Sylvain Maréchal 1793

The Festival of Reason
(An Opera in One Act)

Performed by the National Opera on sextidi of the first decade of Nivose, the second year of the Republic.

A month after the large scale Festival of Reason, Maréchal’s opera, with music by the most important of revolutionary composers, André Grétry, was performed at the Opera National.

Source: Sylvain Maréchal, La Fete de la Raison. Paris, C-F Patris, Year II (1793);
Translated: for by Mitch Abidor 2005;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2005.

Scene One
(Lisis, The Mayor)

Lisis: Everything announces a calm day, worthy of the festival

The Mayor: My son! We don’t have much time. Have you taken care of everything?

Lisis: The girls of the hamlet advance;

We have been preparing,
We have been awake since before the dawn,
And our elders have been asked to select the loveliest face
To represent Reason,
And I hope that their votes will crown the tender-hearted Alison

Song: My father, can you conceive
The drunkenness of my heart
If my tender shepherdess
Were to have the honors of the day,
Yes, love owes this price to my patriotism
From its lessons I've taken much;
Enemy of all tyranny,
I adore liberty.
My father, can you conceive...

Scene Two
(The preceding actors and a Municipal Officer)

Municipal Officer: Friend, this is a great step
We are about to take.
But if to the necessary heights
The citizens are not...

Mayor: We will set them on the march...We have too long been silent

Municipal officer: Perhaps the people still need charlatans;
Sacred prejudices still have their partisans
Who mutter softly in the shadow of the mysteries.


Officer: Perhaps the people still need charlatans

Mayor: No, no, prejudices no longer have any partisans

Officer: They'll softly speak in the shadow of the mysteries

Mayor: They'll speak so softly that it will be the same as being silent

Mayor: The time has come! Let us break the unworthy tie
That has held the spirit in a shameful delirium.
The moment has come to dare everything, to say everything
No, no, error serves no good.

Officer: Tell me, what will we put in place of priests?

Mayor: Good magistrates who aren’t liars

Officer: And in the place of the gods so feared by our ancestors?

Mayor: Wise laws, good morals...
Our hearts will render us masters of opinion.
Let us tear away the blindfold
That the people insist on keeping;
Take the axe or the flame
To the root,
And smash the playthings
That wound the hands of childhood.

Officer: The fanaticism that we offend
Will allow itself all evil deeds.
Fear all from the priest that we unmask. You know
That he is skilled at avenging himself

Mayor: I am at peace.
In order to solidify freedom
I would give my blood, my whole existence.
I want to give my life as well for the defense
Of august truth.

Trio: (The Mayor, his son, the Municipal officer)

Against fanaticism
Against despotism
We swear to league ourselves.
Holy truth,
Holy liberty
Swear we three
To make their laws triumph
Within these city walls
Or all three to perish.

The Mayor (to his son): But let nothing transpire:
We must guard secrecy until the prescribed moment

Lisis: Our priest doesn’t know what to say about all this.
Don’t dread the indiscrete

Scene III

The mayor: Approach, young citizen maidens
To celebrate Reason’s Day.
This festival is right for republicans...
Elders, give us the name of the wisest one.

The Oldest of the Elders: Citizens, listen well...Modest Alison,
Who three years ago lost her mother,
Alison fulfills this role for her whole family.
She is the support of her father,
And makes reign in her household
Order, peace, the morality of the ancients
And patriotic virtues...
Appear, wise and beautiful Alison
And serve this day as the emblem of Reason.

Chorus of Village Women (softly): We all render homage
To her virtues
Despite her modest refusal.
The whole village proclaims her the wisest.
We all render homage to her virtues.

Mayor: It is for Alison, kind companions
Nascent flowers of our fields!
Go prepare in silence
For the new festival
That the village, faithful to virtue,
Shall celebrate.

Scene IV

Lisis (Song): Alison has the prize. How sweet it is to me
To adore Reason under the charm of her graces!
Tender object of my heart! Ah, how sweet it is to me
To see
That in attaching myself to your steps
I still find myself on the path of duty!
Alison has the prize. How sweet it is to me
To adore Reason under the charm of her grace!
On all sides people are going to church,
Mothers arrive walking slowly.
Let us go enjoy their surprise
At the spectacle that awaits them.

Scene V

The Village Mothers

A Woman: Neighbor! The door is closed...

Another woman: Yet today is Sunday

Another woman (looking at the clock): And it’s the usual hour.

Another: Our priest has fallen back to sleep.

Chorus: Knock on the door.
Mister priest,
Are you sleeping?
Open the church, then! Are you an émigré?

