Category Archives: Lyrical Histories

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,
This miracle beyond intrinsic woes,
Endows a certain sense of the tourist,
On which state I thy country might be wild
But thy women’s beauties are 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 to fraternity soon
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 their 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 ye 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
Yet, as gifts are seldom altruistic,
Please visit me in Paris in return
Next summer, in the peacetime which we 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 to dreary woe’s 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’ll 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 ravens
Like nosegays to smell & sweetmeats to taste
& all their talk is some handsome monarch
Of how they are dreaming silky pleasures
He never could have tasted in Paris

If they would desire a 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 share the same
Promotion to a mental dignity
Could you prepare a concert for Sunday

Certainly sire

Today I shall decree
Opening Moscow’s standing theatres
& see her noble boards restor’d to life
To 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

My nervous prince, what would you have me do
Now you’ve turn’d very 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 victories each morning,
Shall set not now on the path of darkness,
No, we shall face the rising sun, Moscow,
From a pure military point of view
Holds no real value, but it’s 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

Sire, this 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 tuned stringless instrument
Back half a century her commerce set
By violent shocks convulsing thro’ his throne
The Tsar, I am certain, shall sue for peace

I agree with positivities, sire,
The occupation of his capital
Is hampering aristocratic rents
Their revenues drifting with the peasants
Out 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
Foraging furniture & firewood
& bringing in all hay for fifteen miles

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

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

Your Majesty, you should heed his advice
Hoping for peace just keeps thee prisoner
In this queer, gremlin castle call’d Kremlin


Eurgene remains silent

Eugène de Beauharnais

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

If it will ease my ears do what you will
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

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

Do not trust half-accounts
They might be mischievous exaggerations

The Cossack could be blowing obscure dust
Into his eyes, blaming the wand’ring wind

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 & chains prohibitive
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
Petersburg is emptying at a pace
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
Each man 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 to be soundly organized
Europe – one happy people, & at peace,
Wherever one could travel he would find
Compliance in a common fatherland
I will be demanding untoll’d freedom
Of every navigable river
While great standing armies shall be reduced
Henceforth to be mere guards of soveriegns
Including Alexander’s come the sense,
No other issue than fair & prompt peace
Possible seems, 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 would dictate a peace, an exemplar
Was made of Spain, tho’ beaten many times
Them no submittance pled, & them not so
Far away from Paris as we now stand,
Lacking recourse to call on resources
To tackle Russian climate’s devil task

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

It is unseasonable sire

Tis unreasonable to pester me

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 could set his court up in the east
Rather than ceding provinces & sign
Some 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,
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 which 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
Just three hundred pitchfork bearing peasants
Could bar the advance, what of our wounded
Here? are we to leave them for Kutusoff
Him snapping at our heels all of the way
As if we were fleeing to a conquest

Kutosoff is beaten, but I accept
The season for Petersburg 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

Act 3: Scenes, 5-7

SCENE 3: A Russian Farm

In the main hall of the village, Nikolai the Cossack is counting money behind a desk – he is wearing a long coat lined with sheepskin & a fur cap – there is a quantity of military equipment on the floor including pistols, carbines, swords, cartridges, uniforms & hats – enter Vasalisa, Vitaly & Vladamir, Albina & Valentina with Bodet & Vachain

Well, well, well, look at these happy hunters
Inbringing two fine looking officers

Indeed we have, Nikolai, that will be
One hundred & fifty for the Colonel
Fifty for the Captain, is that correct?

It is – have they been thoroughly disarm’d

They have

& fed

A little bread & lard

Good, good… officers of the Grand Armee
I am the commander of the Cossacks
In the area, please take this sauerkraut
& beer at my behest, tho’ enemies
We are all Adam’s sons, wormwood still grows
Upon its own root, help yourselves, please do.

Bodet & Vachain ravenously fall on the food & drink

Better to be a heated prisoner
& eating well, than freezing in freedom
Feasting on finger’s flesh to break the fast

So you think this is cold, this is nothing
Wait until you reach wild Siberia
Remote from all the pleasures of the world
You will wish for this warm wintry weather


Of course Siberia,
Until the war is over, & well won
By one emperor over another –
Your own three months ago a giant oak
That suffers today first strokes of an axe
Hard held by all countries of Europa
That stroke-by-stroke shall sever liberty
From that black tree, daemonic Bonaparte,
Acting a Genghis & Caligula
He murders honest innocents & turns
Our churches into stables, in a rage
Of bloodshed, but tyranny is finite
This contree is the sponge that sucks him dry
Selected by god defender of truth
Archangel Michael climbs thro’ Kutuzoff
Moscow was sacrificed to save the world
At Borodino you thought us beaten
Then camp’d in the Kremlin like conquerors
Battles won does not a conquest make
Glorious deeds may turn indignitie
The force deciding the fate of people
Lies not with the charge of battalions
But somewhere else, of quality sublime,
In Vasalisa runs that current strong,
When you are back in Paris tell your friends
You were caught by a true Russian hero
As long as Slavs are honour’d in this world
Vasalisa’s vow shall be remember’d
Driving invaders from a native soil
Remember Vasalisa, & her name,
Eternally miraculous it soars,
Swift winds & thunder cannot knock it down
Nor demoilsh’d be by the flight of time
Syllables baffle death, escape decay
To be recited Black Sea to the White

