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Chapter VII

Madame Sand--Lelia--Visit to Majorca--Exclusive Ideals.



In 1836 Madame Sand had not only published INDIANA, VALENTINE,
and JACQUES, but also LELIA, that prose poem of which she
afterwards said: "If I regret having written it, it is because I
could not now write it. Were I in the same state of mind now as
when it was written, it would indeed be a great consolation to me
to be able to commence it." The mere painting of romances in cold
water colors must have seemed, without doubt, dull to Madame
Sand, after having handled the hammer and chisel of the sculptor
so boldly, in modeling the grand lines of that semi-colossal

statue, in cutting those sinewy muscles, which even in their
statuesque immobility, are full of bewildering and seductive
charm. Should we continue long to gaze upon it, it excites the
most painful emotion. In strong contrast to the miracle of
Pygmalion, Lelia seems a living Galatea, rich in feeling, full of
love, whom the deeply enamored artist has tried to bury alive in
his exquisitely sculptured marble, stifling the palpitating
breath, and congealing the warm blood in the vain hope of
elevating and immortalizing the beauty he adores. In the presence
of this vivid nature petrified by art, we cannot feel that
admiration is kindled into love, but, saddened and chilled, we
are forced to acknowledge that love may be frozen into mere
admiration.

Brown and olive-hued Lelia! Dark as Lara, despairing as Manfred,
rebellious as Cain, thou hast ranged through the depths of
solitude! But thou art more ferocious, more savage, more
inconsolable than they, because thou hast never found a man's
heart sufficiently feminine to love thee as they were loved, to
pay the homage of a confiding and blind submission to thy virile
charms, to offer thee a mute yet ardent devotion, to suffer its
obedience to be protected by thy Amazonian force! Woman-hero!
Like the Amazons, thou hast been valiant and eager for combats;
like them thou hast not feared to expose the exquisite loveliness
of thy face to the fierceness of the summer's sun, or the sharp
blasts of winter! Thou hast hardened thy fragile limbs by the
endurance of fatigue, thus robbing them of the subtle power of
their weakness! Thou hast covered thy palpitating breast with a
heavy cuirass, which has pressed and torn it, dyeing its snow in
blood;--that gentle woman's bosom, charming as life, discreet as
the grave, which is always adored by man when his heart is
permitted to form its sole, its impenetrable buckler!

After having blunted her chisel in polishing this statue, which,
by its majesty, its haughty disdain, its look of hopeless
anguish, shadowed by the frowning of the pure brows and by the
long loose locks shivering with electric life, reminds us of
those antique cameos on which we still admire the perfect
features, the beautiful yet fatal brow, the haughty smile of the
Medusa, whose gaze paralyzed and stopped the pulses of the human
heart;--Madame Sand in vain sought another form for the
expression of the emotions which tortured her insatiate soul.
After having draped this figure with the highest art,
accumulating every species of masculine greatness upon it in
order to compensate for the highest of all qualities which she
repudiated for it, the grandeur of, "utter self-abnegation for
love," which the many-sided poet has placed in the empyrean and
called "the Eternal Feminine," (DAS EWIGWEIBLICHE,)--a greatness
which is love existing before any of its joys, surviving all its
sorrows;--after having caused Don Juan to be cursed, and a divine
hymn to be chanted to Desire by Lelia, who, as well as Don Juan,
had repulsed the only delight which crowns desire, the luxury of
self-abnegation,--after having fully revenged Elvira by the
creation of Stenio,--after having scorned man more than Don Juan
had degraded woman,--Madame Sand, in her LETTRES D'UN VOYAGEUR,
depicts the shivering palsy, the painful lethargy which seizes
the artist, when, having incorporated the emotion which inspired
him in his work, his imagination still remains under the
domination of the insatiate idea without being able to find
another form in which to incarnate it. Such poetic sufferings
were well understood by Byron, when he makes Tasso shed his most
bitter tears, not for his chains, not for his physical
sufferings, not for the ignominy heaped upon him, but for his
finished Epic, for the ideal world created by his thought and now
about to close its doors upon him, and by thus expelling him from
its enchanted realm, rendering him at last sensible of the gloomy
realities around him:--


"But this is o'er--my pleasant task is done:--
My long-sustaining friend of many years:
If I do blot thy final page with tears,
Know that my sorrows have wrung from me none.
But thou, my young creation! my soul's child!
Which ever playing round me came and smiled,
And woo'd me from myself with thy sweet sight,
Thou too art gone--and so is my delight."

