The Grief of One Dog

The Grief of One Dog

Perhaps it was the spirit of the time and the place that affected me. But I assure you no occurrence of any of my other battlefields impressed me so keenly. I halted on my tour to gaze on the spectacle, and to reflect on its meaning. This soldier, I realized, must have had friends at home and in his regiment; yet he lay there deserted by all except his dog… I had looked on, unmoved, at battles which decided the future of nations. Tearless, I had given orders which brought death to thousands. Yet, here I was stirred, profoundly stirred, stirred to tears. And by what? By the grief of one dog. I am certain that at that instant I felt more ready than at any other time to show mercy toward a suppliant foe-man. I could understand just then the tinge of mercy which led Achilles to yield the corpse of his enemy, Hector, to the weeping Priam.

Cet homme, me disais-je, a peut-être des amis; il en a peut-être dans le camp, dans sa compagnie, et il gît ici abandonné de tous excepté de son chien! Quelle leçon la nature nous donnait par l’intermédiaire d’un animal! Ce qu’est l’homme! Et quel n’est pas le mystère de ses impressions! J’avais sans émotion ordonné des batailles qui devaient décider du sort de l’armée; j’avais vu d’un œil sec exécuter des mouvements qui amenaient la perte d’un grand nombre d’entre nous; et ici je me sentais ému, j’étais remué par les cris et la douleur d’un chien!

Napoleon Bonaparte, Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène: Tome I – De juin 1815 à mars 1816

Leave a Reply