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   Chapter 3 No.3

Life of Chopin By Franz Liszt Characters: 34482

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


Chopin's Mazourkas-Polish Ladies-Mazourka in Poland-Tortured Motives-Early life of Chopin-Zal.

In all that regards expression, the MAZOURKAS of Chopin differ greatly from his POLONAISES. Indeed they are entirely unlike in character. The bold and vigorous coloring of the Polonaises gives place to the most delicate, tender, and evanescent shades in the Mazourkas. A nation, considered as a whole, in its united, characteristic, and single impetus, is no longer placed before us; the character and impressions now become purely personal, always individualized and divided. No longer is the feminine and effeminate element driven back into shadowy recesses. On the contrary, it is brought out in the boldest relief, nay, it is brought into such prominent importance that all else disappears, or, at most, serves only as its accompaniment. The days are now past when to say that a woman was charming, they called her GRATEFUL (WDZIECZNA); the very word charm being derived from WDZIEKI: GRATITUDE. Woman no longer appears as a protegee, but as a queen; she no longer forms only the better part of life, she now entirely fills it. Man is still ardent, proud, and presumptuous, but he yields himself up to a delirium of pleasure. This very pleasure is, however, always stamped with melancholy. Both the music of the national airs, and the words, which are almost always joined with them, express mingled emotions of pain and joy. This strange but attractive contrast was caused by the necessity of "CONSOLING MISERY" (CIESZYC BIDE), which necessity induced them to seek the magical distraction of the graceful Mazourka, with its transient delusions. The words which were sung to these melodies, gave them a capability of linking themselves with the sacred associations of memory, in a far higher degree than is usual with ordinary dance-music. They were sung and re-sung a thousand times in the days of buoyant youth, by fresh and sonorous voices, in the hours of solitude, or in those of happy idleness. Linking the most varying associations with the melody, they were again and again carelessly hummed when traveling through forests, or ploughing the deep in ships; perhaps they were listlessly upon the lips when some startling emotion has suddenly surprised the singer; when an unexpected meeting, a long-desired grouping, an unhoped-for word, has thrown an undying light upon the heart, consecrating hours destined to live forever, and ever to shine on in the memory, even through the most distant and gloomy recesses of the constantly darkening future.

Such inspirations were used by Chopin in the most happy manner, and greatly enriched with the treasures of his handling and style. Cutting these diamonds so as to present a thousand facets, he brought all their latent fire to light, and re-uniting even their glittering dust, he mounted them in gorgeous caskets. Indeed what settings could he have chosen better adapted to enhance the value of his early recollections, or which would have given him more efficient aid in creating poems, in arranging scenes, in depicting episodes, in producing romances? Such associations and national memories are indebted to him for a reign far more extensive than the land which gave them birth. Placing them among those idealized types which art has touched and consecrated with her resplendent lustre, he has gifted them with immortality.

In order fully to understand how perfectly this setting suited the varying emotions which Chopin had succeeded in displaying in all the magic of their rainbow hues, we must have seen the Mazourka danced in Poland, because it is only there that it is possible to catch the haughty, yet tender and alluring, character of this dance. The cavalier, always chosen by the lady, seizes her as a conquest of which he is proud, striving to exhibit her loveliness to the admiration of his rivals, before he whirls her off in an entrancing and ardent embrace, through the tenderness of which the defiant expression of the victor still gleams, mingling with the blushing yet gratified vanity of the prize, whose beauty forms the glory of his triumph. There are few more delightful scenes than a ball in Poland. After the Mazourka has commenced, the attention, in place of being distracted by a multitude of people jostling against each other without grace or order, is fascinated by one couple of equal beauty, darting forward, like twin stars, in free and unimpeded space. As if in the pride of defiance, the cavalier accentuates his steps, quits his partner for a moment, as if to contemplate her with renewed delight, rejoins her with passionate eagerness, or whirls himself rapidly round, as though overcome with the sudden joy and yielding to the delicious giddiness of rapture. Sometimes, two couples start at the same moment, after which a change of partners may occur between them; or a third cavalier may present himself, and, clapping his hands, claim one of the ladies as his partner. The queens of the festival are in turn claimed by the most brilliant gentlemen present, courting the honor of leading them through the mazes of the dance.

