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Chapter VI

Birth and Early Life of Chopin--National Artists--Chopin embodies
in himself the poetic sense of his whole nation--Opinion of
Beethoven.



CHOPIN was born in 1810, at Zelazowa-Wola, near Warsaw. Unlike
most other children, he could not, during his childhood, remember
his own age, and the date of his birth was only fixed in his
memory by a watch given him in 1820 by Madame Catalani, which
bore the following inscription: "Madame Catalani to Frederic
Chopin, aged ten years." Perhaps the presentiments of the artist
gave to the child a foresight of his future! Nothing
extraordinary marked the course of his boyhood; his internal
development traversed but few phases, and gave but few
manifestations. As he was fragile and sickly, the attention of
his family was concentrated upon his health. Doubtless it was
from this cause that he acquired his habits of affability, his
patience under suffering, his endurance of every annoyance with a
good grace; qualities which he early acquired from his wish to
calm the constant anxiety that was felt with regard to him. No
precocity of his faculties, no precursory sign of remarkable
development, revealed, in his early years, his future superiority
of soul, mind, or capacity. The little creature was seen
suffering indeed, but always trying to smile, patient and
apparently happy and his friends were so glad that he did not
become moody or morose, that they were satisfied to cherish his
good qualities, believing that he opened his heart to them
without reserve, and gave to them all his secret thoughts.

But there are souls among us who resemble rich travelers thrown
among simple herdsmen, loading them with gifts during their
sojourn among them, truly not at all in proportion to their own
wealth, yet which are quite sufficient to astonish the poor
hosts, and to spread riches and happiness in the midst of such
simple habits. It is true that such souls give as much affection,
it may be more, than those who surround them; every body is
pleased with them, they are supposed to have been generous, when
the truth is that in comparison with their boundless wealth they
have not been liberal, and have given but little of their store
of internal treasure.

The habits in which Chopin grew up, in which he was rocked as in
a form-strengthening cradle, were those peculiar to calm,
occupied, and tranquil characters. These early examples of
simplicity, piety, and integrity, always remained the nearest and
dearest to him. Domestic virtues, religious habits, pious
charities, and rigid modesty, surrounded him from his infancy
with that pure atmosphere in which his rich imagination assumed
the velvety tenderness characterizing the plants which have never
been exposed to the dust of the beaten highways.

He commenced the study of music at an early age, being but nine
years old when he began to learn it. Shortly after he was
confided to a passionate disciple of Sebastian Bach, Ziwna, who
directed his studies during many years in accordance with the
most classic models. It is not to be supposed that when he
embraced the career of a musician, any prestige of vain glory,
any fantastic perspective, dazzled his eyes, or excited the hopes
of his family. In order to become a skillful and able master, he
studied seriously and conscientiously, without dreaming of the
greater or less amount of fame he would be able to obtain as the
fruit of his lessons and assiduous labors.

In consequence of the generous and discriminating protection
always granted by Prince Antoine Radziwill to the arts, and to
genius, which he had the power of recognizing both as a man of
intellect and as a distinguished artist; Chopin was early placed
in one of the first colleges in Warsaw. Prince Radziwill did not
cultivate music only as a simple dilettante, he was also a
remarkable composer. His beautiful rendering of Faust, published
some years ago, and executed at fixed epochs by the Academy of
Song at Berlin, appears to us far superior to any other attempts
which have been made to transport it into the realm of music, by
its close internal appropriateness to the peculiar genius of the
poem. Assisting the limited means of the family of Chopin, the
Prince made him the inestimable gift of a finished education, of
which no part had been neglected. Through the person of a friend,
M. Antoine Korzuchowski, whose own elevated mind enabled him to
understand the requirements of an artistic career, the Prince
always paid his pension from his first entrance into college,
until the completion of his studies. From this time until the
death of Chopin, M. Antoine Korzuchowski always held the closest
relations of friendship with him.

In speaking of this period of his life, it gives us pleasure to
quote the charming lines which may be applied to him more justly,
than other pages in which his character is believed to have been
traced, but in which we only find it distorted, and in such false
proportions as are given in a profile drawn upon an elastic
tissue, which has been pulled athwart, biased by contrary
movements during the whole progress of the sketch. [Footnote:
These extracts, with many that succeed them, in which the
character of Chopin is described, are taken from Lucrezia
Floriani, a novel by Madame Sand, in which the leading characters
are said to be intended to represent Liszt, Chopin, and herself.-
-Note of the Translator.]



