On Transporting Napolean's Ashes
Juliusz Slowacki

His ashes were torn out of the ground;
And he was snatched away from the weeping willow,
Where he, an Angel, lay alone in honor;
He was alone, though not in splendid crimson clad
But a faded soldier's coat,
Stretched out on his sword as if on a cross.
Tell us how you found him in the grave,
Royal prince , commander of the boat?
Were his hands folded in the form of a cross,
Or did one hand instinctively clutch the sword?
And when you lifted the stone from his tomb,
Say, did his corpse tremble or shudder?
He foresaw that the hour would come
When his gravestone would crumble,
But he thought that the hand of his son
Would lift him up in the tomb
And take from him the murderous chains,
And cry to his father's remains: -- O Father!
But they came to pull him out of the grave,
Foreign faces peered into the tomb
And began shouting insults at the deceased
And cried to the corpse: --Arise, o dust!
Then they took the rotting remains
And asked -- "Do you want to return to your fatherland?"
Roar! now roar you azure sea,
They gave you a giant's coffin to carry.
Pyramids! Go up to the mountains
And behold him with the eyes of centuries.
There! -- on the waters! -- see a grey flock of gulls:
That is the fleet which bears the remains of the Emperor.
From their thrones nefarious devils look on,
The emperor looks pale from behind the ice --
Dismal eagles sit on the coffin
And drip the blood of nations from their wings.
The eagles, once conquering and proud
No longer look at the sun -- but at the coffin.
Ashes! Ashes! O! lie still
Until you hear the trumpet in the midst of the flood,
For it will not be a call to war,
But a call to prayer -- the voice of a lament . . .
For the last time you will command a company
And win -- but with the victory of Golgotha.
But never -- O! never! though you held
The scepter, the world and naked sword:
You never -- never walked amidst wailing
With such magnificent immortal dignity
And power... and with such a proud countenance
As today, O great one! when you return as nothing.
-translated by Walter Whipple