Page:Rolland - People's Theater.djvu/96

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work and the worker. The Commission deeply regrets that it is forced to point out the first steps along the path of good taste and true beauty by means of severe lessons, but since it assumes the greatest interest in the arts, the regeneration of which is in its hands … it feels it is responsible to the nation, to literature, to itself, to the poet, the historian, the genius, and should be guilty of gross neglect should it fail to direct the energies of genius. Let the young author, therefore, fearlessly … measure the whole extent of the field before him he must invariably avoid the line of least resistance in thinking, and shun mediocrity in every form. The writer who instead of lessons offers commonplaces; empty action instead of interest; caricatures instead of characters, is of no use to literature, to the moral welfare, and to the State: Plato would have banished him from his Republic."

The superb spirit of this passage shows into what hands art was then confided. Unfortunately the writers were not equal to the task: Payan himself was unable to write the work he announced in his decree of the 29th of June, on the regeneration of the theater. He was swept away on the 10th of Thermidor (July 28th) in the whirlwind which took with it, besides Robespierre and Saint-Just, the very genius of the Revolution. It is regrettable to have to confess that the artists of the time, especially the writers, could in no way be compared with the Revolutionary chiefs. This was especially true of the writers, for painting at least had its David,