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Chapter 38


This tribune was the terror of every tyranny and fanaticism, it was the hope of every one who was oppressed under Heaven. Whoever placed his foot upon that height, felt distinctly the pulsations of the great heart of mankind. There, providing he was a man of earnest purpose, his soul swelled within him, and shone without. A breath of universal philanthropy seized him, and filled his mind as the breeze fills the sail; so long as his feet rested upon those four planks, he was a stronger and a better man; he felt at that consecrated minute as if he were living the life of all the nations; words of charity for all men came to his lips; beyond the Assembly, grouped at his feet, and frequently in a tumult, he beheld the people, attentive, serious, with ears strained, and fingers on lips; and beyond the people, the human race, plunged in thought, seated in circles, and listening. Such was this grand tribune, from which a man addressed the world.

From this tribune, incessantly vibrating, gushed forth perpetually a sort of sonorous flood, a mighty oscillation of sentiments and ideas, which, from billow to billow, and from people to people, flowed to the utmost confines of the earth, to set in motion those intelligent waves which are called souls. Frequently one knew not why such and such a law, such and such an institution, was tottering, beyond the frontiers, beyond the most distant seas: the Papacy beyond the Alps, the throne of the Czar at the extremity of Europe, slavery in America, the death penalty all over the world. The reason was that the tribune of France had quivered. At certain hours the quiver of that tribune was an earthquake. The tribune of France spoke, and every sentient being on this earth betook itself to reflection; the words sped into the obscurity, through space, at hazard, no matter where,--"It is only the wind, it is only a little noise," said the barren minds that live upon irony; but the next day, or three months, or a year later, something fell on the surface of the earth, or something rose. What had been the cause of that? The noise that had vanished, the wind that had passed away. This noise, this wind, was "the Word." A sacred force! From the Word of God came the creation of human beings;--from the Word of Man will spring the union of the peoples.

Victor Hugo