Category Archives: Napoleonic Wars


Lord Byron: “The Star of The Legion of Honour”

Excerpt, “A Metrical History of the Life and Times of Napoleon Bonaparte: A Collection of Poems and Songs. Many from Obscure and Anonymous Sources, Selected and Arranged with Introductory Notes and Connective Narrative.” William J. Hillis. 1896.

The only peace agreed to between France and England during the Napoleonic wars was that known as the “Peace of Amiens,” which lasted from March, 1802, until May, 1803. During the existence of that peace the whole world, as it were, rushed to Paris, to catch a glimpse of the man who had wrought such mighty changes in so short a time. The obscure Corsican had become the greatest man of the times. Emperor of France, in all but name, his Court began to take on all the trappings and ceremonies of royalty. Holding the reins of power absolutely within the grasp of his own hands, he tolerated no interference, either by his colleagues or by the people.

In peace, as in war, he rested not, but laboured incessantly for the advancement of his country, whose needs he seemed to comprehend fully. Society was reorganised for the better; judicial reforms were perfected, and the Code pushed forward towards completion; the educational system of the nation was thoroughly revised and improved; the relations between church and state were settled by the signing of the Concordat in the spring of 1802: the finances were brought up to a flourishing condition; magnificent roads and bridges were built; everything, in fact, that could enhance the greatness and glory of France was thought of and carried out by this tireless mind.

It was at this time the Legion of Honour was established.

a-depiction-of-napoleon-making-some-of-the-first-awards-of-the-legion-of-honour-at-a-camp-near-boulogne-on-16-august-1804

Premiere ‘Légion d’honneur’ by Charles Étienne Pierre Motte

A depiction of Napoleon making some of the first awards of the Legion of Honour, at a camp near Boulogne on 16 August 1804

How many a gallant soldier rushed to his death in hopes of winning a place in that legion, and how many a dying hero was made happy by being presented with its badge before he answered the last roll-call. When the “Star” no longer led the Legion on to victory, Byron gave us the following lines.

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Chevalier Légion d’honneur

Friedrich Freiherr de la Motte Fouqué: “War-Song for the Chasseur Volunteers”

Excerpt, “The Book of German Songs from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century.” Translated and Edited by H. W. Dulcken. 1856.

chasseur2

WAR-SONG FOR THE CHASSEUR VOLUNTEERS

1813

.

Up, up, to the merry hunting,

For now the time draws on ;

The strife will quickly follow,

The day begins to dawn.

Up, pass them by, the idle,

And leave them to their rest;

But we will stir us gladly

At our good king’s behest.

.

Our monarch he has spoken,

” Where are my huntsmen true ? “

And we have all arisen,

A gallant work to do.

We will build up a safety

For all our fatherland;

With fervent trust in Heaven,

With strong enduring hand !

.

Sleep calmly now, ye loved ones,

Around our father’s hearth.

While ‘gainst the foeman’s weapons

We boldly issue forth.

O happiness, our dear ones

From danger to defend ;

Let cannon flash—true courage

Will triumph in the end !

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Some will be home returning

In victory, ere long,

And then will be rejoicing,

And joyful triumph song.

With strength and glad emotion

How ev’ry heart will burn.—

Who falls, a heavenly kingdom

For this on earth shall earn !

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Afoot, or on our war-steeds.

To the red field will we.

Our God will show us favour;

He greets us graciously.

Ye huntsmen, all and each one.

Charge hotly on the foe ;

While fires of joy are burning,

While yet life’s sun doth glow!

.

Victor Hugo: “The Retreat From Moscow”

Excerpt, “A Metrical History of the Life and Times of Napoleon Bonaparte: A Collection of Poems and Songs. Many from Obscure and Anonymous Sources, Selected and Arranged with Introductory Notes and Connective Narrative.” William J. Hillis. 1896.

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THE RETREAT FROM MOSCOW.

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It snowed. A defeat was our conquest red !

For once the Eagle was hanging its head.

Sad days! the Emperor turned slowly his back

On smoking Moscow, blent orange and black.

The winter burst, avalanche-like, to reign

Over the endless blanched sheet of the plain.

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Nor chief, nor banner in order could keep.

The wolves of warfare were ‘wildered like sheep.

The wings from centre could hardly be known

Through snow o’er horses and carts o’erthrown,

Where froze the wounded. In the bivouacs forlorn

Strange sights and gruesome met the breaking morn :

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Mute were the bugles, while the men bestrode

Steeds turned to marble, unheeding the goad.

The shells and bullets came down with the snow

As though the heavens hated these poor troops below.

Surprised at trembling, though it was with cold.

Who ne’er had trembled out of fear, the veterans bold

Marched stern ; to grizzled moustache hoar-frost clung

‘Neath banners that in leaden masses hung.

It snowed, went snowing still. And chill the breeze

Whistled upon the glassy, endless seas,

Where naked feet on, on for ever went,

With naught to eat, and not a sheltering tent.

retreat-the-retreat-from-russia

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They were not living troops as seen in war,

But merely phantoms of a dream, afar

In darkness wandering, amid the vapour dim—

A mystery ; of shadows a procession grim,

Nearing a blackening sky, into its rim.

