The Tomahawk Jun 19 1867
Once upon a midnight lately, might be seen a figure stately,
In the Tuileries
sedately poring over Roman lore;
Annotating, scheming, mapping, Caesar’s old positions sapping,
When there came a something rapping, spirit-rapping at the door.
“’Tis some minister,” he muttered, “come, as usual, me to bore.”
So to Caesar turned once more.
Back to Caesar’s life returning, with a soul for ever yearning,
Towards the steps his promise-spurning prototype had trod before.
But the silence was soon broken; through the stillness came a token
Life had moved again, or spoken on the other side the door.
“Surely I’ve no trusty servant,” said he, “to deny my door
Now De Morny
is no more.”
Rising, of some trespass certain, slow he draws the purple curtain,
On whose folds the bees uncertain look like wasps, and nothing more:
Open flings the chamber portal, with a chill which stamps him mortal.
Can his senses be the sport all of his eyes! For there before
He sees an eagle perching on a bust of Janus at the door:
A bleeding bird, and nothing more.
Deep into the darkness peering, not in fear, but only fearing
Adrien’s vulgar indiscretions, Marx
of eaves-dropping in store:
“Though thy wings are torn and bleeding,” said he, with a voice of pleading:
“Thou’rt a bird of royal breeding: thou hast flown from foreign shore.”
Quoth the Eagle, “Matamore.”
Started with the stillness broken, by reply so aptly spoken,
“Silence,” said he, “never utter memories of that field of gore,
Where your poor Imperial master, whom imperious disaster
Followed fast, was tortured faster, till his heart one burden bore:
Till the dirges of his hope, this melancholy burden bore—
Never see Carlotta
Then upon the velvet sinking, he betook himself to thinking
How he’d forced the murdered Prince
to leave his quiet home of yore;
How he’d made him wield a sceptre, which no erudite preceptor
Might have told would soon be wept or lost on that forbidding shore,
Where earth cries for retribution, where for justice stones implore.
Quoth the Eagle, “Matamore.”
“Wretch!” he cried, “some fiend hath sent thee, by that mocking voice he lent thee
Conscience-driven accusations rising up at every pore—
Must my master-mind so vaunted, ever hence be spectre haunted—
Must I see that form undaunted, dying still at Matamore?”
Quoth the Eagle, “Evermore.”
“Prophet!” shrieked he, “thing of evil! Here we fear nor God nor Devil!
Wing thee to the House of Hapsburg! Up to Austria’s heaven soar,
Leave no bloody plume as token, of the lies my soul has spoken,
Leave my iron will unbroken! Wipe the blood before my door!
Dost thou think to gnaw my entrails with thy beak for evermore?”
Quoth the Eagle, “Jusqu’a Mort.”
Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico (1832–1867), the only monarch of the Second Mexican Empire, reigned from 1864 to 1867. He was backed against the existing government by Napoleon III of France (1808–1873, Emperor of France from 1852 to 1870), who wanted to establish a Francophile monarchy in Mexico. Maximilian, though, was never entirely recognised by all foreign powers (the USA, for instance, refused to acknowledge him), and was eventually defeated, court-martialled, and sentenced to death. He was executed on 19th June 1867. “The Craven” was intended as an attack on Napoleon III, to whose government The Tomahawk was strongly opposed.
Return to the Quaint and Curious index for more pastiches and parodies of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”.