Cyprian Kamil Norwid (1821–1883)
Self-portrait in pencil, 109 x 55.
Collection: Biblioteka Narodowa, Warsaw [R.N.6708].
The license is accorded by the owner.
Cyprian Kamil Norwid—Polish poet. Eleven years younger than Chopin, he was in personal contact with him from March to September 1849, as he writes in his Czarne Kwiaty [Black flowers]: ‘in Paris, Fryderyk Chopin lived on rue Chaillot, which, continuing up from the Champs Elysées, in the left-hand row of houses, on the first floor, has homes with windows over gardens, and the dome of the Pantheon, and all of Paris. […] Chopin had an apartment with such a view, the main part of which was a large drawing-room with two windows, where his immortal piano stood. […] In this drawing-room Chopin ate at five and then descended the steps, if he could, and drove into the Bois de Boulogne; on returning, he was carried up the steps, as he could not walk up by himself. – I ate and drove with him like that many times. […] Thus I entered the room next to the drawing-room, where Chopin slept, most grateful that he wished to see me. […] His sister sat with him, strikingly similar to him in profile… He, in the shade of a deep bed with curtains, resting on pillows and bound in a shawl, was very beautiful, as always, in the most ordinary motions of life, possessing something absolute, something monumentally drawn.’
Directly after Chopin’s death, Norwid wrote an obituary, which appeared in the Dziennik Polski [25 October 1849]:
‘A Varsovian by birth, a Pole in his heart and with his talent, and a citizen of the world, Fryderyk Chopin has departed this world. A chest illness hastened the premature death of the artist in his thirty-ninth year of life—on the seventeenth day of the current month.
He could solve the most difficult tasks of his art with a mysterious proficiency—as he was capable of gathering wild flowers without knocking from them the slightest dew or down. And he was able, with the art of the ideal, to transform them into the stars, the meteors, not to say the comets, of the whole enlightened Europe.
Through him, the tears of the Polish people scattered over the fields came together in crystals of a peculiar harmony to form a beautiful diamond in the diadem of humanity.
That is what the greatest master of his art can do, and that is what Fryderyk Chopin did.
Almost his entire life (the main part) outside his country he devoted to his country.
That is the greatest thing an emigrant can attain, and that is what Fryderyk Chopin attained.
He is everywhere—as he wisely lived within the spirit of the Homeland—and in the Homeland he died, as he is everywhere. Kochanowski accused his times: “Timotheus, the famous Athenian musician, was banished merely for adding one string to his instrument: but in our times, not one, but nine strings were added to the lute: and today’s songs are as different from Bogarodzice as customs are from statutes. Such a change in music makes a change in the Republic…”
In his “Song of St John’s Eve”, Kochanowski first brought the poetry of the people to the attention of the learned world—in music, Chopin did the same.
Paris, 18 October 1849’
The apogee of Norwid’s views on Chopin the man, the artist and the Pole is one of his most famous poems: ‘Fortepian Chopina’ [Chopin’s piano].<