Jules Vallès 1871

The Dead

First Published: Le Cri du Peuple, Saturday April 8, 1871;
Source: Jules Vallès, Le Cri du Peuple. Editeurs Français Réunis, Paris, 1953;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2005.

The people who today saw our dead pass by will never forgive! Between them and the killers there is an abyss of hatred and fear dug as deep as the enormous pit into which the corpses were lowered.

The very ones who were frightened by the red flags that floated over the black catafalques will remember the ominous burial of April 6, and the men of Versailles, whatever may happen, will live cloaked in a silent and somber reprobation that will follow them, too, to the cemetery – whether they arrive by the glorious route of the Capitol, or arrive mutilated from the Tarpeian rocks!

Not a cry could be heard above that crowd that rolled like a black and silent river on all sides of the hearses, but everywhere could be heard the murmuring of a horrible, deliberate, and threatening pain.

If the men of Versailles had seen this convoy pass by they would have been seized either by a silent fear or an immense regret! On the path followed by the mortuary cart a curse will forever rise up against them – a formless and disarmed revolt, but one that will blow upon their dishonored faces like the sigh of a breeze of death!

The more corpses you pile up, and the more triumphs like this one come your way, the longer will be the lament and the more horribly it will weigh upon this mass grave!

Revolutionary hope remains alive even in our mourning!

But pale mothers could be found there, bowed over cut-off biers that had been guillotined by saws so that the heads of the dead could be seen.

One of these mothers had found her son. Another didn’t know if she recognized hers in a pile of broken, eyeless, toothless flesh that bled black on the white wood!

Twenty of them were laid out like that! Some in the shirts of the poor, frayed and full of holes; others had fine clothes. Plebeian and bourgeois mixed together in the sepulcher as they had been in combat!

Even as we were leaving more arrived in the straw at the bottom of a bus!

Perhaps tomorrow even more will be brought, ten times more!

Nevertheless, the music of the bugles gave chills today! How sad and heart-rending; it seemed to sound for the living as well as the dead!

Père Lachaise is a cemetery, but Paris is a tomb where they’ll be buried alive if they’re victorious, and which will refuse their cadavers if they are defeated!

Tonight the bayonets glistened hard and somber under the gray sky, and there were flashes of terrible sadness in the tearless eyes!