BOOK ELEVEN: 1812
19. CHAPTER XIX
The view of the strange city with its peculiar architecture, such as
he had never seen before, filled Napoleon with the rather envious
and uneasy curiosity men feel when they see an alien form of life that
has no knowledge of them. This city was evidently living with the full
force of its own life. By the indefinite signs which, even at a
distance, distinguish a living body from a dead one, Napoleon from the
Poklonny Hill perceived the throb of life in the town and felt, as
it were, the breathing of that great and beautiful body.
Every Russian looking at Moscow feels her to be a mother; every
foreigner who sees her, even if ignorant of her significance as the
mother city, must feel her feminine character, and Napoleon felt it.
"Cette ville asiatique aux innombrables eglises, Moscou la sainte.
La voila done enfin, cette fameuse ville! Il etait temps,"* said he,
and dismounting he ordered a plan of Moscow to be spread out before
him, and summoned Lelorgne d'Ideville, the interpreter.
*"That Asiatic city of the innumerable churches, holy Moscow! Here
it is then at last, that famous city. It was high time."
"A town captured by the enemy is like a maid who has lost her
honor," thought he (he had said so to Tuchkov at Smolensk). From
that point of view he gazed at the Oriental beauty he had not seen
before. It seemed strange to him that his long-felt wish, which had
seemed unattainable, had at last been realized. In the clear morning
light he gazed now at the city and now at the plan, considering its
details, and the assurance of possessing it agitated and awed him.