Literature on the Age of Napoleon Website



Poetry on the Age of Napoleon
Napoleonic Bee
Anonymous
Buonaparte's Eyes (Gaslight digital edition) An Anonymous Poem from Gentleman's Magazine, V. 80, (1810-Feb) 
Batiushkov, Konstantin Nikolaevich (1787-1855)
The Farewell
The Friend's Shadow
The Prisoner
Byron, George Gordon, Lord (1788-1824)
Ode to Napoleon Buonoparte (Gaslight digital edition)
On Napoleon's escape from Elba (Gaslight digital edition)
Ode from the French (Gaslight digital edition)
From the French (Gaslight digital edition)
Star of the Legion of Honour (Gaslight digital edition)
Napoleon's farewell (Gaslight digital edition)
Costello, Louisa Stuart (1799-1870)
On Reading the Account of the Battle of Waterloo
Davydov, D.V. (1784-1839)
Song of an old hussar (Gaslight digital edition)
Wisdom (Gaslight digital edition)
Hardy, Thomas (1840-1928)
Wessex Poems & Other Verses (1898) (Bartleby.com editions) includes several Napoleonic Era poems:
Valenciennes(set in 1793)
The Alarm (set in 1803)
The Sergeant's Song (set in 1803)
Leipzig (set in 1813)
San Sebastian (set in 1813)
The Peasant's Confession (set in 1815)
Hugo, Victor (1802-1885)
Victor Hugo Napoleonic Poetry
Ibsen, Henrik (1814-1841)
Terje Viken (1862, 1897 ed.) (Gaslight digital edition)
Lčrmontov, Mikhail Y. (1814-1841)
Borodino and the Gaslight Edition of "Borodino"
The Last Flitting
The Ghost Ship
Two Giants
Melville, Herman (1819-1891)
In the desert (Gaslight digital edition)
Peel, E.
Borodino.An Ode.
Pushkin, A.S. (1799-1837)
Napoleon
Shatrov
To the Army of the Don
Shelley, Percy Bysshe (1792-1822)
Lines Written on Hearing the news of the Death of Napoleon
Tiutchev, F.I. (Fedor Ivanovich) (1803-1873)
Napoleon
The Nieman
Zhukovsky, Vasily Andreevich (1783-1852)
The Minstrel in the Russian Camp

THE MINSTREL IN THE RUSSIAN CAMP

by Vasily Andreevich Zhukovsky (1783-1852)

[from Specimens of the Russian Poets, translated and annotated by John Bowring, London, 1821]

_____



                      
MINSTREL.
Now silence wraps the battle field!
  The tents with lights are gleaming;
And lo! the bright moon's silver shield
  In the calm heaven is beaming.
Fill, fill the glass of rapture, yet,
  In unity full-hearted;
In wine the bloody strife forget,
  The grief for the departed!
The glasses' ruby stream to drain
  Is glory's pride and pleasure
Wine! conqueror thou of care and pain,
  Thou art the hero's treasure.

WARRIORS.
O yes! the ruby stream to drain
  Is glory's pride and pleasure
Wine! conqueror thou of care and pain,
  Thou art the hero's treasure.

MINSTREL.
Now to the warriors of old time,
  The strong in fight and glory!
These warriors and their deeds sublime
  Are lost in distant story!
The grave hath gather'd up their dust,
  Their homes, the storm hath razed them;
Their helmets are devour'd by rust,
  And silent those who praised them:
But in their children live their fires,
  We tread the land that bore them,
And see the shadows of our sires
  With all their triumphs o'er them.
O come! in all your brightness come,
  And smile complacent, near us;
Look from your high and misty home,
  Encourage us and hear us.

O Svatoslav! time's injured son,
  Thy path an eagle's flying:
'There is no shame in dying On!2
  There is no shame in dying!'
And Donskoi, thou3! courageous man,
  Midst heathen foes we find thee;
Destruction leading on thy van,
  And nought but death behind thee.

Thou, Peter! thou, the hero's crown,
  'Poltava!' is repeated:
Thy foes have thrown their sabres down,
  Thee, all the world has greeted.
What! Robbers, would ye build your throne
  Upon our cities' ruin?
Thy horse and rider fell begone!
  For vengeance is pursuing.
Go hide thee in thy native woods,
  There thy ambition smother;
Fate drives thee to their solitudes,
  Yes! thou, the rebels4 brother.

Who is that white-hair'd hero, who
  That northern more than Roman?
His penetrating glance looks through
  The phalanx of the foeman:
From yonder clouds what shadowy rows
  Are tow'rds his footsteps turning?
The spirits of the Alpine snows
  Are wailing loud and mourning.
Franks and Sarmatians, at his view,
  Death's icy paleness borrow;
Well they may fear him well may rue
  It is the great Suvorov!

Hail! sons of ages long gone by!
  Your glories are recorded;
We follow you to victory,
  Like you to be rewarded.
We see you ranks they lead us on
  The foe retreats before us;
We scatter death, as ye have done,
  While ye are smiling o'er us.
Drawn sword, and flowing glass, elate
  We look to our Creator!
'And death for death, and hate for hate,
  And curses on the traitor.'

WARRIORS.
Draw swords, fill glasses, then, elate
  Look to our great Creator!
'And death for death, and hate for hate,
  And curses on the traitor.'

MINSTREL.
This glass then to our country's joys,
  Ne'er may our hearts fell colder;
The scenes of mirth while we were boys,
  Of love, when we grew older!
Our country's plains, our country's sky,
  The streams that flow beneath it;
The memories of infancy,
  And all the thoughts that wreath it
With joyous hopes and visions blest
  Dear shrine of our affection,
How glows our heart, how beats our breast,
  When beams the recollection.
That is our country, there our home,
  There wife and babes attend us;
And oft their prayers towards us roam,
  And oft to Heaven commend us!

There dwell our plighted, chosen ones;
  How bright their memory flashes!
Our monarchs' dust, our monarchs' thrones,
  And there our fathers' ashes.
For them we fight, for them we rove,
  For them have all forsaken;
And may our land's undying love
  In our sons' breasts awaken!

WARRIORS.
For them we fight, for them we rove,
  For them have all forsaken;
And may our country's fadeless love
  In our sons' breasts awaken!

MINSTREL.
Now to the Tzar that rules the Russ,
  And be his sceptre glorious;
His throne an altar is to us
  We swear to be victorious.
The oath is heard 'tis stamp'd in blood
  'Tis sworn there's no returning;
Our swords shall make our promise good,
  Our hearts with love are burning.
Each Russ a son of victory,
  To duty's ranks we throng us;
Let every craven coward fly,
  For fear was ne'er among us.

WARRIORS.
Each Russ a son of victory,
  To duty's ranks we throng us;
Let every craven coward fly,
  For fear was ne'er among us.

MINSTREL.
Now to the chiefs that led us on,
  The captains that we cherish;
In life, in death, conjoin'd as one,
  And heaven for those who perish:
That heaven where all, all holy is,
  All love, and peace, and union,
And courage, dignity, and bliss,
  In undisturb'd communion.
This stormy world we look beyond,
  To that serene though far-land;
Here danger is our common bond,
  And glory is our garland.

