Emperor Alexander I Quotes in War and Peace
That night Rostov was on the picket line with his platoon forward of Bagration’s detachment. […] His eyes kept closing, and in his imagination the sovereign appeared, then Denisov, then Moscow memories […] “Why not? It might well be,” thought Rostov, “that the sovereign, meeting me, gives me some assignment, saying as to any officer: ‘Go and find out what’s there.’ There are many stories about how he got to know some officer quite by chance and attached him to himself. What if he attached me to himself? Oh, how I’d protect him, how I’d tell him the whole truth, how I’d expose the deceivers!”
“But that can’t be him, alone in the middle of this empty field,” thought Rostov. Just then Alexander turned his head, and Rostov saw the beloved features so vividly imprinted on his memory. The sovereign was pale, his cheeks were hollow, his eyes sunken; but there was all the more loveliness and mildness in his features. […]
But as a young man in love trembles and thrills, not daring to utter what he dreams of by night, and looks about fearfully, seeking help or the possibility of delay and flight, when the desired moment comes and he stands alone with her, so now Rostov, having attained what he desired more than anything in the world, did not know how to approach the sovereign and presented thousands of considerations to himself for why it was unsuitable, improper, and impossible.
Rostov stood at the corner for a long time, looking at the feasting men from a distance. Painful work was going on in his mind, which he could not bring to an end. Terrible doubts arose in his soul. Now he remembered […] the whole hospital with those torn-off arms and legs, that filth and disease. He imagined so vividly now that hospital stench of dead flesh that he looked around to see where the stench could be coming from. Then he remembered that self-satisfied Bonaparte with his white little hand, who was now an emperor, whom the emperor Alexander liked and respected. Why, then, those torn-off arms and legs, those dead people? […] He caught himself in such strange thoughts that it made him frightened.
Understandably, these and a countless, endless number of other causes, the number of which depends on countless different points of view, presented themselves to contemporaries; but for us, the descendants, who contemplate the enormity of the event in all its scope and delve into its simple and terrible meaning, these causes seem insufficient. For us it is not understandable that millions of Christians killed and tortured each other because Napoleon was a lover of power, Alexander was firm, English policy cunning, and the duke of Oldenburg offended.
“Angel! Father! Hurrah! Dearest! . . .” cried the people and Petya, and again peasant women and a few men of the weaker sort, including Petya, wept with happiness. A rather large piece of the biscuit that the sovereign was holding broke off, fell onto the railing of the balcony, and from there to the ground. A cabby in a jerkin, who was standing closest of all, rushed to this piece of biscuit and snatched it up. Some people in the crowd rushed to the cabby. Noticing that, the sovereign asked for a plate of biscuits to be brought and began tossing biscuits from the balcony. Petya’s eyes became bloodshot, the danger of being crushed aroused him still more, he rushed for the biscuits. He did not know why, but it was necessary to take a biscuit from the tsar’s hands, and necessary not to give it up. He rushed and tripped up a little old woman who was trying to catch a biscuit. […] Petya knocked her arm aside with his knee, snatched a biscuit, and, as if afraid to be late, again shouted “Hurrah!” in a voice now grown hoarse.
“Here it is, the reward for all those of little faith,” he thought, looking at his retinue and at the troops approaching and forming up. “One word from me, one movement of my hand, and this ancient capital des Czars is destroyed. […] [H]ere she is lying at my feet, her golden cupolas and crosses playing and glittering in the sunlight. But I will spare her. On the ancient monuments of barbarism and despotism, I will write great words of justice and mercy . . . Alexander will take precisely that most painfully of all— I know him.” (It seemed to Napoleon that the main significance of what was happening lay in his personal struggle with Alexander.) “From the heights of the Kremlin—yes, yes, that’s the Kremlin—I will give them the laws of justice, I will show them the meaning of true civilization; I will make the generations of boyars remember the name of their conqueror with love.”
[Historians’ reproaches consist in the fact] that a historical figure such as Alexander I, a figure who stood on the highest possible step of human power […] a figure who felt upon himself at every moment of his life the responsibility for all that was happening in Europe; and not an invented figure, but a living one, and, like every man, with his personal habits, passions, strivings for goodness, beauty, truth—that this figure, fifty years ago, was not so much not virtuous (the historians do not reproach him for that), but did not have those views of the good of mankind now possessed by a professor who from his youth has been taken up with learning, that is, reading books, attending lectures, and copying things from these books and lectures into a notebook.