Alla Jacobs



I write to you, my dear Billaud
The name is yours, though you don’t know!
I met you in your new disguise,
Loved you, but failed to recognise.

Long time my thoughts you have possessed
Long time your shadow I’ve caressed
For, ever since your face I’ve seen
At tender age of just fourteen,
In glory in my heart you reign,
My hero, my Billaud-Varenne!

Back then you graced my teenage dreams
Your hair crowned with radiant beams
I was filled with profound bliss
Your sweet touch I shall ever miss.

Is it such a miracle then,
That I’ve met you, Billaud-Varenne?
For when a passion is this strong,
What we desire, comes along!

Before my time near you was through
I wrote that silly note to you
And told you that you were the Best –
You did not care for your conquest.

And even now, I can’t forget,
I wonder, did you get upset?
But do not worry, dear one,
No harm can ever now be done,
I’ve recognised you, and I see,
You’ve married dear Virginie.

You’re my Billaud, there is no doubt.
My case for it I shall make out.
Let’s start with school. You’re sitting still,
Your teacher talks about Bastille,
Then of the ‘reign of guillotine’,
And trial of  the ‘poor’ ex-Queen…

Dear Friend, I wonder what you thought
Of the shameful lies that kids are taught?
Did you guess it was all untrue,
Did fire of old stir within you?..

Let me continue with this line:
Later, in 1989,
The year of the Bicentenaire,
In France! I feel you did go there.
Were you inexplicably drawn
To those ideas as your own?
Did you feel, how can I describe –
A revolutionary ‘vibe’?

My Nicolas, do you recall
The day the crown was seen to fall?
That was your day! From the tribune
You spoke the words that changed the tune
For good of France’s politique,
Declaring France, a République!

The man who once toppled the throne,
You’re one of us, our very own!

When next time you and Virginie
Enjoy a short break à Paris,
Go and see Saint-André-des-Arts
Your house used to stand not far,
You used to live there for a while
With Angélique... before exile.

My Nicolas, do you recall
That other day, sad for us all?
The fall and death of Robespierre
Shattered our dreams beyond repair.

You and your dear friend Jean-Marie
Were put on ships to cross the sea;
Five weeks locked in the hold at night,
Allowed on deck during daylight.

Heart-broken, each day of the trip
You stood at rear of the ship.
And when you reached Guiana’s shore,
It only was to suffer more.

You had hoped that arrival might
The two deportees reunite
But in two prisons far away
You and your friend would have to stay.

Many months on, through Fate’s strange will,
You met again, both very ill.
On hospital bed, your dear friend
You found...  to see him meet his end!
To survive, one had little chance
In that Siberia of France.

God took to Heaven Jean-Marie
But sent you angel Virginie.
Black slave, she’d suffered more than you,
She gave you strength to start anew...

Dear Nick, I do not wish to dwell
On those black pages of your hell.
Most painful scenes I had to paint:
In memory, they’re slow to faint.
They’ll help you to unlock the door
Of your past lives, and of much more.

I wish we could meet; you would tell
Me if you’ve been to La Rochelle,
The city where you once were fixed,
Born there in 1756...
We’d talk about nos chers amis,
Maximilien and Jean-Marie.

There’s something Max wishes to say,
Keep his words for a rainy day:


‘If need be, as a last resort,

Call, if you wish, for my support.

I’ll come to join you with my might

And woe betide the ones we fight!

Don’t worry for the thermidor.

It had to be; it is no more.'


Good bye, dear Nick! May you stay true
To the great one I love in you!
May Revolution still inspire

And fill your thoughts with sacred fire!

You’re cherished. You are one of those
Who gave their all to that great cause.

March 23, 2006

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