There sit the wreath-crown'd chiefs who led
  Our fathers long before us;
Their shield of strength shall guard our head,
  Their voices thunder o'er us:
On us their wakening smiles descend,
  Their frowns our foes pursuing;
Yes! through their ranks what terrors blend,
  And threaten them with ruin!
But they shall lead our warriors through,
  Amidst the battle's raging;
Death quits his terrors in our view,
  When with the foe engaging.

Hail! martial hero! chief in fight5,
  Thou with the ringlets hoary,
Who, like an eagle, takest thy flight
  Midst storm and thunder's glory.
His furrow'd, weather-beaten brow
  Attracts the inquiry curious;
How cold and calm before the foe,
  But in his rage how furious!
O wonder! from heaven's halls there flew
  A glorious eagle o'er him6;
He bow'd his head what shouts! they knew
  That victory was before him.

Fly to our fathers! eagle fly,
  And tell them we are speeding
To fame, to glorious victory,
  Our hoary chieftain leading.
He, strong in council, cool in fray,
  In every purpose steady;
Well known to him is triumph's way,
  His wisdom every ready.
Were Moskva's glories razed in vain,
  Our country's trophies riven?
No! Russia stands erect again,
  For we are here and heaven!

Hail! hail, ye martial leaders all!
  Jermolov, valiant Roman!
Friend of the brave, and valour's wall,
  And terror of the foeman.
Rajevsky, thou the chief ador'd!
  Amidst the strife we found thee
Baring thy bosom to the sword,
  With thy young sons around thee.
Hail! Milorádovich! to thee;
  The field of battle's thunder:
Thou tearest, in thy ecstasy,
  The tyrant's chains asunder.

And thou who saved'st Petropolis,
  Thou, Vittgenstein! brave leader!
Shield of thy country, and her bliss,
  Thou dread of her invader!
With darkness was his vision fill'd,
  When first the traitor saw thee;
Alone, but leaning on thy shield,
  Numbering his ranks below thee.
Then fear came o'er that traitor's mind,
  His courage left him shatter'd;
Thy sword was drawn and, like the wind,
  His trembling ranks were scatter'd.

Hail! Konovnizin! thou our joy!
  From danger absent never:
Where bullets whiz, and arrows fly,
  There have we found thee ever.
Before behind around him we
  Saw terror, death, and danger:
He stood, in his serenity,
  To all alarm a stranger.
Himself forgotten see him bear
  Down on those ranks of slavery;
And valour's self stood wond'ring there
  He was the god of bravery.

And thou, Platov! thou storm of fight,
  Thou Ataman the Lion!
Thy busy lance thy sling of might,
  Scathe scatter all they fly on.
A wild wolf broken from his lair
  An eagle on stretch'd pinion:
Death whispering in the foeman's ear,
  Throughout thy wide dominion.
Amidst the woods his torches fly
  How spreads the conflagration!
Bridges oppose in dust they lie
  Towns all is desolation!

Hail! Nestor Benningsen, to thee!
  Nought can thy mind inveigle;
Hero and sage to enemy
  A serpent and an eagle.
And hail! Woronzov! young and gay,
  Though ripen'd by discretion.
And Tormassov! in battles gray,
  The flying foe's oppression.
And Baggovuth7, with heart of mail,
  Waving his sabre o'er ye.
Hail! ranks of honour'd heroes, hail!
  Our country's pride and glory!

WARRIORS.
Hail! ranks of honour'd heroes, hail!
  Our country's pride and glory!

MINSTREL.
Now, brothers hallow those who died,
  Those from the strife departed;
Their place is vacant by our side,
  Before us they have started.
No more shall they disperse the foe,
  Or hear the battle's thunder;
Their hearts no more with rapture glow
  They sleep in silence under.
Their sword, their shield, are on the ground,
  Where damp and rust shall eat them;
Their proud war-horses wander round,
  Without a friend to greet them.

O Kulinev! the brave, the strong.
  Upon thy shield reclining,
Thou diedst amidst the battle throng,
  While thy bright sword was shining.
Thou diedst e'en where thy childhood pass'd8
  In happiest visions o'er thee;
And thou hast made thy grave at last
  Where first thy cradle bore thee:
And sure thy latest sigh was blest,
  For faith's best hopes thou keepedst;
That last sigh sought thy mother's breast
  Reach'd heaven and then thou sleepedst.

And where, Kutaissov!9 tell us where
  Thou in thy bloom alightest?
His heart, his countenance were clear
  As virtue when 'tis brightest;
He threw him in the battle ring
  Death dropt its mantle o'er him:
He touch'd the sweet harp's sweetest string;
  Let every string deplore him!
His steed approaches, dyed with gore
  Where is the hand to guide her?
His shield is there, blood-clotted o'er
  The shield but not the rider.

Where are thy ashes, in what vale,
  What unknown cavern hidden?
For they are sought o'er hill and dale
  By a heart-broken maiden.
There lovelier shines the morning dew,
  The sun is brighter glowing;
The breezes they are gentler too,
  More fair the flowrets blowing!
And angel forms at midnight come,
  When mortal eyes are sleeping;
Their silent watch around thy tomb
  In mild devotion keeping.

And thou, Bagration!10 tears were shed,
  And prayers for thee ascended:
'Twas all in vain, for thou art dead
  Thy hero-race is ended.
From rank to rank our warriors sigh'd,
  'God's mercy shall restore him!'
And oft our foes, despairing, cried,
  'We yet shall fly before him!'
Nay! nay! that noble soul is gone,
  That generous heart is riven;
To join Suvorov, he is flown;
  To all the brave in heaven.

Shades of our heroes! ye are blest,
  Ye roam in Eden's gardens,
Where time's departed chieftains rest,
  And angels are the wardens.
Your memory still has left its blaze,
  Its holy beamings reach us;
A light which flows to distant days,
  How brave men died to teach us.
Your names still mount above your graves,
  Your glories we inherit;
And every unfurl'd flag that waves
  Is pregnant with your spirit.

WARRIORS.
Your names still soar above your graves,
  Your glories we inherit;
And every unfurl'd flag that waves
  Is pregnant with your spirit.

MINSTREL.
One glass to vengeance! In the fray
  'Heaven for the right!' our voices,
And 'death or victory!' proudly say;
  And victory's self rejoices.
O count not on your numbers, foe!
  In vain ye boast your numbers;
Our march is like the torrent's flow,
  Which never, never slumbers.
We have no treasures, but we bring
  Our arrows and our lances,
And round us desolation fling
  And death is in our glances.

The Robber! he had spread his power
  Around our Moskva's borders;
And from our Kremlin's scared tower
  He issued forth his orders.
'I trample on the base-born clay,
  Which folly's pride assembles,
'And prince and subject both obey,'
  Insulting one! he trembles.
For vengeance wakes her from her rest,
  And arms her with her torches;
Heaves ruin on the tyrant's breast,
  And drives him from our porches.

Now bring thy slavish princes, now,
  To our ice-girded nation;
And lead them o'er our paths of snow
  To horror and starvation.
Come, Winter! rouse thee from thy bed,
  And close our country's portals
O see! he strews the land with dead,
  With piles of frozen mortals.
Now, Robber! look what thou hast done;
  Come, for the strife prepare thee!
The land we fight on is our own
  God's vengeance, wretch! is near thee.

WARRIORS.
Now, Robber! look what thou hast done;
  Come, for the strife prepare thee!
The land we fight on is our own
  And God's revenge is near thee!

