The French Revolution, by Thomas Carlyle

Chapter 3

Black Cockades.

But fancy what effect this Thyestes Repast and trampling on the National Cockade, must have had in the Salle des Menus; in the famishing Bakers’-queues at Paris! Nay such Thyestes Repasts, it would seem, continue. Flandre has given its Counter–Dinner to the Swiss and Hundred Swiss; then on Saturday there has been another.

Yes, here with us is famine; but yonder at Versailles is food; enough and to spare! Patriotism stands in queue, shivering hungerstruck, insulted by Patrollotism; while bloodyminded Aristocrats, heated with excess of high living, trample on the National Cockade. Can the atrocity be true? Nay, look: green uniforms faced with red; black cockades, — the colour of Night! Are we to have military onfall; and death also by starvation? For behold the Corbeil Cornboat, which used to come twice a-day, with its Plaster-of-Paris meal, now comes only once. And the Townhall is deaf; and the men are laggard and dastard! — At the Cafe de Foy, this Saturday evening, a new thing is seen, not the last of its kind: a woman engaged in public speaking. Her poor man, she says, was put to silence by his District; their Presidents and Officials would not let him speak. Wherefore she here with her shrill tongue will speak; denouncing, while her breath endures, the Corbeil–Boat, the Plaster-of-Paris bread, sacrilegious Opera-dinners, green uniforms, Pirate Aristocrats, and those black cockades of theirs! —

Truly, it is time for the black cockades at least, to vanish. Them Patrollotism itself will not protect. Nay, sharp-tempered ‘M. Tassin,’ at the Tuileries parade on Sunday morning, forgets all National military rule; starts from the ranks, wrenches down one black cockade which is swashing ominous there; and tramples it fiercely into the soil of France. Patrollotism itself is not without suppressed fury. Also the Districts begin to stir; the voice of President Danton reverberates in the Cordeliers: People’s-Friend Marat has flown to Versailles and back again; — swart bird, not of the halcyon kind! (Camille’s Newspaper, Revolutions de Paris et de Brabant in Histoire Parlementaire, iii. 108.)

And so Patriot meets promenading Patriot, this Sunday; and sees his own grim care reflected on the face of another. Groups, in spite of Patrollotism, which is not so alert as usual, fluctuate deliberative: groups on the Bridges, on the Quais, at the patriotic Cafes. And ever as any black cockade may emerge, rises the many-voiced growl and bark: A bas, Down! All black cockades are ruthlessly plucked off: one individual picks his up again; kisses it, attempts to refix it; but a ‘hundred canes start into the air,’ and he desists. Still worse went it with another individual; doomed, by extempore Plebiscitum, to the Lanterne; saved, with difficulty, by some active Corps-de-Garde. — Lafayette sees signs of an effervescence; which he doubles his Patrols, doubles his diligence, to prevent. So passes Sunday, the 4th of October 1789.

Sullen is the male heart, repressed by Patrollotism; vehement is the female, irrepressible. The public-speaking woman at the Palais Royal was not the only speaking one:— Men know not what the pantry is, when it grows empty, only house-mothers know. O women, wives of men that will only calculate and not act! Patrollotism is strong; but Death, by starvation and military onfall, is stronger. Patrollotism represses male Patriotism: but female Patriotism? Will Guards named National thrust their bayonets into the bosoms of women? Such thought, or rather such dim unshaped raw-material of a thought, ferments universally under the female night-cap; and, by earliest daybreak, on slight hint, will explode.

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Last updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 21:30