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Life of Chopin By Franz Liszt Characters: 41218

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05

National Character of the Polonaise-Oginski-Meyseder-Weber-Chopin-His Polonaise in F Sharp, Minor-Polonaise-Fantaisie.

It must not be supposed that the tortured aberrations of feeling to which we have just alluded, ever injure the harmonic tissue in the works of Chopin on the contrary, they only render it a more curious subject for analysis. Such eccentricities rarely occur in his more generally known and admired compositions. His Polonaises, which are less studied than they merit, on account of the difficulties presented by their perfect execution, are to be classed among his highest inspirations. They never remind us of the mincing and affected "Polonaises a la Pompadour," which our orchestras have introduced into ball-rooms, our virtuosi in concerts, or of those to be found in our "Parlor Repertories," filled, as they invariably are, with hackneyed collections of music, marked by insipidity and mannerism.

His Polonaises, characterized by an energetic rhythm, galvanize and electrify the torpor of indifference. The most noble traditional feelings of ancient Poland are embodied in them. The firm resolve and calm gravity of its men of other days, breathe through these compositions. Generally of a martial character, courage and daring are rendered with that simplicity of expression, said to be a distinctive trait of this warlike people. They bring vividly before the imagination, the ancient Poles, as we find them described in their chronicles; gifted with powerful organizations, subtle intellects, indomitable courage and earnest piety, mingled with high-born courtesy and a gallantry which never deserted them, whether on the eve of battle, during its exciting course, in the triumph of victory, or amidst the gloom of defeat. So inherent was this gallantry and chivalric courtesy in their nature, that in spite of the restraint which their customs (resembling those of their neighbours and enemies, the infidels of Stamboul) induced them to exercise upon their women, confining them in the limits of domestic life and always holding them under legal wardship, they still manifest themselves in their annals, in which they have glorified and immortalized queens who were saints; vassals who became queens, beautiful subjects for whose sake some periled, while others lost, crowns: a terrible Sforza; an intriguing d'Arquien; and a coquettish Gonzaga.

The Poles of olden times united a manly firmness with this peculiar chivalric devotion to the objects of their love. A characteristic example of this may be seen in the letters of Jean Sobieski to his wife. They were dictated in face of the standards of the Crescent, "numerous as the ears in a grain-field," tender and devoted as is their character. Such traits caught a singular and imposing hue from the grave deportment of these men, so dignified that they might almost be accused of pomposity. It was next to impossible that they should not contract a taste for this stateliness, when we consider that they had almost always before them the most exquisite type of gravity of manner in the followers of Islam, whose qualities they appreciated and appropriated, even while engaged in repelling their invasions. Like the infidel, they knew how to preface their acts by an intelligent deliberation, so that the device of Prince Boleslas of Pomerania, was always present to them: "First weigh it; then dare:" Erst wieg's: dann wag's! Such deliberation imparted a kind of stately pride to their movements, while it left them in possession of an ease and freedom of spirit accessible to the lightest cares of tenderness, to the most trivial interests of the passing hour, to the most transient feelings of the heart. As it made part of their code of honor to make those who interfered with them, in their more tender interests, pay dearly for it; so they knew how to beautify life, and, better still, they knew how to love those who embellished it; to revere those who rendered it precious to them.

Their chivalric heroism was sanctioned by their grave and haughty dignity; an intelligent and premeditated conviction added the force of reason to the energy of impulsive virtue; thus they have succeeded in winning the admiration of all ages, of all minds, even that of their most determined adversaries. They were characterized by qualities rarely found together, the description of which would appear almost paradoxical: reckless wisdom, daring prudence, and fanatic fatalism. The most marked and celebrated historic manifestation of these properties is to be found in the expedition of Sobieski when he saved Vienna, and gave a mortal blow to the Ottoman Empire, which was at last conquered in the long struggle, sustained on both sides with so much prowess and glory, with so much mutual deference between opponents as magnanimous in their truces as irreconcilable in their combats.

