It was the only kind of life they had ever known.
For what seemed like several eternities they had lived an oil painting existence, gathering dust and cobwebs. A new generation of children was born, but they too merely took their place in the existing order of things without so much as a whisper of protest. Time stood still for them while progress marched on the rest of the world. They marked the ends of years by the coming of the snow.
Only madmen ever raised their voices, shouted snatches of nonsense about freedom and equality. They were quickly taken away and nobody remembered them. The echoes died down all too soon.
It had been a bad year for the village of potato farmers. Winter came early and spring not at all. The drought was spreading, a bony-clawed witch who raked their fields barren. Many families lost children that year. The bitterly cold nights were filled with the wails of hungry babies. But they were a doughty and resilient people, the potato farmers, with skin as brown and tough as they earth they cultivated. In their simple minds they knew they would return to the earth some day, and so these transient days of suffering were borne with stoic, miraculous indifference.
But the cogs of history were breaking free of their rusty trappings and beginning to move again. The final straw came in the form of a feminine voice, delicate and sweet as jewelled bells: "Let them eat cake."
The cold December wind carried the whisper far and wide. It echoed in the rocky mountains of the north and in the river valley towns. It mingled with the red juice of the vineyards and buried itself deep in the soil. And a few sparks alighted in the forests and set them ablaze. The fire spurted up and bloodied the sky.
In the village of potato farmers the first pickaxe was lifted. People of the earth, unused to agitation, suddenly found themselves slipping off the tracks their destinies had marked for them. 'Liberte, egalite, fraternite' were only words to them, of no more consequence than the call of the wild stork in the woods. But holding the body of her youngest child in her arms, a ragged young peasant wife felt a stirring in her, greater and more potent than mother-love. A curious feeling; like a tide it moved from one house to another, feeding on itself, gathering in destructive potential. The mountains quaked that day. The wind lifted up the breath of their fury and wafted it back to the city where at that very moment the first winecask was shattering on a cobbled street. The peasant in the field grasped in both calloused hands the guttering flame and realised in himself the most primitive force of all. While philosophers in universities and churches debated the rights granted to the human intellect, the humble sower of the earth discovered the right guaranteed to human blood.
Enlightenment came to the land in many forms. An unnamed village of potato farmers discovered their most basic right that day. The right to be angry. And they responded en masse to its simple, terrible call.
At the same time, many miles away, the first brick was hurled at the walls of La Bastille.
Another Chatto essay. I have a feeling this will end up in the school magazine too. Someone please tell me if I write crap in school too or just at home.