poetry = nonsense
nonsense = meaninglessness
meaninglessness = void
void = nothingness
nothingness = spirit

What prisons men inhabit in their love of the mythical Lady Liberty! And what laughter in Father Legend's breast at Schiller's challenge: Seid umschlungen Millionen! The guillotine, professing blindness discriminated rather well between red and blue Its sharp blade sought the light but managed merely to exchange one darkness for another Thus the sweet irony of Marie-Antoinette's legacy: that whilst men fatten up on sugary delusion she remains queen! [24 V 2009]
- exegesis -

I named the piece after the year of the French Revolution, for it was to that unfortunate event that we can trace the origin of an unholy trinity of illusions responsible for much of our modern world-view: Liberté, Fraternité et Egalité (Liberty, Fraternity and Equality).

the first stanza laments the imprisonment implicit in acknowledging freedom, but it's a little tongue-in-cheek since neither really exists.

the second stanza addresses the hopelessness of men's brotherhood. Friedrich Schiller was the German poet whose writings Beethoven used as lyrics for his 9th symphony. The line "Seid umschlungen Millionen!" is a command to the millions (of men) to be in each others' embrace - the sort of thing that can only happen in legend.

the third stanza refers to the purported ideal of equality amongst men (i.e. blindness to the colour of their skin or blood) - which clearly the vengeance of the masses failed to live up to, given its preference for the blue blood of nobility vis-à-vis the red blood of the peasantry.

the fourth stanza points out that the revolution sadly served as a betrayal of the very notions it ushered into the world, which the sanity of the Enlightenment period preceding it might have properly nurtured.

the final stanza plays on the words attributed to the queen: "let them eat cake!" which referred to her insouciance with respect to the starvation of her subjects. the word she actually used (brioche) is generally translated as "cake" (which in our understanding is sweet) but the reference was actually to the burnt-out scraps left in ovens after baking bread. thus the irony is that in continuing to obey her command (eating cake - the sweet delusions of the revolution) we remain her subjects.

Copyright © 2011 Erick Calder
All Rights Reserved
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