Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey
ACT IIScene—The Convention.
Robespierre Mounts the Tribune. Once more befits it that the voice of Truth,
2Fearless in innocence, though leaguered round
3By Envy and her hateful brood of hell,
4Be heard amid this hall; once more befits
5The patriot, whose prophetic eye so oft
6Has pierced thro' faction's veil, to flash on crimes
7Of deadliest import. Mouldering in the grave
8Sleeps Capet's caitiff corse; my daring hand
9Levelled to earth his blood-cemented throne,
10My voice declared his guilt, and stirred up France
11To call for vengeance. I too dug the grave
12Where sleep the Girondists, detested band!
13Long with the shew of freedom they abused
14Her ardent sons. Long time the well-turn'd phrase,
15The high-fraught sentence and the lofty tone
pg 50416Of declamation, thunder'd in this hall,
17Till reason midst a labyrinth of words
18Perplex'd, in silence seem'd to yield assent.
19I durst oppose. Soul of my honoured friend,
20Spirit of Marat, upon thee I call—
21Thou know'st me faithful, know'st with what warm zeal
22I urg'd the cause of justice, stripp'd the mask
23From faction's deadly visage, and destroy'd
24Her traitor brood. Whose patriot arm hurl'd down
25Hébert and Rousin, and the villain friends
26Of Danton, foul apostate! those, who long
27Mask'd treason's form in liberty's fair garb,
28Long deluged France with blood, and durst defy
29Omnipotence! but I it seems am false!
30I am a traitor too! I—Robespierre!
31I—at whose name the dastard despot brood
32Look pale with fear, and call on saints to help them!
33Who dares accuse me? who shall dare belie
34My spotless name? Speak, ye accomplice band,
35Of what am I accus'd? of what strange crime
36Is Maximilian Robespierre accus'd,
37That through this hall the buz of discontent
38Should murmur? who shall speak?
Billaud Varennes. O patriot tongue
39Belying the foul heart! Who was it urg'd
40Friendly to tyrants that accurst decree,
41Whose influence brooding o'er this hallowed hall,
42Has chill'd each tongue to silence? Who destroyed
43The freedom of debate, and carried through
44The fatal law, that doom'd the delegates,
45Unheard before their equals, to the bar
46Where cruelty sat throned, and murder reign'd
47With her Dumas coequal? Say—thou man
48Of mighty eloquence, whose law was that?49
Couthon. That law was mine. I urged it—I propos'd—
50The voice of France assembled in her sons
51Assented, though the tame and timid voice
52Of traitors murmur'd. I advis'd that law—
53I justify it. It was wise and good.54
Barrere. Oh, wonderous wise and most convenient too!
55I have long mark'd thee, Robespierre—and now
56Proclaim thee traitor—tyrant! [Loud applauses.
Robespierre. It is well.
pg 50557I am a traitor! oh, that I had fallen
58When Regnault lifted high the murderous knife,
59Regnault the instrument belike of those
60Who now themselves would fain assassinate,
61And legalise their murders. I stand here
62An isolated patriot—hemmed around
63By faction's noisy pack; beset and bay'd
64By the foul hell-hounds who know no escape
65From Justice' outstretch'd arm, but by the force
66That pierces through her breast.[Murmurs, and shouts of—Down with the Tyrant!67
Robespierre. Nay, but I will be heard. There was a time
68When Robespierre began, the loud applauses
69Of honest patriots drown'd the honest sound.
70But times are chang'd, and villainy prevails.71
Collot D'Herbois. No—villainy shall fall. France could not brook
72A monarch's sway—sounds the dictator's name
73More soothing to her ear?
Bourdon L'Oise. Rattle her chains
74More musically now than when the hand
75Of Brissot forged her fetters; or the crew
76Of Hébert thundered out their blasphemies,
77And Danton talk'd of virtue?
Robespierre. Oh, that Brissot
78Were here again to thunder in this hall,
79That Hébert lived, and Danton's giant form
80Scowl'd once again defiance! so my soul
81Might cope with worthy foes.
People of France,
82Hear me! Beneath the vengeance of the law
83Traitors have perish'd countless; more survive:
84The hydra-headed faction lifts anew
85Her daring front, and fruitful from her wounds,
86Cautious from past defects, contrives new wiles
87Against the sons of Freedom,
Tallien. Freedom lives!
88Oppression falls—for France has felt her chains,
89Has burst them too. Who traitor-like stept forth
90Amid the hall of Jacobins to save
91Camille Desmoulins, and the venal wretch
Robespierre. pg 506I did—for I thought them honest.
93And Heaven forefend that Vengeance e'er should strike,
94Ere justice doom'd the blow.
Barrere. Traitor, thou didst.
