Premonition



6. Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest

In my opinion, it’s feasible to surmise that the “Ode to the West Wind” by Percy Shelley was the inspiration for this violent prelude. Since his youth, Debussy had read Shelley, the founder of early 19th century philosophical Anarchism. “Ode to the West Wind” is a defense of revolution that forms part of the collection Prometheus Unbound (1820). Revolutions and armed upheavals were an essential feature of the times: the 19th century is especially remarkable for the willingness with which people risked their lives in violent effort to control their own destinies against repressive regimes. Shelley pleaded for the people’s right to self-determination and supported the upheavals in Spain against Absolute Monarchy in 1920 as well as those in Greece against the Ottoman Empire. Nevertheless, Shelley defended the principles of non-violent resistance: from the events of the French Revolution, he had concluded that the exaltation of violence tended to lead to military despotism. At the end of ‘the long 19th century’, a phrase coined by Eric Hobsbawn, this military despotism escalated to the point of setting the European Nations in confrontation with each other. Hence, the advocacy for violence became part of the early 20th century’s non-libertarian ideologies that called for a society organized around a perpetual state of war; a defining trait of fascism and its artistic predecessor, Futurism.