MINSTREL.
One glass to friendship's glory lend,
  That makes all sorrows lighter
O happy he who owns a friend!
  Heaven has no blessing brighter.
Our joys to swell, our griefs to share
  While by life's storms we're driven,
Our conscience to direct us here,
  Our friendly staff for heaven.
O be the sacred bond11 our guide,
  Our law, and our allegiance!
'Tis by our life-blood sanctified,
  And we have sworn obedience.

WARRIORS.
O be the sacred bond our guide,
  Our law, and our allegiance!
'Tis by our life-blood sanctified,
  And we have sworn obedience.

MINSTREL.
And this to Love! and break it too
  Its flame shines ever purely!
For love's sweet smile, and glory's glow,
  They are twin-sisters surely.
For he whom Heaven has train'd and taught,
  By love's soft step attended,
Whose thought still meets another's thought,
  While heart with heart is blended
He is the hero doubt or fear
  Ne'er enter in his bosom
For doth he not the garland wear
  Of which love wreathed the blossom?

O love! thou art our morning star;
  How oft our steps thou meetest!
Thy gay light glances, bright and far
  Thy songs of all are sweetest:
Thy breath oft waves our banners high,
  And to the fight thou guidest;
Thou smilest on our victory,
  And o'er our dreams presidest.
Look, foeman! on our battle shield,
  Our hearts' love was the giver;
'Twas she who wrote upon its field,
  'Thine even in death for ever!

Fond dreams, which fancy clads in all
  The beauties love can borrow!
She sits behind yon garden wall
  Communing with her sorrow.
Her plaints, her prayers, to heaven ascend,
  To thee her thoughts are flying
Now tears, now smiles, embalm her friend,
  'Ah! perhaps my friend is dying!
When shall I hear his accents when
  Will fly these days so dreary?
O dawn, sweet morn of joy, again,
  For I am well nigh weary.'

O friends! it is a pride to die
  For those whose faith is plighted;
Their love is ever hovering nigh,
  And we may die delighted.
Their name upon our lips shall hang,
  While the death-wound is burning;
And it shall soothe the parting pang,
  While to earth's bosom turning.
The memory of the maid we love
  Shall, while we're sinking, brighten,
And seek with us the world above,
  Its mansions to enlighten.

WARRIORS.
The memory of the maid we love
  Shall, while we're sinking, brighten
We'll bear it to the world above,
  Its mansions to enlighten.

MINSTREL.
Now to the Muse the red-grape press
  The Muse, whose voice of thunder
Gives courage, energy, success,
  And tears fear's chains asunder:
The arrows fly and young and old
  With shield and sabre arm them
Midst the death-shower they throw them bold,
  For nothing can alarm them.
The minstrel's song has touch'd their soul,
  And valour's tear are breaking,
While hoary age bursts time's control,
  And youthful strength is waking.

Pride of the elder time, Bojan!12
  Whose harp, though lost to story,
Led on the brave Sclavonian
  With hymns of praise and glory!
Thy songs prophetic did proclaim
  Peter the Great, the glorious:
Petrov sang Saidunaisky's name:
  Derzhavin's lyre victorious
Its tones of joy and music flung,
  Forest of Kama, o'er thee:
Suvorov, thee Derzhavin sung,
  Hero of poet worthy.

Old man! O could we hear again
  Thy swan-like tones to bless us!
Thou sangst not idle glory's strain,
  But vengeance to redress us.
And not for conquest, not for fame,
  Thy lyre of passion pleaded
'Twas struggling for an unstain'd name,
  Revenge for rights invaded.
Sing, swan! thy song the chain will break
  Which many a land surrounded;
And Slavery's threatenings wax them weak
  Where thy proud notes are sounded.

O honour then the Muses' sons!
  And I though mean and lowly:
Would that my lyre's awaken'd tones
  Were all inspired and holy!
In the deep valley's loneliness
  That humble lyre was shrouded:
I heard a voice, 'To battle press!'
  And to the combat crowded.
Farewell, then, music, joy, farewell!
  I sped me to the battle:
My song the trumpet's piercing swell;
  My choir the cannons' rattle.

Yet will I sing the Robber's fall,
  And your bright deeds, elated;
For even now some whizzing ball
  Perchance with death is fated.
But could my dying hour disperse
  The dreams I loved to cherish?
And crush the spirit of my verse
  With my faint name to perish?
The robber to his fame hath built
  A pile of bloodstain'd iron;
And there your glory and his guilt
  Time's records shall environ.

WARRIORS.
Then welcome be the sons of song,
  Who bid our victories blossom;
And as our fathers pass along
  With triumph fills their bosom.

MINSTREL.
Your glasses: To the God of Might,
  Bend on your knees before him:
He led you to the glorious fight,
  And saved you now adore him!
The shield of virtue is his rod,
  He saves the poor and lowly;
The rock of ages is our God
  He scathes the proud one's folly.
Look to the glorious realms above,
  Where not a tear e'er started;
And hear from thence that voice of love,
  'My children! be strong hearted!'

O immortality! thou sea
  Of silence peaceful portal!
How happy who is launch'd on thee,
  And straight becomes immortal!
O happy they who fall in fight!
  For those they leave behind them
Seek through a long and gloomy night
  The grave that might have shrined them.
The son of battle breaks the bond
  Which to the vain world ties him;
Soars to a brighter world beyond,
  Where misery never tries him.

But we? O let us trust in God,
  Whate'er our portion given,
To lead us through life's darksome road
  To happiness and heaven:
Obedient to his holy will,
  Scattering all sin before us;
And gently moving forward still,
  Till darkness gathers o'er us.
If low our lot a courage free;
  If high no scornful blindness;
In strength and power simplicity;
  And universal kindness.

Ready obedience where 'tis due
  Our oaths a sacred token!
To love unshaken, fervent, true,
  And friendship's pledge unbroken.
To those who sink a ready hand,
  And comfort to the mourning;
For tyrants valour to withstand,
  For treachery hate and scorning.
The blaze of truth to shame a lie;
  All honest faith befriended;
And in death's fight calm bravery,
  And peace when all is ended.

O God of might! be thou our shield,
  Our squadrons lead and rally!
Rider and horse to thee must yield,
  And perish in the valley.
O God! in our behalf appear
  Our foemen's ranks be broken;
Come, day of vengeance, dark and drear!
  And lo! the Lord has spoken.
I saw him numerous as the sand
  Spread over hills and plains there;
He waved his bright and murderous brand,
  And now no trace remains there.

WARRIORS.
I saw him numerous as the sand
  Spread over hills and plains there;
He waved his bright and murderous brand,
  And now, no trace remains there.

MINSTREL.
But look! the clouds are brightening now,
  The daylight is appearing;
See! o'er the distant mountain's brow
  The morning star uprearing.
The twilight breaks the vapours damp
  The hills are now surrounding;
And lo! the slumber-girded camp,
  And morning-music sounding.
But soon but soon as hours return,
  That band so calmly sleeping,
Shall fate her hand is on the urn
  Shall fate prepare for weeping!