"Gentle, sensitive, and very lovely, at fifteen years of age he
united the charms of adolescence with the gravity of a more
mature age. He was delicate both in body and in mind. Through the
want of muscular development he retained a peculiar beauty, an
exceptional physiognomy, which had, if we may venture so to
speak, neither age nor sex. It was not the bold and masculine air
of a descendant of a race of Magnates, who knew nothing but
drinking, hunting and making war; neither was it the effeminate
loveliness of a cherub couleur de rose. It was more like the
ideal creations with which the poetry of the middle ages adorned
the Christian temples: a beautiful angel, with a form pure and
slight as a young god of Olympus, with a face like that of a
majestic woman filled with a divine sorrow, and as the crown of
all, an expression at the same time tender and severe, chaste and

impassioned.

"This expression revealed the depths of his being. Nothing could
be purer, more exalted than his thoughts; nothing more tenacious,
more exclusive, more intensely devoted, than his
affections....But he could only understand that which closely
resembled himself....Every thing else only existed for him as a
kind of annoying dream, which he tried to shake off while living
with the rest of the world. Always plunged in reveries, realities
displeased him. As a child he could never touch a sharp
instrument without injuring himself with it; as a man, he never
found himself face to face with a being different from himself
without being wounded by the living contradiction...

"He was preserved from constant antagonism by a voluntary and
almost inveterate habit of never seeing or hearing any thing
which was disagreeable to him, unless it touched upon his
personal affections. The beings who did not think as he did, were
only phantoms in his eyes. As his manners were polished and
graceful, it was easy to mistake his cold disdain on
insurmountable aversion for benevolent courtesy...

"He never spent an hour in open-hearted expansiveness, without
compensating for it by a season of reserve. The moral causes
which induced such reserve were too slight, too subtle, to be
discovered by the naked eye. It was necessary to use the
microscope to read his soul, into which so little of the light of
the living ever penetrated.......

"With such a character, it seems strange he should have had
friends: yet he had them, not only the friends of his mother who
esteemed him as the noble son of a noble mother, but friends of
his own age, who loved him ardently, and who were loved by him in
return..... He had formed a high ideal of friendship; in the age
of early illusions he loved to think that his friends and
himself, brought up nearly in the same manner, with the same
principles, would never change their opinions, and that no formal
disagreement could ever occur between them.......

"He was externally so affectionate, his education had been so
finished, and he possessed so much natural grace, that he had the
gift of pleasing even where he was not personally known. His
exceeding loveliness was immediately prepossessing, the delicacy
of his constitution rendered him interesting in the eyes of
women, the full yet graceful cultivation of his mind, the sweet
and captivating originality of his conversation, gained for him
the attention of the most enlightened men. Men less highly
cultivated, liked him for his exquisite courtesy of manner. They
were so much the more pleased with this, because, in their
simplicity, they never imagined it was the graceful fulfillment
of a duty into which no real sympathy entered.

"Could such people have divined the secrets of his mystic
character, they would have said he was more amiable than loving--
and with respect to them, this would have been true. But how
could they have known that his real, though rare attachments,
were so vivid, so profound, so undying?...

"Association with him in the details of life was delightful. He
filled all the forms of friendship with an unaccustomed charm,
and when he expressed his gratitude, it was with that deep
emotion which recompenses kindness with usury. He willingly
imagined that he felt himself every day dying; he accepted the
cares of a friend, hiding from him, lest it should render him
unhappy, the little time he expected to profit by them. He
possessed great physical courage, and if he did not accept with
the heroic recklessness of youth the idea of approaching death,
at least he cherished the expectation of it with a kind of bitter
pleasure."...

The attachment which he felt for a young lady, who never ceased
to feel a reverential homage for him, may be traced back to his
early youth. The tempest which in one of its sudden gusts tore
Chopin from his native soil, like a bird dreamy and abstracted
surprised by the storm upon the branches of a foreign tree,
sundered the ties of this first love, and robbed the exile of a
faithful and devoted wife, as well as disinherited him of a
country. He never found the realization of that happiness of
which he had once dreamed with her, though he won the glory of
which perhaps he had never thought. Like the Madonnas of Luini
whose looks are so full of earnest tenderness, this young girl
was sweet and beautiful. She lived on calm, but sad. No doubt the
sadness increased in that pure soul when she knew that no
devotion tender as her own, ever came to sweeten the existence of
one whom she had adored with that ingenuous submission, that
exclusive devotion, that entire self-forgetfulness, naive and
sublime, which transform the woman into the angel.

