Saturday, November 8, 2008

"Freedom danced on blood roses . . . "

On the battle-field of Marengo reflections come flying around in such flocks that one can almost believe that they are the same which many travelers have suddenly abandoned there in a hurry, and which now go sweeping about. I love battle-fields; for, terrible as war is, it still sets forth the spiritual greatness of man, who has gone so far as to defy his mightiest hereditary enemy Death. And just so with this battle plain, where Freedom danced on blood roses her wanton bridal measures. For, in those days, France was a bridegroom who had invited all the world to a wedding, and then, as the song says,

"Hurrah! upon the bridal eve,
Instead of pots, they broke
Aristocratic heads."

But, alas! every inch which humanity advances costs streams of blood, and is not that paying rather dear? Is not the life of the individual worth as much as that of the entire race? For every single man is a world which is born and which dies with him; beneath every gravestone lies a world's history. "Be silent," Death would say, "as to those who lie here," but we still live, and will fight on in the holy battle for the freedom of humanity.

-- Heinrich Heine, Journey to Italy (1831)

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