Frightful, since boundless, solitude behold

Where only Nemesis wove, mute and cold,

A net all snowy with its soft meshes dense,

A shroud of magnitude for host immense ;

.

Till every one felt as if left alone

In a wide wilderness where no light shone,

To die, with pity none, and none to see

That from this mournful realm none should get free.

Their foes the frozen North and Czar—That, worse.

Cannons were broken up in haste accurst

To burn the frames and make the pale fire high,

Where those lay down who never woke, or woke to die.

.

Sad and commingled, groups that blindly fled

Were swallowed smoothly by the desert dread.

‘Neath folds of blankness, monuments were raised

O’er regiments. And History, amazed,

Could not record the ruin of this retreat,

Unlike a downfall known before the defeat

Of Hannibal—reversed and wrapped in gloom!

Of Attila, when nations met their doom !

.

Perished an army—fled French glory then.

Though there the Emperor ! he stood and gazed

At the wild havoc, like a monarch dazed

In woodland hoar, who felt the shrieking saw

He, living oak, beheld his branches fall, with awe.

Chiefs, soldiers, comrades died. But still warm love

Kept those that rose all dastard fear above.

.

As on his tent they saw his shadow pass—

Backwards and forwards, for they credited, alas !

His fortune’s star! it could not, could not be

That he had not his work to do—a destiny ?

To hurl him headlong from his high estate,

Would be high treason in his bondman. Fate,

But all the while he felt himself alone,

Stunned with disasters few have ever known.

.

Sudden, a fear came o’er his troubled soul.

What more was written on the Future’s scroll ?

Was this an expiation ? It must be, yea !

Returned to God for one enlightening ray.

” Is this the vengeance, Lord of Hosts? ” he sighed,

But the first murmur on his parched lips died.

” Is this the vengeance ? Must my glory set”

A pause : his name was called ; of flame a jet

Sprang in the darkness—a Voice

answered: “No! Not yet.”

Outside still fell the smothering snow.

Was it a voice indeed ? or but a dream !

It was the vulture’s, but how like the sea-bird’s scream.

Ernst Schulze: “Schwarze Jäger“

Excerpt, “Poets and Poetry of Germany, Biographical and Critical Notices.” Madame Davesies de Pontes. Vol. II. London: 1858.

Luetzows_verwegene_jagd_aquarellreproduktion_1900

The Black Hunters

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What is gleaming so gaily on bush and on brae,

What is shining in green-wood so bright,

Who comes forth from the wood in such gallant array,

Who are rushing from mountain and height?

’Tis the Jäger! On, on in a torrent we flow,

And rush to the combat and pounce on the foe

To battle, to vict’ry—to triumph we go!

.

We come from the Hartz and its forests so old,

Full, they tell us, of glittering store;

But what do we care or for silver or gold?

Give us freedom! We ask for no more!

To others we leave it—more nobly we feel;

We don our bright armour, our cuirass of steel;

For us upon earth the sword only has worth,

And we care for nought save our fatherland’s weal!

.

To drink and to love and be loved has its charms;

In the shade it is pleasant to dream;

But nobler to rush ’mid the battles alarms,

When the sword and the bayonet gleam.

Love’s torch is not brighter than glory’s proud hue,

And where thousands are sleeping why we may sleep too.

As heroes we’ll fall! ’neath the sword or the ball,

And pour forth our hearts-blood so gallant and true.

.

Full oft in the darkness, in forest and glen,

Or high on the storm-beaten rock,

We have linger’d to track the fierce wolf to den

Nor dreaded the hurricane’s shock.

And now the bright sunshine is steaming above us;

We go to defend all we love! All who love us!

Be it battle or chase—in the enemy’s face—

To us it is one; for no peril can move us!

 

 

Songs of the Liberation War: “Was Blasen Die Trompeten”

Excerpt, “War Songs of the Germans with Historical Illustrations of the Liberation War and the Rhine Boundary.” By John Stuart Blackie. Edinburgh: 1870.

Marschall Vorwärts by Emil Hünten (1863).

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt

Marschall Vorwärts by Emil Hünten

 

WAS BLASEN DIE TROMPETEN

.

Why blare loud the trumpets? To horse, ye hussars!

’Tis the gallant old field-marshal that rides to the wars!

So cheerily rides he his own good steed,

So brightly his sword flashes time to his speed;

Sound fife, trump and drum! For the Germans are come!

Hurrah for right and liberty, the Germans are come!

.

O see how his blue eye, so clear and so kind,

Is beaming, and wave his white locks to the wind!

Like a stout old wine, so mellow and so fine,

O he’s the man to marshal the sons of the Rhine!

Sound fife, trump and drum! For the Germans are come!

Hurrah for right and liberty, the Germans are come!

.

O he is the man, when all was dark and dim,

Who waved his sword in Heaven’s eye—’twas all bright to him!

He swore by his true steel to teach them yet aright—

He swore an angry oath-how the Germans can fight.

Sound fife, trump and drum! For the Germans are come!

Hurrah for right and liberty, the Germans are come!