O dawn thee not let darkness try
  Thy waking beams to smother!
For ah! to-day shall many an eye 
  Mourn o'er a perish'd brother
Vain prayer along the mountain's height
  I hear the thunder roaring;
Shouts from the plain announce the fight,
  The sun tow'rds heaven is soaring:
The war-steeds rage and foam anon
  The shock of arms engaging
The chieftain leads his soldiers on,
  And hearts with fire are raging.

This is not time for wine nor song!
  Come, to the battle hurry!
With naked sabre join the song,
  For death or triumph's glory!
Yes! ye who love us far away,
  Farewell! and if for ever,
Preserve the memory of the day,
  And O forget us never!
Thou, Lord of Lords! our bulwark prove
  Beloved, one sacred greeting:
Here tender and undying love,
  There an eternal meeting!

WARRIORS.
Thou, Lord of Lords! our bulwark prove
  Beloved, one sacred greeting:
Here tender and undying love,
  There an eternal meeting!



1. Zhukovsky accompanied the Russian army from Moscow. He wrote this piece just before the battle on the Tarutina.
2. These words are attributed by the old Russian historians to the great Duke Svatoslav Sgorevich, and are said to have led to one of his most brilliant victories over the Greeks. "Let us not shame our Russian land Let our bones lie here There is no disgrace in dying!"
3. Dmitrij Ivanovich (of the Don), the saviour of his country from Tartarian slavery. Ever since the unfortunate battle of Kalka (1223), the hopes of redemption seemed feeble and distant. He assembled his troops, and defeated the countless hosts of Mamai on the shores of the Don.
4. Mazeppa.
5. Prince Smolensko.
6. Before the battle of Borodino an eagle hovered round his head, and was observed by the whole army, who set up a general shout of joy.
7. Beggovuth was killed in the battle of Tarutina.
8. Near Lutzin, where he had passed his boyhood, and where his mother yet lived.
9. Kutaissov was a young poet of considerable talents: he was killed at the battle of Borodino. His horse was seen wildly galloping about, covered with blood; and his body could not be discovered for a long time.
10. Bagration received his mortal wound at the battle of Borodino; but it was for a long time expected that he would recover.
11. Holy Alliance.
12. Of Bojan little is known. He is supposed to have accompanied the Russians in the dark ages, and to have excited them to valour with his magic lyre.





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THE FAREWELL.

by Konstantin Nikolaevich Batiushkov (1787-1855)

[from Specimens of the Russian Poets, translated and annotated by John Bowring, London, 1821]



BENT o'er his sabre, torrents starting
From his dim eyes, the bold hussar
Thus greets his cherish'd maid, while parting
    For distant fields of war:

'Weep not, my fair one! O forbear thee!
No anguish can those tears remove;
For, by my troth and beard, I swear thee,
    Time shall not change my love.

'That love shall bloom a deathless blossom,
My shield in fight with sword in hand,
And thou, my Lila, in my bosom,
    What shall that sword withstand?

'Weep not, my fair one! O forbear thee!
Those tears can bid no grief depart;
And were I faithless, Maid! I swear thee,
    Anguish would tear my heart!

'Then my good steed would sure betray me,
And falter in the battle-fray,
In peril's hours refuse t' obey me
    My stirrup would give way.

'The sword, my valour's proudest token,
When grasp'd, like rotten wood would break;
And I should seek thee, spirit-broken,
    Death's paleness on my cheek.'

But the false horseman's steed obey'd him,
Gentle and eager still; his sword,
Bright and unbroken, ne'er betray'd him,
   Though he broke oath and word.

The tale of love the tears which shower'd
From Lila's eye were all forgot;
The rose-wreath faded pale deflower'd:
    Such buds re-blossom not!

That maiden's breast of peace he rifles;
Then hies him to another's breast;
Man's oaths to woman are but trifles;
    And love itself a jest.

He serves secures and then he slights them;
His vows are change and treachery;
For laughing Cupid's arrow writes them
    Upon the shifting sea.





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THE FRIEND'S SHADOW.

by Konstantin Nikolaevich Batiushkov (1787-1855)

[from Specimens of the Russian Poets, translated and annotated by John Bowring, London, 1821]




                      
_____
Sunt aliquid manes; letum non omnia finit;
Luridaque evictos effugit umbra rogos. 
                                 PROPERTIUS.
_____

To Albion's misty isle across the waves I sped me: It look'd as if interr'd beneath a leaden sea, And gathering round our bark the halcyon's music led me, While all the crew rejoiced in their sweet melody. The dancing surge, the evening breezes falling, And through the sails and shrouds those breezes whistling thrill, And to the watch the active helmsman calling, The watch, who, midst the roar, sleeps tranquilly and still. All seem'd to rock itself to gentle thought; Like an enchanted one, I, from the mast, look'd forth, And through the night and through the mist I sought, I sought the star beloved of my domestic north. Then into memory melted every feeling My soul had sanctified my home of joy and peace, And the sea raging, and the zephyrs gently stealing, Cover'd my eyelids o'er with self-forgetfulness. Then dreams with other dreams were blended, And lo! there stood was it a dream? the form Of that dear friend who his career had ended Nobly, amidst the thundering battle storm. He stood upon the mist, and smiled his face, Fresh as the morn and bloodless, shining Like the young spring in gaiety and grace, Even as an angel from high heaven declining: 'Comrade of better time! and is it thou? And is it thou?' I cried, 'thou hero bright! Did I not in the fury of the fight Attend thee and when thou hadst fallen below Make thy new grave and on a neighbouring tree Write with my sword thy feats of bravery, And follow'd thy cold ashes to their bed, And hallow'd it with prayers, and with tears watered? Speak, unforgotten one! speak! was it a deceit? Is all that's past a dream a cheating dream? A dream that corpse a dream that grave that sheet Wrapt round thee were they not did they but seem? O but one word! let that tongue's melody Yet sweetly fall on my transported ear: O unforgotten one! stretch out to me Thy old right hand of friendship stretch it here.' I sprung towards him Oh! the mists had dimm'd my eye He vanish'd like a shade a lock of airy smoke Dispersed in the wide azure of the sky, And I, arousing from my dream, awoke. Beneath the wing of stillness all was sleeping; The very winds the very waves, at rest; And scarce a breath upon the sea was creeping; The pale moon swam along upon the white cloud's breast. But I was troubled peace had left my soul I stretch'd my hands tow'rds him, whom I no more could see I called on him whom I could not control On thee belov'd one! best of friends! on thee!





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THE PRISONER.

by Konstantin Nikolaevich Batiushkov (1787-1855)

[from Specimens of the Russian Poets, translated and annotated by John Bowring, London, 1821]



THERE, where the swift Rhone's waters flow
  Its verdant banks between;
Where fragrant myrtles bending grow,
  And Rhone reflects their green;
There, where the vineyards deck the hills,
  And o'er the valleys spread,
Which golden citrons' fragrance fills,
  And plantains rear their head

There stood, as sunk the lord of day,
  Upon the smiling shore,
One who long watch'd the waters play,
  And thought his sorrows o'er;
A Russian hero stolen by war,
  The honour of the Don;
Divided from his friends afar,
  He wander'd there alone.

'O roll!' he sang, 'ye waters roll
  Flow in your glory on;
Your waves shall waken on my soul
  The memory of the Don.
My days pass by without an aim,
  Amidst life's busy roar;
For what is life without its fame,
  Or the bright world? 'tis poor.

