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Chapter IV

Chopin's Mode of Playing--Concerts--The Elite--Fading Bouquets
and Immortal Crowns--Hospitality--Heine--Meyerbeer--Adolphe
Nourrit--Eugene Delacroix--Niemcevicz--Mickiewicz--George Sand.



AFTER having described the compositions palpitating with emotion
in which genius struggles with grief, (grief, that terrible
reality which Art must strive to reconcile with Heaven),
confronting it sometimes as conqueror, sometimes as conquered;
compositions in which all the memories of his youth, the
affections of his heart, the mysteries of his desires, the
secrets of his untold passions, are collected like tears in a
lachrymatory; compositions in which, passing the limits of human
sensations--too dull for his eager fancy, too obtuse for his keen
perceptions--he makes incursions into the realms of Dryads,
Oreads, and Oceanides;--we would naturally be expected to speak
of his talent for execution. But this task we cannot assume. We
cannot command the melancholy courage to exhume emotions linked
with our fondest memories, our dearest personal recollections; we
cannot force ourselves to make the mournful effort to color the
gloomy shrouds, veiling the skill we once loved, with the
brilliant hues they would exact at our hands. We feel our loss
too bitterly to attempt such an analysis. And what result would
it be possible to attain with all our efforts! We could not hope
to convey to those who have never heard him, any just conception
of that fascination so ineffably poetic, that charm subtle and
penetrating as the delicate perfume of the vervain or the
Ethiopian calla, which, shrinking and exclusive, refuses to
diffuse its exquisite aroma in the noisome breath of crowds,
whose heavy air can only retain the stronger odor of the
tuberose, the incense of burning resin.

By the purity of its handling, by its relation with LA FEE AUX
MIETTES and LES LUTINS D'ARGAIL, by its rencounters with the
SERAPHINS and DIANES, who murmur in his ear their most
confidential complaints, their most secret dreams, the style and
the manner of conception of Chopin remind us of Nodier. He knew
that he did not act upon the masses, that he could not warm the
multitude, which is like a sea of lead, and as heavy to set in
motion, and which, though its waves may be melted and rendered
malleable by heat, requires the powerful arm of an athletic
Cyclops to manipulate, fuse, and pour into moulds, where the dull
metal, glowing and seething under the electric fire, becomes
thought and feeling under the new form into which it has been
forced. He knew he was only perfectly appreciated in those
meetings, unfortunately too few, in which ALL his hearers were
prepared to follow him into those spheres which the ancients
imagined to be entered only through a gate of ivory, to be
surrounded by pilasters of diamond, and surmounted by a dome
arched with fawn-colored crystal, upon which played the various
dyes of the prism; spheres, like the Mexican opal, whose
kaleidoscopical foci are dimmed by olive-colored mists veiling
and unveiling the inner glories; spheres, in which all is magical
and supernatural, reminding us of the marvellous worlds of
realized dreams. In such spheres Chopin delighted. He once
remarked to a friend, an artist who has since been frequently
heard: "I am not suited for concert giving; the public intimidate
me; their looks, only stimulated by curiosity, paralyze me; their
strange faces oppress me; their breath stifles me: but you--you
are destined for it, for when you do not gain your public, you
have the force to assault, to overwhelm, to control, to compel
them."

