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    A satirical survey of various “socialisms”


    Joseph Bologne de Saint-Georges (1745–99)

    Joseph Bologne was born in the decade after Haydn and before Mozart.

    He was the Caribbean child of a multi-racial union between a French plantation owner and a Senegalese slave.

    His father paid for a top Parisian education, where the grateful son out-competed his aristocratic contemporaries in accomplishments they cherished—fencing, shooting, dancing, running, swimming, riding, violin-playing and musical composition.

    He attracted European and American admiration—a “black Mozart”—as well as racial slurs—a “mulatto”.

    His exotic appearance conveyed him into the intimate circle of the French royal family (especially Queen Marie Antionette).

    During the French Revolution, as a child of slavery, he created a black regiment to fight on the side of the revolution against slavery (his regiment included the black father of Alexandre Dumas, author of “The Three Musketeers”).

    His aristocratic associations caught up with him during the Reign of Terror, and condemned him to execution which, through sympathetic intervention on his behalf, was eventually waived.

    The movie Chevalier that opens this month is modelled on his fascinating life. Here is its trailer (the fictional violin duel is with Mozart).

    The opera Ernestine (1777)
    Music: Chevalier de Saint-Georges
    Libretto: Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
    —(author of Les Liaisons dangereuses)

    The audience to his first opera Ernestine booed it off the stage, and the critics panned it mercilessly, “a talented young American who is also the most skilful gun shooter in France” has ground a much-loved novel into pulp.

    Musical fragments that survive the French Revolution come across today as rivetting 18th century drama.

      Ernestine, what will you do?
      Have you probed the depths of your heart?

      Trapped inside your bitter retreat
      See how vain regret
      And endless anguish follow you
      And ever deepen your unhappiness.

      Cruel love, cruel happiness!
      Don’t fight the necessary sacrifice,
      Delay sharpens the horror.


    John Brown’s Body

    From Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” [1852].

      ST. CLARE [plantation slaveholder]:
      ——I’ve something to show you.

      MISS OPHELIA [his sentimental cousin]:
      ——What is it?

      ST. CLARE (dragging a little negro girl):
      ——I’ve made a purchase …

    MISS OPHELIA saw, on the back and shoulders of the child, great welts and calloused spots, ineffaceable marks of the system under which she had grown up

      —— How old are you, Topsy?
      TOPSY [little slave girl]:
      ——Dun no, Missis,

      —— Who was your mother?
      —— Never had none!
      —— Where were you born?
      —— Never was born!
      ——- I spect I grow’d.

    Union Marching Song of the Civil War (1861-65)

    John Brown led a doomed slave revolt in 1859, on the eve of the American Civil War.

    A white man provoking a slave revolt sent shockwaves across the nation.

    He was captured by Robert E. Lee and condemned to hang. In prison he bombarded a willing national media with anti-race-slavery messages that pushed the nation to the brink of Civil War.

    Here’s the song’s first published text (1861):

      John Brown’s body
      ——lies a mouldering in the grave. (x3)
      His soul’s marching on!

      Glory, Hally, Hallelujah! (x3)
      His soul’s marching on! (x2)

    Part of the song’s appeal is the brash bravado of a Union soldier making light of “mouldering in the grave” while marching in the footsteps of a martyr to the cause of black emancipation. This is how to steel a white man into fighting for what seems to be some-one-else’s cause.

    But then you can’t discount the appeal of the song’s mock evangelical Hallelujah chorus, better known than even Handel’s and Leonard Cohen’s.

    Battle Hymn of the Republic

    A refined reclamation of the song was written by Julia Ward Howe (1862).

    The evangelical Union soldier now marches into battle in order to visit God’s vengeful wrath—the grapes of wrath—upon the slave-holding South:

      MINE eyes have seen the glory
      ——of the coming of the Lord:
      He is trampling out the vintage
      ——where the grapes of wrath are stored;
      He hath loosed the fateful lightning
      ——of His terrible swift sword:
      His truth is marching on.

      Glory, Glory Hallelujah (x3)
      ——His truth is marching on

    Mark Twain

    Mark Twain was brought up in the antebellum South, as he explains …

    The orgy of the launching of the Sword

    In 1901 Mark Twain wrote an anti-war parody of the Battle Hymn, which lay unpublished until 1958. It starts at timestamp 1:00.

      Mine eyes have seen the orgy
      ——of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings
      ——where the stranger’s wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings,
      ——and with woe and death has scored;
His lust is marching on.
      . . .
As Christ died to make men holy,
      ——let men die to make us rich—
Our god is marching on.


    Like Topsy, the song “Tom Brown’s Body” grow’d

    • an 18th century oral-tradition hymn
    • a 19th century battle cry to follow a white martyr into battle for a black cause
    • a 20th century parody like Mark Twain’s
    • Ralph Chaplin’s borrowing of its tune for Solidarity Forever (1915)
    • 21st century parodies like…

    It still keeps marching on.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by twc.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by twc.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by twc.
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