Those who are gifted by nature with the beautiful, yet fatal
energies of genius, and who are consequently forbidden to
sacrifice the care of their glory to the exactions of their love,
are probably right in fixing limits to the abnegation of their
own personality. But the divine emotions due to absolute
devotion, may be regretted even in the presence of the most
sparkling endowments of genius. The utter submission, the
disinterestedness of love, in absorbing the existence, the will,
the very name of the woman in that of the man she loves, can
alone authorize him in believing that he has really shared his
life with her, and that his honorable love for her has given her
that which no chance lover, accidentally met, could have rendered
her: peace of heart and the honor of his name.

This young Polish lady, unfortunately separated from Chopin,
remained faithful to his memory, to all that was left of him. She
devoted herself to his parents. The father of Chopin would never
suffer the portrait which she had drawn of him in the days of
hope, to be replaced by another, though from the hands of a far
more skilful artist. We saw the pale cheeks of this melancholy
woman, glow like alabaster when a light shines through its snow,
many years afterwards, when in gazing upon this picture, she met
the eyes of his father.

The amiable character of Chopin won for him while at college the
love of his fellow collegiates, particularly that of Prince
Czetwertynski and his brothers. He often spent the vacations and
days of festival with them at the house of their mother, the
Princess Louise Czetwertynska, who cultivated music with a true
feeling for its beauties, and who soon discovered the poet in the
musician. Perhaps she was the first who made Chopin feel the
charm of being understood, as well as heard. The Princess was
still beautiful, and possessed a sympathetic soul united to many
high qualities. Her saloon was one of the most brilliant and
RECHERCHE in Warsaw. Chopin often met there the most
distinguished women of the city. He became acquainted there with
those fascinating beauties who had acquired a European celebrity,
when Warsaw was so famed for the brilliancy, elegance, and grace
of its society. He was introduced by the Princess Czetwertynska
to the Princess of Lowicz; by her he was presented to the
Countess Zamoyska; to the Princess Radziwill; to the Princess
Jablonowska; enchantresses, surrounded by many beauties little
less illustrious.

While still very young, he has often cadenced their steps to the
chords of his piano. In these meetings, which might almost be
called assemblies of fairies, he may often have discovered,
unveiled in the excitement of the dance, the secrets of
enthusiastic and tender souls. He could easily read the hearts
which were attracted to him by friendship and the grace of his
youth, and thus was enabled early to learn of what a strange
mixture of leaven and cream of roses, of gunpowder and tears of
angels, the poetic Ideal of his nation is formed. When his
wandering fingers ran over the keys, suddenly touching some
moving chords, he could see how the furtive tears coursed down
the cheeks of the loving girl, or the young neglected wife; how
they moistened the eyes of the young men, enamored of, and eager
for glory. Can we not fancy some young beauty asking him to play
a simple prelude, then softened by the tones, leaning her rounded
arm upon the instrument to support her dreaming head, while she
suffered the young artist to divine in the dewy glitter of the
lustrous eyes, the song sung by her youthful heart? Did not
groups, like sportive nymphs, throng around him, and begging him
for some waltz of giddying rapidity, smile upon him with such
wildering joyousness, as to put him immediately in unison with
the gay spirit of the dance? He saw there the chaste grace of his
brilliant countrywomen displayed in the Mazourka, and the
memories of their witching fascination, their winning reserve,
were never effaced from his soul.