'Now nature wears its spring-tide dress,
  The sun shines splendidly;
All liberty and loveliness
  O! why am I not free?
O roll, ye waters! rage, thou Rhone!
  And waken, as ye roll,
The thoughts of my domestic zone
  Within my troubled soul.

'The maidens here are fair and bright,
  Their glance is full of fire;
And their all-graceful smiles of light
  Might satisfy desire 
'But what is love in foreign lands,
  Or joy? I only know
The joy and love that bless our sands,
  Midst forests and midst snow.

'Give me my freedom let me tread
  Once more my country's strand;
With frost and storm all overspread
  My home my father-land!
Deep is the snow around my door;
  But give me my own steed,
And day and night, the mountains o'er,
  Me to my home he'll lead.

'At home, there's one who sits and keeps
  The memory of her love;
And often to the window creeps,
  And pours her prayers above.
She guards the thoughts of him whose mind
  Guards every thought of her;
She pats the horse I left behind
  How privileged to be there!

'O roll, thou Rhone! ye waters roll
  Rush in your glory on;
Your waves still waken in my soul
  The memory of the Don.
Come, winds! come hither from the north,
  Come, in your freshness, come:
And thou bright pole-star blazen forth,
  Memento of my home!'

So spake the prisoner, as he turn'd
  To Lyons his tired eye,
When long in exile's chains he mourn'd
  His hapless destiny.
He sang the Rhone roll'd proudly on,
  The moon oft kiss'd its tide;
And oft on Lyons' turrets shone
  The sun in all his pride.





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TO THE ARMY OF THE DON.

by Shatrov

[from Specimens of the Russian Poets, translated and annotated by John Bowring, London, 1821]



MOSKVA is stunn'd with the thunder-storm's rattle:
See! for the Don has sprung over its banks,
Arm'd 'gainst the foe in fury and battle,
                Crowd to the ranks!
                Arm for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

Trump of the Tzar! which to triumph calls loudly
Spirits of Moskva! ye warriors away!
Thousand times thousand arrange themselves proudly,
                Ripe for the fray,
                Arm'd for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

'Strive against God and our Russia shall no men,'
Ataman cried, while he brandish'd his spear,
'Scatter'd like ashes, they perish our foemen,
                Where are they where?'
                Arm for the right,
                Strong for the fight!

Fame-circled monarch! like waterfalls gushing
Down from the rocks, see thy children advance
On the false foe, in their energy rushing,
                Sabre and lance!
                Arm'd for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

Russians shall make them a pathway victorious;
Russians shall conquer from Neva to Rhine;
Armies shall fly at their enterprise glorious;
                Triumph is thine,
                Arm'd for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

Russia! O fear not! no foe shall assemble
Near thee they shrink from the cross-flag ador'd.
Lo! at thy slings and thy sabres they tremble
                Ready thy sword!
                Arm'd for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

Yes! let thy enemy rage let him hector
Strong though he be, he shall fly from the field.
Is not the mother of God our protector
                Michael our shield?
                Arm'd for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

Ready! to horse! for the cannon shouts call our
Heroes to struggle for hopes so sublime!
God himself smiles on the high deeds of valour!
                Children, tis time!
                Arm for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

Rush on the Franks as pyramids steady
Say, shall they enter the heart of our land?
No! for our heroes are gathering all ready;
                Firmly they stand,
                Arm'd for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

See! for our legions are wildly advancing,
Bonaparte flies from the Sons of the Don;
Dull is the fame that so brightly was glancing
                France is o'erthrown.
                Arm for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

Arrows like hailstones are clattering around us,
Sabres and spear-heads shine bright in the breeze,
And the swift bullets seem whispering they sound as
                Swarming of bees.
                Arm'd for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

Three hundred thousand twice reckon'd oppose them
Vainly to Russia 'tis glory to see
How a small band of Cossaks overthrows them
                Look how they flee.
                Arm for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

Cannons and muskets abandon'd and duty
Forgotten for death and for terror are nigh
Willingly yield they their knapsacks and booty,
                Only to fly.
                Arm for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

See how the raven is crouching, affrighted,
Where the proud eagle has built its own home;
Russia hath left them alarm'd and benighted
                Russia their tomb.
                Arm'd for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

So is the generous struggle rewarded;
So do the insolent enemy bleed;
So is the palace-crown'd, liberty-guarded
                Capital freed.
                Arm for the right,
                Strong in the fight!

Thanks to the Highest One! honour and glory
He has conducted us saved is the throne!
Praise to the Tzar and may garlands grow o'er ye,
                Sons of the Don!
                Arm'd for the right,
                Strong in the fight!





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BORODINO. AN ODE.

by E. Peel

[from Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, January 1845]




                      
STROPHE.
    Weep for the living! mourn no more
    Thy children slain on Moskwa's shore,
  Cut off from evil! want, and anguish,
    And care, for ever brooding and in vain;
  Nor more to be beguiled! no more to languish
    Under the yoke of labour and of pain!
    Their doom of future joy or woe
    For good or evil done below,
  The Judge of all the earth will order rightly!
    Flee winding error through the flowery way,
  To daily follow truth! to poinder nightly
    On time, and death, and judgment, nearer day by day!
  Bewail thy bane, deluded France,
    Vain-glory, overweening pride,
  And harrying earth with eagle glance,
    Ambition, frantic homicide!
  Lament, of all that armed throng
    How few may reach their native land!
  By war and tempest to be borne along,
    To strew, like leaves, the Scythian strand?
  Before Jehovah who can stand?
    His path in evil hour the dragon cross'd!
  He casteth forth his ice! at his command
    The deep is frozen! all is lost!
For who, great God, is able to abide the frost?

EPODE.
Elate of heart, and wild of eye,
Crested horror hurtles by;
Myriads, hurrying north and east,
Gather round the funeral feast!
From lands remote, beyond the Rhine,
Running o'er with oil and wine,
Wide-waving over hill and plain,
Herbage green, and yellow grain;
From Touraine's smooth irriguous strand,
Garden of a fruitful land,
To thy dominion, haughty Rhone,
Leaping from thy craggy throne;
From Alp and Apennine to where
Gleam the Pyrenees in air;
From pastoral vales and piny woods,
Rocks and lakes and mountain-floods,
The warriors come, in armed might
Careering, careless of the right!
Their leader he who sternly bade
Freedom fall, and glory fade,
The scourge of nations ripe for ruin,
Planning oft their own undoing!
But who in yonder swarming host
Locust-like from coast to coast,
Reluctant move, an alien few,
Sullen, fierce, of sombre hue,
Who, forced unhallow'd arms to bear,
Mutter to the moaning air,
Whose curses on the welkin cast
Edge the keen and icy blast!
Iberia, sorrow bade thee nurse
THose who now the tyrant curse,
Whose wrongs for vengeance cry aloud!
Lo, the coming of a cloud!
To burst in wrath, and sweep away
Light as chaff the firm array!
To rack with pain, or lull to rest
Both oppressor and oppress'd.