.

His good oath he kept: When the war-cry rang,

On his horse, with a bound, bold Blücher sprang;

And his clear blue eye shot fire to wash the shame

Of Auerstadt and Jena from the German name.

Sound fife, trump and drum! For the Germans are come!

Hurrah for right and liberty, the Germans are come!

.

At Lützen; impatient, he headed the van,

Like a strong young lion, the old veteran:

There the Teut first taught the hot Frenchman to bleed,

By the altar of freedom, the stone of the Swede.

Sound fife, trump and drum! For the Germans are come!

Hurrah for right and liberty, the Germans are come!

.

The Katzbach was red with the fierce drifting rain,

But eve saw it redder with the blood of the slain!

‘Fare-thee-well, fare-thee-well! And fairly may’st thou sail,

And find a grave, false Frantzmann, with the Baltic whale.’

Sound fife, trump and drum! For the Germans are come!

Hurrah for right and liberty, the Germans are come!

.

Then forward, my brave boys, begun’s half done:

We’ll teach the nimble Corsican to run, boys, run!

O’er the Elbe, o’er the Elbe, now Preuss and Swede advance,

And the fleet Don Cossack with his long, long lance!

Sound fife, trump and drum! For the Germans are come!

Hurrah for right and liberty, the Germans are come!

.

On the red field of Leipzig he laid the French pride low;

He blew the blast of freedom loud at Leipzig, Oho!

They fell, there they fell, ne’er to rise from their fall;

And we cheered old Blücher there—

Long live the Field-marshal!

Sound fife, trump and drum! For the Germans are come!

Hurrah for right and liberty, the Germans are come!

.

Then blow loud, yet trumpets, and tramp, ye hussars!

’Tis our old Field-marshal that rides to the wars:

To the Rhine, to the Rhine, and beyond the Rhine’s the way,

Thou doughty old Field-marshal, God be with thee aye!

Sound fife, trump and drum! For the Germans are come!

Hurrah for right and liberty, the Germans are come!

.

Gebhard_Leberecht_von_Blücher_in_Bautzen_1813

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher in Bautzen 1813

 

George Croly: “The French Army in Russia”

“A Metrical History of the Life and Times of Napoleon Bonaparte: A Collection of Poems and Songs. Many from Obscure and Anonymous Sources, Selected and Arranged with Introductory Notes and Connective Narrative.” William J. Hillis. 1896.

Napoleon_near_BorodinoNapoleon Near Borodino

 

THE FRENCH ARMY IN RUSSIA

.

Magnificence of ruin ! what has time

In all it ever gazed upon of war,

Of the wild rage of storm, or deadly clime,

Seen, with that battle’s vengeance to compare ?

How glorious shone the invader’s pomp afar!

Like pampered lions from the spoil they came ;

The land before them silence and despair.

The land behind them massacre and flame ;

Blood will have tenfold blood. What are they now?

A name.

Smolensk_by_hessBattle of Smolensk

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Homeward by hundred thousands, column-deep,

Broad square, loose squadron, rolling like the flood.

When mighty torrents from their channels leap,

Rushed through the land the haughty multitude,

Billow on endless billow ; on through wood,

O’er rugged hill, down sunless, marshy vale,

The death-devoted moved, to clangour rude

Of drum and horn, and dissonant clash of mail,

Glancing disastrous light before that sunbeam pale.

Battle-of-BorodinoBattle of Borodino

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Again they reached thee, Borodino ! still

Upon the loaded soil the carnage lay,

The human harvest, now stark, stiff, and chill,

Friend, foe, stretched thick together, clay to clay ;

In vain the startled legions burst away ;

The land was all one naked sepulchre;

The shrinking eye still glanced on grim decay,

Still did the hoof and wheel their passage tear.

Through cloven helms and arms, and corpses

Mouldering drear.

Battle of MaloyaroslavetsBattle of Maloyaroslavets

The field was as they left it ; fosse and fort

Steaming with slaughter still, but desolate ;

The cannon flung dismantled by its port ;

Each knew the mound, the black ravine whose strait

Was won and lost,, and thronged with dead, till fate

Had fixed upon the victor,—half undone.

There was the hill, from which their eyes elate

Had seen the burst of Moscow’s golden zone ;

But death was at their heels, they shuddered and rushed on.

French_dragoons_Polish_uhlans_Russian_infantry_1812

The hour of vengeance strikes. Hark to the gale !

As it bursts hollow through the rolling clouds.

That from the north in sullen grandeur sail

Like floating Alps. Advancing darkness broods

Upon the wild horizon, and the woods,

Now sinking into brambles, echo shrill,

As the gust sweeps them, and those upper floods

Shoot on their leafless boughs the sleet-drops chill,

That on the hurrying crowds in freezing showers distil.

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They reach the wilderness ! The majesty

Of solitude is spread before their gaze.

Stern nakedness,—dark earth and wrathful sky.

If ruins were there, they long had ceased to blaze ;

If blood was shed, the ground no more betrays.

Even by a skeleton, the crime of man ;

Behind them rolls the deep and drenching haze,

Wrapping their rear in night ; before their van

The struggling daylight shows the unmeasured desert wan.

