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the cold, endeavoured to approach a fire, those to whom it belonged inhumanly drove him away; or if, tormented with raging thirst, any one asked for a single drop of water from another who carried a full supply, the refusal was accompanied by the vilest abuse. We often heard those who had once been friends, and whose education had been liberal, bitterly disputing with each other for a little straw, or a piece of horse-flesh, which they were attempting to divide. This campaign was therefore the more terrible, as it brutalised the character and stained us with vices to which we had before been strangers. Even those who once were honest, humane, and generous, became selfish, avaricious, dishonest, and cruel.
Napoleon having, with the assistance of his guard, forced his way through this immense crowd, crossed the river (November 27th), about three o'clock in the afternoon. The viceroy, who had passed the whole day with him, announced to his staff that what remained of the fourth corps should pass the bridge at eight o'clock at night. Although not a moment should have been lost in escaping from a place so dangerous, many could not prevail on themselves to leave the fires round which they were sitting. "It is much better," said they, "to pass the night on this side of the river than the other, where there is nothing but marshes; besides, the bridge is as much encumbered as ever, and by waiting till to-morrow the crowd will have lessened and the passage will be easy." This unfortunate advice prevailed on too many, and, at the hour appointed, only the household of the prince, and a few of the officers of the staff, crossed the river.
It was, indeed, necessary to know all the danger that would have attended our stay on the left side of the river, to induce us to pass to the other. The Viceroy and his suite, arriving on the right bank, encamped on a marshy piece of ground, and endeavoured to find out the places which were most frozen, to pass the night on them and escape the bogs. The darkness was horrible and the wind tremendous, blowing a thick shower of ice and snow full in our faces. Many of the officers, pierced with the cold, did not cease running, and walking, and striking their feet, during the whole night, to preserve themselves from being completely frozen. To complete our misfortunes, wood was so scarce that we could with difficulty supply one little fire for the Viceroy; and, to obtain some firebrands, we were obliged to appeal to the G 2
Bavarian soldiers, the daughter of whose king had been united in marriage to Prince Eugene.
November 28th. Napoleon being gone towards Zemblin, left behind him this immense crowd standing on the other side of the Beresina. The snow fell with violence; the hills and forests presented only some white indistinct masses, scarcely visible through the fog. We could only see distinctly the fatal river, which, half frozen, forced its way through the ice that impeded its progress.
Although there were two bridges, one for the carriages and the other for the foot soldiers; yet the crowd was so great, and the approaches so dangerous, that near the Beresina the passage was completely choked up, and it was absolutely impossible to move. About eight o'clock in the morning the bridge for the carriages and the cavalry broke down; the baggage and artillery then advanced towards the other bridge, and attempted to force a passage. Now began a frightful contention between the foot soldiers and the horsemen. Many perished by the hands of their comrades, but a great number were suffocated at the head of the bridge; and the dead bodies of horses and men so choked every avenue, that it was necessary to climb over mountains of carcasses to arrive at the river. Some who were buried in these horrible heaps still breathed; and, struggling with the agonies of death, caught hold of those who mounted over them; but these kicked them with violence to disengage themselves, and with out remorse trod them under foot. During this contention, the multitude which followed, like a furious wave, swept away while it increased the number of victims.
Borisov being evacuated, the three Russian armies effected their junction; and the same day (November 28th), about eight o'clock in the morning, the Duke of Reggio was attacked on the right bank, and half an hour afterwards the Duke of Belluno was engaged on the left. Every soldier, who had before been wandering in confusion, fell into the ranks. The battle was obstinately fought, and the Duke of Reggio could only obtain the victory at the price of his own blood. He was wounded at the beginning of the action, and compelled to quit the field. The command then devolved on the Duke of Elchingen.
In the mean time the enemy, notwithstanding the valour of our
soldiers and the exertions of their commanders, briskly pressed the ninth corps, which formed the rear-guard. We already heard the roar of the cannon, and the sound dismayed every heart. Insensibly it approached, and we soon saw the fire of the enemy's artillery on the summit of the neighbouring hills; and we no longer doubted that the engagement would soon extend to that spot which was covered with thousands of unarmed men, sick and wounded, and with all our women and children.
The Duke of Elchingen having rallied his troops, the battle recommenced with new fury. The division of cuirassiers, commanded by General Doumere, made a very brilliant charge, and at the same moment the legion of the Vistula was engaged in the woods, endeavouring to force the enemy's centre. These brave cuirassiers, although enfeebled by fatigue and privations of every kind, performed prodigies of valour. They pierced the enemy's squares, took several pieces of cannon and three or four thousand prisoners, which our weakness would not permit us to retain: for in our cruel situation we fought not for victory, but only for life and the honour of our arms.
In the heat of the engagement many of the balls flew over the miserable crowd which was yet pressing across the bridge of the Beresina. Some shells burst in the midst of them. Terror and despair then took possession of every breast. The women and children, who had escaped so many disasters, seemed to have been preserved only to suffer here a death more deplorable. We saw them rushing from the baggage-waggons, and falling in agonies and tears at the feet of the first soldier they met, imploring his assistance to enable them to reach the other side. The sick and the wounded, sitting on the trunks of trees, or supported by their crutches, anxiously looked around them for some friend to help them. But their cries were lost in the air. No one had leisure to attend to his dearest friend. His own preservation absorbed every thought.
At length the Russians, continually reinforced by fresh troops, advanced in a mass, and drove before them the Polonese corps of General Girard, which till then had held them in check. At the sight of the enemy, those who had not already passed mingled with the Polanders, and rushed precipitately towards the bridge. The artillery, the baggage waggons, the cavalry, and the foot soldiers, all pressed on, contending which should pass the first. The strongest threw into the
river those who were weaker and hindered their passage, or unfeelingly trampled under foot all the sick whom they found in their way. Many hundreds were crushed to death by the wheels of the cannon. Others, hoping to save themselves by swimming, were frozen in the middle of the river, or perished by placing themselves on pieces of ice which sunk to the bottom. Thousands and thousands of victims, deprived of all hope, threw themselves headlong into the Beresina, and were lost in the waves.
The division of Girard made its way, by force of arms, through all the obstacles that retarded its march; and, climbing over that mountain of dead bodies which obstructed the way, gained the other side. Thither the Russians would soon have followed them, if they had not hastened to burn the bridge.
Then the unhappy beings who remained on the other side of the Beresina abandoned themselves to absolute despair. Some of them, however, yet attempted to pass the bridge, enveloped as it was in flames; but, arrested in the midst of their progress, they were compelled to throw themselves into the river, to escape a death yet more horrible. At length, the Russians being masters of the field of battle, our troops retired; the uproar ceased, and a mournful silence succeeded.
195. THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER, § 1.
“Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!" Eftsoons his hand dropt he.
He holds him with his glittering eye-
The wedding guest sat on a stone:
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the lighthouse top.
The sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right,
Went down into the sea.
Higher and higher every day,
The wedding guest here beat his breast,
The bride hath paced into the hall,
Nodding their heads before her goes
The wedding guest he beat his breast,
And now the storm-blast came, and he
The wedding guest is spell-bound by the eye of the old sea-faring man, and constrained to hear his tale.
The mariner tells how the ship sailed southward with a good wind and fair weather, till it reached the line.
The wedding guest heareth the bridal music; but the mariner continueth his tale.
The ship driven by a storm toward the south pole,