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12th English – Lesson 6 – Poem – Incident of the French Camp

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12th English – Lesson 6 – Poem – Incident of the French Camp

1. Fill in the blanks choosing the words from the box given and
complete the summary of the poem.

The poet Robert
Browning narrates an incident at the French Camp in the war of 1809 between
France and Austria, in a (a) ______ version. He describes the brave action of a
(b) ______ soldier, whose heroic devotion to duty and his (c) ______ in it is
inspiring and worthy of(d) ______ During the attack of the French army on
Ratisbon, Napoleon was anxious about the (e) ______ .Austrians were defending
Ratisbon with great (f) ______ and courage. Napoleon was watching the war
standing on a (g) ______ near the battlefield. All of a sudden a rider appeared
from the closed smoke and dust. Riding at great speed, jumping and leaping, he
approached the mound where Napoleon stood. As he came closer, the narrator
noticed that the rider, a young boy, was severely wounded. But the rider showed
no sign of pain and smiling in joy, jumped off the horse and gave the happy
news of (h) ______ to the emperor. He exclaimed with pride that French had (i)
______ Ratisbon and he himself had hoisted the flag of France. When Napoleon
heard the news, his plans (j) ______ up like fire. His eyes (k) ______ when he
saw that the soldier was severely wounded. Like a caring mother eagle, the
emperor asked if he was wounded. The (l) ______ soldier replied proudly that he
was killed and died

Answer:

dramatic

wounded

pride

admiration

result

determination

mound

victory

conquered

soared

softened

valiant

 

2. Based on your understanding of the poem, answer the following
questions in one or two sentences each.

 

(a)Who
do you think is the narrator of the poem?

Answer: A
French soldier is the narrator of the poem.

 

(b)Where
was the narrator when the incident happened?

Answer: Narrator
was standing by Napoleon Bonaparte when the incident happened.

 

(c)Who
took the city of Ratisbon by storm?

Answer: French
soldiers led by Marshall Lannes took the city of Ratisbon by storm.

 

(d)Where
was Napoleon standing on the day of attack on the city of Ratisbon?

Answer: Napoleon
was standing on a mound near the battlefield (i.e.) Ratisbon city.

 

(e)Describe
the posture of Napoleon.

Answer: Napoleon’s
neck was out thrust. He kept his legs wide and arms locked behind, as if to
balance his body against his brow heavy with oppressive thoughts about the
battle.

 

(J)Who
came galloping on a horse to Napoleon?

Answer: A
boy-soldier came galloping on a horse to Napoleon.

 

(g)What
does the phrase ‘full galloping’ suggest?

Answer: Full
galloping suggests full speed.

 

(h)Why
was the rider in a hurry?

Answer: The
rider was carrying first hand information about the victory at Ratisbon. So, he
was in a hurry.

 

(i)What
did the rider do when he reached Napoleon?

Answer: He
jumped off his horse when he reached Napoleon.

 

(j)Why
did the rider keep his lips compressed ?

Answer: The
rider was mortally wounded. He kept his lips tight to prevent blood from
flowing out.

 

(k)Where
did the rider plant the French flag after Ratisbon was captured?

Answer: The
rider had planted the French flag at the Market place in Ratisbon.

 

(l)What
was Napoleon’s reaction on hearing the news of victory?

Answer: Napoleon’s
emotions started soaring up again on hearing the news of victory.

 

(m)When
did the narrator find that the boy was badly wounded?

Answer: Soon
after the boy disclosed the conquest of Ratisbon and his glorious role in
perching the French flag, Napoleon found that the boy was wounded.

 

(n)Why
did Napoleon’s eyes become soft as a mother eagle’s eyes?

Answer: Napoleon’s
eyes softened like a mother eagle who has mixed feelings about the bravery of
the eaglet and grief on the mortal injuries sustained by it during the fight
with a tougher foe. He became sad because the boy-soldier was mortally wounded.

 

(o)How
did the young soldier face his end?

Answer: The
young soldier died with a smile frozen on his lips.

