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British War Poetry in the Age of Romanticism 1793-1815, by Betty T. Bennet, Edited by Orianne Smith

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1813.6
[The Duke to the Emperor offer'd his fist]
“F. S. N. D.”
The Morning Chronicle (June 9, 1813)
The Champion (June 13, 1813)

To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle.

Sir, it is surprising that none of our Newspapers have noticed the new manner adopted by Bonaparte of making public the operations of his army: a change, of which I should have remained in ignorance to this hour, had not a number of the Moniteur accidently fallen into my hands. Since the famous bulletin which preceded his hegira from Russia, that vehicle of extraordinary facts has been abandoned, as no longer adequate to its purpose. The events of the present campaign are conveyed to France in a more captivating shape; and the most incredulous must admit the truth of victories ushered into the world under the fair auspices of an Empress, the mother of the King of Rome. The circumstance too of their being in verse (which has likewise escaped notice), not only renders them more pleasing and more easily to be remembered, but also makes any little fiction, with which they are now and then enlivened, the less out of place. Besides, the effect of such animating strains upon the young gentlemen of Paris, lately raised to the honour of dying for their country, under an invincible hero, the greatest Captain of his age, is incalculable. What an incentive must it be in the hour of battle—what a consolation in the moment of death, to know that they will infallibly be put into verse—if not by name, at least in plenty of good company—before the sun goes down, and that a defeat may at any time be turned into a victory, without the least violation of propriety!—We are all acquainted with the story of Tyrtaeus, whose ballads in days of yore, were reckoned as good as an army of 10 or 20,000 men.

    As a true lover of my country, I am anxious, Sir, that Old England should not remain without a similar advantage. We have, it is true, Congreve's rockets all to ourselves, whatever the Americans may say to the contrary; but why should not we have Bonaparte's Vaudevilles into the bargain? Surely his Royal Highness's Ministers, without laying any additional burden on the Poet Laureat, might furnish amongst them a Bard as good as the Author of "Talavera," or the Muse of Whitehall (the Sternhold and Hopkins of the nineteenth century) to put the Extraordinary Gazettes into metre. Why should not the S-cr-t-ry of the A-m-rty[1] begin at once by trying his hand on the last dispatches from Alicant?

    But in this, Sir, as in all other matters, example is every thing. And therefore, to illustrate my meaning, I subjoin a metrical translation of a very affecting incident recorded in Bonaparte's account of his last battle with the Allies. The flowers of pathos exhibited by the Dying Duke of Frioul[2] and his tender-hearted Master, which seemed rather odd to our cold-blooded countrymen in a plain prose narrative (as it stood in the English newspapers), will appear at once both natural and touching, when restored, as far as our imperfect language will permit, to their original form.

F. S. N. D.

    The Duke to the Emperor offer'd his fist,
Which the Emperor took into his and then kiss'd.
Said the Duke, with a coolness quite charming to see,
"The whole of my life I've devoted to thee;
And if for a moment its loss I regret,
'Tis to think that it might have done more service yet."
"Duroc!" the good Emperor gravely replied,
"Duroc!" there's a life still to come—and he sigh'd,—
"You are going, I take it, to wait for me there;
And at some time or other I'll join you, mon cher."
"Aye! Sir, but some thirty years hence, I suppose,
When you've done all you promise, and drubb'd all your foes.
Sure never liv'd creature so honest as I!
Unreproach'd by one's conscience, how pleasant to die!—
My daughter—I leave her to you, mighty Sir:
You I'm sure will be always a father to her."

    The Emperor, squeezing the Marshal's right hand,
Condescended for fifteen good minutes to stand!
In silence to stand—nor a syllable said—
His hand all the while was supporting his head.
The Marshal at last had the courage to say,
"Ah, Sire! this sight gives you pain—go away!"
His Majesty heard him quite calm to the end,
And all he could say was—"Farewell then, my Friend!"

    On the Duke of Dalmatia he lean'd for support;
On his Master of Horse too he lean'd:—and, in short,
Upon both he most graciously lean'd, as he went,—
And pass'd the whole night by himself in his tent.


Notes

1. Secretary of the Admiralty, John Wilson Croker.

2. Géraud Duroc, Duke of Friuli, a French General, friend of Napoleon, killed in the Battle of Bautzen in May, 1813.

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September 2004

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