ANTISTROPHE.
  Is it the wind from tower to tower
  Low-murmuring at midnight hour?
Athwart the darkness light is stealing,
  Portentous, red with unrelenting ire,
Inhuman deeds, and secrets dark revealing!
  Ye guilty, who may quench the kindled fire!
  Fall, city of the Czars, to rise
  Ennobled by self-sacrifice,
Than tower and temple higher and more holy!
  The wilful king appointed o'er mankind
To plague the lofty heart, and prove the lowly,
  Is fled! Avenger, mount the chariot of the wind!
    Be thine, to guide the rapid scythe,
  To blind with snow the frozen sun,
    Against th' invader doomed to writhe,
To rouse the Tartar, Russ, and Hun!
Bid terror to the battle ride!
Indignant honour, burning shame,
Revenge, and hate, and patriotic pride!
But not the quick unerring aim
Of volley'd thunder winged with flame,
Nor famine keener than the bird of prey,
  Nor death avail the hard of heart to tame!
  Blow wind, and pierce the fire array,
Flung, drifted by thy breath, athwart the frozen way!

EPODE.
  Before the blast as flakes of snow
  Drive blindly, reeling to and fro
  Or down the river black and deep
  Melt so the mighty sink to sleep!
  Like Asshur, never more to boast!
  Or Pharaoh, sunk with all his host!
  So perish who would trample down 
  The rights of freedom, for renown!
  So fall, who born and nurtured free
  Adore the proud on bended knee!
  Roll, Beresina, 'neath the bridge
  Of death! rise Belgium's fatal ridge!
  Rise, lonely rock in a wide ocean,
To curb each haughty mad emotion!
To prove, while force and genius fail,
That truth is great, and will prevail!


  The hour is coming seize the hour!
Divide the spoil, the prey devour!
Howl o'er the dead and dying, cry
All ye that raven earth and sky!
With beak and talon rend the prey,
Track carnage on her gory way,
To chide o'er many a gleamy bone
The moon, or with the wind to moan!
Benumb'd with cold, by torture wrung,
To winter leave the famine-clung,
O thou for whom they toil and bleed,
Deserted in their utmost need!
Hear, hear them faithful unto death
Invoke thee with the fleeting breath,
And feel (for human still thou art)
Ruth touch that adamantine heart!
Survive the storm and battle-shock,
To linger on th' Atlantic rock!

  From ghastly dream, from death-like trance
Awake to woe, devoted France!
To care and trouble, toil and pain,
Till glory be acknowledged vain,
And martial pomp a mere parade,
And war, the bravo's bloody trade!
A beacon o'er the tide of time
Be thou, to point the wreck of crime!
The spoiler spoil'd, from empire hurl'd
The dread and pity of the world!

  O then, by tribulation tried,
Abjuring envy, hate, and pride,
Warn'd of the dying hour foretold
Of earth and heaven together roll'd,
Revering each prophetic sign
Of judgment and of love divine,
Bow down, and hide thee in the dust,
And own the retribution just;
So may contrition, prayer, and praise,
Preserve thee in the latter days!





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Lines Written on Hearing the news of the Death of Napoleon

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)



What! alive and so bold, O Earth?
  Art thou not overbold?
  What! leapest thou forth as of old
In the light of thy morning mirth,
The last of the flock of the starry fold?
Ha! leapest thou forth as of old?
Are not the limbs still when the ghost is fled,
And canst thou move, Napoleon being dead?

How! is not thy quick heart cold?
  What spark is alive on thy hearth?
How! is not his death-knell knolled?
  And livest thou still, Mother Earth?
Thou wert warming thy fingers old
O'er the embers covered and cold
Of that most fiery spirit, when it fled 
What, Mother, do you laugh now he is dead?

'Who has known me of old,' replied Earth,
  'Or who has my story told?
  It is thou who art overbold.'
And the lightning of scorn laughed forth
As she sung, 'To my bosom I fold
All my sons when their knell is knolled,
And so with living motion all are fed,
And the quick spring like weeds out of the dead.

'Still alive and still bold,' shouted Earth,
  'I grow bolder and still more bold.
  The dead fill me ten thousandfold
Fuller of speed, and splendour, and mirth.
I was cloudy, and sullen, and cold,
Like a frozen chaos uprolled,
Till by the spirit of the mighty dead
My heart grew warm. I feed on whom I fed.

'Aye, alive and still bold,' muttered Earth.
  'Napoleon's fierce spirit rolled,
  In terror and blood and gold,
A torrent of ruin to death from his birth.
Leave the millions who follow to mould
The metal before it be cold;
And weave into his shame, which like the dead
Shrouds me, the hopes that from his glory fled.'





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On Reading the Account of the Battle of Waterloo

by Louisa Stuart Costello (1799-1870)



OH! who can listen with delight
To tales of battles won?
And who can hear without affright
The news of war begun.
Oh when the glory does their hearts inspire,
Did they reflect what woes some bosoms fire?
Oh did their thoughts fly to the battle plain,
And mark the writhing agony and pain,
And hear the cries, and see the bleeding slain!
Ah! sure no more their hearts with joy would bound, 
But shrink in horror from the vict'ry's sound.
While thro' the streets the news of conquest spread,
Each parent listens with consuming dread.
Those shouts of triumph breath'd from every tongue,
Some anxious heart with agony has wrung.
The meanest soldier sunk to death's repose,
Has cuas'd some breast to fell affliction's throes:
How can they bear each joyful shout to hear,
Which still renews remembrances so dear!
Oh! long may battle's terrors cease!
Be war and vengeance fled:
That Europe, wrapt in lasting peace,
May rest her laurell'd head!





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The Last Flitting

by Mikhail Y. Lčrmontov (1814-1841)



Even as France, amid applauding thunder,
Greets with loud joy the unheeding cold remains 
Lost long ago in speechless grief and wonder
To banishment and dull tormenting chains 

Even as the world, with thin officious praise,
Crowns the slaw impulse of a late regret,
And the sottish crowd, pleased with its latest craze, 
Struts and forgets the past's unanswered debt 

Indignant, giving rein to deepest feeling,
Knowing those idle cares for vanity,
To that great race I say, my heart revealing:
Empty and pitiful you are to me!

Pitiful because all glory, faith, endeavour,
All, all the holy sanctity of earth,
You have trodden down to the driven dust forever 
With stupid scoffing, childish doubt, and mirth.

Glory you made a toy for hypocrites,
Freedom an executioner's tool to slay;
And all your fathers' holiest faiths and rites,
With Him as sword, you rudely slashed away.

Perishing you were, until with stern demeanor  
He rose, as by God's finger marked for men;  
Acclaimed by all as leader, king, convener  
Your life and his flowed in together then.  

Your strength revived in the shadow of his glory; 
The trembling world in silence gaped to see  
The wondrous chasuble of fame and story 
He brought to clothe you in the days to be. 
 
He was alone, changeless and cold of manner, 
Father of the grey phalanxes, well-loved son of fame;  
In Egyptian deserts, or the walls of Submissive Vienna,  
Or the steppe-land snows, where Moscow rose in flame.

And tell me, what did you for worth or pardon,  
While in far fields he bled in proud aloofness?  
You cast your chosen leader like a burden;  
You ground a coward's dagger in the darkness! 

In the last battles, when desperate odds assailed him,   
In fear, oblivious of your own black shame,  
Like a false woman, shameless you betrayed him,
Like coward slaves you spat upon his name. 

