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|NAPOLEONIC ERA LITERATURE|
From Russian Poems,
translated with notes by C. Fillingham Coxwell,
London: C.W. Daniel Company,
Where are the friends of former years, The old original hussars? Where is the chief who ruled his peers, My boon companions of the wars? Veterans, I remember all, How you grew mellow without stint, Your places round the fire recall, And noses of a purple tint, The soldiers' caps thrown lightly back, The jackets reaching to your knees, Sabres, and sabretaches slack, The hay whereon you lay at ease. Holding black pipes between your teeth, You spare your speech; the smoke ascends Or, choosing tortuous paths beneath Your muffled coats, its way extends. No single word, much columned smoke; None stirs, and all to silence keep; Each drinks and, wrapped within his cloak, Stretches and quickly goes to sleep. Scarecely appears the break of day, Ere each is scudding o'er the field, With cap askew in brave display, Lets his pelisse to breezes yield. His steed is quivering with delight, His sabre whistles, cleaves a foe; With battle done, his appetite Demands a chance itself to show. But what distresses now my view? Fear rules hussars of modish shape, Ill-uniformed, in high boots new, They pirouette and work escape. They sagely speak, wiseacres look, Believe the tought of love absurd; They like Jomini and his book, Concerning vodka say no word. Where are my friends of former years, The real, superlative hussars? Where is the chief who ruled his peers, My boon companions of the wars?
Under the shade of foreign skies, The master of fierce warlike arts, In stifling exile, by his sighs Softens the ire of conquered hearts. And, if a northern sail excites His mind beside his prison door, The lonely outcast clearly writes A peaceful word on that far shore. Thence, he looks forth across the deep, And captive hears the clashing sword, Sees icy fields where brave men sleep, Or France the beautiful, adored; And, in his wilderness at times, Seeking from woes to gain relief, Views, through a veil of martial crimes, His dearest son with bitter grief. Let them be overcome with shame Whose petty-minded souls have owned A wish to overwhelm with blame The shade of one from might dethroned! Nay, praise the sacrificial priest Who showed our folk their destiny And, from his isle, the thought released Of endless world-wide liberty!
[This poem, with the exception of four censored stanzas,
Granddad, came any good at last, When stricken Moscow's burning vast Drove the French host away? Or then occurred incessant fights And endless dreadful days and nights? Russia assuredly delights In Borodino's day! Yes, there were many in my time Who, in their youth, or manhood's prime, Were heroes of that field! To suffer was our common lot, Few, that arrived, e'er left the spot, What might have been for us was not: We would not Moscow yield. We had continued the retreat And as we hoped the French to beat, We chafed and muttered threats. Though Frenchmen dared our land invade, We'd never flee from them dismayed, The foe would soon become afraid Of Russiasn bayonets! We found in time a glorious field, There we drew up, our might revealed, And built a great redoubt. O, we rejoiced at what was done! We took our place beside each gun, Hardly had seen the rising sun Before the French were out. I loaded from the cannon's end And thought: I'll now salute a friend, M'sieu and brother, stay! To be heroic through it all Until my head should stop a ball, I could but try to break the wall, And bring the foe to bay. Two days are spent in musket fire, And then such trifling sees us tire, For greater things we pray. On every side a call was heard, "Now for the grape," arose the word; The shadows of the night had blurred The horrors of the day. I gently dozed beside my gun, Yet heard the French, before they won, Cheer in a manner rash. We in our bivouac kept still; One cleaned his shako with a will, Made sure his bayonet would kill, Gnawed at his long moustache. As soon as came the morning light, Line after line apprached in sight, And forward swift would leap. Our colonel, ever critical, A father seemed to one and all; Alas, his fate 'twas there to fall, In the cold ground to sleep. He spoke and looked with flashing eyes, "Lads! Moscow's future with us lies. We would for Moscow fall. Have not our brothers nobly died?" We promised with an honest pride And kept our oath, "To victory!" cried At Borodino's call. The day had come! In serried crowds The French advanced through smoky clouds And made for our redoubt. Dragoons with horse-tails dark and slight, And lancers with their pennons bright, Deploying slowly into sight, Would put us soon to rout. No more such combats will be seen; The flags displayed a ghostly sheen, Through smoke oft pierced by fire. Loud clashed the steel, the grape shot hissed; The weary swordsmen would desist; The heaps of bloody dead unmissed By cannon balls rose higher. Our foes that day had truly felt Where Russian skill and vigour dwelt, We fought them hand to hand. The earth was shaking like each breast, A thousand guns the sky addressed, Tore horse and man together pressed In battle for our land. When darkness fell our men were true, Ready at dawn to fight anew And battle till the end. Alas! the drums began to beat; And all that liked not to retreat Said they the foe again would meet; I helped a wounded friend. Yes, there were many in my time, Of fortitude and skill sublime, And heroes of that field. To suffer was our common lot, Few that arrived e'er left the spot, What might have been for us was not, We would not Moscow yield.
[from Timoleon Etc., New York: Caxton Press, 1891]
NEVER Pharoah's Night, Whereof the Hebrew wizards croon, Did so the Theban flamens try As me this veritable Noon. Like blank ocean in blue calm Undulates the ethereal frame; In one flowing oriflamme God flings his fiery standard out. Battling with the Emirs fierce Napoleon a great victory won, Through the through his sword did pierce; But, bayonetted by this sun His gunners drop beneath the gun. Holy, holy, holy Light! Immaterial incandescence, Of God the effluence of the essence, Shekinah intolerably bright!
[from Specimens of the Russian Poets:
with Preliminary Remarks and Biographical Notes,
by John Bowring, London: 1821]
While honouring the grape's ruby nectar, All sportingly, laughingly gay; We determined -- I, Silvia, and Hector, To drive old dame Wisdom away. "O my children, take care," said the beldame, "Attend to these counsels of mine: Get not tipsy! for danger is seldom Remote from the goblet of wine." "With thee in his company, no man Can err," said our wag with a wink; "But come, thou good-natured old woman, There's a drop in the goblet -- and drink!" She frowned -- but her scruples soon twisting, Consented: -- and smilingly said: "So polite -- there's indeed no resisting, For Wisdom was never ill-bred." She drank but continued her teaching: "Let the wise from indulgence refrain;" And never gave over her preaching, But to say, "Fill the goblet again." And she drank, and she totter'd, but still she Was talking and shaking her head: Muttered "temperance" -- "prudence" -- until she Was carried by Folly* to bed. (*Note: Original has Love rather than Folly)
[from The Poetical Works of Lord Byron,
London: Oxford University Press, 1926]
"Expende Annibalem: -- quot libras in duce summo Invenies?" -- Juvenal, Sat. x.
"The Emperor Nepos was acknowledged by the Senate, by the Italians, and by the Provincials of Gaul; his moral virtues, and military talents, were loudly celebrated; and those who derived any private benefit from his government announced in prophetic strains the restoration of public felicity.... By this shameful abdication, he protracted his life a few years, in a very ambiguous state, between an Emperor and an Exile, till ----." -- Gibbon's Decline and Fall, vol. vi., p. 220.
ONCE fairly set out on his party of pleasure, Taking towns at his liking, and crowns at his leisure, From Elba to Lyons and Paris he goes, Making balls for the ladies, and bows to his foes.
