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

July 5

The Field of Wagram

By Edmond Rostand (1868–1918)

  • From “L’Aiglon”

    Translated by Louis Parker
  • Here the French under Napoleon defeated the Austrians under the Archduke Charles on July 5, 1809.

  • L’Aiglon.I am the expiation.

    All was not paid, and I complete the price.

    ’Twas fated I should seek his battle-field

    And here, above the multitudinous dead,

    Be the white victim, growing daily whiter,

    Renouncing, praying, asking but to suffer,

    Yearning toward heaven, like sacrificial incense!

    And while betwixt the heavens and this field

    I am outstretched with all my soul and body,

    Father, I feel the shuddering furrows rise,

    I feel the hill upheaved beneath my feet

    To lift me gently to the stooping heavens!

    ’Tis meet and right the battle-field should offer

    This sacrifice, that henceforth it may bear

    Pure and unstained its name of Victory.

    Wagram, behold me! Ransom of old days,

    Son, offered for, alas! how many sons!

    Above the dreadful haze wherein thou stirrest,

    Uplift me, Wagram, in thy scarlet hands!

    It must be so! I know it! Feel it! Will it!

    The breath of death has rustled through my hair!

    The shudder of death has passed athwart my soul!

    I am all white: a sacramental Host!

    What more reproaches can they hurl, O Father,

    Against our hapless fate?—Oh hush! I add

    In silence Schonbrunn to Saint Helena!—

    ’Tis done!—But if the Eaglet is resigned

    To perish like the innocent, yielding swan,

    Nailed in the gloom above some lofty gate,

    He must become the high and holy signal

    That scares the ravens and calls back the eagles.

    There must be no more moanings in the field,

    Nor dreadful writhings in the underwood.

    Bear on thy wings, O whirlwind of the plain,

    The shouts of conquerors and songs of triumph!