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Life of Chopin by Franz Liszt

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diffuse its exquisite aroma in the noisome breath of crowds,
whose heavy air can only retain the stronger odor of the
tuberose, the incense of burning resin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Lives of Artists--Pure Fame of Chopin--Reserve--Classic and
Romantic Art-Language of the Sclaves--Chopin's Love of Home

A natural curiosity is generally felt to know something of the
lives of men who have consecrated their genius to embellish noble
feelings through works of art, through which they shine like
brilliant meteors in the eyes of the surprised and delighted
crowd. The admiration and sympathy awakened by the compositions
of such men, attach immediately to their own names, which are at
once elevated as symbols of nobility and greatness, because the
world is loath to believe that those who can express high
sentiments with force, can themselves feel ignobly. The objects
of this benevolent prejudice, this favorable presumption, are
expected to justify such suppositions by the high course of life
which they are required to lead. When it is seen that the poet
feels with such exquisite delicacy all that which it is so sweet
to inspire; that he divines with such rapid intuition all that
pride, timidity, or weariness struggles to hide; that he can
paint love as youth dreams it, but as riper years despair to
realize it; when such sublime situations seem to be ruled by his
genius, which raises itself so calmly above the calamities of
human destiny, always finding the leading threads by which the
most complicated knots in the tangled skein of life may be
proudly and victoriously unloosed; when the secret modulations of
the most exquisite tenderness, the most heroic courage, the most
sublime simplicity, are known to be subject to his command,--it
is most natural that the inquiry should be made if this wondrous
divination springs from a sincere faith in the reality of the
noble feelings portrayed, or whether its source is to be found in
an acute perception of the intellect, an abstract comprehension
of the logical reason.

The question in what the life led by men so enamored of beauty
differs from that of the common multitude, is then earnestly
asked. This high poetic disdain,--how did it comport itself when
struggling with material interests? These ineffable emotions of
ethereal love,--how were they guarded from the bitterness of
petty cares, from that rapidly growing and corroding mould which
usually stifles or poisons them? How many of such feelings were
preserved from that subtle evaporation which robs them of their
perfume, that gradually increasing inconstancy which lulls us
until we forget to call the dying emotions to account? Those who
felt such holy indignation,--were they indeed always just? Those
who exalted integrity,--were they always equitable? Those who
sung of honor,--did they never stoop? Those who so admired
fortitude,--have they never compromised with their own weakness?

A deep interest is also felt in ascertaining how those to whom
the task of sustaining our faith in the nobler sentiments through
art has been intrusted, have conducted themselves in external
affairs, where pecuniary gain is only to be acquired at the
expense of delicacy, loyalty, or honor. Many assert that the
nobler feelings exist only in the works of art. When some
unfortunate occurrence seems to give a deplorable foundation to
the words of such mockers, with what avidity they name the most
exquisite conceptions of the poet, "vain phantoms!" How they
plume themselves upon their own wisdom in having advocated the
politic doctrine of an astute, yet honeyed hypocrisy; how they
delight to speak of the perpetual contradiction between words and
deeds!....With what cruel joy they detail such occurrences, and
cite such examples in the presence of those unsteady restless
souls, who are incited by their youthful aspirations and by the
depression and utter loss of happy confidence which such a
conviction would entail upon them, to struggle against a distrust
so blighting! When such wavering spirits are engaged in the
bitter combat with the harsh alternatives of life, or tempted at
every turn by its insinuating seductions, what a profound
discouragement seizes upon them when they are induced to believe
that the hearts devoted to the most sublime thoughts, the most
deeply initiated in the most delicate susceptibilities, the most
charmed by the beauty of innocence, have denied, by their acts,
the sincerity of their worship for the noble themes which they
have sung as poets! With what agonizing doubts are they not
filled by such flagrant contradictions! How much is their anguish
increased by the jeering mockery of those who repeat: "Poetry is
only that which might have been"--and who delight in blaspheming
it by their guilty negations! Whatever may be the human short-
comings of the gifted, believe the truths they sing! Poetry is
more than the gigantic shadow of our own imagination,
immeasurably increased, and projected upon the flying plane of
the Impossible. POETRY and REALITY are not two incompatible
elements, destined to move on together without commingling.
Goethe himself confesses this. In speaking of a contemporary
writer he says: "that having lived to create poems, he had also
made his life a Poem." (Er lebte dichtend, und dichtete lebend.)
Goethe was himself too true a poet not to know that Poetry only
is, because its eternal Reality throbs in the noble impulses of
the human heart.

