Alexander Herzen: Blood replaced by tears, the field of battle by forgotten tombs
From My Past and Thoughts
Translated by Constance Garnett
“…One’s ears are still ringing with the the sound of shots, the tramp of racing cavalry, the heavy rumblings of cannon-wheels through the dead streets; individual details flash upon the memory – a wounded man holding on to the stretcher, with his hand to his side, a few drops of blood trickling down it; the omnibuses filled with corpses, the prisoners with bound hands, the cannon on the Place de la Bastille…” [From a letter of his wife Natalie]
…Byron has a description of a battlefield at night; its blood-stained details are hidden in the darkness; at dawn, when the battle has long been over, its traces – a sword-blade and bloodstained clothes – are seen. It was just such a dawn that rose now in the soul, it lighted up just such a scene of fearful desolation. Half of our hopes, half of our beliefs were slain, ideas of scepticism and despair haunted the brain and took root in it. One could never have supposed that, after passing through so many trials, after being schooled by contemporary scepticism, we had so much in our souls to be destroyed.
We know the events as a whole, but have no record of the lives of the persons who were directly dependent on them, though it was through those events that lives unchronicled were broken and ruined, blood replaced by tears, devastated towns by desolate families, the field of battle by forgotten tombs.