Conscious of how much was necessary for the comprehension of his
peculiar talent, he played but rarely in public. With the
exception of some concerts given at his debut in 1831, in Vienna
and Munich, he gave no more, except in Paris, being indeed not
able to travel on account of his health, which was so precarious,
that during entire months, he would appear to be in an almost
dying state. During the only excursion which he made with a hope
that the mildness of a Southern climate would be more conducive
to his health, his condition was frequently so alarming, that
more than once the hotel keepers demanded payment for the bed and
mattress he occupied, in order to have them burned, deeming him
already arrived at that stage of consumption in which it becomes
so highly contagious We believe, however, if we may be permitted
to say it, that his concerts were less fatiguing to his physical
constitution, than to his artistic susceptibility. We think that
his voluntary abnegation of popular applause veiled an internal
wound. He was perfectly aware of his own superiority; perhaps it
did not receive sufficient reverberation and echo from without to
give him the tranquil assurance that he was perfectly
appreciated. No doubt, in the absence of popular acclamation, he
asked himself how far a chosen audience, through the enthusiasm
of its applause, was able to replace the great public which he
relinquished. Few understood him:--did those few indeed
understand him aright? A gnawing feeling of discontent, of which
he himself scarcely comprehended the cause, secretly undermined
him. We have seen him almost shocked by eulogy. The praise to
which he was justly entitled not reaching him EN MASSE, he looked
upon isolated commendation as almost wounding. That he felt
himself not only slightly, but badly applauded, was sufficiently
evident by the polished phrases with which, like troublesome
dust, he shook such praises off, making it quite evident that he
preferred to be left undisturbed in the enjoyment of his solitary
feelings to injudicious commendation.

Too fine a connoisseur in raillery, too ingenious satirist ever
to expose himself to sarcasm, he never assumed the role of a
"genius misunderstood." With a good grace and under an apparent
satisfaction, he concealed so entirely the wound given to his
just pride, that its very existence was scarcely suspected. But
not without reason, might the gradually increasing rarity
[Footnote: Sometimes he passed years without giving a single
concert. We believe the one given by him in Pleyel's room, in
1844, was after an interval of nearly ten years] of his concerts
be attributed rather to the wish he felt to avoid occasions which
did not bring him the tribute he merited, than to physical
debility. Indeed, he put his strength to rude proofs in the many
lessons which he always gave, and the many hours he spent at his
own Piano.

It is to be regretted that the indubitable advantage for the
artist resulting from the cultivation of only a select audience,
should be so sensibly diminished by the rare and cold expression
of its sympathies. The GLACE which covers the grace of the ELITE,
as it does the fruit of their desserts; the imperturbable calm of
their most earnest enthusiasm, could not be satisfactory to
Chopin. The poet, torn from his solitary inspiration, can only
find it again in the interest, more than attentive, vivid and
animated of his audience. He can never hope to regain it in the
cold looks of an Areopagus assembled to judge him. He must FEEL
that he moves, that he agitates those who hear him, that his
emotions find in them the responsive sympathies of the same
intuitions, that he draws them on with him in his flight towards
the infinite: as when the leader of a winged train gives the
signal of departure, he is immediately followed by the whole
flock in search of milder shores.

But had it been otherwise--had Chopin everywhere received the
exalted homage and admiration he so well deserved; had he been
heard, as so many others, by all nations and in all climates; had
ho obtained those brilliant ovations which make a Capitol every
where, where the people salute merit or honor genius had he been
known and recognized by thousands in place of the hundreds who
acknowledged him--we would not pause in this part of his career
to enumerate such triumphs.

What are the dying bouquets of an hour to those whose brows claim
the laurel of immortality? Ephemeral sympathies, transitory
praises, are not to be mentioned in the presence of the august
Dead, crowned with higher glories. The joys, the consolations,
the soothing emotions which the creations of true art awaken in
the weary, suffering, thirsty, or persevering and believing
hearts to whom they are dedicated, are destined to be borne into
far countries and distant years, by the sacred works of Chopin.
Thus an unbroken bond will be established between elevated
natures, enabling them to understand and appreciate each other,
in whatever part of the earth or period of time they may live.
Such natures are generally badly divined by their contemporaries
when they have been silent, often misunderstood when they have
spoken the most eloquently!

"There are different crowns," says Goethe, "there are some which
may be readily gathered during a walk." Such crowns charm for the
moment through their balmy freshness, but who would think of
comparing them with those so laboriously gained by Chopin by
constant and exemplary effort, by an earnest love of art, and by
his own mournful experience of the emotions which he has so
truthfully depicted?

