Chopin’s Piano by Cyprian Norwid

(To Antoine C…)

La musique est une chose étrange! — Byron
L’art? … c’est l’art – et puis, Voilà tout. — Béranger

I

I was with you, those all but final days,
Impenetrably woven
— Laden as Myth,
Pallid as dawn… –
When the end of life to its beginning whispers:
“I SHALL NOT REND THEE – NAY! I COME TO RENDER!”

II

With you I was, those not quite final days,
When-hour by hour-you seemed more like
The fallen lyre dropped by Orpheus
With force at once contested by its strings:
Nudging each other
By twos-by twos-
They softly murmur:
“Was it his hand
“That made us sound?…
“Such a master, he. To play…
Even as he dismisses us?”

III

Yes, Frederick, I was with you through those days!
Days when your hand, the white of alabaster,
Its charm, its grace,
Its faltering touch as of an ostrich plume,
Was blended in my eyes
With the keyboard’s ivory…
And you yourself were like a figure fashioned
From virgin marble,
Uncut, un touched
Save by the chisel
Of genius such as was Pygmalion’s!

IV

And when you played –
Though echoes may otherwise attire
The harmonies your own hand blessed
And what the notes conspired to say forever –
In the music you played lay the simplicity
Of Periclean perfection
As though some ancient virtue,
Entering a Polish village larchwood manor,
Were to declare:
“I was reborn in Heaven,
“And the gate for me became a harp,
“The path a ribbon…
“I see the Host across pale grain fields…
“Emmanuel already dwells
“On Tabor!”

V

And in it, embraced by rainbow rapture,
Was Poland at the zenith
Of her history’s All-Perfection,
Poland-land of TRANSFIGURED WHEELRIGHTS!
Land, too,
Of the golden bee. . .
(I’d recognize her thus throughout all being!…)

VI

Hark – now your song is finished- and no longer
Do I behold you – and yet I hear
Sounds… as of a childish skirmish
– Again, abandoned strings at odds
Over song’s unfulfilled desire
And, nudging each other,
By eights – by fives –
Murmur: “HAS HE BEGUN TO PLAY AGAIN?
OR DOES HE PUSH US FROM HIM?… ”

VII

O Thou! O Thou which art Love’s profile,
The name for which must be FULFILLMENT;
That – which in Art is known as ‘style,
Pervading song and giving shape to stone…
Oh! Thou – time’s annals circumscribe as ERA,
Although the ages reach therein no zenith,
Thou art still both: SPIRIT and LETTER,
And “CONSUMMATUM EST…”
Oh! Thou…UTTER-FULFILLMENT,
Whatever, anywhere, shall be Thy…seal,
In Phidias? David? or in Chopin?
Or on the Aeschylean stage?…
Always on Thee will LACK take its revenge
– The stigma of this universe is want:
FULLFILLMENT … hurts it…
Its choice: A NEW BEGINNING,
Ever to cast ahead with a new deposit!
– A spike of grain?… when ripened
to a golden comet,
But barely brushed by a sweep of air,
Will burst and shower its seeds.
Its very perfection bestrews it!

VIII

And there, the old patrician houses,
Old as our COMMON WEALTH (its roots),
The stone-deaf cobbles of the squares,
And Zygmunt’s sword in the clouds.

IX

Lo! … now -through Streets and alleys
The Cossack horses dart,
Like swallows before a storm,
Sweeping ahead of their infantry
– Regiments – regiments –
A building fills with fire, flames falter,
Then burst forth again – and against a wall,
I see the bared heads of widows in mourning,
Prodded by rifle butts –
And again, though blinded by smoke, I see
That between a balcony’s columns
A heavy object, coffin-like,
Is heaved… falling… falling…
Your Piano!

X

That! … whose hymns of ecstasy has sounded
Poland’s glory at the zenith
Of her history’s All-Perfection –
The Poland of transfigured wheelrights,
T’was that which crashed to the granite cobbles!
Behold how, as the noblest thought of man
Is trampled by bursts of human fury,
Just so, throughout the ages,
Is everything that stirs the soul!
How like the body of Orpheus,
Torn to bits by a thousand passions,
Each howling out through gnashing teeth:
“Not I. . . Not I!”

ΧΙ

But you? – But I? – Let us strike up the Doomsday dirge,
Exhorting: “Rejoice, O grandchild of tomorrow!
MIND THE STONE-DEAF COBBLES’ MOAN:
THE IDEAL HAS REACHED THE STREET!

Share:

Comments

comments

Author: eric@ericschuurman.com

Father, mechanical drafter, former musician.