The Emperor’s Procession [108]

Written: in December 1840
First published: in Telegraph für Deutschland No. 23, February 1841
Signed: Friedrich O.

Paris is empty. All the populace
Swarms out to throng the Seine on either side.
Bright shines the sun of France, though veiled in mourning.
A tear bedews the smiling face of pride.

Today the ebullient French are grave and calm.
They dream of victory’s laurel wreath no more.
Ringed with eternal laurels comes the scourge
Of Europe, God of France, the Emperor.

like grey old battle ruins, the veteran soldiers
Ride on before and after. The funeral train
With cannon thundering and banners flying
Moves on towards Paris. Rich, exuberant, vain,

Plunged into grief, devotion-drunk once more,
Paris falls prostrate at her idol’s feet;
And if the price be still more suffering —
They shall not flinch. Thoughts of revenge are sweet.

Music of death and music of the wars
Crashes all round. The gentlest heart is thrilled.
Thus rode he in the blaze of victory
From Austerlitz and from Marengo’s field.

And pale, and mute, and proud, and great, as when
He rode in triumph through the swirling throng,
Transformed as never by the light of glory,
Acclaimed by all, the Emperor rides along.

Where are they now, the Guards? Where is Dombrowski,
General of the Slays and no man’s slave?
Murat, the prince of horsemen? Poniatowski?
And where is Ney, the Bravest of the Brave?

Thinned is the forest of the mighty heroes.
Waterloo’s fury mowed the Guardsmen down.
The remnants march in silence, heads held high.
Behind iron bars weeps Montholon, alone.

The strength and flower of Empire follow after.
United here the young and old of France.
And even the elite of the Republic
Weep at the shrine where weeps the whole of France.

And who are these with brows of victory
That yet betray the anguish of their souls,
Their features ravaged by the grief of mourning,
Though they step proudly? Hush, it is the Poles.

To greet the Emperor — arches, columns, stones,
Memorials, images of eternity,
Ideas in bronze as daring as his own,
To sanctify his fallen majesty.

Collapsed his house, tumbled the royal crown,
Gone is the world empire that he dreamed might be.
Like Alexander, without heirs he sleeps
The eternal sleep beneath the laurel-tree.

He rests in peace, Silent the Te Deum.
In pious gloom the shadowed columns rear.
This very church is now his mausoleum.
A deity lies dead and buried here.