by Dorota Zakrzewska

The Ideology of the Great Emigration
The Themes of the Ideology of the Exiled
Mickiewicz’s Ballady
Chopin’s Second Ballade


Music scholars have long been trying to determine the major influences on the Ballades of Fryderyk Chopin. Some, like Karol Berber, have pointed to ideological influences of the Polish emigration in Paris, while others, like James Parakilas, have given credit to the generic characteristics of the European literary ballad. In my own view, however, the most salient extra-musical factor in the background to Chopin’s Ballades are Ballady, a series of poems by the 19th century Polish poet, Adam Mickiewicz. In this paper I trace analogies between the collection of Mickiewicz’s Ballady and Chopin’s Ballades. As an introduction to my study of this homology, I present the ideology of the Polish emigration in Paris in the 1830s and 1840s, including prominent themes of alienation, powerlessness, morbid anxiety, pilgrimage and nostalgia, which were used by that expatriate society to identify itself. In the next step, I demonstrate analogies between these themes and their manifestations in Mickiewicz’s Ballady. This analysis of Mickiewicz’s poems forms the basis of my interpretation of Chopin’s Second Ballade, where I discuss how certain textual and thematic features of the poems taken as a group can be mapped onto the form and musical discourse of the piano piece. In sum, although the associations between specific poems and Chopin’s Ballades have been made by many authors, no one has distilled a single narrative archetype from the group of Mickiewicz’s Ballady to apply to Chopin’s works. [Author].


Wretched am I amid the spiteful herd:
I weep—they jeer at me;
I speak—they cannot understand a word;
I see – they do not see![1]

This poem by Adam Mickiewicz expresses intense and disturbing emotions—alienation, powerlessness, and morbid anxiety— that may be associated with the ideology of the Polish emigration in Paris in the 1830s. Only recently has this complex of ideas been linked to Chopin’s narrative works—by Karol Berger in “Chopin’s Ballade Op. 23 and the Revolution of the Intellectuals.”[2] In this essay I propose a connection between the ideology of the Polish immigration and a narrative archetype expressed in Mickiewicz’s Ballady ; I also explore its influences on Chopin, with a particular attention given to its manifestations in Chopin’s Second Ballade.[3]

Schumann’s comment from a 1841 review of the Second Ballade stating that Chopin admitted to be inspired by Mickiewicz’s poems in composing the Ballades has inspired many attempts to discover a simple one-to-one relation between these poems and the music. In his review Schumann wrote:[4]

We must direct attention to the ballade as a most remarkable work. Chopin has already written one composition of the same name—one of his wildest and most original compositions; the new one is different, as a work of art inferior to the first, but equally fantastic and inventive. Its impassioned episodes seem to have been inserted afterwards. I recollect very well that when Chopin played the ballade here, it ended in F major; now it closes in A minor. At that time he also mentioned that certain poems of Mickiewicz had suggested his ballade to him. On the other hand, a poet might easily be inspired to find words to his music; it stirs one profoundly.

This statement of Schumann’s resulted in overly literal attempts to equate individual poems with individual Ballades, attempts that soon included specific titles of Mickiewicz’s Ballady and analyses of pictorial depiction of their contents in Chopin’s music. I found a more persuasive way to look at this problem, in which a single narrative model expressed in Mickiewicz’s Ballady is related to Chopin’s compositions.

In the essay “Chopin’s Ballade, Op. 23 and the Revolution of the Intellectuals” Berger introduces an extremely interesting notion of a relationship between “the temporal structures of Chopin’s musical narrative and the historical narrative in terms of which the composer’s contemporaries established their identity.”[5] This narrative, according to Berger, “provided the community Chopin identified with most closely, the Polish emigration in Paris in the 1830s and 1840s, with their sense of who they were [which] was the story of ‘Exodus,’ its fundamental structure of past enslavement, present exile and future rebirth.”[6] The self-image of exiled Poles, according to Maria Janion and Maria Żmigrodzka, was that of orphanage, pilgrimage, imprisonment, uprootedness, and homelessness. For Berger, this self-understanding was highly relevant to Chopin’s listeners, nationalist Poles and cosmopolitan Parisians alike. The nationalistic origin of Chopin’s Ballades is also suggested by James Parakilas in a monograph on Ballads Without Words. Parakilas observes:[7]

Chopin might well have felt that dance music alone could not express all he wished to express as a Polish musician. . . . he begun experimenting with new means of treating Polish subjects in piano music. . . . They were, in fact, “songs without words,” “stories in sound” for the piano, works in which the cosmopolitan medium conceals a national “text.” . . . But the remarkable thing about the Ballade is precisely that its nationalism is not secret; every nineteenth-century European would have understood it.

Although Berger and Parakilas agree about the nationalistic origins of the Ballades, their interpretations of the “tale” behind the music are quite different. Berger proposes the construct of the Polish emigration’s self-understanding—a story of promise of return from exile—as a narrative model for the Ballades, while Parakilas argues that literary ballads of a large European tradition provide a clue to the narrative of Chopin’s music.[8]I think that both theories are valid and that, despite the fact that they represent different approaches to the narrative implications of this music, these theories can be synthesized to produce an even more complete conceptual model. My reading of the story of the Ballades combines elements of Berger’s and Parakilas’ arguments. I agree with Berger that the aspirations and struggles of Chopin’s generation, its alienation and powerlessness, present a homology to the narrative shape of the Ballades. Further, it appears that, for Chopin, such feelings were best portrayed by Mickiewicz’s poetry (I develop this point further in my paper). Both Mickiewicz and Chopin belonged to the Great Emigration,[9] and its story—the experiences of an idealistic generation lost in the fixed world of European politics, condemned to exile by History—was their story. Both creative artists expressed it through their own media, in words or in tones, as a struggle played with a pre-destined outcome, leading to tragedy through suffering and pain. At the same time, Berger’s model is not fully sufficient: it is equally relevant to many of Chopin’s narrative works, and it does not account for the extremely unusual title of the Ballades (used by Chopin for the first time for purely instrumental works) with all of its generic and literary connotations.[10] Considering Chopin’s animosity toward programmatic titles, his conscious choice in the case of the Ballades is significant and cannot be disregarded. Chopin’s title deliberately links these piano pieces with the literary ballad tradition—examined in detail by James Parakilas. Contrary to Parakilas, however, I believe that the richest parallels between Chopin’s works and literature may be drawn to Mickiewicz’s Ballady rather than to a generic European paradigm; indeed, Chopin may even have been specifically inspired by the Ballady. Taking Chopin’s linguistic and literary preferences into account, it is probable that he was more familiar with Mickiewicz’s Ballady than with any other European ballads.[11] Certainly Parakilas’ argument is a valid one—Mickiewicz’s Ballady do, after all, belong to the European tradition. Still, Chopin admired Mickiewicz’s Ballady from his adolescent years; they were a manifesto of Polish Romanticism, and one of the defining works of his generation.[12] Also, if Chopin’s Ballades had a nationalistic background, as both Parakilas and Berger claim, then to base the Ballades on the Polish ballad tradition would be Chopin’s most logical choice.

Adam Mickiewicz’s Ballady, although written and published before the November Uprising and the Great Emigration, may be considered to express its ideology in two respects. First, both the fixed world of the Balladyand the ideology of the Great Emigration are rooted in Romantic philosophy. In fact, key elements of the Great Emigration’s ideology already appear in the plots of the Ballady, which contain images of alienation, nostalgia, powerlessness, orphanage, pilgrimage, and predestination. Second, the Ballady were written in partitioned Poland, in a political and cultural situation not dissimilar to that of the Great Emigration. Even though the Ballady were conceived in Vilno, Mickiewicz too would have felt a sense of alienation since, by that time, Poland was partitioned between her neighboring states.[13] The Polish national struggle was as important in 1822 as it was in 1831. Thus, my narrative model connects the story of the Great Emigration with the archetype behind the plots and characters of the Ballady, as well as associates Chopin’s Ballades with decades of reception history which consistently align Mickiewicz’s poems with Chopin’s piano pieces.

Since my narrative archetype for the Ballades—the story of a lost generation, its alienation, nostalgia, and powerlessness—is rooted in the ideology of the Great Emigration, this underlying ideology and its influence on Mickiewicz and Chopin (manifest in striking parallels in Mickiewicz’s works and Chopin’s letters) should be discussed prior to analysis of Mickiewicz’s Ballady.

The Ideology of the Great Emigration

The Great Emigration followed the 1831 collapse of an anti-Russian insurrection.[14] Thousands of Poles—members of the government, aristocracy and gentry, intelligentsia and army—were forced to leave their homeland to avoid Russian repressions.[15] In the autumn of 1831, approximately 50,000 Polish soldiers crossed the borders to Prussia and Austria, but following an amnesty offered by the Tsar, most of them returned home and only a few thousand (mostly officers) condemned themselves to exile. According to Lewis Namier, the total emigration is estimated at almost 10,000 people, seventy-five percent of whom belonged to the educated class.[16] Most of them left through Germany and settled in France, with smaller groups settling in Great Britain, Spain, and America.[17] This emigration came to be known as the Great Emigration not because of its numbers, but rather due to its cultural significance. It was an emigration of artists, writers, and scientists—an emigration of intellectuals.[18] The greatest masterpieces of Polish Romantic literature were written in exile, and, as Namier argues, “seldom if ever has there been such an exodus of a nation’s elite, and for the next fifteen years the centre of Polish intellectual life and political activities shifted abroad.”[19] The Great Emigration was divided politically and socially. The strongest debates among the émigrés concerned the causes of the collapse of the Insurrection and methods of the future fight for national independence. Two approaches to these issues were represented by the right wing Hotel Lambert (led by prince Adam Czartoryski) and by the left wing Democratic Society (founded by Joachim Lelewel).[20] Yet Polish society remained unified through schools, newspapers, publishers, libraries, and cultural societies such as the Polish Literary Society founded in 1832 by Czartoryski. All of this led Paris to be described as the cultural capital of Poland in the 1830s and 1840s.

In spite of their political differences, all émigrés recognized the necessity to fight for national liberation and believed in its positive outcome. They also shared a “mentality of the exiled,” which was comprised of intense feelings of alienation, uprootedness, powerlessness, and nostalgia. These common feelings facilitate a discussion of the Great Emigration’s ideology, which was as distinctive as the émigrés’ language, literature, and customs. Of course any description of a common ideology behind such a diverse group as the Great Emigration requires some generalization, but nonetheless, there are certain common characteristics that may be attributed to all of its members.

The émigrés shared the same pivotal life experiences: they were forced to leave their country, they lived in exile, and they hoped to return to independent Poland. Thus they lived “Polish lives” abroad, looking at reality—politics, history, and arts—through their relevance to the “Polish question.” As Namier states, “these émigrés did not forsake their country but carried it with them. They did not leave in opposition to any part of their own people, but as its true spokesmen.”[21] They saw themselves as lonely and alienated in personal and political domains. They were exiles and soldiers of a Polish insurrection that collapsed because no European country would support it.[22] They were powerless as exiles forced away against their will, and they were equally powerless against the Realpolitik of European powers. They saw themselves as pilgrims, hoping that someday they would return home, and as orphans, left alone and far from their homeland. Moreover, they longed for their country, describing it with nostalgia, idealizing its natural beauty and history, culture and language, traditions and customs. The émigrés also did not believe that their emigration would last for a long time, and waited for a European war that would bring back an independent Poland. As Namier suggests:[23]

. . . the great mass of the Polish emigration was opposed to frittering away forces, and awaited the time for direct action in the very heart of Europe. They developed a creed, by no means free of exaltation and of illusions, yet based on premises which were sound though postulating things not easy of realization. They saw that Poland’s resurrection could only come through a war between the Partitioning Powers, and the defeat of all three (as happened in 1918); that this presupposed a general upheaval, a world war or a world revolution; that the July Monarchy, which was steadily moving to the Right, offered no base against the Powers of the Holy Alliance; and that a new revolution was needed, to mobilize popular forces in France and give the signal to Europe. They waited for 1848.

