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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

Dear Aya,

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.

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