A horrible majesty in the fierce aspect increases it terror, and renders it more superb. Red glow the eyes, and the aspect infected, like a baleful comet, with envenomed influences, glares around. A vast beard covers the chin—and, rough and thick, descends over the shaggy breast.—And like a profound gulf expand the jaws, foul with black gore.
Qui suis-je, moi qu’on
accuse? Un esclave de la Liberte, un
martyr vivant de la Republique.
—“Discours de Robespierre, 8 Thermidor.”
(Who am I,—I
whom they accuse? A slave of Liberty,—a
martyr for the Republic.)
It roars,—The River of Hell, whose first outbreak was chanted as the gush of a channel to Elysium. How burst into blossoming hopes fair hearts that had nourished themselves on the diamond dews of the rosy dawn, when Liberty came from the dark ocean, and the arms of decrepit Thraldom—Aurora from the bed of Tithon! Hopes! ye have ripened into fruit, and the fruit is gore and ashes! Beautiful Roland, eloquent Vergniaud, visionary Condorcet, high-hearted Malesherbes!—wits, philosophers, statesmen, patriots, dreamers! behold the millennium for which ye dared and laboured!
I invoke the ghosts! Saturn hath devoured his children ("La Revolution est comme Saturne, elle devorera tous ses enfans.”—Vergniaud.), and lives alone,—I his true name of Moloch!
It is the Reign of Terror, with Robespierre the king. The struggles between the boa and the lion are past: the boa has consumed the lion, and is heavy with the gorge,—Danton has fallen, and Camille Desmoulins. Danton had said before his death, “The poltroon Robespierre,—I alone could have saved him.” From that hour, indeed, the blood of the dead giant clouded the craft of “Maximilien the Incorruptible,” as at last, amidst the din of the roused Convention, it choked his voice. ("Le sang de Danton t’etouffe!” (the blood of Danton chokes thee!) said Garnier de l’Aube, when on the fatal 9th of Thermidor, Robespierre gasped feebly forth, “Pour la derniere fois, President des Assassins, je te demande la parole.” (For the last time, President of Assassins, I demand to speak.)) If, after that last sacrifice, essential, perhaps, to his safety, Robespierre had proclaimed the close of the Reign of Terror, and acted upon the mercy which Danton had begun to preach, he might have lived and died a monarch. But the prisons continued to reek,—the glaive to fall; and Robespierre perceived not that his mobs were glutted to satiety with death, and the strongest excitement a chief could give would be a return from devils into men.