While in the Waltz and Galop, the dancers are isolated, and only confused tableaux are offered to the bystanders; while the Quadrille is only a kind of pass at arms made with foils, where attack and defence proceed with equal indifference, where the most nonchalant display of grace is answered with the same nonchalance; while the vivacity of the Polka, charming, we confess, may easily become equivocal; while Fandangos, Tarantulas and Minuets, are merely little love-dramas, only interesting to those who execute them, in which the cavalier has nothing to do but to display his partner, and the spectators have no share but to follow, tediously enough, coquetries whose obligatory movements are not addressed to them;-in the Mazourka, on the contrary, they have also their part, and the role of the cavalier yields neither in grace nor importance to that of his fair partner.

The long intervals which separate the successive appearance of the pairs being reserved for conversation among the dancers, when their turn comes again, the scene passes no longer only among themselves, but extends from them to the spectators. It is to them that the cavalier exhibits the vanity he feels in having been able to win the preference of the lady who has selected him; it is in their presence she has deigned to show him this honor; she strives to please them, because the triumph of charming them is reflected upon her partner, and their applause may be made a part of the most flattering and insinuating coquetry. Indeed, at the close of the dance, she seems to make him a formal offering of their suffrages in her favor. She bounds rapidly towards him and rests upon his arm,-a movement susceptible of a thousand varying shades which feminine tact and subtle feeling well know how to modify, ringing every change, from the most impassioned and impulsive warmth of manner to an air of the most complete "abandon."

What varied movements succeed each other in the course round the ball-room! Commencing at first with a kind of timid hesitation, the lady sways about like a bird about to take flight; gliding for some time on one foot only, like a skater, she skims the ice of the polished floor; then, running forward like a sportive child, she suddenly takes wing. Raising her veiling eyelids, with head erect, with swelling bosom and elastic bounds, she cleaves the air as the light bark cleaves the waves, and, like an agile woodnymph, seems to sport with space. Again she recommences her timid graceful gliding, looks round among the spectators, sends sighs and words to the most, highly favored, then extending her white arms to the partner who comes to rejoin her, again begins her vigorous steps which transport her with magical rapidity from one end to the other of the ball-room. She glides, she runs, she flies; emotion colors her cheek, brightens her eye; fatigue bends her flexile form, retards her winged feet, until, panting and exhausted, she softly sinks and reclines in the arms of her partner, who, seizing her with vigorous arm, raises her a moment in the air, before finishing with her the last intoxicating round.

In this triumphal course, in which may be seen a thousand Atalantas as beautiful as the dreams of Ovid, many changes occur in the figures. The couples, in the first chain, commence by giving each other the hand; then forming themselves into a circle, whose rapid rotation dazzles the eye, they wreathe a living crown, in which each lady is the only flower of its own kind, while the glowing and varied colors are heightened by the uniform costume of the men, the effect resembling that of the dark-green foliage with which nature relieves her glowing buds and fragrant bloom. They all then dart forward together with a sparkling animation, a jealous emulation, defiling before the spectators as in a review-an enumeration of which would scarcely yield in interest to those given us, by Homer and Tasso, of the armies about to range themselves in the front of battle! At the close of an hour or two, the same circle again forms to end the dance; and on those days when amusement and pleasure fill all with an excited gayety, sparkling and glittering through those impressible temperaments like an aurora in a midnight sky, a general promenade is recommenced, and in its accelerated movements, we cannot detect the least symptom of fatigue among all these delicate yet enduring women; as if their light limbs possessed the flexible tenacity and elasticity of steel!

