“Napoleon” by Alexander Pushkin

Written in 1821.


The wondrous destiny is ended,
The mighty light is quench’d and dead;
In storm and darkness hath descended
Napoleon’s sun, so bright and dread.
The captive King hath burst his prison—
The petted child of Victory;
And for the Exile hath arisen
The dawning of Posterity.
0 thon, of whose immortal story
Earth aye the memory shall keep,
Now, ‘neath the shadow of thy glory
Best, rest, amid the lonely deep!
A grave sublime …. nor nobler ever
Couldst thou have found …. for o’er thine urn
The Nations’ hate is quench’d for ever,
And Glory’s beacon-ray shall burn.

There was a time thine eagles tower’d
Resistless o’er the humbled world;
There was a time the empires cower’d
Before the bolt thy hand had hurl’d:
The standards, thy prond will obeying,
Flapp’d wrath and woe on every wind
A few short years, and thou wert laying
Thine iron yoke on human kind.

And France, on glories vain and hollow,
Had fixed her frenzy-glance of flame—
Forgot sublimer hopes, to follow
Thee, Conqueror, thee—her dazzling shame
Thy legions’ swords with blood were drunken—
All sank before thine echoing tread;
And Europe fell—for sleep was sunken,
The sleep of death—upon her head.
Thou mightst have jndged us, but thou wouldst not!
What dimm’d thy reason’s piercing light,
That Russian hearts thou understoodst not,
From thine heroic spirit’s height?
Moscow’s immortal conflagration
Foreseeing not, thou deem’dst that we
Would kneel for peace, a conquer’d nation—
Thou knew’st the Russ …. too late for thee!
Up, Russia! Queen of hundred battles,
Remember now thine ancient right!
Blaze, Moscow!—Far shall shine thy light!
Lo! other times are dawning o’er us:
Be blotted out, our short disgrace!
Swell, Russia, swell the battle chorus!
War! is the watchword of our race
Lo! how the baffled leader seizeth,
With fetter’d hands, his Iron Crown—
A dread abyss his spirit freezeth!
Down, down he goes, to ruin down!
And Europe’s armaments are driven,
Like mist, along the blood-stain’d snow—
That snow shall melt ‘neath summer’s heaven.
With the last footstep of the foe.
Twas a wild storm of fear and wonder,
When Europe woke and burst her chain;
The accursed race, like scatter’d thunder,
After the tyrant fled amain.
And Nemesis a doom hath spoken,
The Mighty hears that doom with dread:
The wrongs thou’st done shall now be wroken,
Tyrant, upon thy guilty head!

Thou shalt redeem thy usurpation,
Thy long career of war and crime,
In exile’s eating desolation,
Beneath a far and stranger clime.
And oft the midnight sail shall wander
By that lone isle, thy prison-place,
And oft a stranger there shall ponder,
And o’er that stone a pardon trace,
Where mused the Exile, oft recalling
The well-known clang of sword and lance.
The yells, Night’s icy car appalling;
His own blue sky—the sky of France;
Where, in his loneliness forgetting
His broken sword, his rnin’d throne,
With bitter grief, with vain regretting.
On his fair Boy he mused alone.
But shame, and curses without number,
Upon that reptile head be laid,
Whose insults now shall vex the slumber
Of him—that sad discrowned shade!
No! for his trump the signal sounded,
Her glorious race when Russia ran;
His hand, ‘mid strife and battle, founded
Eternal liberty for man!

Edinburgh Magazine, 1845, July issue

Alexander Pushkin