“Napoleon's Dream”


Singer dreams of sailing past Napoleon's grave. He lands and meets Napoleon. Napoleon recalls his victories. His banner was "the standard of freedom all over the world." He says that "Liberty soon o'er the world shall be seen." The singer wakes.


Napoleon says "The nations around you shall look with surprise, When freedom to you my descendant supplies.": Napoleon III[1808-1873; president 1848-1852; emperor 1852-1870] was the son of Napoleon's stepdaughter and, nominally, his brother Louis Bonaparte. (source: "Napoleon III of France" at the Wikipedia site). - BS

Napoleon III, like the first Napoleon, was rather contradictory in this regard. He has been called the "Bourgeois Emperor." He did end up a full-blown Imperial head of state (though under constitutional and parliamentary restrictions). But he also liberalized a lot of laws. If he had been smarter about picking his wars, his government might well have survived. But he fought the Crimean War, wasted a lot of energy installing the Habsburg princeling Maximilian in Mexico -- and then picked a war with Prussia. Or, as it would come to be called, Imperial Germany.

Naturally, he lost that, and was pushed from his throne. But the broadsides show that this song was written when he was still new and appeared a vast improvement over the reactionary Bourbon dynasty.

That seemed almost to be the story of the Bonaparte family. Napoleon himself started as a lawgiver, and ended up power-mad. His son the Duke of Reichstadt (1811-1832) was regarded as incredibly promising, but died young. And Napoleon III came in as a liberal reformer and ended up as another Emperor. - RBW


  • Bodleian, Harding B 16(77b), "Dream of Napoleon" ("One night, sad and languid, I went to my bed"), Swindells (Manchester), 1796-1853; also Harding B 16(78a), "A Dream of Napolean"[misspelling in text as well as title]; Johnson Ballads 1146[last line illegible], Firth c.16(97), Harding B 26(153), "[A|The] Dream of Napoleon[!!!]"; Harding B 19(86), "Napoleon"


  1. Moylan 207, "Napoleon's Dream" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BI, Moyl207


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1854 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 16(77b))
Keywords: freedom dream Napoleon