LAMENT OF TASSO.--BYRON.


At this epoch, Madame Sand often heard a musician, one of the
friends who had greeted Chopin with the most enthusiastic joy
upon his arrival at Paris, speak of him. She heard him praise his
poetic genius even more than his artistic talent. She was
acquainted with his compositions, and admired their graceful
tenderness. She was struck by the amount of emotion displayed in
his poems, with the effusions of a heart so noble and dignified.
Some of the countrymen of Chopin spoke to her of the women of
their country, with the enthusiasm natural to them upon that
subject, an enthusiasm then very much increased by a remembrance
of the sublime sacrifices made by them during the last war.
Through their recitals and the poetic inspiration of the Polish
artist, she perceived an ideal of love which took the form of
worship for woman. She thought that guaranteed from dependence,
preserved from inferiority, her role might be like the fairy
power of the Peri, that ethereal intelligence and friend of man.
Perhaps she did not fully understand what innumerable links of
suffering, of silence, of patience, of gentleness, of indulgence,
of courageous perseverance, had been necessary for the formation
of the worship for this imperious but resigned ideal, beautiful
indeed, but sad to behold, like those plants with the rose-
colored corollas, whose stems, intertwining and interlacing in a
network of long and numerous branches, give life to ruins;
destined ever to embellish decay, growing upon old walls and
hiding only tottering stones! Beautiful veils woven by beneficent
Nature, in her ingenious and inexhaustible richness, to cover the
constant decay of human things!

As Madame Sand perceived that this artist, in place of giving
body to his phantasy in porphyry and marble, or defining his
thoughts by the creation of massive caryatides, rather effaced
the contour of his works, and, had it been necessary, could have
elevated his architecture itself from the soil, to suspend it,
like the floating palaces of the Fata Morgana, in the fleecy
clouds, through his aerial forms of almost impalpable buoyancy,
she was more and more attracted by that mystic ideal which she
perceived glowing within them. Though her arm was powerful enough
to have sculptured the round shield, her hand was delicate enough
to have traced those light relievos where the shadows of
ineffaceable profiles have been thrown upon and trusted to a
stone scarcely raised from its level plane. She was no stranger
in the supernatural world, she to whom Nature, as to a favored
child, had unloosed her girdle and unveiled all the caprices, the
attractions, the delights, which she can lend to beauty. She was
not ignorant of the lightest graces; she whose eye could embrace
such vast proportions, had stooped to study the glowing
illuminations painted upon the wings of the fragile butterfly.
She had traced the symmetrical and marvellous network which the
fern extends as a canopy over the wood strawberry; she had
listened to the murmuring of streams through the long reeds and
stems of the water-grass, where the hissing of the "amorous
viper" may be heard; she had followed the wild leaps of the Will-
with-a-wisp as it bounds over the surface of the meadows and
marshes; she had pictured to herself the chimerical dwelling-
places toward which it perfidiously attracts the benighted
traveller; she had listened to the concerts given by the Cicada
and their friends in the stubble of the fields; she had learned
the names of the inhabitants of the winged republics of the woods
which she could distinguish as well by their plumaged robes, as
by their jeering roulades or plaintive cries. She knew the secret
tenderness of the lily in the splendor of its tints; she had
listened to the sighs of Genevieve, [Footnote: ANDRE] the maiden
enamored of flowers.

She was visited in her dreams by those "unknown friends" who came
to rejoin her "when she was seized with distress upon a desolate
shore," brought by a "rapid stream...in large and full
bark"...upon which she mounted to leave the unknown shores, "the
country of chimeras which make real life appear like a dream half
effaced to those, who enamored from their infancy of large shells
of pearl, mount them to land in those isles where all are young
and beautiful...where the men and women are crowned with flowers,
with their long locks floating upon their shoulders...holding
vases and harps of a strange form...having songs and voices not
of this world...all loving each other equally with a divine
love...where crystal fountains of perfumed waters play in basins
of silver...where blue roses bloom in vases of alabaster...where
the perspectives are all enchanted...where they walk with naked
feet upon the thick green moss, soft as carpets of velvet...where
all sing as they wander among the fragrant groves." [Footnote:
LETTRES D'UN VOYAGEUR]

