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An Incident of the French Camp

by Robert Browning (1812-1899)

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,” his soldier’s pride

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