Napoleon Series Archive 2006

Napoleon (1821) by A.S. Puskin

Napoleon (1821)
by A.S. Puskin (1799-1837)

A wondrous fate is now fulfilled,
Extinguished a majestic man.
In somber prison night was stilled
Napoleon's grim, tumultous span.
The outlawed potentate has vanished,
Bright Nike's mighty, pampered son;
For him, from all Creation banished,
Posterity has now begun.

O hero, with whose bloodied story
Long, long the earth will still resound,
Sleep in the shadow of your glory,
The desert ocean all around. . .
A tomb of rock, in splendor riding !
The urn that holds your mortal clay,
As tribal hatreds are subsiding
Now sends aloft a deathless ray.

How recently your eagles glowered
Atop a disenfranchised world,
And fallen sovereignties cowered
Beneath the thunderbolts you hurled !
Your banners at a world would shower
Destruction from their folds and dearth,
Yoke after yoke of ruthless power
You fitted on the tribes of earth

When first from ancient serfdom's languor
The world awoke to hope new-grown,
And Gaul hauled down with hands of anger
The idol from its brittle throne;
When on the milling square in gory
Collapse the royal carcase lay
And brought the fated of glory,
All-conquering freedom's shining day -

Then in the storm and strife of nations
An awesome lot you soon divined,
And nobleminded aspirations
You came to scorn in humankind.
The baneful augury of fortune
Would beckon to your lawless bent,
To self-rule unrestrained importune
The lure of disillusionment.

The risen people's youthful vigor
You knew to dissipate at length,
And liberty new-born, by rigor
Abruptly muzzled, lost its strength;
You poured, to slake the lust of chattel,
The drug of conquest in their veins,!

You sped their musters into battle
And laurels wound about their chains.

France came to fasten her besotted
Young countenance-a slave to fame,
And grandeur's finer hopes forgotten-
Upon her scintillating shame.
You gorged her swords in the undoing
Of all who rose against their doom;
On Europe, brought to crashing ruin,
Now fell the silence of the tomb.

Lo, the colossus strode to crush her
Beneath his heel with baleful zest;
Then Tilsit! ..(but no more has Russia
At that vile name to beat her breast.)
True, Tilsit yielded him new treasure
Of majesty, a final toll;
But tedious peace, but torpid leisure
Galled that insatiable soul.

Vainglorious man! Where were you faring,
Who blinded that astounding mind?
How came it in designs of daring
The Russian's heart was not divined?
At fiery sacrifice not guessing,
You idly fancied, tempting fate,
We would seek peace and count it blessing;
You came to fathom us too late. ..

Fight on, embattled Russia mine,
Recall the rights of ancient days!
The sun of Austerlitz, decline!
And Moscow, mighty city, blaze!
Brief be the time of our dishonor,
The auspices are turning now;
Hail Moscow-Russia's blessings on her!
War to extinction, thus our vow!

The diadem of iron shaking
In stiffened fingers' feeble clasp,
He stares into a chasm, quaking,
And is undone, undone at last.
Behold all Europe's legions sprawling
The wintry fields' encrimsoned glow
Bore testimony to their falling
Till blood-prints melted with the snow.

Then Europe's shackles broke asunder,
Her fury burst like tempest racks;
The curse of nationhoods like thunder
Rolled on the fleeing tyrant's tracks.
He sees the Nemesis of nations,
Her all-avenging hand up-flung;
For maiming wounds and depredations
Now payment to the full is wrung.

Redeemed are now the blights and horrors
He spread with fabled victories
By the forsaken exile's sorrows
Amidst the gloom of alien seas.
At that dry isle of desolation
Some day a northern sail will dock,
And words of reconciliation
A hand will carve upon that rock

Where, as he watched the breakers' glitter,
The glint of swords would catch his glance,
Or northern blizzards, blinding, bitter,
Or clouds across the skies of France;
Where in the wilderness, forgetting
War and posterity and throne,
On his dear son he brooded, fretting,
In grievous thought, alone, alone.

Let us hold up to reprobation
Such petty-minded men as chose
With unappeasable damnation
To stir his laurel-dark repose!

Hail him ! He launched the Russian Nation
Upon its lofty destinies
And augured ultimate salvation
For men's long-exiled liberties.

[Poem provided by Alexander Mikaberidze]

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translation of Pushkin's statement on Bourrienne's
Napoleon (1821) by A.S. Puskin