As if by intuition, all the Polish women possess the magical science of this dance. Even the least richly gifted among them know how to draw from it new charms. If the graceful ease and noble dignity of those conscious of their own power are full of attraction in it, timidity and modesty are equally full of interest. This is so because of all modern dances, it breathes most of pure love. As the dancers are always conscious that the gaze of the spectators is fastened upon them, addressing themselves constantly to them, there reigns in its very essence a mixture of innate tenderness and mutual vanity, as full of delicacy and propriety as of allurement.

The latent and unknown poetry, which was only indicated in the original Polish Mazourkas, was divined, developed, and brought to light, by Chopin. Preserving their rhythm, he ennobled their melody, enlarged their proportions; and-in order to paint more fully in these productions, which he loved to hear us call "pictures from the easel," the innumerable and widely-differing emotions which agitate the heart during the progress of this dance, above all, in the long intervals in which the cavalier has a right to retain his place at the side of the lady, whom he never leaves-he wrought into their tissues harmonic lights and shadows, as new in themselves as were the subjects to which he adapted them.

Coquetries, vanities, fantasies, inclinations, elegies, vague emotions, passions, conquests, struggles upon which the safety or favor of others depends, all-all, meet in this dance. How difficult it is to form a complete idea of the infinite gradations of passion-sometimes pausing, sometimes progressing, sometimes suing, sometimes ruling! In the country where the Mazourka reigns from the palace to the cottage, these gradations are pursued, for a longer or shorter time, with as much ardor and enthusiasm as malicious trifling. The good qualities and faults of men are distributed among the Poles in a manner so fantastic, that, although the essentials of character may remain nearly the same in all, they vary and shade into each other in a manner so extraordinary, that it becomes almost impossible to recognize or distinguish them. In natures so capriciously amalgamated, a wonderful diversity occurs, adding to the investigations of curiosity, a spur unknown in other lands; making of every new relation a stimulating study, and lending unwonted interest to the lightest incident. Nothing is here indifferent, nothing unheeded, nothing hackneyed! Striking contrasts are constantly occurring among these natures so mobile and susceptible, endowed with subtle, keen and vivid intellects, with acute sensibilities increased by suffering and misfortune; contrasts throwing lurid light upon hearts, like the blaze of a conflagration illumining and revealing the gloom of midnight. Here chance may bring together those who but a few hours before were strangers to each other. The ordeal of a moment, a single word, may separate hearts long united; sudden confidences are often forced by necessity, and invincible suspicions frequently held in secret. As a witty woman once remarked: "They often play a comedy, to avoid a tragedy!" That which has never been uttered, is yet incessantly divined and understood. Generalities are often used to sharpen interrogation, while concealing its drift; the most evasive replies are carefully listened to, like the ringing of metal, as a test of the quality. Often, when in appearance pleading for others, the suitor is urging his own cause; and the most graceful flattery may be only the veil of disguised exactions.

But caution and attention become at last wearisome to natures naturally expansive and candid, and a tiresome frivolity, surprising enough before the secret of its reckless indifference has been divined, mingles with the most spiritual refinement, the most poetic sentiments, the most real causes for intense suffering, as if to mock and jeer at all reality. It is difficult to analyze or appreciate justly this frivolity, as it is sometimes real, sometimes only assumed. It makes use of confusing replies and strange resources to conceal the truth. It is sometimes justly, sometimes wrongfully regarded as a kind of veil of motley, whose fantastic tissue needs only to be slightly torn to reveal more than one hidden or sleeping quality under the variegated folds of gossamer. It often follows from such causes, that eloquence becomes only a sort of grave badinage, sparkling with spangles like the play of fireworks, though the heart of the discourse may contain nothing earnest; while the lightest raillery, thrown out apparently at random, may perhaps be most sadly serious. Bitter and intense thought follows closely upon the steps of the most tempestuous gayety; nothing indeed remains absolutely superficial, though nothing is presented without an artificial polish. In the discussions constantly occurring in this country, where conversation is an art cultivated to the highest degree, and occupying much time, there are always those present, who, whether the topic discussed be grave or gay, can pass in a moment from smiles to tears, from joy to sorrow, leaving the keenest observer in doubt which is most real, so difficult is it to discern the fictitious from the true.