She knew these unknown friends so well that after having again
seen them, "she could not dream of them without palpitations of
the heart during the whole day." She was initiated into the
Hoffmannic world--"she who had surprised such ineffable smiles
upon the portraits of the dead;" [Footnote: SPIRIDSON] who had
seen the rays of the sun falling through the stained glass of a
Gothic window form a halo round loved heads, like the arm of God,
luminous and impalpable, surrounded by a vortex of atoms;--she
who had known such glorious apparitions, clothed with the purple
and golden glories of the setting sun. The realm of fantasy had
no myth with whose secret she was not familiar!

Thus she was naturally anxious to become acquainted with one who
had with rapid wing flown "to those scenes which it is impossible
to describe, but which must exist somewhere, either upon the
earth, or in some of the planets, whose light we love to gaze
upon in the forests when the moon has set." [Footnote: LETTRES
D'UN VOYAGEUR] Such scenes she had prayed never to be forced to
desert--never desiring to bring her heart and imagination back to
this dreary world, too like the gloomy coasts of Finland, where
the slime and miry slough can only be escaped by scaling the
naked granite of the solitary rocks. Fatigued with the massive
statue she had sculptured, the Amazonian Lelia; wearied with the
grandeur of an Ideal which it is impossible to mould from the
gross materials of this earth; she was desirous to form an
acquaintance with the artist "the lover of an impossible so
shadowy"--so near the starry regions. Alas! if these regions are
exempt from the poisonous miasmas of our atmosphere, they are not
free from its desolating melancholy! Perhaps those who are
transported there may adore the shining of new suns--but there
are others not less dear whose light they must see extinguished!
Will not the most glorious among the beloved constellation of the
Pleiades there disappear? Like drops of luminous dew the stars
fall one by one into the nothingness of a yawning abyss, whose
bottomless depths no plummet has ever sounded, while the soul,
contemplating these fields of ether, this blue Sahara with its
wandering and perishing oases,--is stricken by a grief so
hopeless, so profound, that neither enthusiasm nor love can ever
soothe it more. It ingulfs and absorbs all emotions, being no
more agitated by them than the sleeping waters of some tranquil
lake, reflecting the moving images thronging its banks from its
polished surface, are by the varied motions and eager life of the
many objects mirrored upon its glassy bosom. The drowsy waters
cannot thus be wakened from their icy lethargy. This melancholy
saddens even the highest joy. "Through the exhaustion always
accompanying such tension, when the soul is strained above the
region which it naturally inhabits...the insufficiency of speech
is felt for the first time by those who have studied it so much,
and used it so well--we are borne from all active, from all
militant instincts--to travel through boundless space--to be lost
in the immensity of adventurous courses far, far above the
clouds...where we no longer see that the earth is beautiful,
because our gaze is riveted upon the skies...where reality is no
longer poetically draped, as has been so skilfully done by the
author of Waverley, but where, in idealizing poetry itself, the
infinite is peopled with the spirits belonging only to its mystic
realm, as has been done by Byron in his Manfred."

Could Madame Sand have divined the incurable melancholy, the will
which cannot blend with that of others, the imperious
exclusiveness, which invariably seize upon imaginations
delighting in the pursuit of dreams whose realities are nowhere
to be found, or at least never in the matter-of-fact world in
which the dreamers are constrained to dwell? Had she foreseen the
form which devoted attachment assumes for such dreamers; had she
measured the entire and absolute absorption which they will alone
accept as the synonyme of tenderness? It is necessary to be in
some degree shy, shrinking, and secretive as they themselves are,
to be able to understand the hidden depths of characters so
concentrated. Like those susceptible flowers which close their
sensitive petals before the first breath of the North wind, they
too veil their exacting souls in the shrouds of self
concentration, unfolding themselves only under the warming rays
of a propitious sun. Such natures have been called "rich by
exclusiveness;" in opposition to those which are "rich by
expansiveness." "If these differing temperaments should meet and
approach each other, they can never mingle or melt the one into
the other," (says the writer whom we have so often quoted) "but
the one must consume the other, leaving nothing but ashes
behind." Alas! it is the natures like that of the fragile
musician whose days we commemorate, which, consuming themselves,
perish; not wishing, not indeed being able, to live any life but
one in conformity with their own exclusive Ideal.

