James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

January 9

Death of Louis Napoleon

By Christopher Pearse Cranch (1813–1892)

  • From “Louis Napoleon”
  • Napoleon III., after his downfall at Sedan, was imprisoned for awhile at the Chateau of Wilhelmshöhe, near Cassel. He then joined the Empress at Chiselhurst in England, where he lived quietly until his death, Jan. 9, 1873.

  • HOW long he sat—this Cæsar of the stage,

    This bold, pretending patron of the age!

    Muzzled the press, yet bade the people think;

    Knelt to the Pope, but gave the crowd a wink;

    Now capped a Cardinal, now endowed a school;

    Permitted suffrage, under iron rule;

    Gave wings to trade, but clogged all daring thought,

    Counting all counsel but his own as naught;

    Put new wine in old bottles, best in worst,

    And clamped them round with iron, lest they burst;

    Forced two extremes to marry, last with first;

    Wed light to darkness, and misnamed the brood

    Born of the union, France’s highest good.

    Professing friendship for our western main,

    He hoped to split our continent in twain;

    And while our back is turned to grasp our foe,

    Drives in an Austrian wedge at Mexico;

    Finds he has bungled sadly, and would fain

    Withdraw poor Maximilian again.

    Would like to recall his forces too from Rome,

    But fears the hubbub of his priests at home.

    So, pledged to God and Mammon, he prolongs

    The strife with chaos, smiles on rights and wrongs;

    The Pope’s non possumus most blandly hears,

    And leaves poor Rome in misery and tears;

    Prates loud of nation’s rights, and ten times o’er

    Opens and shuts a people’s prison-door.

    Now, time brings round its retributions strange.

    O’er Europe’s face there sweeps a mighty change.

    Now Germany compact and bristling stands

    Guarding her blue Rhine from the invader’s hands.

    Now Venice sets her sea-pearl in the ring

    Worn by young Italy’s victorious king.

    Now Rome, e’en Rome, must add her eternal fame

    To a throne upborne by Garabaldi’s name;

    Unguarded by her Gallic sentinel,

    She loosely holds the keys of heaven and hell;

    Her Pope, whose thunders rattled west and east,

    Changed by a pen-scrawl to a harmless priest.

    And he, the mighty Emperor, whose word

    Held Europe spell-bound, in war’s thunders heard

    A voice that overruled his subtile tricks,

    His blunders and his shuffling politics,

    His sham democracy, his hard decrees,

    His double-dealings and diplomacies.

    These brought their sure results,—ambition checked,

    A tarnished splendor, and an empire wrecked,

    And that distrust through every heart that crept,

    At rights withheld and promises unkept;

    While downward sank his star, unmourned of all

    Who hailed the nation’s rise, the usurper’s fall;

    Till death has swept away the last frail chance

    That cheered the friends of tyranny in France.