In such varying modes of thought, where ideas shift like quick sands upon the shores of the sea, they are rarely to be found again at the exact point where they were left. This fact is in itself sufficient to give interest to interviews otherwise insignificant. We have been taught this in Paris by some natives of Poland, who astonished the Parisians by their skill in "fencing in paradox;" an art in which every Pole is more or less skillful, as he has felt more or less interest or amusement in its cultivation. But the inimitable skill with which they are constantly able to alternate the garb of truth or fiction (like touchstones, more certain when least suspected, the one always concealed under the garb of the other), the force which expends an immense amount of intellect upon the most trivial occasions, as Gil Bias made use of as much intelligence to find the means of subsistence for a single day, as was required by the Spanish king to govern the whole of his domain; make at last an impression as painful upon us as the games in which the jugglers of India exhibit such wonderful skill, where sharp and deadly arms fly glittering through the air, which the least error, the least want of perfect mastery, would make the bright, swift messengers of certain death! Such skill is full of concealed anxiety, terror, and anguish! From the complication of circumstances, danger may lurk in the slightest inadvertence, in the least imprudence, in possible accidents, while powerful assistance may suddenly spring from some obscure and forgotten individual. A dramatic interest may instantaneously arise from interviews apparently the most trivial, giving an unforeseen phase to every relation. A misty uncertainty hovers round every meeting, through whose clouds it is difficult to seize the contours, to fix the lines, to ascertain the present and future influence, thus rendering intercourse vague and unintelligible, filling it with an indefinable and hidden terror, yet, at the same time, with an insinuating flattery. The strong currents of genuine sympathy are always struggling to escape from the weight of this external repression. The differing impulses of vanity, love, and patriotism, in their threefold motives of action, are forever hurtling against each other in all hearts

, leading to inextricable confusion of thought and feeling.

What mingling emotions are concentrated in the accidental meetings of the Mazourka! It can surround, with its own enchantment, the lightest emotion of the heart, while, through its magic, the most reserved, transitory, and trivial rencounter appeals to the imagination. Could it be otherwise in the presence of the women who give to this dance that inimitable grace and suavity, for which, in less happy countries, they struggle in vain? In very truth are not the Sclavic women utterly incomparable? There are to be found among them those whose qualities and virtues are so incontestable, so absolute, that they are acknowledged by all ages, and by all countries. Such apparitions are always and everywhere rare. The women of Poland are generally distinguished by an originality full of fire. Parisians in their grace and culture, Eastern dancing girls in their languid fire, they have perhaps preserved among them, handed down from mother to daughter, the secret of the burning love potions possessed in the seraglios. Their charms possess the strange spell of Asiatic languor. With the flames of spiritual and intellectual Houris in their lustrous eyes, we find the luxurious indolence of the Sultana. Their manners caress without emboldening; the grace of their languid movements is intoxicating; they allure by a flexibility of form, which knows no restraint, save that of perfect modesty, and which etiquette has never succeeded in robbing of its willowy grace. They win upon us by those intonations of voice which touch the heart, and fill the eye with tender tears; by those sudden and graceful impulses which recall the spontaneity and beautiful timidity of the gazelle. Intelligent, cultivated, comprehending every thing with rapidity, skillful in the use of all they have acquired; they are nevertheless as superstitious and fastidious as the lovely yet ignorant creatures adored by the Arabian prophet. Generous, devout, loving danger and loving love, from which they demand much, and to which they grant little; beyond every thing they prize renown and glory. All heroism is dear to them. Perhaps there is no one among them who would think it possible to pay too dearly for a brilliant action; and yet, let us say it with reverence, many of them devote to obscurity their most holy sacrifices, their most sublime virtues. But however exemplary these quiet virtues of the home life may be, neither the miseries of private life, nor the secret sorrows which must prey upon souls too ardent not to be frequently wounded, can diminish the wonderful vivacity of their emotions, which they know how to communicate with the infallible rapidity and certainty of an electric spark. Discreet by nature and position, they manage the great weapon of dissimulation with incredible dexterity, skillfully reading the souls of others with out revealing the secrets of their own. With that strange pride which disdains to exhibit characteristic or individual qualities, it is frequently the most noble virtues which are thus concealed. The internal contempt they feel for those who cannot divine them, gives them that superiority which enables them to reign so absolutely over those whom they have enthralled, flattered, subjugated, charmed; until the moment arrives when-loving with the whole force of their ardent souls, they are willing to brave and share the most bitter suffering, prison, exile, even death itself, with the object of their love! Ever faithful, ever consoling, ever tender, ever unchangeable in the intensity of their generous devotion! Irresistible beings, who in fascinating and charming, yet demand an earnest and devout esteem! In that precious incense of praise burned by M. de Balzac, "in honor of that daughter of a foreign soil," he has thus sketched the Polish woman in hues composed entirely of antitheses: "Angel through love, demon through fantasy; child through faith, sage through experience; man through the brain, woman through the heart; giant through hope, mother through sorrow; and poet through dreams." [Footnote: Dedication of "Modeste Mignon".]