Chopin seemed to dread Madame Sand more than any other woman, the
modern Sibyl, who, like the Pythoness of old, had said so many
things that others of her sex neither knew nor dared to say. He
avoided and put off all introduction to her. Madame Sand was
ignorant of this. In consequence of that captivating simplicity,
which is one of her noblest charms, she did not divine his fear
of the Delphic priestess. At last she was presented to him, and
an acquaintance with her soon dissipated the prejudices which he
had obstinately nourished against female authors.

In the fall of 1837, Chopin was attacked by an alarming illness,
which left him almost without force to support life. Dangerous
symptoms forced him to go South to avoid the rigor of winter.
Madame Sand, always so watchful over those whom she loved, so
full of compassion for their sufferings, would not permit him,
when his health required so much care, to set out alone, and
determined to accompany him. They selected the island of Majorca
for their residence because the air of the sea, joined to the
mild climate which prevails there, is especially salubrious for
those who are suffering from affections of the lungs. Though he
was so weak when he left Paris that we had no hope of his ever
returning; though after his arrival in Majorca he was long and
dangerously ill; yet so much was he benefited by the change that
big health was improved during several years.

Was it the effect of the balmy climate alone which recalled him
to health? Was it not rather because his life was full of bliss
that he found strength to live? Did he not regain strength only
because he now wished to live? Who can tell how far the influence
of the will extends over the body? Who knows what internal subtle
aroma it has the power of disengaging to preserve the sinking
frame from decay; what vital force it can breathe into the
debilitated organs? Who can say where the dominion of mind over
matter ceases? Who knows how far our senses are under the
dominion of the imagination, to what extent their powers may be
increased, or their extinction accelerated, by its influence? It
matters not how the imagination gains its strange extension of
power, whether through long and bitter exercise, or, whether
spontaneously collecting its forgotten strength, it concentrates
its force in some new and decisive moment of destiny: as when the
rays of the sun are able to kindle a flame of celestial origin
when concentrated in the focus of the burning glass, brittle and
fragile though the medium be.

All the long scattered rays of happiness were collected within
this epoch of the life of Chopin; is it then surprising that they
should have rekindled the flame of life, and that it should have
burned at this time with the most vivid lustre? The solitude
surrounded by the blue waves of the Mediterranean and shaded by
groves of orange, seemed fitted in its exceeding loveliness for
the ardent vows of youthful lovers, still believing in their
naive and sweet illusions, sighing for happiness in "some desert
isle." He breathed there that air for which natures unsuited for
the world, and never feeling themselves happy in it, long with
such a painful home-sickness; that air which may be found
everywhere if we can find the sympathetic souls to breathe it
with us, and which is to be met nowhere without them; that air of
the land of our dreams; and which in spite of all obstacles, of
the bitter real, is easily discovered when sought by two! It is
the air of the country of the ideal to which we gladly entice the
being we cherish, repeating with poor Mignon: DAHIN!
DAHIN!...LASST UNS ZIEHN!

As long as his sickness lasted, Madame Sand never left the pillow
of him who loved her even to death, with an attachment which in
losing all its joys, did not lose its intensity, which remained
faithful to her even after all its memories had turned to pain:
"for it seemed as if this fragile being was absorbed and consumed
by the strength of his affection....Others seek happiness in
their attachments; when they no longer find it, the attachment
gently vanishes. In this they resemble the rest of the world. But
he loved for the sake of loving. No amount of suffering was
sufficient to discourage him. He could enter upon a new phase,
that of woe; but the phase of coldness he could never arrive at.
It would have been indeed a phase of physical agony--for his love
was his life--and delicious or bitter, he had not the power of
withdrawing himself a single moment from its domination."
[Footnote: LUCRESIA FLORIANA] Madame Sand never ceased to be for
Chopin that being of magic spells who had snatched him from the
valley of the shadow of death, whose power had changed his
physical agony into the delicious languor of love. To save him
from death, to bring him back to life, she struggled courageously
with his disease. She surrounded him with those divining and
instinctive cares which are a thousand times more efficacious
than the material remedies known to science. While engaged in
nursing him, she felt no fatigue, no weariness, no
discouragement. Neither her strength, nor her patience, yielded
before the task. Like the mothers in robust health, who appear to
communicate a part of their own strength to the sickly infant
who, constantly requiring their care, have also their preference,
she nursed the precious charge into new life. The disease
yielded: "the funereal oppression which secretly undermined the
spirit of Chopin, destroying and corroding all contentment,
gradually vanished. He permitted the amiable character, the
cheerful serenity of his friend to chase sad thoughts and
mournful presentiments away, and to breathe new force into his
intellectual being."

