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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII. 1876–79.

Ratisbon (Regensburg)

Incident of the French Camp

By Robert Browning (1812–1889)

YOU know, we French stormed Ratisbon:

A mile or so away,

On a little mound, Napoléon

Stood on our storming-day;

With neck out-thrust, you fancy how,

Legs wide, arms locked behind,

As if to balance the prone brow

Oppressive with its mind.

Just as perhaps he mused “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 reached 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 compressed,

Scarce any blood came through)

You looked twice ere you saw his breast

Was all but shot in two.

“Well,” cried he, “Emperor, 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,

Perched him!” The chief’s eye flashed; his plans

Soared up again like fire.

The chief’s eye flashed; but presently

Softened itself, as sheaths

A film the mother eagle’s eye

When her bruised eaglet breathes:

“You ’re wounded!” “Nay,” his soldier’s pride

Touched to the quick, he said:

“I ’m killed, sire!” And, his chief beside,

Smiling the boy fell dead.