While listening to some of the POLONAISES of Chopin, we can almost catch the firm, nay, the more than firm, the heavy, resolute tread of men bravely facing all the bitter injustice which the most cruel and relentless destiny can offer, with the manly pride of unblenching courage. The progress of the music suggests to our imagination such magnificent groups as were designed by Paul Veronese, robed in the rich costume of days long past: we see passing at intervals before us, brocades of gold, velvets, damasked satins, silvery soft and flexile sables, hanging sleeves gracefully thrown back upon the shoulders, embossed sabres, boots yellow as gold or red with trampled blood, sashes with long and undulating fringes, close chemisettes, rustling trains, stomachers embroidered with pearls, head dresses glittering with rubies or leafy with emeralds, light slippers rich with amber, gloves perfumed with the luxurious attar from the harems. Prom the faded background of times long passed these vivid groups start forth; gorgeous carpets from Persia lie at their feet, filigreed furniture from Constantinople stands around; all is marked by the sumptuous prodigality of the Magnates who drew, in ruby goblets embossed with medallions, wine from the fountains of Tokay, and shoed their fleet Arabian steeds with silver, who surmounted all their escutcheons with the same crown which the fate of an election might render a royal one, and which, causing them to despise all other titles, was alone worn as INSIGNE of their glorious equality.

Those who have seen the Polonaise danced even as late as the beginning of the present century, declare that its style has changed so much, that it is now almost impossible to divine its primitive character. As very few national dances have succeeded in preserving their racy originality, we may imagine, when we take into consideration the changes which have occurred, to what a degree this has degenerated. The Polonaise is without rapid movements, without any true steps in the artistic sense of the word, intended rather for display than for the exhibition of seductive grace; so we may readily conceive it must lose all its haughty importance, its pompous self-sufficiency, when the dancers are deprived of the accessories necessary to enable them to animate its simple form by dignified, yet vivid gestures, by appropriate and expressive pantomime, and when the costume peculiarly fitted for it is no longer worn. It has indeed become decidedly monotonous, a mere circulating promenade, exciting but little interest. Unless we could see it danced by some of the old regime who still wear the ancient costume, or listen to their animated descriptions of it, we can form no conception of the numerous incidents, the scenic pantomime, which once rendered it so effective. By a rare exception this dance was designed to exhibit the men, to display manly beauty, to set off noble and dignified deportment, martial yet courtly bearing. "Martial yet courtly:" do not these two epithets almost define the Polish character? In the original the very name of the dance is masculine; it is only in consequence of a misconception that it has been translated in other tongues into the feminine gender.

Those who have never seen the KONTUSZ worn, (it is a kind of Occidental kaftan, as it is the robe of the Orientals, modified to suit the customs of an active life, unfettered by the stagnant resignation taught by fatalism,) a sort of FEREDGI, often trimmed with fur, forcing the wearer to make frequent movements susceptible of grace and coquetry, by which the flowing sleeves are thrown backward, can scarcely imagine the bearing, the slow bending, the quick rising, the finesse of the delicate pantomime displayed by the Ancients, as they defiled in a Polonaise, as though in a military parade, not suffering their fingers to remain idle, but sometimes occupying them in playing with the long moustache, sometimes with the handle of the sword. Both moustache and sword were essential parts of the costume, and were indeed objects of vanity with all ages. Diamonds and sapphires frequently sparkled upon the arms, worn suspended from belts of cashmere, or from sashes of silk embroidered with gold, displaying to advantage forms always slightly corpulent; the moustache often veiled, without quite hiding, some scar, far more effective than the most brilliant array of jewels. The dress of the men rivaled that of the women in the luxury of the material worn, in the value of the precious stones, and in the variety of vivid colors. This love of adornment is also found among the Hungarians, [Footnote: The Hungarian costume worn by Prince Nicholas Esterhazy at the coronation of George the Fourth, is still remembered in England. It was valued at several millions of florins.] as may be seen in their buttons made of jewels, the rings forming a necessary part of their dress, the wrought clasps for the neck, the aigrettes and plumes adorning the cap made of velvet of some brilliant hue. To know how to take off, to put on, to manoeuvre the cap with all possible grace, constituted almost an art. During the progress of a Polonaise, this became an object of especial remark, because the cavalier of the leading pair, as commandant of the file, gave the mute word of command, which was immediately obeyed and imitated by the rest of the train.

