Tuesday, September 3, 2019

An Ideal French Address

I am told that a French sermon is like a French speech—it never names an historical event, but only the date of it; if you are not up in dates, you get left. A French speech is something like this:

“Comrades, citizens, brothers, noble parts of the only sublime and perfect nation, let us not forget that the 21st January cast off our chains; that the 10th August relieved us of the shameful presence of foreign spies; that the 5th September was its own justification before Heaven and humanity; that the 18th Brumaire contained the seeds of its own punishment; that the 14th July was the mighty voice of liberty proclaiming the resurrection, the new day, and inviting the oppressed peoples of the earth to look upon the divine face of France and live; and let us here record our everlasting curse against the man of the 2d December, and declare in thunder tones, the native tones of France, that but for him there had been no 17th March in history, no 12th October, nor 9th January, no 22d April, no 16th November, no 30th September, no 2d July, no 14th February, no 29th June, no 15th August, no 31st May—that but for him, France, the pure, the grand, the peerless, had had a serene and vacant almanac to-day.”

I have heard of one French sermon which closed in this odd yet eloquent way:

“My hearers, we have sad cause to remember the man of the 13th January. The results of the vast crime of the 13th January have been in just proportion to the magnitude of the act itself. But for it there had been no 30th November—sorrowful spectacle! The grisly deed of the 16th June had not been done but for it, nor had the man of the 16th June known existence; to it alone the 3d September was due, also the fatal 12th October. Shall we, then, be grateful for the 13th January, with its freight of death for you and me and all that breathe? Yes, my friends, for it gave us also that which had never come but for it, and it alone—the blessed 25th December.”

It may be well enough to explain. The man of the 13th January is Adam; the crime of that date was the eating of the apple; the sorrowful spectacle of the 30th November was the expulsion from Eden; the grisly deed of the 16th June was the murder of Abel; the act of the 3d September was the beginning of the journey to the land of Nod; the 12th day of October, the last mountaintops disappeared under the flood.

When you go to church in France, you want to take your almanac with you—annotated.
Source: Cited as an “Extract from ‘Paris Notes,’ in ‘Tom Sawyer Abroad,’ etc.” in Mark Twain Speeches

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