In an apparently careless manner, but with that involuntary and
subdued emotion which accompanies the remembrance of our early
delights, he would sometimes remark that he first understood the
whole meaning of the feeling which is contained in the melodies
and rhythms of national dances, upon the days in which he saw
these exquisite fairies at some magic fete, adorned with that
brilliant coquetry which sparkles like electric fire, and
flashing from heart to heart, heightens love, blinds it, or robs
it of all hope. And when the muslins of India, which the Greeks
would have said were woven of air, were replaced by the heavier
folds of Venetian velvet, and the perfumed roses and sculptured
petals of the hot-house camellias gave way to the gorgeous
bouquets of the jewel caskets; it often seemed to him that
however good the orchestra might be, the dancers glided less
rapidly over the floor, that their laugh was less sonorous, their
eye less luminous, than upon those evenings in which the dance
had been suddenly improvised, because he had succeeded in
electrifying his audience through the magic of his performance.
If he electrified them, it was because he repeated, truly in
hieroglyphic tones, but yet easily understood by the initiated,
the secret whispers which his delicate ear had caught from the
reserved yet impassioned hearts, which indeed resemble the
Fraxinella, that plant so full of burning and vivid life, that
its flowers are always surrounded by a gas as subtle as
inflammable. He had seen celestial visions glitter, and illusory
phantoms fade in this sublimated air; he had divined the meaning
of the swarms of passions which are forever buzzing in it; he
knew how these hurtling emotions fluttered through the reckless
human soul; how, notwithstanding their ceaseless agitation and
excitement, they could intermingle, interweave, intercept each
other, without once disturbing the exquisite proportions of
external grace, the imposing and classic charm of manner. It was
thus that he learned to prize so highly the noble and measured
manners which preserve delicacy from insipidity; petty cares from
wearisome trifling; conventionalism from tyranny; good taste from
coldness; and which never permit the passions to resemble, as is
often the case where such careful culture does not rule, those
stony and calcareous vegetables whose hard and brittle growth
takes a name of such sad contrast: flowers of iron (FLOS FERRI).

His early introduction into this society, in which regularity of
form did not conceal petrifaction of heart, induced Chopin to
think that the CONVENANCES and courtesies of manner, in place of
being only a uniform mask, repressing the character of each
individual under the symmetry of the same lines, rather serve to
contain the passions without stifling them, coloring only that
bald crudity of tone which is so injurious to their beauty,
elevating that materialism which debases them, robbing them of
that license which vulgarizes them, lowering that vehemence which
vitiates them, pruning that exuberance which exhausts them,
teaching the "lovers of the ideal" to unite the virtues which
have sprung from a knowledge of evil, with those "which cause its
very existence to be forgotten in speaking to those they love."
As these visions of his youth deepened in the long perspective of
memories, they gained in grace, in charm, in delight, in his
eyes, fascinating him to such an extent that no reality could
destroy their secret power over his imagination, rendering his
repugnance more and more unconquerable to that license of
allurement, that brutal tyranny of caprice, that eagerness to
drink the cup of fantasy to the very dregs, that stormy pursuit
of all the changes and incongruities of life, which rule in the
strange mode of life known as LA BOHEME.

More than once in the history of art and literature, a poet has
arisen, embodying in himself the poetic sense of a whole nation,
an entire epoch, representing the types which his contemporaries
pursue and strive to realize, in an absolute manner in his works:
such a poet was Chopin for his country and for the epoch in which
he was born. The poetic sentiments the most widely spread, yet
the most intimate and inherent of his nation, were embodied and
united in his imagination, and represented by his brilliant
genius. Poland has given birth to many bards, some of whom rank
among the first poets of the world.

Its writers are now making strenuous efforts to display in the
strongest light, the most glorious and interesting facts of its
history, the most peculiar and picturesque phases of its manners
and customs. Chopin, differing from them in having formed no
premeditated design, surpasses them all in originality. He did
not determine upon, he did not seek such a result; he created no
ideal a priori. Without having predetermined to transport himself
into the past, he constantly remembered the glories of his
country, he understood and sung the loves and tears of his
contemporaries without having analyzed them in advance. He did not
task himself, nor study to be a national musician. Like all truly
national poets he sang spontaneously without premeditated design
or preconceived choice all that inspiration dictated to him, as
we hear it gushing forth in his songs without labor, almost
without effort. He repeated in the most idealized form the
emotions which had animated and embellished his youth; under the
magic delicacy of his pen he displayed the Ideal, which is, if we
may be permitted so to speak, the Real among his people; an Ideal
really in existence among them, which every one in general and
each one in particular approaches by the one or the other of its
many sides. Without assuming to do so, he collected in luminous
sheaves the impressions felt everywhere throughout his country--
vaguely felt it is true, yet in fragments pervading all hearts.
Is it not by this power of reproducing in a poetic formula,
enchanting to the imagination of all nations, the indefinite
shades of feeling widely scattered but frequently met among their
compatriots, that the artists truly national are distinguished?

