For the French Revolution

Oh, this shall tell the tale of France’s past: the revolution brought in ‘eighty nine,
when Frenchmen took a stand and rose, amassed, against the king from ocean to the Rhine.
Before its start existed three estates: the first, the clergy; next, nobility;
and third, who shouldered taxes yet their state was subjugated by the monarchy.
They starved, while Antoinette, the queen, would feast and Louis lived in splendor in Versailles;
thus, peasantry and bourgeoisie both ceased to be content, and ceasing to comply.

Defiance of the order of before—though men still split on just how far to go—
then coupled with Enlightenment uproar, with poverty like powder kegs to blow,
and Parlement’s refusal to reform, “defending nobles from the king’s decrees,”
or so they said, inflamed the coming storm of royal expenditures yet unfreed
from borrowing finance for costly fights. The debt reached astronomical amounts,
so on the verge of utter fiscal plight, the Estates-General was called to mount.

Components of three groups of delegates were liberal, disliked advantage so
Cahiers de doléances by advocates were drafted throughout France to put a close
to privileges of nobles and the Church below one constitution to revive
the country. Now, there was an argued search for whether votes by head or order’d thrive.
The second would assist aristocrats, so patriots opposed this way and said
that double represented, the format to aid the Third Estate would be by head.

In June of ‘eighty-nine the Third Estate declared themselves—without the king’s consent—
a National Assembly. On the date the twentieth, they met for the event
that took place on a tennis court, the oath to meet until a constitution’s draft
yet Louis loathed the revolution’s growth and jeopardized the lawyers’ handicraft.
But they were saved, however, by revolts of commoners who quarreled with the rich;
the storming of a fortress chained and bolt: Bastille, showed royal power hit a hitch.

The king’s capitulation to demands, triumphs against the despot who had ruled
sparked more rebellions across the land as peasants and militias both were fueled.
The National Assembly now had aims to rid old feudalism from their realm,
destroy seigneurial design and tame the peasants, bring back order at the helm.
they made a Declaration for the Rights of Man and Citizen, to outline liberties,
remove privilege, resist oppression and restrict rule of the weakened monarchy.

The king, meanwhile, cowered in his house, so crowds of women marched—demanding bread—
up to his doorstep, so he and his spouse returned, Assembly ruling in his stead
in Paris, where insurgents would hold sway increasingly in politics. The Church
The Civil Constitution made its prey; but on it, counterrevolution perched.
A new Assembly—Legislative—had a system of election which comprised
the government: the higher taxes clad a man, the higher his opinion was prized.

In this new rule of districts and communes that favored lawyers and the bourgeoisie,
the Radicals and discontent were strewn—such as the Jacobins—across Paris.
The government’s financial crisis held so Louis tried to flee from France but failed;
and in this time, the people’s trust was felled. The men of property’s attempts had ailed
as other European states prepared that revolution’d spread to nations outside France;
so France dueled Austria and poorly fared so scapegoats made, in politics, askance.

The Paris Commune, sans-culottes, received the power transferred from the legislates.
A National Convention to conceive a constitution, also ruled the state.
While Austria and Prussia both advanced on Paris, this convention took its strides
to crush the king; Republican now, France was split; Girondins, Mountain were the sides.
The Mountain, radicals, used guillotine to cut the king’s head off for treason—and
the Commune did the same for Girondins so radical Mountains now would command.

But soon, they faced revolt in both Vendée—where draft was loathed and king and church revered—
and cities such as Lyons and Marseilles where decentralization was held dear.
Domestically, this strife was partnered by a foreign threat from all of Europe’s crowns
so crisis rose, and to combat this, why, a Public Safety Committee, they found
solutions through the guidance of these twelve! One which was Robespierre, and with him they
did mobilize, in arms, the nation’s selves, to make a first of “people’s” wars today.

And in the air of discontent at home, the Reign of Terror by Committee dawned
as courts of revolution, they would comb through France for “traitors” to their paragon
of revolution: royalists en masse, the peasants, rebels, fifty-thousand dead,
this terror indiscriminate by class; Lyons and Vendée—brutally they bled.
But bloodletting by guillotine and gun was temporary, for a greater goal
of the Republic of Virtue when won. (The “people’s will” was in the twelve’s control.)

Now, other policies were taking place during this time: the Law of General Max,
de-Christianizing, wiping every trace of Catholicism—no more saints, just “facts”
as France’s calendar was born anew: from revolution’s date the years began,
the days reordered, months named how plants grew; this symbolized a novel age at hand.
With war won, Commune also turned against the Radicals, including Robespierre,
to end this stage but shunned the more incensed, though they’d accomplished much in their warfare.

With Robespierre dead, fervor nearly gone, and National Convention moderate,
the Thermidorean Reaction spawned: now laissez-faire, conservative, they split
the legislation into chambers two—five-hundred and two-fifty was the count—
above them, five directors in a crew dependent on the army—paramount.
And in these years of gilded youth and spite division still sparked conflict—royalists
who wanted king-dom back were on the right; and on the left the Jacobins’d persist.

From here on out, with military spine Napoleon would coup, take helm to rule:
but revolution ended in a sign—with bloodshed and the government a tool
over these years the nation transformed much—that this revolt had hastened total war,
ideals of nationalism, pride and such. Its ideologies diffused like spores;
the liberté, égalité, and last fraternité, inspired overseas!
And though this revolution may have passed, its patriots went down in history.



Claire He is an 11th grade student at Carmel High School, Indiana. 

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5 Responses

  1. Paul Freeman

    Wow, Claire. What a massive achievement your historical poem is.

    I salute your great effort and will read again at my leisure.

    The rhyme scheme with rhymes half way between lines makes me wonder why you didn’t go for an ABAB rhyme scheme and make the text less dense-looking – though the poem would have been twice as long.

    That aside, good job and thanks for the read.

  2. Paul Buchheit

    Claire, this is a remarkable history of the French Revolution in one poem! Thank you!

  3. bob rosenthal

    i read your poem out loud to my mother
    she is a phd in russian linguistics and holds this in regard. if something doesn’t fit the rules she learned for art, unasailable they may be, she can’t sense more than that. or won’t.

    i found the poem groundbreaking. if the substance of what is being said is laid out clearly and in a concrete form, i see no problem with whatever form that is. to me it’s just as good. it’s neither trite, imitating, nor mayhemic. but authentic. i think that’s as good as good is.

  4. Adam Wasem

    So meaty and dense! What an impressive effort! It’s a gargantuan task, trying to make sense of complex historical events without simplifying, but yours is as well done as I’ve seen. I appreciate you letting the events and intrigues speak for themselves, and doing your best to trace and track as much as possible sans easy moralizing. French history buffs deserve poems too, though I don’t know if many others are going to make their way through it, especially with some of the sacrifices in grammar you’ve made for the meter’s sake. I’ve been a reader and writer most of my life, and I had trouble following your gist. It also doesn’t help comprehension that you use 10-beat iambic rhymed lines; frankly, I think 10-beat iambic lines are just too long. I don’t even know what 10-beat iambic verse is called, and there’s a good reason for that. 10 feet is too long for the reader to retain a rhyme from a previous line, the rhyme just gets lost. It’s undoubtedly a tour-de-force, but definitely not one for the masses.

  5. Morrison Handley-Schachler

    Brilliant work, Claire. This is very well written and full of information which will prompt people to learn more. You also make good use of rhyme to make it more memorable.


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