These beliefs found their philosophical expression in the Romantic Messianism of the 1830s and 1840s, which, as professed by Mickiewicz, became the most frequently articulated version of the ideology of the Great Emigration.[24] Polish Romantic Messianism may be characterized as a belief in Poland as a Messiah of nations—their redeemer, whose sufferings would bring salvation and a new age for mankind. Not that Messianism was the ideology of the Great Emigration. Rather it was its philosophical manifestation. According to Andrzej Walicki, Messianism was rooted in European Romanticism, in the recent collapse of the November Uprising, and in the experiences of the Great Emigration.[25] As Walicki writes the émigrés needed to find some explanation of their faith and some purpose for their suffering:[26]

Polish romantic Messianism was a product of a national catastrophe of 1831—of the defeat of the insurrection against Russia—and of the tragedy of the political emigration which followed. We may define it in more general terms as a hope born out of despair; as a result of multiple deprivation; as an expression of an increased feeling of self-importance combined with a sense of enforced rootlessness and isolation in an alien world (emigration); as an ardent search for religious consolation combined with a bitter sense of having been let down by the traditional religious authority.

Thus Messianism was a belief in the sacred mission of Poland. According to its followers, suffering through national crucifixion would bring salvation to the world. Believers developed their own catastrophic vision of history which would lead to the regeneration of mankind and in which “the unilinear Enlightenment conception of progress was replaced . . . by a vision of history as a series of descents, followed by sudden upward surges which were achieved by means of sacrifice and regenerative grace.”[27] But most of all, Messianism, with its strong emphasis on the redemptive force of suffering, was rooted in Romantic ideology, particularly in the familiar notion of a lonely, alienated individual misunderstood by society (or a group of individuals—the émigrés—misunderstood by larger society, and a nation—Poles—misunderstood by other nations) but nonetheless suffering for its salvation. Messianism was also influenced by the Romantic conception of nationalism. Herder’s concept of nationality as defined by language became a European concept of nationality, thus making nationalism a part of universal Romantic tradition. As Parakilas writes, “the new nationalism made the culture of the common people the politically significant culture,” while Romantic “nationalism was itself a product of European culture as a whole, not an idea developed differently in each nation.”[28] But Polish Romantic nationalism, Herderian in its origins (with its characteristic study of folklore and interest in the common people), developed into a separate ideology full of Messianistic elements (due to the peculiar situation of a partitioned country without political existence). It is summarized by Walicki in four points, which represent the main features of this ideology:[29]

First, the idea of a universal historical progress inextricably involved in the conception of the nation as the individualization of mankind and the principal agent of progress; secondly, the idea of a national mission and a conviction that it is this mission, and not inherited traditions, which constitutes the true essence of the nation . . . ; thirdly, the ethos of activism and moral perfectionism, the recognition of the ‘spirit of sacrifice’ as the highest national virtue; and, finally, a belief in the active brotherhood of nations, an indignant condemnation of the egoistic principle of non-intervention.

It is quite clear that this conception of nationalism, combined with the Poles’ recent misfortunes, could very easily lead alienated exiles to the exaltation of Messianistic thought; it provided purpose to their suffering, and it gave them hope for the future. The correlation between nationalism and ideology of the exiled intellectuals is also stressed by Berger, who argues:[30]

Nationalism is a peculiarly modern way of legitimizing political power as exercised in the name of a nation which, in East-central Europe at least, was usually defined in terms of its culture. Since culture is the intellectuals’ domain, nationalism confers on this group the enviable role of the legitimizing priesthood, the successors of earlier priesthoods which legitimized the God-derived powers of pre-modern rulers.

The ideology of the Great Emigration influenced the lives and works of both Chopin and Mickiewicz. The collapse of the November Uprising was a defining moment of their generation—it was the reason for their exile and it was a cornerstone of their ideology, whose aim was to find sense and purpose in the tragedy of the Insurrection. The collapse of the Uprising had additional meanings, and this is especially true in Chopin’s case. First, the events and emotions of the fall 1831 profoundly affected the character of Chopin’s music;[31] as Samson observes: “the added depth and richness of the works whose inception dates from the year in Vienna, together with their tragic, passionate tone, reflect at least in part a new commitment to express Poland’s tragedy in his music.”[32] This claim is developed by Siepmann to include Chopin’s later works:[33]

The fall of Warsaw effected a sea change, not only in Chopin’s perceptions of himself but of the world around him. It brought his consciousness of personal identity and his now consuming sense of mission into-sharper relief than ever before, and the change was soon reflected in his music. Above all, it gave him searingly intensified awareness of Poland and the centrality of his own, deep-rooted Polishness.

Second, Chopin’s Stuttgart Diary contains expressions of his innermost feelings to a degree which was never surpassed in his later writings. It is the only document with such emotional content coming from Chopin himself. Although Chopin’s feelings are a matter of speculation most of the time,[34] here they are presented clearly, and they shed much needed light on his emotional life, beliefs, and convictions. As Siepmann observes, “. . . if Chopin after Stuttgart placed an even greater premium on control, it was in tacit acknowledgment of emotions that needed controlling.”[35]

Chopin and Mickiewicz did not belong to the Great Emigration in the strictest sense, since they did not leave Poland following the collapse of the November Uprising.[36] However, both of these great artists not only considered themselves to be a part of their compatriots’ society, but they were also seen by other émigrés as their most important representatives. Chopin was one of the most important members of the Great Emigration; Mickiewicz, with his moral and patriotic authority, was one of its most articulate and influential leaders. When they reached Paris, both Chopin and Mickiewicz made contacts with their compatriots—other Polish exiles, some of whom were Chopin’s friends from Warsaw (Julian Fontana, Alexander Orłowski, and aristocratic families of the Czartoryskis, the Platers, and the Wodzińskis).[37] Chopin always identified himself as a Pole, and, in spite of his name, he was seen as such by Parisian society, both Polish and French; he never even attempted to meet his father’s family in France.[38] Chopin gave a testimony to his feelings in a letter to Tytus Wojciechowski of December 25, 1831, where he wrote: “I am gay on the outside, especially among my own folk (I count Poles my own); but inside something gnaws at me.”[39] The same sentiments on Chopin’s part are emphasized by Liszt:[40]

He saw many young Poles: Fontana, Orda, . . . Counts Plater, Grzymała, Ostrowski, . . . and others. Polish families subsequently coming to Paris were eager to know him, and by preference he regularly associated with a group predominantly consisting of his compatriots. Through them he remained informed about all that was happening in his country and in addition maintained a kind of musical correspondence therewith. . . . His patriotism was revealed in the direction his talent followed, in his choice of friends, in his preference for pupils,

Both Chopin and Mickiewicz belonged to the Polish Literary Society and other émigré organizations, which Chopin often assisted financially.[41] Chopin’s contacts with Mickiewicz were not limited to social occasions. In 1840, Chopin attended some of Mickiewicz’s lectures about Slavic Literature at the College de France, and he possibly translated Mickiewicz’s poetry for George Sand.[42] Thus, Chopin and Mickiewicz not only experienced the Great Emigration, but were among its most important members, helping to define it.[43] Nonetheless, in terms of their characters, the national mystic Mickiewicz and Chopin, who was generally uncomfortable with grand philosophical concepts, had little in common. Writer and musicologist Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz thus describes their relationship:[44]

Chopin often meets Mickiewicz. But it is difficult to find bigger contrasts [between personalities]. The great Lithuanian [Mickiewicz] cannot understand the young artist from the Kingdom. He is repelled by Chopin’s snobbery and his artistic limitation to music. Although Chopin admired the author of Ballady i Romanse since his Warsaw days, he is not a romantic in his everyday life. He is afraid of the uncompromising greatness of Mickiewicz, and of his craving for absolute power. . . . Mickiewicz [is] not musical enough to comprehend Chopin’s greatness; Chopin [is] too proper, too upright to understand all of the impetuosity and fire in Mickiewicz.

In fact, their personalities and beliefs were largely opposite: Mickiewicz was a Romantic, Chopin a realist; Mickiewicz was a progressive democrat, Chopin was a conservative. As Berger observes, they were two “people of very different temperaments, interests, and convictions.”[45] And yet, in spite of all of these personal differences, there are striking similarities in Mickiewicz’s and Chopin’s reactions to contemporary events. These parallels manifest themselves in Chopin’s letters and diary entries and Mickiewicz’s poetry and they first appear during the lonely and tragic winter of 1831. These analogies may be best explained by their common experiences and shared ideology of the exiled.

The Themes of the Ideology of the Exiled

The ideology of the Great Emigration can be defined through certain images that the exiles used repeatedly when identifying themselves. These images, as described by Berger, include alienation, uprootedness and homelessness, orphanage, and morbidity (termed by Krasiński ‘a monomania of death’).[46] I would like to expand this definition to include powerlessness, nostalgia, and pilgrimage, as all of these images were central to both Chopin’s and Mickiewicz’s self-understanding. These themes manifest themselves in the writings of Chopin and Mickiewicz, full of the most compelling expressions of alienation, homelessness, and morbidity. I will illustrate this by juxtaposing Chopin’s letters and diaries with Mickiewicz’s poetry.

Possibly the best poetic expression of the ideology of the Great Emigration is offered by Konrad, Mickiewicz’s alter ego protagonist of his drama Dziady, Część III [Forefathers’ Eve Part III]:[47]

The exiled singer shall be free to go
Through lands of hostile tongue. Howe’er sublime
My song, ’twill sound an uncouth, idle chime,
Wretches! They leave me with my sword, ’tis true,
But first they break its shining blade in two;
Living I shall be dead to these dear lands,
And all I think shall lie within my soul,
A diamond locked within its shell of coal.

Konrad tells it all here—he, like all of the exiles, is condemned to be homeless, misunderstood and alienated in “lands of hostile tongue.”[48] The same profound feeling of loneliness was expressed by Chopin throughout his life, his isolation was intensified by being misunderstood, and consequently, he was often alienated from those around him. Already in Vienna in the spring of 1831 Chopin wrote in his notebook:[49]

Today it was beautiful on the Prater. Crowds of people with whom I have nothing to do. . . . What used to seem great, today seems common; what I used to think common is now incomparable, too great, too high. The people here are not my people; they’re kind, but kind from habit; they do everything too respectably, flatly, moderately. I don’t want even to think of moderation.

I’m puzzled, I’m melancholy, I don’t know what to do with myself; I wish I weren’t alone!—

It is no surprise that Konrad/Mickiewicz begins his Great Improvisation—esoteric and mystical struggle with God over “the rule of souls” over mankind —describing his loneliness:[50]

Alone! Ah, man! And who of you, divining
My spirit, grasps the meaning of its song?
Whose eye will see the radiance of its shining?
Alas, who toils to sing for men, toils long!