The homage inspired by the Polish women is always fervent. They all possess the poetic conception of an ideal, which gleams through their intercourse like an image constantly passing before a mirror, the comprehension and seizure of which they impose as a task. Despising the insipid and common pleasure of merely being able to please, they demand that the being whom they love shall be capable of exacting their esteem. This romantic temperament sometimes retains them long in hesitation between the world and the cloister. Indeed, there are few among them who at some moment of their lives have not seriously and bitterly thought of taking refuge within the walls of a convent.

Where such women reign as sovereigns, what feverish words, what hopes, what despair, what entrancing fascinations must occur in the mazes of the Mazourka; the Mazourka, whose every cadence vibrates in the ear of the Polish lady as the echo of a vanished passion, or the whisper of a tender declaration. Which among them has ever danced through a Mazourka, whose cheeks burned not more from the excitement of emotion than from mere physical fatigue? What unexpected and endearing ties have been formed in the long tete-a-tete, in the very midst of crowds, with the sounds of music, which generally recalled the name of some hero or some proud historical remembrance attached to the words, floating around, while thus the associations of love and heroism became forever attached to the words and melodies! What ardent vows have been exchanged; what wild and despairing farewells been breathed! How many brief attachments have been linked and as suddenly unlinked, between those who had never met before, who were never, never to meet again-and yet, to whom forgetfulness had become forever impossible! What hopeless love may have been revealed during the moments so rare upon this earth; when beauty is more highly esteemed than riches, a noble bearing of more consequence than rank! What dark destinies forever severed by the tyranny of rank and wealth may have been, in these fleeting moments of meeting, again united, happy in the glitter of passing triumph, reveling in concealed and unsuspected joy! What interviews, commenced in indifference, prolonged in jest, interrupted with emotion, renewed with the secret consciousness of mutual understanding, (in all that concerns subtle intuition Slavic finesse and delicacy especially excel,) have terminated in the deepest attachments! What holy confidences have been exchanged in the spirit of that generous frankness which circulates from unknown to unknown, when the noble are delivered from the tyranny of forced conventionalisms! What words deceitfully bland, what vows, what desires, what vague hopes have been negligently thrown on the winds;-thrown as the handkerchief of the fair dancer in the Mazourka... and which the maladroit knows not how to pick up!...