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Still on they sweep, as if their hurrying march

Could bear them from the rushing of His wheel

Whose chariot is the whirlwind. Heaven’s clear arch

At once is covered with a livid veil ;

In mixed and fighting heaps the deep clouds reel ;

Upon the dense horizon hangs the sun,

In sanguine light, an orb of burning steel;

The snows wheel down through twilight, thick and dun ;

Now tremble, men of blood, the judgment has begun !

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The trumpet of the northern winds has blown,

And it is answered by the dying roar

Of armies on that boundless field o’erthrown.

Now in the awful gusts the deserts hoar

Is tempested, a sea without a shore,

Lifting its feathery waves. The legions fly ;

Volley on volley down the hailstones pour;

Blind, famished, frozen, mad, the wanderers die.

And dying, hear the storm but wilder thunder by.

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Such is the hand of Heaven ! A human blow

Had crushed them in the flight, or flung the chain

Round them where Moscow’s stately towers were low

And all bestilled. But thou ! thy battle-plain

Was a whole empire ; that devoted train

Must war from day to day with storm and gloom,

(Man following, like the wolves, to rend the slain)

Must lie from night to night as in a tomb.

Must fly, toil, bleed for home ; yet never see that home.

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Julia Augusta Maynard: “The Battle of Lodi”

Excerpt, “A Metrical History of the Life and Times of Napoleon Bonaparte: A Collection of Poems and Songs. Many from Obscure and Anonymous Sources, Selected and Arranged with Introductory Notes and Connective Narrative.” William J. Hillis. 1896.

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The Battle of Lodi

10 May, 1796

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THE BATTLE OF LODI

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The signals giv’n! Impatient neigh

The snorting chargers at the cry

Which calls proud Austria forth today,

To “charge with all her chivalry.”

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Hark to the deep and muffled drum!

Announcing death so near at hand;

The foe! The foe! They onward come;

May heaven uphold the Austrian band!

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Mark ye, the eagle standards wave

Above the torrent’s crimson tide!

Oh! Mark ye how for glory’s grave

Those gallant horsemen forward ride!

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Two despots meet; the one by right

Defends what ages make his own;

The other, in the pride of might,

Stands forth all-conquering and alone.

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This last, upon the battle-field,

With eye which beams with living fire,

Arm’d with a dread and puissant shield,

Defies the German’s wildest ire.

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Yon bridge, where slaughter yet unsafe,

Still revels in its gory bed,

Groans now beneath the growing weight

Of living—dying—and of dead.

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’T is over! And France foredoom’d to sway

Where’er her flashing eagle shone,

Hears the proud victor named that day

In victory’s shout—“Napoleon!”

 

Sir Walter Scott: “The Bard’s Incantation”

Sir Walter Scott saw nothing to ridicule or caricature in the man who ruled France. He saw the danger which threatened his own country, and, in a legitimate way, he endeavoured to arouse his fellow-countrymen to a proper sense of that danger. There were other English writers, like Wordsworth and Campbell, who were willing to treat Napoleon as a foeman worthy of British steel; but the great majority thought of him only as a Corsican pirate, coming over to burn, ravish, and destroy.

france-louvre-napoleons-coronationCoronation of Napoleon (1804) Palace of Versailles

The Bard’s Incantation

Written under the threat of Napoleon’s invasion in the Autumn of 1804.

The Forest of Glenmore is drear,
It is all of black pine, and the dark oak-tree;
And the midnight wind to the mountain deer,
Is whistling the forest lullaby:
The moon looks through the drifting storm,
But the troubled lake reflects not her form,
For the waves roll whitening to the land,
And dash against the shelvy strand.

There is a voice among the trees,
That mingles with the groaning oak-
That mingles with the stormy breeze,
And the lake-waves dashing against the rock;-
There is a voice within the wood,
The voice of the Bard in fitful mood;
His song was louder than the blast,
As the Bard of Glenmore through the forest past.

‘Wake ye from your sleep of death,
Minstrels and bards of other days!
For the midnight wind is on the heath,
And the midnight meteors dimly blaze:
The Spectre with the Bloody Hand,
Is wandering through the wild woodland;
The owl and the raven are mute for dread,
And the time is meet to awake the dead!

‘Souls of the mighty, wake, and say
To what high strain your harps were strung
When Lochlin plough’d her billowy way,
And on your shores her Norsemen flung?
Her Norsemen train’d to spoil and blood,
Skill’d to prepare the Raven’s food,
All, by your harpings, doom’d to die
On bloody Largs and Loncarty.

‘Mute are ye all? No murmurs strange
Upon the midnight breeze sail by;
Nor through the pines, with whistling change
Mimic the harp’s wild harmony!
Mute are ye now? – Ye ne’er were mute,
When Murder with his bloody foot,
And Rapine with his iron hand,
Were hovering near yon mountain strand.

‘O, yet awake, the strain to tell,
By every deed in song enroll’d,
By every chief who fought or fell
For Albion’s weal in battle bold:-
From Coilgach, first, who rolled his car
Through the deep ranks of Roman war,
To him, of veteran memory dear,
Who, victor, died on Aboukir.

