The Return of Napoleon from St - Helena by Lydia Huntley Sigourney

Ho! city of the gay! Paris! what festal rite Doth call thy thronging million forth, All eager for the sight? Thy soldiers line the streets In fixed and stern array, With buckled helm and bayonet, As on the battle-day. By square, and fountain side, Heads in dense masses rise, And tower and battlement and tree Are studded thick with eyes. Comes there some conqueror home In triumph from the fight, With spoil and captives in his train, The trophies of his might? The Arc de Triomphe glows! A martial host is nigh; France pours in long succession forth Her pomp of chivalry. No clarion marks their way, No victor trump is blown; Why march they on so silently, Told by their tread alone? Behold, in glittering show, A gorgeous car of state! The white-plumed steeds, in cloth of gold, Bow down beneath its weight; And the noble war-horse, led Caparisoned along, Seems fiercely for his lord to ask, As his red eye scans the throng. Who rideth on yon car? The incense flameth high,— Comes there some demi-god of old? No answer!—No reply! Who rideth on yon car?— No shout his minions raise, But by a lofty chapel dome The muffled hero stays. A king is standing there, And with uncovered head Receives him in the name of France: Receiveth whom?—The dead! Was he not buried deep In island-cavern drear, Girt by the sounding ocean surge? How came that sleeper here? Was there no rest for him Beneath a peaceful pall, That thus he brake his stony tomb, Ere the strong angel’s call? Hark! hark! the requiem swells, A deep, soul-thrilling strain! An echo, never to be heard By mortal ear again. A requiem for the chief, Whose fiat millions slew,— The soaring eagle of the Alps, The crushed at Waterloo:— The banished who returned, The dead who rose again, And rode in his shroud the billows proud To the sunny banks of Seine. They laid him there in state, That warrior strong and bold,— The imperial crown, with jewels bright, Upon his ashes cold, While round those columns proud The blazoned banners wave, That on a hundred fields he won With the heart’s-blood of the brave; And sternly there kept guard His veterans scarred and old, Whose wounds of Lodi’s cleaving bridge Or purple Leipsic told. Yes, there, with arms reversed, Slow pacing, night and day, Close watch beside the coffin kept Those veterans grim and gray. A cloud is on their brow,— Is it sorrow for the dead, Or memory of the fearful strife Where their country’s legions fled? Of Borodino’s blood? Of Beresina’s wail? The horrors of that dire retreat, Which turned old History pale? A cloud is on their brow,— Is it sorrow for the dead, Or a shuddering at the wintry shaft By Russian tempests sped? Where countless mounds of snow Marked the poor conscript’s grave, And, pierced by frost and famine, sank The bravest of the brave. A thousand trembling lamps The gathered darkness mock, And velvet drapes his hearse, who died On bare Helena’s rock; And from the altar near, A never-ceasing hymn Is lifted by the chanting priests Beside the taper dim. Mysterious one, and proud! In the land where shadows reign, Hast thou met the flocking ghosts of those Who at thy nod were slain? Oh, when the cry of that spectral host Like a rushing blast shall be, What will thine answer be to them? And what thy God’s to thee?

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