The master of the house in which the ball was given, always opened it himself by leading off in this dance. His partner was selected neither for her beauty, nor youth; the most highly honored lady present was always chosen. This phalanx, by whose evolutions every fete was commenced, was not formed only of the young: it was composed of the most distinguished, as well as of the most beautiful. A grand review, a dazzling exhibition of all the distinction present, was offered as the highest pleasure of the festival. After the host, came next in order the guests of the greatest consideration, who, choosing their partners, some from friendship, some from policy or from desire of advancement, some from love,-followed closely his steps. His task was a far more complicated one than it is at present. He was expected to conduct the files under his guidance through a thousand capricious meanderings, through long suites of apartments lined by guests, who were to take a later part in this brilliant cortege. They liked to be conducted through distant galleries, through the parterres of illuminated gardens, through the groves of shrubbery, where distant echoes of the music alone reached the ear, which, as if in revenge, greeted them with redoubled sound and blowing of trumpets upon their return to the principal saloon. As the spectators, ranged like rows of hedges along the route, were continually changing, and never ceased for a moment to observe all their movements, the dancers never forgot that dignity of bearing and address which won for them the admiration of women, and excited the jealousy of men. Vain and joyous, the host would have deemed himself wanting in courtesy to his guests, had he not evinced to them, which he did sometimes with a piquant naivete, the pride he felt in seeing himself surrounded by persons so illustrious, and partisans so noble, all striving through the splendor of the attire chosen to visit him, to show their high sense of the honor in which they held him.

Guided by him in their first circuit, they were led through long windings, where unexpected turns, views, and openings had been arranged beforehand to cause surprise; where architectural deceptions, decorations and shifting scenes had been studiously adapted to increase the pleasure of the festival. If any monument or inscription, fitted for the occasion, lay upon the long line of route, from which some complimentary homage might be drawn to the "most valiant or the most beautiful," the honors were gracefully done by the host. The more unexpected the surprises arranged for these excursions, the more imagination evinced in their invention, the louder were the applauses from the younger part of the society, the more ardent the exclamations of delight; and silvery sounds of merry laughter greeted pleasantly the ears of the conductor-in-chief, who, having thus succeeded in achieving his reputation, became a privileged Corypheus, a leader par excellence. If he had already attained a certain age, he was greeted on his return from such circuits by frequent deputations of young ladies, who came, in the name of all present, to thank and congratulate him. Through their vivid descriptions, these pretty wanderers excited the curiosity of the guests, and increased the eagerness for the formation of the succeeding Polonaises among those who, though they did not make part of the procession, still watched its passage in motionless attention, as if gazing upon the flashing line of light of some brilliant meteor.

In this land of aristocratic democracy, the numerous dependents of the great seigniorial houses, (too poor, indeed, to take part in the fete, yet only excluded from it by their own volition, all, however noble, some even more noble than their lords,) being all present, it was considered highly desirable to dazzle them; and this flowing chain of rainbow-hued and gorgeous light, like an immense serpent with its glittering rings, sometimes wreathed its linked folds, sometimes uncoiled its entire length, to display its brilliancy through the whole line of its undulating animated surface, in the most vivid scintillations; accompanying the shifting hues with the silvery sounds of chains of gold, ringing like muffled bells; with the rustling of the heavy sweep of gorgeous damasks and with the dragging of jewelled swords upon the floor. The murmuring sound of many voices announced the approach of this animated, varied, and glittering life-stream.

But the genius of hospitality, never deficient in high-born courtesy, and which, even while preserving the touching simplicity of primitive manners, inspired in Poland all the refinements of the most advanced state of civilization,-how could it be exiled from the details of a dance so eminently Polish? After the host had, by inaugurating the fete, rendered due homage to all who were present, any one of his guests had the right to claim his place with the lady whom he had honored by his choice. The new claimant, clapping his hands, to arrest for a moment the ever moving cortege, bowed before the partner of the host, begging her graciously to accept the change; while the host, from whom she had been taken, made the same appeal to the lady next in course. This example was followed by the whole train. Constantly changing partners, whenever a new cavalier claimed the honor of leading the one first chosen by the host, the ladies remained in the same succession during the whole course; while, on the contrary, as the gentlemen continually replaced each other, he who had commenced the dance, would, in its progress, become the last, if not indeed entirely excluded before its close.

