Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 129.djvu/712

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Aux grands hommes
La patrie reconnaissante.

The cross and figures of angels which had ornamented the pediment were removed, and a very beautiful design, the work of David of Angers, took their place. It is a symbolic group, representing France as a majestic woman upon a tripod, who distributes palms amongst the great men grouped on either side. On her right is the figure of Liberty, offering her wreaths, which she is to bestow, and fixing on her a scrutinizing look as if she would learn from her the secrets of the future. On the left, History inscribes on her tablets the names of those whom their country delights to honour. The successful candidates for fame are divided into two bands; those distinguished in civil callings being ranged by the side of Liberty, and the military heroes supported by History. Amongst the first may be seen Malesherbes, Mirabeau, Monge, and Fénelon, La Place, etc. The figures on the other side represent ordinary soldiers of different armies from the time of the first revolution, and only one is a portrait, — that of the great Napoleon. With singular taste, and a no very striking amount of modesty, the artist has taken care to secure a sufficiently conspicuous niche for himself on the civil side. It might seem that he could not dare to trust posterity with his fame! Other changes in the decoration of the building may just be mentioned as illustrative of the fickleness of popular feeling in France. Under the porch there had been five bass-reliefs, depicting the life of St. Geneviève, and these were succeeded by others representing the rights of man, the empire of law, the institution of trial by jury, patriotism, and public instruction. The same secularizing process was also applied to the interior. The four aisles, which it had been intended to ornament with scenes from the Old Testament, the Greek, Latin, and French Churches, were dedicated to philosophy, science, arts, and patriotism. These latter marks of profanation, however, no longer exist. They were effaced by the Restoration; and although the building was in 1830 diverted from its sacred uses, since 1852 it has continued to serve as a Roman Catholic church. Having on account of its conspicuous position been a principal mark for the Prussian guns, and so considerably damaged, it was in still greater danger from the Commune. But the mob, which so shamefully desecrated many other churches in Paris, failed to obtain an entrance here. The stout, manly Suisse, a fellow of almost gigantic size, in a most graphic manner, and with very justifiable pride, described to the writer how, with the courage of a Horatius Codes, he stood in the breach, and when the rulers of the pavement peremptorily demanded the keys, he, with main force and single-handed, barred the massive gates in the face of the invaders of the sanctuary. Such, in brief, is the history of the Panthéon. We will not attempt any detailed description of its architecture. The artist has given a much more vivid idea of its external appearance than words will supply. It may suffice to say that it is a thoroughly Grecian temple, with the exception of its cruciform character. From the centre of the cross springs a lofty circular drum, surrounded by a peristyle of thirty-two plain Corinthian columns, above which rises the majestic dome, terminating in a lantern. The painting of the dome, which is very effective, was the work of Gros, and besides other subjects exhibits Charlemagne, St. Louis, and Louis XVIII, as rendering homage to St. Geneviève, who descends towards them, in the clouds. The dome is certainly its most impressive feature. Apart from the grandeur of its proportions, the building itself is characterized by a cold severity.


A baby joy is awake in my heart,
And flutters her wings in song;
For now the wintry winds depart,
And summer days are long.

The woods that late were cold and bare,
With jocund babble ring;
Slides on still fans adown the air
A bird too glad to sing.

O buoyant air! O joyous air!
You thrill the weary throng,
As rhythmical with music rare,
And filled with sunlight everywhere,
You touch our lips with song.

Blackwood's Magazine.