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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Robert Browning 1812–89

Incident of the French Camp


YOU know, we French storm’d Ratisbon:

A mile or so away

On a little mound, Napoleon

Stood on our storming-day;

With neck out-thrust, you fancy how,

Legs wide, arms lock’d behind,

As if to balance the prone brow

Oppressive with its mind.

Just as perhaps he mus’d “My plans

That soar, to earth may fall,

Let once my army leader Lannes

Waver at yonder wall,”—

Out ’twixt the battery smokes there flew

A rider, bound on bound

Full-galloping; nor bridle drew

Until he reach’d the mound.

Then off there flung in smiling joy,

And held himself erect

By just his horse’s mane, a boy:

You hardly could suspect—

(So tight he kept his lips compress’d,

Scarce any blood came through)

You look’d twice ere you saw his breast

Was all but shot in two.

“Well,” cried he, “Emporor, by God’s grace

We ’ve got you Ratisbon!

The Marshal’s in the market-place,

And you ’ll be there anon

To see your flag-bird flap his vans

Where I, to heart’s desire,

Perch’d him!” The chief’s eye flash’d; his plans

Soar’d up again like fire,

The chief’s eye flash’d; but presently

Soften’d itself, as sheathes

A film the mothe-eagle’s eye

When her bruis’d eaglet breathes.

“You ’re wounded!” “Nay,” the soldier’s pride

Touch’d to the quick, he said:

“I ’m kill’d, Sire!” And his chief beside,

Smiling the boy fell dead.