comes this way to the melacholy vale
The place of death & sorry execution
Behind the ditches of the abbey here

In the 16th century, Finsbury Fields were separated from Holyrood Abbey by ditches. Baldwin goes on to say, ‘It would appear that on Saturday morning, October 5, 1588, William Shakespeare attended the execution of William Hartley, seminary priest, in Finsbury Fields, near the Theatre & Curtain; & there received certain impressions which shortly afterward appeared, transmuted by the magic of his imagination, in the Comedy of Errors.’  

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 2, Scenes 5-6

SCENE 5: Woods

A French soldier, Corentin, is boiling potatoes – enter Bourgogne to one side – Corentin plunges a knife in the pot, pulls out a potato, pinches it to see if it is boiled, then places it back in the pot

Another few minutes, my true beauties
Of dining with you all I’ve dreamt enough
Tonight I shall taste in celebration
Your famous flavors awaltz on warm tongue

Bourgogne begins to secretly circiut Corentin – all at once Bourgogne runs at Corentin – brushwood crackles alerting Corentin, who stands up

Filial warrior, you must either sell
Or give me some potatoes, & if not
By sheer force I shall carry off the lot

But, sir, this pot does not belong to me
It is my master’s, of general’s rank,
Who camps close by & orders me to hide
Inside these woods to secretly attend
The soft succilising of these earth-fruits
To feed us both tomorrow

Take these coins

Bourgogne begins to take pototaes from the pot

But sergeant, they are not yet boiled enough

You try & fool me

Sir, pinch one & see

It is boiled enough
(devouring the potatoes – through chewing he says…}
You got any salt?

No sir, the last of that went yesterday
Yet so, these lack all fitness for eating
If undercook’d beckon styptic sickness

I have had far worse in the inns of Conde
I’m taking half, & if you dare object
I shall take the whole, do you understand

Corentin nods

Take seven

You already have ten francs
& here’s another five

What is money
These fifteen francs in one week shall provide
For just one rotten potato, I’m sure,
But – one, two, three, four, five, six & seven

The gratitude of all the saints on you
I’ll not be forgetting your charity
Or name…

I am Corentin

Fair blessings with you on this eaglesflight

& you sir

Bourgogne begins to leave

Sergent, sergent, do come back

What is it

Take two more for your comrades

Thank you & keep your musket free of ice

Exit Bourgogne


SCENE 6: The Guard’s camp

Bourgogne returns

Sergent – how did you fare, well?

Yes tell us,
If you are able to add anything
Other than horse meat to this brewing stew

Alas, no

The soldiers turn their backs on him & bang their musket butts on the ground

At least you tried, here’s you share

Bourgogne takes a bowl of stew & starts to wolf it down in one

Another wolf

What is wrong with Boquet

From him fear flows this night, from others too
These are rare hours of tragedies combin’d

With all hell’s powers issued loose it seems
Aslant the icy shelves of Cocytus
Wind’s razorblade slicing my marrow’d bones,
Sealing eyelids, sticking fingers to guns

I’ll bless the Lord God for my coat & cape

Bourgogne hollows out a bed from the snow / enter soldiers wearing great white cloaks & the young Prince Emile of Hesse-Cassel / his adjutant addresses the Gaurds

Men, this is Prince Emile of Hesse-Cassel
He shall be sleeping near your fire tonight

There is indifference from the Gaurds – the soldiers of the prince surround him to form a human shelter – meanwhile Bourgogne gets a sneaky potatoe out & eats it quietly – the night comes on – occasionally Bourgogne wakes & checks his potatoes by counting them – in the predawn Bourgogne wakes up & sits on his napsack – he bayonets a hole in his bear skin so its head falls on his chest – he puts his own head through the hole & settles down – there is a scream from Stephanie

My baby, my son, as stiff as a board

The company wake up, but Boquet is dead

My son, my baby son

Plesase stephanie
Give him to me


Please, give him to me
It is sadness beyond all sadnessess
When mothers lose a child, but in this case
Its best for both the baby & yourself

It is best, to die

Aye, and die today,
Before he dies the long death of hunger
Give him to me my girl


You must do it
Leboude, here, & Legrand, will bury him

Then let me gaze one last time on his face
& conjure all the birthdays of his youth
Of how he looked his first day at the schools
Goodbye my little prince
{she kisses the baby, then hands him sadly to Dubois}
Bury him deep
Beneath the scent of wolves