Such flattery will get you everywhere
Do you have any vodka we can share
Just you & I

I do – its getting late
{to Bodet & Vachain}
Who is the higher rank

I am colonel

Then you shall have the bed – he wil need guards

Albina, Vladamir, take up the task

Yes mistress

This way colonel, follow us

Exit Albina & Vladamir with Bodet

&, you, what is your rank?

I am captain

You shall remain in here, there is a couch
To lie on if you wish to sleep


{pointing to Valentina & Vitaly}
You two shall be his guards

{taking the money}
Then we are done
& Vasalisa, stardust of my dreams
We’ll get the hot flames blazing in my rooms

Exit Vasalisa & Nikolai

Hey new girl… yes you… I am grown weary
& sleep beside this fire, watch the captain
As hawks would, wake me at trouble’s breaking

{to Vachain}
You do not recognize me

Why, should I?

We have kiss’d


Kiss’d you! I would remember
Gracing pair’d lips so beauteous & rare

Our lips have met, tho’ I was laughter drunk
& you stood unimpress’d before the scene

Wait a moment – yes, you were in Moscow
At the party

I chose to remain there
There with my sister when the French march’d west

& now you are against us, why the change

I am Russian, your great liberator
Napoleon, at first signs of struggle
Abandon’d principles loudly proclaim’d
Of freeing us from serfdom, then fled home
Leaving us pandering eternally
To the glory of our wonderful tsar

To watch you speak impresses of the worth
Contain’d within the augurs of that kiss
Scarce remembered but wish’d to be renew’d

You’d kiss again

I would, the want stirs deep

Valentina & Vachain kiss passionately

Tell me, what is your name


Ah, Valentina, Valentine, love’s name
Itself, you are a woman to be loved

You are not so unrosy yourself, sir

Sir! to call me sir when I am captive
The captive captain, its assonance chimes
Like spoken words we worldfolk sometimes rhyme
& lovelier seem each in each entwin’d
When in the weighted game of human love
Two spirits sound in harmony, or clash
Twyx poetry & base tongues guttural,
The latter shoot on the coriolis
While true loves fuse with chrysostomic kiss


Yes, dear, sweet Valentina
I felt a poet when our lips first met
In spite of my inebriated mind
My soul ascended mountains in a gust
Of lust, of trust, & love in rarest robes
& rushing out of doors to see the sun
Set or rise, in your eyes I see that sun,
Can we escape?



Shh – quiet
What do you mean


Come live with me in France
Nourishing each other on days of love
& never sleeping winks for lovemaking
Bedeck the hallow’d chamber of our bed
With silent, bridal liveries of white
Enshrouding kisses with cottontuft snow
Forever, one love only, forever!

I shall do it

First unlooosen my bonds

Vitaly stirs in his sleep – Valentina unties the ropes – they embrace with a kiss – Vitaly sneaks to the weapons & deftly takes some guns & cartridges – Vitaly awakes

What, what is it

Nothing Vitaly, sleep



Lets go

Wait, no, my sister
I cannot just leave without seeing her
I must find her

But that is dangerous
For you, for us, & most of all for her
Better she lives in ignorance, than die
Banded in damn’d collusion with the deed

Kiss me captain
{they kiss}
As lips conceal secrets
The giving fibres of your very soul
Sing to my own & woo her with the truth

We must leave now



Exit Vachain & Valentina

SCENE 6: The Russian Wastes

Picart & Bourgogne emerge out of the woods just as the advance elements of the army pass – those on foot drag themselves painfully along, almost all of them having their feet wrapp’d in rags or in bits of sheepskin, nearly all are dying of hunger

Look, we were right to follow the sunset
& appear to have emerg’d just ahead
Of the army as they detour’d round the wood

The Emperor – he is there – look Picart

It is him – I must upsmarten myself

Picart doffs his fur cap & takes off his white cloak, hanging it over his left arm – The Emperor passes next on foot, carrying a baton & wearing a large cloak lined with fur, a dark-red velvet cap with black fox fur on his head – Murat walks on foot at his right, on his left the Prince Eugène – Napoloen turns to look at Bourgogne & Picart briefly – Next comes Berthier, Caulaincourt & Gourgaud, followed by other officers and non-commissioned officers, walking in order and perfect silence, carrying the eagles of their different regiments

Look at the eagles, each cover’d in snow
White eagles, yes, white eagles soaring home



