3. La fille aux cheveux de lin

The title of this prelude was inspired by the homonymous verse from the collection Scottish Poems by Charles-Marie René Leconte de Lisle. In turn, Lisle’s work referenced the poem “Lassie w' the lint-white locks” by Robert Burns, the late 18th century Scottish bard and revolutionary. I reinterpret Debussy's prelude, which originally praised the beauty of a young girl, as a tribute to Emily Davison, not due to her reputed youthful grace, but because she gave her life for the cause of the suffragettes. I dare say that both poets would have sympathized with this interpretation since both were committed to libertarian values. Leconte de Lisle actively defended the abolition of slavery to the point of being repudiated by his family, and Robert Burns was an advocate of Scottish vernacular culture, the principles of the French Revolution, and the rights of the world’s poor.

Emily Davison died from injuries sustained at the 1913 Epsom Derby when during the race she ran out in front of a horse owned by King George V. She had come to the race accompanied by her fellow suffragettes, armed with banners, pleading their cause. As of today, it remains uncertain if her death was accidental or the actions of a martyr. In any case, her funeral was a momentous event. Attended by 50,000 people, it spurred mediatic turmoil regarding the suffragette movement. Finally, five years later, British women over the age of 30 were give the right to vote.2. Le vent dans la plaine.