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Sept 20 - 23, 2012

From the Diaries of Edmond de Goncourt

Description of National Guard
No Armistice!

“At three o’clock I was going through the gate at Etoile when I saw some troops marching past and stopped to look. The monument to our victories, lit by a ray of sunshine, the distant cannonade, the immense march-past, with the bayonets of the troops in the rear flashing beneath the obelisk, all this was something theatrical, lyrical, epic in nature. It was a grandiose, soul-stirring sight, that army marching towards the guns booming in the distance, an army with in its midst, gray-bearded civilians who were fathers, beardless youngsters who were sons, and in its open ranks women carrying their husband’s or their lover’s rifle slung across their backs. And it is impossible to convey the picturesque touch brought to the war by this citizen multitude escorted by cabs, unpainted omnibuses, and removal vans converted into army provision wagons.”
“You can see everybody performing the painful mental operation of accustoming the mind to the shameful idea of capitulation. Yet there are some strong-minded men and women who go on resisting. I have been told of some poor women who, even this morning, were shouting in the queues outside the baker’s shops: ‘Let them cut our ration again! We’re ready to suffer anything! But don’t let them surrender!”

The cannons lined up on Montmarte

A drawing of Parisians at a theatre to hear “La Canaille”

The communards in a tent outside a Parisian palace

Poster Advertising Tuileries Concert

Here at last is the singer we have been waiting for all evening: the most popular prima donna, the star of the show, la Bordas, magnificent in her flowing robe draped with a scarlet sash, her long hair framing her beautiful, broad face, her generous bosom half exposed, her arms bare. She stands like a warlike apparition ... a goddess of Liberty from the popular quartiers, born of the poet's imagination and of the people's too, whose ideal she personifies. Our statuesque idol moves slowly and majestically, her great eyes mesmerizing the audience, who follow her every gesture with rapt attention. In the folds of her robe she carries illusion, faith, hope, enthusiasm. Let her sing, let her sing the song that has made her famous. La Canaille [The Rabble], and every heart will beat in unison! La Canaille is the revolutionary anthem of modem times, a vindication, a glorification of the oppressed worker. Just as the Dutch rebels of the sixteenth century took the name of Beggars, with which the Spaniards reviled them, so the insurrectionists of the days of the Empire, the victims of the terror of June 1848, the men in overalls pledged to a hatred of the 'truncheon brigade', the grotesque fops of 1869, chose to calls themselves the Rabble, a name thrown in their face as the ultimate insult. One really must hear this anthem bellowed in la Bordas's formidable, brazen voice, with fierce passion and a fury that inflames the soul. She lends every line of the simple little song a warlike vigour and resonance; the proud refrain, They're the Rabble! Well - I'm one of them! unfurls from her tongue like a scarlet banderilla waved in front of a bull. She wraps herself in the folds of a red flag, pointing with outstretched arm to the invisible enemy, urging us to pursue him with our hatred and crush him mercilessly. The crowd is in raptures; they recognize in these wild strains their inspiration and their innermost feelings. They clap and stamp their feet, rise in frenzied applause, shouting 'Bravo! Encore!' The prima donna takes up the last verse once more.
Below are 3 photos of the communards' barricades in the streets of Paris

From The History of the Commune of 1871, by Prosper Olivier Lissagaray
Communard Justifies the Burning of Paris Republic, because they have chosen, in defence of their religion, their conscience and their ideals, fired with wild enthusiasm, to let themselves be buried under the ruins of Paris rather than surrender to a coalition of tyrants a thousand times more brutal and immovable than the foreign invader. What is patriotism if not the defence of our laws, our homes and our way of life against other gods, other laws, other ways of life that seek to impose themselves on us? For the people of Paris fighting for the Republic and for social reforms, Versailles, the feudal power, the exploiter of human misery, is just as much the enemy as the Prussians are, and as Napoleon I was for the Spaniards and the Russians...

The Tuileries el Basin, after it was bombed out in the aftermath of the Paris Commune

From The Red Virgin – Memoirs of Louise Michel, Lowry Gunter
Streets Dappled with White Chlorine

In May 1871 the streets of Paris were dappled white as if by apple blossoms in the spring. But no trees had cast down that mantle of white; it was chlorine that covered the corpses. Now, the ground was all white again, this time with snow.
On 28 November 1871, six months after the hot-blooded butchery had ended, the cold-blooded assassinations began.
The soldiers had become tired and perhaps their machine guns were breaking down. Now there would be an end to scenes of limbs half-covered with earth, an end to cries of agony coming from heaps of persons who had been summarily executed, an end to swallows dying poisoned by the flies that had been feeding in that enormous charnel house. Henceforth, murder would be done cold-bloodedly, in an orderly fashion.
We do not know the names of all those who died in the hunt and after. The enormous number of missing persons proves how minimal the official figures of the slaughter are. Sometimes now, in the corners of cellars, skeletons are found, and no one knows where they came from. People claim it is mysterious, but every out-of-the-way spot became a charnel house to the victory of the Versailles royalists.
And the plain of Satory. If it were excavated, corpses would be found there too. The royalists covered them with quicklime in vain, because plows will uncover them, and every stone upturned will reveal them. As I write these pages, those places are only boneyards. Fifteen years ago they were slaughterhouses. And down in the catacombs under Paris, where the government chased the Communards with torches and dogs as if they were animals, there must be many modern skeletons among the ancient bones. Betrayals so numerous they were nauseating, stupid fear, disgust, the horror—all this was the aftermath of the Commune.

The communards in one of their barricades on the street



  • Location: Emerson/Paramount Center Mainstage
  • Written By: Steven Cosson and Michael Friedman
  • Series: Pioneer
  • Ages: 14+
  • Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission