Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bastille day

Today is Bastille day in France, the national holiday, commemorating the 1789 uprising of the population that opened (and later destroyed) the hated Bastille prison in which the monarchy used to put political prisoners, and also the 1790 feast of the federation. From now on until Assumption day on August 15 (a Catholic holy day that it also a French public holiday), it is peak vacation time.

It was declared the national holiday in 1880, and then the official report to the Senate said: "Le 14 juillet 1790 est le plus beau jour de l’histoire de France, et peut-être de toute l’histoire. C’est en ce jour qu’a été enfin accomplie l’unité nationale, préparée par les efforts de tant de générations et de tant de grands hommes, auxquels la postérité garde un souvenir reconnaissant. Fédération, ce jour-là, a signifié unité volontaire.
Elles ont passé trop vite, ces heures où tous les coeurs français ont battu d’un seul élan ; mais les terribles années qui ont suivi n’ont pu effacer cet immortel souvenir, cette prophétie d’un avenir qu’il appartient à nous et à nos fils de réaliser."

My quick-and-dirty translation: July 14, 1790, was the most beautiful day of French history, and maybe of all of history. On that day was finally accomplished the national unity prepared by the efforts of many generations and of many great men, to whom we are grateful. Federation, on that day, meant consensual unity. Those hours when all French hearts beat together passed by too fast, but the terrible years that followed could not erase that immortal memory, that prophecy of a future that is now our duty, for us and for the next generations, to transform into reality.

Now it sounds so quaint, and a little bit ridiculous. Were they really so naive? So idealistic? One wonders what 19th century politicians would think of the style of 21st century political speeches.

1 comment:

  1. I spent Bastille day at Versailles, seeing Louis XIV's favorite opera, and sipping (lots) of champagne. Talk about irony! ;-)


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