Category Archives: Lyrical Histories


As a living poet I have always held a torch to tradition, using models like pillars on which to build my own poetical buildings. The Conchordia Folio is no different, for any self-respecting poet of substance, if turning to the dramatic arts, should really be focussing on the eminent dramatic poet of the language & his body of work.

But there is emulation & there is evolution, & for my own essay into theatre I have taken on board the love of my own zeitgeist for the Broadway/West End musical which has created, when blended with Shakespearean iambic pentameter, what I have call’d ‘Conchordia.’ In its purest essence it means ‘with chords,’ & all the songs I have provided for the conchords can be played on an acoustic guitar.

One must also praise the folk duo ‘The Flight Of The Conchords,’ who really raised the bar as to what an individual performer must be – part singer, part songwriter, part actor, part comedian, part dancer, etc… i.e. all the muses operating in a single bodily space.

The first 13 conchords of the CONCHORDIA FOLIO are;

Tinky Disco
No Nay Never

Fight Of The Century
Sunshine Showdown

Flight of The White Eagles
Stars & Stripes
The Siege of Gozo

Millhouse Green

The Conchordia Folio: An Interview with Damian Beeson Bullen (September 2019)


Ever imagined what would have happen’d
If the Stone Roses had teamed up with Shakepseare? The Mumble caught up with the man behind it all…

Hello Damo. So you are here to talk about your new project, the Conchordia Folio – what’s it all about?
Hello Mumble. Well, in essence the folio is a collection of dramatic scripts, per se, rather like the Shakespearean folio. The only difference is I’m assembling it myself, whereas the Bard’s was collated by his pals a few years after his death. It should be ready in book & audio form by the Spring. There’ also an element of competition here – why not, you only get one life. As a poet I’ve written a better epic than Milton, but Shakespeare seems untouchable. But so were Liverpool FC before Fergie got the Man U job, & after declaring he wanted to ‘knock them off their fuc£king perch’ he went on to do so. I know I’m definitely a better bass-payer than Shakespeare, so I knew had to incorporate music into my scripts, play to my strengths kinda thing. Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock Shakespeare off his feffin perch!

So how exactly do you intend to ‘Knock Shakespeare off his feffin perch?’
I mean look, if a guy can run a marathon in less than two hours, another guy can outdo Shakespeare. Its the whole point of being human right, to better ourselves. Methodwise, its simple really. I’ve tried to outdo his sonnets already, creating a sequence of 154 which if you put against Shakespeare’s 154, I think I’ve got the edge. So it’ll be the same idea with the plays. I need to create a canonical 37 which when placed next to Shakepseare’s own 37, lets leave it to posterity to decide. My edge, I think, is going to be more penetrable language, shorter pieces & some proper banging tunes.

Performing Alibi at Eden Festival, 2018

Thirty Seven plays – thats an awful lot to create in a single sitting – how long do you think will it take to achieve?
Well, I’ve written/been writing an epic poem, Axis & Allies, since 2001, so I can handle large projects no problemo. But I have set myself a time limit. With Shakespeare writing his last play, The Tempest, over the winter of 1610-1611, then he was 46 years old, approaching 47. For an even playing field, then, I need to be finishing my 37th play about the same time. I turn 47 in June 2024, so I’ve got just under four years to finish them all. Its totally doable, by the way, & watching that guy run a sub-two-hour marathon thro sheer hard work & dedication inspired me. I guess its a bit like if you got an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters, or whatever it was, one of them would randomly recreate the works of William Shakespeare OR you get one very determined bard from Burnley on an emulation mission creating something rather like the complete works of William Shaksepeare.

So what exactly is Conchordia?
Well. Its essentially the artform I’m inventing. Stripped down to its most basic level the term can be interpreted as ‘with chords’ – the idea is that one can witness a piece of drama accompanied by a single acoustic guitar. That’s the core. Then, I realised that guitar could be played by a performer, which reminded me of the very funny Flight of the Conchords duo. They are like proper multi-taskers – acting, singing, dancing, playing guitars – that’s what I want ‘Conchordian’ to be able to do. Act, sing, dance & playing instruments when they’re not on stage – even if its just percussive. Also, since Concord the airplane is now defunct, the name is up for grabs these days & I like idea of people going for a ride in one of my conchords.

What traits & attributes sets Conchordia apart from the other arts?
Each of the Conchordia has different DNA – there’s some that are just rock opera with barely any dialogue, & some that are simply musicals with an acoustic guitar. My later creations, however, are definitely realising a vision of theatre I have been developing. As a poet I have a gift for blank verse – its the most artistic way of expressing human speech. Shakespeare used it, so it can’t be that bad right? It certainly feels like at this point in time I’m the leading exponent of dramatic blank verse on the planet. I mean I just love it – there is a dynamic flow in those unrhymed five-stress ten styllable lines that  seems like the dream of ordinary speach in a greater version of humainity – the idealised tongue. The English also have a genius for songwriting, while the Americans have mastered the musical. So if we blend all these together – Shakespearean blank verse, English songwriting, plus a wee splash of Broadway, you get Conchordia.

What other musical instruments are used in Conchordia, apart from the percussion?
Well, to be honest, there’s no limit. I’m going off the old edict that for a song to be a good song it needs to sound good sung on its own with only an acoustic guitar. But any producer of a conchord may use that basis to add an orchestra, or a rock & roll band, anything they like really. Each text also has a few ‘set’ pointers, which may also be interpreted as the company sees fit.

Have you performed any of your conchords yet?
I have actually – last year I put on a piece called Alibi at the Haddington Corn Exchange & also at the Eden Festival. It was fun – everyone enjoyed performing it & watching it. Doing Alibi made me realise I was onto something & began to look at my past pieces.

Your past pieces, what do you mean?
Alibi was the first slice of musical theatre I ever did – in 2007 & 2008. I was wintering in Sicily & got an acoustic guitar for Christmas, 2006. I then started looking at my old songs, connecting the common threads & adding a story. Bingo, my first conchord! I performed a it a few times in Edinburgh, Sheffield & Leeds. Next was a piece called Charlie, about the Jacobite rebellion, which I made into a film. About that period, & ever since, I’ve created a few others, but all in sketch form, in various states of completion. The Conchordio Folio is the moment I get them all nailed – a line in the sand, so to speak.

What Conchords are to be included in the Folio?
Like I said before, 37. The first five come together in a quintology  called Leithology. There’s Alibi, Gangstaland, one I haven’t given a title to, a time-travelling one called Timewarpin’ & Tinky Disco. The idea is that they all interlink through characters, who each get a main musical to strut their stuff in. Like the X-Men franchise. Tinky Disco is based loosely upon The Tinky Disco Show, & will see the return of DJ Brooklyn – like a 21st century Falstaff. There are quite a number of histories – Charlie, Finnesburgh – based on a story in Beowulf – Malmaison, which tells the story of Napoleon on his return to Paris after Waterloo, one about Princess Diana, & Gods of The Ring, about the Foreman, Ali, Frazier fights in the 70s. There’s also a trilogy called The Rock & Roll Wars, its essentially a battle of the bands on a cosmic level. There’s Exes & Axes, a 19th century tale of romantic betrayal set in 19th century France – it doesn’t quite fit with any of the others, but its really funny.


Composing Conchordia: Provence (February 2020)

At the teddy bear shrine of Elizabeth Drummond

Just as Shakespeare toured Italy as a prelude to the writing of his Italian plays, when deciding to compose a conchord on Gaston Dominici, I thought a story-hunting trip to Provence in order to commune with the ghosts of that most famous of 20th century crimes would surely help my craft. The crime in question is the 1952 roadside murder of nutritionist Sir Jack Drummond, his wife & their 10 year old daughter. They had camped for the night near a farmhouse owned by Gaston Dominici, a 75 year old patriarch in whose barn was kept the WW2 carbine which shot Sir Jack & his wife, & then clubbed to death little Elizabeth. A shocking case which brought the world to the Durance Valley & also sucked to the surface old family quarrels & familiar local feuds which in the end saw Gaston sentenced to death. In the clear light of seven decades it seems likely that the perpetrator was Gaston’s grandson, 16 years old & probably drunk at the time, Roger Perrin.

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Last Thursday myself, Spud, Victor Pope & ex-Tinky Disco bandmate Al Roberts all made our bleary-eyed ways to Edinburgh airport for a 9.45 AM flight. Me & Spud always get wound up by Al leaving his house in a slow-shabby fashion, so opted to get to the airport ourselves – I took a tram & he the shuttle bus. Vic & Al shared an Uber without any mess-ups, which surprised us & proved a good omen to our week together on the road. As we stepped onto the tarmac to board our plane, the Scottish chill was fully raging & I was very much looking forward to a respite from the seemingly endless Caledonian winter.

Gyptis choosing Euxene

A handful of hours later we were in Marseille & checking into our Air B&B right beside the Old Harbour, or Vieux Port. This was the spot where in 600 BC a guy called Euxene arrives from Phocae (an ancient part of Turkey) just in time for the local king’s daughter’s ‘choosing ceremony.’ In short, among a group of gathered suitors, Euxene was the one given a goblet of wine by princess Gyptis, who would later change her name to Aristoxenus. Euxene & Aristoxenus, now that’s already got the hallmarks of a conchord, I thought to myself, in the same way I thought that Gaston Dominici has a Motzartean ring about it. Looking at the Gyptis story at that point, tho, it unfortunately seemed a bit weak to make a conchord out of…


Marseille with the lads was fun. Kicking back with a smart TV & cheap beer in the hypermodern flat or on the balcony overlooking the harbour, with the pointed cathedral rising on the central Marseille hill beyond. On the smart TV, we watched Netflix, played all our music videos, while Al could send to it our recent recordings – an album called the New Truth. I couldn’t help but notice the technological advancement of the species – the last time I was in Provence was 20 years ago & for fun me & my pal, Bryn, ended up making a chess board out of paper & stones. Here’s an extract from my journal of that time.

May 10th, 2000


We woke up proper spangled, but a quick dip in the exquisitely cool pool proved enough of a respite from our frail noggins & we were able to pack & head out to Cannes. It was the first day of the festival & full of noisy Yanks, so we soon got out of dodge, striking inland on a bus to Grasse, a lovely town stacked high against the hillside. We had a couple of hours to kill so wandered around a bit & to our delight found it very swell, with lovely narrow streets & great prospects of the Cotes d’Azore in the distance.

After sending off our postcards we hopped on a bus north along La Route Napoleon. The view was spectacular as we climbed & wound thro’ the mountains, each one clad in trees giving a baize effect, & I could imagine Napoleon & his column following the same road. A rapid mist descended, however, followed soon after by heavy rain which showed no intention of letting up as we were unceremoniously dumped in the wee hamlet of Seranon. We dived into the only bar around for shelter & refreshment, obtaining a few funny looks off the funny looking locals.

In the days before group emails & blogs

Eventually we found out the bus north didn’t leave til the morning, so we were stuck. We didn’t fancy putting the tent up in the rain so opted for a hotel. A friendly couple drove us a half mile down the road to their mate’s hotel, which was closed. Luckily the mustached madame opened it up for us (a whole hotel to ourselves), but we were forced to share a double bed (with pants on obviously). As soon as we paid our 15 francs the sun came out & we heaved a table up to the roof, bought wine, cheese, bread & sausage & had a most pleasant supper among the mountains. It was cool, me musing & Bryn sketchin’ & it felt nice to be doing spot of real travelling, the only sound being the constant chuckle of crickets. Bryn very correctly brought up the point we were stuck in a one horse dive & had less than two days to get to Venice, but I re-assured him all would be reyt. We made a chess-board out of paper & stones & played to the setting of the sun, before all the wine & well-thought-out moves took their toll & sent us both a-slumbering.

At a monument to Rimbaud, Marseille seafront

Fastforward to 2020, on our first full day in France – Brexit day as it so happened – we enjoyed a daytime riviera stroll, followed by a wicked night out at bohemian La Plaine – a very funky part of Marseille. Drinking & dancing & downing tequilas, we met an English busker called Charlie, & his Slovakian girlfriend. The gods had answered our pleas, & he actually had 3 guitars. ‘Don’t worry, we won’t steal them – it’ll be too expensive to check them into our flights back,’ put him off from coming round for a jam, but he agreed to meet us the next day for a wee busk.