As he sought not with a mean avidity those crowns so easily won,
of which more than one among ourselves has the modesty to be
proud; as he was a pure, generous, good and compassionate man,
filled with a single sentiment, and that one of the most noble of
feelings, the love of country; as he moved among us like a spirit
consecrated by all that Poland possesses of poetry; let us
approach his sacred grave with due reverence! Let us adorn it
with no artificial wreaths! Let us cast upon it no trivial
crowns! Let us nobly elevate our thoughts before this consecrated
shroud! Let us learn from him to repulse all but the highest
ambition, let us try to concentrate our labor upon efforts which
will leave more lasting effects than the vain leading of the
fashions of the passing hour. Let us renounce the corrupt spirit
of the times in which we live, with all that is not worthy of
art, all that will not endure, all that does not contain in
itself some spark of that eternal and immaterial beauty, which it
is the task of art to reveal and unveil as the condition of its
own glory! Let us remember the ancient prayer of the Dorians
whose simple formula is so full of pious poetry, asking only of
their gods: "To give them the Good, in return for the Beautiful!"
In place of laboring so constantly to attract auditors, and
striving to please them at whatever sacrifice, let us rather aim,
like Chopin, to leave a celestial and immortal echo of what we
have felt, loved, and suffered! Let us learn, from his revered
memory, to demand from ourselves works which will entitle us to
some true rank in the sacred city of art! Let us not exact from
the present with out regard to the future, those light and vain
wreath which are scarcely woven before they are faded and
forgotten!...

In place of such crowns, the most glorious palms which it is
possible for an artist to receive during his lifetime, have been
placed in the hands of Chopin by ILLUSTRIOUS EQUALS. An
enthusiastic admiration was given him by a public still more
limited than the musical aristocracy which frequented his
concerts. This public was formed of the most distinguished names
of men, who bowed before him as the kings of different empires
bend before a monarch whom they have assembled to honor. Such men
rendered to him, individually, due homage. How could it have been
otherwise in France, where the hospitality, so truly national,
discerns with such perfect taste the rank and claims of the
guests?

The most eminent minds in Paris frequently met in Chopin's
saloon. Not in reunions of fantastic periodicity, such as the
dull imaginations of ceremonious and tiresome circles have
arranged, and which they have never succeeded in realizing in
accordance with their wishes, for enjoyment, ease, enthusiasm,
animation, never come at an hour fixed upon before hand. They can
be commanded less by artists than by other men, for they are all
more or less struck by some sacred malady whose paralyzing torpor
they must shake off, whose benumbing pain they must forget, to be
joyous and amused by those pyrotechnic fires which startle the
bewildered guests, who see from time to time a Roman candle, a
rose-colored Bengal light, a cascade whose waters are of fire, or
a terrible, yet quite innocent dragon! Gayety and the strength
necessary to be joyous, are, unfortunately things only
accidentally to be encountered among poets and artists! It is
true some of the more privileged among them have the happy gift
of surmounting internal pain, so as to bear their burden always
lightly, able to laugh with their companions over the toils of
the way, or at least always able to preserve a gentle and calm
serenity which, like a mute pledge of hope and consolation,
animates, elevates, and encourages their associates, imparting to
them, while they remain under the influence of this placid
atmosphere, a freedom of spirit which appears so much the more
vivid, the more strongly it contrasts with their habitual ennui,
their abstraction, their natural gloom, their usual indifference.

Chopin did not belong to either of the above mentioned classes;
he possessed the innate grace of a Polish welcome, by which the
host is not only bound to fulfill the common laws and duties of
hospitality, but is obliged to relinquish all thought of himself,
to devote all his powers to promote the enjoyment of his guests.
It was a pleasant thing to visit him; his visitors were always
charmed; he knew how to put them at once at ease, making them
masters of every thing, and placing every thing at their
disposal. In doing the honors of his own cabin, even the simple
laborer of Sclavic race never departs from this munificence; more
joyously eager in his welcome than the Arab in his tent, he
compensates for the splendor which may be wanting in his
reception by an adage which he never fails to repeat, and which
is also repealed by the grand seignior after the most luxurious
repasts served under gilded canopies: CZYM BOHAT, TYM RAD--which
is thus paraphrased for foreigners: "Deign graciously to pardon
all that is unworthy of you, it is all my humble riches which I
place at your feet." This formula [Footnote: All the Polish
formulas of courtesy retain the strong impress of the
hyperbolical expressions of the Eastern languages. The titles of
"very powerful and very enlightened seigniors" are still
obligatory. The Poles, in conversation, constantly name each
other Benefactor (DOBRODZIJ). The common salutation between men,
and of men to women, is PADAM DO NOG: "I fall at your feet." The
greeting of the people possesses a character of ancient solemnity
and simplicity: SLAWA BOHU: "Glory to God."] is still pronounced
with a national grace and dignity by all masters of families who
preserve the picturesque customs which distinguished the ancient
manners of Poland.

