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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Oceanica: Vol. XXXI. 1876–79.

Various Islands: St. Helena

The Exhumation of Napoleon

By William Wetmore Story (1819–1895)

FIT tomb was St. Helena, O Napoleon, for thee!

A barren rock, that far and lone was planted in the sea!

The wild untainted sea-gales there could sigh above thy turf,

And thy requiem was the moaning of the ever-plunging surf;

No busy jar of restless life, no hurrying feet were near,

There came the watchful stars alone, and the revolving year;—

The scourge and dread of Europe, whose cannons’ conquering roar

Pealed down the towering Pyrenees and rang from shore to shore,

Whose restless and impatient heart in life could find no room,

Had the ocean for a mourner, and an island for a tomb.

Thy lifeless body they exhumed, when thou wast but a name,

When thy tongue was still as silence, and thy ear was deaf to fame;

The exiled corpse, that could not harm, they lifted from the grave,

And in solemn triumph bore it to its home across the wave;

Mid the shriek and wail of trumpets, in long and solemn train,

In thy funeral car they bore thee to thy grave beside the Seine.

And thou whose first return had been in triumph and in pride,

When the glad acclaim of thousands was pealing far and wide,

When the warrior crowned with laurels came a throne to reassume,

Came back at last, a silent corpse, to crumble in a tomb.

They laid thee, while the trifling world forgot the song and dance,

In a splendid mausoleum in the populous heart of France;

The costly mockery of woe with the pageant passed away,

And thou, dead conqueror, couldst win from pleasure but a day;

Through all the city’s arteries again in toil and strife

Whirled on with eddying current the hurrying tide of life;

The busy hum of Paris was dinning o’er thy head,

And the reckless passer hurried by and thought not of the dead,—

The pomp and pageantry were past, the burial was o’er,

And Napoleon slept as lonely there as on Helena’s shore.