Meanwhile, one of the most compelling expressions of alienation comes from Chopin’s letter to Jan Matuszyński, written in Vienna during Christmas 1830:[51]

Vienna. Christmas Day, Sunday morning. Last year at this hour I was with the Bernardines. Today I am sitting alone . . . [on Christmas Eve] I strolled along slowly alone, and at midnight went into St. Stephen’s. When I entered there was no one there. Not to hear the mass, but just to look at the huge building at that hour, I got into the darkest corner at the foot of a Gothic pillar. I can’t describe the greatness, the magnificence of those huge arches. It was quiet; now and then the footsteps of a sacristan lighting candles at the back of the sanctuary, would break in on my lethargy. A coffin behind me, a coffin under me;—only the coffin above me was lacking. A mournful harmony all around[52]—I never felt my loneliness so clearly . . .

However, it was the collapse of the Insurrection which caused Chopin to express his innermost feelings. Upon learning of the fall of Warsaw during the Uprising (in September 1831), Chopin wrote in his Stuttgart Diary:[53]

Father! Mother! Where are you? Corpses? Perhaps some Russian has played tricks—oh wait-wait—But tears—they have not flowed for so long—oh, so long, so long I could not weep—how glad—how wretched—Glad and wretched—If I’m wretched, I can’t be glad—and yet it is sweet— . . . Alone! Alone!—There are no words for my misery; how can I bear this feeling— . . .

Mickiewicz’s Konrad is alone like Chopin; comparing his supernatural creative power to that of “poets and prophets, wise man of past days,” he admits:[54]

Still never would you fill your happiness and might
As I feel mine, here in the lonely night,
Singing unheard, alone,
Singing unto myself, alone.

Both the composer and the poet react to the tragedy of the Insurrection using the same images; Chopin’s impassioned exclamations in the Stuttgart Diary almost reach the disorderliness of Konrad’s outcries:[55]

The suburbs are destroyed, burned. — Jaś, Wiluś probably dead in the trenches. I see Marcel a prisoner! That good fellow Sowiński in the hands of those brutes! Paszkiewicz!—Some dog from Mohilov holds the seat of the first monarchs of Europe. Moscow rules the world![56] Oh God, do You exist? You’re there, and You don’t avenge it—how many more Russian crimes do You want—or—or are You a Russian too!!?

In Mickiewicz’s Dziady Konrad personifies all of his nation, challenges God for supreme power, and in his final struggle, cries:[57]

Speak, o thunder forth, and if I can
Not shatter nature into shards, yet all thy plan
Of wheeling worlds and planets, every star,
Shall rock, as I proclaim to all creation
From generation unto generation
That thou art not the father—

[Voice of the Devil]: But the tsar!
[Konrad stands for a moment, then totters and falls]

Thus Chopin’s and Mickiewicz’s despair leads them to blasphemy, their struggle with Deity materializes in the final stage of alienation. This sense of loneliness and intense isolation on both Chopin’s and Mickiewicz’s part was not limited to the first years of emigration. After almost fifteen years in Paris, Chopin wrote to his family in December 1845, clearly from a foreigner’s point of view:[58]

Today is Christmas Eve (Our Lady of the Star). They don’t know that here. They eat dinner at the usual hour: 6, 7, or 8, and only a few foreign families keep up those customs. . . . All the protestant [sic] families keep Christmas Eve, but most Parisians make no difference between today and yesterday.

This letter immediately brings to mind Chopin’s description of his loneliness during Christmas in 1830—his first Christmas away from home; fifteen years later Chopin still missed customs of his homeland. Mickiewicz also reacts to his everyday existence in Paris with contempt (which sometimes appears too close to xenophobia). In a prologue to his epic poem Pan Tadeusz [Master Thaddeus] of 1834, he wrote:[59]

What can be my thoughts, here on the streets of Paris, when I bring home from the city ears filled with noise, with curses and lies, with untimely plans, belated regrets, and hellish quarrels?

Alas for us deserters, that in time of pestilence, timid souls, we fled to foreign lands! For wherever we trod, terror went before us, and in every neighbour we found an enemy; . . .

Chopin, on the other hand, in his letter to Grzymała from Scotland dated September 4, 1848, complained in a more personal way: “I am cross and depressed, and people bore me with their excessive attentions. I can’t breathe, I can’t work. I feel alone, alone, alone, though I am surrounded.”[60] Chopin’s feelings are echoed by Mickiewicz in his poem “Pieśń Pielgrzyma” [The Pilgrim’s Song] of 1832:[61]

Fair words and fairer thoughts are mine;
Much do I feel, writing early and late;
My soul like a widow’s must still repine—
To whom my songs shall I dedicate?
. . .
Winter and spring will pass away,
Fair weather will pass as the storms are blown;
But grief in the pilgrim’s heart will stay,
For he is a widower and alone.

These images of loneliness and alienation are closely related to feelings of uprootedness, homelessness, and existential orphanage expressed by the exiles. According to Liszt, Chopin “ended his days in a foreign land which was never his adopted country; he was faithful to the eternal widowhood of his own. He was the poet of the stricken soul, with its secrets, silences, and sorrowing fears.”[62] Liszt’s testimony is confirmed by the composer himself. In a letter to Fontana of April 4, 1848, Chopin hoped that his friend still loved him, and concluded: “And perhaps that is even more now, since we have lost Wodziński, and Witwicki, and the Platers, and Sobański, and are both left orphaned Poles.”[63] At the same time, the image of homelessness and orphanage is prominent in Mickiewicz’s poetry.[64] In “Pieśń Pielgrzyma” [The Pilgrim’s Song] the hero twice employs the image of orphanage in order to identify himself:[65]

Why do I stand by thoughts bemused
And find no joy in the lengthening days?
Because my heart is orphaned, confused—
With whom shall I share the flowery days?
. . .
To thoughts and words I give birth each day—
Why do they not my sorrow appease?
Because my soul is a widow gray
And only many orphans sees.

Chopin, one of these orphans, in a tragic letter of November 1848 to Grzymała, expressed both his uprootedness and homelessness:[66]

. . . I don’t think at all of a wife, but of home, of my Mother, my Sisters. May God keep them in his good thoughts. Meanwhile, what has become of my art? And my heart, where have I wasted it? [crossed out] I scarcely remember any more, how they sing at home. That world slips away from me somehow; I forget, I have no more strength [crossed out]; if I rise a little, I fall again, lower than ever.

This existential alienation of the exiled expressed itself in anxiety that led to morbidity, and an almost inescapable preoccupation with death. Chopin’s letters and Stuttgart Diary are full of references to death. Already in his letter of December 1830 to Matuszyński from Vienna Chopin expressed his indecisiveness: “[Shall I] Return home? Stay here?—Kill myself?”[67]

A couple of months later, in Spring of 1831, he elaborated, also emphasizing his alienation and nostalgia:[68]

. . . I laugh, and in my heart, as I write this, some horrible presentiment torments me. I keep thinking that it’s a dream or hallucination, that I am with all of you; the voices I hear, to which my soul is not accustomed, make no other impression on me than the rattling of carriages in the street or any other casual noise. Your voice or that of Tytus would rouse me from this dead state of indifference. To live or to die seems all one to me today. . .

And in his diary written at that time he noted: “. . . I got melancholy;—why? I don’t care for even music today; . . . I don’t know what is wrong with me. . . . I wish I were dead.”[69] The most extreme expressions of morbidity, however, come from Chopin’s esoteric outpourings in the Stuttgart Diary:

—The bed I go to—perhaps corpses have lain on it, lain long—yet today that does not sicken me. Is a corpse any worse than I? A corpse knows nothing of father, of mother, or sisters, of Tytus; a corpse has no beloved, it’s tongue can hold no converse with those who surround it—a corpse is as colourless as I, as cold, as I am cold to everything now—

The clocks in the towers of Stuttgart strike the hours of the night. How many new corpses is this minute making in the world? Mothers losing children, children losing mothers—So much grief over the dead, and so much delight! A vile corpse and a decent one—virtues and vice are all one, they are sisters when they are corpses. Evidently, then, death is the best act of man—And what is the worst? Birth; it is direct opposition to the best thing. I am right to be angry that I came into the world—

The composer continues his painful monologue with further references to death, describing his feelings:[70]

—This is a strange state—but that is so with a corpse; it’s well and not well with it at the same moment. It is transferred to a happier life, and is glad, it regrets the life it is leaving and is sad. It must feel what I felt when I left off weeping. It was like some momentary death of feeling; for a moment I died in my heart; no, my heart died in me for a moment. Ah, why not for always! . . .

Mickiewicz’s play, Dziady Part III, is characterized by constant references to death in both realistic and fantastic scenes. The protagonists suffer and die; moreover, the drama is dominated by visions, nightmares, spirits, ghosts, angels, and devils (the last scene takes place at cemetery and Konrad appears as a ghost)—all being attributed to death. Furthermore, Konrad has gone through his spiritual rebirth. In the Prologue to the drama the Prisoner in the Basilian monastery in Vilno is transformed from the self-centered tragic romantic hero Gustav into Konrad, the suffering embodiment of his nation.[71] he Prologue culminates when the Prisoner inscribes on the prison wall:[72]

D. O. M

(On the other side)

This metamorphosis of Gustav into Konrad brings to mind Chopin’s exclamations in his Stuttgart Diary—”for a moment I died in my heart; no, my heart died in me for a moment.” Once again, Chopin and Mickiewicz use the same imagery of spiritual death and rebirth, of spiritual transformation, to describe their feelings.

Chopin expressed the same emotions—anxiety, fear, morbidity—after his arrival in Paris. In a letter to Tytus Wojciechowski of December 25, 1831, the twenty-one year old composer wrote:[73]

. . . we shall not meet, then, till later; and perhaps not at all, for, seriously, my health is bad. I am gay on the outside . . . but inside something gnaws at me; some presentiment, anxiety, dreams—or sleeplessness,—melancholy, indifference,—desire for life, and the next instant, desire for death: some kind of sweet peace, some kind of numbness, absent-mindedness; and sometimes definite memories worry me. My mind is sour, bitter, salt; some hideous jumble of feelings shakes me!

Even Mickiewicz’s pilgrim cannot escape longing for death, which echoes some of Chopin’s outpourings:[74]

I have felt so much and suffered so long,
And yet I shall never return to my home.
To whom can I tell the tale of my wrong?
In my silent grave I shall cease to roam.

This morbid anxiety was rooted in an intense feeling of powerlessness shared by the exiles: they were forced into emigration by powers of Destiny or History, they were powerless to liberate their country, and they were powerless even to change their own existence. These emotions are most strongly expressed by Chopin in the Stuttgart Diary, when the composer describes pain of his own inaction: “. . . perhaps I have no mother, perhaps some Russian has killed her, murdered—My sisters, raving, resist—father in despair, nothing he can do—and I here, useless! And I here with empty hands!”[75] Again, he exclaims: “What use is my existence to anyone? I am not fit for human beings, for I have neither snout nor calves to my legs; and does a corpse have them?” However, the same emotions are echoed by Chopin years later: “I want to do the best, and I am sure I shall do the worst. But that is my fate. No one can escape his destiny.”[76] This sentence could be written by any (and all) exiles. Mickiewicz’s Konrad is often powerless: at the beginning of the drama, Konrad is imprisoned; at the end of the Prologue, he already knows that he will be powerless to express his poetry in exile—in “lands of hostile tongue”; even at the end of his great struggle with God, all powerful Konrad “stands for a moment, then totters and falls.”[77] Konrad’s powerlessness parallels that of Chopin; Mickiewicz’s hero similarly questions the sense of existence:[78]

What is the love I feel for man?
Only a gleam!
What is my life and its brief span?
A moment of time!
And the lightnings of tomorrow, what are they today?
Only a gleam!
And the storied ages coursing on their endless way?
A moment of time!
Whence came this little world that maketh our mankind?
From an instant’s gleam!
And what is death that wastes the reaches of the mind?
A moment of time! . . .

