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A First Year in Canterbury Settlement With Other Early Essays

Napoleon at St. Helena

page 256

Napoleon at St. Helena

I see a warrior ’neath a willow tree;
His arms are folded, and his full fixed eye
Is gazing on the sky. The evening breeze
Blows on him from the sea, and a great storm
Is rising. Not the storm nor evening breeze,
Nor the dark sea, nor the sun’s parting beam
Can move him; for in yonder sky he sees
The picture of his life, in yonder clouds
That rush towards each other he beholds
The mighty wars that he himself hath waged.
Blow on him, mighty storm; beat on him, rain;
You cannot move his folded arms nor turn
His gaze one second from the troubled sky.
Hark to the thunder! To him it is not thunder;
It is the noise of battles and the din
Of cannons on the field of Austerlitz,
The sky to him is the whole world disturbed
By war and rumours of great wars.
He tumbled like a thunderbolt from heaven
Upon the startled earth, and as he came
The round world leapt from out her usual course
And thought her time was come. Beat on him, rain;
And roar about him, O thou voice of thunder.
But what are ye to him? O more to him
Than all besides. To him ye are himself,
He knows it and your voice is lovely to him.
page 257 Hath brought the warfare to a close.
The storm is over; one terrific crash
Now, now he feels it, and he turns away;
His arms are now unfolded, and his hands
Pressed to his face conceal a warrior’s tears.
He flings himself upon the springing grass,
And weeps in agony. See, again he rises;
His brow is calm, and all his tears are gone.
The vision now is ended, and he saith:
“Thou storm art hushed for ever. Not again
Shall thy great voice be heard. Unto thy rest
Thou goest, never never to return.
I thank thee, that for one brief hour alone
Thou hast my bitter agonies assuaged;
Another storm may scare the frightened heavens,
And like to me may rise and fill
The elements with terror. I, alas!
Am blotted out as though I had not been,
And am become as though I was not born.
My day is over, and my night is come —
A night which brings no rest, nor quiet dreams,
Nor calm reflections, nor repose from toil,
But pain and sorrow, anguish never ceasing,
With dark uncertainty, despair and pain,
And death’s wide gate before me. Fare ye well!
The sky is clear and the world at rest;
Thou storm and I have but too much in common.”