Having thus described something of the habits of hospitality
common in his country, the ease which presided over our reunions
with Chopin will be readily understood. The flow of thought, the
entire freedom from restraint, were of a character so pure that
no insipidity or bitterness ever ensued, no ill humor was ever
provoked. Though he avoided society, yet when his saloon was
invaded, the kindness of his attention was delightful; without
appearing to occupy himself with any one, he succeeded in finding
for all that which was most agreeable; neglecting none, he
extended to all the most graceful courtesy.

It was not without a struggle, without a repugnance slightly
misanthropic, that Chopin could be induced to open his doors and
piano, even to those whose friendship, as respectful as faithful,
gave them a claim to urge such a request with eagerness. Without
doubt more than one of us can still remember our first improvised
evening with him, in spite of his refusal, when he lived at
Chaussee d'Antin.

His apartment, invaded by surprise, was only lighted by some wax
candles, grouped round one of Pleyel's pianos, which he
particularly liked for their slightly veiled, yet silvery
sonorousness, and easy touch, permitting him to elicit tones
which one might think proceeded from one of those harmonicas of
which romantic Germany has preserved the monopoly, and which were
so ingeniously constructed by its ancient masters, by the union
of crystal and water.

As the corners of the room were left in obscurity, all idea of
limit was lost, so that there seemed no boundary save the
darkness of space. Some tall piece of furniture, with its white
cover, would reveal itself in the dim light; an indistinct form,
raising itself like a spectre to listen to the sounds which had
evoked it. The light, concentrated round the piano and falling on
the floor, glided on like a spreading wave until it mingled with
the broken flashes from the fire, from which orange colored
plumes rose and fell, like fitful gnomes, attracted there by
mystic incantations in their own tongue. A single portrait, that
of a pianist, an admiring and sympathetic friend, seemed invited
to be the constant auditor of the ebb and flow of tones, which
sighed, moaned, murmured, broke and died upon the instrument near
which it always hung. By a strange accident, the polished surface
of the mirror only reflected so as to double it for our eyes, the
beautiful oval with silky curls which so many pencils have
copied, and which the engraver has just reproduced for all who
are charmed by works of such peculiar eloquence.

Several men, of brilliant renown, were grouped in the luminous
zone immediately around the piano: Heine, the saddest of
humorists, listened with the interest of a fellow countryman to
the narrations made him by Chopin of the mysterious country which
haunted his ethereal fancy also, and of which he too had explored
the beautiful shores. At a glance, a word, a tone, Chopin and
Heine understood each other; the musician replied to the
questions murmured in his ear by the poet, giving in tones the
most surprising revelations from those unknown regions, about
that "laughing nymph" [Footnote: Heine. SALOON- CHOPIN.] of whom
he demanded news: "If she still continued to drape her silvery
veil around the flowing locks of her green hair, with a coquetry
so enticing?" Familiar with the tittle-tattle and love tales of
those distant lands he asked: "If the old marine god, with the
long white beard, still pursued this mischievous naiad with his
ridiculous love?" Fully informed, too, about all the exquisite
fairy scenes to be seen DOWN THERE--DOWN THERE, he asked "if the
roses always glowed there with a flame so triumphant? if the
trees at moonlight sang always so harmoniously?" When Chopin had
answered, and they had for a long time conversed together about
that aerial clime, they would remain in gloomy silence, seized
with that mal du pays from which Heine suffered when he compared
himself to that Dutch captain of the phantom ship, with his crew
eternally driven about upon the chill waves, and "sighing in vain
for the spices, the tulips, the hyacinths, the pipes of sea-
foam, the porcelain cups of Holland...'Amsterdam! Amsterdam! when
shall we again see Amsterdam!' they cry from on board, while the
tempest howls in the cordage, beating them forever about in their
watery hell." Heine adds: "I fully understand the passion with
which the unfortunate captain once exclaimed: 'Oh if I should
EVER again see Amsterdam! I would rather be chained forever at
the corner of one of its streets, than be forced to leave it
again!' Poor Van der Decken!"