Shorn of his right and place as citizen,
Himself the broken diadem let go,
Left his own son in pledge  for you again 
Whom you, base cowards, yielded to the foe

Then with disgraceful shackles overloaded,
Forth from the weeping squadrons rudely thrown,
To a foreign rock beyond the sea transported,
Forgotten, he waned and guttered out alone  

Alone, by useless vengeance wracked and broke,
With proud and silent anguish on those sands;
Till, like a simple soldier in his cloak,
Laid in his grave at last by hireling hands.

And now the years have flown  and the giddy throng
Shout to the world: Give back this sacred dust!
It is ours !  This seed of harvests great and long
We will bury within the walls he saved for us

So rides, the Conqueror homeward to his own,
And, as before, the mad mobs throng and moil,
While in a pompous cask, in the noisy town,
His cold remains are laid in Gallic soil.
Thus is the last wish crowned with loud success! 
And, Its short frenzy changing for some other,
With self-complacent laughter, onward press
The fickle crowd, once trembling facing him 
And I am sad in thinking that henceforward
Broken is the silence holy, calm, and deep,
Around this man who waited in this desert
So many hungry years for peace and sleep.

And should the Conqueror's spirit come in haste 
To the new tomb wherein his bones are laid,
What sort of indignation must it taste
At sight of this vain-glorious promenade?

How would he yearn, with grief intolerable,
For the hot island and the far country
Where his grim guard was one unconquerable 
One like himself forever great  Ocean 

[Poem provided by Alexander Mikaberidze]



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The Ghost Ship

(from Zedlitz)

by Mikhail Y. Lčrmontov (1814-1841)



When darkness descends on the ocean 
And stars in the firmament shine,
A battleship glides unattended,
Full sail through the billowy brine.

Its vanes do not turn in the tempest,
Its masts in the storm do not bend,
Its hatchways are open forever
For motionless guns to defend.

The ship is disowned by the captain ,
Its course by the pilot unlaid,
But boldly it crosses the current,
Of breakers and shoals unafraid.

An island there is in that ocean,
As bleak as the land of the dead;
A grave has been dug in its quicksands, 
And this is the Emperor's bed.

He sleeps by his enemies buried,
Unhonored by banner or mound,
A stone is on top of his coffin
To keep him for aye in the ground.

But once every May, just at midnight,
A battleship starts like a ghost,
It starts on the Emperor's death day
And lands at the ominous coast.

The Emperor quietly awakens
And rises alone from the dead;
His gray-colored tunic is on him,
His three corned hat on his hat

He crosses his arms with an effort,
 And, walking as if in a dream,
He noiselessly reaches the vessel
And pushes it into the stream.

To France, his beloved, he hurries,
Again to his glory and throne,
Again to his son and his comrades, 
Back home to the land of his own.

And when through the vaporous darkness
It suddenly springs into sight,
His spirit revives in his bosom,
His glance is triumphant and bright.

He is quick and courageous, he marches, 
He firmly approaches the shore,
He calls his attendants and marshals,
He calls his compeers as of yore.

But over his former companions
The Elbe imperturbably flows,
The desert unleashes its sandstorms,
And Russia, her pitiless snows.

And deaf to his call are the marshals:
Some perished in battles, deplored,
While others are serving new masters
And selling their saber and sword.

Bewildered and hurt by the treason,
He walks on the desolate shore,
He watches and waits for an answer
And angrily calls as before.

He waits for a last consolation
And loudly addresses his son;
He'll give him the world for the asking, 
Yet, France he can promise to none.

But robbed of his kingdom and glory
Expired at the zenith his heir;
The Emperor paces and listens,
But no one will come to him there.

He stands, and he sighs, and he watches, 
Till morning returns to the land; 
Then tears from his eyes drop unnoticed 
And heavily fall to the sand.

In silence he turns to the ocean,
And, walking as if in a dream,
He noiselessly reaches his vessel 
And pushes it into the stream.

[Poem provided by Alexander Mikaberidze]



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Two Giants

by Mikhail Y. Lčrmontov (1814-1841)



'Neath a cap of precious metal
Stood the Russian lord defiant,
For the time had come to settle
With the younger foreign giant.

By the warlike spirit prompted,
Rich in victories and might,
Both were heading for a combat,
Both were eager for a fight.

And he came, the three-week claimant, 
All in splendor and renown,
Saw the Russian's royal raiment, 
Jumped, and gripped the golden crown.

But the Russian giant, undaunted, 
Smiled the fatal smile of war ,
Shook his head-then he who vaunted 
Fell subdued forevermore.

And he fell devoid of glory
On an island far away,
On the granite, bleak and hoary ,
'Mid the breakers, cold and gray.

[Poem provided by Alexander Mikaberidze]



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Borodino

by Mikhail Y. Lčrmontov (1814-1841)



- Say, uncle, why in spite of clashes
You gave up Moscow burnt to ashes
And yielded to the foe.
I heard it that the French were rushing
But that your blows were also crushing,
For who will ever, if he is Russian,
Forget Borodino!

-Yes, they were men who lived amongst us 
Not like the present breed of youngsters,
By battles never tossed!
Too few of them survived the fighting-
The soldiers marked by fate for smiting;
It was the will of God Almighty
That Moscow should be lost!

For months we silently retreated.
We felt deceived but not defeated,
We heard from every trench,
"Here's the reward for all our labors-
To live with enemies like neighbors!
Are Russian bayonets and sabers
Too blunt to cut the French?"

Our battlefield was chosen later,
No field I'd ever seen was greater.
We built a broad redoubt.
We listened closely for a warning,
And when the sun in early morning
Had lit the treetops, guns, and awning,
The enemy was out.

I took a cannon ball and thrust it,
I thought, "Well, Frenchmen, you can trust it,
And try to understand:
You may be very strong and cunning,
But we have stopped, we've done our running,
We'll deal a blow that will stunning

And save the Russian land."

For three long days we fired at random,
We knew that we had not unmanned them, 
And neither meant to yield.
Each soldier thought it should be ended:
For had we fought or just pretended?
And then it was that night descended
Upon the fateful field.


I dozed, like many, at my cannon;
The grounds the French enclosed and ran on 
Were loud from weapons hurled.
But we were silent while they clattered, 
Some furbished shakos sadly battered,
Some whetted bayonets half-shattered,
And grumbled at the world.

But when the dark of night receded,
All rose and mounted unimpeded;
We saw the marching men.
Our colonel was a man of mettle
He led us like his sons in battle,
He served the Tsar, but, felled with metal, 
He'll never wake again.

And thus he said, as would our father, 
"Boys, we are not retreating farther,
Look, Moscow is behind!
Let's die, as others died before us!"
"We will," we answered him in chorus, 
And when the battle tossed and tore us,
We fought, to danger blind.

That was a day! The French, exalting,
Like heavy clouds, began assaulting
And aimed at our redoubt.
We saw a picture wild and motley:
Dragoons and uhlans struggling hotly - 
The troops in smoke, intense and throttling,
Al rushing, running out

You'll never see such armies clashing,
The standards were like shadows dashing
Through fire and screeching lead.
Each step was manfully contested,
The soldiers' fingers never rested,
And cannon balls would drop, arrested
By masses of the dead.

We taught the enemy for ages
What is the Russian giant courageous,
When he has gone to war .
Earth shook like us - shot through and mangled, 
We fell and fought, fatigued and strangled,
The field became a howling tangle-
All thunder, fire, and roar .

