Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > France
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X.  1876–79.
 
Brienne
The Schoolboy King
Walter Thornbury (1828–1876)
 
A Scene at Brienne

LE PÈRE PETRAULT shut Virgil up
  Just as the clock struck ten:
“This little Bonaparte,” he said,
  “Is one of Plutarch’s men.
To see him with his massive head,        5
  Gripped mouth, and swelling brow,
Wrestle with Euclid,—there he sat
  Not half an hour from now.”
 
The good old pedagogue his book
  Put slowly in its place:        10
“That Corsican,” he said, “has eyes
  Like burning-glasses; race
Italian, as his mother said;
  Barred up from friend and foe,
He toils all night, inflexible,        15
  Forging it blow by blow.
 
“I know his trick of thought, the way
  He covers up his mouth:
One hand like this, the other clenched,—
  Those eyes of the hot South.        20
The little Cæsar, how he strides,
  Sleep-walking in the sun,
Only awaking at the roar
  Of the meridian gun.
 
“I watched him underneath my book        25
  That day he sprung the mine,
For when the earth-wall rocked and reeled,
  His eyes were all a-shine;
And when it slowly toppled down,
  He leaped up on the heap        30
With fiery haste,—just as a wolf
  Would spring upon a sheep.
 
“Pichegru, Napoleon’s monitor,
  Tells me he ’s dull and calm,
Tenacious, firm, submissive,—yes,        35
  Our chain is on his arm.
Volcanic natures, such as his,
  I dread;—may God direct
This boy to good, the evil quell,
  His better will direct.        40
 
“Here is his Euclid book,—the ink
  Still wet upon the rings;
These are the talismans some day
  He ’ll use to fetter kings.
To train a genius like this lad        45
  I ’ve prayed for years,—for years;
But now I know not whether hopes
  Are not half choked by fears.
 
“Last Monday, when they built that fort
  With bastions of snow,        50
The ditch and spur and ravelin,
  And terraced row on row,
’T was Bonaparte who cut the trench,
  Who shaped the line of sap,—
A year or two, and he will be        55
  First in war’s bloody gap.
 
“I see him now upon the hill,
  His hands behind his back,
Waving the tricolor that led
  The vanguard of attack;        60
And there, upon the trampled earth,
  The ruins of the fort,
This Bonaparte, the school-boy king,
  Held his victorious court.
 
“To see him give the shouting crowd        65
  His little hand to kiss,
You ’d think him never meant by God
  For any lot but this.
And then with loud exulting cheers,
  Upon their shoulders borne,        70
He rode with buried Cæsar’s pride
  And Alexander’s scorn.
 
“Ah! I remember, too, the day
  The fire-balloon went up;
It burnt away into a star        75
  Ere I went off to sup;
But he stood weeping there alone
  Until the dark night came,
To think he had not wings to fly
  And catch the passing flame.        80
 
“O, he is meant for mighty things,
  This leader of my class;—
But there ’s the bell that rings for me,
  So let the matter pass.
You see that third-floor window lit,        85
  The blind drawn half-way down;
That ’s Bonaparte’s,—he ’s at it now,—
  It makes the dunces frown.”
 
 
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