Heine well knew what poor Van der Decken had suffered in his
terrible and eternal course upon the ocean, which had fastened
its fangs in the wood of his incorruptible vessel, and by an
invisible anchor, whose chain he could not break because it could
never be found, held it firmly linked upon the waves of its
restless bosom. He could describe to us when he chose, the hope,
the despair, the torture of the miserable beings peopling this
unfortunate ship, for he had mounted its accursed timbers, led on
and guided by the hand of some enamored Undine, who, when the
guest of her forest of coral and palace of pearl rose more
morose, more satirical, more bitter than usual, offered for the
amusement of his ill humor between the repasts, some spectacle
worthy of a lover who could create more wonders in his dreams
than her whole kingdom contained.

Heine had traveled round the poles of the earth in this
imperishable vessel; he had seen the brilliant visitor of the
long nights, the aurora borealis, mirror herself in the immense
stalactites of eternal ice, rejoicing in the play of colors
alternating with each other in the varying folds of her glowing
scarf. He had visited the tropics, where the zodiacal triangle,
with its celestial light, replaces, during the short nights, the
burning rays of an oppressive sun. He had crossed the latitudes
where life becomes pain, and advanced into those in which it is a
living death, making himself familiar, on the long way, with the
heavenly miracles in the wild path of sailors who make for no
port! Seated on a poop without a helm, his eye had ranged from
the two Bears majestically overhanging the North, to the
brilliant Southern Cross, through the blank Antarctic deserts
extending through the empty space of the heavens overhead, as
well as over the dreary waves below, where the despairing eye
finds nothing to contemplate in the sombre depths of a sky
without a star, vainly arching over a shoreless and bottomless
sea! He had long followed the glittering yet fleeting traces left
by the meteors through the blue depths of space; he had tracked
the mystic and incalculable orbits of the comets as they flash
through their wandering paths, solitary and incomprehensible,
everywhere dreaded for their ominous splendor, yet inoffensive
and harmless. He had gazed upon the shining of that distant star,
Aldebaran, which, like the glitter and sullen glow in the eye of
a vengeful enemy, glares fiercely upon our globe, without daring
to approach it. He had watched the radiant planets shedding upon
the restless eye which seeks them a consoling and friendly light,
like the weird cabala of an enigmatic yet hopeful promise.

Heine had seen all these things, under the varying appearances
which they assume in different latitudes; he had seen much more
also with which he would entertain us under strange similitudes.
He had assisted at the furious cavalcade of "Herodiade;" he had
also an entrance at the court of the king of "Aulnes" in the
gardens of the "Hesperides"; and indeed into all those places
inaccessible to mortals who have not had a fairy as godmother,
who would take upon herself the task of counterbalancing all the
evil experienced in life, by showering upon the adopted the whole
store of fairy treasures.

Upon that evening which we are now describing, Meyerbeer was
seated next to Heine;--Meyerbeer, for whom the whole catalogue of
admiring interjections has long since been exhausted! Creator of
Cyclopean harmonics as he was, he passed the time in delight when
following the detailed arabesques, which, woven in transparent
gauze, wound in filmy veils around the delicate conceptions of
Chopin.