STAR of the brave! -- whose beam hath shed Such glory o'er the quick and dead -- Thou radiant and adored deceit! Which millions rush'd in arms to greet, Wild meteor of immortal birth; Why rise in Heaven to set on Earth? Souls of slain heroes form'd thy rays; Eternity flash'd through thy blaze; The music of thy marital sphere Was fame on high and honour here; And thy light broke on human eyes, Like a volcano of the skies. Like lava roll'd thy stream of blood, And swept down empires with its flood; Earth rock'd beneath thee to her base, As thou didst lighten through all space; And the shorn Sun grew dim in air, And set while thou wert dwelling there. Before thee rose, and with thee grew, A rainbow of the loveliest hue Of three bright colours, each divine, And fit for that celestial sign; For Freedom's hand had blended them, Like tints in an immortal gem. One tint was of the sunbeam's dyes; One, the blue depth of Seraph's eyes; One, the pure Spirit's veil of white Had robed in radiance of its light: The three so mingled did beseem The texture of a heavenly dream. Star of the brave! thy ray is pale, And darkness must again prevail! But, oh thou Rainbow of the free! Our tears and blood must flow for thee. When thy bright promise fades away, Our life is but a load of clay. And Freedom hallows with her tread The silent cities of the dead; For beautiful in death are they Who proudly fall in her array; And soon, oh Goddess! may we be For evermore with them or thee!
[translated by Alfred Lishman in
TERJE VIKEN (FROM THE NORSK OF HENRK IBSEN),
AND OTHER POEMS, GRAVE AND GAY,
published by the author at Fockerby, Goole, 1897]
[by Alfred Lishman]
THE poem "Terje Viken" has probably been more read in Norway than all the rest of Ibsen's works put together. It is found in many of the school reading books, and few youths leave school without being able to recite the whole or a part of it. It was written when Ibsen was a young and enthusiastic man, and, in its tone and tendency, offers a curious contrast to his later writings. The British public, which has had opportunities of seeing and reading his dramas, will surely welcome this product of his youthful genius.
The peculiar metre of the original has been preserved in this adaptation, although the extra line in the middle of each stanza may, at first, sound rather odd to English ears. The attempt at a translation in verse has naturally necessitated a rather free treatment, but I have tried to preserve the spirit and tone of the original work, and have closely followed the narrative.
Norway was, of course, involved in the war which arose between Denmark and England early in the present century, during which the Norwegian ports were rigidly blockaded by the English fleet. As they grew little corn, and as the harvests failed miserably, the suffering amongst the Norwegian people was incredibly severe. I have been informed by intelligent Scandinavians that in some parts people were reduced so low as to make their bread from the white inner bark of trees.
The battle of Lyngör alluded to in the text and in the original, was fought in the remote recesses of a tortuous fjord of Southern Norway. The present writer has visited the spot, and marvelled how a foreign vessel could thread its way for so great a distance in the narrow and twisting channel. Here, however, an English man-o'-war penetrated and destroyed some Scandanavian warships. There is a monument on the spot erected by a Danish lady to the fallen on both sides.
November 25th, 1897
*Pronouced Ter-ye Veeken.
ON a bleak Norse island, rocky and
Again I saw him, but once again;
In a pilot's hut one winter's night,
In youth his ardent Viking blood
Short time he spared to mourn on land
A winter's revel! A winter's joy!
Homeward bound, the wild-goose flocks
They reached the wharf, and his messmates rushed
*Pronounced skohl = a health.
More earnest now is Terje's life,
But famine came, alas! and war
No fee for work in the forest deep!
Nor sail, nor mast had that puny skiff,
And now for home! Three nights and days
Uplifted heart, unwonted prayer
His boat was seen and a signal fired;
Up Homberg Sound are the Gjeslings*dread,
Like an arrow between the feather-white waves
But louder still yelled the fifteen men,
Frame and deals were burst by the stroke,
To the captain of that smart corvette,
He bought with tears, they sold him smiles,
Five years in an English prison passed,
Few recognized that grey-haired man
Long from an island rocky and bare
One moonlight night, the wind in shore,
Strong and tall was the stern old man,
His check turned white, and a ghastly smile
The channel's course seemed now illumined
The sea rushed in with gurgling sound,
It touched! they sank! but the sea was smooth
A vision clear of his youthful feat
But Terje leant on his long oar-shank,
"Comely the face of your lady wife!
He caught the child and swung her round,
His voice so harsh was to sweetness toned,
When day-break came he saved them all;
The lord and his lady and many more
When the homeward yacht passed Hesnes Sound
Such he was when I saw him last;
At Fjre Church is a simple tomb
(Proofread by Patricia Teter)
last updated: 00-feb-11; sld