Each cavalier who placed himself in turn at the head of the column, tried to surpass his predecessors in the novelty of the combinations of his opening, in the complications of the windings through which he led the expectant cortege; and this course, even when restricted to a single saloon, might be made remarkable by the designing of graceful arabesques, or the involved tracing of enigmatical ciphers. He made good his claim to the place he had solicited, and displayed his skill, by inventing close, complicated and inextricable figures; by describing them with so much certainty and accuracy, that the living ribbon, turned and twisted as it might be, was never broken in the loosing of its wreathed knots; and by so leading, that no confusion or graceless jostling should result from the complicated torsion. The succeeding couples, who had only to follow the figures already given, and thus continue the impulsion, were not permitted to drag themselves lazily and listlessly along the parquet. The step was rhythmic, cadenced, and undulating; the whole form swayed by graceful wavings and harmonious balancings. They were careful never to advance with too much haste, nor to replace each other as if driven on by some urgent necessity. On they glided, like swans descending a tranquil stream, their flexile forms swayed by the ebb and swell of unseen and gentle waves. Sometimes, the gentleman offered the right, sometimes, the left hand to his partner; touching only the points of her fingers, or clasping the slight hand within his own, he passed now to her right, now to her left, without yielding the snowy treasure. These complicated movements, being instantaneously imitated by every pair, ran, like an electric shiver, through the whole length of this gigantic serpent. Although apparently occupied and absorbed by these multiplied manoeuvres, the cavalier yet found time to bend to his lady and whisper sweet flatteries in her ear, if she were young; if young no longer, to repose confidence, to urge requests, or to repeat to her the news of the hour. Then, haughtily raising himself, he would make the metal of his arms ring, caress his thick moustache, giving to all his features an expression so vivid, that the lady was forced to respond by the animation of her own countenance.

Thus, it was no hackneyed and senseless promenade which they executed; it was, rather, a parade in which the whole splendor of the society was exhibited, gratified with its own admiration, conscious of its own elegance, brilliancy, nobility and courtesy. It was a constant display of its lustre, its glory, its renown. Men grown gray in camps, or in the strife of courtly eloquence; generals more often seen in the cuirass than in the robes of peace; prelates and persons high in the Church; dignitaries of State aged senators; warlike palatines; ambitious castellans;-were the partners who were expected, welcomed, disputed and sought for, by the youngest, gayest, and most brilliant women present. Honor and glory rendered ages equal, and caused years to be forgotten in this dance; nay, more, they gave an advantage even over love. It was while listening to the animated descriptions of the almost forgotten evolutions and dignified capabilities of this truly national dance, from the lips of those who would never abandon the ancient Zupan and Kontusz, and who still wore their hair closely cut round their temples, as it had been worn by their ancestors, that we first fully understood in what a high degree this haughty nation possessed the innate instinct of its own exhibition, and how entirely it had succeeded, through its natural grace and genius, in poetizing its love of ostentation by draping it in the charms of noble emotions, and wrapping round it the glittering robes of martial glory.

When we visited the country of Chopin, whose memory always accompanied us like a faithful guide who constantly keeps our interest excited, we were fortunate enough to meet with some of the peculiar characters, daily growing more rare, because European civilization, even where it does not modify the basis of character, effaces asperities, and moulds exterior forms. We there encountered some of those men gifted with superior intellect, cultivated and strongly developed by a life of incessant action, yet whose horizon does not extend beyond the limits of their own country, their own society, their own traditions. During our intercourse, facilitated by an interpreter, with these men of past days, we were able to study them and to understand the secret of their greatness. It was really curious to observe the inimitable originality caused by the ut