The feelings of powerlessness and homelessness culminate in nostalgia, shared by the members of the émigré society and often expressed by both Chopin and Mickiewicz. This nostalgia, manifest through an idealized vision of their homeland and its past, takes various forms. It exists as longing towards people left behind, towards various places called “home” or the entire homeland, and towards distant, idyllic past when everything was familiar and so much better than the present. Chopin’s letters are, of course, full of his expressions of affection and longing towards his family and friends. For instance, in his letter to Matuszyński of December, 1830, Chopin wrote: “I come back, play, weep, read, look, laugh, go to bed, put the light out, and always dream about some of you.”[79] Moreover, they also contain expressions of his nostalgia for his homeland or for the past. He noted in his diary: “Everything I have seen abroad until now seems to me old and hateful, and just makes me sigh for home, for those blessed moments that I didn’t know how to value. What used to seem great today seems common; what I used to think common is now incomparable, too great, too high.”[80] In a letter to Fontana of August 18, 1848 (one of his last letters) the composer clearly departed to a world of their past, vividly living in his memory: “you . . . will remain above my gravestone, like our willow trees, do you remember? That show bare tops—I don’t know why poor Jasio and Antek come into my thoughts now, and Witwicki, and Sobański! Those with whom I was in the closest harmony have also died for me . . .” Mickiewicz’s expression of nostalgia is embodied in his long epic poem Pan Tadeusz,[81] with its florid descriptions of nature, psychology of the characters, and an emphasis on tradition, ceremony, and ritual. Pan Tadeusz is a portrait of both Mickiewicz’s homeland and its idyllic past. According to the poet himself, for the émigrés [82]

One happiness remains: when in a gray hour you sit by the fireside with a few of your friends and lock the door against the uproar of Europe, and escape in thought to happier times, and muse and dream of your own land. . . . To-day, for us, unbidden guests in the world, in all the past and in all the future— to-day there is but one region in which there is a crumb of happiness for a Pole: the land of his childhood! That land will ever remain holy and pure as first love; undisturbed by the remembrance of errors, not undermined by the deceitfulness of hopes, and unchanged by the stream of events.

These feelings are personified throughout Pan Tadeusz, but their clearest expression comes from the very beginning of the poem, where Mickiewicz becomes the Narrator:[83]

Litva! My country, like art thou to health,
For how to prize thee he alone can tell
Who has lost thee. I behold thy beauty now
In full adornment, and I sing of it
Because I long for thee.

Finally, another prominent theme the exiles identified with—pilgrimage—is one of the most important images in Mickiewicz’s poetry. Of course, the importance of pilgrimage, one of the most significant archetypes of Romanticism, rooted in the existential conception of human life as a journey of self improvement through suffering or moral betterment, was not limited to Polish émigrés in Paris.[84] However, for Polish exiles this image had additional value—it described their real life situation. They were wanderers not only in an existential, but also in a very real sense. Thus Mickiewicz chose to address his fellow exiles in Księgi Narodu Polskiego i Pielgrzymstwa Polskiego [The Books of Polish Nation and Polish Pilgrimage] of 1832, and he constantly referred to the exile as pilgrimage. In 1833 he was also an editor of the periodical for Polish émigrés in Paris, entitled, not surprisingly, Pielgrzym Polski [The Polish Pilgrim].[85] The Księigi Pielgrzymstwa Polskiego open with the unquestionable statement “The Polish Pilgrims are the Soul of Polish Nation.”[86] All of the Księgi, written in biblical prophetic style, also contain the most complete expression of Mickiewicz’s Messianism. In Księgi Mickiewicz gives to his fellow exiles not only an explanation for their personal and collective suffering; he gives them purpose for that suffering and hope for the future. Since the Poles in Paris, like all other exiles since the beginning of time, hoped that their exile would end soon, the Księgi end with Pilgrim’s Litany:[87]

By the wounds, tears and sufferings of all the Polish prisoners,
exiles, and pilgrims,
Deliver us, oh Lord.
For a universal war for the freedom of the nations,
We beseech Thee, oh Lord.
. . .
For the independence, integrity and freedom of our country
We beseech Thee, oh Lord.

According to Liszt, Chopin also saw himself as a pilgrim; Liszt wrote that after years of living in France, Chopin would say “I am only passing through.”[88] In this light it is interesting that one of Chopin’s Ballades was referred to by Mallefille as the “Polish Ballade,” and that the Second Ballade was referred to by Chopin’s publisher Probst as the “Pilgrim’s Ballade.”[89] The significance of the image of pilgrimage for Chopin, Mickiewicz, and other Romantics is also emphasized by Liszt, who wrote, describing an evening in Paris:[90]

Assembled around the piano in the lighted area were several figures of brilliant renown: Heine, saddest of humorists, listening with the interest of a compatriot to the tales that Chopin told him, tales about the mysterious land that also haunted his airy fancy since he had explored its most delightful parts. By mere suggestion of word and tone he and Chopin understood each other, and the musician answered with surprising phrases the questions that the poet softly asked about those unknown regions. . . . [Heine] would ask “if the roses there still glowed with so proud a flame? If the trees there still sang so harmoniously in the moonlight?” Chopin would reply, and both, after talking long and intimately of the charms of that aerial country, would fall silent in the throes of nostalgia. This affected Heine so when he compared himself to that Dutch captain of the phantom ship, with his crew eternally tossed on the chilling waves and “vainly sighing ‘Amsterdam! Amsterdam! When shall we again see Amsterdam!'” . . .

Thus, Chopin’s nostalgic description of his homeland induced Heine to think of another, mythical wanderer— the Flying Dutchman.

Mickiewicz’s Ballady and the Themes of the Ideology of the Emigration

Chopin’s nostalgia, ever present in his letters, might have found perfect representation in the collection of Mickiewicz’s Ballady. Like all other émigrés, Chopin “the nostalgic exile” would sometimes probably engage in psychological ‘journeys’ to his homeland and idyllic past.[91] There, among his memories, he would have encountered the world of Mickiewicz’s Ballady and the literary controversy stirred by their publication in 1822.[92] As the most important literary event in the Warsaw of Chopin’s youth, the Ballady could have represented to Chopin everything he longed for—is worry free years with his family and friends, his adolescence, and his homeland—a perfect time and a perfect place. With their emphasis on the distant past and uncomplicated world of simple values, for the lonely Chopin of the 1830s the Ballady might have symbolized an innocent world before the fall. This meaning of the Ballady may be easily connected to the ideology of the exiled, where the destruction of this idyllic world was encapsulated by the collapse of the November Uprising, and followed by the suffering of the exiles and hope for redemption embodied in national liberation. If this emotional value of the Ballady as a symbol of the perfect world before the fall, rooted in Chopin’s nostalgia, is connected to his desire to create new, deeper music—embodied in new genres and new forms—in the 1830s (for which the generic characteristics of literary ballads with their narrative qualities and mixture of epic, dramatic and lyric elements would prove an ideal medium), one might hypothesize that Chopin may well have been inspired to compose his most original piano works by Mickiewicz’s Ballady.

Moreover, if indeed Chopin intended to create a nationalistic genre in his Ballades, Mickiewicz’s Ballady would be the most probable source of his inspiration for two obvious reasons: the poems were Polish, and the genre itself was considered nationalistic by many in the Romantic generation. The Ballady for Chopin were not only associated with nostalgia—with an idyllic past (either his own or his nation’s) and his homeland—but also with nationalism and the story of a lost—Chopin’s own—generation.[93] Romantic notions of nationalism underpin both Mickiewicz’s interest in the ballad genre in the 1820s and the ideology of the exiled in 1830s. Thus, the key elements of the ideology of the exiled—the images of loneliness and alienation, homelessness and orphanage, anxiety and morbidity, powerlessness, nostalgia, and pilgrimage—as a part of larger nationalistic and Romantic ideology, are already present in Ballady of Mickiewicz’s 1822 collection Ballady i Romanse [Ballads and Romances]. After all, Polish nationalism of the early nineteenth century was rooted in the Herderian concept of a nation whose purest attributes—language and customs—are represented by the common folk; all definitions of ballads qualify them as a narrative folk songs. Therefore it is not surprising that Mickiewicz in his Preface to Ballady quoted Herder, offered a survey of folk ballads, and emphasized that his ballads were modeled on genuine folk tradition rather then on the sentimental literary ballads of the eighteenth century.[94] As David Welsh observes, the Romantic poets, including Mickiewicz, “believed that the primitive simplicity of genuine ballads was valuable for its own sake, and that the more primitive people were, the more genuine their poetry. Poetry . . . would be closer to Truth if it avoided contact with artificial civilization.”[95] Welsh also elaborates on the nationalistic aspects of ballad genre: [96]

Mickiewicz’s . . . urge to return to the common folk as a source of linguistic inspiration was strengthened by a patriotic motive. Folk poetry was believed to be the truest source of national poetry as contrasted to cosmopolitan (French) poetry. The cult of the vernacular language was intensified in Poland of the early nineteenth century because of the political disasters of the Partitions, which threatened the very existence of Polish culture, tradition, and literature.

Thus the Ballady, with their strong nationalistic overtones, associations with Chopin’s past and homeland, possible embodiment of his nostalgia, presence of the most important elements of the ideology of the exiled, and structural characteristics which can be translated into purely instrumental music, must be considered (in both semantic and syntactic sense) as a very close relative to Chopin’s Ballades in the cultural web of the 1820s and 1830s, if not actually a direct influence.

The literary ballad is defined in the Encyclopedia Britannica as a short narrative folk song which[97]

tells a compact tale in a style that achieves bold, sensational effects through deliberate starkness and abruptness. Despite a rigid economy of narrative, it employs a variety of devices to prolong highly charged moments in the story and to thicken the emotional atmosphere, the most common being a frequent repetition of some key word, line, or phrase. Any consequent bareness of texture finds ample compensation in this dramatic rhetoric.

In his description of the genre, Walsh notes that “the narrator submerges his own personality and tells the tale in spare, often colorless, words” and that “the poetic effects . . . are produced in indirect, less obvious ways—by hints and suggestions, by imagery, rhythm, and refrain.”[98] Mickiewicz’s Ballady—his poetic recreations of a folk genre—conform to these general characteristics.[99] In addition, their conception was based on Mickiewicz’s understanding of the role of folk culture—its language, songs, beliefs, values, traditions, and customs—in defining and preserving national identity. This belief in the essential nationalistic value of artistic endeavors of the common people is best described by the poet himself. Consider the following, from the Pieśń Wajdeloty [Song of the Wajdelote]:[100]

Op. native song! Between the elder day,
Ark of the Covenant, and younger times,
Wherein their heroes’ swords the people lay,
Their flowers of thought—and web of native rhymes.
Thou ark! No stroke can break thee or subdue,
While thine own people hold thee not debased.
Op. native song! Thou art as guardian placed.
Defending memories of a nation’s word.

