Bastille Day


I remember the Vendee, and the spoliation of the cathedrals, and the massacres of the innocent, and Edmund Burke’s great oratory, and the dawn of modern tyranny, and all the evils of the Revolution on the other 364 days.

One day a year I cheer for the Rights of Man and the Republic, and newly minted citizens dragging the aristocrats who despised and scorned them to the guillotines, and the fear struck into the hearts of crowned despots who tottered on their thrones, and the hard-handed sons of peasants and blacksmiths commanding the cheering, singing armies of the Revolution, with their tricolor cockades and ragged clothes, their skirmishers swarming amidst the battle smoke, their charging columns bristling and gleaming with bayonets, sweeping the invaders in a tumbling rout back over the frontiers.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Vive la Republique.

Vive la Révolution.

Vive la France.

17 thoughts on “Bastille Day”

  1. Populism in the saddle; populism with torches and clubs and torn up cobblestones; populism with banners, sabers, muskets and cannon; populism with its muddy boots on the table, draining the bottles in the wine cellar and smashing the empties against the wall; populism smacking the smirks and the sneers off of their faces, with the back of its calloused hand.

  2. Beautifully said, Lex.

    Ah, to be a dreamy-eyed, optimistic francais on that day.
    To revel in the idealism of the brave new world at hand or to feel the sweet revanche of the oppressed.
    Ah, the naivete before the Terror to come..

  3. Amen and amen… a brave beginning and yet so an awful, protracted end. The Terror, and Napoleon and all of that…

    Change of topic: listening to my local classical station just now, listening to a program about the 2010 Last Night at the Proms, and hearing them sing Elgar’s arrangement of “Jerusalem” with the orchestra and chorus and audience and all. It came to me that if Britain is lost to us, one way or another – the way we’ll be able to tell definitively when that happens, is when “Jerusalem” is omitted from the program of Last Night at the Proms.

    Just for grins and giggles, the text of Blake’s poem is here:

    “And did those feet in ancient time.
    Walk upon England’s mountains green:
    And was the holy Lamb of God,
    On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

    And did the Countenance Divine,
    Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
    And was Jerusalem builded here,
    Among these dark Satanic Mills?

    Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
    Bring me my Arrows of desire:
    Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
    Bring me my Chariot of fire!

    I will not cease from Mental Fight,
    Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
    Till we have built Jerusalem,
    In England’s green & pleasant Land!”

  4. Jerusalem.

    Not off topic.

    Thanks be to God the British stopped them, defeated Napoleon, destroyed his navy, blockaded his trade, unravelled his tyranny, funded his enemies, probed and bloodied him in Spain, and ran a lance through his heart at Waterloo.

    “Those far distant storm-beaten ships, upon which the Grand Army never looked, stood between it and the dominion of the world.”

  5. England lives … how very reassuring. (wiping tears off my face, watching the linked video.) There is hope, in this dark time. There is hope, after all.

  6. Lex, both révolution and France are feminine and should therefore have the article la in front of them.

    [Helen, Merci. Fixed.]

  7. Oh the British had something to do with it, as well. There was a certain Admiral Nelson and a certain Duke of Wellington. But yes, the Russians are responsible (or so the story goes) for the bistro, which is quite French. After all, you never see one in Russia. But is it more important than Beef Wellington? Discuss.

  8. As much as the winter, typhus defeated the Grand Armee. The campaign began in Poland during a hot June with little water for washing as it was needed for horses. Even so, thousands of horses died. Most of the French casualties are believed by medical historians to have been typhus. They first contracted the lice in Polish villages and Baron Larrey, Napoleon’s surgeon had no experience with this disease which requires cleanliness for prevention.

    As far as the Russians defeating Napoleon. After Tilsit, the Russian Czar was an ally. The Peninsular War has also been given credit for weakening the Emporer.

  9. Michael,
    There’s a bit of a sequencing problem in your argument. The treaty of Tilsit was in 1807. The invasion of the Grand Armee into Russia was in 1812. Russian troops, along with Austrian and Prussian troops of the Sixth Coalition, entered Paris in 1814, most certainly not as allies of Napoleon. And Russian cossacks screaming “быстро” at Parisian restaurateurs were not stationed in Paris as allies of Napoleon…

    To my knowledge, no event of Napoleonic wars compares in its effect in weakening Napoleon to destruction of Grand Armee by Russia. Britain should be given full credit for incredible Naval victories, blockade, Spanish and other campaigns and of course for the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, but the final blow isn’t always the decisive one. To give Britain and only Britain credit for decisive blow to Napoleon, imho would not be historically accurate. Reminds me of history channel documentaries on how the US won WWII.

  10. Come children of the Fatherland, the day of glory has arrived. Against us, the tyranny has raised its bloody flag. Listen now, for within in our camps we hear the howling of those terrorizing soldiers. They seek to come within our midst to strangle our children and consorts. Citizens, take up arms! Form your battle columns. March, march, and with an impure blood, we shall water our plow furrows!

  11. The ChicagoBoyz blog hereby formally recognizes and expresses its heartfelt gratitude and admiration for the contribution of the Russian army, the Russian people, the Russian Winter, and the Rickettsia prowazekii bacterium for the defeat of Napoleon, the Grande Armée and the French Empire.

  12. The Russian Winter hereby formally recognizes the ChicagoBoyz blog, and promises to give some thought to visiting its hometown some time in near future, global warming notwithstanding ;)

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