ter exclusiveness of the view taken by them. This limited cultivation, while it greatly diminishes the value of their ideas upon many subjects, at the same time gifts the mind with a peculiar force, almost resembling the keen scent and the acute perceptions of the savage, for all the things near and dear to it. Only from a mind of this peculiar training, marked by a concentrative energy that nothing can distract from its course, every thing beyond the circle of its own nationality remaining alien to it, can we hope to obtain an exact picture of the past; for it alone, like a faithful mirror, reflects it in its primal coloring, preserves its proper lights and shades, and gives it with its varied and picturesque accompaniments. From such minds alone can we obtain, with the ritual of customs which are rapidly becoming extinct, the spirit from which they emanated. Chopin was born too late, and left the domestic hearth too early, to be himself in possession of this spirit; but he had known many examples of it, and, through the memories which surrounded his childhood, even more fully than through the literature and history of his country, he found by induction the secrets of its ancient prestige, which he evoked from the dim and dark land of forgetfulness, and, through the magic of his poetic art, endowed with immortal youth. Poets are better comprehended and appreciated by those who have made themselves familiar with the countries which inspired their songs. Pindar is more fully understood by those who have seen the Parthenon bathed in the radiance of its limpid atmosphere; Ossian, by those familiar with the mountains of Scotland, with their heavy veils and long wreaths of mist. The feelings which inspired the creations of Chopin can only be fully appreciated by those who have visited his country. They must have seen the giant shadows of past centuries gradually increasing, and veiling the ground as the gloomy night of despair rolled on; they must have felt the electric and mystic influence of that strange "phantom of glory" forever haunting martyred Poland. Even in the gayest hours of festival, it appalls and saddens all hearts. Whenever a tale of past renown, a commemoration of slaughtered heroes is given, an allusion to national prowess is made, its resurrection from the grave is instantaneous; it takes its place in the banquet-hall, spreading an electric terror mingled with intense admiration; a shudder, wild and mystic as that which seizes upon the peasants of Ukraine, when the "Beautiful Virgin," white as Death, with her girdle of crimson, is suddenly seen gliding through their tranquil village, while her shadowy hand marks with blood the door of each cottage doomed to destruction.

During many centuries, the civilization of Poland was entirely peculiar and aboriginal; it did not resemble that of any other country; and, indeed, it seems destined to remain forever unique in its kind. As different from the German feudalism which neighboured it upon the West, as from the conquering spirit of the Turks which disquieted it on the East, it resembled Europe in its chivalric Christianity, in its eagerness to attack the infidel, even while receiving instruction in sagacious policy, in military tactics, and sententious reasoning, from the masters of Byzantium. By the assumption, at the same time, of the heroic qualities of Mussulman fanaticism and the sublime virtues of Christian sanctity and humility, [Footnote: It is well known with how many glorious names Poland has enriched the martyrology of the Church. In memorial of the countless martyrs it had offered, the Roman Church granted to the order of Trinitarians, or Redemptorist Brothers, whose duty it was to redeem from slavery the Christians who had fallen into the hands of the Infidels, the distinction, only granted to this nation, of wearing a crimson belt. These victims to benevolence were generally from the establishments near the frontiers, such as those of Kamieniec-Podolski.] it mingled the most heterogeneous elements, and thus planted in its very bosom the seeds of ruin and decay.

The general culture of Latin letters, the knowledge of and love for Italian and French literature gave a lustre and classical polish to the startling contrasts we hare attempted to describe. Such a civilization must necessarily impress all its manifestations with its own seal. As was natural for a nation always engaged in war, forced to reserve its deeds of prowess and valor for its enemies upon the field of battle, it was not famed for the romances of knight-errantry, for tournaments or jousts; it replaced the excitement and splendor of the mimic war by characteristic fetes, in which the gorgeousness of personal display formed the principal feature.

There is certainly nothing new in the assertion, that national character is, in some degree, revealed by national dances. We believe, however, there are none in which the creative impulses can be so readily deciphered, or the ensemble traced with so much simplicity, as in the Polonaise. In consequence of the varied episodes which each individual was expected to insert in the general frame, the national intuitions were revealed with the greatest diversity. When these distinctive marks disappeared, when the original flame no longer burned, when no one invented scenes for the intermediary pauses, when to accomplish mechanically the obligatory circuit of a saloon, was all that was requisite, nothing but the skeleton of departed glory remained.