The Archangel’s wings are thine, his voice thine too,
And often wieldest thou Archangel’s sword.
The flame devoureth story’s pictured words,
And thieves with steel will scatter treasured hoards.
But scatheless is the song the poet sings.
And should vile spirits still refuse to give
Sorrow and hope, whereby the song may live,
Upward she flieth and the ruin clings,
And thence relateth ancient histories.

Thus the Ballady for Mickiewicz were not only an aesthetic exercise in recreating the artistic version of an ancient folk genre, they also had the function of defining and preserving folk tales and language at a time when the very existence of Polish language and culture was threatened. Poland’s peculiar political situation in the nineteenth century strengthened even more the nationalistic dimension of Mickiewicz’s collection for the poet himself and for his audience.

This strongly nationalistic role of the Ballady for generations of Polish audiences differentiates Mickiewicz’s poems from other ballads of the European tradition. However, other elements of the poems conform to that tradition, and particularly to its Nordic stream.[101] Mickiewicz’s Ballady feature impersonal, most often unidentified, and usually omniscient Narrators, who relate their story without unnecessary details or emotions.[102]This impersonality is best illustrated in instances when the Narrator describes death, murder, or madness. For instance, in Tukaj the Narrator simply relates that the protagonist “Tukaj, among complaints and groans/ Saying farewell for eternity/ Closed his waning eyes,”[103] while in the Lilije the Narrator impartially describes a murder at the beginning of the poem, remaining uninvolved:[104]

Monstrous deed: A lady bright
Slays her own, her wedded knight;
Buries him beside a brook
In a grove where none will look.

This concentration on pure facts without any consideration for their emotional impact on the Narrator’s part is one of the most striking features of the ballad genre. Also, the Narrator introduces other characters and circumstances of the story,[105] stimulates the audience’s curiosity, and has the privilege of concluding the ballad by recounting a resolution of the struggle within the plot. Accordingly, it is the all-knowing Narrator of the Ballada Romantycznośćwho delivers Mickiewicz’s Romantic manifesto, which takes aim at the rationalism of the Enlightenment:[106]

I answer modestly: “The maid can feel,
The common people to their faith are true:
Feeling and faith to me far more reveal
Than eyes and spectacles, though learned, do.

You delve among dead truths, to man unknown,
The world you see in dust and specks of light;
But Truth you know not, miracles disown—
Look in your heart, that still may see aright!

The Narrator’s knowledge of the outcome of the plot contributes to his impersonal and often detached role within the poems. Also, it is connected to another important characteristic of the Ballady, which usually relate a pre-destined drama played within the boundaries of an unchanging world, a drama whose outcome is rooted in its origins. Therefore the Narrator’s opening lines, while introducing the plot and the characters, usually also hint at their destruction (or salvation, which happens less often). In Świtezianka the Narrator concludes his description of the Youth’s oath of fidelity to his beloved with an ominous question, and follows it with a warning:[107]

Then the youth knelt down and with sand in his palm
He called on the powers of hell,
He swore by the moon so holy and calm—
Will he hold to his oath so well?

I counsel you, hunter, to keep your oath
And the promise that here you swore;
For woe to the man, who shall break it, both
While he lives and forevermore.

At this point the reader knows that the Youth will not be able to “hold to his oath,” and that something terrible is going to happen to him. Thus, no matter what the Youth’s actions will be, with his simple question and admonition the Narrator lets us know that the outcome of this drama has been already decided. In Świteź, when the Narrator relates that prince Tuhan regrets leaving his city and women undefended, the reader knows that his fears are valid, that the city will be attacked and its inhabitants will be in danger. In Lilije, when the Narrator concentrates on flowers planted by the murderous wife on her husband’s grave just after describing the murder itself, we know that the flowers will probably bring her downfall. The static nature of the ballad world is also emphasized by Parakilas, who writes:[108]

It is a given that whatever the protagonist defies . . . is immutable and unyielding. The world is presented in ballads as an unchanging and unchangeable place, and that view of the world could be considered simply to reflect the beliefs of people living in the isolated, peasant “ballad society” where folk ballads developed.

This pre-destined nature of the narratives in the Ballady does not preclude action and dialogue within each of the poems, but rather it is related to the final outcome of the plot; it is not that the protagonists cannot act, but that the results of their actions are already decided and known to the Narrator.

If all of the Ballady feature one common theme, it is the protagonists’ conflict with commonly held, basic values.[109] These values include beliefs (the mad girl in Romantyczność, the rational traveler in To Lubię), social structure (the love between a peasant girl and her lord in Rybka), laws between people (the unfaithful lover in Świtezianka, the robbers in Powrót Taty, the murderous wife in Lilije) or between nations (Russians attacking a defenseless city in Świteź). This basic conflict structure can be mapped on to Parakilas’ interesting definition of a narrative model of the ballad, which he terms ballad process. In his discussion of ballad themes, Parakilas notes:[110]

The process, in the first place, centers on one character, though that character interacts with others who are necessary to the process. . . . the process is marked by a single change in that principal character’s role: from being an agent, an actor, she or he turns into a patient, someone passive or acted upon. The process, furthermore, is self-contained: it is initiated by an act of the principal character and completed by the response to that act. In ballads of our special repertory [Nordic ballads], the same kind of act and the same kind of response appear over and over again: the act is the defiance of the nature of things, and the response is the reckoning for that act of defiance.

Parakilas’ model corresponds to general structure of conflict in the Ballady, where acts of defiance are pre-destined to bring the final reckoning to the protagonist, but do not change the world around them. Parakilas differentiates between two kinds of reckoning: revelation followed by retribution, and return or restoration.[111] In the case of Mickiewicz’s Ballady reckoning almost always takes form of retribution.[112]

This “crime and punishment” outcome of the ballad contributes to the moral dimension of the genre. In each of the Ballady Mickiewicz’s Narrator provides simple, universal rules of right and wrong in the form of short, almost educational epigrams (in To Lubię the ghost of a insensitive girl introduces her tale with “I will tell you, and you as a warning/ Tell my story to the others”).[113] These rules reflect simple values of the folk, such as holding to one’s oath (Świtezianka), the futility of revolt against death (Tukaj), the necessity for compassion and feeling (Romantyczność, To Lubię), and the sanctity of life (Lilije). These short moral comments, providing ‘simple truths’ of the common people in each ballad, emphasize the importance of folk values—values for which the Romantics constructed the true essence of the nation.

Mickiewicz’s use of folk material in the Ballady is not limited to the presentation of simple folk values. Most of the tales in the collection have a folk background, feature peasant characters, and are set in real places from the Lithuanian countryside. [114] In light of the characteristic brevity of the ballad genre, it is surprising that Mickiewicz included detailed descriptions of actual places in some of his short poems; in Świteź and Świtezianka the poet describes the lake Świteź (with vivid, extensive descriptions of the landscape: “Świteź stretches its bright bosom,/ In the form of a great curve,/ Blackened its shores by dense forest,/ And smooth as a sheet of ice”), while in To Lubię the poet describes a road in proximity to Ruta (including a valley, stream, bridge, church, and graveyard).[115] Detailed descriptions of scenery characterize all of the Ballady, emphasizing the close relationship of the common people with nature. Also, the important presence of the supernatural in the Ballady may be connected to folk beliefs in ghosts and devils, and their interactions with the world of the living. With the exception of Powrót Taty, all of the Ballady feature some supernatural being—ghosts of dead lovers (Romantyczność, To Lubię, Lilije), nymphs (Świteź, Świtezianka, Rybka), or devils (Tukaj, Pani Twardowska).

The folk background of the genre may also influence two seemingly contradicting characteristics: omission of irrelevant information on the one hand and the provision of exact, detailed information on the other. Irrelevant information usually pertains to the reasons behind the characters’ actions, thus we never learn why prince Tuhan felt compelled to help Mendog and leave his country undefended, why the nymph of Świtezianka tested faithfulness of her lover, or why the girl of Romantyczność has gone mad.[116] Usually we do not know who the Narrator is, and most of the time we do not even know the names of the characters. On the other hand, however, we know that the lovers of Świtezianka met in the moonlight, and that the water of the lake was “storming, swelling, and foaming,” we know how many robbers attacked the merchant in Powrót Taty, and we learn how the flowers grew on the grave of the slaughtered husband in Lilije. Thus, the plots concentrate on the information relevant to the development of events rather than to the psychological dramaÿthe scenery and action are described in detail, while the protagonists’ feelings and reasons for their actions are implied only or omitted altogether. This thematic concentration on particulars of the story contributes to dramatic dimension of the genre, and balances the Narrator’s retrospective knowledge.

The plots of the Ballady, as well as the general characteristics of the genre itself, can also be related to the images used by the émigré society in Paris in 1830s to identify itself. Thus the themes of alienation and loneliness, homelessness and orphanage, morbidity, powerlessness, nostalgia, and pilgrimage manifest themselves on generic and thematic levels in the poems of Mickiewicz’s collection. The theme of alienation is expressed very strongly in the Ballady on three levels, which I propose to label as generic, thematic, and plot alienation. Generic alienation manifests itself in the character of the Narrator, who usually remains detached from the development of events and interactions with other characters.[117] The Narrator stands on his own, alienated from others by his knowledge of the outcome of ballad story. The Narrator’s alienation is intensified by his concealed identity and impartiality to the events he is relating, thus making him the truly alienated figure from both the audience (he remains unidentified) and other characters (he does not get involved in their struggle). Thematic alienation is related to Parakilas’ ballad process, and describes the main protagonists’ alienation when they commit their acts of defiance, contradicting generally accepted values. Through that act of defiance they alienate themselves from a society whose rules they defied, and remain separated from that society (represented by other characters). The protagonists are also alienated by their power to act (at least in the first part of the ballad process), which differentiates them from other characters and, more importantly, from the Narrator. This kind of alienation may be illustrated by loneliness of the youth in Świtezianka; as soon as he proclaims his ominous oath of faithfulness to his beloved, he finds himself deserted:[118]

. . .
She has waved him good-by from afar and now
She is over the field and away.

Vainly the hunter increases his speed,
For her fleetness outmatches his own;
She has vanished as light as the wind on the mead,
He is left on the shore alone.

Alone he returns on the desolate ground
Where the marshlands heave and quake
And the air is silent—the only sound
When the dry twigs rustle and break.

Plot alienation refers to the situation of particular characters in the Ballady, who are separated from the others by their supernatural nature (ghosts in Romantyczność, To Lubię, and Lilije; nymphs in Świteź and Świtezianka; a siren in Rybka), madness (Karusia in Romantyczność), or crime and guilt (the wife in Lilije). They are usually misunderstood or feared by other characters, and their alienation is irreconcilable. This kind of alienation may be illustrated by loneliness of Karusia, the mad girl of the ballad Romantyczność, described by both the Narrator and the girl herself: [119]

Maiden, hark to what I say!
—She will not hear you.—
This is the town! This is broad day!
No living soul stands there so near you:
What do you pluck at with your hands?
Your speech, your smile, who understands?
—She will not hear you.

. . .
“Wretched am I amid the spiteful herd:
I weep—they jeer at me;
I speak—they cannot understand a word;
I see—they do not see!”

. . .
Thus with endearing words, caresses vain,
The maiden stumbles; pleads and cries aloud:
Seeing her fall, hearing her voice of pain,
Gathers the curious crowd.