‘By all their swords, by all their scars,
By all their names, a mighty spell!
By all their wounds, by all their wars,
Arise the mighty strain to tell!
For, fiercer than fierce Hengist’s strain,
More impious than the heathen Dane,
More grasping than all grasping Rome,
Gaul’s ravening legions hither come!’

The wind is hush’d, and still the lake-
Strange murmurs fill my tinkling ears,
Bristles my hair, my sinews quake
At the dread voice of other years-
‘When targets clash’d and bugles rung,
And blades round warriors’ heads were flung,
The foremost of the band were we,
And hymned the joys of liberty!’

Theodor Körner: “Men and Knaves”

Battle_of_Leipzig_11

Battle of Nations 1813

 

MEN AND KNAVES

 (1813)

 .

The storm is out; the land is roused;

Where is the coward who sits well-housed?

Fie, on thee, boy, disguised in curls,

Behind the stove, ‘mong gluttons and girls!

   A graceless, worthless wight thou must be;

   No German maid desires thee,

   No German song inspires thee,

   No German Rhine-wine fires thee.

       Forth in the van,

       Man by man,

   Swing the battle-sword who can!

 .

When we stand watching, the livelong night,

Through piping storms, till morning light,

Thou to thy downy bed canst creep,

And there in dreams of rapture sleep.

 .

 _Chorus_.

 .

When, hoarse and shrill, the trumpet’s blast,

Like the thunder of God, makes our hearts beat fast,

Thou in the theatre lov’st to appear,

Where trills and quavers tickle the ear.

 .

_Chorus_.

 .

When the glare of noonday scorches the brain,

When our parched lips seek water in vain,

Thou canst make the champagne corks fly,

At the groaning tables of luxury.

 .

_Chorus_.

 .

When we, as we rush to the strangling fight,

Send home to our true loves a long “Good night,”

Thou canst hie thee where love is sold,

And buy thy pleasure with paltry gold.

 .

_Chorus_.

 .

When lance and bullet come whistling by,

And death in a thousand shapes draws nigh,

Thou canst sit at thy cards, and kill

King, queen, and knave, with thy spadille.

 .

_Chorus_.

 .

If on the red field our bell should toll,

Then welcome be death to the patriot’s soul.

Thy pampered flesh shall quake at its doom,

And crawl in silk to a hopeless tomb.

   A pitiful exit thine shall be;

   No German maid shall weep for thee,

   No German song shall they sing for thee,

   No German goblets shall ring for thee.

       Forth in the van,

       Man for man,

   Swing the battle-sword who can!

 

Boney’s Lamentation

The lyrics and background of Boney’s Lamentation are from The Contemplator’s Microencyclopedia of Folk MusicVisit here to download the music! This ballad is also known as Boney’s Abdication, and abdication may be used to replace the word lamentation.

Older versions of the song retained the sequence of events for Napoleon’s rise and fall, but corrupted the names. Broadwood restored the correct names in this version. Broadwood collected this in Sussex in 1893.

Because the song ends with Napoleon’s abdication and does not mention Waterloo it is probable the words were composed in 1814. The air is a variant of The Princess Royal, by Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738). The tune appeared in print in Walsh’s Complete Dancing Master (circa 1730). 

Pierre Gautherot - Napoléon Wounded Before Ratisbonne 1810

Napoléon Wounded Before Ratisbonne 1810 by Pierre Gautherot

 

Boney’s Lamentation

 

Attend, you sons of high renown,
To these few lines which I pen down:
I was born to wear a stately crown,
And to rule a wealthy nation.
I am the man that beat Beaulieu,
And Wurmser’s will did then subdue;
That great Archduke I overthrew.
On every plain
My men were slain.
Grand treasures, too, I did obtain,
And got capitulation.

I did pursue the Egyptians sore,
Till Turks and Arabs lay in gore;
The rights of France I did restore
So long in confiscation.
I chased my foes through mud and mire
Till in despair my men did tire.
Then Moscow town was set on fire,
My men were lost
Through winter frost;
I ne’er before received such blast
Since the hour of my creation.

To Leipsic town my soldiers fled,
Montmartre was strewed with Prussian dead,
We marched them forth, inveterate,
To stop a bold invasion.
Farewell, my royal spouse, once more,
And offspring great, whom I adore!
And may you that great throne restore,
That is torn away,
Without delay!
Those kings of me have made a prey,
And caused my lamentation.

Victor Hugo: “The Grande Armée”

Excerpt, “A Metrical History of the Life and Times of Napoleon Bonaparte: A Collection of Poems and Songs. Many from Obscure and Anonymous Sources, Selected and Arranged with Introductory Notes and Connective Narrative.” William J. Hillis. 1896.

While the Revolution went on and its effect were being felt from one end of France to the other; while the guillotine ran red with blood, and brother condemned brother to suffer beneath its awful knife; while it was a question of extreme doubt what precise form the government would assume, the soldiers of France, fighting her battles on the frontiers, held firm for the honour of their country. Barefooted, without arms and without food, they fought against combined Europe. Victory after victory they won; until, driven beyond the Rhine, the invaders were glad to sue for peace. These were the men who were to make possible the name of Napoleon, and well did they merit better than they then received. The glory, the honour, the future of France were in their keeping, and never once did they betray the trust.