Do as she says

Leboude & Legrand go to dig a grave / Leboude digs the earth while Legrand holds the baby – Dubois comfoirts stephanie / Prince Emile steps out from his human shelter, half of whom are dead

Your majesty, how are you, are you well

Prince Emile
I am, but these men, did they not survive

They gave their warmth to you so you might live

Prince Emile
Before we start I’d like to take coffee

Yes sir, look, we can use that nearby fire

Prince Emile
Let us go there at once

Yes sir, company
Follow your prince

Exit the Prince & his men, some half dead & stumbling – some remain to strip the clothes off the dead

I thought we French had ended all of that
With the revolution, follow your prince
Where, to oblivion?

One of the Prince’s men approaches Boquet & starts to strip him

Leave him alone

But he is dead

{the Soldier continues to strip Boquet}
You will leave off him
Unless you wish to join my friend’s long sleep
From the vicinity of the Guards
All thieves like yours are served with expulsion

Exit the the rest of the Prince’s men

Boquet is frozen hard
He does not speak, nor move, nor whisp of breath
Is seen or heard,

Then bury his honour
Beside the child, let the warrior sleep,


Go & sprag Foucart
& I shall start the fire embers aglow,
A dragon’s blow will get the show started

Vachain blows on the fire & it starts / in secret Bourgogne tries to eat a potato but it is rock solid & his teeth slip

Adrien, what hold you there… in your hand

Oh… in the night hunger stabbed me awake
Predominating upon my patience
As soon as dawn made traces in the sky
I was compelled to search again the woods
& found potatoes I’m about to share



Real potatoes

There is a mad dash to Bourgogne – Legrand, Leboude & Graingier try & bite but the potatoes are too hard

Let us soften these treasures in the flames

Rossi & Foucart arrive

Are they potatoes


Where were they found

Ask Bourgogne

From the wood

Which direction

Follow my finger forwards through the pine

Exit Foucart & Rossi / The potatoes in the fire melt away

Disastrous day, they melt away like ice

Curse this land when even food is frozen
{puts a pan put on the fire}
But all’s not lost, remember yesterday
We bled a most unhappy horse & filled
This saucepan, when congealing in the flames
Wach one of us still breaks his fast this morn

Rossi & Foucart return

The snow has covered every living thing
It is a futile prospect e’en to try

Those potatoes were uselss anyway
Uneatable whether them hot or cold
At least we have the horse blood, it thaws well

A blare of trumpets

What is that

Colonel Bodel
We must move, the emperor
Calls us

Take a portion, lads, use your hands

All the gaurds dip hands in blood & take a bit – beards smeared with blood / exit all but Dubois & Stephanie at the grave / Boquet lies unburioed beside them

We must go my child

I cannot leave mine

What do you mean

I have not got the strength
Of soul, of mind, of body & of heart
To leave this place, you have been good to me
Now I shall be good to you, without me
You will will manage much easier, please go

But you are delicate in daintihood
How could you survive cold & the Cossacks

I do not care, my mind cannot be moved
Those men are your family – he is mine

Stephanie turns her back & attends the grave – Dubois looks at her a moment then leaves

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 2, Scenes 3-4

SCENE 3: The Streets of Moscow

Enter Vasalisa, two teenage boys (Vitaly & Vladamir), a woman called Angelina & her teenage daughter Albina – they are wielding scythes, pitchforks, axes & bear spears

So this the starry city of the Tsars
It has certainly lost its old lustre
Find what you can from lead to free lodgings

Exit Albina, Angelina, Vitaly & Vladamir – enter an old man shuffling

Hey, old man… yes you… are you Muscovite
{Old Man nods}
So much destruction, tell me what was lost

Old Man
It was a very devastating blow,
But we’ll rebuild them all, the Moscow State
University & the Petovsky
Theatre, & Buturlin’s library
Were all destroy’d completely, works of art
Beyond presciousness & divinity
Deceased in the harsh nature of these times
I am a poet-scholar, & bewail
Above all else the ever senseless loss
Of a singular & source manuscript
To flamegrip, ‘The Tale of Igor’s Campaign,’
Houses of bricks may be rebuilt, but art
May only be imitated, the soul
Of our nation has been tainted by France

