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ilmanzoni text integral passage complete quotation of the sources works historical five may poetry ode napoleon the fifth may in verses prologue

(The napoleonic ode)
Translated by Rev. J.F. Bingham

ARGUMENT. - In this stupendous creation, of matter thoroughly philosophical, of form absolutely poetical, of execution condensed to the last degree, the Poet has still further adopted the rhetorical order of the oration.  1st, The Prelude, calling us to note that late and almost unwillingly he has felt forced to take up his pen by the display of the world-astounding phenomenon at last complete.  2d, The development, marvelously brief, of the extraordinary external facts.  3d, An imaginary picture of the Conqueror's inner life.  4th, The assumed mercy of God on this penitent archangel, for te glory of the Christian Faith.

    He has passed. As stark and still,
When the mortal gasp was given,
Lay the unremindful spoil
Whence so great a soul was riven;
So the Earth, smitten and dazed
At the announcement, stands amazed

    Silent, pondering on that last
Fateful hour; nor, gazing back
In fearful wonder o'er the past,
Kens she when with such a track
By mortal foot shall yet be pressed
The dust upon her bloody breast.

    My Genius saw him on a throne
In flashing splendor, nothing said;
The blandishments of fortune flown,
He fell, he rose, again was laid;
While thousand voices then awoke,
Mingled with these, no word he spoke;

    Virgin of end-serving praise
And the coward's safe outrage,
Shocked by the blot of such a blaze,
He rises now his chance to gage,
Shaking the urn, e'en to untie
A canticle which will not die.

    From Pyramids to heights alpine
Flashed that god's swift lightning-stroke;
From Manzares to the Rhine
Rapid, crashing thunders broke,
Rolling on from Scylla's sea
Shaking farthest Muscovy.

    Was this, glory just and true?
Sentence waits posterity.
Bow we to the Highest's view,
Willing us in him to see
Stamped a trace more vast and grand
Of His own resistless hand.

    With hurricanes of anxious joy,
Earthquake exploits of wild renown,
A heart in unsubdued annoy
In slavery gloats upon the crown;
And gains the goal and grasps a prize
'T was madness there to set his eyes.

    All he tasted; glory growing
Greater after great embroil;
Flight; and victory bestowing
Palace; and the sad exile;
Twice in the dust a victim razed,
Twice on the altar victim blazed.

    He made a name, two centuries, set
Armed against each other and
To him turned as for their fate,
Waited a signal of his hand.
He sat between them, hushed them still,
Made arbiter his iron will;

    And disappeared; his empty days
Mured within that narrow bound,
Mark for envy's fiercest rays,
Pity's sympathy profound,
Inextinguishable hate,
And love unsubdued by fate.

    As on the shipwrecked sailor's head
The wave is wrapped and weighs him down,
The wave upon whose lofty spread
His strained sight was lately thrown,
Scanning to discern once more
The distant and evading shore;

    Such on that soul the massy weight
Of memories descended, when --
How many times! -- he would narrate
What he has been to coming men;
And on the eternal page remained
Fallen the palsied, nerveless hand!

    How oft while day without emprise
Sank into sepulchral rest,
Bent to earth his flashing eyes,
Arms enlaced upon his breast,
He stood; from days of other years
Received the assaults of souvenirs;

    Reviewed the moving tents of war
And vanquished ramparts of the foe
And flashing columns gleam afar
And wavy squadrons charging go
And swift commands impetuous made
And swift obedience displayed.

    Ah, now, methinks, in such a strait
The spirit fell, breathless and riven
By keen despair; but strong and great
Came a pitying hand from heaven
And into more inspiring air
The desperate transported there;

    Led through the flowery paths of Hope
To the eternal plains -- the meed
Where guerdons bright, supernal ope,
That loftiest wishes far exceed.
Past glory's trump and brightest glare
Are silence and deep darkness there.

    O thou, fair Immortal! beneficent Faith,
Accustomed to triumphs, conqueror of death!
This, also, among thy triumphings write;
Since no prouder greatness, no loftier height
Of earth-born glory that mortals can know
Has come to the shame of Golgotha to bow.

    From these weary ashes, thou
Words condemning ban;
God, who fells and lashes now
Lifts and soothes again,
On that lonely dying bed
Soft His heavenly presence shed.


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