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Poetry and Speeches

The following is a collection of speeches, poems, and other literary findings from persons of historical signficance connected to Chopin, Poland, Hitler's Occupation of 1939-1945, and other related topics. Please check back from time to time for more additions.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski.jpg
Norwid Cyprien.png

Ignacy Jan Paderewski


Renowned International Concert Pianist, Diplomat and Prime Minister of Poland

"the oppression grew harsh. They denied us our language in schools, and in courts of law. They denied us our culture, our traditions, our history, our pride. The only thing they couldn't deny us was the music of Chopin. And yet, it was precisely there you can find everything that they denied! You can find echoes of past glories, traditions, songs and dances, prayers, pride, soul. That was Chopin's gift to the nation."

Cyprien Kamil Norwid


Painter, Sculptor, Graphic Artist, Print Artist, Draftsman, Poet

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



Translation from Polish

by Jerome Rothenberg & Arie Galles

Bound to your place those penultimate days
Whose plot was impenetrable –
– Myth-full,
Dawn-pallid …
– Life’s end a whisper summons its start:
“I will not render you – no! I will raise you! …”

Bound to your place, those days so penultimate
Once when you mirrored – each moment, each moment –
That lyre that Orpheus lent us,
Whose force like a missile struggles with song,
And its four strings commune with
Each, striking each other,
By twos – and by twos –
A murmur slipping toward silence:
“Did he begin
To pound out a note? …
Of what sound was he Maestro! whose playing’s repelling? …”

Bound to your place in those days, oh Frederic!
You with your hand alabastered
In whiteness – possessing – and shuffling –
Your touch scarce a touch – ostrich feather like –
Brushing me blurred in my eyes with your ivory
Keyboard …
And you like that figure
From marble’s own womb
As if hammered
Would pull back your chisel
Your genius – eternal Pygmalion!

What in that, in what you have played, and then what? –
A first note recited – and what? he’ll express it
However its echoes set themselves up, will be different
From when with your own hand you blessed
Every chord –
And played it through, simple
And perfect like Pericles,
Like a virtue drawn from a deep past,
Set foot in a village, a log cabin home,
Told herself as she entered:
I was reborn in heaven,
Whose gate changed into my harp,
A ribbon – a path …
Where the Host – I could spy through pale wheatblades –
Emanuel he who now dwells
On Mount Tabor!

And Poland within, from that zenith
Perfections of history, ancient, arrayed
Rainbow’s ravishment – Poland –
Wheelwrights transformed!
Selfsame, certain,
Gold bee!

And – now – you’ve ended the song – And I
No longer can see you – only – can hear
Hearing what? – like when boys battle boys –
– The keys still resisting
The source of their yearnings unsung
They softly push back on their own
By eighths – then by fifths –
And murmuring: “He – has he started to play?
Or uncaring – cast us aside?”

Oh You! Love’s profile
Fulfillment your name:
These – Art dubs them style,
Who penetrate song, who shape stones …
Oh! You – who in chronicles sign yourself Era,
Where you are, aren’t, history’s Zenith,
Are Spirit and Letter in one,
“Consumatum Est” …
You! Oh – Exquisite fulfillment,
Whichever you are, And where? … Are a sign …
In Phidias? David? Or Chopin?
Or a scene out of Aeschylus? …
Evermore – vengeance upon you: PRIVATION! …
Globe’s Stigma – penury:
How it hurts him! … Fulfillment? …
He – who prefers to begin
Forever to throw out before him – down payed !
– “Ear of Corn”? … like a gold comet ripened,
Wind’s breath barely stirs it,
A rain of wheat sprinkles down grains
Perfection alone sweeps away …

Over here – Fryderyk, look! … This is – Warsaw:
Under a star blazing forth
A crazed brightness –
– Attend to it, organs in parish halls; look! it’s Your nest:
It’s elsewhere – old houses patrician
As commonwealths,
Pavements of squares deaf and grey,
And Sigismund’s sword in a cloud.

Look! … from alley to alley
Caucasian horses break forth
Like swallows ahead of a storm,
Ahead of their regiments, darting,
By hundreds – by hundreds –
– The town house caught fire, died down,
Then flared up again – And there – Under the wall
Saw the foreheads of widows in mourning
Pushed back by rifle butts –
And again, smokeblinded, I saw,
As it moved past the portal, the pillars,
A contraption that looked like a coffin
They were heaving out … crashing and crushing – your piano!

That one! … that championed Poland, he from the heights
All-Perfections of history
People-bound, anthem ecstatic –
O Poland – of wheelwrights transformed;
That same one – crushed on the granite squares!
– Over there: as the thoughts of the just man
Are drowned in the popular anger
Or as, from age unto age,
All its angers awaken!
And right there – like Orpheus’ body,
A thousand nailed passions tear him to shreds
And each one howling: “Not me! …
Not me!” – with a clatter and chatter of teeth –
Is it you? – is it me? – then let’s strike up a Judgment Day song,
Urge them on: “Rejoice, o you child who will be! …
With groaning – stories gone deaf:
The Ideal – now brought low on the pavement” –

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