Not without reason has the task been undertaken of collecting the
melodies indigenous to every country. It appears to us it would
be of still deeper interest, to trace the influences forming the
characteristic powers of the authors most deeply inspired by the
genius of the nation to which they belong. Until the present
epoch there have been very few distinctive compositions, which
stand out from the two great divisions of the German and Italian
schools of music. But with the immense development which this art
seems destined to attain, perhaps renewing for us the glorious
era of the Painters of the CINQUE CENTO, it is highly probable
that composers will appear whose works will be marked by an
originality drawn from differences of organization, of races, and
of climates. It is to be presumed that we will be able to
recognize the influences of the country in which they were born
upon the great masters in music, as well as in the other arts;
that we will be able to distinguish the peculiar and predominant
traits of the national genius more completely developed, more
poetically true, more interesting to study, in the pages of their
compositions than in the crude, incorrect, uncertain, vague and
tremulous sketches of the uncultured people.

Chopin must be ranked among the first musicians thus
individualizing in themselves the poetic sense of an entire
nation, not because he adopted the rhythm of POLONAISES,
MAZOURKAS, and CRACOVIENNES, and called many of his works by such
names, for in so doing he would have limited himself to the
multiplication of such works alone, and would always have given
us the same mode, the remembrance of the same thing; a
reproduction which would soon have grown wearisome, serving but
to multiply compositions of similar form, which must have soon
grown more or less monotonous. It is because he filled these
forms with the feelings peculiar to his country, because the
expression of the national heart may be found under all the modes
in which he has written, that he is entitled to be considered a
poet essentially Polish. His PRELUDES, his NOCTURNES, his
SCHERZOS, his CONCERTOS, his shortest as well as his longest
compositions, are all filled with the national sensibility,
expressed indeed in different degrees, modified and varied in a
thousand ways, but always bearing the same character. An
eminently subjective author, Chopin has given the same life to
all his productions, animated all his works with his own spirit.
All his writings are thus linked by a marked unity. Their
beauties as well as their defects may be traced to the same order
of emotions, to peculiar modes of feeling. The reproduction of
the feelings of his people, idealized and elevated through his
own subjective genius, is an essential requisite for the national
poet who desires that the heart of his country should vibrate in
unison with his own strains.

By the analogies of words and images, we should like to render it
possible for our readers to comprehend the exquisite yet
irritable sensibility peculiar to ardent yet susceptible hearts,
to haughty yet deeply wounded souls. We cannot flatter ourselves
that in the cold realm of words we have been able to give any
idea of such ethereal odorous flames. In comparison with the
vivid and delicious excitement produced by other arts, words
always appear poor, cold, and arid, so that the assertion seems
just: "that of all modes of expressing sentiments, words are the
most insufficient." We cannot flatter ourselves with having
attained in our descriptions the exceeding delicacy of touch,
necessary to sketch that which Chopin has painted with hues so
ethereal. All is subtle in his compositions, even the source of
excitement, of passion; all open, frank, primitive impressions
disappear in them; before they meet the eye, they have passed
through the prism of an exacting, ingenious, and fertile
imagination, and it has become difficult if not impossible to
resolve them again into their primal elements. Acuteness of
discernment is required to understand, delicacy to describe them.
In seizing such refined impressions with the keenest
discrimination, in embodying them with infinite art, Chopin has
proved himself an artist of the highest order. It is only after
long and patient study, after having pursued his sublimated ideas
through their multiform ramifications, that we learn to admire
sufficiently, to comprehend aright, the genius with which he has
rendered his subtle thoughts visible and palpable, without once
blunting their edge, or ever congealing their fiery flow.

He was so entirely filled with the sentiments whose most perfect
types he believed he had known in his own youth, with the ideas
which it alone pleased him to confide to art; he contemplated art
so invariably from the same point of view, that his artistic
preferences could not fail to be influenced by his early
impressions. In the great models and CHEFS-D'OEUVRE, he only
sought that which was in correspondence with his own soul. That
which stood in relation to it pleased him; that which resembled
it not, scarcely obtained justice from him. Uniting in himself
the frequently incompatible qualities of passion and grace he
possessed great accuracy of judgment, and preserved himself from
all petty partiality, but he was but slightly attracted by the
greatest beauties, the highest merits, when they wounded any of
the phases of his poetic conceptions. Notwithstanding the high
admiration which he entertained for the works of Beethoven,
certain portions of them always seemed to him too rudely
sculptured; their structure was too athletic to please him, their
wrath seemed to him too tempestuous, their passion too
overpowering, the lion-marrow which fills every member of his
phases was matter too substantial for his tastes, and the
Raphaelic and Seraphic profiles which are wrought into the midst
of the nervous and powerful creations of this great genius, were
to him almost painful from the force of the cutting contrast in
which they are frequently set.