It was more than a joy the following afternoon to find ourselves all jamming together by Marseille harbour to the infinite delight of the locals. Our immediate audience consisting of an annoying kid who kept banging the guitars, a Czech street lassie & a Parisenne rock-chick who finds Marseille a cheaper place to live. Before then, I’d taken a solo morning mission up to Allauch, a hilltop village right on the edge of the Marseille conurbation. It was at the old castle, even higher still, that I filmed the following Pendragon Poetry post, talking all about Conchordia.


I was up in the hills as I’d read that a possible Gyptis object had been found in a hillside cave nearby. The curator of the slick local museum begged to differ, but I said I’m a poet & I didn’t want the truth to get in the way of a good story. Yes, a conchord was being born & on the way back to the appartment I googled a few Greek myths & found one, which I felt I could use – Alcyone and Ceyx. Basically, they offended the gods by calling themselves Hera & Zeus, & ended up being drowned & then turned into birds. A little creative furnace-burning later & I’d transmorped the myth into Euxene & Aristoxenus being turned into the the islands of Pomègues and Ratonneau which lie off the mouth of Marseille harbour. Like the Phaecean ship which carried Odysseus to Ithica being turned to stone.

900_Ceyx and Alcyone
Alcyone & Ceyx
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Pomègues and Ratonneau

Compositionwise I only managed a few speeches from VIRIATHUS in Marseille – the second Senate scene – in the early morning before the boys woke up, mainly at a cafe by the harbour. I usually compose on my morning East Lothian walks with Daisy, accompanied otherwise only by nature and the essential headspace needed to really zone out. Not so easy in a busy city as ever. There was no way I was going to achieve my goal of finishing Viriathus on this trip & then starting ‘The Flight of the White Eagles, ‘ – my conchord about the retreat from Moscow – the notes for which I worked intensively on before I set off. Still, they are all in the bank & Viriathus should be finished within days. I’ll be recreating the antics & dashing chit-chat of Seargant Bourgogne soon enough!


We left Marseille the next day, the sunshine heating up, arriving by train at the Durance valley & the station which serves La Brilliane & Oraison. The River Durance patches its way between them on a hugely wide stony river bed, with hills framing the scene on either side, & the snow-capped Alps closing the vista far to the north at Digne. Public transport round these parts is pretty neglible, & with it being Sunday afternoon no shops were open. Of that first of the two matters, we soon hit paydirt. After walking over the bridge to Oraison, beyond the frustratingly closed intermarche, we came to a carpark where I asked a lovely fella could he take us to Dabisse, & he agreed gladly.

IMG_20200202_180849.jpgDabisse is a wee village with a bar & a bus stop kinda thing. The bar was well busy, tho, its car park full of temporary pebbledash for a meeting of the region’s petanque teams. It was a really serendiptous, masonic, monastic moment listening to the clink-clinks & murmours of the play. Getting a carry-out together we went back to our villa & gorged on the food previous Air B&B-ers had left behind – a severe stroke of luck for a hungry bunch on a Sunday.


Ah, the good old days! Roll on a nigh decade & I found myself composing Viriathus, drinking wine by the pool of a plush villa in Provence. We had a look at the pool, but soon covered it up again – early February means a bit of algae & no need for pool-use, I guess.


The fridge was now full. We’d hitched a lift to Oraison in the morning off the lovely John Christmas (real name Jean-Noel), stocked up at the supermarket, then caught a taxi back to Dabisse for the day. And what a day, far from the Scottish chill and ended by a walk with Al for a sunset view over the Durance valley.

Some of those 21 degree sun-soaked, Senate-based Viriathus lines composed by the pool read like this ;


Senators of our majestic city
& many other regions in its stride,
This treaty is, in the highest degree,
Dishonorable to all we stand for,
Staining Servilianus’ career,
Viriathus is a craved barbaric,
Beheading, disembowelling at will,
A bandit on an unsubsistive soil –
To him a border is a line to cross
To empty beaten innocents of blood
& topple pillars, pillaging obscene.

Obscene? Objection! You paint him monster,
Humanity, his high ascendency,
Distributes unifying spiritus
That never in the passage of this war,
In armies of tribal variety,
Was ever spill’d sedition, all obey’d,
All fearless in the presence of danger –
As statesman he was neither humble-knee’d
Nor overbearing in leagues & treaties,
Faithful, exact, aequis, veritable,
Vir Duxque Magnus, ancient ideals
Penetrated atoms of existence,
& as the adsertur of Hispania
Let us assert our honour to his will
Make good his claims to the fame of the world,
Too many lost already in that place
We owe him our respect

We owe him death
The retributive slew for youth hard lost.


So to yesterday – the ultimate object of this mission & a trip to La Grand Terre, the farmhouse of the Dominicis. It began in fine fashion with me & Spud arguing about how to get to Lurs – it was a case of his gammy leg versus my abundant energy & in the end the lads got a taxi & I walked the muddy Durance-side fields down to the bridge & back up the other side. I got to Lurs scrambling up its rocky slopes & arrived at its medieval core to see the lads waiting at the entrance. Once reunited we hit the old goat tracks down to the road, & using a little satnav orienteering came out at the very spot where the Drummonds were murdered. The poignant teddy bear shrine is testament to the locals’ indignation at the death of a child.

Looking back from Lurs Terrace on the way I had walked – Dabisse is the village middle left & I walked by the Durance to the right of the photo
Oraison is the town in the middle distance – I crossed the bridge there & walked to this point
Approaching La Grand Terre

After La Grand Terre, I’d got it in my head that we could ford the Durance – Dabisse was more or less facing us on the other bank. The lads humoured me & watched me make tentative efforts on a scouting mission in the shallower bits – but the plan was soon aborted & we caught a taxi back. That night I ruminated in a Pendragon fashion on the Drummond murders & got a pretty plausible idea of what went on that night – which I’ll use in my composition.


The next day we chilled in the sun til 2PM, caught a taxi to the station, then a train to Saint Antione, conducted a wee walk to our Air B&B off La Pennes Mirabeau, then caught the Rangers-Hibs game over beers. At 6AM we hired a lift off our landlord to the airport & we were finally in Edinburgh by 9.30 AM. On the flight I pretty much worked out the structure of the Dominic conchord – 4 acts with a cliffhanger ending each one – & began sketching it out on the inside cover of an Agatha Christie book I was reading on the holiday- A Pocketful of Rye. Just like Agatha I was going backwards from the ending, & there’s a chance I could have a wee Mousetrap on my hands if I get mi ‘ead down. With bangin’ tunes & Shakespearean blank verse, of course!


Composing Conchordia: Vaulting The Lockdown (May 2020)


After the completion of the Leithology quintology – which will soon be on sale on all platforms – & the composition of Viriathus & Malmaison, I felt THE FLIGHT OF THE WHITE EAGLES was going to be a real statement-maker. If I really do wanna emulate Shakespeare, I need definitive works with meaty bodies – a bit like Hamlet innit – & so turned to Napoleon’s infamous retreat from Moscow as the first of my major conchords. There’s a hell of a lot of drama obviously, & when it comes to stagecraft the visual deterioration of the soldiers will be a wonderful story to tell.


With five acts of seven or so scenes each, all bubbling with blank verse & containing both original songs & songs drawn from the period itself, WHITE EAGLES definitely marks a placement of my muse on a Parnassian plateaux of sorts. No looking back now – ten down, 27 to go!

LEITHOLOGY – Available in book form soon

I began researching WHITE EAGLES last year after reading the fabulous ‘Memoirs of Sergeant Bourgogne.’ From this first catalyst – I was very verteux at the time – I began to research other memoirs up in the National Library of Scotland, such as those of Caulaincourt, & set to work on the composition period not long after my return from Provence sometime in mid-February. Then the Lock Down happened. I don’t need to rattle on about it, everyone’s experiencing it. I’m lucky tho’ – I walk dogs with my girlfriend which meant I could to & fro between my places in Edinburgh & East Lothian for ‘work that cannot be done from home‘ – the dog numbers had drastically plumetted, but there was enough to make it valid & of course meant I could compose pretty much anyway I liked – from the Lammermuirs to Leith Links. Here’s a Walking East Lothian post I created during the Lock Down.

Musically, WHITE EAGLES has been something of an educational dream, help’d along by my house-mate’s keyboard playing. By February I had a couple of tunes, but then began to write more & add local colour so to speak, translating from the French lyric into the English. Of my new songs THE BALLAD OF BORODINO is really beautiful I think, & THE GREAT NAPOLEON really fun – the Herod moment – my house mate incorporating the Tetrislike theme tune into via some techno rave from the 90s via Hicksy & Sharky. He also fell in love with Plaisir D’Amour & Compere Guillere.

The full list of songs is below, with astersks denoting my own compositions)

The Sable Raven – English version
Marlbrough is Going To war – English version
Plasir D’amour
Parisienne Skies (*)
On Va Leur Percer Le Franc
The Blood of Borodino (*)
Pomme de Terres (*)
Compere Guillere – French Version
Song of the Loricated Legion (*)
My Handsome Husband (*)
Soarin’ Home (*)
Chant du Depart
Crossing the Bridge (*)
The Great Napoleon (*)
Compere Guillere – English version (*)
Au Clair de la Lune
Le Depart Du Bologne
The March from Moscow (*)

Theatrically, there are a lot of parts – three main bodies of 8-10 characters; Napoleon & his entourage, Bourgogne’s company & the Russian partisans. There’s also another 20 or so walk-in parts, plus the crossing of the Berezhina bridge to depict – but whenever WHITE EAGLES does get performed everyone’s gonna JUST love it!


Artistically, WHITE EAGLES is the bag daddy to Malmaison, but together they form a very good account of Napoleon’s life. Like I said at the start, it also represents the foot-scrambling heave onto the plateaux from where the rest of my conchords will be composed.


The first of this new bunch is GODS OF THE RING & I’m extremely excited about it. The principle subject is the four fights between Ali, Foreman & Frazier, & all the dramas before, during, after & between the fights. The names of these epic combats have gone down in history – THE FIGHT OF THE CENTURY, THE SUNSHINE SHOWDOWN, THE RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE & THE THRILLA IN MANILLA. Like White Eagles I’ve already got two tunes in the bank, a theme tune & the sublime, best song I’ve written in ages, BLACK POWER. I’ve been compiling the notes in the past few days, the bulk of which were studied for in the National Library just before the Lockdown.  I’m gonna print out the first notes today & get composing soon after.


With White Eagles taking just over three months, & June the 1st on the horizon, I’ve got a feeling that every new conchord is gonna take a season – so Gods of the Ring is the conchord of the summer of 2020 – the weird summer, the one where the theatres were closed. For me, I think I’ll be spending some of it hopefully in Greece, where the next of these windows into my workings will be composed.

THE FLIGHT OF THE WHITE EAGLES: Act 1 – Overture, Scene 1


ACT 1, SCENE 1: Above The Chernishini River

Enter Murat & Miroladovitch. Murat is dress’d as a Spanish general, sporting a sable hat & silk brocades. Miroladovitch is wearing three shawls of different cloth.

I am happy you attended in peace
My petit pourparler, as Frenchmen say

We say so many things but never quite
As well as what leaps brightly from your tongue

One tries, for after all, the French possess
The first of all cultures, bursting finesse
Far from the wolfish wildness of my world

So good of you to say so – the silence
Of this strange, tacit armistice of sorts,
A miracle beyond thematic woes,
Allures a certain sense of the tourist,
On which I state your country might be wild
But beauties of your women quite refined.

High praise indeed from a Latinist king
With all of Naples bevvy to admire
But what are fair women without fine wine,
This bottle imported from Aquitaine
Would you share?