95Yes, the accomplice of their dark designs,
96Awhile didst thou defend them, when the storm
97Lower'd at safe distance. When the clouds frown'd darker,
98Fear'd for yourself and left them to their fate.
99Oh, I have mark'd thee long, and through the veil
100Seen thy foul projects. Yes, ambitious man,
101Self-will'd dictator o'er the realm of France,
102The vengeance thou hast plann'd for patriots
103Falls on thy head. Look how thy brother's deeds
104Dishonour thine! He the firm patriot,
105Thou the foul parricide of Liberty!106
Robespierre Junior. Barrere—attempt not meanly to divide
107Me from my brother. I partake his guilt,
108For I partake his virtue.
Robespierre. Brother, by my soul,
109More dear I hold thee to my heart, that thus
110With me thou dar'st to tread the dangerous path
111Of virtue, than that Nature twined her cords
112Of kindred round us.
Barrere. Yes, allied in guilt,
113Even as in blood ye are. O, thou worst wretch,
114Thou worse than Sylla! hast thou not proscrib'd,
115Yea, in most foul anticipation slaughter'd
116Each patriot representative of France?117
Bourdon L'Oise. Was not the younger Caesar too to reign
118O'er all our valiant armies in the south,
119And still continue there his merchant wiles?120
Robespierre Junior. His merchant wiles! Oh, grant me patience, heaven!
121Was it by merchant wiles I gain'd you back
122Toulon, when proudly on her captive towers
123Wav'd high the English flag? or fought I then
124With merchant wiles, when sword in hand I led
125Your troops to conquest? fought I merchant-like,
126Or barter'd I for victory, when death
127Strode o'er the reeking streets with giant stride,
128And shook his ebon plumes, and sternly smil'd
129Amid the bloody banquet? when appall'd
130The hireling sons of England spread the sail
pg 507131Of safety, fought I like a merchant then?
132Oh, patience! patience!
Bourdon L'Oise. How this younger tyrant
133Mouths out defiance to us! even so
134He had led on the armies of the south,
135Till once again the plains of France were drench'd
136With her best blood.
Collot D'Herbois. Till once again display'd
137Lyons' sad tragedy had call'd me forth
138The minister of wrath, whilst slaughter by
139Had bathed in human blood.
Dubois Crancé. No wonder, friend,
140That we are traitors—that our heads must fall
141Beneath the axe of death! when Caesar-like
142Reigns Robespierre, 'tis wisely done to doom
143The fall of Brutus. Tell me, bloody man,
144Hast thou not parcell'd out deluded France,
145As it had been some province won in fight,
146Between your curst triumvirate? You, Couthon,
147Go with my brother to the southern plains;
148St. Just, be yours the army of the north;
149Meantime I rule at Paris.
Robespierre. Matchless knave!
150What—not one blush of conscience on thy cheek—
151Not one poor blush of truth! most likely tale!
152That I who ruined Brissot's towering hopes,
153I who discover'd Hébert's impious wiles,
154And sharp'd for Danton's recreant neck the axe,
155Should now be traitor! had I been so minded,
156Think ye I had destroyed the very men
157Whose plots resembled mine? bring forth your proofs
158Of this deep treason. Tell me in whose breast
159Found ye the fatal scroll? or tell me rather
160Who forg'd the shameless falsehood?
Collot D'Herbois. Ask you proofs?
161Robespierre, what proofs were ask'd when Brissot died?162
Legendre. What proofs adduced you when the Danton died?
163When at the imminent peril of my life
164I rose, and fearless of thy frowning brow,
165Proclaim'd him guiltless?
Robespierre. I remember well
166The fatal day. I do repent me much
167That I kill'd Caesar and spar'd Antony.
pg 508168But I have been too lenient. I have spared
169The stream of blood, and now my own must flow
170To fill the current.[Loud applauses.
Triumph not too soon,
171Justice may yet be victor.Enter St. Just, and mounts the Tribune.172
St. just. I come from the Committee—charged to speak
173Of matters of high import. I omit
174Their orders. Representatives of France,
175Boldly in his own person speaks St. Just
176What his own heart shall dictate.
Tallien. Hear ye this,
177Insulted delegates of France? St. Just
178From your Committee comes—comes charg'd to speak
179Of matters of high import, yet omits
180Their orders! Representatives of France,
181That bold man I denounce, who disobeys
182The nation's orders.—I denounce St. Just. [Loud applauses.183
St. just. Hear me![Violent murmurs.
Robespierre. He shall be heard!184
Bourdon L'Oise. Must we contaminate this sacred hall
185With the foul breath of treason?
Collot D'Herbois. Drag him away!
186Hence with him to the bar.
Couthon. Oh, just proceedings!