 

great_redoubt

 

THE GRAND ARMEE

Soldiers of our Year Two! O wars! O epic songs!

Drawing at once their swords against all Crowned Wrongs,

In Prussian, Austrian bounds,

And against all the Tyres and Sodoms of the earth,

And him the man-hunter, the Tzar o’ the icy North,

Follow’d by all his hounds.

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And against Europe all, with all its captains proud,

With all its foot-soldiers whose might the plains did crowd,

With all its horsemen fleet,

All risen against France, with many a hydra head—

They sang as on they march’d, their spirits without dread,

And without shoes their feet.

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At early dawn, at eve, South, North, and everywhere,

With their old muskets on their shoulders, rattling there,

Passing both rock and flood,

Without sleep or rest, foodless, and ragged too,

Joyous and proud they went, and their shrill trumpets blew.

As only demons could.

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Sublimest Liberty fill’d evermore their thought;

Fleets taken sword in hand, and frontiers set at nought—

So sovereignly they go;

O France! On every day some prodigy they dare—

Encounters, combats, shocks—on Adige’ side Joubert,

And on the Rhine Marceau.

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The vanguard they o’ercame, the centre thy o’erthrew;

In the snow, and in the rain, water their middles to,

On went they, ever on:

And one sued them for peace, and one flung wide his gate;

And thrones were scattered like dead leaves, here of late,

Now at the wind’s breath gone.

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O soldiers! You were grand, in the midst of battle-shocks,

With your lightning-flashing eyes and wild dishevel’d locks

In the wild whirlwind black;

Impetuous, ardent, radiant, tossing back your heads,

Like lions snuffing up the North-wind when he treads

Upon his tempest track!

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Drunken and madly rapt in their great epic deeds,

They savour’d all the mirth of most heroic needs—

Steel clashing here and there,

The winged Marseillaise flying amid the balls,

The grenades and the drums, the bomb-shells and cymbals,

And thy clear laugh, Kleber!

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The Revolution cried—Die, O my volunteers!

Die to deliver all the people from their fears!

Their answering hands they raised.

Go, my old soldiers! Go, my beardless generals!

And Victory proudly march’d to the sound of bare foot falls

Over the world amazed.

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Disheartening and fear to them were all unknown;

They had without a doubt over the high clouds gone,

If their audacity

In its Olympic race one moment had look’d back,

And seen the Republic point over their glorious track

Her finger to the sky.

 

iena1

 

 

 

Victor Hugo: “Ode To The Column of Napoleon”

Excerpt, “A Metrical History of the Life and Times of Napoleon Bonaparte: A Collection of Poems and Songs. Many from Obscure and Anonymous Sources, Selected and Arranged with Introductory Notes and Connective Narrative.” William J. Hillis. 1896.

Soon after the victory of Austerlitz, peace was declared and Napoleon was at liberty once more to return to his beloved Paris.  There, he devoted himself, with all the force of his mighty genius, to the creation of those magnificent works of art and of public utility which stamp his name on the history of France even to this day.

Out of the cannon taken from his enemies, he constructed that noble monument in the Place Vendome, which told so vividly the exploits of the Grand Army, to whose fidelity and courage it was consecrated.

napo

ODE TO THE COLUMN OF NAPOLEON

On the foundation that his glory laid,
With indestructible materials made,
Alike secure from ruin and from rust,
Before whose might all monuments are dust,
The eternal Column, towering far on high,
Presents Napoleon’s throne unto the sky.

Well deemed the hero, when his sovereign hand,
Fatigued with war, the lasting trophy planned,
That civil discord would retire in shame
Before the vast memorial of his name;
And that the nation would forget to praise
The deeds of those who shone in ancient days..

Around the earth his veterans he had led,
O’er smoking fields encumbered with the dead,
And from the presence of that host so true
Armies and kings in wild confusion flew,
Leaving their ponderous cannon on the plain,
A prey to him and his victorious train!

Then, when the fields of France again were trod,
By him who came triumphant as a god,
Bearing the spoils of the defeated world,
He came mid joyous cries and flags unfurled,
Welcome as eagle to her infant brood
That waits on mountain-top its daily food!

But he, intent on his stupendous aims,
Straightway proceeds to where the furnace flames;
And while his troops, with haste and zealous glow,
The massive ordinance in the caldron throw,
He to the meanest artisan unfolds
His plans to form the fashion of the moulds.

Then to the war he led his troops once more,
And from the foe the palm of conquest bore,
He drove the opponent armies from the plain,
And seized their dread artillery again,
As good material for the Column high,
Built to perpetuate his memory!

Such was his task!  The roaring culverin,
The spur, the sabre, and the mortar’s din,
These were his earliest sports till Egypt gave
Her ancient pyramids his smile to save;
Then, when the imperial crown adorned his brow,
He raised the monument we reverence now!

