Incident Of The French Camp

Robert Browning was the father of poet Robert Browning.


You know, we French stormed Ratisbon:
  A mile or so away,
On a little mound, Napoleon
  Stood on our storming-day;
With neck out-thrust, you fancy how,
  Legs wide, arms locked behind,
As if to balance the prone brow
  Oppressive with its mind.


Just as perhaps he mused ``My plans
  ``That soar, to earth may fall,
``Let once my army-leader Lannes
  ``Waver at yonder wall,''---
Out 'twixt the battery-smokes there flew
  A rider, bound on bound
Full-galloping; nor bridle drew
  Until he reached the mound.


Then off there flung in smiling joy,
  And held himself erect
By just his horse's mane, a boy:
  You hardly could suspect---
(So tight he kept his lips compressed,
  Scarce any blood came through)
You looked twice ere you saw his breast
  Was all but shot in two.


``Well,'' cried he, ``Emperor, by God's grace
  ``We've got you Ratisbon!
``The Marshal's in the market-place,
  ``And you'll be there anon
``To see your flag-bird flap his vans
  ``Where I, to heart's desire,
``Perched him!'' The chief's eye flashed; his plans
  Soared up again like fire.


The chief's eye flashed; but presently
  Softened itself, as sheathes
A film the mother-eagle's eye
  When her bruised eaglet breathes;
``You're wounded!'' ``Nay,'' the soldier's pride
  Touched to the quick, he said:
``I'm killed, Sire!'' And his chief beside
  Smiling the boy fell dead.