The intensity of my enmity
For vile invaders burns in me brighter
Than any blaze that might have burned your books

Enter Vitaly & Vladamir

Mistress Vasalisa

Yes Vitaly

We have found sacks & sacks of gunpowder
Just sitting in a warehouse in neat rows

Any gaurds


Fill the cart with twenty

Vladamir & Vitaly
Yes mistress

Exit Vladamir & Vitaly

The French seem too forgetful,
We’ll make then wish they’d burn’d that warehouse down

Old Man
My wish is to be fighting beside you
Good luck & kill as many as you can

Exit Old Man

Enter Albina & Angelina with Valentina & Natasha

Mistress these two were begging us for food

Are they Russian

We are

Then we have food

Why are you both here in Moscow

This is our home

Our dear mother was killed
In the fire, our house destroyed

Our father
& brothers all died at Borodino

A rake’s worth of woes dredging tragedy
Come join us girls, our happy family
Has swell’d with widows & orphans like you –
My kisslove husband was recently slain
By drunken French pigs, despite his status
As village starosta, an evil tithe
On which I swore revenge

Do you have food

We procure support, plentiful supplies
Whichever village pass’d through for the cause

Where are you from

Sychyovsky of Smolensk

Valentina & Natasha whisper to themselves

We wish to make you mistress & to fight

Beside you in this partisanic war

Vladamir & Vitaly return

Vladamir, Vitaly, come here & meet
Our latest recruits to the company
What are you names, I neglected to ask




& I am Angelina

We must bless Lord God the Tsar forbade peace
When, after unattainted sacrifice,
& retreats insane, as long as there are
Russians alive able to wield a spear
Scythe or pitchfork, their duty sigillates
Upon the soul astrive, to consummate
This death-wish of the French & drive the Poles
Back to their poorer palaces, then toss
The King of Naples yelping yon the Alps.

We sense a turning of the tides of strength
We Russians rise spryly in our spirits

& in our numbers, too, no longer trail

Passed to our side superiority!
The French are now afraid of open fields
& race to Paris in a straggleline

Encrusted by the elements them made
A stray mad dog we worry shall to death
Like agile bees stinging a bleeding bear
Inside desperate fits of exhaustion

Our mission is to trap & captivate
Each foolhardy French forager that dares
Abandon lines in search of branch & food
Like fallen leaves wind-toss’d from wither’d tree

The graves of the French are dug already
In the sacred soil of Mother Russia
& we shall send Napoleon packing
The monster who makes the world unhappy

Then we shall need our strength for such a feet
The girls are hungry, I am hungry too

There are huge piles of food in the palace

The Tsar will leave Petersburg until
The French are driven firmly from his soil –
Tonight we eat & sleep like royalty
Tsarina Vasalisa sounds the ring!


SCENE 4: The Russian Countryside

The Company are led by Colonel Bodel / They arrive at the side of a wood

Colonel Bodel
Here’s the refuge lads, fine shelter begins
About thick’ning woods, softening the edge
Of ice-knife winds, the company shall make
A sumptuous stew of fresh slain horse-flesh
To send us strength to march these last few days
Into Smolensk where food & warmth await

Leboude & Foucart begin to make a horseflesh stew

Warmth, warmth, what a wonderful idea
I am thronging with cold, my veins are chill’d
God help us, there must be twenty degrees
of frost, I’m frozen, from icicle beard
To feelingless feet, fingers stuck to guns
Eyelids seal’d by snow, with all of my joints
Fragile as alabaster, start the fire!

What heavy snows the north wind hurls on heads
Then sucks boots down into its shifting lake
From civilized march, thro’ anxious retreat
To wild escape, in matter of mere days
This is brazen disaster without claim
To honour

The harder grows the pathway
The greater the glory

How glorious
We must appear – badly dress’d, lacking food
Denied of any fortifying juice

The corps are all disbanded, & scarcely
A quarter of the soldiers still remain
Marching with their regimental standards –
Too cold to clutch their weapons these are thrown
Beside the road with all their cartridges
To reach Smolensk the only common sense
Over vast snows snail-moving silently
Slouching atop the bodies of dead friends
Nobody orders, nobody obeys,
If this is glory, I’d hate to see Hell

{buckling in pain}
Mon dieu!


