Well, I forgot C.’s birthday last month, but I did remember what happened today, 215 years ago. How appropriate that the Danton film was released on DVD this past week, too.
I wish that I had something more interesting to write. For me, there’s such a persistent sense of life and rebirth at this time of year, which adds a quasi-spiritual element to the act of remembering the past. Forgive me for indulging my literary self, but I think that T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land most aptly describes the phenomenon:
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
And, later in the poem: “That corpse you planted last year in your garden, / Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?” The images that Eliot uses have always struck me for the unsettling combination of the morbid and the beautiful, and the yearning for a kind of resurrection.
Claretie, in his long biographical preface to the first volume of C.’s oeuvres, dedicates a footnote to a brief anecdote relating the experience of a certain J.-J. Dussault, who would apparently see the same bunch of lilacs sprouting near the guillotine “where he had seen Camille’s head fall” on the same date the previous year, only the flowers weren’t fully in bloom, as they were when C. died. “And every year, on April 5, Dussault went curiously, almost superstitiously, to see this bunch of lilacs, which he called Camille’s lilacs.”
I also think of how C. drew that comparison between himself with “sans-culotte Jesu.” He was attesting to his innocence, but I like to think of it as a promise that his memory would be resurrected and preserved after his death.
So, my little tribute ended up being more about C. than the others--sorry! The bottom line is, let’s raise our glasses in honor of some great characters, without whom there would be no basis for our historical obsession! ;)