The mighty sun had just gone down
Into the chambers of the deep;
The ocean birds had upward flown,
Each in his cave to sleep.
And silent was the island shore,
And breathless all the broad red sea,
And motionless beside the door
Our solitary tree.
Our only tree, our ancient palm,
Whose shadow sleeps our door beside.
Partook the universal calm,
When Buonaparte died.
An ancient man, a stately man,
Came forth beneath the spreading tree,
His silent thoughts I could not scan,
His tears I needs must see.
A trembling hand had partly cover’d
The old man’s weeping countenance,
Yet something o’er his sorrow hover’d
That spake of War and France;
Something that spake of other days,
When trumpets pierced the kindling air,
And the keen eye could firmly gaze
Through battle’s crimson glare.
Said I, Perchance this faded hand,
When Life beat high, and Hope was young,
By Lodi’s wave—on Syria’s sand—
The bolt of death hath flung.
Young Buonaparte’s battle-cry
Perchance hath kindled this old cheek;
It is no shame that he should sigh,—
His heart is like to break.
He hath been with him, young and old;
He climb’d with him the Alpine snow;
He heard the cannon when they roll’d
Along the silver Po.
His soul was as a sword, to leap
At his accustom’d leader’s word;
I love to see the old man weep,—
He knew no other lord.
As if it were but yesternight,
This man remembers dark Eylau,—
His dreams are of the Eagle’s flight,
Victorious long ago.
The memories of worser time
Are all as shadows unto him;
Fresh stands the picture of his prime,—
The later trace is dim.
I enter’d, and I saw him lie
Within the chamber, all alone,
I drew near very solemnly
To dead Napoleon.
He was not shrouded in a shroud,
He lay not like the vulgar dead,
Yet all of haughty, stern, and proud
From his pale brow was fled.
He had put harness on to die,
The eagle-star shone on his breast,
His sword lay bare his pillow nigh,—
The sword he liked the best.
But calm—most calm was all his face,
A solemn smile was on his lips,
His eyes were closed in pensive grace—
A most serene eclipse!
You would have said some sainted sprite
Had left its passionless abode,—
Some man, whose prayer at morn and night
Had duly risen to God.
What thoughts had calm’d his dying breast
(For calm he died) cannot be known;
Nor would I wound a warrior’s rest—
No sculptured pile our hands shall rear;
Thy simple sod the stream shall lave.
The native Holly’s leaf severe
Shall grace and guard thy grave.
The Eagle stooping from the sky
Shall fold his wing and rest him here,
And sunwards gaze with glowing eye
From Buonaparte’s bier.