In spite of the charm which he acknowledged in some of the
melodies of Schubert, he would not willingly listen to those in
which the contours were too sharp for his ear, in which suffering
lies naked, and we can almost feel the flesh palpitate, and hear
the bones crack and crash under the rude embrace of sorrow. All
savage wildness was repulsive to him. In music, in literature, in
the conduct of life, all that approached the melodramatic was
painful to him The frantic and despairing aspects of exaggerated
romanticism were repellent to him, he could not endure the
struggling for wonderful effects, for delicious excesses. "He
loved Shakspeare only under many conditions. He thought his
characters were drawn too closely to the life, and spoke a
language too true; he preferred the epic and lyric syntheses
which leave the poor details of humanity in the shade. For the
same reason he spoke little and listened less, not wishing to
give expression to his own thoughts, or to receive the thoughts
of others, until after they had attained a certain degree of
elevation."

A nature so completely master of itself, so full of delicate
reserve, which loved to divine through glimpses, presentiments,
suppositions, all that had been left untold (a species of
divination always dear to poets who can so eloquently finish the
interrupted words) must have felt annoyed, almost scandalized, by
an audacity which leaves nothing unexpressed, nothing to be
divined. If he had been called upon to express his own views upon
this subject, we believe he would have confessed that in
accordance with his taste, he was only permitted to give vent to
his feelings on condition of suffering much to remain unrevealed,
or only to be divined under the rich veils of broidery in which
he wound his emotions. If that which they agree in calling
classic in art appeared to him too full of methodical
restrictions, if he refused to permit himself to be garroted in
the manacles and frozen in the conventions of systems, if he did
not like confinement although enclosed in the safe symmetry of a
gilded cage, it was not because he preferred the license of
disorder, the confusion of irregularity. It was rather that he
might soar like the lark into the deep blue of the unclouded
heavens. Like the Bird of Paradise, which it was once thought
never slept but while resting upon extended wing, rocked only by
the breath of unlimited space at the sublime height at which it
reposed; he obstinately refused to descend to bury himself in the
misty gloom of the forests, or to surround himself with the
howlings and wailings with which it is filled. He would not leave
the depths of azure for the wastes of the desert, or attempt to
fix pathways over the treacherous waves of sand, which the winds,
in exulting irony, delight to sweep over the traces of the rash
mortal seeking to mark the line of his wandering through the
drifting, blinding swells.

That style of Italian art which is so open, so glaring, so devoid
of the attraction of mystery or of science, with all that which
in German art bears the seal of vulgar, though powerful energy,
was distasteful to him. Apropos of Schubert he once remarked:
"that the sublime is desecrated when followed by the trivial or
commonplace." Among the composers for the piano Hummel was one of
the authors whom he reread with the most pleasure. Mozart was in
his eyes the ideal type, the Poet par excellence, because he,
less rarely than any other author, condescended to descend the
steps leading from the beautiful to the commonplace. The father
of Mozart after having been present at a representation of
IDOMENEE made to his son the following reproach: "You have been
wrong in putting in it nothing for the long ears." It was
precisely for such omissions that Chopin admired him. The gayety
of Papageno charmed him; the love of Tamino with its mysterious
trials seemed to him worthy of having occupied Mozart; he
understood the vengeance of Donna Anna because it cast but a
deeper shade upon her mourning. Yet such was his Sybaritism of
purity, his dread of the commonplace, that even in this immortal
work he discovered some passages whose introduction we have heard
him regret. His worship for Mozart was not diminished but only
saddened by this. He could sometimes forget that which was
repulsive to him, but to reconcile himself to it was impossible.
He seemed to be governed in this by one of those implacable and
irrational instincts, which no persuasion, no effort, can ever
conquer sufficiently to obtain a state of mere indifference
towards the objects of the antipathy; an aversion sometimes so
insurmountable, that we can only account for it by supposing it
to proceed from some innate and peculiar idiosyncrasy.

