Introduction To Louise Michel’s “Chattering Teeth”


[Translated by Shawn P. Wilbur]

The claque-dents is the death throes of the old world.
It dreams of decking itself out again in purple and ermine, and of giving drink to the swords. But the purple and ermine are soiled, and the rusty swords want no more blood. The orgy is over.
This old world has the chattering teeth of the death throes; Shylock and Satyr at once, its chipped teeth seek living flesh; its demented claws search, deepen all the keen miseries. This is the delirium of the end.
In vain its wants to rejuvenate, to drink the blood of the crowds in long drafts; its sops rise in its throat to suffocate it. The debacle begins at the little clink of the gold, the danse macabre of the banks waltzes around a few last Bastilles.
The bell tolls for all tyrannies. But they do not want to die, feeling the sap of the new spring.
We saw there, in Caledonia, old paperbark trees whose age no one knew, crumble suddenly, still having some green twigs on their dead branches.
A dull thud, a cloud of dust, and all was finished; the great tree was no longer anything but a little heap of dust, in which bustled desperately some insects from another age, enormous millipedes, hairy spiders, brightly colored bugs.
Thus will disappear the society where might makes right.
In Germinal,[1] the breezes sing, troubling with their sweet breath the grass full of flowers.
At times, a last icy breath passes through the air like a leaf that passes.
Soon the nests in the woods will fill with life.
Thus we come to Germinal, to the end of our age-old winter.

[1] Month in the French Revolutionary Calendar

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