From Aya Makarova in St Petersburg, Russia:
I have a question about "Falcon in the Dive." You see, the whole song sounds as if it came
from a man who hardly knows what "love" is. It seems to be a story of vanity and disappointment
rather than anything else. But then suddenly Chauvelin sings, "there was a dream - a dying
ember." It is maybe the first and only time he allows himself a metaphor, and a strikingly
romantic one, and all at once it seems to be that it wasn't the Revolution he's been talking
about at all. Is this so, indeed? How do these two aspects of his personality go together? Does
he really mean Marguerite when referring to this dream, or rather the ideals of his youth?
What are your original thoughts on this metaphor, why does it come up?
Thursday, 5 June 2003
Thank you for your very interesting question. I always intended Chauvelin to be a complicated
character and it's nice when people pick up on his ambiguities. I don't believe a villain is
ever just a villain, nor is a hero ever completely a hero. Percy has his own flaws of blindness
and pride, just as Chauvelin has some redeeming qualities, primarily a loyalty to old ideals in
which he once believed.
First of all, you are right to think that Chauvelin does not really know what "love" is. He
is a creature of obsessions- obsessed with Marguerite (not in love with her), obsessed with
catching Percy, and, long ago, obsessed with the original ideals of the French Revolution. The
"dying ember" refers to this- ideals which have grown blurry, almost forgotten in the day-to-day
furor. As you may know, the Revolution became bloodier and bloodier with the years and
ultimately went off track. By the end, innocent people were killed by the thousands. The
Baroness wrote the original Scarlet Pimpernel with this in mind. She created Sir Percy as
a composite of many Englishmen (and French) who tried to save innocent people from going to the
guillotine. Chauvelin is representative of all the French soldiers who continued to kill, even
when those killings became random, even when there was confusion in their own hearts. Perhaps
it's a bit like Nazis who killed under order even when they knew deep down inside that the
original reason for war had become perverted, twisted, evil.
"Falcon in the Dive" is the song which penetrates most deeply into Chauvelin's psyche. In
"Falcon," we see his fury, his panic- he has to catch this man who is turning his life, his very
purpose into a joke. He knows he's not a savior ("wasn't born to walk on water") and he knows
he's not a devil ("wasn't born to sack and slaughter"), but he will do whatever he has to do to
catch his enemy, to justify all the years of killing. I try to point out in the song all the
obstacles in his path. One is that Percy is a "phantom"- simply impossible to find. Another is
that he's growing older- it's not so easy to run an army and catch the enemy when he's aging and
not as quick as he used to be. But he tells himself that even "tremulous stars still glitter,"
and he will survive, harden and chill his heart, and swoop down for the kill. But perhaps the
biggest and subtlest obstacle in his path is the image you have mentioned, Aya: he has trouble
remembering what he's fighting for. His whole world grows murky around him. He does not remember
the exact "dream" anymore. Why did this revolution begin? Why is it still going on? Why has it
become a hell where blood runs so deep and life has become so cheap? He can't answer these
questions, and so he must put on blinders and drive forward, believing that somehow he will
resurrect the original dream of the revolution and thus justify his actions. He has to rev
himself up into a frenzy- into a dark killing machine- in order not to admit to himself that
he's lost the dream.
I hope that answers your question. I would not say that "Falcon" is a song of "vanity" for
Chauvelin- it is more a song of desperation. He has finally come face to face with "survival of
the fittest". He's at the end of his rope and very possibly near the end of his life. There is
no longer a choice except to become a falcon in the dive.