第一卷滑铁卢 第03章一八一五年六月十八日
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CHAPTER III THE EIGHTEENTH OF JUNE, 1815







Let us turn back,--that is one of the story-teller's rights,-- and put ourselves once more in the year 1815, and even a little earlier than the epoch when the action narrated in the first part of this book took place.



If it had not rained in the night between the 17th and the 18th of June, 1815, the fate of Europe would have been different. A few drops of water, more or less, decided the downfall of Napoleon. All that Providence required in order to make Waterloo the end of Austerlitz was a little more rain, and a cloud traversing the sky out of season sufficed to make a world crumble.



The battle of Waterloo could not be begun until half-past eleven o'clock, and that gave Blucher time to come up. Why? Because the ground was wet. The artillery had to wait until it became a little firmer before they could manoeuvre.



Napoleon was an artillery officer, and felt the effects of this. The foundation of this wonderful captain was the man who, in the report to the Directory on Aboukir, said: Such a one of our balls killed six men. All his plans of battle were arranged for projectiles. The key to his victory was to make the artillery converge on one point. He treated the strategy of the hostile general like a citadel, and made a breach in it. He overwhelmed the weak point with grape-shot; he joined and dissolved battles with cannon. There was something of the sharpshooter in his genius. To beat in squares, to pulverize regiments, to break lines, to crush and disperse masses,--for him everything lay in this, to strike, strike, strike incessantly,-- and he intrusted this task to the cannon-ball. A redoubtable method, and one which, united with genius, rendered this gloomy athlete of the pugilism of war invincible for the space of fifteen years.



On the 18th of June, 1815, he relied all the more on his artillery, because he had numbers on his side. Wellington had only one hundred and fifty-nine mouths of fire; Napoleon had two hundred and forty.



Suppose the soil dry, and the artillery capable of moving, the action would have begun at six o'clock in the morning. The battle would have been won and ended at two o'clock, three hours before the change of fortune in favor of the Prussians. What amount of blame attaches to Napoleon for the loss of this battle? Is the shipwreck due to the pilot?



Was it the evident physical decline of Napoleon that complicated this epoch by an inward diminution of force? Had the twenty years of war worn out the blade as it had worn the scabbard, the soul as well as the body? Did the veteran make himself disastrously felt in the leader? In a word, was this genius, as many historians of note have thought, suffering from an eclipse? Did he go into a frenzy in order to disguise his weakened powers from himself? Did he begin to waver under the delusion of a breath of adventure? Had he become--a grave matter in a general--unconscious of peril? Is there an age, in this class of material great men, who may be called the giants of action, when genius grows short-sighted? Old age has no hold on the geniuses of the ideal; for the Dantes and Michael Angelos to grow old is to grow in greatness; is it to grow less for the Hannibals and the Bonapartes? Had Napoleon lost the direct sense of victory? Had he reached the point where he could no longer recognize the reef, could no longer divine the snare, no longer discern the crumbling brink of abysses? Had he lost his power of scenting out catastrophes? He who had in former days known all the roads to triumph, and who, from the summit of his chariot of lightning, pointed them out with a sovereign finger, had he now reached that state of sinister amazement when he could lead his tumultuous legions harnessed to it, to the precipice? Was he seized at the age of forty-six with a supreme madness? Was that titanic charioteer of destiny no longer anything more than an immense dare-devil?



We do not think so.



His plan of battle was, by the confession of all, a masterpiece. To go straight to the centre of the Allies' line, to make a breach in the enemy, to cut them in two, to drive the British half back on Hal, and the Prussian half on Tongres, to make two shattered fragments of Wellington and Blucher, to carry Mont-Saint-Jean, to seize Brussels, to hurl the German into the Rhine, and the Englishman into the sea. All this was contained in that battle, according to Napoleon. Afterwards people would see.



Of course, we do not here pretend to furnish a history of the battle of Waterloo; one of the scenes of the foundation of the story which we are relating is connected with this battle, but this history is not our subject; this history, moreover, has been finished, and finished in a masterly manner, from one point of view by Napoleon, and from another point of view by a whole pleiad of historians.[7]



[7] Walter Scott, Lamartine, Vaulabelle, Charras, Quinet, Thiers.



As for us, we leave the historians at loggerheads; we are but a distant witness, a passer-by on the plain, a seeker bending over that soil all made of human flesh, taking appearances for realities, perchance; we have no right to oppose, in the name of science, a collection of facts which contain illusions, no doubt; we possess neither military practice nor strategic ability which authorize a system; in our opinion, a chain of accidents dominated the two leaders at Waterloo; and when it becomes a question of destiny, that mysterious culprit, we judge like that ingenious judge, the populace.











