Robert Browning

Incident of the French Camp

You know, we French storm’d Ratisbon:
  A mile or so away
On a little mound, Napoleon
  Stood on our storming-day;
With neck out-thrust, you fancy how,     
  Legs wide, arms lock’d behind,
As if to balance the prone brow
  Oppressive with its mind.

Just as perhaps he mus’d “My plans
  That soar, to earth may fall,
Let once my army leader Lannes
  Waver at yonder wall,”—
Out ’twixt the battery smokes there flew
  A rider, bound on bound
Full-galloping; nor bridle drew
  Until he reach’d the mound.

Then off there flung in smiling joy,
  And held himself erect
By just his horse’s mane, a boy:
  You hardly could suspect—       
(So tight he kept his lips compress’d,
  Scarce any blood came through)
You look’d twice ere you saw his breast
  Was all but shot in two.

“Well,” cried he, “Emporor, by God’s grace       
  We ’ve got you Ratisbon!
The Marshal’s in the market-place,
  And you ’ll be there anon
To see your flag-bird flap his vans
  Where I, to heart’s desire,    
Perch’d him!” The chief’s eye flash’d; his plans
  Soar’d up again like fire,

The chief’s eye flash’d; but presently
  Soften’d itself, as sheathes
A film the mothe-eagle’s eye       
  When her bruis’d eaglet breathes.
“You ’re wounded!” “Nay,” the soldier’s pride
  Touch’d to the quick, he said:
“I ’m kill’d, Sire!” And his chief beside,
  Smiling the boy fell dead.