Babeuf at the Scaffold

by Joseph S. Salemi

François Noël Babeuf (1760 – 1797), known as “Gracchus,” was a
French revolutionary and social incendiary. He was the instigator of
Babouvism, an ideology of ferocious, leveling terrorism to bring
about radical equality. He was guillotined by the French Directorate.
Babeuf is honored as a hero by Communists of all stripes.

Take this head from off my shoulders—
Let my blood make red the blade!
A landslide of resistless boulders
Rolls down towards you. And my shade

Will laugh to see your world in ashes,
Broken, shattered, swept aside!
Your corpses, all decked out with gashes,
Will line the streets on either side.

All divisions, grades, and orders
Annihilated in one stroke!
Among the mob, no lines or borders,
Ranks, distinctions, or the yoke

Of less to greater, poor to wealthy,
Fool to wise man, or the like
Will oppress a world made healthy
By the death-blows I shall strike!

Babeuf shall return, more ghastly,
In Ravachol, Proudhon, Sorel—
To fight once more, to win, and lastly
To drag you downwards into hell!

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About Joseph S. Salemi

Joseph S. Salemi has published poems, translations, and scholarly articles in over one hundred journals throughout the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. His four collections of poetry are Formal Complaints and Nonsense Couplets, issued by Somers Rocks Press, Masquerade from Pivot Press, and The Lilacs on Good Friday from The New Formalist Press. He has translated poems from a wide range of Greek and Roman authors, including Catullus, Martial, Juvenal, Horace, Propertius, Ausonius, Theognis, and Philodemus. In addition, he has published extensive translations, with scholarly commentary and annotations, from Renaissance texts such as the Faunus poems of Pietro Bembo, the Facetiae of Poggio Bracciolini, and the Latin verse of Castiglione. He is a recipient of a Herbert Musurillo Scholarship, a Lane Cooper Fellowship, an N.E.H. Fellowship, and the 1993 Classical and Modern Literature Award. He is also a four-time finalist for the Howard Nemerov Prize.