I feel the mighty flushing push of life
My baby is born

Quickly, quickly, warm me some water
There, there, rosepetal we shall settle this
Saintly affair with healthy cherubim

Surgeon Legrand

Yes Colonel

Take my cloak
To cover the girl, help Madame Dubois
Deliver this infant into safety

Yes sir, Dubois, sit her on my jacket

There you go, sweetheart… where is that water

Now let me see, open your legs – a head!
Life’s signature its little swab of hair

Well get them out then, the head & the hair

Push! Push!… keep pushing… that’s it, almost there

It is just as stubborn as my husband
Where is my husband

Stay strong Stephanie
You can do this, take my hand, squeeze & push

With one last push your baby shall be born

Stephanie gives birth to a boy to the cheers & relief of the company

It is a fine boy, full finger’d & toed

More hurrahs from the company / Legrand cuts the umbillical chord / gives the baby to Dubois who washes him

Thank you surgeon

Thank God in all this death
It seem’d he wished to rush life back to us
He came so quick, like raindrops from a cloud

Here you are Stephanie, your son, your child
He will break some hearts when he is older

He has his father’s nose

His mother’s eyes

Men gather around the cooking pot

The aroma of boiled meat breaks the turf
That keeps my sanity, digs a deep hole
To my stoumach, & makes me scream in pain
Cursing this fearful hunger never known
In all my years I’ve marched behind the drum
Starving is madness, I would demolish
the very devil if he was well cook’d

This hunger of wolves drives me to the hunt
I’ll see what I can gather in the wood
& if I meet somebody with a loaf
Of bread, I shall force it broken in half
No – I would kill him to possess it all

Do not foget to share Sergeant Bourgogne
Of course, my global comrades, I’ll bring back
A handsome banquet to the bivouac

Exit Bourgogne

Vegetables, sawdust bread & horse meat
What I would do to eat a little fruit
A juicy red apple from normandy

Even juicier are the tomatoes
From Roussillon, I would kill for just one





For 25 francs I shall sell you a lovely potato
For 200 roubles I’ll brew you a beautiful soup

I’ve a fortune at home & a villa in Rome
In Valenciennes I’ve a vineyard & men
But I’d swap it all for just one little sweet red tomato

I am hungry for my country men
I am starving to my heart
We are famished little savages
Now the army has fallen apart

For 25 francs I shall sell you a green avocado
For 200 roubles I’ll do you a succulent soup

I’d exchange a courgette for my mistress Annette
My wife Marie-Lou’s worth a turnip or two
But I’d swap them all for just one little sweet red tomato

Potato… tomato
I am hungry for my coq au vin,
I am starv’d for cherry tart
But sausages & cabbages
In gravy would do for a start

I am hungry for my country men
I am starving to my heart
We are savage little scavengers
now the army has fallen apart

Napoleon – will save us


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

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 2, Scenes 1-2

SCENE 1: A house in Ghjat

Napoleon is in his camp bed / Enter Caulaincourt

Your majesty, it is late, are you well

It is early, the day just beginning
See to it that the door is firmly closed,
& come and sit bedside me for a while

Yes sire, this is not your normal habit

But this is not a normal episode
Let us be frank in the discussive purse
Of lips released by two long loyal friends
A pagan pox upon these toxic times
Of how they try sensations on all sides,
Still the army, my beautiful army,
Entertaining cheerful dispositions,
Counters each looming maleficience
With admirable applomb.

Have you not
Seen the extreme disorganization
Such feats of arms cannot indefinite
Continue, there are many miseries
To come caused by the cold severity
We shall mourn the army in its ashes
Remember the report of the reply
Made by the Tsar to your peace proposal,

He said his campaign was just beginning

Yes sire, take his reply literally
With each day fresh of the season’s passing
Fate favours Russia more

But your prophet,
Has been an error-maker more than once
I find your forecast a stray chicken bone
Stuck in the throat of sensible thinking
In one’s week’s time his buckish host shall be
No better of a fettle for battle
Than ours, they too need rest, moiety
Of masses from statehead spreads in motion
When buried in the moment’s gravity
Unexpert anarchs lead for doom their flock
As for the coming cold let me predict
Our troops’ superior intelligence
Shall forge them precautionary safegaurds
Against the frost, & probably improve
On Russian methods.

