Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Allons Enfants: Marchon!

Today we have another chance to celebrate independence, liberty, and equality:  Happy Bastille Day to us all!

I remember very few dates without having to look them up to be sure, but I do know that the storming of the Bastille happened in 1789--and by reversing those last 2 numbers, I can remember that Wordsworth and Coleridge published Lyrical Ballads in 1798.  I can make the case that both events forever shaped the future and for the better.

Here's a Wordsworth quote for your Bastille Day:

"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!—Oh! times,
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!"
If you want to read the whole poem, you can find it here.  Fair warning:  it will have too many exclamation marks for modern tastes.

I had to identify the first two lines and the event to which they referred during the subject area test of the GRE.  The question came early in the exam and gave me confidence.

I woke up this morning thinking about Wordsworth's enthusiasm and how so many people who saw themselves as revolutionaries during the late eighteenth century headed off to France to witness the birth of the new society--or simply, to fight.  I thought about how people wouldn't do that today--and then I thought of all sorts of people who have--most recently, those going off to fight with ISIS.  I think of them as poor deluded souls.  I suspect people said the same about Wordsworth and his compatriots.

I could trace the liberation movements of past decades directly back to the French Revolution.   Some of you will see this as a bad thing.  I do not.  I confess to seeing history through a lens that sees humanity marching towards ever greater liberation--which ultimately sets us free to be the best people we can be and sets the stage for greater possibilities for future generations.

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