三 一八一五年六月十八日









追源溯流是讲故事人的一种权利,假设我们是在一八一五年,并且比本书篇一部分所说的那些进攻还稍早一些的时候。



假使在一八一五年六月十七日到十八日的那一晚不曾下雨,欧洲的局面早已改变了。多了几滴雨或少了几滴雨,对拿破仑就成了胜败存亡的关键。上天只须借几滴雨水,便可使滑铁卢成为奥斯特里茨的末日,一片薄云违反了时令的风向穿过天空,便足使一个世界崩溃。



滑铁卢战争只有在十一点半开始,布吕歇尔才能从容赶到。为什么?因为地面湿了。炮队只有等到地面干一点,否则不能活动。



拿破仑是使炮的能手,他自己也这样觉得。他在向督政府报告阿布基尔战况的文件里说过:“我们的炮弹便这样打死了六个人。”这句话可以说明那位天才将领的特点。他的一切战争计划全建立在炮弹上。集中大炮火力于某一点,那便是他胜利的秘诀。他把敌军将领的战略,看成一个堡垒,加以迎头痛击。他用开花弹攻打敌人的弱点,挑战,解围,也全赖炮力。他的天才最善于使炮。攻陷方阵,粉碎联队,突破阵线,消灭和驱散密集队伍,那一切便是他的手法,打,打,不停地打,而他把那种打的工作交给炮弹。那种锐不可当的方法,加上他的天才,便使战场上的这位沉郁的挥拳好汉在十五年中所向披靡。



一八一五年六月十八日,正因为炮位占优势,他更寄希望于发挥炮的威力。威灵顿只有一百五十九尊火器,而拿破仑有二百四十尊。



假使地是干的,炮队易于行动,早晨六点便已开火了。战事在两点钟,比普鲁士军队的突然出现还早三个钟头就告结束,已经获得胜利了。



在那次战争的失败里拿破仑方面的错误占多少成分呢?



中流失事便应归咎于舵工吗?



拿破仑体力上明显的变弱,那时难道已引起他精力的衰退?二十年的战争,难道象磨损剑鞘那样,也磨损了剑刃,象消耗体力那样,也消耗了精神吗?这位将领难道也已感到年龄的困累吗?简单地说,这位天才,确如许多优秀的史学家所公认的那样,已经衰弱了吗?他是不是为了要掩饰自己的衰弱,才轻举妄动呢?他是不是在一场风险的困惑中,开始把握不住了呢?难道他犯了为将者的大忌,变成了不了解危险的人吗?在那些可以称作大活动家的钢筋铁骨的人杰里,果真存在着天才退化的时期吗?对精神活动方面的天才,老年是不起影响的,象但丁和米开朗琪罗这类人物,年岁越高,才气越盛;对汉尼拔①和波拿巴这类人物,才气难道会随着岁月消逝吗?难道拿破仑对胜利已失去了他那种锐利的眼光吗?他竟到了认不清危险,猜不出陷阱、分辨不出坑谷边上的悬崖那种地步吗?对灾难他已失去嗅觉了吗?他从前素来洞悉一切走向成功的道路,手握雷电,发踪指使,难道现在竟昏愦到自投绝地,把手下的千军万马推入深渊吗?四十六岁,他便害了无可救药的狂病吗?那位掌握命运的怪杰难道已只是一条大莽汉了吗?



我们绝不那么想。



①汉尼拔(Hannibal,约前247-183),杰出的迦太基统帅。 



他的作战计划,众所周知是件杰作。直赴联军阵线中心,洞穿敌阵,把它截为两半,把不列颠的一半驱逐到阿尔,普鲁士的一半驱逐到潼格尔,使威灵顿和布吕歇尔不能首尾相应,夺取圣约翰山,占领布鲁塞尔,把德国人抛入莱茵河,英国人投入海中。那一切,在拿破仑看来,都是能在那次战争中实现的。至于以后的事,以后再看。



在此地我们当然没有写滑铁卢史的奢望,我们现在要谈的故事的伏线和那次战争有关,但是那段历史并不是我们的主题,况且那段历史是已经编好了的,洋洋洒洒地编好了的,一方面,有拿破仑的自述,另一方面,有史界七贤①的著作。至于我们,尽可以让那些史学家去聚讼,我们只是一个事后的见证人,原野中的一个过客,一个在那血肉狼藉的地方俯首搜索的人,也许是一个把表面现象看作实际情况的人;对一般错综复杂、神妙莫测的事物,从科学观点考虑问题,我们没有发言权,我们没有军事上的经验和战略上的才干,不能成为一家之言;在我们看来,在滑铁卢,那两个将领被一连串偶然事故所支配。至于命运,这神秘的被告,我们和人民(这天真率直的评判者)一样,对它作出我们的判决。



①按此处法文原注只列举瓦尔特·斯高特(WalterScott)、拉马丁(Lamartine)、沃拉贝尔(Vaulabelle)、夏拉(Charras)、基内(Quinet)、齐埃尔(Zhiers)等六人。

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