Friday, February 11, 2005

Napoleon Scolded #1

Recently I tracked down the "best statistical graphic ever drawn" for my high school chorus kids. By Charles Joseph Minard, it shows how many men died during Napoleon's shlep to Moscow and back.

Nobody likes a loser. After Moscow, memories of Boney strutting around around with his hand stuffed in his jacket getting people killed aggrieved a great many people, some of whom wrote about it. In his pissed-off Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte Lord Byron kicked off with a quote from Gibbon's Rise and Fall ("... By this shameful abdication, he protracted his life a few years, in a very ambiguous state, between an Emperor and an Exile ...") and went on thusly (abridged):
'Tis done --- but yesterday a King!
And arm'd with Kings to strive ---
And now thou art a nameless thing:
So abject --- yet alive!
Is this the man of thousand thrones,
Who strew'd our earth with hostile bones,
And can he thus survive?
Since he, miscall'd the Morning Star,
Nor man nor fiend hath fallen so far.

Ill-minded man! Why scourge thy kind who bow'd so low the knee? By gazing on thyself grown blind, thou taught'st the rest to see. With might unquestion'd, power to save, thine only gift hath been the grave to those that worshipp'd thee; Nor till thy fall
could mortals guess -- Ambition's less than littleness!

The Desolator desolate!
The Victor overthrown!
The Arbiter of others' fate
a Suppliant for his own!

There was a day --- there was an hour,
While earth was Gaul's --- Gaul thine ---

But thou forsooth must be a king, and don the purple vest, as if that foolish robe
could wring remembrance from thy breast. Where is that faded garment? where thy gewgaws thou wert fond to wear, the star, the string, the crest?
Vain froward child of empire! say, are all thy playthings snatched away?

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