The images of uprootedness, homelessness, and orphanage, although not as prominent as alienation, are also present in Mickiewicz’s Ballady. The stories include all kinds of homeless and uprooted characters: the robber in Powrót Taty misses his home and family, the ghost of insensitive girl in To Lubięis condemned to existence “between heaven and earth” and longs for eternal peace, while the mysterious origins of his beloved perplex the Hunter of Świtezianka and are admitted by the Narrator:[120]

Who is the lad so comely and young
And who is the maid at his side . . .?
. . .
The youth hunts here in the forest land,
But the maiden is strange to me.

You may ask in vain whence she comes and where
She vanishes: no one knows.
Like the crowfoot’s moist bloom on the marsh, she is there—
Like the will-o’-the-wisp, she goes.

Beautiful maid, whom I love so well
Wherefore this secrecy?
Where do your father and mother dwell,
By what road do you come to me?

Morbidity is ever present in the Ballady. It manifests itself in themes of murder and suicide in relation to ‘real’ characters, and in longing for death on the part of supernatural characters (usually suffering ghosts). Death takes the form of crime (the wife in Lilije, the robbers in Powrót Taty) or punishment for some crime committed earlier (the Hunter in Świtezianka dies because he could not keep his word; the wife in Lilije is taken to the grave by her slaughtered husband; the Lord and his wife in Rybka are changed into stone because he left the peasant girl Krysia and their child to marry a noble woman; the Russians in Świteź die when they touch the flower-women of the lake because they were the reasons for the women’s death). Suicide is usually committed by unhappy lovers (Jasio in Romantyczność, Józio in To Lubię, Krysia in Rybka), who, in turn, leave their beloved to be punished by madness (Karusia in Romantyczność), death (the Lord in Rybka), or a hundred years of suffering (the ghost of insensitive girl in To Lubię). Suicide may be also committed for pride, faith and love for one’s country—in Świteź the women of the city would rather die than live as Russian slaves. The images of death and morbid anxiety are very vivid in the Ballady: the audience is not often spared gruesome details. In Romantyczność the mad girl speaks to the ghost of her beloved and longs for death:[121]

Surely ’tis cold, there in the grave to lie!
You have been dead for—yes, these two years past;
Ah, take me there! Beside you I will die,
The world escaped at last.

In Świtezianka the wrath of the Nymph goes to death and beyond as she kills the unfaithful Hunter without mercy:[122]

Not for you is the silvery whirlpool’s cup
Nor the gulfs where the clear sea lies,
But the harsh earth shall swallow your body up
And the gravel shall put out your eyes.

For a thousand years shall your spirit wait
By the side of this witnessing tree,
And the fires of hell that never abate
Shall burn you unceasingly.

The same attention to detail is given to description of murder in Lilije, complete with the wife rushing through the night “dabbled with blood,” and admitting to the Hermit “See the blood upon this blade!/ He is silenced and laid low!”[123] Her appearance and terror are described, here again, with extreme accuracy:[124]

Blue her lips and wild her eyes,
White her face as linen thread;
Shivering, the lady cries,
“Oh, my husband! He lies dead!”

“Tell me that I hear the dead!
Whir! It holds a knife in air,
Wet with blood, above me there.
From its mouth the sparks fly free
And it pulls and pinches me.”

Powerlessness is another important theme in the Ballady, and like alienation, it manifests itself on different levels. Generic powerlessness in the Ballady is determined by the pre-destined nature of ballad stories. The outcome of each tale is decided when, or before, the conflict takes place, and thus the protagonists, although strong enough to act, are at the same time powerless to change their fate. The characters’ ability to act provides the development of the story in a series of events, but all of these events serve to bring their downfall—the true outcome of the tale—and their punishment for defying “the nature of things” in Parakilas’ terms. Parakilas brings this argument further when he writes that in ballads, powerlessness defines guilt: “a ballad story has the structure of a proof that a guilty conscience gives itself of its own guilt: the exercise of will is determined by the very forces that render the will powerless.”[125] Plot powerlessness touches the protagonists in specific stories, when they find themselves powerless to obtain their goals (the robbers cannot attack the merchant in Powrót Taty, the Hunter cannot live with his beloved in Świtezianka, the mad girl cannot convince others to see the ghost in Romantyczność), end their suffering (the ghost of insensitive girl cannot stop hunting the cemetery in To Lubię, the wife cannot escape her own guilt and terror in Lilije), or stop their final retribution (the Hunter in Świtezianka cannot escape being swallowed by the waters of the lake, the wife in Lilije is buried with her husband under ruins of the church, and the Russians in Świteź die when they touch the flowers in the lake). The Ballady contain many examples of the characters’ powerlessness, none of which is more compelling than the situation of the Hunter in Świtezianka and the wife in Lilije. The Hunter is first powerless to keep his oath (he is drawn by the beauty of the mysterious nymph), then he is powerless to avoid his death:[126]

[The wave] lures caressingly over the sand
Till his heart melts away in his breast,
As when a chaste maid softly presses the hand
Of the youth whom she loves the best.

No longer he thinks of his own fair maid
And the vow that he swore he would keep;
By another enchantress his senses are swayed
And he runs to his death in the dee

. . .
[The waters] seethe to their depths and the circling tide
Of the whirlpool snatches them down
Through its open jaws as the seas divide:
So the youth and the maiden drown.

The wife of Lilije is powerless to escape her terror and guilt no matter how hard she tries, and is powerless to escape her own death:[127]

But the lady finds it hard
From her lips the smiles are barred,
And her heart is ever racked.
Sleep will close her eyes no more;
For at night when all is dark
Something knocks upon the door,
Something walks the courtyard . . .

. . . “Wife and brothers, you shall go
With me to the world below!”

Thereupon the church foundation Shook.
The walls and arches slipped
From their lofty elevation,
Sinking down beneath the crypt.
All lie buried underground,
Lilies blossom on the mound,
And the flowers grow as high
As the dead man deep did lie.

Nostalgia is also a very important aspect of the Ballady. First, the genre itself, with its Medieval origins, brings nostalgic connotations towards old, idyllic times. Second, the Ballady feature thematic nostalgia; the tale usually relates past events (sometimes from distant past; both Świteź and Lilije describe events which took place in the distant Middle Ages) in a world inhabited by supernatural creatures (nymphs, ghosts) usually associated with past, pagan beliefs. Intense emphasis is placed on nature and scenery, with detailed descriptions of its originality and beauty, which also contribute to the nostalgic aura of the Ballady. This type of longing, towards place rather than time, was particularly important for émigré society in the 1830s.

Similarly, the image of pilgrimage and wandering is important in the Ballady in both the generic and thematic sense. The dissemination of ballads is associated with bards and minstrels wandering through the countryside, and Mickiewicz provides a compelling description of an old bard in the character of Halban in Konrad Wallenrod. In a thematic sense the Ballady feature images of wandering and pilgrimage, which are usually associated with punishment and suffering (the Hunter in Świtezianka wanders in the forest trying to find his beloved, while his ghost is condemned to wandering around the lake for a thousand years; the ghost of the insensitive girl in To Lubię must wander close to the cemetery) or redemption (the wife in Lilije offers to go on a pilgrimage in order to escape her guilt). These notions of wandering as a manifestation of suffering and the redemptive value of pilgrimage are deeply rooted in Romantic ideology.

The structure of Mickiewicz’s Ballady reflects the general characteristics of the ballad genre. The poems feature single stories, usually developing towards a final revelation at the end. They also exhibit a mixture of dramatic (concentration on action and events, preoccupation with details), lyric (descriptions of nature and scenery), and epic (references to a legendary past, pre-destined world, and the all knowing Narrator) elements. The poems are also characterized by a mixture of past and present tenses. While the past tense usually signifies a distant, archaic past (for instance the remote Middle Ages in Świteź and Lilije), frequent use of present tense, dialogue, and direct speech (employed in all of the Ballady) emphasize the dramatic actuality of the events taking place. All but one of Mickiewicz’s Ballady are in stanzaic form, with mostly four line stanzas containing regular line length and alternating rhymes (for a description of the structure of the poems see Table 1).[128]

Table 1: Line and Stanza Structure in Mickiewicz’s Ballady.

This irregularity of rhyme and rhythm contributes to the tale-telling effect of the poems. However, within these regular structures Mickiewicz often employs distinctive patterns of repetition and variation.[129] These may include framing the poem with similar stanzas at the beginning and end (Świtezianka), framing the middle narrative with another narrative (Świteź), or slightly varied repeated lines (a technique used most extensively in Lilije). The characteristics of rhythm, rhyme, repetition, and variation in the ballad genre have extremely strong musical connotations, and, as Parakilas observes, they are “musical features of ballad narration” easy to translate to “analogous musical techniques.”[130]

Form and Musical Discourse in Chopin’s Second Ballade

The themes of alienation and powerlessness can be expressed through words or music, in dramatic plots or musical discourse. In the remaining part of this paper I will discuss the manifestations of these themes in the musical discourse of Chopin’s Second Ballade. I will precede this analysis by a discussion of the influence of the Ballady‘s syntax on the form of the Second Ballade.

Although even the Second Ballade has not escaped attempts to classify it as sonata form,[131] it is the most removed from the sonata form archetype of all Chopin’s Ballades. The Second Ballade shares with sonata form the presentation and development of two contrasting themes, but that is all. If analyzed in this way, the piece is indeed an example of a very unusual sonata form.[132] More convincing a possibility is the idea of rondo form (or sonata-rondo form, with the first theme as a ritornello), which can describe the music of the Second Ballade until the reappearance of the second theme (m. 141). [133] However, that form does not reflect the entire composition (particularly the long, powerful and climactic Coda) either. Thus the puzzling form of the Second Ballade requires another explanation.

The form of the Second Ballade may in part be explained by its similarities to the structure of its literary counterpart. Both the large-scale and local level form of the work correspond to the main characteristics of literary ballad’s syntax—with its characteristic stanzaic structure (often with some kind of refrain), patterns of repetition and variation, usually regular length of lines and rhyme distribution, and frequent use of framing techniques. On a local level, the structure of the first theme may serve as an example. The intense repetitiveness of the theme cannot be accidental and immediately brings to mind the regular, repetitive line and stanza patterns of the literary ballad.[134] Moreover, the repetitions, in connection to the demands of the ballad genre, are never exact but slightly varied, creating the enchanted, but not static, mood of the ballad world. It is possible to analyze the first theme’s repetition pattern as eight measure units representing four stanzas and creating an AABA pattern (stanza pattern X below),[135] or in terms of four measure units (based on melodic shape) representing lines and creating three stanzas (stanza pattern Y below) with analogous distribution of lines (two of these stanzas, followed by an incomplete third stanza, would represent a four line pattern with alternating rhymes—abab and cbab—used most often by Mickiewicz in his Ballady). In Table 2 below, you will find the outlines of the repetition patterns of the first theme.

Table 2: Patterns of Repetitions in the First Theme.

