Saturday, October 2, 2010

I Was Delighted Until They Cut Someone's Head Off

As a college student with an awesome college professor, the Romantic poets have started looking… well… awesome. We’re covering them in my British Literature class. And by covering, I mean plunging a hand into a world behind wondrous words, and yanking out all sorts of intriguing information.

One of which was that the Romantics applauded the storming of the Bastille. Some of them even wrote poems about it. Wordsworth even lived in France from 1791-1792, after the storming. 

It was just their thing. The English Romantic was much like the modern liberal (or at least the image I have of one). They championed freedom, expression, imagination, and things like that. The revolution, in their eyes, was the triumph of the common man over his cruel, powerful oppressors. It was a dream come true.

By the Reign of Terror, those effusions had gone the way of a reindeer in a meat grinder. I don’t think I have to tell you the kind of carnage went on, but I’ll go ahead and re-cap. The common men started cutting heads off. A lot of heads. They started out with the lords and those other rotten beasts; soon all that was left was their spies. Oh, of course there had to be spies. And all sorts of enemies like that. This is the era where the guillotine became famous. They needed its efficiency for the thousands of victims that came to the scaffold in this time.

The Romantics weren’t as joyful about this. You’d have to work a lot harder at this point to find one of those ecstatic poems. You must admit their hearts were in the right place, though. Most of their beliefs were perfectly alright, and in fact noble. I personally have a problem with their idea that nature and the primal things bring out the best in men, but that’s beside the point.

The revolution, at the start, was their dream come true, and a good dream. Name for me one barrier stopping their pens in support of it. Just one. I can’t think of any, myself. Were I they, I would have seized my pen like it was Excalibur and wrote, wrote, wrote all England into a frenzy until they stood with me. This was a great cause! And then it wasn’t. Imagine the poets’ horror, and their dejection.

We can learn something of caution here; of thinking before talking. I’m not an expert by any means about this event, but it doesn’t seem to have been well-planned. Especially compared to the American Revolution. Perhaps the poets should have compared the two. Did they? Did they take a moment to wonder if it would fail? What could have gone wrong? Could it have seemed so foolproof? They must have seen it wasn’t hateproof. If they didn’t believe revenge is ugly, they sure learned it after the Reign of Terror.

Whether or not they thought, we can learn from their failure of foresight to take some time ourselves. To think. To question. To doublecheck. Question even our Catholic Church; you can do nothing worse than find how true it is. And always question causes and charities before you give yourself to them. What happens when you throw yourself blindly into such things?

I think of it like surfers; a group of surfers, floating on the calm, open ocean. They all want a wave. They all want movement, to be uplifted and to move with the wild waters.

At last a wave comes; it’s higher, broader, faster, and louder than anything they’ve ever seen before, and they’re no amateurs. This is a magnificent wave! And it’s still forming; they can get right on it if they paddle now! And so they paddle, until they see where the wave is going. There’s a wall of sheer rock, many yards away; the wave is making for it, and it might or it might not smash them into it.

How close might it come? Can they maneuver away; is there enough room to maneuver; is it even possible to maneuver? Is it worth it if they die?

But oh! they must choose quick, for the wave is seconds away! It’s picking up speed!

I thank the following site for refreshing my knowledge about the facts of the French Revolution, I thank also the Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume Two, 8th Edition.

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