Why certainly, I admire
Your taste for French vines

Of course, the world’s best

Miroladovitch pours out the wine, which is used in a toast

To both our Emperors

The Emperors

Joachim Murat: King of Naples

May they return soon to fraternity
An amity which made great nations friends
Injurious wasps we swarm no more
At Taurantino eighty-five thousand
Are waiting, daily, Petersburg’s reply
To messengers urging the Tsar to peace
Leave days of blood & battle in the past

Napoleon wants peace, for him enough
To come to Moscow, not to burn it down,
The governor uncaged its criminals,
Vile worms who wert oerlook’d even in birth
& gave them flames & powder, what a waste
of wond’rous worksmanship centuries old

The hour of conciliation transpires
There are many Muscovites in the army
Who boot-by-boot are stepping from the mist
Wishing to see the campaign’s termini
Them eager more for peace than Bounaparte
Believe me, King Murat, if you attack’d
The Cossacks will not answer & may join
With France in common cause

How say you so?

The surly peasant scrapes with discontent
No better now than when the Golden Horde
Enslaved them, they crave emancipation

I credit you for honesty, my friend
If I may call you so

Of course, we are

Then please accept this watch, with my jewels
But, as gifts are seldom altruistic
Plesae visit me in Paris in return
Next summer, in our peacetime, as I hope

Your overkindness wrings adoring tears
With all my heart accepted – I worship
Your opera, the Comedie Francaise
I long to see, there hear cantatas sung

A good song is to the woes, elixir

I know a very good song, will you hear

Why yes, what is its name?

It is The Sable Raven, an old tune

To the tune of Chornyy Voran

O Sable raven, black guest of our homestead
So unexpected are your wings,
Why bring this white hand to my bedside
Raven, what message from the kings

I recognized the white hand oer my bedside
Dropp’d by the raven in my own
It was the white hand of my precious brother
Raven, tell me why you here are flown

He said, ‘your brother, slain in the battle,
Naked, unburied on the strand;
He is now lying with a thousand horsemen
Dead in that far-off foreign land


A splendid song sung splendidly, there is
Parnassus in the pitch, Orpehus
Might have penn’d it, perhaps you’ll send the score

On one condition – you sing me a song

A song?

Why yes!

A song… ah yes… but first

Murat takes a drink of wine to clear his throat


Marlbrough’s going to war
Marlbrough’s going to war
Marlbrough’s going to war
Don’t know when he’ll come back
Don’t know when he’ll come back

Marlbrough s’en va-t-en guerre
Mironton mironton mirontaine,
Marlbrough s’en va-t-en guerre
Ne sait quand reviendra
Ne sait quand reviendra.

Marlbrough’s going to war
Marlbrough’s going to war
Marlbrough’s going to war…
Don’t know when he’s coming back


That wins the brilliancy prize my friend
To think but yesterday we might have met
As soldiers in the field, with sabres drawn,
Slashing life from lives, bereft of hearing
Sweetnesses sweeping thro’ each others’ souls

Thank fate such awful bloodshed ne’er befell
& hope to God & Emporers ne’er will

I concur, now come, a village nearby
Stands home to some particular beauties
Like nosegays to smell & sweetmeats to taste
All their talk is of some handsome monarch
& how they are dreaming silky pleasure
He never could have tasted in Paris

If they would desire the meeting so much
One must respect all customs when abroad

Good man – Captain Akhlestyshev, bring up
King Murat’s horse & mine… your majesty
Please step this way

Tho’ very far from home
I feel at home with unremitting joy

Exit Murat & Miroladovitch

Act 1, Scene 2

SCENE 2: The Kremlin

Napoleon is in the Tsar’s apartments, being entertained by the Italian tenor, Tarquinio, & Martini, a pianist / with him are Berthier, Prince Eugene, General Gourgaud & Caulaincourt



Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment,
Chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.
J’ai tout quitte pour l’ingrate Sylvie,
Elle me quitte et prend un autre amant.
Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment,
Chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.
Tant que cette eau coulera doucement
Vers ce ruisseau qui borde la prairie,
Je t’aimerai”, te repetait Sylvie,
L’eau coule encor, elle a change pourtant.
Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment,
Chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.


A wonderful piece, eternal even
Your dear father, Martini, would be proud
To hear it played so magical abroad,
& Tarquinio how well you sing it,
Choiring as if a young-eye’d cherubim

Did court the gods on lofty Olympus
I wish my officers to hear the same
Promotion to a mental dignity
Could you prepare a concert for Sunday

Certainly sire

Today I shall decree
To open Moscow’s standing theatres
To see her noble boards restor’d to life
& have them play French comedies – perhaps
Italian – the troops are fond of those,
All actors & musicians shall be paid
Six months advance for each, do you accept

To furnish your best victory with art
Would be the perfect honour of my life

Good, if you will inform your close colleagues
Of this conversation’s fidelity
You are dismissed

Exit Tarquinio & Martini

Louis-Alexandre Berthier, Prince of Neuchetal

Such timescale terrifies me, six months, sire!
When Moscow burn’d your dreams, too, turn’d to flames
I hear full well the warnings of Winter
The planet Saturn broods, by gloomy gaze,
Forebodings of terrible disaster
Shake me to my boots with unborn sorrows

What would you have me do my nervous prince
Seeing you are so wise?

Return at once
To Paris & proclaim a victory
With ashes of Muscovite palaces
In your pockets

Release your ill censure
What frightful series of dangerous wars
Would follow from the first stepp’d retrograde,
Death is nothing, but to live defeated
& inglorious is to daily die
That self-same sun which led us to glory
Brightening our victory each morning,
Shall set not now leading us to darkness,
No, we shall face the rising sun, Moscow
From a pure military point of view
Holds no real value, but its name’s prestige
Remains untarnish’d, thus, if politics
Were a game of chess, the black queen is trapp’d,
Her trembling king helpless behind his pawns
Besides, in politics, one shoud never
Recede, never admit to being wrong

Sire, the city is in a dreadful state
The Russians left us nothing but ruin

Well, at least we are quiet among them
Eh, Caulaincourt?

That is true, I suppose

We have reduced Mother Russia to rags
Her warcry tongue turn’d stringless instrument
Her commerce set back half a century
Such violent shocks convulsing thro’ his throne
The Tsar, I’m sure, shall certain sue for peace

I agree with positivities, sire,
The occupation of his capital
Is hampering aristocratic rents
Their revenues drifting with the peasants
Gone eating up the provinces, until
The whole of Russia gurgles on the blood
Drawn by the blade that was our Moscow march

By number & by nature, the extant
Buildings & resources throughout Moscow
Offer a military position
Preferable to any other site
This side of the River Nieman, sire

But as you said yourself, there is in war
A singular favorable moment,
The great art is to seize it, we should leave

Gourgaud, explain to Caulaincourt, simply,
How well the army has been provided for

For half a year our larders shall remain
With beets abundant, round as bowling balls,
Plump cabbages gathering like oceans,
Each passing hour discoveries are made
In shops & cellars; foodstuffs, clothes & drink
The deep-detritus of the bourgeoisie

You see, Caulaincourt, if we must remain
We shall do so, quartering in comfort
Designate the order of the season
Forage for furniture & firewood
& bring in all the hay for fifteen miles

This is a reckless gamble, if retreat
Will come, we are completely unprepar’d,
With wheat showing scarce, cattle dwindling fast
With no preparation for departure
When cold comes in we dare not take a step
Else lose our feet & fingers in the frosts
& while the horses shooed a pinless smooth
They’ll slip on ice & break their slender legs

Ha – like a fusswife you worry too much,
The ever, over-cautious Caulaincourt

But sire, I urge on you heed his advice
Your hopes for peace keeping you prisoner
In this queer, gremlin castle call’d Kremlin


Eurgene remains silent

Eugène de Beauharnais

What harm will come of idle hours
Spent lining coats with fur, or sewing hats
& gloves, constructing sledges just in case

Do what you will if it will ease my ears
This is no time to worry of biscuits
There are more pressing businesses at hand
Prince Neuchetal, you have read the despatch
From Murat

I have, sire

What are its bones?

The King of Naples full of flattery
Pays tribute to his Cossack counterpart
His linguals spun infloraling with praise
& says how Russian arms are readying
Capitulation, & how the Cossacks,
Embroil’d beneath mourning despondancy,
Could even fight for France, oppose the Tsar

But the Cossack could just be blowing dust
Into his eyes, blaming the wand’ring wind

So you see, Caulaincourt, it is only
A time or two before my fate’s fair tide
Oerwhelms this state

Do not trust half-accounts
They might be mischievous exaggerations
Look where we are, men of twenty nations
Secure within the city of the Tsars
Emanating European progress
Against this explicit, Asiatic
Barbarianism, this serf-struck land
Of strict taboos & prohibitive chains
Must make a common cause with our reforms

Allow me to interject a moment

Of course Eugene, what patterns form your thoughts

Like deer enstartl’d by a hunter’s gun
At a pace Petersburg is emptying
They flee to England those who can afford
Already the Tsarina’s jewellry
& royal archives heav’d off to London
With all the strength & purpose of his mind
The Tsar should be eager to make profit
Sire, seize this opportunity, enter
Negotiations, appease the nobles,
For the folly of Moscow’s flameletting
Is one that forms a madman’s boast today
But tomorrrow must end in penitence

I agree – & I thank you for your time
All of you, & now if you could all depart
Except for Caulaincourt, enjoy your day

Exit Eugene, Gourgaud & Berthier


I shall refrain your majesty

{pouring out a glass of brandy}
This is a war to end uncertainty
Assure security’s tranquility
The European system as founded
Needs only now to be well organized
Europe one happy people, & at peace,
Wherever one would travel he will find
Him always in a common fatherland
I will be demanding untoll’d freedom
Of every navigable river
& great standing armies shall be reduced
Henceforth to mere guards of soveriegns
Including Alexander’s come the sense,
No other issue than peace, fair & prompt
Seems possible, I would hate to destroy
Alexander – I love the man too much
We must make peace – will you go Caulaincourt


Yes, go, to Petersburg & the Tsar
Deliver my proposition of peace

He will refuse

What makes you so certain

He said to me if you’d make war on him
It is possible, even probable
He’d be defeated, but that would not mean
You could dictate a peace, an exemplar
Was made of Spain, tho’ beaten many times
Them no submittance pled, & are not so
Far away from Paris as we now stand,
Lacking recourse to call on resources
& climate, as the Russian calculates

Piffle! I have been proffer’d fairy tales
Upon your Russian climate – it is, well,

It is unseasonable sire

Whenever have the vanquish’d set the terms

He marvels at your abilities, sire
But not that of your marshalls, he will fight
& take no risk, use his natural room
Telling me frankly about Kamchatka
How he would set his court up in the east
Rather than ceding provinces & sign
A treaty more finite truce expected

Expel those thoughts at once, unhappiness
At all the punishments I’ve dealt your friend
Undermines your loyalty to this crown,
Cramm’d deep within some crannied hole or chink
When pressur’d by a tough reality
A sentence said in safety falls apart
Will you go

I will not be received, sire,
For certain, as he knows I know his mind,
To be there on such terms insult would prove
As such would tarnish everything hard wrought
Thro’ all my months in Petersburhg

You fear
Repugnancy to serve this task I ask

He will not sign peace in his capital
Until entirely evacuated
From his territories he will not hear
A word of your proposal, your letter
Will not be read

The Tsar is surrounded
By English partisans, who’d cut his throat
Than make a peace with France, Alexander
Said to me himself he hates the English
As much as France does
{Napoleon takes Caulaincourt by the arm & paces to & fro}
You must go to him
Solicit peace upon your hands & knees
If it would deign be granted – but if not
We will march on the northern capital
From whose conquest conspiracy must fray
His sacred kingship, rip him from the throne
Thro’ circumstances well avoidable

The roads to distant Petersburg are long
Inching thro’ morrasses, impassable
Made by three hundred pitchfork peasants
Barring the advance, what of the wounded
Do we simply leave them for Kutusoff
Who would then snap at our heels all the way
As if we were fleeing to a conquest

Kutosoff is beaten, but I accept
The season for Petrsburg is passing
But if not the whole army, then just you,
Will you go

Not willfully to folly
Why would he set his capital on fire
To make peace in the ashes & the char
Only from facing banks of Nieman’s flow
Could understanding come

Where is your faith
It seems the Tsar infects your very thoughts
I ought to strip you of all your titles
Shall I send instead Monsieur Toutalmine
As my plenipotentiary, shall I