Adolphe Nourrit, a noble artist, at once ascetic and passionate,
was also there. He was a sincere, almost a devout Catholic,
dreaming of the future with the fervor of the Middle Ages, who,
during the latter part of his life, refused the assistance of his
talent to any scene of merely superficial sentiment. He served
Art with a high and enthusiastic respect; he considered it, in
all its divers manifestations, only a holy tabernacle, "the
Beauty of which formed the splendor of the True." Already
undermined by a melancholy passion for the Beautiful, his brow
seemed to be turning into stone under the dominion of this
haunting feeling: a feeling always explained by the outbreak of
despair, too late for remedy from man--man, alas! so eager to
explore the secrets of the heart--so dull to divine them!

Hiller, whose talent was allied to Chopin's, and who was one of
his most intimate friends, was there also. In advance of the
great compositions which he afterwards published, of which the
first was his remarkable Oratorio, "The Destruction of
Jerusalem," he wrote some pieces for the Piano. Among these,
those known under the title of Etudes, (vigorous sketches of the
most finished design), recall those studies of foliage, in which
the landscape painter gives us an entire little poem of light and
shade, with only one tree, one branch, a single "motif," happily
and boldly handled.

In the presence of the spectres which filled the air, and whose
rustling might almost be heard, Eugene Delacroix remained
absorbed and silent. Was he considering what pallet, what
brushes, what canvas he must use, to introduce them into visible
life through his art? Did he task himself to discover canvas
woven by Arachne, brushes made from the long eyelashes of the
fairies, and a pallet covered with the vaporous tints of the
rainbow, in order to make such a sketch possible? Did he then
smile at these fancies, yet gladly yield to the impressions from
which they sprung, because great talent is always attracted by
that power in direct contrast to its own?

The aged Niemcevicz, who appeared to be the nearest to the grave
among us, listened to the "Historic Songs" which Chopin
translated into dramatic execution for this survivor of times
long past. Under the fingers of the Polish artist, again were
heard, side by side with the descriptions, so popular, of the
Polish bard, the shock of arms, the songs of conquerors, the
hymns of triumph, the complaints of illustrious prisoners, and
the wail over dead heroes. They memorized together the long
course of national glory, of victory, of kings, of queens, of
warriors; and so much life had these phantoms, that the old man,
deeming the present an illusion, believed the olden times fully
resuscitated.

Dark and silent, apart from all others, fell the motionless
profile of Mickiewicz: the Dante of the North, he seemed always
to find "the salt of the stranger bitter, and his steps hard to
mount."

Buried in a fauteuil, with her arms resting upon a table, sat
Madame Sand, curiously attentive, gracefully subdued. Endowed
with that rare faculty only given to a few elect, of recognizing
the Beautiful under whatever form of nature or of art it may
assume, she listened with the whole force of her ardent genius.
The faculty of instantaneously recognizing Beauty may perhaps be
the "second sight," of which all nations have acknowledged the
existence in highly gifted women. It is a kind of magical gaze
which causes the bark, the mask, the gross envelope of form, to
fall off; so that the invisible essence, the soul which is
incarnated within, may be clearly contemplated; so that the ideal
which the poet or artist may have vivified under the torrent of
notes, the passionate veil of coloring, the cold chiseling of
marble, or the mysterious rhythms of strophes, may be fully
discerned. This faculty is much rarer than is generally supposed.
It is usually felt but vaguely, yet--in its highest
manifestations, it reveals itself as a "divining oracle," knowing
the Past and prophesying the Future. It is a power which exempts
the blessed organization which it illumes, from the bearing of
the heavy burden of technicalities, with which the merely
scientific drag on toward that mystic region of inner life, which
the gifted attain with a single bound. It is a faculty which
springs less from an acquaintance with the sciences, than from a
familiarity with nature.

