Incident of the French Camp Reference to Context Introduction These lines have been extracted from the poem Incident of the French Camp written by Robert Browning. The poem describes an act of chivalry, gallantry, patriotism and sacrifice on the part of a young French Soldier. The French Army had attacked the German city of Ratisbon. After they had achieved triumph, the news of the victory was conveyed to the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte by that young soldier who was brimming with pride and glory although he was on the verge of death. Thereafter, the wounded soldier breathed his last.
Lines YOU KNOW, WE FRENCH STORMED RATISBON: A MILE OR SO AWAY, ON A LITTLE MOUND, NAPOLEON STOOD ON OUR STORMING DAY; WITH NECK OUT-THRUST, YOU FANCY HOW, LEGS WIDE, ARMS LOCKED BEHIND, AS IF TO BALANCE THE PRONE BROW OPPRESSIVE WITH ITS MIND. Explanation In the lines given for explanation, the poet is describing the scene of the French attack on the German city of Ratisbon. Marshal Lannes led the French aggression in the year 1783. On that occasion, the French emperor Napoleon stood on a hillock just a mile away from the scene of the onslaught.
He appeared to be in a pensive mood. He had his neck sticking out and his legs were wide apart. He had his arms joined behind his bark and a cloud on his brow was quite visible. It seemed that something very important was weighing upon his mind and he was perhaps working out his future strategy and line of action. Lines JUST AS PERHAPS HE MUSED, MY PLANS THAT SOAR, TO EARTH MAY FALL, LET ONCE MY ARMY. LEADER LANNES WAVER AT YONDER WALL,’- OUT ’TWIST THE BATTERY SMOKES THERE FLEW A RIDER, BOUND ON BOUND FULL-GALLOPING; NOR BRIDLE DREW UNTIL HE REACHED THE MOUND. Explanation
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These lines bring to light the contemplative nature of Napoleon, and the courage and enthusiasm of the young soldier who was heading towards him to convey the good news of victory. Napoleon was lost in his thoughts pondering over the events of the days to come. All his future planning depended upon his success at Ratisbon. He was eagerly waiting to see the French flag flutter over the German City. As he concentrated upon his future strategy, he observed a young French soldier rushing towards him, riding at top speed. The rider pierced through the blanket of smoke.
He came straight to the place where Napoleon was standing and was waiting to receive the good tidings. Lines THEN OFF THERE FLUNG IN SMILING JOY, AND HELD HIMSELF ERECT BY JUST HIS HORSE’S MANE, A BOY: YOU HARDLY COULD SUSPECT – (SO TIGHT HE KEPT HIS LIPS COMPRESSED, SCARCE ANY BLOOD CAME THROUGH) YOU LOOKED TWICE ERE YOU SAW HIS BREAST WAS ALL BUT SHOT IN TWO. Explanation In the given lines, the poet appreciated the heroic behaviour of the young soldier. Although he was fatally wounded, he displayed extraordinary courage, confidence and self-control. He jumped off his horse and stood at attention before his chief.
His mouth was full of blood but he had his lips so tightly sealed that not a drop of blood oozed out of it. He maintained his cool and composure, and with confidence and chivalry, conveyed the cheerful news of victory. One could never realize that the young soldier’s breast was shot into two unless one has very keen and observant eye on him. Lines ‘WELL, CRIED HE, ‘EMPEROR, BY GOD’S GRACE WE’VE GOT YOU RATISBON! THE MARSHAL’S IN THE MARKET-PLACE, AND YOU’LL BE THERE ANON TO SEE YOUR FLAG-BIRD FLAP HIS VANS WHERE I, TO HEART’S DESIRE, PERCHED HIM! ’ THE CHIEF’S EYE FLASHED; HIS PLANS
SOARED UP AGAIN LIKE FIRE. Explanation In the lines given for explanation, the poet is describing the way in which the young soldier informed Napoleon of their success and the reaction of the Emperor to this good news. Although the young man was in intense pain and suffering, he finally opened his lips, and with a great sense of pleasure and personal pride, informed Napoleon of the annexation of the German City. Napoleon was delighted to learn that Marshall Lannes had reached the heart of the city and the emperor was eagerly awaited by the triumphant forces.
The soldier felt a special kind of joy and pride in the fact that he, with his own hands, had flown the French flag over Ratisbon. The flag had the figure of a bird on it. Thus when the flag fluttered in the air, it seemed as though the bird on it. Thus when the flag fluttered in the air, it seemed as though the bird was flapping its wings. No sooner did Napoleon get the news of victory, a sparkle of joy and satisfaction came to his eyes. He once again started thinking about his future strategy. Lines THE CHIEF’S EYE FLASHED; BUT PRESENTLY
SOFTENED ITSELF, AS SHEATHES A FILM THE MOTER-EAGLE’S EYE WHEN HER BRUISED EAGLET BREATHES: ‘YOU’RE WOUNDED! , ‘NAY’, HIS SOLDIER’S PRIDE TOUCHED TO THE QUICK, HE SAID: ‘I’M KILLED, SIRE! ” AND HIS CHIEF BESIDE, SMILING, THE BOY FELL DEAD. Explanation These lines bring to light Napoleon’s loving and affectionate behaviour towards the young soldier who was about to breathe his last. The good news of success had brought to Napoleon’s eyes a special kind of glitter which faded away no sooner had he noticed that the soldier was fatally wounded.
The feelings of Napoleon at that moment were just like those of the mother eagle who gets confused when she finds her young ones badly bruised and on the verge of death. She fails to understand how to save their lives. Similarly, that maternal affection surged up in Napoleon’s heart and he inquired whether the boy was wounded. The soldier proudly declared that he felt joy and thrill in giving his life for his country. There was a smile of pride and satisfaction on the young soldier’s lips as he fell dead near his emperor’s feet.
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