We have before asserted that we must have known personally the women of Poland, for the full and intuitive comprehension of the feelings with which the Mazourkas of Chopin, as well as many more of his compositions, are impregnated. A subtle love vapor floats like an ambient fluid around them; we may trace step by step in his Preludes, Nocturnes Impromptus and Mazourkas, all the phases of which passion is capable The sportive hues of coquetry the insensible and gradual yielding of inclination, the capricious festoons of fantasy; the sadness of sickly joys born dying, flowers of mourning like the black roses, the very perfume of whose gloomy leaves is depressing, and whose petals are so frail that the faintest sigh is sufficient to detach them from the fragile stem; sudden flames without thought, like the false shining of that decayed and dead wood which only glitters in obscurity and crumbles at the touch; pleasures without past and without future, snatched from accidental meetings; illusions, inexplicable excitements tempting to adventure, like the sharp taste of half ripened fruit which stimulates and pleases even while it sets the teeth on edge; emotions without memory and without hope; shadowy feelings whose chromatic tints are interminable;-are all found in these works, endowed by genius with the innate nobility, the beauty, the distinction, the surpassing elegance of those by whom they are experienced.

In the compositions just mentioned, as well as in most of his Ballads, Waltzes and Etudes, the rendering of some of the poetical subjects to which we have just alluded, may be found embalmed. These fugitive poems are so idealized, rendered so fragile and attenuated, that they scarcely seem to belong to human nature, but rather to a fairy world, unveiling the indiscreet confidences of Peris, of Titanias, of Ariels, of Queen Mabs, of the Genii of the air, of water, and of fire,-like ourselves, subject to bitter disappointments, to invincible disgusts.

Some of these compositions are as gay and fantastic as the wiles of an enamored, yet mischievous sylph; some are soft, playing in undulating light, like the hues of a salamander; some, full of the most profound discouragement, as if the sighs of souls in pain, who could find none to offer up the charitable prayers necessary for their deliverance, breathed through their notes. Sometimes a despair so inconsolable is stamped upon them, that we feel ourselves present at some Byronic tragedy, oppressed by the anguish of a Jacopo Foscari, unable to survive the agony of exile. In some we hear the shuddering spasms of suppressed sobs. Some of them, in which the black keys are exclusively taken, are acute and subtle, and remind us of the character of his own gaiety, lover of atticism as he was, subject only to the higher emotions, recoiling from all vulgar mirth, from coarse laughter, and from low enjoyments, as we do from those animals more abject than venomous, whose very sight causes the most nauseating repulsion in tender and sensitive natures.

An exceeding variety of subjects and impressions occur in the great number of his Mazourkas. Sometimes we catch the manly sounds of the rattling of spurs, but it is generally the almost imperceptible rustling of crape and gauze under the light breath of the dancers, or the clinking of chains of gold and diamonds, that maybe distinguished. Some of them seem to depict the defiant pleasure of the ball given on the eve of battle, tortured however by anxiety for, through the rhythm of the dance, we hear the sighs and despairing farewells of hearts forced to suppress their tears. Others reveal to us the discomfort and secret ennui of those guests at a fete, who find it in vain to expect that the gay sounds will muffle the sharp cries of anguished spirits. We sometimes catch the gasping breath of terror and stifled fears; sometimes divine the dim presentiments of a love destined to perpetual struggle and doomed to survive all hope, which, though devoured by jealousy and conscious that it can never be the victor, still disdains to curse, and takes refuge in a soul-subduing pity. In others we feel as if borne into the heart of a whirlwind, a strange madness; in the midst of the mystic confusion, an abrupt melody passes and repasses, panting and palpitating, like the throbbing of a heart faint with longing, gasping in despair, breaking in anguish, dying of hopeless, yet indignant love. In some we hear the distant flourish of trumpets, like fading memories of glories past, in some of them, the rhythm is as floating, as undetermined, as shadowy, as the feeling with which two young lovers gaze upon the first star of evening, as yet alone in the dim skies.