Dusk came and stopped the shots and rattle;
We could have fought another battle
Until its bitter end.
But then we heard that drums were beating, 
And while the ruffians were retreating,
Our morning oaths we kept repeating
And counted every friend.

Yes, they were men who lived amongst us,
Not like the present breed of youngsters... 
We were by battles tossed!
Too few of them survived the fighting-
The soldiers marked by fate for smiting;
It was the will of God Almighty
That Moscow should be lost!

[Poem provided by Alexander Mikaberidze]



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Napoleon

by F.I. Tiutchev (1803-1873)




                      
1.
Son of the Revolution, boldly did you
Fight with your dreaded mother, fighting you fell.
Your tyrannic genius did not vanquish her
A battle impossible, a labor vain !
For still you carried her within your self !

2.
Two powers that wondrously merged :
Eagles soared in his head,
Vipers writhed in his breast.
He boldly flew like an eagle
On ranging, inspired wings,
And with the serpent's cunning
Planned his daring assault.
But the consecrating power
Beyond his understanding
Did not illumine his soul,
Did not descend upon him.
Earth's, not God's, flame was he,
He sailed proud, scorning waves,
But faith's rock under the waters
Shattered his leaky boat.

3.
And so you stood, with Russia before you. 
Prophetic magus, foretelling battle,
You uttered the fatal words yourself:
"Now let her destiny be decided!"
Your incantation was not in vain :
Your voice had destiny's response.
But then in banishment you answered
The fatal reply with a rebus new.

Years passed, and from your exile strait 
Brought back a corpse to your native land,
To the river banks so dear to you

[Poem provided by Alexander Mikaberidze]



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The Nieman

by F.I. Tiutchev (1803-1873)



Is this you, stately, grand Nieman ? 
Is this indeed your stream before me?
How many years and with what glory  
Have you been Russia's faithful guard!

Once only, bending to God's will,
Did you allow the foe within.
For centuries did you preserve
The safety of our Russia's threshold.
Do you recall the past, Nieman,
The moment of that fateful year
When He was standing up above you-
Yes, he, that mighty southern demon
And you flowed past as you do now,
Beneath the enemy bridges roaring,
While he with his amazing eyes
Looked tenderly upon your stream?
Triumphantly his regiments
Advanced, their banners gaily flapping,
Their bayonets glittered in the sun,
The bridges rumbled beneath their guns,
And from his height, as though some god,
It seemed, he hovered over them
And set all things in motion, surveyed
It all with his amazing eyes.

One thing alone he did not see:
This glorious warrior did not see
That there, on the opposing side,
Another stood stood and waited
His host marched past, each one of them
In martial bearing dread. Yet then
The ineluctable right hand
Of God had set its seal upon them.
Triumphantly his regiments
Advanced, their banners proudly fluttered,
Their bayonets streamed lightning flashes,
Their drumbeats sounded far and wide.
Their number was without an end,
And out of all their endless rank
The number of but one in ten
Escaped the fatal brand of shame.

[Poem provided by Alexander Mikaberidze]



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Napoleon (1821)

by A.S. Puskin (1799-1837)



A wondrous fate is now fulfilled, 
Extinguished a majestic man. 
In somber prison night was stilled 
Napoleon's grim, tumultous span.
The outlawed potentate has vanished,
Bright Nike's mighty, pampered son; 
For him, from all Creation banished, 
Posterity has now begun.

O hero, with whose bloodied story
Long, long the earth will still resound,
Sleep in the shadow of your glory,
The desert ocean all around. . . 
A tomb of rock, in splendor riding !
The urn that holds your mortal clay,
As tribal hatreds are subsiding
Now sends aloft a deathless ray.

How recently your eagles glowered
Atop a disenfranchised world,
And fallen sovereignties cowered
Beneath the thunderbolts you hurled !
Your banners at a world would shower
Destruction from their folds and dearth,
Yoke after yoke of ruthless power
You fitted on the tribes of earth

When first from ancient serfdom's languor
The world awoke to hope new-grown,
And Gaul hauled down with hands of anger
The idol from its brittle throne;
When on the milling square in gory
Collapse the royal carcase lay
And brought the fated of glory,
All-conquering freedom's shining day - 

Then in the storm and strife of nations
An awesome lot you soon divined,
And nobleminded aspirations
You came to scorn in humankind.
The baneful augury of fortune
Would beckon to your lawless bent,
To self-rule unrestrained importune 
The lure of disillusionment.

The risen people's youthful vigor
You knew to dissipate at length,
And liberty new-born, by rigor
Abruptly muzzled, lost its strength;
You poured, to slake the lust of chattel, 
The drug of conquest in their veins,!


You sped their musters into battle 
And laurels wound about their chains.  

France came to fasten her besotted  
Young countenance-a slave to fame, 
And grandeur's finer hopes forgotten- 
Upon her scintillating shame.  
You gorged her swords in the undoing  
Of all who rose against their doom;
On Europe, brought to crashing ruin,  
Now fell the silence of the tomb.  

Lo, the colossus strode to crush her  
Beneath his heel with baleful zest;  
Then Tilsit! ..(but no more has Russia  
At that vile name to beat her breast.)   
True, Tilsit yielded him new treasure  
Of majesty, a final toll;
But tedious peace, but torpid leisure  
Galled that insatiable soul.  

Vainglorious man! Where were you faring,  
Who blinded that astounding mind?  
How came it in designs of daring  
The Russian's heart was not divined?  
At fiery sacrifice not guessing,  
You idly fancied, tempting fate,
We would seek peace and count it blessing;  
You came to fathom us too late. .. 

Fight on, embattled Russia mine,  
Recall the rights of ancient days! 
The sun of Austerlitz, decline!  
And Moscow, mighty city, blaze!  
Brief be the time of our dishonor,  
The auspices are turning now;
Hail Moscow-Russia's blessings on her! 
War to extinction, thus our vow!   

The diadem of iron shaking
 In stiffened fingers' feeble clasp, 
He stares into a chasm, quaking,
And is undone, undone at last.
Behold all Europe's legions sprawling
The wintry fields' encrimsoned glow
Bore testimony to their falling
Till blood-prints melted with the snow.

Then Europe's shackles broke asunder,
Her fury burst like tempest racks;
The curse of nationhoods like thunder
Rolled on the fleeing tyrant's tracks.
He sees the Nemesis of nations,
Her all-avenging hand up-flung;
For maiming wounds and depredations 
Now payment to the full is wrung.

Redeemed are now the blights and horrors 
He spread with fabled victories 
By the forsaken exile's sorrows
Amidst the gloom of alien seas.
At that dry isle of desolation
Some day a northern sail will dock,
And words of reconciliation
A hand will carve upon that rock

Where, as he watched the breakers' glitter, 
The glint of swords would catch his glance, 
Or northern blizzards, blinding, bitter, 
Or clouds across the skies of France;
Where in the wilderness, forgetting
War and posterity and throne,
On his dear son he brooded, fretting,
In grievous thought, alone, alone.

Let us hold up to reprobation
Such petty-minded men as chose 
With unappeasable damnation
To stir his laurel-dark repose!

Hail him ! He launched the Russian Nation
Upon its lofty destinies
And augured ultimate salvation
For men's long-exiled liberties.

[Poem provided by Alexander Mikaberidze]



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