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The Fall of Robespierre, Edited by Daniel E. White
< Act II


ACT III.

SCENE Continues.


Collot d'Herbois.

Caesar is fallen! The baneful tree of Java,
Whose death-distilling boughs dropt poisonous dew,
Is rooted from its base. This worse than Cromwell,
The austere, the self denying Robespierre,
Even in this hall, where once with terror mute
We listened to the hypocrite's harangues,
Has heard his doom.


Billaud Varennes.

                                            Yet must we not suppose
The tyrant will fall tamely. His sworn hireling
Henriot, the daring desperate Henriot

Commands the force of Paris. I denounce him.

Freron.

I denounce Fluriot too, the mayor of Paris.
 

Enter Dubois Crance.

 

Dubois Crance.

Robespierre is rescued. Henriot at the head
Of the arm'd force has rescued the fierce tyrant.
 

Collot d'Herbois.

Ring the tocsin–call all the citizens
To save their country–never yet has Paris
Forsook the representatives of France.
 

Tallien.

It is the hour of danger. I propose
This sitting be made permanent.

(Loud applauses.)
 

Collot d'Herbois.

The national Convention shall remain

10















NP

Firm at its post.
 

Enter a Messenger.

Messenger.

Robespierre has reach'd the Commune. They espouse
The tyrant's cause. St. Just is up in arms!
St. Just–the young ambitious bold St. Just
Harangues the mob. The sanguinary Couthon
Thirsts for your blood.

(Tocsin rings.)
 

Tallien.

These tyrants are in arms against the law:
Outlaw the rebels.
 

Enter Merlin of Douay.

Merlin.

Health to the representatives of France!
I past this moment through the armed force–

20



















NP

They ask'd my name–and when they heard a delegate,
Swore I was not the friend of France.
 

Collot d'Herbois.

The tyrants threaten us as when they turn'd
The cannon's mouth on Brissot.
 

Enter another Messenger.

Second Messenger.

Vivier harangues the Jacobins–the club
Espouse the cause of Robespierre.
 

Enter another Messenger.

Third Messenger.

All's lost–the tyrant triumphs. Henriot leads
The soldiers to his aid.––Already I hear
The rattling cannon destin'd to surround
This sacred hall.
 

Tallien.

                                    Why, we will die like men then.

30















NP

The representatives of France dare death,
When duty steels their bosoms.

(Loud applauses.)
 

Tallien addressing the galleries.

                                                                   Citizens!
France is insulted in her delegates–
The majesty of the republic is insulted–
Tyrants are up in arms. An armed force
Threats the Convention. The Convention swears
To die, or save the country!

(Violent applauses from the galleries.)
 

Citizen from above.

                                                        We too swear
To die, or save the country. Follow me.

(All the men quit the galleries.)
 

Enter another Messenger.

Fourth Messenger.

Henriot is taken!–

(Loud applauses.)

Henriot is taken. Three of your brave soldiers

40




















NP

Swore they would seize the rebel slave of tyrants,
Or perish in the attempt. As he patroll'd
The streets of Paris, stirring up the mob,
They seiz'd him.

(Applauses.)
 

Billaud Varennes.

                                  Let the names of these brave men
Live to the future day.
 

Enter Bourdon l'Oise sword in hand.

Bourdon l'Oise.

I have clear'd the Commune.

(Applauses.)

                                Through the throng I rush'd,
Brandishing my good sword to drench its blade
Deep in the tyrant's heart. The timid rebels
Gave way. I met the soldiery–I spake
Of the dictator's crimes–of patriots chain'd

50









NP

In dark deep dungeons by his lawless rage–
Of knaves secure beneath his fostering power.
I spake of Liberty. Their honest hearts
Caught the warm flame. The general shout burst forth,
"Live the Convention–Down with Robespierre!"

(Applauses.)
(Shouts from without–Down with the tyrant!)
 

Tallien.

I hear, I hear the soul-inspiring sounds,
France shall be saved! her generous sons attached
To principles, not persons, spurn the idol
They worshipp'd once. Yes, Robespierre shall fall
As Capet fell! Oh! never let us deem

60









NP

That France shall crouch beneath a tyrant's throne,
That the almighty people who have broke
On their oppressors heads the oppressive chain,
Will court again their fetters! easier were it
To hurl the cloud-capt mountain from its base,
Than force the bonds of slavery upon men
Determined to be free!

(Applauses.)
 

Enter LegendreA pistol in one hand. Keys in the other.

Legendre. Flinging down the keys.

So–let the mutinous Jacobins meet now
In the open air.

(Loud applauses.)

                                    A factious turbulent party
Lording it o'er the state since Danton died,

70








NP

And with him the Cordeliers.–A hireling band
Of loud-tongued orators controull'd the club,
And bade them bow the knee to Robespierre.
Vivier has 'scap'd me. Curse his coward heart–
This fate-fraught tube of Justice in my hand
I rush'd into the hall. He mark'd mine eye
That beam'd its patriot anger, and flash'd full
With death-denouncing meaning. 'Mid the throng
He mingled. I pursued–but staid my hand,
Lest haply I might shed the innocent blood.

(Applauses.)
 

Freron.

80

They took from me my ticket of admission–
Expell'd me from their sittings.–Now, forsooth,
Humbled and trembling re-insert my name.
But Freron enters not the club again
'Till it be purg'd of guilt–'till, purified
Of tyrants and of traitors, honest men
May breathe the air in safety.

(Shouts from without.)
 

Barrere.

What means this uproar! if the tyrant band
Should gain the people once again to rise–
We are as dead!
 

