Erde mag zuruck in Erde
Fliegt der Geist doch aus dem morschen Haus.
Seine Asche mag der Sturmwind treiben,
Sein Leben dauert ewig aus!
(Earth may crumble back
into earth; the Spirit will still escape
from its frail tenement. The wind of the storm may scatter his
ashes; his being endures forever.)
To-morrow!—and it is already twilight. One after one, the gentle stars come smiling through the heaven. The Seine, in its slow waters, yet trembles with the last kiss of the rosy day; and still in the blue sky gleams the spire of Notre Dame; and still in the blue sky looms the guillotine by the Barriere du Trone. Turn to that time-worn building, once the church and the convent of the Freres-Precheurs, known by the then holy name of Jacobins; there the new Jacobins hold their club. There, in that oblong hall, once the library of the peaceful monks, assemble the idolaters of St. Robespierre. Two immense tribunes, raised at either end, contain the lees and dregs of the atrocious populace,—the majority of that audience consisting of the furies of the guillotine (furies de guillotine). In the midst of the hall are the bureau and chair of the president,—the chair long preserved by the piety of the monks as the relic of St. Thomas Aquinas! Above this seat scowls the harsh bust of Brutus. An iron lamp and two branches scatter over the vast room a murky, fuliginous ray, beneath the light of which the fierce faces of that Pandemonium seem more grim and haggard. There, from the orator’s tribune, shrieks the shrill wrath of Robespierre!
Meanwhile all is chaos, disorder, half daring and half cowardice, in the Committee of his foes. Rumours fly from street to street, from haunt to haunt, from house to house. The swallows flit low, and the cattle group together before the storm. And above this roar of the lives and things of the little hour, alone in his chamber stood he on whose starry youth—symbol of the imperishable bloom of the calm Ideal amidst the mouldering Actual—the clouds of ages had rolled in vain.
All those exertions which ordinary wit and courage could suggest had been tried in vain. All such exertions were in vain, where, in that Saturnalia of death, a life was the object. Nothing but the fall of Robespierre could have saved his victims; now, too late, that fall would only serve to avenge.
Once more, in that last agony of excitement and despair, the seer had plunged into solitude, to invoke again the aid or counsel of those mysterious intermediates between earth and heaven who had renounced the intercourse of the spirit when subjected to the common bondage of the mortal. In the intense desire and anguish of his heart, perhaps, lay a power not yet called forth; for who has not felt that the sharpness of extreme grief cuts and grinds away many of those strongest bonds of infirmity and doubt which bind down the souls of men to the cabined darkness of the hour; and that from the cloud and thunderstorm often swoops the Olympian eagle that can ravish us aloft!