The fascination and value of a country life consist in the long
tete-a-tete with nature. The words of revelation hidden under the
infinite harmonies of form, of sounds, of lights and shadows, of
tones and warblings, of terror and delight, may best be caught in
these long solitary interviews. Such infinite variety may appear
crushing or distracting on a first view, but if faced with a
courage that no mystery can appal, if sounded with a resolution
that no length of time can abate, may give the clue to analogies,
conformities, relations between our senses and our sentiments,
and aid us in tracing the hidden links which bind apparent
dissimilarities, identical oppositions and equivalent antitheses,
and teach us the secrets of the chasms separating with narrow but
impassable space, that which is destined to approach forever, yet
never mingle; to resemble ever, yet never blend. To have awakened
early, as did Madame Sand, to the dim whispering with which
nature initiates her chosen to her mystic rites, is a necessary
appanage of the poet. To have learned from her to penetrate the
dreams of man when he, in his turn, creates, and uses in his
works the tones, the warblings, the terrors, the delights,
requires a still more subtle power; a power which Madame Sand
possesses by a double right, by the intuitions of her heart, and
the vigor of her genius. After having named Madame Sand, whose
energetic personality and electric genius inspired the frail and
delicate organization of Chopin with an intensity of admiration
which consumed him, as a wine too spirituous shatters the fragile
vase; we cannot now call up other names from the dim limbus of
the past, in which so many indistinct images, such doubtful
sympathies, such indefinite projects and uncertain beliefs, are
forever surging and hurtling. Perhaps there is no one among us,
who, in looking through the long vista, would not meet the ghost
of some feeling whose shadowy form he would find impossible to
pass! Among the varied interests, the burning desires, the
restless tendencies surging through the epoch in which so many
high hearts and brilliant intellects were fortuitously thrown
together, how few of them, alas! possessed sufficient vitality to
enable them to resist the numberless causes of death, surrounding
every idea, every feeling, as well as every individual life, from
the cradle to the grave! Even during the moments of the troubled
existence of the emotions now past, how many of them escaped that
saddest of all human judgments: "Happy, oh, happy were it dead!
Far happier had it never been born!" Among the varied feelings
with which so many noble hearts throbbed high, were there indeed
many which never incurred this fearful malediction? Like the
suicide lover in Mickiewicz's poem, who returns to life in the
land of the Dead only to renew the dreadful suffering of his
earth life, perhaps among all the emotions then so vividly felt
there is not a single one which, could it again live, would
reappear without the disfigurements, the brandings, the bruises,
the mutilations, which were inflicted on its early beauty, which
so deeply sullied its primal innocence! And if we should persist
in recalling these melancholy ghosts of dead thoughts and buried
feelings from the heavy folds of the shroud, would they not
actually appal us, because so few of them possessed sufficient
purity and celestial radiance to redeem them from the shame of
being utterly disowned, entirely repudiated, by those whose bliss
or torment they formed during the passionate hours of their
absolute rule? In very pity ask us not to call from the Dead,
ghosts whose resurrection would be so painful! Who could bear the
sepulchral ghastly array? Who would willingly call them from
their sheeted sleep? If our ideas, thoughts, and feelings were
indeed to be suddenly aroused from the unquiet grave in which
they lie buried, and an account demanded from them of the good
and evil which they have severally produced in the hearts in
which they found so generous an asylum, and which they have
confused, overwhelmed, illumined, devastated, ruined, broken, as
chance or destiny willed,--who could hope to endure the replies
that would be made to questions so searching?

If among the group of which we have spoken, every member of which
has won the attention of many human souls, and must, in
consequence, bear in his conscience the sharp sting of multiplied
responsibilities, there should be found ONE who has not suffered
aught, that was pure in the natural attraction which bound them
together in this chain of glittering links, to fall into dull
forgetfulness; one who allowed no breath of the fermentation
lingering even around the most delicate perfumes, to embitter his
memories; one who has transfigured and left to the immortality of
art, only the unblemished inheritance of all that was noblest in
their enthusiasm, all that was purest and most lasting of their
joys; let us bow before him as before one of the Elect! Let us
regard him as one of those whom the belief of the people marks as
"Good Genii!" The attribution of superior power to beings
believed to be beneficent to man, has received a sublime
conformation from a great Italian poet, who defines genius as a
"stronger impress of Divinity!" Let us bow before all who are
marked with this mystic seal; but let us venerate with the
deepest, truest tenderness those who have only used their
wondrous supremacy to give life and expression to the highest and
most exquisite feelings! and among the pure and beneficent genii
of earth must indubitably be ranked the artist Chopin!
Published:
Jan 6, 2016
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