Happiness succeeded to gloomy fears, like the gradual progression
of a beautiful day after a night full of obscurity and terror,
when so dense and heavy is the vault of darkness which weighs
upon us from above, that we are prepared for a sudden and fatal
catastrophe, we do not even dare to dream of deliverance, when
the despairing eye suddenly catches a bright spot where the mists
clear, and the clouds open like flocks of heavy wool yielding,
even while the edges thicken under the pressure of the hand which
rends them. At this moment, the first ray of hope penetrates the
soul. We breathe more freely like those who lost in the windings
of a dark cavern at last think they see a light, though indeed
its existence is still doubtful. This faint light is the day
dawn, though so colorless are its rays, that it is more like the
extinction of the dying twilight,--the fall of the night-shroud
upon the earth. But it is indeed the dawn; we know it by the
vivid and pure breath of the young zephyrs which it sends forth,
like avant-coureurs, to bear us the assurance of morn and safety.
The balm of flowers fills the air, like the thrilling of an
encouraged hope. A stray bird accidentally commences his song
earlier than usual, it soothes the heart like a distant
consolation, and is accepted as a promise for the future. As the
imperceptibly progressive but sure indications multiply, we are
convinced that in this struggle of light and darkness it is the
shadows of night which are to yield. Raising our eyes to the Dome
of lead above us, we feel that it weighs less heavily upon us,
that it has already lost its fatal stability.

Little by little the long gray lines of light increase, they
stretch themselves along the horizon like fissures into a
brighter world. They suddenly enlarge, they gain upon their dark
boundaries, now they break through them, as the waters bounding
the edge of a lake inundate in irregular pools the arid banks.
Then a fierce opposition begins, banks and long dikes accumulate
to arrest the progress. The clouds are oiled like ridges of sand,
tossing and surging to present obstructions, but like the
impetuous raging of irresistible waters, the light breaks through
them, demolishes them, devours them, and as the rays ascend, the
rolling waves of purple mist glow into crimson. At this moment
the young dawn shines with a timid yet victorious grace, while
the knee bends in admiration and gratitude before it, for the
last terror has vanished, and we feel as if new born.

Fresh objects strike upon the view, as if just called from chaos.
A veil of uniform rose-color covers them all, but as the light
augments in intensity, the thin gauze drapes and folds in shades
of pale carnation, while the advancing plains grow clear in white
and dazzling splendor.

The brilliant sun delays no longer to invade the firmament,
gaining new glory as he rises. The vapors surge and crowd
together, rolling themselves from right to left, like the heavy
drapery of a curtain moved by the wind. Then all breathes, moves,
lives, hums, sings; the sounds mingle, cross, meet, and melt into
each other. Inertia gives place to motion, it spreads,
accelerates and circulates. The waves of the lake undulate and
swell like a bosom touched by love. The tears of the dew,
motionless as those of tenderness, grow more and more
perceptible, one after another they are seen glittering on the
humid herbs, diamonds waiting for the sun to paint with rainbow-
tints their vivid scintillations. The gigantic fan of light in
the East is ever opening larger and wider. Spangles of silver,
borders of scarlet, violet fringes, bars of gold, cover it with
fantastic broidery. Light bands of reddish brown feather its
branches. The brightest scarlet at its centre has the glowing
transparency of the ruby; shading into orange like a burning
coal, it widens like a torch, spreads like a bouquet of flames,
which glows and glows from fervor to fervor, ever more
incandescent.

