October 14, 2014

The Old Regime

There are hundreds of nineteenth-century photographs of severed heads.

Severed heads posed alone on tables, severed heads positioned at the foot of a headless bodies, decapitated heads of accomplices posed together—the possible arrangements seems endless. Between the severed heads, photographs of executions, portraits of criminals, and portraits of guillotine victims, what is the nineteenth century if not, as Daniel Arasse has suggested, a “extended series of heads cut off and cut up”?

Antoine Wiertz, Thoughts and Visions of a Severed Head (1853).

“I asked Monsieur D to put me in rapport with the cut-off head,” Wiertz recounted, “by means of whatever new procedures seemed appropriate to him. Monsieur D acquiesced. He made some preparations and then we waited not without excitement for the fall of a human head.” Wiertz’s magnetopathic experience paid off in the most macabre manner: “The head of the executed man, saw, thought, and suffered,” the painter wrote, “And I saw what he saw, understood what he thought, and felt what he suffered.”

“Four hours in advance,” reported the International Herald Tribune, “six hundred persons pressed toward the Place Louis-Barthou.

There were catcalls and jests with the Mobile Guard and occasionally a wave of cheering and whistling. In two brightly lighted cafes waiters joked and perspired and piles of sausage sandwiches, prepared in advance, went steadily down.” A little after 4 a.m. Weidmann emerged from his cell “eyes…tightly shut, his face flushed and his cheeks sunken.” His blue, prison-issued shirt had already been cut away from his neck and shoulders. Weidmann was placed in the awaiting guillotine, “his shoulders…startlingly white against the dark polished wood of the machine.” — Photographing the Guillotine —The Appendix

The Old Regime

The tumbrils creak and rumble back
Along the roads of slate,
Retracing rutted years of sand
Whose distance storms debate.

The passengers stand fixed as stone
While faces cheer from snow.
The blade awaits it's midday meal,
When those above become below.

Innovations carved from clouds
Give despair and dance new measures.
The blade reflects its evening meal
When kings slake lower pleasures.

Arrived at Now they gaze at mist
Where granite horses roam.
Their schedules as fixed as dark.
Their future -- structured foam.

The head within the basket sees
Vast parliaments of sky.
The ears hear but the fading surf
As the past gone years drift by.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at October 14, 2014 7:24 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

"Their schedules as fixed as dark."

And in our time we have the heartless ISIS hearse-men in their vehicles of death,
While we modern minutiae men
Hem and haw and squeak
As jihadists far beyond our ken
Kill and kill and kill again,
Seven days a week.

Posted by: Stug Guts at October 14, 2014 10:35 AM

Stug, that's a good one. I like it.
“Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.”
It is just that cheap.

Posted by: chasmatic at October 14, 2014 10:04 PM

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you ..."

Couldn't resist the Kipling. Has absolutely nothing to do with the article.
My uncle Letsgo raised bantam chickens. He invented a poultry guillotine but it never worked very good.
One day he almost cut off his thumb and he trashed the contraption and went back to the hatchet.

Posted by: chasmatic at October 14, 2014 10:47 PM

Le stesse considerazioni tecniche fatte sulle magliette valgono anche per maglie a maniche lunghe, giubbottini leggeri e pesanti per uso ciclistico. In questo caso, oltre al CoolMax, un ottimo materiale il WindStopper, che permette la traspirazione ma impedisce il passaggio del vento (provare per credere).

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