 

3. Literary Devices

Mark the rhyme scheme of the poem. The
rhyme scheme for the first stanza is as follows. “With neck out-thrust, you
fancy how, a

Legs wide, arms locked behind, – b

As if to balance the prone brow – a

Oppressive with its mind. – b

Just as perhaps he mused, ‘My plans –
c

That soar, to earth may fall, – d

Let once my army-leader Lannes – c

Waver at yonder wall ’, – d

Out ’twixt the battery-smokes there
flew – a

A rider, bound on bound – b

Full-galloping: nor bridle drew – a

Until he reached the mound. – b

Then off there flung in smiling joy, –
c

And held himself erect – d

By just his horse’s mane, a boy: – c

You hardly could suspect – d

(So tight he kept his lips compressed,
– a

Scarce any blood came through) – b

You looked twice ere you saw his
breast – a

Was all but shot in two. b

‘Well’, cried he, ‘Emperor, by God’s
grace – c

We’ve got you Ratisbon! – d

The Marshal’s in the market-place c

And you ’ll be there anon, – d

To see your flag-bird flap his vans –
a

Where I, to heart’s desire, – b

Perched him! ’ The Chief’s eye
flashed; his plans – a

Soared up again like fire. – b

The Chief’s eye flashed; but presently
– c

Softened itself, as sheathes – d

A film the mother-eagle’s eye – c

When her bruised eaglet breathes: – d

‘You ’re wounded! ’ ‘Nay ’, his
soldier’s pride – a

Touched to the quick, he said: – b

‘I’m killed, Sire! ’And, his Chief
beside – a

Smiling, the boy fell dead. – b

 

Appreciate The Poem

 

4. Read the lines given below and answer the questions that follow.

 

(a) “Legs wide, arms locked behind,

As if to balance the prone brow
Oppressive with its mind.”

(i)Whose
action is described here?

Answer: Napoleon
Bonaparte’s action is described here.

 

(ii)What
is meant by prone brow?

Answer: “Prone
brow” means brow accustomed or inclined down to contemplate on serious matters.

 

(iii)What
is his state of mind?

Answer: His
mind is oppressed with anxious thoughts regarding the outcome of the war at
Ratisbon.

 

(b) “You ’re wounded! ’ ‘Nay ’, his
soldier’s pride

Touched to the quick, he said: ”

(i)Why
did the boy contradict Napoleon’s words?

Answer: The
boy contradicted Napoleon’s words because the word “wounded” hurt his sense of
pride and patriotism and his voluntary sacrifice of life for his country.

 

(ii)Why
was his pride touched?

Answer: The
boy was naturally proud to have perched the French flag and got shot by the
enemy. He had hurried holding on to his life to disclose the news of conquest
of Ratisbon to the French king. When he said, “you’re wounded”, he interpreted
it as an insult to his bravery and patriotism. So, his pride was touched.

 

(c) “A film the mother-eagle’s eye

When her bruised eaglet breathes”

(i)Who
is compared to the mother eagle in the above lines?

Answer: Napoleon
Bonaparte is compared to mother eagle.

 

(ii)Explain
the comparison.

Answer: A
mother eagle will be proud when the eaglet takes on a stronger predator. When
the eaglet is hurt, the mother eagle will be naturally sad as no mother will
want the young one to perish in a combat. The king, like a mother, is sad about
the impending death of a valiant boy-soldier.

 

(d) Explain the following lines with reference to the context.

(i)“Then off there flung in smiling
joy,

And held himself erect”

Answer:

Reference: These words are
from the poem ‘Incident of the French Camp” written by Robert Browning.

Context
and Explanation:

The narrator says these words while describing the arrival of a boy soldier at
the mound where Napoleon was anxiously awaiting news about the battle at
Ratisbon. Amidst the smoke of cannon fire, a horse sped fast carrying a boy-soldier.
He jumped off the horse with a beaming face. It seemed that he had a brought a
good news.

 

(ii)‘I’m killed, Sire! ’And, his Chief
beside,

Smiling, the boy fell dead.”

Answer:

Reference: These lines are
from the poem ‘Incident of the French Camp” written by Robert Browning.

