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The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
  William Godwin
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Bakunin was compelled to quit Prague. He fled to Germany and was received with open arms by the Radical element. Everywhere pursued and expelled whenever the police discovered his place of concealment, he wandered from town to town till the end of April, 1849. In this fashion he lived first at Berlin, then at Dessau, Cothen, and various towns in Saxony. At last, under an assumed name, he found employment at the university of Leipsig. He organised a revolutionary circle of Bohemian students, and formed a revolutionary alliance of Slavonian democrats, Hungarian rebels and German revolutionists.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner, the great composer, lived in Paris from 1839 to 1842. He returned to Dresden that year. In Paris, he made the acquaintance of Bakunin. The friendship was renewed when Bakunin came to Saxony. When Bakunin took command at the defence of Dresden, Wagner was his close associate. When Bakunin was arrested in 1849 the great composer fled from Germany. He remained in exile in Zurich, in Switzerland, till 1862. That was the very year that Bakunin returned to his life and propaganda after weary years of imprisonment and exile under the Czar. Wagner has given us a picture of Bakunin in exile and action during the Saxony period. He writes: -

"With Bakunin everything was colossal, and of a primitive negative power. He liked to discuss; and lying on the not too comfortable sofa of his friend, Rockel, in whose house he was hiding, he was pleased always to talk with others over various revolutionary problems. In those discussions, Bakunin was usually the victor. It was impossible to refute his logical arguments and radical conclusions. From every word he uttered one could feel the depth of his innermost convictions. . .

"His many startling remarks naturally made an extraordinary impression on me. On the other hand, I saw that this all-destroyer was the love-worthiest, tender-hearted man one could possibly imagine. Noticing once that my eyes could not endue the bright light of the lamp, he shaded for me with his broad hand for about an hour, although I begged him not to trouble. All the while, he calmly developed his most dangerous theories.

"He knew my most secret troubles, about the ever present danger to my ideal desires for art. Nothing was incomprehensible to him; yet he did not wish me to affront him with my art projects. I wanted to explain to him, my nibelung work, but he refused to listen. . . As regards the music, he always advised me to repeat the same text in various melodies: Struggle and Destruction. The tenor was to urge the need from strife to chaos. The soprano was to do so, and the baritone also.

"I remember, even yet, with pleasure, that I once persuaded him to listen to the first act of my 'Flying Dutchman.' He listened most attentively to the music and when I stopped for a moment, exclaimed 'that is wonderfully beautiful.' He loved music and wanted to hear more and more.


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