Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
April 22
Incident of the French Camp
By Robert Browning (1812–1889)
          The battle of Ratisbon was fought between Napoleon and the Archduke Charles of Bavaria on April 22, 1809. The town was afterwards ceded to Austria.

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,        5
  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,        10
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        15
  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—        20
(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        25
  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,        30
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        35
  When her bruised eaglet breathes:
“You’re wounded!” “Nay,” his soldier’s pride
  Touched to the quick, he said:
“I’m killed sire!” And, his chief beside,
  Smiling, the boy fell dead.        40

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