We would certainly have hesitated to speak of the Polonaise, after the exquisite verses which Mickiewicz has consecrated to it, and the admirable description which he has given of it in the last Canto of the "Pan Tadeusz," but that this description is to be found only in a work not yet translated, and, consequently, only known to the compatriots of the Poet. [Footnote: It has been translated into German.-T.] It would have been presumptuous, even under another form, to have ventured upon a subject already sketched and colored by such a hand, in his romantic Epic, in which beauties of the highest order are set in such a scene as Ruysdael loved to paint; where a ray of sunshine, thrown through heavy storm-clouds, falls upon one of those strange trees never wanting in his pictures, a birch shattered by lightning, while its snowy bark is deeply stained, as if dyed in the blood flowing from its fresh and gaping wounds. The scenes of "Pan Tadeusz" are laid at the beginning of the present century, when many still lived who retained the profound feeling and grave deportment of the ancient Poles, mingled with those who were even then under the sway of the graceful or giddying passions of modern origin. These striking and contrasting types existing together at that period, are now rapidly disappearing before that universal conventionalism which is at present seizing and moulding the higher classes in all cities and in all countries. Without doubt, Chopin frequently drew fresh inspiration from this noble poem, whose scenes so forcibly depict the emotions he best loved to reproduce.

The primitive music of the Polonaise, of which we have no example of greater age than a century, possesses but little value for art. Those Polonaises which do not bear the names of their authors, but are frequently marked with the name of some hero, thus indicating their date, are generally grave and sweet. The Polonaise styled "de Kosciuszko," is the most universally known, and is so closely linked with the memories of his epoch, that we have known ladies who could not hear it without breaking into sobs. The Princess F. L., who had been loved by Kosciuszko, in her last days, when age had enfeebled all her faculties, was only sensible to the chords of this piece, which her trembling hands could still find upon the key-board, though the dim and aged eye could no longer see the keys. Some contemporary Polonaises are of a character so sad, that they might almost be supposed to accompany a funeral train.

The Polonaises of Count Oginski [Footnote: Among the Polonaises of Count Oginski, the one in F Major has especially retained its celebrity. It was published with a vignette, representing the author in the act of blowing his brains out with a pistol. This was merely a romantic commentary, which was for a long time mistaken for a fact.] which next appeared, soon attained great popularity through the introduction of an air of seductive languor into the melancholy strains. Full of gloom as they still are, they soothe by their delicious tenderness, by their naive and mournful grace. The martial rhythm grows more feeble; the march of the stately train, no longer rustling in its pride of state, is hushed in reverential silence, in solemn thought, as if its course wound on through graves, whose sad swells extinguish smiles and humiliate pride. Love alone survives, as the mourners wander among the mounds of earth so freshly heaped that the grass has not yet grown upon them, repeating the sad refrain which the Bard of Erin caught from the wild breezes of the sea:

"Love born of sorrow, like sorrow is true!"

In the well known pages of Oginski may be found the sighing of analogous thoughts: the very breath of love is sad, and only revealed through the melancholy lustre of eyes bathed in tears.

At a somewhat later stage, the graves and grassy mounds were all passed, they are seen only in the distance of the shadowy background. The living cannot always weep; life and animation again appear, mournful thoughts changed into soothing memories, return on the ear, sweet as distant echoes. The saddened train of the living no longer hush their breath as they glide on with noiseless precaution, as if not to disturb the sleep of those who have just departed, over whose graves the turf is not yet green; the imagination no longer evokes only the gloomy shadows of the past. In the Polonaises of Lipinski we hear the music of the pleasure-loving heart once more beating joyously, giddily, happily, as it had done before the days of disaster and defeat. The melodies breathe more and more the perfume of happy youth; love, young love, sighs around. Expanding into expressive songs of vague and dreamy character, they speak but to youthful hearts, cradling them in poetic fictions, in soft illusions. No longer destined to cadence the steps of the high and grave personages who ceased to bear their part in these dances, [Footnote: Bishops and Primates formerly assisted in these dances; at a later date the Church dignitaries took no part in them.] they are addressed to romantic imaginations, dreaming rather of rapture than of renown. Meyseder advanced upon this descending path; his dances, full of lively coquetry, reflect only the magic charms of youth and beauty. His numerous imitations have inundated us with pieces of music, called Polonaises, out which have no characteristics to justify the name.