Tallien.

                                 And wherefore fear we death?

90 NP

Did Brutus fear it? or the Grecian friends
Who buried in Hipparchus breast the sword,
And died triumphant? Caesar should fear death,
Brutus must scorn the bugbear.

(Shouts from without. Live the Convention–Down with the Tyrants!)
 

Tallien.

                                                     Hark! again
The sounds of honest Freedom!
 

Enter Deputies from the Sections.

Citizen.

Citizens! representatives of France!
Hold on your steady course. The men of Paris
Espouse your cause. The men of Paris swear
They will defend the delegates of Freedom.
 

Tallien.

Hear ye this, Colleagues? hear ye this, my brethren?

100

And does no thrill of joy pervade your breasts?
My bosom bounds to rapture. I have seen
The sons of France shake off the tyrant yoke;
I have, as much as lies in mine own arm,
Hurl'd down the usurper.–Come death when it will
I have lived long enough.

(Shouts without.)
 

Barrere.

Hark! how the noise increases! through the gloom
Of the still evening–harbinger of death
Rings the tocsin! the dreadful generale
Thunders through Paris–

(Cry without–Down with the Tyrant!)
 

Enter Lecointre.

Lecointre.

110

So may eternal justice blast the foes
Of France! so perish all the tyrant brood,
As Robespierre has perished! Citizens,
Caesar is taken.

(Loud and repeated applauses.)

I marvel not, that with such fearless front,
He braved our vengeance, and with angry eye
Scowled round the hall defiance. He relied
On Henriot's aid–the Commune's villain friendship,
And Henriot's boughten succours. Ye have heard
How Henriot rescued him–how with open arms

120

The Commune welcom'd in the rebel tyrant–
How Fluriot aided, and seditious Vivier
Stirr'd up the Jacobins. All had been lost–
The representatives of France had perish'd–
Freedom had sunk beneath the tyrant arm
Of this foul parricide, but that her spirit
Inspir'd the men of Paris. Henriot call'd
"To arms" in vain, whilst Bourdon's patriot voice
Breath'd eloquence, and o'er the Jacobins
Legendre frown'd dismay. The tyrants fled–

130

They reach'd the Hotel. We gather'd round–we call'd
For vengeance! Long time, obstinate in despair
With knives they hack'd around them. 'Till foreboding
The sentence of the law, the clamorous cry
Of joyful thousands hailing their destruction,
Each sought by suicide to escape the dread
Of death. Lebas succeeded. From the window
Leapt the younger Robespierre, but his fractur'd limb
Forbade to escape. The self-will'd dictator
Plung'd often the keen knife in his dark breast,

140

Yet impotent to die. He lives all mangled
By his own tremulous hand! All gash'd and gored
He lives to taste the bitterness of death.
Even now they meet their doom. The bloody Couthon,
The fierce St. Just, even now attend their tyrant
To fall beneath the axe. I saw the torches
Flash on their visages a dreadful light–
I saw them whilst the black blood roll'd adown
Each stern face, even then with dauntless eye
Scowl round contemptuous, dying as they lived,

150

Fearless of fate!

(Loud and repeated applauses.)
 

Barrere mounts the Tribune.

For ever hallowed be this glorious day,
When Freedom, bursting her oppressive chain,
Tramples on the oppressor. When the tyrant
Hurl'd from his blood-cemented throne, by the arm
Of the almighty people, meets the death
He plann'd for thousands. Oh! my sickening heart
Has sunk within me, when the various woes
Of my brave country crowded o'er my brain
In ghastly numbers–when assembled hordes

160

Dragg'd from their hovels by despotic power
Rush'd o'er her frontiers, plunder'd her fair hamlets,
And sack'd her populous towns, and drench'd with

          blood
The reeking fields of Flanders.–When within,
Upon her vitals prey'd the rankling tooth
Of treason; and oppression, giant form,
Trampling on freedom, left the alternative
Of slavery, or of death. Even from that day,
When, on the guilty Capet, I pronounced
The doom of injured France, has faction reared

170

Her hated head amongst us. Roland preach'd
Of mercy–the uxorious dotard Roland,
The woman-govern'd Roland durst aspire
To govern France; and Petion talk'd of virtue,
And Vergniaud's eloquence, like the honeyed tongue
Of some soft Syren wooed us to destruction.
We triumphed over these. On the same scaffold
Where the last Louis pour'd his guilty blood,
Fell Brissot's head, the womb of darksome treasons,
And Orleans, villain kinsman of the Capet,

180

And Hebert's atheist crew, whose maddening hand
Hurl'd down the altars of the living God,
With all the infidels intolerance.
The last worst traitor triumphed–triumph'd long,
Secur'd by matchless villainy. By turns
Defending and deserting each accomplice
As interest prompted. In the goodly soil
Of Freedom, the foul tree of treason struck
Its deep-fix'd roots, and dropt the dews of death
On all who slumbered in its specious shade.

190

He wove the web of treachery. He caught
The listening crowd by his wild eloquence,
His cool ferocity that persuaded murder,
Even whilst it spake of mercy!–never, never
Shall this regenerated country wear
The despot yoke. Though myriads round assail,
And with worse fury urge this new crusade
Than savages have known; though the leagued despots
Depopulate all Europe, so to pour
The accumulated mass upon our coasts,

200

Sublime amid the storm shall France arise,
And like the rock amid surrounding waves
Repel the rushing ocean.–She shall wield
The thunder-bolt of vengeance–she shall blast
The despot's pride, and liberate the world!

 

FINIS.

210

 

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Published @ RC

March 2008

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