Both Coleridge and Robespierre agreed that a new form of government was necessary. They differ, though, on Robespierre’s idea that terror is virtue and the destruction caused by the French Revolution. As a Romantic poet, Coleridge focuses on the common person and natural aspects of the world. Coleridge agrees with the original intent of the French Revolution which fights for the common person. He feels that liberty is something that all humans should have regardless of their social class or lineage.
Coleridge compares liberty to “the solemn music of the wind. ” Comparing freedom to “solemn music” he shows that ones liberty is a serious matter that if addressed correctly would enhance the enjoyment of life, like music. By associating freedom with wind, Coleridge implies that freedom is universal because wind travels everywhere. These ideas tie in with the Romantic views that all people should have the right to strive for happiness. These views are again illustrated when Coleridge writes, “Thou rising Sun! thou blue rejoicing Sky. (Coleridge, 102) By comparing “liberty” to the sun and the sky, Coleridge states that the idea of liberty is a natural right. It is not something that should have to be fought for, but something that all people should inherently possess. By also comparing “liberty” to the rising sun implies that the rise of a democratic government will happen soon and that when uncovered, it will be a very good thing for the whole world. Romantic poetry often referred to the natural aspects of the world as Romantic poetry strived to bring together nature and man.
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Coleridge illustrates his optimism about where the French Revolution could lead and the ideas it could bring to the world. When Robespierre took control of the French Revolution he immediately began to assert his ideas of natural equality on France. In Robespierre’s Republic of Virtue, he states that his goal involves the well-being of everyone, “the peaceful enjoyment of liberty and equality; the reign of that eternal justice whose laws are engraved not on marble or stone but in the hearts of all men. (Perry, 114) Robespierre meant that he wanted to create a state where people do not have to fight for there liberties. The metaphor in this passage “laws are engraved not on marble or stone but in the hearts of all men” shows Robespierre’s belief in unbendable laws that apply to everyone. By saying that laws are engraved he means that these laws must stick with his citizens at all times and “in the hearts of all men” confirm his belief in natural laws that all are born with. Robespierre only wants people who are willing to give for the greater good.
Robespierre also says, “We wish, in a word, to fulfill the intentions of nature and the destiny of humanity, realize the promises of philosophy, and acquit providence of the long reign of crime and tyranny. ” (Perry,114) In this passage, Robespierre claims that nature intends for humankind to use the ideas of philosophy, reason and logic, and remove the monarchial constraints that have been placed upon them. Robespierre argues that humans have the right to govern themselves instead of God and kings.
Robespierre’s believes the ideal government must be a republic or democracy as those are the only formats that allow for universal happiness. Like many leaders before him who ultimately failed, Robespierre, in the traditional Enlightenment theory, sought to use reason and logic to build a perfect society, a utopia. Coleridge supported the idea of the Revolution, but as the Revolution turned violent he began to criticize the Jacobins for the approach they took to achieve their goals. Coleridge shows this when he says, “Forgive me, Freedom!
O forgive those dreams! I hear thy voice, I hear thy loud lament. ” (Coleridge, 103) Coleridge states in this passage that he feels humbled by believing that the French Revolution could actually change anything. By saying that he “hears thy loud lament” he shows his emotions of sadness that Robespierre could bring freedom and that he still feels he has a duty to bring freedom to all people. Coleridge disapproves of the disregard for human life, “I hear thy groans upon her blood-stained streams. (Coleridge, 103) Coleridge, in this passage, illustrates the level of violence in France by saying that Robespierre killed so many people that blood replaced the water in the streams. The imagery used depicts more violence than anyone could imagine. With this new regime, the Reign of Terror, Coleridge feels that the French created a mockery of true liberty. “O France, that mockest Heaven, adulterous, blind, And patriot only in pernicious toils! ” (Coleridge, 104) This passage shows that the Revolution did not unify France like it should. The citizens only act patriotic towards their country when acting in a violent manner.
Robespierre sought to create a utopia, but the revolution destroyed the values of freedom and equal liberty that heaven, a utopia, is based on. Rather than help the common people, Robespierre became power-hungry and turned into what they originally fought, “Are these thy boasts, Champion of human kind? To mix with Kings in the low lust of sway. ” (Coleridge, 104) Robespierre, believing they knew the best way to reform France took too much power and attempted to mold France to their liking, but destroying the freedom they wanted to create.
By using reason, Robespierre came to believe that terror could help to achieve the goals of the Revolution in the quickest manner possible. Robespierre knew that a government promoting the liberty and freedom of the common person was morally correct, not a monarchy. Robespierre called the Revolution a “war of liberty against tyranny. ” Referring to the Revolution as a war alludes to the destructive nature that the Revolution took under the guidance of Robespierre. Robespierre’s Republic of Virtue’s modeled what a good citizen should do.
Since virtue (good citizenship) and equality are the soul of the republic, and your aim is to found and to consolidate the republic, it follows that the first rule of your political conduct must be to relate all of your measures to the maintenance of equality and to the development of virtue; for the first care of the legislator must be to strengthen the principles on which the government rests. (Perry, 115) This passage shows how Robespierre attempts to take complete control of France. He says that citizens must give up rights, not gain rights, to help the government, which Robespierre controls completely.
Logically this made sense as he believed that the government attempted to create was the best and therefore he needed to have all the power to do so. To him using terror to enforce his laws, which to him were absolutely necessary, seemed perfectly reasonable as it would only affect his enemies, not his followers. If the driving force of popular government in peacetime is virtue, that of Popular government during a revolution is both virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is only justice that is prompt, severe, and inflexible; it is thus an emanation of virtue. Perry, 115) Robespierre in this passage explains how his destructive actions logically make sense. According to him terror emanates virtue as terror acts as a mean to enforce virtue, therefore someone already virtuous will not be affected. Logically this made sense, but realistically his actions tore apart France as the destruction he caused overwhelmed any good that his Reign of Terror brought. Robespierre consistently shows a willingness to fight his own country believing that to stop a civil war he would have to kill everyone against him, even though these sorts of actions started the civil war.
How can civil war be ended? By punishing traitors and conspirators, particularly if they are deputies or administrators; by sending loyal troops under patriotic leaders to subdue the aristocrats of Lyon, Marseille, Toulon, the Vendee, the Jura, and all other regions in which the standards of rebellion and royalism have been raised: and by making frightful examples of all scoundrels who have outrage liberty and spilled the blood of patriots. Perry, 115) Robespierre used logic and reason constantly to work towards his goal of creating a utopia, but he overlooked the consequences that France would face if he followed through. The contrast between these two artifacts illustrates the debate between the Romanticism and Enlightenment theories. The Enlightenment, represented by Robespierre, uses logic and reason to achieve a certain goal, whereas Romanticism reacted against that theory, believing the world to be more than just reason and logic.
The Romantic outlook focuses more on life and enjoying where you are since you might not be there again, while the Enlightenment concentrates on working towards a goal. The Enlightenment theory led to violence as it logically it made sense, but from an Enlightenment, perspective the extreme amount of violence became unnecessary and Romantic thinkers criticized the French Revolution and Robespierre for that. Robespierre became to focused on perfecting society that he did not take notice to the destruction that he caused.
Works Cited Coleridge, Samuel. English Romantic Poetry. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. , 1996. 102-04. Print. Perry, Marvin. “Maximilien Robespierre: Republic of Virtue. ” Sources of the Western Tradition. 2 vol. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. Print. peee Rosen, Charless. “Isn’t It Romantic. ” Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature. 06 14 1973. Web. 1 Mar 2010. .