Poetry and Song in the French Revolution
The French Revolution is perhaps one of the most confusing, illogical and fascinating period of modern European history. The origins of the decade long revolution are complex and interconnected between the economic, social, religious, and intellectual. The French Revolution in many ways was a product of the Enlightenment Era gone awry. To understand how this complex series of factors affected people of the time it is crucial to understand the texts directly from that period. One of the richest forms of text and primary sources available to historians is propagandistic literature. Though propaganda is mainly used to vilify the opposition, it can also be useful to understand the needs and concerns of both sides by reading between the lines of the literature. Some of the most important forms of propagandistic literature come in the form of poetry and song. It is through this medium of communication that aided the spread of the French Revolution not only through Paris, but also throughout the entire French nation. Verse is useful not only as a source as to understand the events of the French Revolution, but also to analyze them as a way to understand the emotions and causes of certain events. It is through analyzing and understanding the propagandistic poetry and song of the French Revolution that historians can understand the emotional, political, social and philosophical aspects of the Revolution.
In order to understand the songs and poetry of revolutionary France it must be understood as to why revolutionaries used this medium of communication. Poetry and songs carry with them an inherent value and accessibility that made it an ideal propagandistic tool to spread revolution. Songs have the unique ability to travel without losing the original meaning or intent. Though the lyrics may vary over its travel, the meaning and message are still applicable and easy to understand. This is vital because spreading music allows the revolutionary ideas to travel outside of Paris. As opposed to a propagandistic poster or novel, a song avoids the risk of being banned and confiscated, which would otherwise hinder notions of revolutions.
By using music as an outlet for revolt against the current regime, it has the advantage of gathering the masses that are outside the city, that is to say rural people like farmers and small villages to join them because it does not require literacy. Additionally, by creating popular songs about the criminality of the nobility and other political and social travesties the news can travel to other countries. Music transcends classes and provides a unique and a rare isolated in moment that encapsulates an idea and event in space and time.
Poetry must also be considered for the spread and popularization of the French Revolution. One of the most important factors to the start and continuation of the revolution was the rise of the middle class, that is to say the bourgeoisie, in the third...