For Franz Liszt

For Franz Liszt

The Thyrsus

for Franz Liszt

What is a thyrsus? By its moral and poetical meaning, it is a sacerdotal emblem in the hand of priests or priestesses celebrating the divinity they interpret and serve. But physically it’s nothing but a stick, a hoppole , a vine-prop—dry, hard, straight. Around this stick, in capricious meanders, stem and blossom frolic and frisk, the former sinuous and shy, the latter bent like a bell or a cup turned over. And an amazing glory gushes forth from this complexity of soft or dazzling lines and colors. Could we not say that the curve and the spiral pay court to the straight line and dance before it in mute admiration? Or claim that all these delicate corollas, all these flower-cups, explosions of scent and color, execute a mystic fandango around the hieratic stick? And what imprudent mortal, after all, will dare decide if the flowers and shoots are made for the stick or if the stick is only a pretext for exhibiting the beauty of shoot and flower? The thyrsus is the representation of your astonishing duality, master strong and venerable, dear Bacchant of mysterious and passionate Beauty. No nymph provoked by invincible Bacchus ever shook thyrsus over her maddened cohorts with more energy and caprice than your genius stirs in the hearts of your brothers .—The stick is your will, direct, firm, steadfast; the flowers, they are your fancy’s ramble about your will; the feminine element’s prestigious pirouettes around the male. Straight line and arabesque, intention and expression, firmness of will, sinuosity of word, unity of aim, variety of means, all-powerful and indivisible amalgam of genius, what analyst will have the vile temerity to divide or separate you? Dear Liszt, past the mists, beyond the rivers, above towns where pianos sing your glory, where the presses translate your wisdom, wherever you are, in the splendor of the eternal city or in the fogs of 70 the dreamy lands Cambrinus consoles, improvising songs of delectation or ineffable sadness, or confiding to the page your abstruse meditations , cantor of eternal Voluptuousness and Anguish, philosopher, poet, artist, I salute you in your immortality. Supposed inventor of beer. ...

The Crowd

It is not given to everyone to blend into the multitude: enjoying the crowd is an art, and only he can gain a stroke of vitality from it, at humanity’s expense, whose good fairy at his cradle bequeathed a taste for travesty and masque, along with hatred of home and passion for travel. Multitude, solitude: equal and convertible terms for the active and productive poet. Those who cannot people their solitude can never be alone in a busy crowd. The poet rejoices in this incomparable privilege, that he can, at will, be both himself and another. Like a lost soul searching for a body, he enters when he wishes into any character. For him all is vacancy; and if certain places appear to shut him out, in his eye they are not worth a visit. Who walks alone with his thoughts draws a singular intoxication from this universal communion. Whoever readily commingles with the crowd knows feverish pleasures eternally denied to the egoist, locked like a strongbox, or the sloth, confined like the snail. He takes on himself all professions, all the joys and all the miseries that circumstances hand him. What men call love is petty, limited, feeble compared with this ineffable orgy, with this sacred whoredom of the soul which renders itself entire, poetry and charity, to the sudden unexpected, to the passing unknown. It is good sometimes to remind the favored of this world, were it only to bring down their stupid pride, that there are felicities greater than theirs, larger, more refined. Founders of colonies, pastors of their people, missionaries exiled to the end of the world, no doubt know something of these mysterious intoxications; and in 23 the bosom of the vast family that their spirit has formed, they must sometimes laugh at those who pity their so troubled fortunes and so chaste lives. ...