As you wish, sire, it will be of no use

I must have peace, I absolutely must
I want this peace, my honour must be saved
But if you dare not deliver my words
You can at least inscribe them on the page

Armand-Augustin-Louis de Caulaincourt

Yes Sire… they will be considered but proof
Of the poor state of your embarassment

Enough – remember, I am emporer,
Who thinks & acts in realms unknown to all
Except for those who lord oer millions
I shall begin


Dear Alexander
Russia’s emperor, I wish you no harm
This superb city exists no longer
Its governor had given the order
To burn the ornate work of centuries
But fires, at last, appearing to have ceas’d
Only a quarter of Moscow remains
Such conduct is uselessly atrocious
That leaves to ghosts each village from Smolensk
Since Moscow was exposed by Russian arms
In the interests of your majesty,
Humanity & its inhabitants,
Its care to me was confided in trust
Administration, magistrates & gaurds
Are set in place as to plans adopted
In Vienna, Madrid & Berlin twice
I know well your majesty’s principles
For justice, without animosity
While we were waging war a single note
Would have halted my march at any time
Sacrificing the advantage at once
Of entering Moscow – if you retain
Some remains of your former sentiments
You will take this letter in a good part
By this, my dear sir, my brother, I pray
To God he will preserve your majesty…
Is it neat


Then I shall sign straightways
{Napoleon signs the decree}
Have it despatched to Petersburg today
With Moseiur Toutalmine & twenty gaurds

Yes, your majesty

O, & Caulaincourt
Do not ever, ever, doubt ,me again

Exit Napoleon / Caulaincourt reads through the letter shaking his head

Act 1, Scene 3

Scene 3: The Billiards Room of a Moscow mansion

Bourgogne, Legrand, Boquet are stretched on animal skins, wearing turbans, drinking & smoking magnificent pipes

Bourgogne, Legrand, Boquet, Graingier, Leboude
{singing in a round}
We are resting in bubble beds of silk furs & feathers
In the nest of the double-headed eagles
We are blest with abundance & the punch does us wonders
As a guest of the double-headed eagle

Enter Rossi, the quartermaster

I have prepared a dazzling punch for you

Good man Rossi, quartermaster supreme

What a sight you forge, like Turkish pashas
Discussing each other’s seraglios
& the passionate merits of your wives

At this moment in time I’d take just one,
& ermine call her, skin soft as this fur

Mine would be lion,

Mine sable

Mine fox

& mine some buxom Siberian bear

While you laugh & drink & smoke til you burst
I’ve been all-a-foraging, high & low
Up attics, down cellars, whose keeps disclosed
Rum from Jamaica, most excellent beer
Deep pack’d in ice to keep summer’s fresh
A drop of which ferments this punch newmade,
Its gusto an enthusiast should charm,
Come try a ladle’s worth

Quite wonderful!

No, not for me, I’ve had my fill of drink

Then I’ll have his… that kicks like angry mule!

Enter Mother Dubois

O what it is to be Cantiniere
To such an idle company as this

But you love us Mother Dubois

I did
When you were gallant, not lazy sultans

What do you cook us today

A little
Salted fish sauted in suet butter
& half a ham for supper if you please

Such is the conqueror’s prerogative
To regally banquet in royal garb
To dinner as a Duke, & then return
To all the adulations in the town
Aline processions home, where glory waits

There is a rumour rife among the ranks
That spitesBritain’s Continental blockade
We are to go to China, there ensure
Transglobal trade for eagle-soaring France

A few more thousand leages then, Graingier

All I would need is a new pair of shoes

But first we winter in this queenless hive
Where once a beekeper’s tap on the wall
Responded by unanimous humming
Of bees in tens of thousands, such a buzz;
But now, if he would open up the hive
Instead of serried rows aseal each gap
Just complex combs neglected, sickly frail
In the corners old bees languidly fight,
Clean themselves, or feed one another
Unknowing why they do these deeds at all
For in this Hive’s heart, that once was so grand,
The high mystery of generation
Reduced to sleeping shells of listless bees,
Reeking of death, a few move feebly still
Dragging blunt stingers uselessly behind

Enter Foucart & two young Russian women – Valentina & Natasha – carrying bundles of clothes

Boys, boys, my treasures are most splendid, look!

How lucky you for two, you’ll be sharing

Not these young haberdasher maids made mine
For six months service, no, but what they bare
The emboss’d costumes of many nations
Mens & womens, look, there are French dresses,
Fashion’d to favour Louis the Sixteenth

& even a basket of wigs I see
I say lets shake a make-up & then dance

The party begin to dress up – Dubois becomes a French marquise, Valentina & Natasha become brides of Christ – One of the soldiers accompanies the revelry on his flute, another on a drum



We will be going to the ball,
We’ll be rolling round the punch bowl
Drinking ambrosia
We shall be quaffing at the ball
We’ll be falling down, stand up again,
Cheeks turn’d rosier

Then when you see stardust come a tumbling down
On the dance floor, she’s a ballerina

Go, to Nepal, to Provence, go to Delhi
New York & Singapore, Berlin & Rome
Feel if its right then decide if Parisienne Skies
Were sent from on high to service our souls
There’s summer inside those cinnamon skies
Which sum up my soul

We shall be dancing at the ball,
We’ll be rolling round the dance floor
Kicking like stallions
We shall be trailing round the ball
We’ll be hail’d by all, regaling,
Sailing like galleons
Then when you see stardust come a tumbling down
On the dance floor, shes a ballerina

Go, to Milan, Budapest & Vienna
Dublin & Amsterdam, Tokyo too
Feel if its right then decide if the houses that rise
On Parisienne Skies were sent for our souls
There’s summer inside those cinnamon skies
Which sum up my soul

I heard that life is for living
Laughing & loving & finding the time
To graze on new pastures
Velvet horizons rise up in your mind
Tho’ I’m full of the wanderlust
Why don’t you come home with me
We could go touring the old arrondissiments
Of the empire pearl, Paris
So beautiful
She’s so beautiful…


Temperance & Prudence, Lord, my guides be

A march, strike the drum, my soldiers… at arms!
{the drummer starts a march}



As the soldiers are marching Valentina & Natasha begin to dance quiet energetically, jumping like tartars, flying left to right, swinging arms & legs, falling backwards then getting back up again & redoubling the energy of their efforts, much to the amusement of the party

On va leur percer le flanc
Rantanplan tire lire lan
Ah! ce qu’on va rire!
Rantanplan tire lire
On va leur percer le flanc
Rantanplan tire lire lan.

Le petit tondu sera content
Rantanplan tire lire lan
Ca lui f’ra bien plaisir
Rantanplan tire lire
On va leur percer le flanc
Rantanplan tire lire lan.

Car c’est de là que dépend
Rantanplan tire lire lan
Le salut de l’Empire
Rantanplan tire lire
On va leur percer le flanc
Rantanplan tire lire lan.


Enter Captain Vachain / he fires his musket to halt the party / Valentina throws her arms around his neck & kisses him

Get off me at once – in the name of God
What is happening, have you all gone mad

We were just having a party, Captain

Well halt at once, turn sober by the morn
The Emperor orders an inspection
Of the entire army, we its best troops
Apparently, I see such praise a sham

Of course sir, company, to attention

Some of the soldiers attempt to stand, but are too drunk

I cannot guess how we conquer’d Moscow!
I’ll be back at Dawn, & Madame Dubois

Yes Captain Vachain, sir

No alcohol
Is to be serv’d at the breakfast

Yes sir

Exit Vauchain, the party burst into laughter

You heard him lads, drink up your dregs, then shave
We’d hardly want the Emperor’s dispraise

The party begin to tidy up in a state of semi-revelry

Act 1, Scenes 4-6

SCENE 4: The Red Square

Napoleon is standing with Berthier & Eugene

Gourgaud, this is a sorry sight to see
The diminuation of our army
Disenergizes recent victories
Men sensing tensions in this phyrric post
Might dismoralize them in the fighting
Next time arrange the lines two deep, not three

Yes, sire, of course

{Addressing the troops}
Soldiers of the Eagles
Today is a day of celebration
Of medals & promotions battle forg’d,
Deserving all corners I gaze upon,
Where men who washed their blood so many times,
Across contested continental fields,
Hold guns which shot our glory like a dart
Into the stately heart of Russian realms
Where all of us bore witness to a crime,
The grossest deconstruction of Moscow
By its own citizens, however base,
Has proven their need to be civilized,
Such matter will take time, of course, & toil,
But Moscow yields fruitful stores to furnish
Our cause with winter quarters, & supplies
More than another place, we shall convert
Monasteries, convents & the Kremlin
Into a state of highly-tun’d defence
We are to be heavily reinforced
By fresh levied men hard marching from France,
Troops of Polish Cossacks too advance,
The wonders of our thunder incomplete,
For new adventures let us steel ourselves
Enflame firm hearts, throw frailty from the beat,
& send to France her greatest ever news!

Exit Napoleon & the entourage

SCENE 5: Inside the Kremlin

Caulaincourt is pacing in a state of some agitation / Enter Napoleon, Eugene & Berthier

Yesterday’s courier as yet arrives
From Paris

At present we wait still

How can this be? It has been as easy
To reach Moscow from Paris as Marseille,
Fatiloquence curses perilous days
Give me a drop of imperial mail
It was never lately so late delay’d
When organizing empires at the root
One cannot bare to lose a single hour

The longer the line the shorter the odds
Of uncourteous disentegrations

& what of Alexander, is there word

No reply has been received

Not one

No sire

His silence sheds the taint of disrespect
Of criminals caught in inquisition
I am amazed by my adversary
This wordlack steals the thunder of my guns
Successes in the Spring will be too late
All Europe’s eyes would view it a reverse
I never reckon’d on the Tsar’s strange hush
We have play’d out the game with each other
What is there now to do but fold the board
Not one offensive insult was exchang’d
& now our noble duelling is over
We should come to terms, remain best of friends
When no animosities would prevent
Our signing preliminaries of peace
To instigate dequandreal withdrawl
From our menacing presence in Moscow

The delegation to the Tsar has fail’d
To stay by day expands infeasible
Our soldiers cannot stand without a drink
Their strength diminishes each precious hour,
While the winter will masticate, surely,
Most of our couriers

Russia’s winter?
It seems to be a common fairy tale
This Autumn finer than at Fontainbleu

You have not seen the dark days here, I have,
We must avoid a protracted sojurn

You seem half-frozen from your memory
Besides, winter’s extremliest rigours
Will not arrive within the short, sharp span
Of twenty four hours, & tho’ we might be
Less accliamtised than the enemy
We are fundamentally more robust

Winter shall explode like tunell’d fuse-mines
Beneath sleeping cities, in two swift weeks
Nails drop off first then fingers follow suit

Enter Gourgaud is some distress holding a despatch

Your majesty


The courier


No, sire, it has been attack’d
The riders all captur’d, their packages
Confiscated by a swarm of Cossacks

Then what is that you hold?

Word from Murat
There has been a battle your majesty

A battle



The south screen

Give it me
{Napoleon reads the despatch}
This news distresses most emunctory,
Miroladovitch breaks the armistice
King Murat is defeated & at rout
From Woronovo, I knew it, just knew

How many dead

A thousand

& the guns

Thirty six lost, while fifteen hundred men
Were by Fedorovitch made prisoners

The Cossacks must have rused him all along

What folly of the King, this changes all

What do you mean your majesty,

We must
Outwipe the fray’d effects of this surprise
Punishing the Russian impertinance
Re-establish upon the battlefield
The honour of our arms, before the snare
Encloses us completely, take battle
To our hideous, perfidious foes,
Then winter in Smolensk, from there to march
On Petersburg, when flows fine-weather’d Spring.

You mean we are to leave Moscow

At once
How is the army at the last account

There are 95,000 soldiers, sire
Five thousand infantry of the Old Guard
& a thousand of the Young


Fifteen thousand regular, the Guard four

& cannon

Five hundred fit for service

Well they should see us safely thro the weeks
It takes to reach Smolensk, Prince Neuchetal

Yes, sire

I have a special job for you

What is it

You must burn down the Kremlin,
The brandy stores, barracks & palaces,
Destroy sulphur, saltpetre, stables, magazines
Break muskets in pieces, smash caisson wheels
But, as I might return to Moscow yet,
Save everything of value to our arms –
Powder, cannonballs, cartridges & lead.