Both patterns of repetition, overlapping and coinciding with each other, contribute to the intense sense of narrative repetition characteristic of the first theme. The eight measure stanza pattern AABA is easily audible and thus more prominent. It is articulated by clear reference to the beginning at the last A section (m. 27), and by an emphasis on the F major tonality of the first theme (with contrasting B section in A minor and C major). In addition, this pattern is similar to rounded binary design typical to rondo themes (this classical pattern of rounded binary form in the first theme is disturbed only by a perfect authentic cadence in the dominant at the end of section B to give the effect of a small ternary song form). Stanza pattern X is complemented by a second pattern of repetition in stanza pattern Y which emphasizes A minor (with both the A’ and A” sections beginning in A minor), thereby already introducing one of the main conflicts of the work—the struggle between F major and A minor tonalities. Similar line and stanza structure characterizes the second large-scale appearance of the first theme in its developmental stage (mm. 83-140), and although patterns of repetition are further blurred here by thematic transformation, canonic imitation, and tonal instability, they are nonetheless present. Both levels of repetition in the second appearance of the first theme are summarized in Table 3 below.

Table 3: Patterns of Repetition in mm. 98-140

The large-scale form of the Second Ballade also manifests the literary ballad’s structure on various levels. The music is highly sectional, with unusually sudden leaps between contrasting sections.[136] These large-scale sections, developing motives of the main themes, form a distinctive repetition pattern (ABAA’BA”BA) that is reminiscent of the alternating stanza pattern of a literary ballad. Independently, the reappearance of the opening of the first theme in its original version (in a melodic, not tonal sense) at key stages of the drama functions almost like a refrain in a song (or a ritornello in rondo form), thus emphasizing the repetitive quality of the genre. In addition, as Parakilas observes, the large-scale form of Chopin’s Ballades develops in three stages (each made of contrasting scenes based on the two themes and, in case of the Second Ballade, signaled by the appearance of the first theme) “as in the progression in the ballad process from the act of defiance to the movement toward reckoning to the reckoning itself.”[137] Furthermore, the elaborate generic mixture in the Second Ballade corresponds to mixture of poetic modes—lyric, epic, and dramatic—in the literary ballad. Chopin introduces the extremely contrasting genres of barcarolle-siciliano (I theme) and etude (II theme) without any transition (mm. 46-47), and then employs this generic contrast throughout the work. These two generic types, contrasting not only in tempo, mood, character, harmonic rhythm, tonal stability, and dynamics but also in extra-musical associations (the pastoral, introverted, archaic character of a siciliano versus the display-oriented, extroverted, contemporary etude) form one of the biggest conflicts of the work. This generic struggle is supplemented by a diabolical waltz, appearing in the first section of the Coda (mm. 169-188), and invoking the characteristics of a third, altogether different genre in the work. To stretch this analogy somewhat further, the siciliano perhaps represents the lyric and archaic elements of the ballad, the etude and its internal struggle symbolizes dramatic, while the uneasy invocation of the waltz, changed almost beyond recognition in the Coda, represents the supernatural elements of the literary ballad. All levels of large-scale form of the Second Ballade are summarized in Table 4 below.[138]

Table 4: Large-Scale Form of the Second Ballade

A strong influence of the literary ballad on the form of the Second Ballade is also illustrated by the employment of framing technique, again on all levels of the form (illustrated in Table 5 below). On a large-scale level, the first and second themes open the work and, in reverse order, close it, providing a symmetrical frame to the rest of the composition. [139]

Table 5: Examples of framing technique in the Second Ballade.

Interestingly, the large-scale thematic repetition pattern within this frame—AA’BA”—corresponds to the stanza pattern of the first theme. Chopin also employs framing on smaller levels throughout the work. For instance, the F major sections of the first theme (mm. 1-18 and mm. 27-46) frame its middle section (mm. 8-27), the first two appearances of the first theme (mm. 1-46 and mm. 83-95) frame the second theme and the following agitated figurations, while the unexpected invocation of the opening phrase of the first theme (mm. 115-123) is framed by its own agitated transformations (mm. 98-115 and mm. 123-140).

If the literary ballad’s syntax parallels the form of the Second Ballade, the semantic contents of the genre, intensified by their (possible) special meaning for Chopin, seem to reverberate in the musical discourse of the work. The key elements of a “ballad story”—including impartial Narrator, characters and their struggle, conflict and defiance, avoidance of retribution, and pre-destined world—together with themes of alienation, powerlessness, morbid anxiety, homelessness, and nostalgia, are suggested by the music of the Second Ballade. In the following discussion I attempt to identify these elements in the music. It is important to note that although some musical “events” may invite different interpretations in terms of their semantic meaning,[140]their existence, unusual in purely musical terms, suggests some kind of extra-musical meaning. In my opinion, this aspect of meaning in the Second Ballade corresponds to the most universal elements of a ballad archetype. Also, I would like to emphasize the contrapuntal nature of the following comments, for although I discuss the musical discourse of the Second Ballade in relation to particular elements of that discourse, all of these elements coincide in the music.

The most apparent influence of the “ballad story” on the music of the Second Ballade is in the overall structure of the work. The music of the Ballade tells one story, which develops from the beginning to the end. Although the themes reappear, they are never truly recapitulated but rather transformed, thus emphasizing the notion of progressive development typical of literary narrative. The tensions—tonal (the internal struggle between F major and A minor), thematic (conflict of two contrasting themes), and dynamic—rise towards the end of the composition, creating an end-weighted form. This rising intensity of the work leads to a final catastrophe (retribution)—the most usual outcome of the ballad story—particularly those of Mickiewicz.

The next aspect of a ballad archetype in the Second Ballade, obvious from the very first measures of the work, is a strong impression of tale-telling. This sense is created by compound duple meter and repetitive iambic rhythm. Although it is possible to consider the entire first theme as representing the “narrating function,” I agree with the more specific interpretation offered by Jim Samson, that the Narrator is represented in the music by a steady rhythmic tread.[141] This notion does not contradict the narrative quality of the first theme, but simultaneously disassociates the Narrator from a very “personal” and active first theme. Because the first theme is developed in the course of the work, it is “too involved” to represent the Narrator; rather it is one of the agents in the drama. However, if represented by iambic rhythm, the Narrator’s presence in the music is impersonal, somehow detached, but at the same time persistent. The Narrator establishes his authority from the very opening of the work, when the iambic rhythm is heard on its own, emerging out if silence without any melodic disruptions (repeated C octaves in mm. 1-2, see Example 1). The unusual upbeat of the first two measures creates an effect of anticipation and tale-telling. Even the beginning of the melody (in m. 3) appears out of thin air and is clear only in retrospect.

Example 1: The Second Ballade, mm. 1-4.

Having introduced himself, the Narrator constantly reasserts his presence (not only ruling the first theme, but also intruding upon the transition in mm. 63-69, dominating the dramatic dialogue in mm. 98-108 and 123-133, and in both transformations of the first theme in mm. 96-140 and 157-167; see Example 2), and he is entrusted to usher in the final commentary in mm. 197-201.[142]

Example 2: The Second Ballade, mm. 63-69, 98-108, 157-164.

Therefore, according to ballad rules, the Narrator introduces other characters and lets them act, but at the same time he is always present. It is also the Narrator’s right to say the last word. As a repeated rhythmic motive the Narrator of the Second Ballade can be present even as other characters (themes) speak or act, and also comment on their actions. For instance, in the transformation of the first theme (mm. 108-115 and 133-140), the Narrator (the left hand octaves) seems to be commenting on agitated chromatic surge of the right hand (see Example 3). Also, the Narrator’s rhythmic nature emphasizes his impartiality and impersonality, and allows the composer to reintroduce the Narrator at any stage of the drama.

Example 3: The Second Ballade, mm. 108-115.

The themes of the Second Ballade symbolize the next interesting element of the “ballad story” in the musical discourse. The two main themes of the work are unusual, very characteristic, and extremely contrasting to each other (in terms of tempo, genre, mood, key, harmonic rhythm, and dynamics). For Parakilas, the first theme (mm. 1-46) represents the narrative function, while the second theme (mm. 47-82) symbolizes the forces of conflict in the story.[143] It is easy to map this content onto the thematic development of the Second Ballade: the narrative is established in mm. 1-46, forces of conflict intrude in mm. 47-82, they influence (transform) the narrative (mm. 83-140), conflict intensifies (mm. 141-168) and leads to a final reckoning in mm. 169-204. However, since the forces of conflict in fact form part of the narrative, it is difficult to label only the first theme as representing the narrative function. Thus I propose to interpret the first theme as symbolizing the perfect world, in Parakilas’ terms “the nature of things,” defied later by the forces of conflict (the second theme). It is also possible to understand both themes as representing protagonists of the drama and thematic transformations as development of the story. However, before discussing their interactions, it is important to analyze the characteristics of the main themes.

The pastoral first theme seems to invoke a perfect world. Its clear F major (pastoral key) diatonicism, tonal stability (clearly articulated cadences, emphasis on tonic chords), steady Andantino tempo, repetitive structure, invocation of siciliano and soft dynamics all contribute to that effect. Moreover, the somewhat archaic aura of the theme (created by dominant pedal and pre-dominance of open fifths and fourths in the accompaniment) gives the theme a nostalgic quality, apparent from its first appearance. At the beginning of the Second Ballade this character belongs to the peaceful scenery and does not defy the “nature of things.” It emerges out of silence and drifts away into thin air (m. 46), all the while dominated by the persistent presence of the Narrator. In-sharp contrast to the first theme stands the agitated second theme. This “character” represents the conflict and morbid anxiety of the ballad world, intensified by the Presto con fuoco tempo, rapid figurations, tonal instability (avoidance of cadences, emphasis on diminished seventh chords, large-scale descending sequence—in mm. 47-54 and mm. 55-62) and fortissimo dynamics. It is this theme that commits an act of defiance and transforms the peaceful landscape of this Ballade—almost scattering the world of the first theme. This act must lead to reckoning and retribution, and change both characters in the process. At the beginning the two themes are alienated from each other in all possible ways—in terms of tonality, harmonic stability, tempo, genre, character, dynamics—and although they come back later in the work, they rather influence each other than interact (the themes are combined only once, in mm. 157-168, and they are never synthesized).

Following the act of defiance, the first theme appears in its original F major key and pianissimo dynamics (m. 83)—as though trying to bring back the “perfect world” of the beginning, only to fade away six measures later into a dramatic, uncomfortable silence (m.88). It tries again—this time appearing in A minor (mm. 89-92)—but even then it is powerless to restore the “nature of things,” and disintegrates into two-measure phrases. This failed attempt at restoration leads to the development towards the reckoning (mm. 98-140), where the first theme is influenced by the second theme (with its stretto, dense texture, fortissimo dynamics, and unstable tonality). In this forceful metamorphosis the first theme twice attempts a triumph (in mm. 108-115 and 133-140) with dramatic increases in texture, dynamics, and register, but is not allowed to achieve it (instead of completing both passages with cadences, Chopin continues his restless modulations with the unstable third inversion of the dominant seventh of the dominant of A minor in m. 115, and with the dominant seventh of d-minor—an “implied” tonic of the second appearance of the second theme—in m. 140; see Example 4).

Example 4: The Second Ballade, mm. 111-115, 136-140.

The first of these attempts is contradicted by a quotation of the first theme itself in its original piano dynamics in mm. 115-123 (see Example 5), and the second is rendered powerless by the reappearance of the second theme in m. 141.

Example 5: The Second Ballade, mm. 115-123.

The second theme changes even less, but its forceful and more tonally unstable (through implied d-minor tonality, or strong emphasis on subdominant harmony in A minor, in its first segment in mm. 141-146)[144]reappearance in mm. 141-156 leads to the reckoning in mm. 157-168, where agitated figurations of the second theme are combined with the opening phrase of the first theme (played in octaves marcato in a low register). Only at the moment of reckoning do the characters (themes) act at the same time. What remains is retribution, occurring in mm. 169-197, which touches the second theme (the forces of conflict or the character which committed the act of defiance) and a sad, nostalgic commentary by the first theme in mm. 197-201, bringing to mind a distant memory of the perfect world of the beginning.