The pristine and vigorous brilliancy of the Polonaise was again suddenly given to it by a composer of true genius. Weber made of it a Dithyrambic, in which the glittering display of vanished magnificence again appeared in its ancient glory. He united all the resources of his art to ennoble the formula which had been so misrepresented and debased, to fill it with the spirit of the past; not seeking to recall the character of ancient music, he transported into music the characteristics of ancient Poland. Using the melody as a recital, he accentuated the rhythm, he colored his composition, through his modulations, with a profusion of hues not only suitable to his subject, but imperiously demanded by it. Life, warmth, and passion again circulated in his Polonaises, yet he did not deprive them of the haughty charm, the ceremonious and magisterial dignity, the natural yet elaborate majesty, which are essential parts of their character. The cadences are marked by chords, which fall upon the ear like the rattling of swords drawn from their scabbards. The soft, warm, effeminate pleadings of love give place to the murmuring of deep, fall, bass voices, proceeding from manly breasts used to command; we may almost hear, in reply, the wild and distant neighings of the steeds of the desert, as they toss the long manes around their haughty heads, impatiently pawing the ground, with their lustrous eye beaming with intelligence and full of fire, while they bear with stately grace the trailing caparisons embroidered with turquoise and rubies, with which the Polish Seigneurs loved to adorn them. [Footnote: Among the treasures of Prince radziwill at Nieswirz were to be seen, in the days of former splendor, twelve sets of horse trappings, each of a different color, incrusted with precious stones. The twelve Apostles, life size, in massive silver, were also to be seen there. This luxury will cease to astonish us when we consider that the family of Radziwill was descended from the last Grand Pontiff of Lithuania, to whom, when he embraced Christianity, were given all the forests and plains which had before been consecrated to the worship of the heathen Deities; and that toward the close of the last century, the family still possessed eight hundred thousand serfs, although its riches had then considerably diminished. Among the collection of treasures of which we speak, was an exceedingly curious relic, which is still in existence. It is a picture of St. John the Baptist, surrounded by a Bannerol bearing the inscription: "In the name of the Lord, John, thou shalt be Conqueror." It was found by Jean Sobieski himself, after the victory which he had won, under the walls of Vienna, in the tent of the Vizier Kara Mustapha. It was presented after his death, by Marie d'Arquin, to a Prince Radziwill, with an inscription in her own hand-writing which indicates its origin, and the presentation which she makes of it. The autograph, with the royal seal, is on the reverse side of the canvas.] How did Weber divine the Poland of other days? Had he indeed the power to call from the grave of the past, the scenes which we have just contemplated, that he was thus able to clothe them with life, to renew their earlier associations? Vain questions! Genius is always endowed with its own sacred intuitions! Poetry ever reveals to her chosen the secrets of her wild domain!

All the poetry contained in the Polonaises had, like a rich sap, been so fully expressed from them by the genius of Weber, they had been handled with a mastery so absolute, that it was, indeed, a dangerous and difficult thing to attempt them, with the slightest hope of producing the same effect. He has, however, been surpassed in this species of composition by Chopin, not only in the number and variety of works in this style, but also in the more touching character of the handling, and the new and varied processes of harmony. Both in construction and spirit, Chopin's Polonaise In A, with the one in A flat major, resembles very much the one of Weber's in E Major. In others he relinquished this broad style: Shall we say always with a more decided success? In such a question, decision were a thorny thing. Who shall restrict the rights of a poet over the various phases of his subject? Even in the midst of joy, may he not be permitted to be gloomy and oppressed? After having chanted the splendor of glory, may he not sing of grief? After having rejoiced with the victorious, may he not mourn with the vanquished? We may, without any fear of contradiction, assert, that it is not one of the least merits of Chopin, that he has, consecutively, embraced ALL the phases of which the theme is susceptible, that he has succeeded in eliciting from it all its brilliancy, in awakening from it all its sadness. The variety of the moods of feeling to which he was himself subject, aided him in the reproduction and comprehension of such a multiplicity of views. It would be impossible to follow the varied transformations occurring in these compositions, with their pervading melancholy, without admiring the fecundity of his creative force, even when not fully sustained by the higher powers of his inspiration. He did not always confine himself to the consideration of the pictures presented to him by his imagination and memory, taken en masse, or as a united whole. More than once, while contemplating the brilliant groups and throngs flowing on before him, has he yielded to the strange charm of some isolated figure, arresting it in its course by the magic of his gaze, and, suffering the gay crowds to pass on, he has given himself up with delight to the divination of its mystic revelations, while he continued to weave his incantations and spells only for the entranced Sibyl of his song.

