MoboReader> Literature > Life of Chopin

   Chapter 6 No.6

Life of Chopin By Franz Liszt Characters: 37249

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rutal tyranny of caprice, that eagerness to drink the cup of fantasy to the very dregs, that stormy pursuit of all the changes and incongruities of life, which rule in the strange mode of life known as LA BOHEME.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares