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A canvas by Joseph Beaume and Charles Mozin (“Attaque de l’hôtel de ville de Paris”) captures a scene during the July Revolution, the three glorious days, 27, 28 and 29 July 1830. Examining the canvas we can imagine those Parisian proletarians, artisans to be sure, with rifled muskets in hand who stood at a distance from clocktowers across the city each unawares of the others firing on the clocks as if to make time itself stand still.

It is said that they were incensed at the hour, watching the shadows fall and the irreversible advance of the needle toward midnight. Clearly, there was nothing perverse, aberrant or isolated in this action, but expressed a longing and widely held sentiment. Call it artisan proletarian fury over the reestablishment of bourgeois temporality that would return them to work, ending those three glorious days of revolution.1

Forcibly expressed in this worker action, there certainly is a powerful element of dreamscape about to be superseded by a return to a daily nightmare.

1 We follow Barthélemy and Méry, who rhapsodize: “De nouveaux Josues, au pied de chaque tour/ Tiraient sur les cadrans pour arreste le jour./ O sublime folie! Helas! La nuit trop noire/ Veut jusqu’au lendermain suspender la victoire…” At this point, there is an endnote to the poem: “C’est un trait unique dans l’histoire d’une insurrection; c’est le seul acte de vandalisme erce par le peuple contre les monumens publics, et quel vandalisme! Qu’il exprime bien la situation des esprits au 28 au soir! Avec quell rage on regardait tomber l’ombre, et l’impassible aiguilee marcher vers la nuit comme dans les jours ordinairs! Ce qu’il y a de plus singulier dans cet episode, c’est qu’on a pu le remarquer a la meme heure, dans differons quartiers; ce ne fut pas une idee isolee, un caprice d’exception, mais un sentiment a peu pres general.” Auguste Barthélemy and Joseph Méry, L’Insurrection : Poème dédié aux Parisiens. Paris, 1830: 22, 52.