He raised that monument!  The grandest age
Which e’er the historian’s annals might engage
Furnished the subject, and the end of time
Shall boast that emblem of his course sublime;
Where Rhine and Tiber rolled in crimson flood,
And the tall snow-capped Alps all trembling stood!

For even as the giant race of old
Ossa on Pelion, mount on mountain, rolled,
To scale high heaven’s towers, so he has made
His battles serve to help his escalade;
And thus to gratify his fancy wild,
Wagram, Arcole, on Austerlitz were piled!

The sun unveiled himself in beauty bright,
The eyes of all beamed gladness and delight,
When, with unruffled visage, thou did’st come,
Here of France!  Unto the Place Vendome,
To mark thy Column towering from the ground,
And the four eagles ranged the base around.

‘T was then, environed by thy warriors tried,
As erst the Romans flocked to Aemilius’ side,
“T was then each child – each infant, on whose head
Six summers scarcely had their radiance shed –
Murmured applause, and clapped their little hands,
And spied their fathers midst thy serried bands.

Oh, when thou stood’st there, godlike, proud, and great,
Pondering on conquest, majesty, and state,
Who would have thought that e’er the time could be
When a base senate should dishonour thee,
And cavil o’er thine ashes, for Vendome
At least is worthy to become thy tomb!

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Robert Mack: “The Battle of Marengo, by Bonaparte”

Excerpt, “A Metrical History of the Life and Times of Napoleon Bonaparte: A Collection of Poems and Songs. Many from Obscure and Anonymous Sources, Selected and Arranged with Introductory Notes and Connective Narrative.” William J. Hillis. 1896.

Had Napoleon lost the battle of Marengo, it is safe to say he never would have worn the crown of France.  A return to Paris, defeated in Italy, meant for him a forced retirement from the head of National affairs and the substitution of Carnot, or some other sturdy republican in his place.  With such a change, at that time, Waterloo, in all human probability would never have been fought, and “Napoleon at St. Helena” would never have become history.

The escape was a narrow one.  In the space of half an hour, what appeared to be a crushing defeat was turned into a glorious victory.  To Desaix’s opportune arrival upon the field and to Kellerman’s masterly cavalry charge, a great share of the glory of that day is due.  The victory won was decisive and the campaign ended, with the close of the battle.  Within two months after leaving Paris, Napoleon returned – again the savior of France.

The campaign of 1800 will ever be recorded as one of the most brilliant achievements in history, and the one which bore the mightiest results to the man who planned and carried it out to a successful issue.

marengo

Battaile de Marengo

by Louis Francois Lejeune

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The Battle of Marengo

By Napoleon

 

From flattering crowds, and laurel crowns,

To muse in thought profound,

An evening’s hour I sometimes seize,

And sigh beneath the Western breeze,

Which o’er these torn demolish’d trees,

Floats awfully around.

My friend, how mournful are these plains;

How deep the solemn silence reigns,

Where nature lately smil’d!

Yonder where tulips blooming stood,

And roses blush’d around;

Gaunt mastiffs gorge, on lapper’d blood,

All around for miles, tremendous ruin’s spread!

By whom? You’ll cry:

Heaven, I reply.

Melas and I.

Were but the instruments, by whom whole nations bled!

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Friend L, to you, on trembling wing,

The muse in shudd’ring tones shall sing,

Thalia’s self shall tell;

Shall paint that bloody scene, that dreadful sight,

Which stopp’d the songs in heaven, and turn’d the day to night,

And made a pause in hell!

Seraphs, from heaven’s high battlements,

Look’d down, and dropp’d a tear.

Wrap’d round with smoke, form’d gloom, the sun

Gleam’d with a blacken’d red!

While devils, thinking time was done,

That God, to finish had begun,

And the last hour at last was come,

Darted from earth, swift to their home,

And hid in hell for fear!

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When from the slumbers of the night,

At morning light I rose,

Seem’d kindling to a flame;

Impell’d by heaven, my horse I sprung,

And bounded to the plain.

Then what a sight my wondering eyes beheld!

Austria’s lesions tow’ring o’er the field!

Compact and strong,

The dreadful throng,

Mov’d firmly on;

As if to force the Gaulic lines, or storm the gates of Death!

If that’s your mind, exclaim’d my soul,

Hungary’s passing bell may toll,

For here in blood your chiefs shall roll,

And pant away their breath.

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Along Bormida’s broken hills,

Between the river and the north,

To keep our foes from marching forth,

Our army held its posts;

The spacious plain, that lay between

Those hills and deep Bormida’s stream,

Roar’d with the Austrian hosts.

One noble pass, nature had here supplied;

A smooth defile some hundred paces wide.

At all these posts our lines were thin,

For brave Desaix, with half the men,

Lay in reserve behind.

But seeing now, the hour was come,

When all was lost and all was won,

I cried, “Let swiftest couriers run,

And all our powers be joined.”

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Meantime, the Austrian phalanx form’d

In terrible array;

Proud Melas, in refulgent arms,

Rides through his host, their courage warms,

And cries “Behold the day:

Behold the day, by Heaven design’d,

To crush th’ oppressors of mankind!

