Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
 
Incident of the French Camp
By Robert Browning (1812–1889)
 
I
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.
 
II
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.
 
III
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.
 
IV
“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.
 
V
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,” the 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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