His GRAND POLONAISE in F SHARP MINOR, must be ranked among his most energetic compositions. He has inserted in it a MAZOURKA. Had he not frightened the frivolous world of fashionable life, by the gloomy grotesqueness with which he introduced it in an incantation so fantastic, this mode might have become an ingenious caprice for the ball-room. It is a most original production, exciting us like the recital of some broken dream, made, after a night of restlessness, by the first dull, gray, cold, leaden rays of a winter's sunrise. It is a dream-poem, in which the impressions and objects succeed each other with startling incoherency and with the wildest transitions, reminding us of what Byron says in his "DREAM:"

"... Dreams in their development have breath,

And tears, and tortures, and the touch of joy;

They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts,

* * * * * * * *

And look like heralds of Eternity."

The principal motive is a weird air, dark as the lurid hour which precedes a hurricane, in which we catch the fierce exclamations of exasperation, mingled with a bold defiance, recklessly hurled at the stormy elements. The prolonged return of a tonic, at the commencement of each measure, reminds us of the repeated roar of artillery-as if we caught the sounds from some dread battle waging in the distance. After the termination of this note, a series of the most unusual chords are unrolled through measure after measure. We know nothing analogous, to the striking effect produced by this, in the compositions of the greatest masters. This passage is suddenly interrupted by a SCENE CHAMPETRE, a MAZOURKA in the style of an Idyl, full of the perfume of lavender and sweet marjoram; but which, far from effacing the memory of the profound sorrow which had before been awakened, only augments, by its ironical and bitter contrast, our emotions of pain to such a degree, that we feel almost solaced when the first phrase returns; and, free from the disturbing contradiction of a naive, simple, and inglorious happiness, we may again sympathize with the noble and imposing woe of a high, yet fatal struggle. This improvisation terminates like a dream, without other conclusion than a convulsive shudder; leaving the soul under the strangest, the wildest, the most subduing impressions.

The "POLONAISE-FANTAISIE" is to be classed among the works which belong to the latest period of Chopin's compositions, which are all more or less marked by a feverish and restless anxiety. No bold and brilliant pictures are to be found in it; the loud tramp of a cavalry accustomed to victory is no longer heard; no more resound the heroic chants muffled by no visions of defeat-the bold tones suited to the audacity of those who were always victorious. A deep melancholy-ever broken by startled movements, by sudden alarms, by disturbed rest, by stifled sighs-reigns throughout. We are surrounded by such scenes and feelings as might arise among those who had been surprised and encompassed on all sides by an ambuscade, the vast sweep of whose horizon reveals not a single ground for hope, and whose despair had giddied the brain, like a draught of that wine of Cyprus which gives a more instinctive rapidity to all our gestures, a keener point to all our words, a more subtle flame to all our emotions, and excites the mind to a pitch of irritability approaching insanity.

Such pictures possess but little real value for art. Like all descriptions of moments of extremity, of agonies, of death rattles, of contractions of the muscles where all elasticity is lost, where the nerves, ceasing to be the organs of the human will, reduce man to a passive victim of despair; they only serve to torture the soul. Deplorable visions, which the artist should admit with extreme circumspection within the graceful circle of his charmed realm!

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