Yes Sire

& your orders for the army

We march on the morrow – rest well tonight
Sleepless-started journies rarely fare well.

SCENE 6: The Gates of Moscow

Bourgogne is marching with his company / he is wearing a yellow silk waistcoat over a shirt padded on the inside, & a large ermine cape

O what a sight this monstrous caravan
Of carts & wagons rumbling four abreast
Look, Boquet, some are shatter’d already,
Wheels sinking deep ruts in the sandy road
Listen, as twenty nationalities
Converse cacophonic by Babel’s walls
There’s swearing in French, oaths in Low German,
Italians entreating the almighty,
While Portuguese the Holy Virgin praise,
There are so many countries & dialects,
It seems as if the Grecian games remade,
But one where reigns anarchy & chaos.

With all our beer & brandy abandon’d!
A tragedy, Bourgogne, what need have we
Upon long marches of heavy treasures
With all that fur & fabric on their backs
They seem a people of the patriarchs

They do indeed, loot weighs them heavy down
& I too carry the weight of trinkets
But looking at those broken wagon wheels
I think a little lessening of load
Seensible & prudent in the halting
I’ll catch up soon

I’ll wait with you sergent

Now let me see what my not little greed
Made ventures on my knapsack & my belt –
Some rice & several pounds of sugar
Some biscuit, half a bottle of liqueur
A red silk dress all the way from China
Some ornamental gold & pieces carv’d
& a little bit of the silver gilt
That cover’d the cross of Ivan the Great
A large riding cloak lined with green velvet
Two silver pictures, each ten inches high,
The judgement of Paris on Mount Ida
The other Neptune, on chariot shell
Drawn by sea-horses, both are angels’ work,
& what is this – ah! some prince’s spitton
Such stunning set of presents for my friends
So they must all remain – perhaps my clothes
Would serve me better absent from my bags,
I will not wear these trouser whites again,
& what about my pouch, what lies in there…
I’ll need to keep this crucifix for luck
& adore this porcelain Shanghai vase,
They both must stay curated for the march,
My wee museum of two thousand miles!
But there is more, a dark grey overcoat
& weighty box knotted in handkerchief

I travel lightly sergent, give them me
& you’ll recieve them safe on our return

Are you sure

Quite sure

Good man

Good sergent

Bourgogne laughs / a sound of firearms in the distance – enter Legrand

To arms, to arms, six thousand cossack horse
Fair favourd by the fog did now emerge
Upon the flanks – our fightback has begun.

Exit Bourgogne & Legrand hastily

End of Act I

Act 2, Scenes 1-2

SCENE 1: A house in Ghjat

Napoleon is in his camp bed / Enter Caulaincourt

Your majesty, it is late, are you well

It is early, the day just beginning
See to it that the door is firmly closed,
& come and sit bedside me for a while

Yes sire, this is not your normal habit

But this is not a normal episode
Let us be frank in the discussive purse
Of lips released by two long loyal friends
A pagan pox upon these toxic times
Of how they try sensations on all sides,
Still the army, my beautiful army,
Entertaining cheerful dispositions,
Counters each looming maleficience
With admirable applomb.

Have you not
Seen the extreme disorganization
Such feats of arms cannot indefinite
Continue, there are many miseries
To come caused by the cold severity
We shall mourn the army in its ashes
Remember the report of the reply
Made by the Tsar to your peace proposal,

He said his campaign was just beginning

Yes sire, take his reply literally
With each day fresh of the season’s passing
Fate favours Russia more

But your prophet,
Has been an error-maker more than once
I find your forecast a stray chicken bone
Stuck in the throat of sensible thinking
In one’s week’s time his buckish host shall be
No better of a fettle for battle
Than ours, they too need rest, moiety
Of masses from statehead spreads in motion
When buried in the moment’s gravity
Unexpert anarchs lead for doom their flock
As for the coming cold let me predict
Our troops’ superior intelligence
Shall forge them precautionary safegaurds
Against the frost, & probably improve
On Russian methods.

We are to master
In days where the Russians had centuries

We shall, without doubt

Caulaincourt pauses a moment digesting Napoleon’s high-mindedness

Have you given thought
As to the Winter quarters & the line

When reinforced we will not need to stand
Stock-still on stiffen’d ankles ’til the spring
There shall be motion & mobility

But will we last as long, the rendezvous
With all reinforcing battalions
Must be beyond the Berezinan flow
Which will be gaurded, sire, could the army
Reach as far as there, lamentable chance,
Weapons abandoned, food is running short;
When horses fall exhausted in their tracks
Meat hack’d & carved from bones while mouths still breathe
Horseflesh with mouldy flour paste made normal
Among the wretched men you claim so strong,

They shall survive this trial, we all shall,
& in the spring rhimotacles shall ride
from Anthony to our Augustan fate
It is probable I’ll go to Paris
The moment that the army is secure,
To organize re-energization
Of our ever prosp’rous state – what say you
Upon my thoughts, would it inflict a mean
Impression of me in the minds of men

It is useful what you think of doing
Sire, to offset this retreat’s impression
By personal appearance in Paris,
For as man’s nature the mutable cloud
Our plight seems to me more precarious
Than you see or can believe, the question
Is truly what the devil might attempt
In Europe thro’ your absence, you should leave,
For emperors flogging the fields too long
Return in the dead waste of middle night
To find his power skating on a swamp
Marshier than by Sevres-Niortaise

Agreed, peregrinating pavonine
The French are all female, we must not stay
Away from them long, else schemers surface
From grates & gutters, gremlins filling thoughts
With fateful fancies, faking grave events
With conniving & conversible speech
Estranging faith with a pale-hearted fear
It is certain my presence in Paris
Would end all dreams of treason, melding hearts
To hasten contrudation of forces
Which armies raise in just eleven weeks

Another army & another war?

If we are forced to fight then fight we must
But… do you think the Tsar might acquiesce
To overtures of peace now the army
Evacuates the provinces by day

No more than when we waited at Moscow,
Especially now, they’ll sling exultance
Across the paths to Poland



It does feel late, perhaps I’ll sleep awhile

Napoleon dozes off, exit Caulaincourt

SCENE 2: The Field of Borodino

Enter Bourgogne, Legrand, Boquet, Graingier, Leboude, Foucart, Rossi, Captain Vachain / on a ridge over Borodino the company halts in horror

This is a Stygian sight, hide your eyes
Refrain from gazing on this trampl’d plain
Upon the blood-dyed standards & the drums
That mark the tombs of fifty generals
Thro’ thirty thousand corpses half-devour’d
Death fixes here his empire, let us wait
Until the set of eve before we weave
Passages thro’ melancholic tatters
Of our beloved in forces in their prime

Who could have thought that those heroes who fought
The famous battle of the Moskowa
Would tread again its soil in full retreat

We have pickl’d in such juices before
Remember how we dash’d against the gates
of Asia, back in ninety eight, back then
We presented ourselves as conquerors
Before retreating with bleeding noses

But we triumphed under the Pyramids
Rode horses thro the Kremlin’s corridors
They whom serve not shall never understand
The spirit of a soldier, they who drift
Safe in commodious habitations –
But what are pleasures & advantages
Against the great work, glorious begun,
When thirsty of that fame insatiable
Victory’s intoxicating fever
Impels men forth with powerful instinct
To seek out death & immortality!

Lets build a fire, it is damn near freezing
There is fuel aplenty, we should rest
& burn the butts of rifles, frames of carts

A good plan quartermaster, I’ll collect
Some water while the boys brake the wood

Yes sergeant

Come & help

Yes sir

Exit Bourgogne & Leboude

Captain Vachain
What fight titanic forever inscribed
On history’s memorial pages
The Russian bear fought very brave all day
We laugh’d at the striplings of Austerlitz
But they have come of age upon this field
Manifesting exhaustless persistence
It was a deadly grave for cavalry
When more than half our horsemen ne’er shall mount
The broad backs of their kindred beasts again

When was the battle fought

Fifty-two days
Ago by my account

What ghastly scene
It was & is still

We waded in blood
The earth refused to swallow – heads, arms, legs
Strewn everywhere still

Russians in the main
Ours lain to rest as far as possible
Beneath this sorry turf

Done hastily
As rain uncovers the debris of death
The lowest degree of humanity
Reveal’d, with barely a mortal semblance

Whose is this lance Graingier, well you know
Our foes’ uniforms & insiginia

That weapon was wielded by an Uhlan
This Tartar word light cavalry defines
Look, there’s the square-topp’d hat its owner wore

Enter Bourgogne & Leboude carrying Martin, whose legs are shattered

We found a stream where the water flows rank
Wriggling its course thro’ putrefying flesh
Beside its stench we found this grenadier

I am alive, if this no dream

Methinks it would be us who were adream
How could you have surviv’d this long in hell
With both your legs ablown

I slept beneath
The body of a horse, gutted by shell
Languishing for weeks I gnaw’d its raw flesh
This strange & sepid, pestiforous fare
Kept me abreathe upon this fatal field
You get used to the water in the end
But haunted & tortur’d everywhither
By faradaic phantasm repines
My mind said ‘the wind,’ my soul knew better
Reflecting on the day inside this song
Woven in moonlight to ward away wolves



I have been at the siege of Toulon, gave no quarter
I was caught in the carnage strewn under the Austerlitz sun
In battle I’ve never seen more of a terrible slaughter
Than Borodino by the Russians’ redoubtable guns

Blood, blood, blood
Is the gold of the conqueror
Slay it away (at the altar)
Where a man prays for his day

I was torn from my horse by a Hussar in fury
My sabre slash’d swift, form’d a face flailing ribbons of flesh
This was a trial before death without judge even jury
As every next second I had to face dangers afresh

Blood, blood, blood
Is the goal of the warrior
Slay it away at the altar
Where a man prays for his day
Where a man pleads to his de-ity
Not to reach heaven that day

Then out of the clouds came a cannonball falling
It shatter’d my knees as it sank into inches of mud
I cried out for comrades thro agonies more than apalling
Fair price for a man who partakes in these Ballads of Blood

Blood, blood, blood
Is the gold of the conqueror
Slay it away (at the altar)
Where a man prays for his day
Where a man pleads to his de-ity
Not to reach heaven that day

On the conclusion of the song Bourgogne drifts away once more

There is a convent but two miles away
Where taken to were most of our wounded
When many yet remain, the Emperor
Has order’d their removal west by cart
We’ll take you there

Not just yet, let me stay
Awhile with healthy soldiers, hear your news
Did you go to Moscow, & the Tsar,
Is he defeated, & with it restored
The Continental System,

Have some wine
Let Rossi shall tell all you wish to know,
He is the gossip-merchant of our troupe

Rossi begins to talk to Martin / enter Madame Dubois with Stephanie carrying a cooking pot between them

Here you go boys, don’t drink it all at once

Madame Dubois! What fills your cooking pot

Fresh water from a quarter league away

And who is this

Her name is Stephanie
Made widow at Maloyaroslavets
& she shall struggle lone at brink of term
No more, her babe & she now in my care

Another mouth to feed

her mouth is french

Where is your cart

The axles broke both ends
& all it carried stripp’d in moments mere,
All of our provisions gone; the punch bowl
my beautiful, clear-cut crystal punch bowl
Thefted away by some beak-nosed lombard

All you say

Yes all

This is disastrous

No, not disaster, ’tis the devil’s work

Whether it be Lombard or the Devil
We’ll all be making do & starting now
I scraped a little flour up from the floor
That is all I have left to make supper
Thick soup of fresh horseflesh will have to do
But before we begin the kitchen, boys,
Come take a glug of acqua for canteens
But leave half for the soup, now who has flour
to spare


& you, Leboude

I have some

Madame Dubois alas all mine is spent

so soon

Have some of mine

& you Boquet

I put mine at the same pot with Legrand

{Foucart shakes his head in silence}
Then this will have to do my boys
Come stephanie, let us slice up the meat