We are to master
In days where the Russians had centuries

We shall, without doubt

Caulaincourt pauses a moment digesting Napoleon’s high-mindedness

Have you given thought
As to the Winter quarters & the line

When reinforced we will not need to stand
Stock-still on stiffen’d ankles ’til the spring
There shall be motion & mobility

But will we last as long, the rendezvous
With all reinforcing battalions
Must be beyond the Berezinan flow
Which will be gaurded, sire, could the army
Reach as far as there, lamentable chance,
Weapons abandoned, food is running short;
When horses fall exhausted in their tracks
Meat hack’d & carved from bones while mouths still breathe
Horseflesh with mouldy flour paste made normal
Among the wretched men you claim so strong,

They shall survive this trial, we all shall,
& in the spring rhimotacles shall ride
from Anthony to our Augustan fate
It is probable I’ll go to Paris
The moment that the army is secure,
To organize re-energization
Of our ever prosp’rous state – what say you
Upon my thoughts, would it inflict a mean
Impression of me in the minds of men

It is useful what you think of doing
Sire, to offset this retreat’s impression
By personal appearance in Paris,
For as man’s nature the mutable cloud
Our plight seems to me more precarious
Than you see or can believe, the question
Is truly what the devil might attempt
In Europe thro’ your absence, you should leave,
For emperors flogging the fields too long
Return in the dead waste of middle night
To find his power skating on a swamp
Marshier than by Sevres-Niortaise

Agreed, peregrinating pavonine
The French are all female, we must not stay
Away from them long, else schemers surface
From grates & gutters, gremlins filling thoughts
With fateful fancies, faking grave events
With conniving & conversible speech
Estranging faith with a pale-hearted fear
It is certain my presence in Paris
Would end all dreams of treason, melding hearts
To hasten contrudation of forces
Which armies raise in just eleven weeks

Another army & another war?

If we are forced to fight then fight we must
But… do you think the Tsar might acquiesce
To overtures of peace now the army
Evacuates the provinces by day

No more than when we waited at Moscow,
Especially now, they’ll sling exultance
Across the paths to Poland



It does feel late, perhaps I’ll sleep awhile

Napoleon dozes off, exit Caulaincourt

SCENE 2: The Field of Borodino

Enter Bourgogne, Legrand, Boquet, Graingier, Leboude, Foucart, Rossi, Captain Vachain / on a ridge over Borodino the company halts in horror

This is a Stygian sight, hide your eyes
Refrain from gazing on this trampl’d plain
Upon the blood-dyed standards & the drums
That mark the tombs of fifty generals
Thro’ thirty thousand corpses half-devour’d
Death fixes here his empire, let us wait
Until the set of eve before we weave
Passages thro’ melancholic tatters
Of our beloved in forces in their prime

Who could have thought that those heroes who fought
The famous battle of the Moskowa
Would tread again its soil in full retreat

We have pickl’d in such juices before
Remember how we dash’d against the gates
of Asia, back in ninety eight, back then
We presented ourselves as conquerors
Before retreating with bleeding noses

But we triumphed under the Pyramids
Rode horses thro the Kremlin’s corridors
They whom serve not shall never understand
The spirit of a soldier, they who drift
Safe in commodious habitations –
But what are pleasures & advantages
Against the great work, glorious begun,
When thirsty of that fame insatiable
Victory’s intoxicating fever
Impels men forth with powerful instinct
To seek out death & immortality!

Lets build a fire, it is damn near freezing
There is fuel aplenty, we should rest
& burn the butts of rifles, frames of carts

A good plan quartermaster, I’ll collect
Some water while the boys brake the wood

Yes sergeant

Come & help

Yes sir

Exit Bourgogne & Leboude

Captain Vachain
What fight titanic forever inscribed
On history’s memorial pages
The Russian bear fought very brave all day
We laugh’d at the striplings of Austerlitz
But they have come of age upon this field
Manifesting exhaustless persistence
It was a deadly grave for cavalry
When more than half our horsemen ne’er shall mount
The broad backs of their kindred beasts again

When was the battle fought

Fifty-two days
Ago by my account

What ghastly scene
It was & is still

We waded in blood
The earth refused to swallow – heads, arms, legs
Strewn everywhere still

Russians in the main
Ours lain to rest as far as possible
Beneath this sorry turf

