Most extensive of Public Bodies, we may call it; and also the most unexpected: for who could have thought to see All Nations in the Tuileries Riding-Hall? But so it is; and truly as strange things may happen when a whole People goes mumming and miming. Hast not thou thyself perchance seen diademed Cleopatra, daughter of the Ptolemies, pleading, almost with bended knee, in unheroic tea-parlour, or dimlit retail-shop, to inflexible gross Burghal Dignitary, for leave to reign and die; being dressed for it, and moneyless, with small children;—while suddenly Constables have shut the Thespian barn, and her Antony pleaded in vain? Such visual spectra flit across this Earth, if the Thespian Stage be rudely interfered with: but much more, when, as was said, Pit jumps on Stage, then is it verily, as in Herr Tieck’s Drama, a Verkehrte Welt, of World Topsyturvied!
Having seen the Human Species itself, to have seen the ’Dean of the Human Species,’ ceased now to be a miracle. Such ’Doyen du Genre Humain, Eldest of Men,’ had shewn himself there, in these weeks: Jean Claude Jacob, a born Serf, deputed from his native Jura Mountains to thank the National Assembly for enfranchising them. On his bleached worn face are ploughed the furrowings of one hundred and twenty years. He has heard dim patois-talk, of immortal Grand-Monarch victories; of a burnt Palatinate, as he toiled and moiled to make a little speck of this Earth greener; of Cevennes Dragoonings; of Marlborough going to the war. Four generations have bloomed out, and loved and hated, and rustled off: he was forty-six when Louis Fourteenth died. The Assembly, as one man, spontaneously rose, and did reverence to the Eldest of the World; old Jean is to take seance among them, honourably, with covered head. He gazes feebly there, with his old eyes, on that new wonder-scene; dreamlike to him, and uncertain, wavering amid fragments of old memories and dreams. For Time is all growing unsubstantial, dreamlike; Jean’s eyes and mind are weary, and about to close,—and open on a far other wonder-scene, which shall be real. Patriot Subscription, Royal Pension was got for him, and he returned home glad; but in two months more he left it all, and went on his unknown way. (Deux Amis, iv. iii.)
As in the Age of Gold.
Meanwhile to Paris, ever going and returning, day after day, and all day long, towards that Field of Mars, it becomes painfully apparent that the spadework there cannot be got done in time. There is such an area of it; three hundred thousand square feet: for from the Ecole militaire (which will need to be done up in wood with balconies and galleries) westward to the Gate by the river (where also shall be wood, in triumphal arches), we count same thousand yards of length; and for breadth, from this umbrageous Avenue of eight rows, on the South side, to that corresponding one on the North, some thousand feet, more or less.