Bourgogne returns with a bearskin

It fits me rather well, do you not think

Well look at the lucky fellow’s fortune

Bourgogne, I’ll swap you my mistress in Lille
For that fine coat

I’ve seen her, keep her please

A busy scene – a snowdrop begins to fall – as Bourgogne is rearanging his bearskin, he stretches out his arms – the first snowflake of winter falls in one of his outstretched hands

Act 2, Scenes 3-4

SCENE 3: The Streets of Moscow

Enter Vasalisa, two teenage boys (Vitaly & Vladamir), a woman called Angelina & her teenage daughter Albina – they are wielding scythes, pitchforks, axes & bear spears

So this the starry city of the Tsars
It has certainly lost its old lustre
Find what you can from lead to free lodgings

Exit Albina, Angelina, Vitaly & Vladamir – enter an old man shuffling

Hey, old man… yes you… are you Muscovite
{Old Man nods}
So much destruction, tell me what was lost

Old Man
It was a very devastating blow,
But we’ll rebuild them all, the Moscow State
University & the Petovsky
Theatre, & Buturlin’s library
Were all destroy’d completely, works of art
Beyond presciousness & divinity
Deceased in the harsh nature of these times
I am a poet-scholar, & bewail
Above all else the ever senseless loss
Of a singular & source manuscript
To flamegrip, ‘The Tale of Igor’s Campaign,’
Houses of bricks may be rebuilt, but art
May only be imitated, the soul
Of our nation has been tainted by France

The intensity of my enmity
For vile invaders burns in me brighter
Than any blaze that might have burned your books

Enter Vitaly & Vladamir

Mistress Vasalisa

Yes Vitaly

We have found sacks & sacks of gunpowder
Just sitting in a warehouse in neat rows

Any gaurds


Fill the cart with twenty

Vladamir & Vitaly
Yes mistress

Exit Vladamir & Vitaly

The French seem too forgetful,
We’ll make then wish they’d burn’d that warehouse down

Old Man
My wish is to be fighting beside you
Good luck & kill as many as you can

Exit Old Man

Enter Albina & Angelina with Valentina & Natasha

Mistress these two were begging us for food

Are they Russian

We are

Then we have food

Why are you both here in Moscow

This is our home

Our dear mother was killed
In the fire, our house destroyed

Our father
& brothers all died at Borodino

A rake’s worth of woes dredging tragedy
Come join us girls, our happy family
Has swell’d with widows & orphans like you –
My kisslove husband was recently slain
By drunken French pigs, despite his status
As village starosta, an evil tithe
On which I swore revenge

Do you have food

We procure support, plentiful supplies
Whichever village pass’d through for the cause

Where are you from

Sychyovsky of Smolensk

Valentina & Natasha whisper to themselves

We wish to make you mistress & to fight

Beside you in this partisanic war

Vladamir & Vitaly return

Vladamir, Vitaly, come here & meet
Our latest recruits to the company
What are you names, I neglected to ask




& I am Angelina

We must bless Lord God the Tsar forbade peace
When, after unattainted sacrifice,
& retreats insane, as long as there are
Russians alive able to wield a spear
Scythe or pitchfork, their duty sigillates
Upon the soul astrive, to consummate
This death-wish of the French & drive the Poles
Back to their poorer palaces, then toss
The King of Naples yelping yon the Alps.

We sense a turning of the tides of strength
We Russians rise spryly in our spirits

& in our numbers, too, no longer trail

Passed to our side superiority!
The French are now afraid of open fields
& race to Paris in a straggleline

Encrusted by the elements them made
A stray mad dog we worry shall to death
Like agile bees stinging a bleeding bear
Inside desperate fits of exhaustion

Our mission is to trap & captivate
Each foolhardy French forager that dares
Abandon lines in search of branch & food
Like fallen leaves wind-toss’d from wither’d tree

The graves of the French are dug already
In the sacred soil of Mother Russia
& we shall send Napoleon packing
The monster who makes the world unhappy

Then we shall need our strength for such a feet
The girls are hungry, I am hungry too

There are huge piles of food in the palace

The Tsar will leave Petersburg until
The French are driven firmly from his soil –
Tonight we eat & sleep like royalty
Tsarina Vasalisa sounds the ring!


SCENE 4: The Russian Countryside

The Company are led by Colonel Bodel / They arrive at the side of a wood

Colonel Bodel
Here’s the refuge lads, fine shelter begins
About thick’ning woods, softening the edge
Of ice-knife winds, the company shall make
A sumptuous stew of fresh slain horse-flesh
To send us strength to march these last few days
Into Smolensk where food & warmth await

Leboude & Foucart begin to make a horseflesh stew

Warmth, warmth, what a wonderful idea
I am longing from cold; veins harden, chill’d,
God help us, there must be twenty degrees
of frost, I’m frozen, from icicle beard
To feelingless feet, fingers stuck to guns
Eyelids seal’d by snow, with all of my joints
Fragile as alabaster, start the fire!

What heavy snows the north wind hurls on heads
Then sucks boots down into its shifting lake
From civilized march, thro’ anxious retreat
To wild escape, in matter of mere days
This is brazen disaster without claim
To honour

The harder grows the pathway
The greater the glory

How glorious
We must appear – badly dress’d, lacking food
Denied of any fortifying juice

The corps are all disbanded, & scarcely
A quarter of the soldiers still remain
Marching with their regimental standards –
Too cold to clutch their weapons these are thrown
Beside the road with all their cartridges
To reach Smolensk the only common sense
Over vast snows snail-moving silently
Slouching atop the bodies of dead friends
Nobody orders, nobody obeys,
If this is glory, I’d hate to see Hell

{buckling in pain}
Mon dieu!


I feel the mighty flushing push of life
My baby is born

Quickly, quickly, warm me some water
There, there, rosepetal we shall settle this
Saintly affair with healthy cherubim

Surgeon Legrand

Yes Colonel

Take my cloak
To cover the girl, help Madame Dubois
Deliver this infant into safety

Yes sir, Dubois, sit her on my jacket

There you go, sweetheart… where is that water

Now let me see, open your legs – a head!
Life’s signature its little swab of hair

Well get them out then, the head & the hair

Push! Push!… keep pushing… that’s it, almost there

It is just as stubborn as my husband
Where is my husband

Stay strong Stephanie
You can do this, take my hand, squeeze & push

With one last push your baby shall be born

Stephanie gives birth to a boy to the cheers & relief of the company

It is a fine boy, full finger’d & toed

More hurrahs from the company / Legrand cuts the umbillical chord / gives the baby to Dubois who washes him

Thank you surgeon

Thank God in all this death
It seem’d he wished to rush life back to us
He came so quick, like raindrops from a cloud

Here you are Stephanie, your son, your child
He will break some hearts when he is older

He has his father’s nose

His mother’s eyes

Men gather around the cooking pot

The aroma of boiled meat breaks the turf
That keeps my sanity, digs a deep hole
To my stoumach, & makes me scream in pain
Cursing this fearful hunger never known
In all my years I’ve marched behind the drum
Starving is madness, I would demolish
the very devil if he was well cook’d

This hunger of wolves drives me to the hunt
I’ll see what I can gather in the wood
& if I meet somebody with a loaf
Of bread, I shall force it broken in half
No – I would kill him to possess it all

Do not foget to share Sergeant Bourgogne
Of course, my global comrades, I’ll bring back
A handsome banquet to the bivouac

Exit Bourgogne

Vegetables, sawdust bread & horse meat
What I would do to eat a little fruit
A juicy red apple from normandy

Even juicier are the tomatoes
From Roussillon, I would kill for just one



For 25 francs I shall sell you a lovely potato
For 200 roubles I’ll brew you a beautiful soup

I’ve a fortune at home & a villa in Rome
In Valenciennes I’ve a vineyard & men
But I’d swap it all for just one little sweet red tomato

I am hungry for my country men
I am starving to my heart
We are famished little savages
Now the army has fallen apart

For 25 francs I shall sell you a green avocado
For 200 roubles I’ll do you a succulent soup

I’d exchange a courgette for my mistress Annette
My wife Marie-Lou’s worth a turnip or two
But I’d swap them all for just one little sweet red tomato

Potato… tomato
I am hungry for my coq au vin,
I am starv’d for cherry tart
But sausages & cabbages
In gravy would do for a start

I am hungry for my country men
I am starving to my heart
We are savage little scavengers
now the army has fallen apart

Napoleon – will save us

Act 2: Scenes 5-6

SCENE 5: Woods

A French soldier, Corentin, is boiling potatoes – enter Bourgogne to one side – Corentin plunges a knife in the pot, pulls out a potato, pinches it to see if it is boiled, then places it back in the pot

Another few minutes, my true beauties
Of dining with you all I’ve dreamt enough
Tonight I shall taste in celebration
Your famous flavors awaltz on warm tongue

Bourgogne begins to secretly circiut Corentin – all at once Bourgogne runs at Corentin – brushwood crackles alerting Corentin, who stands up

Filial warrior, you must either sell
Or give me some potatoes, & if not
By sheer force I shall carry off the lot

But, sir, this pot does not belong to me
It is my master’s, of general’s rank,
Who camps close by & orders me to hide
Inside these woods to secretly attend
The soft succilising of these earth-fruits
To feed us both tomorrow

Take these coins

Bourgogne begins to take pototaes from the pot

But sergeant, they are not yet boiled enough

You try & fool me

Sir, pinch one & see

It is boiled enough
(devouring the potatoes – through chewing he says…}
You got any salt?

No sir, the last of that went yesterday
Yet so, these lack all fitness for eating
If undercook’d beckon styptic sickness

I have had far worse in the inns of Conde
I’m taking half, & if you dare object
I shall take the whole, do you understand

Corentin nods

Take seven

You already have ten francs
& here’s another five

What is money
These fifteen francs in one week shall provide
For just one rotten potato, I’m sure,
But – one, two, three, four, five, six & seven

The gratitude of all the saints on you
I’ll not be forgetting your charity
Or name…

I am Corentin

Fair blessings with you on this eaglesflight

& you sir

Bourgogne begins to leave

Sergent, sergent, do come back

What is it

Take two more for your comrades

Thank you & keep your musket free of ice

Exit Bourgogne

SCENE 6: The Guard’s camp

Bourgogne returns

Sergent – how did you fare, well?

Yes tell us,
If you are able to add anything
Other than horse meat to this brewing stew

Alas, no

The soldiers turn their backs on him & bang their musket butts on the ground

At least you tried, here’s you share

Bourgogne takes a bowl of stew & starts to wolf it down in one

Another wolf

What is wrong with Boquet

From him fear flows this night, from others too
These are rare hours of tragedies combin’d

With all hell’s powers issued loose it seems
Aslant the icy shelves of Cocytus
Wind’s razorblade slicing my marrow’d bones,
Sealing eyelids, sticking fingers to guns

I’ll bless the Lord God for my coat & cape

Bourgogne hollows out a bed from the snow / enter soldiers wearing great white cloaks & the young Prince Emile of Hesse-Cassel / his adjutant addresses the Gaurds

Men, this is Prince Emile of Hesse-Cassel
He shall be sleeping near your fire tonight

There is indifference from the Gaurds – the soldiers of the prince surround him to form a human shelter – meanwhile Bourgogne gets a sneaky potatoe out & eats it quietly – the night comes on – occasionally Bourgogne wakes & checks his potatoes by counting them – in the predawn Bourgogne wakes up & sits on his napsack – he bayonets a hole in his bear skin so its head falls on his chest – he puts his own head through the hole & settles down – there is a scream from Stephanie

My baby, my son, as stiff as a board

The company wake up, but Boquet is dead

My son, my baby son

Plesase stephanie
Give him to me


Please, give him to me
It is sadness beyond all sadnessess
When mothers lose a child, but in this case
Its best for both the baby & yourself

It is best, to die

Aye, and die today,
Before he dies the long death of hunger
Give him to me my girl


You must do it
Leboude, here, & Legrand, will bury him

Then let me gaze one last time on his face
& conjure all the birthdays of his youth
Of how he looked his first day at the schools
Goodbye my little prince
{she kisses the baby, then hands him sadly to Dubois}
Bury him deep
Beneath the scent of wolves

Do as she says

Leboude & Legrand go to dig a grave / Leboude digs the earth while Legrand holds the baby – Dubois comfoirts stephanie / Prince Emile steps out from his human shelter, half of whom are dead

Your majesty, how are you, are you well

Prince Emile
I am, but these men, did they not survive

They gave their warmth to you so you might live

Prince Emile
Before we start I’d like to take coffee

Yes sir, look, we can use that nearby fire

Prince Emile
Let us go there at once

Yes sir, company
Follow your prince

Exit the Prince & his men, some half dead & stumbling – some remain to strip the clothes off the dead

I thought we French had ended all of that
With the revolution, follow your prince
Where, to oblivion?