187Robespierre prevented liberty of speech—
188And Robespierre is a tyrant! Tallien reigns,
189He dreads to hear the voice of innocence—
190And St. Just must be silent!
Legendre. Heed we well
191That justice guide our actions. No light import
192Attends this day. I move St. Just be heard.193
Freron. Inviolate be the sacred right of man.
194The freedom of debate. [Violent applauses.195
St. just. I may be heard then! much the times are chang'd,
196When St. Just thanks this hall for hearing him.
197Robespierre is call'd a tyrant. Men of France,
198Judge not too soon. By popular discontent
199Was Aristides driven into exile,
200Was Phocion murder'd. Ere ye dare pronounce
pg 509201Robespierre is guilty, it befits ye well,
202Consider who accuse him. Tallien,
203Bourdon of Oise—the very men denounced,
204For that their dark intrigues disturb'd the plan
205Of government. Legendre the sworn friend
206Of Danton, fall'n apostate. Dubois Crancé,
207He who at Lyons spared the royalists —
Bourdon L'Oise. What—shall the traitor rear
209His head amid our tribune—and blaspheme
210Each patriot? shall the hireling slave of faction—211
St. just. I am of no one faction. I contend
212Against all factions.
Tallien. I espouse the cause
213Of truth. Robespierre on yester morn pronounced
214Upon his own authority a report.
215To-day St. Just comes down. St. Just neglects
216What the Committee orders, and harangues
217From his own will. O citizens of France
218I weep for you—I weep for my poor country—
219I tremble for the cause of Liberty,
220When individuals shall assume the sway,
221And with more insolence than kingly pride
222Rule the Republic.223
Billaud Varennes. Shudder, ye representatives of France,
224Shudder with horror. Henriot commands
225The marshall'd force of Paris. Henriot,
226Foul parricide—the sworn ally of Hébert,
227Denounced by all—upheld by Robespierre.
228Who spar'd La Valette? who promoted him,
229Stain'd with the deep dye of nobility?
230Who to an ex-peer gave the high command?
231Who screen'd from justice the rapacious thief?
232Who cast in chains the friends of Liberty?
233Robespierre, the self-stil'd patriot Robespierre—
234Robespierre, allied with villain Daubigné—
235Robespierre, the foul arch-tyrant Robespierre.236
Bourdon L'Oise. He talks of virtue—of morality—
237Consistent patriot! he Daubigné's friend!
238Henriot's supporter virtuous! preach of virtue,
239Yet league with villains, for with Robespierre
240Villains alone ally. Thou art a tyrant!
241I stile thee tyrant, Robespierre! [Loud applauses.242
Robespierre. pg 510Take back the name. Ye citizens of France—[Violent clamour. Cries of—Down with the Tyrant!243
Tallien. Oppression falls. The traitor stands appall'd—
244Guilt's iron fangs engrasp his shrinking soul—
245He hears assembled France denounce his crimes!
246He sees the mask torn from his secret sins—
247He trembles on the precipice of fate.
248Fall'n guilty tyrant! murder'd by thy rage
249How many an innocent victim's blood has stain'd
250Fair freedom's altar! Sylla-like thy hand
251Mark'd down the virtues, that, thy foes removed,
252Perpetual Dictator thou might'st reign,
253And tyrannize o'er France, and call it freedom!
254Long time in timid guilt the traitor plann'd
255His fearful wiles—success emboldened sin—
256And his stretch'd arm had grasp'd the diadem
257Ere now, but that the coward's heart recoil'd,
258Lest France awak'd should rouse her from her dream,
259And call aloud for vengeance. He, like Caesar,
260With rapid step urged on his bold career,
261Even to the summit of ambitious power,
262And deem'd the name of King alone was wanting.
263Was it for this we hurl'd proud Capet down?
264Is it for this we wage eternal war
265Against the tyrant horde of murderers,
266The crowned cockatrices whose foul venom
267Infects all Europe? was it then for this
268We swore to guard our liberty with life,
269That Robespierre should reign? the spirit of freedom
270Is not yet sunk so low. The glowing flame
271That animates each honest Frenchman's heart
272Not yet extinguish'd. I invoke thy shade,
273Immortal Brutus! I too wear a dagger;
274And if the representatives of France,
275Through fear or favour, should delay the sword
276Of justice, Tallien emulates thy virtues;
277Tallien, like Brutus, lifts the avenging arm;
278Tallien shall save his country.[Violent applauses.
Billaud Varennes. I demand
279The arrest of all the traitors. Memorable
280Will be this day for France.
Robespierre. Yes! Memorable
281This day will be for France—for villains triumph.282
Lebas. pg 511I will not share in this day's damning guilt.
283Condemn me too. [Great cry—Down with the Tyrants!(The two Robespierres, Couthon, St. Just, and Lebas are led off.)