Done hastily
As rain uncovers the debris of death
The lowest degree of humanity
Reveal’d, with barely a mortal semblance

Whose is this lance Graingier, well you know
Our foes’ uniforms & insiginia

That weapon was wielded by an Uhlan
This Tartar word light cavalry defines
Look, there’s the square-topp’d hat its owner wore

Enter Bourgogne & Leboude carrying Martin, whose legs are shattered

We found a stream where the water flows rank
Wriggling its course thro’ putrefying flesh
Beside its stench we found this grenadier

I am alive, if this no dream

Methinks it would be us who were adream
How could you have surviv’d this long in hell
With both your legs ablown

I slept beneath
The body of a horse, gutted by shell
Languishing for weeks I gnaw’d its raw flesh
This strange & sepid, pestiforous fare
Kept me abreathe upon this fatal field
You get used to the water in the end
But haunted & tortur’d everywhither
By faradaic phantasm repines
My mind said ‘the wind,’ my soul knew better
Reflecting on the day inside this song
Woven in moonlight to ward away wolves



I have been at the siege of Toulon, gave no quarter
I was caught in the carnage strewn under the Austerlitz sun
In battle I’ve never seen more of a terrible slaughter
Than Borodino by the Russians’ redoubtable guns

Blood, blood, blood
Is the gold of the conqueror
Slay it away (at the altar)
Where a man prays for his day

I was torn from my horse by a Hussar in fury
My sabre slash’d swift, form’d a face flailing ribbons of flesh
This was a trial before death without judge even jury
As every next second I had to face dangers afresh


Blood, blood, blood
Is the goal of the warrior
Slay it away at the altar
Where a man prays for his day
Where a man pleads to his de-ity
Not to reach heaven that day

Then out of the clouds came a cannonball falling
It shatter’d my knees as it sank into inches of mud
I cried out for comrades thro agonies more than apalling
Fair price for a man who partakes in these Ballads of Blood

Blood, blood, blood
Is the gold of the conqueror
Slay it away (at the altar)
Where a man prays for his day
Where a man pleads to his de-ity
Not to reach heaven that day

On the conclusion of the song Bourgogne drifts away once more

There is a convent but two miles away
Where taken to were most of our wounded
When many yet remain, the Emperor
Has order’d their removal west by cart
We’ll take you there

Not just yet, let me stay
Awhile with healthy soldiers, hear your news
Did you go to Moscow, & the Tsar,
Is he defeated, & with it restored
The Continental System,

Have some wine
Let Rossi shall tell all you wish to know,
He is the gossip-merchant of our troupe

Rossi begins to talk to Martin / enter Madame Dubois with Stephanie carrying a cooking pot between them

Here you go boys, don’t drink it all at once

Madame Dubois! What fills your cooking pot

Fresh water from a quarter league away

And who is this

Her name is Stephanie
Made widow at Maloyaroslavets
& she shall struggle lone at brink of term
No more, her babe & she now in my care

Another mouth to feed

her mouth is french

Where is your cart

The axles broke both ends
& all it carried stripp’d in moments mere,
All of our provisions gone; the punch bowl
my beautiful, clear-cut crystal punch bowl
Thefted away by some beak-nosed lombard

All you say

Yes all

This is disastrous

No, not disaster, ’tis the devil’s work

Whether it be Lombard or the Devil
We’ll all be making do & starting now
I scraped a little flour up from the floor
That is all I have left to make supper
Thick soup of fresh horseflesh will have to do
But before we begin the kitchen, boys,
Come take a glug of acqua for canteens
But leave half for the soup, now who has flour
to spare


& you, Leboude

I have some

Madame Dubois alas all mine is spent

so soon

Have some of mine

& you Boquet

I put mine at the same pot with Legrand

{Foucart shakes his head in silence}
Then this will have to do my boys
Come stephanie, let us slice up the meat

Bourgogne returns with a bearskin

It fits me rather well, do you not think

Well look at the lucky fellow’s fortune

Bourgogne, I’ll swap you my mistress in Lille
For that fine coat

I’ve seen her, keep her please

A busy scene – a snowdrop begins to fall – as Bourgogne is rearanging his bearskin, he stretches out his arms – the first snowflake of winter falls in one of his outstretched hands


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


Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen