To My Wife, My Children, My Friends
Don’t be surprised, pure and gentle ones,
If an air of sadness hangs on my face;
When a skilled pencil sketched it,
I was waiting for the gallows, thinking of you.
Ne vous étonnez pas, objets sacrés et doux,
Si quelque air de tristesse obscurcit mon visage;
Quand un savant crayon dessinait cette image,
J’attendais l’échafaud et je pensais à vous.
Jean-Antoine Roucher (1745-1794) was born in Montpellier, studied theology at Paris, and was known in his time for his long poem Les Mois. He admired Rousseau and became a member of the Nine Sisters Masonic Lodge. He was a strong supporter of the Revolution, but quickly came to despise the irrational violence of the Terror, against which he regularly wrote in the Journal de Paris. He himself was executed in 1794. The above epigram was written at the bottom of a portrait of the poet made on the evening of his execution.