Nelly Roussel, “By Rebellion!” (1904)

To all women, my sisters.

To the Eternal Creatress, aching and unknown.

By Rebellion!



(Mme. Godet)



EVE, sorrowfully.

Oh! My bruised wrists hurt me!… For so long they have borne chains!… My poor eyes, drowning in tears, will go blind!… For so many centuries they have cried!… 

         Gazing at her chains and lifting them painfully. 

Ah! Alas! Alas! In my slavery and my abandonment, where will I find a drop of water to quench my thirst, manna to comfort my hunger, rest to relieve my exhausted flesh, and consoling words for my bruised heart? 

One hears, in the wings, to the left, a religious song, big and sweet. Eve straightens her head, listens in ecstasy, and turns slowly toward the Church, confident, passionate.

Is it you, divine refuge of sorrowful souls, is it you, holy religion, who will spread hope?

THE CHURCH, cold and severe. 

Resign yourself, mortal creature. Life is nothing, and Eternity is everything! 

EVE, with a deep sigh. 

Eternity!… Alas, must we cry in this world to deserve smiles in the other

THE CHURCH (the same.)

You have sinned, woman, and every sin demands atonement!… Woman, impure, cursed creature! You were born for suffering and humiliation. To give birth in tears, and without glory; to submit in silence, and always bow, that is your punishment

EVE, hopeless

It is too cruel! And even the hope of a distant paradise is powerless to sooth my sorrows!..

         Raising her chains, despondent

Ah! Heavy, heavy chains, always heavier! My arms are weary from dragging you.

One hears, in the wings, to the right, the muted accents of the Marseillaise. Eve straightens her head, and turns slowly, confident, passionate, toward Society.

And you, Society, great republican society, you who have been called generous, being born of the blood of heroes! Would you have pity on my tears?


Oh! They are sweet to say, the words that you bear on your brow: Liberty!… Equality!… Fraternity!…

Stretching out her arms in a surge of hope.

Creatress of Liberty, rid me of these chains

SOCIETY, cold and severe.

The words that you speak, woman, were not written for you.

EVE, with despair

Alas!… Alas!..

SOCIETY, cold and severe

Enough of your moans. Do your duty, woman; accomplish your task, without allowing yourself to be distracted by useless dreams. Give birth, give birth, give birth; I must have citizens

EVE, with a bitter smile

There must be citizens!…

In a surge of grief.

Ah! yes… your citizens!… They all come from my loins! I have molded them with my flesh, with my poor humiliated flesh! I have made them from my blood, from my life, from my sorrows!… But you, ingrate, whose power I have created, what salary have you paid me?…

SOCIETY, sententiously.

You are made to give, not to receive. Woman, to each their fate. To others the enjoyments; to you the sacrifice!… The Republic is equitable, and divides.

EVE, with a heart-rending sob.

Ah!… despair!… despair!… Where are you then, Pity, goddess with eyes so sweet? And you, chains, heavy chains… still more heavy… always more heavy! Rusty chains, cruel chains!… Who will break you?…

One hears in the wings a great clamor, vague and far off at first, that, little by little, grows and approaches, made up of shouts and songs, among which one clearly distinguishes some musical phrases from the Internationale. 


REBELLION appears, proud and splendid, draped in scarlet, hair blowing in the wind.


At this voice, the Church and Society start, and fix the newcomers with looks of fearful alarm.

EVE, shuddering.


She half turns and sees Rebellion.

Who then are you, goddess with eyes of flame?…

REBELLION, with a resounding voice. 

Rebellion!…  Sublime daughter of Sorrow!

At these words, the church and Society, terrified, turn their heads and cover their faces. Rebellion continues in a passionate voice.

Oh, all you whom must bow and bend to fate, I alone will break your chains!…

She approaches Eve, tears off her chains, throws them away violently, and continues, quivering.

And I will fill with cries of war, with formidable and vengeful clamors, that has, until now, only resounded with your moans and sobs!…

To Eve.

Age-old victim, eternally oppressed, come to me as to your savior!……… Hope for nothing from your prayers, nor from your resignation; do not count on human generosity, and still less on divine protection! Do not wait for someone to throw you, out of pity, as alms, some miserable morsels of the sacred rights that you demand!… But take them all, those sacred rights; take them yourselves, with a splendid, victorious surge!…

Rising up with a regal gesture.

Oh, woman! You do not march towards justice on your knees!… 

EVE, standing, trembling and exalted. 

Ah! Your powerful breath revives me, uplifts me, carries me!… I feel rising in me the impetuous flood of fertile rage!…

Perfidious Religion, infamous Society, monstrous barrier of prejudice and stupidity, your slave is a rebel!… The prisoner shakes the bars of her prison!

To the church.

Ah! You speak of punishment!

To Society.

And you, you speak of sacrifice!


And for centuries, always the same words, bleak and haunting, have struck my ears like a tolling bell!


Be silent, eternal oppressors! Today, it is a question of rights!…

Oh! Expect nothing more from me!… No labor without wages!… Too long has Humanity, my work, scorned and disowned its author! My loins are weary from bearing ingrates! The tree of life refuses some fruits to its executioners!…

Close then, sorrowful and too-fertile flank!… Shut… until the hour of triumph; the glorious hour when the ancient fortresses crumble before my infuriated protests! when, in the place finally conquered, I will enter, trembling from heroic struggles, to make more love and more beauty germinate there!