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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.


The Bells of Fontainebleau

By Walter Thornbury (1828–1876)

NAPOLEON in the gray surtout

That kings had learned to dread,

With close-clenched hands behind his back

And heavy bended head,

Climbed slowly (lost in battle plans)

A hill near Fontainebleau,

One, two, three, four, the village chimes

Came to him from below.

The marshals, glittering with gold,

Paced laughingly along,

Nor hushed the scandal and the jest,

Or scrap of opera song;

The Emperor stood silent there,

A monarch turned to stone,

Nor smiled, nor moved,—where great men stand

The spot becomes a throne.

Below, the reapers, singing, toiled

With sickles (not with swords),

Or down in clusters round the sheaves

Lay revelling like lords;

The soldiers pointed to the slopes

That bound the golden plain,

And almost wished that France were lost,

To win it o’er again.

The gray man stood, one foot outstretched,

As if upon a foe,

He cared not for the happy sight,

The plenty spread below,

Although the bells shook music down

From yonder village tower,—

And hark! the royal voice of Time

Exulting in his power.

At last he spoke, and slowly turned

(A moisture in his eyes),—

Massena gave a shrug that showed

A cynical surprise:

“Long years ago, at Malmaison,

When all unknown of men,

I heard just such a laughing peal,

And I was happy then.”

He turned upon his heel, and then

Sat down upon the hill,

Tracing upon the level sand

With sword-sheath (O, that will!)

The star redoubt, the diamond fort,

The battle lines again:—

A month from that he won the day

Upon Marengo’s plain.