One of the Prince’s men approaches Boquet & starts to strip him

Leave him alone

But he is dead

{the Soldier continues to strip Boquet}
You will leave off him
Unless you wish to join my friend’s long sleep
From the vicinity of the Guards
All thieves like yours are served with expulsion

Exit the the rest of the Prince’s men

Boquet is frozen hard
He does not speak, nor move, nor whisp of breath
Is seen or heard,

Then bury his honour
Beside the child, let the warrior sleep,


Go & sprag Foucart
& I shall start the fire embers aglow,
A dragon’s blow will get the show started

Vachain blows on the fire & it starts / in secret Bourgogne tries to eat a potato but it is rock solid & his teeth slip

Adrien, what hold you there… in your hand

Struggling thro’ night hunger stabs me awake
Predominating upon dead patience
As soon as dawn made traces in the sky
I was compelled to search again the woods
& found potatoes I’m about to share



Real potatoes

There is a mad dash to Bourgogne – Legrand, Leboude & Graingier try & bite but the potatoes are too hard

Let us soften these treasures in the flames

Rossi & Foucart arrive

Are they potatoes


Where were they found

Ask Bourgogne

From the wood

Which direction

Follow my finger forwards through the pine

Exit Foucart & Rossi / The potatoes in the fire melt away

Disastrous day, they melt away like ice

Curse this land when even food is frozen
{puts a pan put on the fire}
But all’s not lost, remember yesterday
We bled a most unhappy horse & filled
This saucepan, when congealing in the flames
Wach one of us still breaks his fast this morn

Rossi & Foucart return

The snow has covered every living thing
It is a futile prospect e’en to try

Those potatoes were uselss anyway
Uneatable whether them hot or cold
At least we have the horse blood, it thaws well

A blare of trumpets

What is that

Colonel Bodel
We must move, the emperor
Calls us

Take a portion, lads, use your hands

All the gaurds dip hands in blood & take a bit – beards smeared with blood / exit all but Dubois & Stephanie at the grave / Boquet lies unburioed beside them

We must go my child

I cannot leave mine

What do you mean

I have not got the strength
Of soul, of mind, of body & of heart
To leave this place, you have been good to me
Now I shall be good to you, without me
You will will manage much easier, please go

But you are delicate in daintihood
How could you survive cold & the Cossacks

I do not care, my mind cannot be moved
Those men are your family – he is mine

Stephanie turns her back & attends the grave – Dubois looks at her a moment then leaves

Act 3, Scenes 1-2

Scene 1: Smolensk

Bourgogne, Leboude, Legrand & Foucart arrive at a large fire in a roofless house / an old Chasseur, Roland, sits by the fire / his feet are wrapped up in a sheepskin / his beard, whiskers, and moustache were filled with icicles

This devastated ruin is Smolensk?
A town existing only by its name
There’s nothing but rubble & troubles
No houses for shelter, no provisions
To feed us

Be tranquil, Foucart, Rossi
Has gone to collect protected rations

What are Napoleonic promises
These days

His hederated majesty
Is not to blame, his fame shines insolate,
This present discomfiture not his fault
I curse this land & all its mad-bred flaws
& all who call its catacoombs a home,
The worst of which is Alexander, Tsar!
Now whom among ye brave kind lads has beer

We are as dry as Syrian desert

Then I had better die

Leboude draws a bottle of brandy from his pocket

Here you are comrade,
I have a drop or two, please help yourself

Roland drains the bottle – hands it back — Leboude tries to drink but finds it empty

You save my life & If I ever have
An opportunity to save yours back
At the cost of my own, you may be sure
I shall not hesitate for a second
Remember Roland, Chasseur of the Guard,
Now on foot, or to be exact, no feet
Converted to a crude roturier
I had to leave my horse three days ago,
Blew out his brains to banish sufferings
But here is a piece of his leg – have some

I am fine

For the Brandy

I shall wait
For our ration

The right sort never die


Not true! Not true! that speech a fool’s garland
There were many a man as good as me
Among the thousands dead these last three days
I have soldier’d in Egypt, and, by God!
Nothing could compare with all this, never!
Hope to God & goodness troubles ended;

Veritable Pittacus Sarapus!
For us our troubles only just begun
The cold intensifying as each night
Lengthens abreast the darkness of winter
& falls again by four each afternoon
No wonder numerous fools lose their way
Gone blundering thro dusk & darkness both
While others sleep too late waiting for sun
Like drunken palliards in farmer’s barns
& find the Russians rousing them with knives

It seems as if the Emperor expects
Some miracle to alter the climate
& ruin end descending every side.

So what if desolation devastates
The greater the suffering & danger
The greater the honour & the glory

Enter Rossi

I have your beef, boys, beef, come take a share

Rossi, you beauty

That looks amazing

The soldiers rush to get their share & fall on the meat like like wild beasts – Foucart, Bourgogne & Leboude star to cook theres on the fire – Legrand starts to devour his raw

What are you doing, it must first be cooked
Are you a man or monstrous chimeran

I cannot wait another second, sir,
This is the very ecstasy of life

Suit yourself

Where did you get such gold from

We were lucky, I had to swift become
Hannibal riding Surus to persuade
The Gauls of my importance, & the Guard –
This is no promised land but Fratricide
Frenchman kills Frenchman in his search for food
& fortunes trade for bottles of brandy

Real meat! the quintessence of survival
During all this miserable campaign
I never saw as much as cow or sheep
It is the devil’s country, hell all through
Having scour’d hundreds of wretched hovels
To discover what these peasants lived on
Long struggling with unhappy tenantships
All I could find was bread as black as coal,
Too hard for teeth

{to Rossi}
Give me Graingier’s share
I’ll seek him out about Smolensk before

Here you are sergeant, don’t take it
For yourself

Of course not, on my honour
What was that?


That sound

I cannot hear


There it is again

You are hearing things

No – there is Graingier, I can sense it

Exit Bourgogne in the direction of the leibmotif

Scene 2: Smolensk, a Church

It is smoky from a fire – Graingier & several other soldiers, some of whom are musicians, are gatherer’d around a church organ in a state of some drunkenness – enter Bourgogne – the singers perform Compère Guilleri

It is my sergeant! boys, Sergeant Bourgogne
The hardiest warrior of the Guard
Comrade, interpose yourself among us
& meet my great new friends, Cuirassieres
Of the Fourth Cavalry

Drunk Cuirassier
{offering silver cup}
Want some brandy

Thank you very much, man, here, Graingier,
Come take your allocation of fresh beef

Quite beautiful

You look half seas over

But happy & warm, you should stay here sir
& join us in our joyous revelries

I’ll take a little drink, but best I think
To lie beside the fire

Do what you please
There’s straw & fodder everywhere, ’twere meant
For the horses, but most of them are dead

I have a litte rice & biscuit spare

In these days of evictive confusion
When food not to be had for even gold,
The greatest proof of friendship one could give
Are such act as these

You would do the same

Bourgogne muses quietly a moment on the potato incident

My mind & limbs grow heavy in the heat
I think I’ll burrow deep into the straw

Sleep well, I go to merrymake some more

Graingier rejoins the Cuirassiers – Bourgogne places his head on his knapsack & with his feet to the fire, goes to sleep



Cuirassiers & Graingier
Here we are
Still surviving for Napoleon
Never doubt
He’s the one to raise us up again
& we know it dont make no sense
We’ve been robb’d of our innocence

& I know that that the road is hard
But when you’re with the Old Guard
You’ll never fade away
& I know
That a life’s austere
For the Grenadier
In his coat of grey

Drunken Cuirassier
This is no cautionary tale
For the vision must still prevail


Bourgogne passes his hand over his chest and other parts of his body / to his horror he discovers he was covered with lice

What the – lice – hundreds of them – all over

Bourgogne jumps up & strips off, throwing his shirt & trousers into the fire – They make a crackling like a brisk firing – Bourgogne shakes the rest of his clothes over the fire, then strips a corpse of trousers & shirt -moves away from the straw & sits on his knapsack, covered by his bearskin, his head in his hands in a state of dejection


Cuirassiers & Graingier
Here we stand
Making sounds in perfect unison
Organ chimes as in Madame de Stael’s salon
& we know that our lives might change
& our fates’ never been so strange

& I know that that the road is hard
But when you’re with the Old Guard
You’ll never fade away
& I know
That a life’s austere
For the Grenadier
In his coat of grey

Drunken Cuirassier
& then when our fate intends
We’ll be seeking the recompense

Act 3, Scenes 3-4

SCENE 3: A Forest Clearing

Enter Vasalisa, Angelina, Albina, Vladamir & Vitaly

This clearing is as good as any space
To build a base from whence to pounce upon
The straggling French bestruggl’d from Smolensk

Angelina, you’ve been crying, what for?

Mother, what is it?

It is nothing, well…
I’d hoped to hear my husband’s voice today
I miss you father dearly but am proud
To know he fights the French, I heard him take
The sacred oath upon that mountain height
To never see our faces’ light until
Napoleon defeated & expung’d
From Russia on the spirit of vengeance



Well my husband is off to the war
O when is it going to end
I miss him each day more & more
He’s my family, lover & friend

& the way that he looks in the morning
When he wakes with a wink & a smile
Makes me bless how my wonderful fortune
Shares his talents, his beauty, his style

My husband’s so champion warlike
Outstanding he fights in the field
But when he’s asleep in the dawn light
All my worryful weepings are heal’d

Then the way that he looks in the morning
When he wakes with a wink & a smile
Makes me bless how my wonderful Husband
Offers talents & beauty & style

Well my husband’s so splendidly handsome
As far as my travels can see
There are multiple men in the country
But none are as handsome as he


Such love for the fatherland’s warriors
Empowers the souls & hands to noble feats

& from those feats our triumph shall prevail,
The French have been belittled in battles
The fox escapes across the barren land
Abandoning swords & encampments, flies
Thro’ slain brothers blood, painting ghastly sights,
As all around the woods & mountains shout
‘O victory to Rus, O victory
To the terryifying might of old Rus.’


Enter Natasha & Valentina, hurriedly

Be quiet everybody, still your sound

Two French officers approach us alone

Hide yourselves as salt’s secret of the seas

The Partisans hide in the undergrowth – enter Vachain & Bodet

What is this special enigma, Colonel
Which lures us deep into this creaking wood
Is it some wild pretence

This is quite real
As we are both noble officers, sir,
We will share the best table, in this case
A genuine bottle of best vodka
From the Tsar’s very own cellar

My God

I shall go first, as deem’d by higher rank

I defer to that & your gratitude

My word, there is the fire, first it burns throat
Then belly, how it feels to feel alive!
Here you are my man – prepare for fierce flame

Vachain drinks with splutters & coughs / Bodet laughs

That is a mighty blast, no vulgo draught
For one raw moment lends me forgetting,
From being the most affected ever
At the loss of the effectivity
Of our once supreme sword, how our famous
Columns made now disorder’d, prideless mass
We fools who purchas’d our own mockery,
Who were called all sides ‘Indestructables,’
Who swept all Europe before us, broken
Into myriad ruthless parts, striving
To lives preserve at anyworth expense.

