Uit: The Battle (Vertaald door Will Hobson)
“Berthier had in turn climbed out of the Berline and gone to join Napoleon, who was sitting on the stump of a durmast oak. The two men were almost the same height and they wore the same type of hat; from a distance, they might have been mistaken for one another. But the Chief of Staff had thick, curly hair and a corpulent face which lacked the symmetry of Napoleon’s. Together they looked at the Danube.
‘Sire,’ said Berthier, biting his fingernails, `the place seems well chosen.’
‘Sulla carta militare, ” evidente!‘ replied the Emperor, cramming his nostrils with snuff.
‘The depth still needs to be sounded from skiffs …’
That’s your concern!’
‘… the strength of the current measured …’
Berthier’s concern, as usual, was to obey. Loyal and meticulous, he always carried out his master’s wishes to the letter and, as a consequence, had acquired enormous power, the self-interested devotion of others and no small amount of jealousy.
The section of the Danube before them was split into several branches, which slowed its current, and was further broken up by a number of islands covered in meadows, scrub and woods of elms, willows and spreading oaks. An islet between the bank and the largest of these islands, the island of Lobau, would serve as a point of support for the bridge they were going to build. On the other side of the river, at the Lobau’s furthest point, they could see a small, level expanse stretching to the villages of Aspern and Essling and then, rising above the thickets of trees, the two village steeples. Beyond that, an immense plain planted with green crops and watered by a stream that dried up in May, and finally, on the left, the wooded heights of Bisamberg, where the Austrian troops had fallen back after burning the bridges.
The bridges! Four years earlier the Emperor had entered Vienna as a saviour, its inhabitants running to meet his army. This time, when he reached its poorly protected suburbs, he had been forced to lay siege to the city for three days, and even bombard it before the garrison withdrew.
An initial attempt to cross the Danube near the destroyed Spitz bridge had failed recently. Five hundred light infantrymen of Saint-Hilaire’s division, under the command of chefs de bataillons Rateau and Poux, had gained a foothold on the island of Schwartze-Laken, but acting without precise orders or coordination they had neglected to station a reserve company in a large house well placed for protecting the landing of further troops. Half of their men had been killed; the others were wounded or captured by the enemy vanguard stationed on the left bank, which played the Austrian anthem by Herr Haydn every morning to rouse the spirits of the Viennese.”
Onafhankelijk van geboortedagen:
galata kulesi beneden
’s nachts de akkoorden van de sitar
en de klaagzang van de saz van de man
die hier altijd zit met de klacht
van de bomen en de violen
die uit ramen klinken
om twee uur ’s ochtends stemt
de gitaarbouwer nog een laatste
instrument voordat hij de laatste
katten voedt een laatste çay
een laatste nog op het laatst deze
blik deze lach en
de nachtlichten van de schepen
op de bosporus
Vertaald door Frans Roumen