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

March 21

The Death of the Duke d’Enghien

By Henry Kirke White (1785–1806)

  • The Duke d’Enghien was a Bourbon prince who was arrested in Baden on a charge of conspiring against Napoleon’s life. He was tried before a military tribunal on the night of March 20th, and although no evidence was taken, he was shot at Vincennes at daybreak the following morning. Napoleon has been strongly condemned for this act, though later historians consider that he was by no means without excuse for it.

  • WHAT means yon trampling? what that light

    That glimmers in the inmost wood;

    As though beneath the felon night,

    It marked some deed of blood?

    Behold yon figures, dim descried

    In dark array; they speechless glide.

    The forest moans; the raven’s scream

    Swells slowly o’er the moated stream,

    As from the castle’s topmost tower,

    It chants its boding song alone:

    A song, that at this awful hour

    Bears dismal tidings in its funeral tone;

    Tidings, that in some grey domestic’s ear

    Will on his wakeful bed strike deep mysterious fear.

    And, hark, that loud report! ’tis done;

    There’s murder couched in yonder gloom;

    ’Tis done, ’tis done! the prize is won,

    Another rival meets his doom.

    The tyrant smiles,—with fell delight

    He dwells upon the…..

    The tyrant smiles; from terror freed,

    Exulting in the foul misdeed,

    And sternly in his secret breast

    Marks out the victims next to fall.

    His purpose fixed; their moments fly no more,

    He points,—the poniard knows its own;

    Unseen it strikes,—unseen they die,

    Foul midnight only hears, and shudders at the groan.

    But justice yet shall lift her arm on high,

    And Bourbon’s blood no more ask vengeance from the sky.