Upon one afternoon, when there were but three persons present, and Chopin had been playing for a long time, one of the most distinguished women in Paris remarked, that she felt always more and more filled with solemn meditation, such as might be awakened in presence of the grave-stones strewing those grounds in Turkey, whose shady recesses and bright beds of flowers promise only a gay garden to the startled traveller. She asked him what was the cause of the involuntary, yet sad veneration which subdued her heart while listening to these pieces, apparently presenting only sweet and graceful subjects:-and by what name he called the strange emotion inclosed in his compositions, like ashes of the unknown dead in superbly sculptured urns of the purest alabaster... Conquered by the appealing tears which moistened the beautiful eyes, with a candor rare indeed in this artist, so susceptible upon all that related to the secrets of the sacred relics buried in the gorgeous shrines of his music, he replied: "that her heart had not deceived her in the gloom which she felt stealing upon her, for whatever might have been his transitory pleasures, he had never been free from a feeling which might almost be said to form the soil of his heart, and for which he could find no appropriate expression except in his own language, no other possessing a term equivalent to the Polish word: ZAL!" As if his ear thirsted for the sound of this word, which expresses the whole range of emotions produced by an intense regret, through all the shades of feeling, from hatred to repentance, he repeated it again and again.

ZAL! Strange substantive, embracing a strange diversity, a strange philosophy! Susceptible of different regimens, it includes all the tenderness, all the humility of a regret borne with resignation and without a murmur, while bowing before the fiat of necessity, the inscrutable decrees of Providence: but, changing its character, and assuming the regimen indirect as soon as it is addressed to man, it signifies excitement, agitation, rancor, revolt full of reproach, premeditated vengeance, menace never ceasing to threaten if retaliation should ever become possible, feeding itself meanwhile with a bitter, if sterile hatred.

ZAL! In very truth, it colors the whole of Chopin's compositions: sometimes wrought through their elaborate tissue, like threads of dim silver; sometimes coloring them with more passionate hues. It may be found in his sweetest reveries; even in those which that Shakespearian genius, Berlioz, comprehending all extremes, has so well characterized as "divine coquetries"-coquetries only understood in semi-oriental countries; coquetries in which men are cradled by their mothers, with which they are tormented by their sisters, and enchanted by those they love; and which cause the coquetries of other women to appear insipid or coarse in their eyes; inducing them to exclaim, with an appearance of boasting, yet in which they are entirely justified by the truth: NIEMA IAK POLKI! "Nothing equals the Polish women!" [Footnote: The custom formerly in use of drinking, in her own shoe, the health of the woman they loved, is one of the most original traditions of the enthusiastic gallantry if the Poles.] Through the secrets of these "divine coquetries" those adorable beings are formed, who are alone capable of fulfilling the impassioned ideals of poets who, like M. de Chateaubriand, in the feverish sleeplessness of their adolescence, create for themselves visions "of an Eve, innocent, yet fallen; ignorant of all, yet knowing all; mistress, yet virgin." [Footnote: Memoires d'Outre Tombe. 1st vol. Incantation.] The only being which was ever found to resemble this dream, was a Polish girl of seventeen-"a mixture of the Odalisque and Valkyria... realization of the ancient sylph-new Flora-freed from the chain of the seasons" [Footnote: Idem. 3d vol. Atala.]-and whom M. de Chateaubriand feared to meet again. "Divine coquetries" at once generous and avaricious; impressing the floating, wavy, rocking, undecided motion of a boat without rigging or oars upon the charmed and intoxicated heart!

Through his peculiar style of performance, Chopin imparted this constant rocking with the most fascinating effect; thus making the melody undulate to and fro, like a skiff driven on over the bosom of tossing waves. This manner of execution, which set a seal so peculiar upon his own style of playing, was at first indicated by the term 'tempo rubato', affixed to his writings: a Tempo agitated, broken, interrupted, a movement flexible, yet at the same time abrupt and languishing, and vacillating as the flame under the fluctuating breath by which it is agitated. In his later productions we no longer find this mark. He was convinced that if the performer understood them, he would divine this rule of irregularity. All his compositions should be played with this accentuated and measured swaying and balancing. It is difficult for those who have not frequently heard him play to catch this secret of their proper execution. He seemed desirous of imparting this style to his numerous pupils, particularly those of his own country. His countrymen, or rather his countrywomen, seized it with the facility with which they understand every thing relating to poetry or feeling; an innate, intuitive comprehension of his meaning aided them in following all the fluctuations of his depths of aerial and spiritual blue.

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