Monday, 18 June 2012

marengo like solferino

"After the battle of Marengo (1800), which however did not cause nearly as many casualties as the battle of Solferino, Napoleon I yielded to one of those sudden accesses of strong feeling which have nothing to do with the dictates of policy and are perhaps on a higher plane than even the inspirations of genius, one of those feelings which are the secret of heroic souls, which see sudden light under the Eye of God, in the loftiest and most mysterious spheres of the conscience. 'It is on the battlefield,' he wrote to the Emperor of Austria, 'amid the sufferings of vast numbers of wounded men, surrounded by 15,000 dead bodies, that I adjure Your Majesty to listen to the voice of humanity.' This letter, which has been given to us in its entirety by a celebrated historian of our time, has made a deep impression on me. He who wrote it was himself moved and surprised by it. Yet his surprise had not in it any vestige of the secret remorse which is felt on their waking (as they call it) by men who charge themselves with having lost their wits in giving free play to a sudden impulse of generosity. Napoleon I accepted, in the unexpected form in which it had come to him, a thought of which he understood and respected the source. The battle of "Solferino," Paul de Molènes adds, "set flowing once more the source of that thought which drew from the victor of Marengo his strange outcry of sadness and pity."

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