War Horse

1 August 2014

After ‘Napoleon Crossing the Alps’ by Jacques-Louis David (1801)


Napoleon was a small man who did big things
many other small men wouldn’t dare to do.
But sitting for portraits made him fidgety

so we don’t see much of him here.
This painting is all horse and Napoleon
a mere emblem of ideal leadership,

when actually, he rode to this battle by mule,
not the fiery steed he requested here,
rearing high on meaty haunches.

One thing’s clear:
if great men die with ceremony,
not so their horses.

Just this bulk smashing into hard earth
and the belly twisting piteously
as the battle continues on.

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