On this day in 1793 the French King Louis XVI was sentenced to death by the National Convention in Paris. Louis seems to have been deluded into thinking that the people wanted him to stay on as King.
His fatal indecision rendered him incapable of responding to events. Indeed it seems to have been the proactive, though inexperienced, Marie Antoinette who tried to steer the family through their last desperate months. It was all to no avail and she followed him to the scaffold nine months later. Louis conducted himself well on the day of his execution and died bravely – the king who had been despised and disliked for his weakness finally gained the people’s respect.
Today’s poem is Nemesis by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which Louis might have appreciated:
Already blushes in thy cheek
The bosom-thought which thou must speak;
The bird, how far it haply roam
By cloud or isle, is flying home;
The maiden fears, and fearing runs
Into the charmed snare she shuns;
And every man, in love or pride,
Of his fate is never wide.
Will a woman’s fan the ocean smooth?
Or prayers the stony Parcae sooth,
Or coax the thunder from its mark?
Or tapers light the chaos dark?
In spite of Virtue and the Muse,
Nemesis will have her dues,
And all our struggles and our toils
Tighter wind the giant coils.