So many miseries have crazed my voice
This breakdown of order is challenging
Made thrice as complicated by the theft
& plundering of clothing thro’ all ranks
Confusing insignias meaningless
Rather than attempting to discover
True ranks, comrogean soldiers assume
True officers really enlisted men
& flagrantly refused orders obey’d

Such things are the current of time’s river
Which carries to oblivion our deeds
Unfeasible to stem its always flow
& think of desolation’s fate uncheck’d
If I were to die on this faithless march
My memories shall drift into the snow,
With last breath-whisps, of twenty great battles
Thro’ ten years service with the Emperor

Napoloen! He does not give a damn
Soldiers supraconstantly collapsing
Upon the road, dismiss’d without a glance
For the sick & dying offers only
Unstricken unsentimentality.

So long has Fortune shower’d her favours
He barely believes she deserts him now
& blunders under constant delusion
Proven amply by fatal insistence
That every little thing be brought away
To clog the roads, then lost are in the end

The end – what will that be for you & I
When some are murder’d for a pinch of bread
& who shall mourn us here – coldbloodedly
Upon pale, lamenting faces I peer,
This awful war’s dismembrator’d faces,
The wounded, frozen, burn’d – only to turn
Away & think of other trinket things
From all the sad finales I have seen
The worst are those who freeze before a fire
Takes hold & gives out heat, but I have slept
Upon these poor, unfortunate pillows
Too often – enough, let us quaff some more

Bodet drinks & hands the bottle to Vachain

So bitter – refuses to taste better

Oh lord, look, Captain Vachain, look upwards
Thro’ clearing tops upon a starry sky

A hard frost, Colonel,

Yes, that might be so
But now is the night’s tremendous disport
Flaring stars, vanishing stars, stars trembling
Star on stars on stars, busy whispering
Gladsome mysteries to one another

When gazing on the stars & crystal spheres
From myself I remove myself, become
A portion of all that passes about me
Stirring feelings of the infinite felt
In solitude, where we are least alone

This vodka works well, you speak poetry

I do? Then let us drink some more

Bodet drinks then passes Vachain the bottle

Drink deep

Vachain drinks

Still no better, what ingredient does
Russia inject into this burning wine

Enter Vasalisa

It is a symphony to savour, made
From potatoes, fermented, then distill’d

Who are you woman, what is your business?

I am Vasalisa Kharzina
Of the partisan army of the Tsar
A savage disease needs a savage cure
& leaves befallen from a wither’d tree
Up scoop, you two my captives on parole
& these, these are my country warriors

Enter the partisans, armed – Bodel & Vachain draw their swords

Put down your swords or we will shoot you dead

What use are you to anyone that way,
Your roubles’ worth quadruples when alive

Bodet & Vachain drop their swords – they are search’d for more weapons – Vitaly drinks the vodka

It is vodka – it is good

Let me try

Vladmir drinks the vodka

Give me a drop Vitaly
{Angelina drinks the vodka}
That is good
Where did you get this from – it is Russian
Who made it murder’d somewhere in these lands

I found it deep in the Kremlin’s cellars

Found it, stole it, no matter, have a drink

Vasalisa drinks

The good stuff – Let us dissappear from here
These French are of the Guard, & will send out
No doubt, seach parties, you two , follow us
If refusing you’ll be shot, understand?

We understand

My partisans, depart


SCENE 4: Another Forest Clearing

Bourgogne is alone & struggling through the bad weather. Dead bodies line the road. The ground is covered as far as the eye can see with helmets, shakos, swords, cuirasses, broken chests, empty portmanteaus, bits of torn clothing, saddles & costly schabraques / he reaches a cart

I curse the snow which hides the azure sphere
& makes an entire army dissappear
It seems as if broad heaven joins the earth
Immelding snowflakes dragging heavy girth
We march without thought, lost & unsteady,
Where whirlwinds of sleet dreadfully eddy
& swarm-drifted snow heap’d up collected
Chasms shyly conceal unexpected
Ingulphing the weakest, whom no more rise
Weak & confounded compounded by sighs
& if standing still we hammer thro the blast
That whips up wild snow, & won’t let us past
With obstinate fury blocking our way
Freezing our clothes with a knife-icy spray
Stiffening tremble-limbs, chattering teeth,
Flat falling in snow the only relief
But only for brief, the skies leaden flight
Buries them in a sepulcher of white,
See how the road to Poland undulates!
Intrepids apathetic to their fates
Hurry by with eyes elsewhere averted
Earth in one vast winding-sheet beshirted!
Dullblank expanse, where only pines emerge
A few gloomy funereals averge
Endless universal desolation,
Where life is but a silly esperance,
Sends instincts pressing self-preservation
Cross-paths down, searching friendly farms, but meet
Screeching Cossacks, peasants gadling in arms,
Who surround us, wound us, strip us to the skin
& leave us expiring with incisive grin
I curse this snow which fills up the traces
Of columns gone before me, just spaces
Of silence, this immense cemetery
That seperates us insalutary
Brings tears to me not shed since I was child,
Now who is this strange creature quite defiled

A wounded French soldier, wrapped in a great fur-lined cloak, crawls on the floor to Bourgogne

Soldier, what is your name? Your regiment?

The soldier says nothing, then collapses & dies – Bourgogne goes to see if he is alive when an arm from a second soldier led on the floor, grabs him by the legs

Stop! help me! Don’t you know, please don’t forget!
{a maniacal laugh}
Marie, Marie, give me food, I’m dying
{he tries to throw off his coat}

Stop that, please, you’ll surely die without it
Come on, stand up, I will help your comrade

As Bourgogne tires to lift the soldier by the arm he notices that he wears officer epaulettes

Ah, you are an officer, what rank, sir
& regiment

The regiment needs me
To organise reviews, bolster morale
& perfect parades, let us go at once

The soldier gets up to rise but falls on one side with his face in the snow – Bourgogne passes his hand over the soldier’s face & finds there is no sign of life – Bourgogne finds a few fragments of wood & with great difficulty gets them alight – very soon flames crackle up into quite a large fire – he collects a number of schabraques to sit on, and wrapping in his bearskin cape, with his back against the waggon, arranges himself for the night – a Cossack on all fours crawls into the camp – Bourgogne notices, draws his sword & starts to advance – on reaching the Cossack he points his sword in his back

Are you bear or a man, growl or answer…

The Cossack looks up – he has a long beard which along with his his thick hair is red and thick – his shoulders are of Herculean proportions

You are Cossack!

The Cossack throw himself down in supplication, trying to kiss Bourgogne’s feet

Dobray Frantsouz

Get off !!

Dobray Frantsouz, Frenchie, Dobray Frantsouz

The Cossack kneels upright & is so tall his head reaches Bourgogne’s shoulders – he shows him a fightful sword-cut he had had on his face. Bourgogne signs the Cossack to come near the fire; the Cossack reveals a ball wound to the stomach then turns on his side to writh & wail in pain, & grind his teeth – Bourgogne settles down by the fire

I would normally aid your pain’s relief
But am so numb to suffering your wails
Run like water on my ears, like my words
On yours, my Cossack foe, what is that noise
Ah – they are trumpets somewhere in the field
Too far away to find them, & this fire
So mindful of my life, for what it is

With a huge groan Picart emerges from the waggon, holding up the top of the waggon with one hand, and having a drawn sword in the other – Bourgogne draws his sword – Picart is trying, without success, to unfasten the great white cloak it wore with the hand which held the sword, as the other was engaged in holding up the top of the waggon

Are you a Frenchman?

Yes, of course I am!
What a damn’d silly question! There you stand
Like a church candle! You see what a fix
I am in, why have you not attempted
To help me out of this coffin. I seem,
My good fellow, to have frightened you white

You frighten’d me, yes, I thought you might be
{pointing to the Cossack}
Another of these noble beauties

Bourgogne helps Picart out of the waggon, who throws off his cloak


{examining Bourgogne}
Adrien, Adrien Bourgogne?

It is me mon pays & you are Picart

Picart by name & Picard by nation

What angel or fiend throws us together
I know now I am to make it back home
To speak of this encounter in the snow
With tactile ghost as clean & well as thee

As clean & well as me! How gruff & rough
Are you & thin to boot, veritable
Robinson Crusoe of the Guard, so strange
I scarcely know my friend, your alter’d mein
So miserable – tell me by what luck
Or misfortune do I find you alone
In the woods with this villainous Cossack
Just look at him! See his eyes! He’s been here
Since yesterday, and then he disappeared,
I cannot think at all why he’s come back,
And also you, sergeant, why are you here

I am feverish on a lazy ledge
I paus’d to rest a moment, else drop dead
The company moved on & in an hour
The tracks were completely cover’d by snow
Three days I’ve been alone now in these woods
Subkingdom of stravation & despair
Have you a bit of something I can eat

I have a little biscuit if you care

Picart opens his knapsack and draws out a piece of biscuit the size of his hand, which Bourgogne devours at once

O what medicine rests in firm friendship
I haven’t tasted bread since October
Twenty seventh – this is heaven to taste
But have you any brandy?

No, mon pays

I thought I smelt something rather like it

You are right! Yesterday, when we pillag’d
This waggon there was a brandy bottle
The source of a detestable quarrel
Which sharded glass & snow-wards hard stuff spill’d,

I should like to see the place where it happened

Behind the back right wheel snow turns golden gold
There was the scuffle & your nectar find

Bourgogne goes to the wagon, picks up a clump of snow & holds it up to check

The water of life, frozen in a ball
We’ll melt it in a pan & get quite drunk

I never thought of doing that, we shall
Surely be drunk, several bottles worth
Were smash’d in ugly distraughtation
{Bourgogne puts snow in the pan – it begins to melt}
An alchemist, alcohol alchemy

Just flames & a pan, no sorcery here

You are a great magician all the same

Do you remember the day of Eylau
When we were stood on the right of the church?’

Of course, we had weather just like to-day

I have good reason to remember it,
A brutal Russian bullet carried off
My saucepan. Have you forgotten it,

Certainly not, no more than the far heads
Of Gregoire and Lemoine it swept off too

How the devil do you recall their names?

I cannot forget them, they were both good friends

That day I had haricots in the pan
With a little biscuit

I remember
They ended up splashed all over us both

Great God! what a day that was!’
Drink, my friend, this liquid asterism

I curse the God of Russia & the Conscript


Our emperor is nothing but
A regular fool to dally so long
In Moscow, a fortnight was long enough
To eat and drink everything we found there;
But thirty-four days waiting for winter
I call that folly & If he were here,
I’d tell him as much to his regal face
This is not the way to lead men, good God
Plodding like the pen of a bad poet
The dances he has led me sixteen years
We suffered enough in Syrian sands
They were nothing to these deserts of snow

Picart begins blowing on his hands

But who on earth would be our interrex
Napoleon we need now more than ever

A bugle sounds in the distance

What was that

That was a Russian bugle

Are you sure

It’s rings unmistakable
Haunt thro’ my dreams or wake me from those dreams

It sound like the Horse-Grenadiers’ reveille
To the air ‘Fillettes, auprès des amoureux
Tenez bien votre serieux,’

Not so
That would be most impossible, mon pays
There has been not one first bugle or reveille
For the last fortnight; our cavalry’s cull’d
No, it is Russian – they will be here soon

Very well, we had better put our arms
In order, first of all my musket find
I have never, ever lost it before
Have carried it six years, all hours of night
I’ll know it by mere touch – even the noise
It makes in falling

There, beside that log
Is that it?

It is, good man

The Cossack starts rolling about in the snow in the most terrible sufferings, with his head almost in the fire

Let us melt
More of this precious snowbrandy, enough
For a bottle each, then reach a safe spot

& what about our wounded bear

I doubt
He’ll live another hour, best leave him be

At least help him to die comfortably
Pass me some schabraques

Picart & Bourgogne lay the cossack on some sheepskin schabraques

He’ll not die just yet
Look at his eyes: they shine like candle twins

The Cossack is placed sitting up, they holds by his arms / as soon as we let him go he fell down again, his face in the fire / they drag him out only just in time to prevent his being burnt – they lean him the other way

Now let us leave
With rapid steps towards the setting sun
Thro’ this silent and lonely old forest

An idea has occurred to me, man
You shall be the rear-guard, and I the van
A double eagle, with two eyes in front
& two behind espial, if we meet
The foe, you load, allow me to engage
To bring them down like fat ducks that they are

France is that way, mon pays, let us fly home,
Swift-scurried like a hurried polatouche