After he had finished his studies in harmony with Professor
Joseph Elsner, who taught him the rarely known and difficult task
of being exacting towards himself, and placing the just value
upon the advantages which are only to be obtained by dint of
patience and labor; and after he had finished his collegiate
course, it was the desire of his parents that he should travel in
order that he might become familiar with the finest works under
the advantage of their perfect execution. For this purpose he
visited many of the German cities. He had left Warsaw upon one of
these short excursions, when the revolution of the 29th of
November broke out in 1830.

Forced to remain in Vienna, he was heard there in some concerts,
but the Viennese public, generally so cultivated, so prompt to
seize the most delicate shades of execution, the finest
subtleties of thought, during this winter were disturbed and
abstracted. The young artist did not produce there the effect he
had the right to anticipate. He left Vienna with the design of
going to London, but he came first to Paris, where he intended to
remain but a short time. Upon his passport drawn up for England,
he had caused to be inserted: "passing through Paris." These
words sealed his fate. Long years afterwards, when he seemed not
only acclimated, but naturalized in France, he would smilingly
say: I am "passing through Paris."

He gave several concerts after his arrival in Paris, where he was
immediately received and admired in the circles of the elite, as
well as welcomed by the young artists. We remember his first
appearance in the saloons of Pleyel, where the most enthusiastic
and redoubled applause seemed scarcely sufficient to express our
enchantment for the genius which had revealed new phases of
poetic feeling, and made such happy yet bold innovations in the
form of musical art.

Unlike the greater part of young debutants, he was not
intoxicated or dazzled for a moment by his triumph, but accepted
it without pride or false modesty, evincing none of the puerile
enjoyment of gratified vanity exhibited by the PARVENUS of
success. His countrymen who were then in Paris gave him a most
affectionate reception. He was intimate in the house of Prince
Czartoryski, of the Countess Plater, of Madame de Komar, and in
that of her daughters, the Princess de Beauveau and the Countess
Delphine Potocka, whose beauty, together with her indescribable
and spiritual grace, made her one of the most admired sovereigns
of the society of Paris. He dedicated to her his second Concerto,
which contains the Adagio we have already described. The ethereal
beauty of the Countess, her enchanting voice enchained him by a
fascination full of respectful admiration. Her voice was destined
to be the last which should vibrate upon the musician's heart.
Perhaps the sweetest sounds of earth accompanied the parting soul
until they blended in his ear with the first chords of the
angels' lyres.

He mingled much with the Polish circle in Paris; with Orda who
seemed born to command the future, and who was however killed in
Algiers at twenty years of age; with Counts Plater, Grzymala,
Ostrowski, Szembeck, with Prince Lubomirski, etc. etc. As the
Polish families who came afterwards to Paris were all anxious to
form acquaintance with him, he continued to mingle principally
with his own people. He remained through them not only AU COURANT
of all that was passing in his own country, but even in a kind of
musical correspondence with it. He liked those who visited Paris
to show him the airs or new songs they had brought with them, and
when the words of these airs pleased him, he frequently wrote a
new melody for them, thus popularizing them rapidly in his
country although the name of their author was often unknown. The
number of these melodies, due to the inspiration of the heart
alone, having become considerable, he often thought of collecting
them for publication. But he thought of it too late, and they
remain scattered and dispersed, like the perfume of the scented
flowers blessing the wilderness and sweetening the "desert air"
around some wandering traveller, whom chance may have led upon
their secluded track. During our stay in Poland we heard some of
the melodies which are attributed to him, and which are truly
worthy of him; but who would now dare to make an uncertain
selection between the inspirations of the national poet, and the
dreams of his people?

Chopin kept for a long time aloof from the celebrities of Paris;
their glittering train repelled him. As his character and habits
had more true originality than apparent eccentricity, he inspired
less curiosity than they did. Besides he had sharp repartees for
those who imprudently wished to force him into a display of his
musical abilities. Upon one occasion after he had just left the
dining-room, an indiscreet host, who had had the simplicity to
promise his guests some piece executed by him as a rare dessert,
pointed to him an open piano. He should have remembered that in
counting without the host, it is necessary to count twice. Chopin
at first refused, but wearied at last by continued persecution,
assuming, to sharpen the sting of his words, a stifled and
languid tone of voice, he exclaimed: "Ah, sir, I have scarcely
dined!"
Published:
Jan 6, 2016
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