We have once before remarked that "genius imposes its own
obligations." [Footnote: Upon Paganini, after his death.] If the
examples of cold austerity and of rigid disinterestedness are
sufficient to awaken the admiration of calm and reflective
natures, whence shall more passionate and mobile organizations,
to whom the dullness of mediocrity is insipid, who naturally seek
honor or pleasure, and who are willing to purchase the object of
their desires at any price--form their models? Such temperaments
easily free themselves from the authority of their seniors. They
do not admit their competency to decide. They accuse them of
wishing to use the world only for the profit of their own dead
passions, of striving to turn all to their own advantage, of
pronouncing upon the effects of causes which they do not
understand, of desiring to promulgate laws in spheres to which
nature has denied them entrance. They will not receive answers
from their lips, but turn to others to resolve their doubts; they
question those who have drunk deeply from the boiling springs of
grief, bursting from the riven clefts in the steep cliffs upon
the top of which alone the soul seeks rest and light. They pass
in silence by the still cold gravity of those who practice the
good, without enthusiasm for the beautiful. What leisure has
ardent youth to interpret their gravity, to resolve their chill
problems? The throbbings of its impetuous heart are too rapid to
allow it to investigate the hidden sufferings, the mystic
combats, the solitary struggles, which may be detected even in
the calm eye of the man who practices only the good. Souls in
continual agitation seldom interpret aright the calm simplicity
of the just, or the heroic smiles of the stoic. For them
enthusiasm and emotion are necessities. A bold image persuades
them, a metaphor leads them, tears convince them, they prefer the
conclusions of impulse, of intuition, to the fatigue of logical
argument. Thus they turn with an eager curiosity to the poets and
artists who have moved them by their images, allured them by
their metaphors, excited them by their enthusiasm. They demand
from them the explanation, the purpose of this enthusiasm, the
secret of this beauty!

When distracted by heart-rending events, when tortured by intense
suffering, when feeling and enthusiasm seem to be but a heavy and
cumbersome load which may upset the life-boat if not thrown
overboard into the abyss of forgetfulness; who, when menaced with
utter shipwreck after a long struggle with peril, has not evoked
the glorious shades of those who have conquered, whose thoughts
glow with noble ardor, to inquire from them how far their
aspirations were sincere, how long they preserved their vitality
and truth? Who has not exerted an ingenious discernment to
ascertain how much of the generous feeling depicted was only for
mental amusement, a mere speculation; how much had really become
incorporated with the habitual acts of life? Detraction is never
idle in such cases; it seizes eagerly upon the foibles, the
neglect, the faults of those who have been degraded by any
weakness: alas, it omits nothing! It chases its prey, it
accumulates facts only to distort them, it arrogates to itself
the right of despising the inspiration to which it will grant no
authority or aim but to furnish amusement, denying it any claim
to guide our actions, our resolutions, our refusal, our consent!
Detraction knows well how to winnow history! Casting aside all
the good grain, it carefully gathers all the tares, to scatter
the black seed over the brilliant pages in which the purest
desires of the heart, the noblest dreams of the imagination are
found; and with the irony of assumed victory, demands what the
grain is worth which only germinates dearth and famine? Of what
value the vain words, which only nourish sterile feelings? Of
what use are excursions into realms in which no real fruit can
ever be gathered? of what possible importance are emotions and
enthusiasm, which always end in calculations of interest,
covering only with brilliant veil the covert struggles of egotism
and venal self-interest?

With how much arrogant derision men given to such detraction,
contrast the noble thoughts of the poet, with his unworthy acts!
The high compositions of the artist, with his guilty frivolity!
What a haughty superiority they assume over the laborious merit
of the men of guileless honesty, whom they look upon as
crustacea, sheltered from temptation by the immobility of weak
organizations, as well as over the pride of those, who, believing
themselves superior to such temptations, do not, they assert,
succeed even as well as themselves in repudiating the pursuit of
material well being, the gratification of vanity, or the pleasure
of immediate enjoyment! What an easy triumph they win over the
hesitation, the doubt, the repugnance of those who would fain
cling to a belief in the possibility of the union of vivid
feelings, passionate impressions, intellectual gifts, imaginative
temperaments, with high integrity, pure lives, and courses of
conduct in perfect harmony with poetic ideals!

It is therefore impossible not to feel the deepest sadness when
we meet with any fact which shows us the poet disobedient to the
inspiration of the Muses, those guardian angels of the man of
genius, who would willingly teach him to make of his own life the
most beautiful of poems. What disastrous doubts in the minds of
others, what profound discouragements, what melancholy apostasies
are induced by the faltering steps of the man of genius! And yet
it would be profanity to confound his errors in the same
anathema, hurled against the base vices of meanness, the
shameless effrontery of low crime! It would be sacrilege! If the
acts of the poet have sometimes denied the spirit of his song,
have not his songs still more powerfully denied his acts? May not
the limited influence of his private actions have been far more
than counterbalanced by the germs of creative virtues, scattered
profusely through his eloquent writings? Evil is contagious, but
good is truly fruitful! The poet, even while forcing his inner
convictions to give way to his personal interest, still
acknowledges and ennobles the sentiments which condemn himself;
such sentiments attain a far wider influence through his works
than can be exerted by his individual acts. Are not the number of
spirits which have been calmed, consoled, edified, through these
works, far greater than the number of those who have been injured
by the errors of his private life? Art is far more powerful than
the artist. His creations have a life independent of his
vacillating will; for they are revelations of the "immutable
beauty!" More durable than himself, they pass on from generation
to generation; let us hope that they may, through the blessings
of their widely spread influence, contain a virtual power of
redemption for the frequent errors of their gifted authors. If it
be indeed true that many of those who have immortalized their
sensibility and their aspirations, by robing them in the garb of
surpassing eloquence, have, nevertheless, stifled these high
aspirations, abused these quick sensibilities,--how many have
they not confirmed, strengthened and encouraged to pursue a noble
course, through the works created by their genius! A generous
indulgence towards them would be but justice! It is hard to be
forced to claim simple justice for them; unpleasant to be
constrained to defend those whom we wish to be admired, to excuse
those whom we wish to see venerated!

With what exultant feelings of just pride may the friend and
artist remember a career in which there are no jarring
dissonances; no contradictions, for which he is forced to claim
indulgence; no errors, whose source must be found in palliation
of their existence; no extreme, to be accounted for as the
consequence of "excess of cause." How sweet it is to be able to
name one who has fully proved that it is not only apathetic
beings whom no fascination can attract, no illusion betray, who
are able to limit themselves within the strict routine of honored
and honorable laws, who may justly claim that elevation of soul,
which no reverse subdues, and which is never found in
contradiction with its better self! Doubly dear and doubly
honored must the memory of Chopin, in this respect, ever remain!
Dear to the friends and artists who have known him in his
lifetime, dear to the unknown friends who shall learn to love him
through his poetic song, as well as to the artists who, in
succeeding him, shall find their glory in being worthy of him!

The character of Chopin, in none of its numerous folds, concealed
a single movement, a single impulse, which was not dictated by
the nicest sense of honor, the most delicate appreciation of
affection. Yet no nature was ever more formed to justify
eccentricity, whims, and abrupt caprices. His imagination was
ardent, his feelings almost violent, his physical organization
weak, irritable and sickly. Who can measure the amount of
suffering arising from such contrasts? It must have been bitter,
but he never allowed it to be seen! He kept the secret of his
torments, he veiled them from all eyes under the impenetrable
serenity of a haughty resignation.

The delicacy of his heart and constitution imposed upon him the
woman's torture, that of enduring agonies never to be confessed,
thus giving to his fate some of the darker hues of feminine
destiny. Excluded, by the infirm state of his health, from the
exciting arena of ordinary activity, without any taste for the
useless buzzing, in which a few bees, joined with many wasps,
expend their superfluous strength, he built apart from all noisy
and frequented routes a secluded cell for himself. Neither
adventures, embarrassments, nor episodes, mark his life, which he
succeeded in simplifying, although surrounded by circumstances
which rendered such a result difficult of attainment. His own
feelings, his own impressions, were his events; more important in
his eyes than the chances and changes of external life. He
constantly gave lessons with regularity and assiduity; domestic
and daily tasks, they were given conscientiously and
satisfactorily. As the devout in prayer, so he poured out his
soul in his compositions, expressing in them those passions of
the heart, those unexpressed sorrows, to which the pious give
vent in their communion with their Maker. What they never say
except upon their knees, he said in his palpitating compositions;
uttering in the language of the tones those mysteries of passion
and of grief which man has been permitted to understand without
words, because there are no words adequate for their expression.

The care taken by Chopin to avoid the zig-zags of life, to
eliminate from it all that was useless, to prevent its crumbling
into masses without form, has deprived his own course of
incident. The vague lines and indications surrounding his figure
like misty clouds, disappear under the touch which would strive
to follow or trace their outlines. He takes part in no actions,
no drama, no entanglements, no denouements. He exercised a
decisive influence upon no human being. His will never encroached
upon the desires of another, he never constrained any other
spirit, or crashed it under the domination of his own, He never
tyrannized over another heart, he never placed a conquering hand
upon the destiny of another being. He sought nothing; he would
have scorned to have made any demands. Like Tasso, he might say:

Brama assai, poco spera, e nulla chiede. In compensation, he
escaped from all ties; from the affections which might have
influenced him, or led him into more tumultuous spheres. Ready to
yield all, he never gave himself. Perhaps he knew what exclusive
devotion, what love without limit he was worthy of inspiring, of
understanding, of sharing! Like other ardent and ambitions
natures, he may have thought if love and friendship are not all--
they are nothing! Perhaps it would have been more painful for him
to have accepted a part, any thing less than all, than to have
relinquished all, and thus to have remained at least faithful to
his impossible Ideal! If these things have been so or not, none
ever knew, for he rarely spoke of love or friendship. He was not
exacting, like those whose high claims and just demands exceed
all that we possess to offer them. The most intimate of his
acquaintances never penetrated to that secluded fortress in which
the soul, absent from his common life, dwelt; a fortress which he
so well succeeded in concealing, that its very existence was
scarcely suspected.

In his relations and intercourse with others, he always seemed
occupied in what interested them; he was cautions not to lead
them from the circle of their own personality, lest they should
intrude into his. If he gave up but little of his time to others,
at least of that which he did relinquish, he reserved none for
himself. No one ever asked him to give an account of his dreams,
his wishes, or his hopes. No one seemed to wish to know what he
sighed for, what he might have conquered, if his white and
tapering fingers could have linked the brazen chords of life to
the golden ones of his enchanted lyre! No one had leisure to
think of this in his presence. His conversation was rarely upon
subjects of any deep interest. He glided lightly over all, and as
he gave but little of his time, it was easily filled with the
details of the day. He was careful never to allow himself to
wander into digressions of which he himself might become the
subject. His individuality rarely excited the investigations of
curiosity, or awakened vivid scrutiny. He pleased too much to
excite much reflection. The ensemble of his person was
harmonious, and called for no especial commentary. His blue eye
was more spiritual than dreamy, his bland smile never writhed
into bitterness. The transparent delicacy of his complexion
pleased the eye, his fair hair was soft and silky, his nose
slightly aquiline, his bearing so distinguished, and his manners
stamped with so much high breeding, that involuntarily he was
always treated EN PRINCE. His gestures were many and graceful;
the tone of his voice was veiled, often stifled; his stature was
low, and his limbs slight. He constantly reminded us of a
convolvulus balancing its heaven-colored cup upon an incredibly
slight stem, the tissue of which is so like vapor that the
slightest contact wounds and tears the misty corolla.

His manners in society possessed that serenity of mood which
distinguishes those whom no ennui annoys, because they expect no
interest. He was generally gay, his caustic spirit caught the
ridiculous rapidly and far below the surface at which it usually
strikes the eye. He displayed a rich vein of drollery in
pantomime. He often amused himself by reproducing the musical
formulas and peculiar tricks of certain virtuosi, in the most
burlesque and comic improvisations, in imitating their gestures,
their movements, in counterfeiting their faces with a talent
which instantaneously depicted their whole personality. His own
features would then become scarcely recognizable, he could force
the strangest metamorphoses upon them, but while mimicking the
ugly and grotesque, he never lost his own native grace. Grimace
was never carried far enough to disfigure him; his gayety was so
much the more piquant because he always restrained it within the
limits of perfect good taste, holding at a suspicious distance
all that could wound the most fastidious delicacy. He never made
use of an inelegant word, even in the moments of the most entire
familiarity; an improper merriment, a coarse jest would have been
shocking to him.

Through a strict exclusion of all subjects relating to himself
from conversation, through a constant reserve with regard to his
own feelings, he always succeeded in leaving a happy impression
behind him. People in general like those who charm them without
causing them to fear that they will be called upon to render
aught in return for the amusement given, or that the pleasurable
excitement of gayety will be followed by the sadness of
melancholy confidences the sight of mournful faces, or the
inevitable reactions which occur in susceptible natures of which
we may say: Ubi mel, ibi fel. People generally like to keep such
"susceptible natures" at a distance; they dislike to be brought
into contact with their melancholy moods, though they do not
refuse a kind of respect to the mournful feelings caused by their
subtle reactions; indeed such changes possess for them the
attraction of the unknown and they are as ready to take delight
in the description of such changing caprices, as they are to
avoid their reality. The presence of Chopin was always feted. He
interested himself so vividly in all that was not himself, that
his own personality remained intact, unapproached and
unapproachable, under the polished and glassy surface upon which
it was impossible to gain footing.

On some occasions, although very rarely, we have seen him deeply
agitated. We have seen him grow so pale and wan, that his
appearance was actually corpse-like. But even in moments of the
most intense emotion, he remained concentrated within himself. A
single instant for self-recovery always enabled him to veil the
secret of his first impression. However full of spontaneity his
bearing afterwards might seem to be, it was instantaneously the
effect of reflection, of a will which governed the strange
conflict of emotional and moral energy with conscious physical
debility; a conflict whose strange contrasts were forever warring
vividly within. The dominion exercised over the natural violence
of his character reminds us of the melancholy force of those
beings who seek their strength in isolation and entire self-
control, conscious of the uselessness of their vivid indignation
and vexation, and too jealous of the mysteries of their passions
to betray them gratuitously.

He could pardon in the most noble manner. No rancor remained in
his heart toward those who had wounded him, though such wounds
penetrated deeply in his soul, and fermented there in vague pain
and internal suffering, so that long after the exciting cause had
been effaced from his memory, he still experienced the secret
torture. By dint of constant effort, in spite of his acute and
tormenting sensibilities, he subjected his feelings to the rule
rather of what ought to be, than of what is; thus he was grateful
for services proceeding rather from good intentions than from a
knowledge of what would have been agreeable to him; from
friendship which wounded him, because not aware of his acute but
concealed susceptibility. Nevertheless the wounds caused by such
awkward miscomprehension are, of all others, the most difficult
for nervous temperaments to bear. Condemned to repress their
vexation, such natures are excited by degrees to a state of
constantly gnawing irritability, which they can never attribute
to the true cause. It would be a gross mistake to imagine that
this irritation existed without provocation. But as a dereliction
from what appeared to him to be the most honorable course of
conduct was a temptation which he was never called upon to
resist, because in all probability it never presented itself to
him; so he never, in the presence of the more vigorous and
therefore more brusque and positive individualities than his own,
unveiled the shudder, if repulsion be too strong a term, caused
by their contact or association.

The reserve which marked his intercourse with others, extended to
all subjects to which the fanaticism of opinion can attach. His
own sentiments could only be estimated by that which he did not
do in the narrow limits of his activity. His patriotism was
revealed in the course taken by his genius, in the choice of his
friends, in the preferences given to his pupils, and in the
frequent and great services which he rendered to his compatriots;
but we cannot remember that he took any pleasure in the
expression of this feeling. If he sometimes entered upon the
topic of politics, so vividly attacked, so warmly defended, so
frequently discussed in Prance, it was rather to point out what
he deemed dangerous or erroneous in the opinions advanced by
others than to win attention for his own. In constant connection
with some of the most brilliant politicians of the day, he knew
how to limit the relations between them to a personal attachment
entirely independent of political interests.

Democracy presented to his view an agglomeration of elements too
heterogeneous, too restless, wielding too much savage power, to
win his sympathies. The entrance of social and political
questions into the arena of popular discussion was compared, more
than twenty years ago, to a new and bold incursion of barbarians.
Chopin was peculiarly and painfully struck by the terror which
this comparison awakened. He despaired of obtaining the safety of
Rome from these modern Attilas, he feared the destruction of art,
its monuments, its refinements, its civilization; in a word, he
dreaded the loss of the elegant, cultivated if somewhat indolent
ease described by Horace. Would the graceful elegancies of life,
the high culture of the arts, indeed be safe in the rude and
devastating hands of the new barbarians? He followed at a
distance the progress of events, and an acuteness of perception,
which he would scarcely have been supposed to possess, often
enabled him to predict occurrences which were not anticipated
even by the best informed. But though such observations escaped
him, he never developed them. His concise remarks attracted no
attention until time proved their truth. His good sense, full of
acuteness, had early persuaded him of the perfect vacuity of the
greater part of political orations, of theological discussions,
of philosophic digressions. He began early to practice the
favorite maxim of a man of great distinction, whom we have often
heard repeat a remark dictated by the misanthropic wisdom of age,
which was then startling to our inexperienced impetuosity, but
which has since frequently struck us by its melancholy truth:
"You will be persuaded one day as I am," (said the Marquis de
Noailles to the young people whom he honored with his attention,
and who were becoming heated in some naive discussions of
differing opinions,) 'that it is scarcely possible to talk about
any thing to any body." (Qu'il n'y a guere moyen de causer de
quoi que ce soit, avec qui que ce soit.)

Sincerely religious, and attached to Catholicity, Chopin never
touched upon this subject, but held his faith without attracting
attention to it. One might have been acquainted with him for a
long time, without knowing exactly what his religious opinion
were. Perhaps to console his inactive hand an reconcile it with
his lute, he persuaded himself to think: Il mondo va da se. We
have frequently watched him during the progress of long,
animated, and stormy discussions, in which he would take no part.
In the excitement of the debate he was forgotten by the speakers,
but we have often neglected to follow the chain of their
reasoning, to fix our attention upon the features of Chopin,
which were almost imperceptibly contracted when subjects touching
upon the most important conditions of our existence were
discussed with such eagerness and ardor, that it might have been
thought our fates were to be instantly decided by the result of
the debate. At such times, he appeared to us like a passenger on
board of a vessel, driven and tossed by tempests upon the
stormful waves, thinking of his distant country, watching the
horizon, the stars, the manoeuvres of the sailors, counting their
fatal mistakes, without possessing in himself sufficient force to
seize a rope, or the energy requisite to haul in a fluttering

On one single subject he relinquished his premeditated silence,
his cherished neutrality. In the cause of art he broke through
his reserve, he never abdicated upon this topic the explicit
enunciation of his opinions. He applied himself with great
perseverance to extend the limits of his influence upon this
subject. It was a tacit confession that he considered himself
legitimately possessed of the authority of a great artist. In
questions which he dignified by his competence, he never left any
doubt with regard to the nature of his opinions. During several
years his appeals were full of impassioned ardor, but later, the
triumph of his opinions having diminished the interest of his
role, he sought no further occasion to place himself as leader,
as the bearer of any banner. In the only occurrence in which he
took part in the conflict of parties, he gave proof of opinions,
absolute, tenacious, and inflexible, as those which rarely come
to the light usually are.

Shortly after his arrival in Paris, in 1832, a new school was
formed both in literature and music, and youthful talent
appeared, which shook off with eclat the yoke of ancient
formulas. The scarcely lulled political effervescence of the
first years of the revolution of July, passed into questions upon
art and letters, which attracted the attention and interest of
all minds. ROMANTICISM was the order of the day; they fought with
obstinacy for and against it. What truce could there be between
those who would not admit the possibility of writing in any other
than the already established manner, and those who thought that
the artist should be allowed to choose such forms as he deemed
best suited for the expression of his ideas; that the rule of
form should be found in the agreement of the chosen form with the
sentiments to be expressed, every different shade of feeling
requiring of course a different mode of expression? The former
believed in the existence of a permanent form, whose perfection
represented absolute Beauty. But in admitting that the great
masters had attained the highest limits in art, had reached
supreme perfection, they left to the artists who succeeded them
no other glory than the hope of approaching these models, more or
less closely, by imitation, thus frustrating all hope of ever
equalling them, because the perfecting of any process can never
rival the merit of its invention. The latter denied that the
immaterial Beautiful could have a fixed and absolute form. The
different forms which had appeared in the history of art, seemed
to them like tents spread in the interminable route of the ideal;
mere momentary halting places which genius attains from epoch to
epoch, and beyond which the inheritors of the past should strive
to advance. The former wished to restrict the creations of times
and natures the most dissimilar, within the limits of the same
symmetrical frame; the latter claimed for all writers the liberty
of creating their own mode, accepting no other rules than those
which result from the direct relation of sentiment and form,
exacting only that the form should be adequate to the expression
of the sentiment. However admirable the existing models might be,
they did not appear to them to have exhausted all the range of
sentiments upon which art might seize, or all the forms which it
might advantageously use. Not contented with the mere excellence
of form, they sought it so far only as its perfection is
indispensable for the complete revelation of the idea, for they
were not ignorant that the sentiment is maimed if the form remain
imperfect, any imperfection in it, like an opaque veil,
intercepting the raying of the pure idea. Thus they elevated what
had otherwise been the mere work of the trade, into the sphere of
poetic inspiration. They enjoined upon genius and patience the
task of inventing a form which would satisfy the exactions of the
inspiration. They reproached their adversaries with attempting to
reduce inspiration to the bed of Procrustes, because they refused
to admit that there are sentiments which cannot be expressed in
forms which have been determined upon beforehand, and of thus
robbing art, in advance even of their creation, of all works
which might attempt the introduction of newly awakened ideas,
newly clad in new forms; forms and ideas both naturally arising
from the naturally progressive development of the human spirit,
the improvement of the instruments, and the consequent increase
of the material resources of art.

Those who saw the flames of Genius devour the old worm-eaten
crumbling skeletons, attached themselves to the musical school of
which the most gifted, the most brilliant, the most daring
representative, was Berlioz. Chopin joined this school. He
persisted most strenuously in freeing himself from the servile
formulas of conventional style, while he earnestly repudiated the
charlatanism which sought to replace the old abuses only by the
introduction of new ones.

During the years which this campaign of Romanticism lasted, in
which some of the trial blows were master-strokes, Chopin
remained invariable in his predilections, as well as in his
repulsions. He did not admit the least compromise with those who,
in his opinion, did not sufficiently represent progress, and who,
in their refusal to relinquish the desire of displaying art for
the profit of the trade, in their pursuit of transitory effects,
of success won only from the astonishment of the audience, gave
no proof of sincere devotion to progress. He broke the ties which
he had contracted with respect when he felt restricted by them,
or bound too closely to the shore by cordage which he knew to be
decayed. He obstinately refused, on the other hand, to form ties
with the young artists whose success, which he deemed
exaggerated, elevated a certain kind of merit too highly. He
never gave the least praise to any thing which he did not believe
to be a real conquest for art, or which did not evince a serious
conception of the task of an artist. He did not wish to be lauded
by any party, to be aided by the manoeuvres of any faction, or by
the concessions made by any schools in the persons of their
chiefs. In the midst of jealousies, encroachments, forfeitures,
and invasions of the different branches of art, negotiations,
treaties, and contracts have been introduced, like the means and
appliances of diplomacy, with all the artifices inseparable from
such a course. In refusing the support of any accessory aid for
his productions, he proved that he confidently believed that
their own beauty would ensure their appreciation, and that he did
not struggle to facilitate their immediate reception.

He supported our struggles, at that time so full of uncertainty,
when we met more sages shaking their heads, than glorious
adversaries, with his calm and unalterable conviction. He aided
us with opinions so fixed that neither weariness nor artifice
could shake them, with a rare immutability of will, and that
efficacious assistance which the creation of meritorious works
always brings to a struggling cause, when it can claim them as
its own. He mingled so many charms, so much moderation, so much
knowledge with his daring innovations, that the prompt admiration
he inspired fully justified the confidence he placed in his own
genius. The solid studies which he had made, the reflective
habits of his youth, the worship for classic models in which he
had been educated, preserved him from losing his strength in
blind gropings, in doubtful triumphs, as has happened to more
than one partisan of the new ideas. His studious patience in the
elaboration of his works sheltered him from the critics, who
envenomed the dissensions by seizing upon those easy and
insignificant victories due to omissions, and the negligence of
inadvertence. Early trained to the exactions and restrictions of
rules, having produced compositions filled with beauty when
subjected to all their fetters, he never shook them off without
an appropriate cause and after due reflection. In virtue of his
principles he always progressed, but without being led into
exaggeration or lured by compromise; he willingly relinquished
theoretic formulas to pursue their results. Less occupied with
the disputes of the schools and their terms, than in producing
himself the best argument, a finished work, he was fortunate
enough to avoid personal enmities and vexatious accommodations.

Chopin had that reverential worship for art which characterized
the first masters of the middle ages, but in expression and
bearing he was more simple, modern, and less ecstatic. As for
them, so art was for him, a high and holy vocation. Like them he
was proud of his election for it, and honored it with devout
piety. This feeling was revealed at the hour of his death through
an occurrence, the significance of which is more fully explained
by a knowledge of the manners prevalent in Poland. By a custom
which still exists, although it is now falling into disuse, the
Poles often chose the garments in which they wished to be buried,
and which were frequently prepared a long time in advance.
[Footnote: General K----, the author of Julie and Adolphe, a
romance imitated from the New Heloise which was much in vogue at
the time of its publication, and who was still living in Volhynia
at the date of our visit to Poland, though more than eighty years
of age, in conformity with the custom spoken of above, had caused
his coffin to be made, and for more than thirty years it had
always stood at the door of his chamber.] Their dearest wishes
were thus expressed for the last time, their inmost feelings were
thus at the hour of death betrayed. Monastic robes were
frequently chosen by worldly men, the costumes of official
charges were selected or refused as the remembrances connected
with them were glorious or painful. Chopin, who, although among
the first of contemporary artists, had given the fewest concerts,
wished, notwithstanding, to be borne to the grave in the clothes
which he had worn on such occasions. A natural and profound
feeling springing from the inexhaustible sources of art, without
doubt dictated this dying request, when having scrupulously
fulfilled the last duties of a Christian, he left all of earth
which he could not bear with him to the skies. He had linked his
love for art and his faith in it with immortality long before the
approach of death, and as he robed himself for his long sleep in
the grave, he gave, as was customary with him, by a mute symbol,
the last touching proof of the conviction he had preserved intact
during the whole course of his life. Faithful to himself, he died
adoring art in its mystic greatness, its highest revelations.

In retiring from the turmoil of society, Chopin concentrated his
cares and affections upon the circle of his own family and his
early acquaintances. Without any interruption he preserved close
relations with them; never ceasing to keep them up with the
greatest care. His sister Louise was especially dear to him, a
resemblance in the character of their minds, the bent of their
feelings, bound them closely to each other. Louise frequently
came from Warsaw to Paris to see him. She spent the last three
months of his life with the brother she loved, watching over him
with undying affection. Chopin kept up a regular correspondence
with the members of his own family, but only with them. It was
one of his peculiarities to write letters to no others; it might
almost have been thought that he had made a vow to write to no
strangers. It was curious enough to see him resort to all kinds
of expedients to escape the necessity of tracing the most
insignificant note. Many times he has traversed Paris from one
end to the other, to decline an invitation to dinner, or to give
some trivial information, rather than write a few lines which
would have spared him all this trouble and loss of time. His
handwriting was quite unknown to the greatest number of his
friends. It is said he sometimes departed from this custom in
favor of his beautiful countrywomen, some of whom possess several
of his notes written in Polish. This infraction of what seemed to
be a law with him, may be attributed to the pleasure he took in
the use of this language. He always used it with the people of
his own country, and loved to translate its most expressive
phrases. He was a good French scholar, as the Sclaves generally
are. In consequence of his French origin, the language had been
taught him with peculiar care. But he did not like it, he did not
think it sufficiently sonorous, and he deemed its genius cold.
This opinion is very prevalent among the Poles, who, although
speaking it with great facility, often better than their native
tongue, and frequently using it in their intercourse with each
other, yet complain to those who do not speak Polish of the
impossibility of rendering the thousand ethereal and shifting
modes of thought in any other idiom. In their opinion it is
sometimes dignity, sometimes grace, sometimes passion, which is
wanting in the French language. If they are asked the meaning of
a word or a phrase which they may have cited in Polish, the reply
invariably is: "Oh, that cannot be translated!" Then follow
explanations, serving as comments to the exclamation, of all the
subtleties, all the shades of meaning, all the delicacies
contained in THE NOT TO BE TRANSLATED words. We have cited some
examples which, joined to others, induce us to believe that this
language has the advantage of making images of abstract nouns,
and that in the course of its development, through the poetic
genius of the nation, it has been enabled to establish striking
and just relations between ideas by etymologies, derivations, and
synonymes. Colored reflections of light and shade are thus thrown
upon all expressions, so that they necessarily call into
vibration through the mind the correspondent tone of a third,
which modulates the thought into a major or minor mode. The
richness of the language always permits the choice of the mode,
but this very richness may become a difficulty. It is not
impossible that the general use of foreign tongues in Poland may
be attributed to indolence of mind or want of application; may be
traced to a desire to escape the necessary labor of acquiring
that mastery of diction indispensable in a language so full of
sudden depths, of laconic energy, that it is very difficult, if
not quite impossible, to support in it the commonplace. The vague
agreements of badly defined ideas cannot be compressed in the
nervous strength of its grammatical forms; the thought, if it be
really low, cannot be elevated from its debasement or poverty; if
it really soar above the commonplace, it requires a rare
precision of terms not to appear uncouth or fantastic. In
consequence of this, in proportion to the works published, the
Polish literature should be able to show a greater number of
chefs-d'oeuvre than can be done in any other language. He who
ventures to use this tongue, must feel himself already master.

[Footnote: It cannot be reproached with a want of harmony or
musical charm. The harshness of a language does not always and
absolutely depend upon the number of consonants, but rather upon
the manner of their association. We might even assert, that in
consequence of the absence of well-determined and strongly marked
sounds, some languages have a dull and cold coloring. It is the
frequent repetition of certain consonants which gives shadow,
rhythm, and vigor to a tongue; the vowels imparting only a kind
of light clear hue, which requires to be brought out by deeper
shades. It is the sharp, uncouth, or unharmonious clashing of
heterogeneous consonants which strikes the ear painfully. It is
true the Sclavic languages make use of many consonants, but their
connection is generally sonorous, sometimes pleasant to the ear,
and scarcely ever entirely discordant, even when the combinations
are more striking than agreeable. The quality of the sounds is
rich, full, and varied. They are not straitened and contracted as
if produced in a narrow medium, but extending through a
considerable register, range through a variety of intonations.
The letter L, almost impossible for those to pronounce, who have
not acquired the pronunciation in their infancy, has nothing
harsh in its sound. The ear receives from it an impression
similar to that which is made upon the fingers by the touch of a
thick woolen velvet, rough, but at the same time, yielding. The
union of jarring consonants being rare, and the assonances easily
multiplied, the same comparison might be employed to the ensemble
of the effect produced by these idioms upon foreigners. Many
words occur in Polish which imitate the sound of the thing
designated by them. The frequent repetition of CH, (h aspirated,)
of SZ, (CH in French,) of RZ, of CZ, so frightful to a profane
eye, have however nothing barbaric in their sounds, being
pronounced nearly like GEAI, and TCHE, and greatly facilitate
imitations of the sense by the sound. The word DZWIEK, (read
DZWIINQUE,) meaning sound, offers a characteristic example of
this; it would be difficult to find a word which would reproduce
more accurately the sensation which a diapason makes upon the
ear. Among the consonants accumulated in groups, producing very
different sounds, sometimes metallic, sometimes buzzing, hissing
or rumbling, many diphthongs and vowels are mingled, which
sometimes become slightly nasal, the A and E being sounded as ON
and IN, (in French,) when they are accompanied by a cedilla. In
juxtaposition with the E, (TSE,) which is pronounced with great
softness, sometimes C, (TSIE,) the accented S is almost warbled.
The Z has three sounds: the Z, (JAIS,) the Z, (ZED,) and the Z,
(ZIED). The Y forms a vowel of a muffled tone, which, as the L,
cannot be represented by any equivalent sound in French, and
which like it gives a variety of ineffable shades to the
language. These fine and light elements enable the Polish women
to assume a lingering and singing accent, which they usually
transport into other tongues. When the subjects are serious or
melancholy, after such recitatives or improvised lamentations,
they have a sort of lisping infantile manner of speaking, which
they vary by light silvery laughs, little interjectional cries,
short musical pauses upon the higher notes, from which they
descend by one knows not what chromatic scale of demi and quarter
tones to rest upon some low note; and again pursue the varied,
brusque and original modulations which astonish the ear not
accustomed to such lovely warblings, to which they sometimes give
that air of caressing irony, of cunning mockery, peculiar to the
song of some birds. They love to ZINZILYLER, and charming
changes, piquant intervals, unexpected cadences naturally find
place in this fondling prattle, making the language far more
sweet and caressing when spoken by the women, than it is in the
mouths of the men. The men indeed pride themselves upon speaking
it with elegance, impressing upon it a masculine sonorousness,
which is peculiarly adapted to the energetic movements of manly
eloquence, formerly so much cultivated in Poland. Poetry commands
such a diversity of prosodies, of rhymes, of rhythms, such an
abundance of assonances from these rich and varied materials,
that it is almost possible to follow MUSICALLY the feelings and
scenes which it depicts, not only in mere expressions in which
the sound repeats the sense, but also in long declamations. The
analogy between the Polish and Russian, has been compared to that
which obtains between the Latin and Italian. The Russian language
is indeed more mellifluous, more lingering, more caressing,
fuller of sighs than the Polish. Its cadencing is peculiarly
fitted for song. The finer poems, such as those of Zukowski and
Pouchkin, seem to contain a melody already designated in the
metre of the verses; for example, it would appear quite possible
to detach an ARIOSO or a sweet CANTIABLE from some of the stanzas
of LE CHALE NOIR, or the TALISMAN. The ancient Sclavonic, which
is the language of the Eastern Church, possesses great majesty.
More guttural than the idioms which have arisen from it, it is
severe and monotonous yet of great dignity, like the Byzantine
paintings preserved in the worship to which it is consecrated. It
has throughout the characteristics of a sacred language which has
only been used for the expression of one feeling and has never
been modulated or fashioned by profane wants.]

Chopin mingled a charming grace with all the intercourse which he
held with his relatives. Not satisfied with limiting his whole
correspondence to them alone, he profited by his stay in Paris to
procure for them the thousand agreeable surprises given by the
novelties, the bagatelles, the little gifts which charm through
their beauty, or attract as being the first seen of their kind.
He sought for all that he had reason to believe would please his
friends in Warsaw, adding constant presents to his many letters.
It was his wish that his gifts should be preserved, that through
the memories linked with them he might be often remembered by
those to whom they were sent. He attached the greatest
importance, on his side, to all the evidences of their affection
for him. To receive news or some mark of their remembrance, was
always a festival for him. He never shared this pleasure with any
one, but it was plainly visible in his conduct. He took the
greatest care of every thing that came from his distant friends,
the least of their gifts was precious to him, he never allowed
others to make use of them, indeed he was visibly uneasy if they
touched them.

Material elegance was as natural to him as mental; this was
evinced in the objects with which he surrounded himself, as well
as in the aristocratic grace of his manners. He was passionately
fond of flowers. Without aiming at the brilliant luxury with
which, at that epoch, some of the celebrities in Paris decorated
their apartments, he knew how to keep upon this point, as well as
in his style of dress, the instinctive line of perfect propriety.

Not wishing the course of his life, his thoughts, his time, to be
associated or shackled in any way by the pursuits of others, he
preferred the society of ladies, as less apt to force him into
subsequent relations. He willingly spent whole evenings in
playing blind man's buff with the young people, telling them
little stories to make them break into the silvery laughs of
youth, sweeter than the song of the nightingale. He was fond of a
life in the country, or the life of the chateau. He was ingenious
in varying its amusements, in multiplying its enjoyments. He also
loved to compose there. Many of his best works written in such
moments, perhaps embalm and hallow the memories of his happiest


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

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

"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

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 brutal 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

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

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