Cyprian Kamil Norwid

In those near-final days I visited you -
Filled with elusive theme -
Complete as Myth,
Pale as the mist...
When dissipation whispers to the issue of life's
"I shall not tangle you - I shall but sublimate you..."

I visited you in those near-final days
When you were growing - from beat to beat -
More like Orpheus' forsaken lyre,
In which still-striking force and song compete
And four still twanging strings inquire,
And faintly chime,
Two a time - two a time
Whisper telling -
"Did he begin
To strike the string...
Or can his Genius play - whilst repelling?"

In those days I visited you, Frederic,
Whose hand - for all its mastery
And alabaster pallour - unique
Hand stroking softly, quivering, ostrich-plumed -
To be - I all too hastily assumed
The keyboard ivory...
Like yon noble statue - you -
Whom - before Pygmalion hewed
Out of its marble womb -
The stamp of Genius stained!

And then, when you played - what? said the tones -
what? will they say,
Though stand the echoes might in different array
Than when your own hand's benediction made
Quiver each chord your fingers played -
And when you played, there was such simplicity -
Periclean - perfection - sublime
As if some Virtue from Antiquity
Stepped into a country cottage's confine
And on the simple threshold swore:
"This day in Heaven I was reborn:
The cottage door - a harp to me;
My ribbons - the winding lane;
The Holy Host - in the corn I venerate
And Emmanuel will reign
On Tabor incarnate!"

And therein was Poland - to the crown
Of Omniperfection's reign restored.
Dazzled - in delights that drown
Despair - Poland - the Wheelwright's House transformed!
The same dear Poland
(I could ne'er mistake her - though at life's brow...)

And now - your hymn complete - your music mute -
No more I'll see you - but what? is that there
I hear ... as if a child's dispute - -
No more, but just the keys still chatter,
About the uncompleted rhyme
Shuffling final echoes spell
- Five a time - eight a time -
Rustling, "Did he begin? To play or to repel?"

O You! In whom Love's Profile chooses to abide
And Art's Perfection is your name -
You! who assemble in the ranks of Style
And fashion stone, penetrate the song's refrain...
O You! in History's course confirmed as Age;
Though Spirit and Letter surpass History's crest,
Yet wedded inscribe into her page
Your nomen: Consummatum est...
O You! - Perfection - attained -
Whatever - wherever - your mark may be
In Phidias? In David? In Chopin's hand
Or in Aeschylos' amphitheatre abundant?
Avenged - always - by the spite of INSUFFICIENCY!
The wretched birthmark of this world is Lack
Him? ... Perfection irks -
Prefers - to undo Perfection's works -
Arrests the germination of Art's Act...
- One? ... who ripened like a golden comet-sheaf,
Let once the astral-wind contact his train,
Soon stream away his tears of grain:
Perfection makes his glory brief.

For look - look now, Frederic... This is Warsaw
Under a star ablaze -
Strange gaudy eyesore
Look, the Parish organs! Look! Where you were
There - the patricians' houses - old
As the Publica Res;
Pavements of the squares grey and cold,
Annd Zygmunt's sword in its cloudy crest.

Look! From street to street
Charge Caucasian steeds
Like a storm-spurned starling fleet
Charging the horses speed -
A hundred a time - a hundred a time,
Flames swelling the building, - then dying down
Blazing again - and then - look now!
I see rifle butts pointing at the brow
Of bereaved widows -
And then I see, though through a wall of
Blinding smoke, at the porch, colonnade
A tumbril-like object swayed
To and fro... to and fro... - fallen! Your piano has

He!... who proclaimed Poland from the height
Of Omniperfection's eternal form
And wrought with a hymn of delight -
A Poland of the Wheelwright's House transformed-
He - has fallen - into the mud-bespattered night!
And now, like the wise saying of the Sage,
He lies trampled by the people's wrath,
Or like all that which - from age
To age - shall summon forth!
And now, like Orpheus' body,
A thousand Passions dismember his corpse
Each one groaning, "Not me!
Not me!" through grinding jaws.

But you? - But I? Let us sound judgement tones,
Call forth: "Rejoice, late-coming posterity!
The vulgar street - screech muted stones -
The Ideal - has inherited."

Trans. Teresa Baluk

Norwid wrote this poem after the destruction of the
Zamoyski Palace, during which a grand piano that
Chopin had played was thrown out from the
second floor onto the street.

© Hpphoto | Dreamstime.com

Waclaw Szymanowski (1859-1930), the Polish
sculptor, created his massive Chopin monument in
Paris around 1902, before it was placed at Lazienki
Park in Warsaw in 1926. Various sources describe
the sculpture as "Art Nouveau", depicting Chopin
sitting under a willow tree found in his native

© Jacqu | Dreamstime.com

Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin was born in Zelazowa
Wola near Warsaw. His compositions were inspired
by regional folk music. Mazurkas, the most "Polish"
of Chopin's compositions, were inspired by three folk
dances: the kujawiak, the mazur, and the oberek.
All have 3 beats in a measure with an emphasis on the 3rd beat, but each has a different tempo and a different character. The most sentimental and slow one is the kujawiak. The mazur is the noblest one of the three and is in a moderate tempo. The vivid and energetic one, the fastest of the three, is the oberek. In the mazurkas Chopin uses a lot of original folk themes that he has kept in his heart since early childhood.

The polonaise (Polish: polonez, chodzony; Italian:
polacca) is a slow dance of Polish origin, in 3/4 time.
Its name is French for "Polish." Fryderyk Chopin's
polonaises are generally the best known of all
polonaises in classical music.

Events - 2010

By birth a Varsovian,
in his heart a Pole,
and by his talent
a citizen of the world

Cyprian Kamil Norwid, 1849

© 2011 The Organizing Committee for Chopin & Paderewski 2010 celebrations, USA