Monday, May 02, 2005

Exerpt from Les Miserables

Reading Les Miserables. I like so much of it, but this is one quote I read to Bill the other night, and we agreed that it needed to be copied down somewhere. So where better than here?

"Savage. We must explain this word. What was the aim of those bristling men who in the demiurgic days of revolutionary chaos, tattered, howling, wild, with cudgel raised and pike aloft, rushed over old overturned Paris? They wanted the end of oppressions, the end of tyrannies, the end of the sword, work for man, education for children, an amenable social climate for women, liberty, equality, fraternity, bread for all, ideas for all; the Edenization of the world, Progress. Pushed to the limit and beside themselves, terrible, half-naked, a club in their hands and a roar in their mouths, they demanded this holy, good, and gentle thing, progress. They were savages, yes, but the savages of civilization.

They proclaimed the right furiously; they wanted, even if through fear and trembling, to force the human race into paradise. They seemed barbarians, and they were saviors. With the mask of night they demanded the light.

In contrast with these men, wild, we admit, and terrible, but wild and terrible for the good, there are other men, smiling, embroidered, gilded, beribboned, in silk stockings, in white feathers, in yellow gloves, in polished shoes, who, leaning on a velvet table beside a marble mantel, softly insist on the maintenance and preservation of the past, the Middle Ages, divine right, fanaticism, ignorance, slavery, the death penalty, and war, glorifying politely and in mild tones the saber, the stake, and the scaffold. As for us, if we were compelled to choose between the barbarians of civilization and the civil advocates of barbarism, we would choose the barbarians. "

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