Context
and Explanation:

The poet says these words while explaining the hurt reaction of the
boy-soldier. The boy-soldier who brought the news of conquest of Ratisbon was
all but ‘ split into two. When emperor Napoleon expressed his grief on his
wounded status, the boy soldier said, “Nay I’m killed sire.”

 

(iii)“To see your flag-birdflap his
vans Where I, to heart’s desire,

Perched him!

Answer:

Reference: These lines are
from the poem ‘Incident of the French Camp” written by Robert Browning.

Context
and Explanation:

The narrator says these through the boy-soldier while explaining his role in
the final stages of storming of Ratisbon. He said proudly that he himself
hoisted French Flag to his heart’s content at the Market place in Ratisbon.

 

5. Answer the following questions in about 100-150 words each.

(a)The
young soldier matched his emperor in courage and patriotism. Elucidate your
answer.

Answer:

Emperor Napoleon
was an astute planner planning the moves of the battle observing each step the
French army made. Emperor Napoleon being a bold and wise warrior always had two
plans, one to advance forward if the battle brings victory and the next as to
what to be done in case the battle is lost. He was not resting at a tent during
the battle. He was very close to the place of battle planning the strategic
steps.

Similarly, the
boy-soldier was also equally brave. Unlike the emperor, the boy soldier flung
himself in the midst of battle and risked his life. He did not bother about his
death. He doggedly carried out the mission of hoisting French national flag.
Instead of being carried away for first aid, he hurried on horse back to
communicate the news of conquest of Ratisbon despite his chest being split into
two. So, it is obvious the boy- soldier’s patriotism and gallantry are equal to
that of Napoleon.

 

(b)What
is the role of the young soldier in the victory of the French at Ratisbon?

Answer:

The young soldier
was one of the soldiers in the infantry division leading the battle. On
storming Ratisbon, unmindful of the cannon fire, he climbed the flag post with
French flag and hoisted it. He received the bullets in turn for his service to
the emperor and French army. He did not succumb to the bullets immediately, he
galloped on horse back to convey the news to emperor Napoleon Bonaparte
himself. He held on to life till he reached Napoleon and conveyed the happy
news. He waited with abated breath to know the reaction of his great leader.
When he expressed his sadness, his pride was hurt. He denied the emperor’s
sympathy and said emphatically that he was killed. He fell down beside emperor
Napoleon with a smiling face and died.

 

(c)Napoleon
was a great source of inspiration to his army. Justify.

Answer:

Napoleon was a powerful
orator and was able to muster the support of young soldiers who could gladly
throw away their lives for the glory of France and for fulfilling the ambitious
plans of territorial expansion of Napoleon Bonaparte. He inspired unprecedented
courage among the soldiers. They never worried about the strength of the enemy
army or their pile of armaments. They faced the battles with the single minded
determination to ‘do or die’ or do and die. They kissed death for the
glorification of France and for making Napoleon proud of their heroism,
sacrifices and patriotism.

 

Listening Activity

 

Some words have been left out in the
poem below. First, read the poem. Then, fill in the missing words on listening
to the reading or the recording of it in full. You may listen again, if
required.

 

The Drum

I hate that drum’s
discordant sound, Parading round, and round, and round: To thoughtless youth it
pleasure yields, And lures from cities and from fields, sell their liberty for
charms Of tawdry lace, and glittering arms; And when Ambition’s voice commands,
To march, and fight, and fall, in foreign lands. I hate that drum’s discordant
sound, Parading round, and round, and round; To me it talks of ravag’d plains,
And burning towns, and ruin’d swains, And all that Misery’s hand bestows, To
fill the catalogue of human woes.

 

I hate that drum’s (1) ______ sound,

Parading round, and round, and round:

To thoughtless (2) ______ it pleasure
yields,

And lures from cities and from fields,
sell their (3) ______ for charms

Of tawdry lace, and glittering arms;

And when (4) ______ voice commands,

To march, and fight, and fall, in (5)
______

I hate that drum’s discordant sound,
Parading round, and round, and round; To me it talks of

(6) ______ plains, And burning towns,
and ruin’d swains, And all that Misery’s hand bestows, To

fill the (7) ______ of human woes.

Answer:

discordant

youth

liberty

ambition’s

foreign lands

ravag’d

catalogue

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