You’ve got to fly ye white eagles
You’ve got to soar home over frozen snow
You’ve got to fly, fly, fly, fly, fly ye white eagles
You’re gonna soar home over frozen snow

You’re going home to the town where your love lies sleeping
Where the bed is so warm & the fire it blazes for you
You’ll be home with your family by this chistmas
In the house where your memories best were form’d


come Next the Imperial Gaurd on foot – Picart gazes in silence, striking the ground with the butt of his musket, then his breast and forehead with his clenched hand. Great tears fall from his eyes, roll down his cheeks, and freeze in his moustache

Am I awake or are my dreams claw-gorg’d
By isolated devils in the dark,
It breaks my heart to see our Emperor,
Like lukewarm lava below volcano
Clutching sacred caduceous on foot
Holding that baton in his hand, so great,
He who made us all so proud to know him.

My heart shares the break

Did you not notice
How he loook’d at us – he recognized me
I saw it in the trembling of his eye


He shall always be the great genius
However miserable stands our plight
For one thing I have clearly understood
With him we are assured of victory,
Wait – is that – yes – I surely recognize
My company, well, or what’s left of it!

Enter Legrande, Leboude, Foucart, Rossi & Graingier – their feet & hands are frozen, most are without firarms, many lean on sticks; covered with cloaks and coats all torn and burnt, wrapped in bits of cloth, in sheepskin & rags – Foucart & Graingier support Rossi by each arm

Rest lads, the entire coloumn is halting
Ease your limbs Old Gaurd, soon fades the respite


Hallo, poor Bourgogne! Is that you?


You are alive

We thought you dead
Behind us, here you are alive in front!

This is first-rate, where on earth have you been

I was lost

Until I found him

You old devil, you have done very well
Delivering our comrade to his arms

Speaking of comrades, I see mine behind
Adrien – it has been an adventure

Until the next time, keep on surviving

Exit Picart

Seeing you all together, I shall not
Leave you again my friends, except to die

Tell us how we became seperated

I rested with a fever for a while
& in a flash of snow your tracks were wiped

A fever, were you ill?

Very much so
& still am

You should have told us you fool
For those who cannot follow help is there
We are one family, we Grenadiers,
We’ve help’d Rossi along for two days now
Sharing his weight as if it was our own

The emperor!


Is coming to us

Soldiers of the Old Guard – stand attention

Enter Napoleon with King Murat and Prince Eugène.

How are we faring today my children

Never better sire

Hah – good! the Old Guard
Is the heart of my army, this is why
I stand among you here in clear address
The Russians hard by the Berezhina
Have sworn not one of us should cross the banks
{Napoleon draws his sword & raises his voice}
But when an army such as ours contends
Against the worst misfortune could obtain
What sublime courage capable becomes
Convented in each for the cause
of seeing France again, better to fight
In battle side-by-side than to accept
We’ll never feel sophisticates again

The soldiers erupt in shouts & cheers of Vive l’Empereur!’ – bearskins and caps are waved at the points of bayonets, and shouts

SCENE 7: Borisow

Napoleon is in council with Bertheir, Eugene, Caulaincourt & Prince Emile – Enter Murat

Apologies, sire, for my tardiness
We had a sharp encounter with Cossacks

Yes, yes, successful I hope

It was sire

Good, every positivity bodes well
But there is a drastical negative
The Russians have burn’d the one bridge for miles
& keep us penn’d up between two forests
In the middle of a marsh, Caulaincourt

The situation is very grave; sire
Any detour would take up many days
Of forced hard marches to Gloubokoje
Or Vileika

Then let us force our way
Thro,’ & beyond, the Berezhinan marsh

Indeed, but if my senior leaders
Set proper examples, we will succeed,
I am still stronger than the enemy,
& can quite afford to disregard
Each Russian gun that dares stand in our way

How do we cross the river, sire

With thought

Prince Emile
My thoughts are for a powerful balloon

What for?

Prince Emile
To carry Your Majesty home

Good God! I am not afraid of battle
I have acted Emperor long enough
It is time to act the old general
The passage of this river shall take place
Tomorrow morning

But how


I’m inclined to think not, at least as far
As rivers are concerned

But did not Ney
Cross the Dnieper over sheets of ice,
When it was not so cold as is today?

I would not risk it

Enter Gourgaud

Your serene highness,
I have promising news

Is there a ford

Yes, sire, at Studianka


A small detachment, but we drove them off
With cannon, & then forded the waters
About three & one half deep, but rising

Could we construct a pontoon at the site

I would say yes, sire

Berthier, my horse
& Murat too, we shall ride there together
& take a look ourselves, in the meantime
Make feints on Ukholoda and Stakow

Yes sire!

Dismissing attendant dangers
Innovating well, & excuting,
We shall use every endeavour
To build the bridge, it cross by morrow’s eve,
Whn once we’ve gain’d the other bank in strength
The passage of the army will commence

Exit Napoleon with Murat & Berthier