Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Africa
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Africa: Vol. XXIV.  1876–79.
 
Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia: Nile, the River
Napoleon in Bivouac
Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810–1876)
 
Translated by C. T. Brooks

A WATCH-FIRE on a sandy waste—
  Two trenches—arms in stack—
A pyramid of bayonets—
  Napoleon’s bivouac!
 
Yonder the stately grenadiers        5
  Of Kleber’s vanguard see!
The general to inspect them sits—
  Close by the blaze sits he.
 
Upon his weary knee the chart,
  There, by the glowing heap,        10
Softly the mighty Bonaparte
  Sinks, like a child to sleep.
 
And stretched on cloak and cannon,
  His soldiers, too, sleep well,
And, leaning on his musket, nods        15
  The very sentinel.
 
Sleep on, ye weary warriors, sleep!
  Sleep out your last hard fight!
Mute, shadowy sentinels shall keep
  Watch round your trench to-night.        20
 
Let Murad’s horsemen dash along!
  Let man and steed come on!
To guard your line stalks many a strong
  And stalwart Champion.
 
A Mede stands guard, who with you rode        25
  When you from Thebes marched back,
Who after King Cambyses strode,
  Hard in his chariot’s track.
 
A stately Macedonian
  Stands sentry by your line,        30
Who saw on Ammon’s plain the crown
  Of Alexander shine.
 
And, lo! another spectre!
  Old Nile has known him well;
An Admiral of Cæsar’s fleet,        35
  Who under Cæsar fell.
 
The graves of earth’s old lords, who sleep
  Beneath the desert-sands,
Send forth their dead, his guard to keep,
  Who now the world commands.        40
 
They stir, they wake, their places take
  Around the midnight flame;
The sand and mould I see them shake
  From many a mail-clad frame.
 
I see the ancient armor gleam        45
  With wild and lurid light;
Old, bloody purple mantles stream
  Out on the winds of night.
 
They float and flap around a brow
  By boiling passion stirred;        50
The hero, as in anger, now,
  Deep-breathing, grasps his sword.
 
He dreams;—a hundred realms, in dream,
  Erect him each a throne;
High on a car, with golden beam,        55
  He sits as Ammon’s son.
 
With thousand throats, to welcome him
  The glowing Orient cries,
While at his feet the fire grows dim,
  Gives one faint flash—and dies.        60
 
 
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