Be men this day, and down the tyrant’s hurl’d.

This day, the Corsican comes down;

This day we ransom Capet’s Crown,

And peace restore unto a bleeding world!”

This said, to eighty thousand men,

The bloody word was given;

Whose dread reply embowell’d air,

Shook earth, and enter’d heaven!

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In haste, through Gallia’s lines I rode,

Along the dreadful van!

With military grandeur swell’d,

I scarcely felt as man!

To ardent warriors, loud I cried:

“Ye sons of France, ye heroes tried

Beneath the burning sun,

Who thrice have thunder’d down the Alps,

And Italy o’errun:

Ye shakers of Vienna’s wall!

To you, your former glory calls:

I’m too immense for faith, without renewed proof.

In thunder, then, convince the world,

Your standard over conquer’d Nile unfurl’d,

That mighty Charles and Wurmser overthrown,

Those proud defenders of a tyrant’s throne,

And Joseph hiring carts, to move his home,

Were but the opening wonders of your youth.”

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On this, the horrid scene began,

And the dread tempest fell:

Twas then, Marengo’s thunders roar’d,

Down to the gates of hell!

For three long hours, the flame, the roar,

The dying screams, the streams of gore,

Waited on death, triumphing o’er

The undecided field.

At length o’er Austria’s Eagles victory hung,

My unsupported legions were o’ercome –

And all the chance, seem’d now from France,

Either to die, or yield.

This helpless situation, flow’d

From my mistake alone;

For when I bid the trumpets sound,

I thought Desaix was  near;

When O, alas! Almost too late I found,

His legions lay full three leagues in the rear!

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Of all the dreadful hours I’ve seen,

Pregnant with nations’ fates,

The muse yet never witness’d one,

Like that she now relates?

On either hand, our wings were turn’d;

The centre only, stood;

Guarding the dread defile, which roll’d

With rivulets of blood!

Upon the right, a strange tremendous sound

Was heard, like thousands in despair:

Each, in a panic scream.

Not quite, but half, by thund’ring cannons drown’d,

It died away, along Bormida’s stream,

Like the dire wailings of the unhappy dead,

A sinking down to worlds unknown,

With terror, and with dread!

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Had Melas one decisive charge

Made through the hollow way,

Scarce heaven itself, could have retriev’d

The fortunes of the day.

But thinking all our powers were join’d,

Restrained by heaven or fear;

He sent his forces three miles round,

To take us in the rear.

Not knowing, all that stopp’d his progress then

Was barely just six thousand weary men!

On whom for fear, lest we should charge,

He made his cannon roar—

Vomiting death amongst our ranks,

Till down, around their gasping dead;

Flaoted the Gaulic gore!

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‘Twas in this dreadful hour, I rose

Above my former fame;

From friends, obtesting heaven, I would retire;

I broke, and brav’d the whole Austrian fire,

Across the bleeding plain.

From rank to rank, on every side I flew,

Serenely calm; “My friends,” I cried,

“Desaix is just in view.”

The bosom of the earth was tore

Beneath my courser’s feet –

Whole platoons dropp’d, amidst their gore –

The shiver’d trees, in fragments fell around,

And join’d the cumbrous carnage of the ground:

While horrid devastation rag’d  along,

And ruin seem’d complete!

At length like showers, to sun-burst flowers,

The great deliverers came;

Raging they broke, through fire and smoke,

And hillocks of the slain!

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Transported at the long wished aid,

My daring plans were in a moment laid.

The troops, I in a solid column form’d;

Resolv’d to send, down to the world beneath,

Thousands, to tell the Austrian lines were storm’d,

Or Bonaparte had resign’d his breath!

But one half hour, these grand arrangements took;

During which time, disgorging flame,

Red globes, and death, across the plain,

One hundred cannons, roar’d amain;

Till heaven and earth resounding run –

With the dire clamour shook!

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At length, prepar’d, the bleeding front,

To right and left I wheel’d;

And bade the column, form’d behind,

Rush thund’ring to the field.

The horrid pas de charge, at once was given,

Its tones re-murmur’d from the vault of heaven;

While like tremendous rolling flames,

By raging tempests driven,

The column in a torrent pour’d

On the Austrian host;

O’er bellowing cannons, and the dead;

O’er those that fought, and those that fled;

Like Aetna’s burning lava red,

Roaring, resistless, down it spread;

With bayonets plunge, down to Pluto’s dreary coasts

Thousands , who are now wandering there,

Pale, melancholy ghosts!

Thus ended this tremendous day

Of terrible renown;

‘T was thus, I snatch’d bright victorious prize,

Perhaps, the Imperial Crown,

But while we triumph, tears should pour,

For brave Desaix is gone:

As down upon the foes he bore,

Leading the van, thund’ring before,

Fate flew, and down amidst the gore,

He fell without a groan!

Hem’d round with glory, lo! He dies;

And worlds must do the same!

Even then, o’er nature’s smoking wreck,

Deathless, shall live the grandeur of his name,

Borne on Marengo’s dreadful sound

To everlasting fame.

LargeDeathofDesaixatMarengobyBroc.

Death of General Desaix

Jean Broc

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