At last the god of day appears! His blazing front is adorned with
luminous locks of long floating hair. Slowly he seems to rise--
but scarcely has he fully unveiled himself, than he starts
forward, disengages himself from all around him, and, leaving the
earth far below him, takes instantaneous possession of the
vaulted heavens..............


The memory of the days passed in the lovely isle of Majorca, like
the remembrance of an entrancing ecstasy, which fate grants but
once in life even to the most favored of her children, remained
always dear to the heart of Chopin. "He [Footnote: Lucrezia
Fioriani] was no longer upon this earth, he was in an empyrean of
golden clouds and perfumes, his imagination, so full of exquisite
beauty, seemed engaged in a monologue with God himself; and if
upon the radiant prism in whose contemplation he forgot all else,
the magic-lantern of the outer world would even cast its
disturbing shadow, he felt deeply pained, as if in the midst of a
sublime concert, a shrieking old woman should blend her shrill
yet broken tones, her vulgar musical motivo, with the divine
thoughts of the great masters." He always spoke of this period
with deep emotion, profound gratitude, as if its happiness had
been sufficient for a life-time, without hoping that it would
ever be possible again to find a felicity in which the fight of
time was only marked by the tenderness of woman's love, and the
brilliant flashes of true genius. Thus did the clock of Linnaeus
mark the course of time, indicating the hours by the successive
waking and sleeping of the flowers, marking each by a different
perfume, and a display of ever varying beauties, as each
variegated calyx opened in ever changing yet ever lovely form!

The beauties of the countries through which the Poet and Musician
travelled together, struck with more distinctness the imagination
of the former. The loveliness of nature impressed Chopin in a
manner less definite, though not less strong. His soul was
touched, and immediately harmonized with the external
enchantment, yet his intellect did not feel the necessity of
analyzing or classifying it. His heart vibrated in unison with
the exquisite scenery around him, although he was not able at the
moment to assign the precise source of his blissful tranquillity.
Like a true musician, he was satisfied to seize the sentiment of
the scenes he visited, while he seemed to give but little
attention to the plastic material, the picturesque frame, which
did not assimilate with the form of his art, nor belong to his
more spiritualized sphere. However, (a fact that has been often
remarked in organizations such as his,) as he was removed in time
and distance from the scenes in which emotion had obscured his
senses, as the clouds from the burning incense envelope the
censer, the more vividly the forms and beauties of such scenes
stood out in his memory. In the succeeding years, he frequently
spoke of them, as though the remembrance was full of pleasure to
him. But when so entirely happy, he made no inventory of his
bliss. He enjoyed it simply, as we all do in the sweet years of
childhood, when we are deeply impressed by the scenery
surrounding us without ever thinking of its details, yet finding,
long after, the exact image of each object in our memory, though
we are only able to describe its forms when we have ceased to
behold them.

Besides, why should he have tasked himself to scrutinize the
beautiful sites in Spain which formed the appropriate setting of
his poetic happiness? Could he not always find them again through
the descriptions of his inspired companion? As all objects, even
the atmosphere itself, become flame-colored when seen through a
glass dyed in crimson, so he might contemplate these delicious
sites in the glowing hues cast around them by the impassioned
genius of the woman he loved. The nurse of his sick- room--was
she not also a great artist? Rare and beautiful union! If to the
depths of tenderness and devotion, in which the true and
irresistible empire of woman must commence, and deprived of which
she is only an enigma without a possible solution, nature should
unite the most brilliant gifts of genius,--the miraculous
spectacle of the Greek firs would be renewed,--the glittering
flames would again sport over the abysses of the ocean without
being extinguished or submerged in the chilling depths, adding,
as the living hues were thrown upon the surging waves, the
glowing dyes of the purple fire to the celestial blue of the
heaven-reflecting sea!

Has genius ever attained that utter self-abnegation, that sublime
humility of heart which gives the power to make those strange
sacrifices of the entire Past, of the whole Future; those
immolations, as courageous as mysterious; those mystic and utter
holocausts of self, not temporary and changing, but monotonous
and constant,--through whose might alone tenderness may justly
claim the higher name, devotion? Has not the force of genius its
own exclusive and legitimate exactions, and does not the force of
woman consist in the abdication of all exactions? Can the royal
purple and burning flames of genius ever float upon the
immaculate azure of woman's destiny?...
Published:
Jan 6, 2016
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