A.L.A. Smith: “The Queen of Prussia’s Ride”
Excerpt, “A Metrical History of the Life and Times of Napoleon Bonaparte.” Editor William J. Hillis. New York: 1896.
Whatever his inclination may have been, Napoleon was not to be permitted to rest. Pitt, his greatest enemy, it is true, was dead, and Fox, his friend, had come into power in the English Cabinet, but this state of affairs was not to last. Fox dying, England succeeded in forming a new coalition between Russia, Prussia, and herself, and war was again declared against France.
Jena, Eylau, and Friedland, were the answer Napoleon gave to this challenge, and bitterly did Prussia, especially, pay for her rash attempt to free herself from the toils of the French conqueror. But the seed was being sown which was to bring forth victory and revenge for Prussia and all Germany. Defeat and humiliation were bringing to the surface those brave, unflinching spirits that nothing could conquer.
Had Frederick William been endowed with the same positive mind and courageous heart which Louisa, the Queen, possessed, the dawn of victory might have come sooner to that unhappy country. It took such soldiers as “Old Father Blucher” and such indomitable courage as Louisa possessed to cope with the magic power of Napoleon.
It is told that at the battle of Jena, when the Prussian army was routed, the Queen, mounted upon a superb charger, remained on the field attended only by three or four of her escort. A band of French hussars seeing her, rushed forward at full gallop, and with drawn swords dispersed the little group and pursued her all the way to Weimar.
Had not the horse her Majesty rode possessed the fleetness of a stag, the fair Queen would certainly have been captured.
The incident, be it history or not, gave occasion for the following poem.
The Queen of Prussia’s Ride
Fair Queen, away! To thy charger speak,
A band of hussars thy capture seek;
Oh, haste! Escape! They are riding this way,
Speak, speak to thy charger without delay;
Behold! They come at a break-neck pace,
A smile triumphant illumes each face,
Queen of the Prussians, now for a race,
To Weimar for safety … fly!
She turned, and her steed with a furious dash,
Over the field like the lightning’s flash –
Away, like an arrow from steel cross-bow,
Over hill and dale in the sun’s fierce flow,
The Queen and her enemies thundering go,
On toward Weimar they sped.
The royal courser is swift and brave,
And his royal rider he tries to save,
“Vive l’Empereur!” rings sharp and clear;
She turns and is startled to see them so near,
Then softly speaks in her charger’s ear,
And away he bounds like a roe.
He speeds as though on the wings of the wind,
The Queen’s pursuers are left behind,
She fears, though each trooper grasps his reins,
Stands up in his stirrups, strikes spurs and strains;
For ride as they may, her steed still gains,
And Weimar is just before.
Safe! The clatter now fainter grows,
She sees in the distance her labouring foes,
The gates of the fortress stand open wide
To welcome the German nation’s bride
With gallop and dash, into Weimar she goes,
And the gates at once on her enemies close.
Give thanks, give thanks! She is safe with those
Who hail her with cheer on cheer!
Battle of Jenaa