A Woman: He doesn’t answer. Who will say the mass?

Another: Today is our day to recite it.

Another: I who today at confession wanted...

Chorus: Our pastor, are you deaf?

Another: Perhaps he’s at the festival,
Announced with the sound of the drum,
And that our young people have been preparing since yesterday.
But why delay the divine service?
Where did he leave us the keys to the sacristy?

A woman: Our priest has become like others, rather.
While waiting, let us now say the Our Father.

Chorus (softly): Pater...Ave...Credo...Confiteor...Lumen
Heal us of our burns St Lawrence, first deacon,
And you, St Fiacre, ora pro nobis. Amen

Chorus: Protect us, great St Denis
Patron of the girls of Paris
Fulfill our wishes good St Crispin
Protect us great St Martin
Oh great St. Come, oh you
Who heals all.

The young girls of the village, preceded by Alison accompanied by the elders and the municipal officers arrive in order and sing:

Scene VI

The entrance of the church opens, or rather disappear to make room for an altar placed on the former one. On the frontispiece can be read: TO REASON


Divinity of all ages.
You who we adore without blushing.
Reason! You who our unwise ancestors
Made moan under the yoke of error for years.
Be the guide of our fields,
Purge them of all abuse,
Inspire in the breast of our comrades,
The love of order and virtue.

One of the Women: (astonished): Neighbor! it a dream?...And what?...
TO REASON? But I don’t know any saints by that name...

Another Woman: Of this hamlet St. Anne is the patron saint.
It is no longer she who is crowned!
What does all this mean?
Oh! God will punish us.


Make disappear from earth
All superstitions.
Impress your holy character
Wherever the sun introduces its rays.
Curse of tyrants and priests
You, sister of liberty,
Reason! On our country-style altars
Claim your rights and your pride.

A Woman: None of this is in my book.
I think the town is drunk


The gifts of kind nature
Under your eyes are better assigned
The labor of the fields
Through you from routine has been freed.
It’s you who makes happy homes,
Take our children as soon as they're in their cradles.
May they all be wise republicans,
Intrepid and triumphant!
A Woman: My God, my God,
In the holy place!...

Scene VII

The Priest: (he arrives in the middle of the festival):
In the Temple of Reason
And under nature’s eye
I come to join with you all
And renounce imposture

(He rips up his prayer book)

Here they are, the playthings
Of the world’s infancy.

(Beneath his robe he is dressed as a sans-culotte)

I tear it in two,
That which hid so many crimes.
I forever renounce the impure priesthood,
For too long have I borne the celestial hobby-horse.

(the censer)

For too long, wretched skullcap
Have you degraded my dignity.
As a free and thinking man...admitted to this festival,
Place on my head, Citizens
The liberty bonnet!


In the Temple of Reason,
Before nature’s eyes,
I have come to join with you all
To abjure imposture
The Old Women: Oh, my God! What is this?
Why this?

The Priest: Yes, I am claiming my dignity
As a free and thinking man, at this festival I want placed
On my head
The Liberty Bonnet.
To the devil with the skullcap,
To the devil with the hobbyhorse,
I am now a sans-culotte, I... (repeat)

Chorus of Villagers: A sans-culotte priest!...(repeat)


In order for us all to be as one
I want to go to Rome
To preach Reason to the Pope,
And convert the holy man...
Leave there the playthings
Of the world’s infancy;
Tear up this cloth
This dreadful priestly robe.
Claim your dignity
As a free and thinking man. Take part too in the festival,
And place on your head
The Liberty Bonnet.
To the devil your skullcap,
To the devil your hobbyhorse,
Me, I'll make you a sans-culotte,
I'll make you a sans-culotte.

Chorus: A sans-culotte Pope
A sans-culotte Pope

The Mayor (stopping some villagers who have already put a red bonnet on the priest);

A priest is always a priest. We would love, nevertheless
To believe
That the vow of his mouth has been dictated by his heart.

(To the priest)

It is up to you now to put the lie to history.
Consecrate the future to being deserving of the honor,
Through civic conduct
Of being the adopted child of our Republic.

General Chorus (of the entire hamlet, burning on the Altar of Reason the prayer books, crosses, ornaments, etc.)

Good morals, wise laws!
No more priests, no more kings.

The Mayor: You, good mothers of families
You see them! These are your daughters
Who from here on, through their virtues
Will replace all your worm eaten saints.
Forget your past errors,
To Reason finally raise
Your thoughts.
Let all be as one.

General Chorus: No more priests, no more kings
Good morals, wise laws
No more priests, no more kings!