The Ballade consists of the interplay of these two themes, and if the themes represent characters, these characters are undoubtedly engaged in a power struggle. The second theme, although agitated and full of anxiety, is powerless to win this struggle, and at the end it is upstaged by the quiet, pastoral first theme. The character representing “forces of conflict” has no chance against the character symbolizing “forces of nature absorbing the disturbance” and the relatively unchanging ballad world.[145]

The tonal structure of the Second Ballade is also unusual if analyzed in purely musical terms. The piece opens clearly in F major (the first theme—mm. 1-46—is in that key, and the F major tonality appears as late as the canonic imitations in mm. 129-133) and ends in A minor. This two-key scheme, however, can easily be related to the semantic content of the work. The internal struggle between F major and A minor tonalities may be related to structure of powerlessness in the ballad world; no matter how secure the F major beginning of the Second Ballade is, this key is powerless to assert itself as the main tonality of the piece and disappears half-way through. This powerlessness of the key of F major renders the first theme tonally uprooted and, in a sense, homeless. The theme is never allowed to return to its home key after the expressive rest in m. 88,[146] and concludes its tonal “pilgrimage” in a main key of the second theme rather than its own. In retrospect, this tonal instability of the Second Ballade tonally alienates the beginning of the work (mm. 1-46 in F major) from the rest of the composition (mostly in A minor). The powerlessness of F major tonality is related to one additional aspect of the ballad archetype, that is the fact that A minor seems to be pre-destined to win the tonal struggle of the work. Its destiny is already hinted at through constant emphasis on mediant tonality within the first statement of the first theme (mm. 1-46, the strongest presence of F major) which functions almost like the Narrator’s warnings in literary ballad—the seeds of the final tonal outcome are already present at the very beginning of the musical story. Moreover, A minor enters the tonal world of the Second Ballade together with the second theme (in m.47), it reappears with the second theme in mm. 141-156, and reaches its goal (standing on the dominant) when the second theme asserts its power at the moment of reckoning (mm. 157-168). It is not only connected to “forces of conflict,” but represents their power. When the second theme disappears after the retribution, the only remaining part of the “forces of conflict” in the piece is the A minor tonality. Although at this point it is reduced to a “disturbance” within the world of the first theme, it is nonetheless present to the end of the story and strong enough to change the character of the “perfect world” (the change of mode changes the mood of the first theme in mm. 197-201).

The de-emphasis of dominant sonority in the music of the Second Ballade, unusual in purely musical terms, makes perfect sense in terms of ballad narrative. The structural dominant does not arrive until m.157, where it turns into an eleven measure dominant pedal leading to the Coda—thus it appears at the last stage of the formal structure.[147] However, if related to the ballad archetype, this dominant arrival may represent the final reckoning, and its avoidance may symbolize avoidance of retribution on the part of the protagonists. Therefore, the arrival of the dominant must be postponed to the point when the two characters speak at the same time (the themes are combined in mm. 157-168) and when the forces of conflict become most prominent in order to set the stage for retribution (when the A minor tonality, unstable to this point, is firmly established). In addition, although it may be considerably delayed, the arrival of the dominant is unavoidable in tonal music; its avoidance is as powerless as the avoidance of retribution by the protagonists of the ballad story.

Another interesting problem in the music of the Second Ballade is created by the issue of past and present. Although on the surface each performance of the work simply presents musical events in the “present tense,” this uniformity seems more complex with regards to particular sections of the composition in relation to each other. The archaic, steady sotto voce character of the first theme itself invokes a sense of past at the very beginning of the Ballade and its subsequent reappearance only magnifies that sense. When the first theme fades away in m.88 after a dramatic pause, it forces the listener to remember its first appearance (it almost wants the listener to complete it) and creates a sense of its own past. This sense of the past tense is only intensified by the appearance of the first theme in mm. 115-123 (see Example 5), where it sounds like a distant echo of itself, again bringing to mind its past versions.

Finally, the last rendition of the first theme (mm. 197-201, see Example 6), nostalgic and distant, brings that perception of the past (through the listener’s memory of its previous appearances) to the extreme. A sense of nostalgia is created here by a very clear invocation of the beginning of the piece, with its open octaves appearing out of silence and emphasizing the irregular upbeat, followed by the emerging melody of the first theme.

Example 6: The Second Ballade, mm. 197-201.

Contrary to this sense of past tense, however, the canonic imitations at previous statements in mm. 98-108 and 123-133 resemble a dialogue and create a sense of dramatic present tense. A similar effect is created by the impetuous, urgent surges of the second theme and the emotional outbursts of the Coda.

Finally, the other-worldly character of the Coda (mm. 169-204) can be related to a ballad archetype. The Coda of the Second Ballade brings neither thematic synthesis nor apotheosis. Instead, it invokes a distorted, tonally unstable, and almost diabolical waltz (mm. 169-185) followed by a struggling, fiery re-statement of the second theme (mm. 189-197) and chorale-like, resigned appearance of the first theme (mm. 197-201)—in short, it brings catastrophe followed by a sad reference to the beginning. This content of the Coda corresponds to demands of ballad genre: it brings fiery retribution to forces of conflict (the second theme) and restores the previous order of things. A distorted invocation of a waltz—completely alienated here in both the formal and generic sense—may represent the otherworldly, supernatural element of the ballad world. The first two parts of the Coda form the climax of the musical story with extreme dynamics, registerial contrasts, virtuosity, and tonal incoherence. This diabolical climax ends abruptly and tonally unresolved on the French augmented sixth chord in m.197, completing only the retribution stage of the drama. The restoration is left to the chorale-like statement of the first theme. Here the Coda produces an aura of morbidity, but also reinforces the unquestionable authority of the Narrator (the clearly stated iambic rhythm) and finally resolves the tonal conflicts with a cadence in A minor.

Chopin’s Second Ballade is difficult to understand in purely musical terms; the ambiguous form, sectional structure, extreme internal contrasts, puzzling ending, and two-key scheme have invited extra-musical interpretations since its earliest days. Although all kinds of distinctive readings of the music reflect the various aesthetic and ideological changes in cultural history over the past century and a half, the mere fact that the Ballades have caused such different (and often contrary) appropriations seems to suggest that a consensus has emerged that the most fruitful way to listen to the works is with some recognition of extra-musical allusion. Many readings identify and emphasize some kind of ‘otherness’ expressed in the music; from Mallefille’s “path of the Exiles” to Berger’s historical narrative of the Great Emigration, most authors hear a distinctive narrative sequence, most often with nationalistic overtones, in the musical discourse of Chopin’s Ballades. The Second Ballade can be considered an excellent example of this.

My interpretation of Chopin’s narrative ties the ideology of the Great Emigration—expressed through themes of alienation, powerlessness, homelessness, morbidity, pilgrimage and nostalgia—to the generic title of Ballades and thus to the collection of Mickiewicz’s poems. Mickiewicz’s Ballady share with Chopin’s piano compositions not only the same title, but also similar semantic content—a story of alienation and powerlessness, relevant to the plots of the poems and emotional content of the music. I believe that a firm case can be made that the syntax and semantic content of Mickiewicz’s Ballady are paralleled in the form and musical discourse of the Second Ballade. Moreover, this parallel may well explain the tonal and formal anomalies of the work on the level of compositional intent. Striking analogies in the lives and works of Chopin and Mickiewicz—their common experiences, similar reactions to contemporary events (particularly the collapse of the November Uprising) and lives in exile—only contribute to the validity of this perspective. As the intellectual leader of the Great Emigration, Mickiewicz defined its ideology in his most esoteric works, both written in 1832: Dziady Cz III and Księgi Narodu Polskiego i Pielgrzymstwa Polskiego. The same ideology, expressed through identical images, is echoed in Chopin’s letters. More importantly, it may be plausibly connected to his music, being responsible for its national character and everything that was classified by Parisian audiences as “morbid, exotic, and nostalgic” in Chopin’s works. If Mickiewicz’s works defined the ideology of the Great Emigration, some of Chopin’s most important compositions reflected its emotional content to the fullest extent. Both artists reflected upon the reality of their existence in their works, and that reality was, for both poet and composer, a story of their generation’s alienation and powerlessness, a story expressed in Mickiewicz’s Ballady and sublimated in Chopin’s Ballades. Considering Chopin’s aesthetics and his claim that “. . . it’s up to the listener to complete the picture,”[148] the story of alienation and powerlessness and the collection of Mickiewicz’s Ballady may represent an interesting possibility to “complete the picture” of the Second Ballade.


[1]. Adam Mickiewicz, Romantyczność, translated by George Rapall Noyes and Jewell Parish, in Adam Mickiewicz: Selected Poetry and Prose (Warsaw: Polonia Publishing House, 1955), 27-28. [Back]

[2]. Karol Berger, “Chopin’s Ballade Op. 23 and the Revolution of the Intellectuals,” in Chopin Studies 2, ed. John Rink and Jim Samson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 72-83. [Back]

[3]. I intentionally use an original Polish word Ballady in reference to Mickiewicz’s poems, and English term Ballades in reference to Chopin’s compositions. Mickiewicz’s poems are not generally known to English speaking readers and, as poems, they are closely related to the original language; therefore, I decided to refer to these works as Ballady. Chopin’s Ballades are an important part of musical repertoire, and therefore should be referred to by their proper title. This distinction lets the reader to easily distinguish between poems and piano works. That notwithstanding, it is important to notice that in Polish both poems and piano works have identical title of Ballady (Ballada for a single work). [Back]

[4]. Robert Schumann, On Music and Musicians, 143. The key sentence of this excerpt, dealing with Mickiewicz’s poems as inspiration for Chopin’s Ballades is mistranslated here; in the original version of Schumann’s review it reads Er sprach damals auch davon, das er zu seinen Balladen durch einige Gedichte von Mickiewicz angeregt worden sei (Gesammelte Schriften über Musik und Musiker, vol.II, 32), which should be translated as “…he was inspired to write his Ballades by some poems of Mickiewicz.” This difference is of crucial importance, since it indicates that the Ballades in general (or at least the First and Second Ballades as the only compositions written up to date) were inspired by Mickiewicz’s poetry instead of the Second Ballade only. [Back]

[5]. Karol Berger, “Chopin’s Ballade Op. 23,” 77. [Back]

[6]. Ibid., 76-77. [Back]

[7]. James Parakilas, Ballads Without Words: Chopin and the Tradition of the Instrumental Ballade (Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press, 1992), 22-23. [Back]

[8]. Karol Berger, “Chopin’s Ballade Op. 23 and the Revolution of the Intellectuals,” 73, 76-77; James Parakilas, Ballads Without Words: Chopin and the Tradition of Instrumental Ballade, 26. [Back]

[9]. Although not in the strictest sense; interestingly enough, both Chopin and Mickiewicz left Poland before the November Uprising and they did not take part in the actual fighting. However, they identified themselves with the Great Emigration and, judging from Chopin’s letters and Mickiewicz’s works, they always thought of themselves as a part of the Great Emigration and were seen as belonging to it by their compatriots.[Back]

[10]. This is also observed by Berger, in “Chopin’s Ballade Op. 23,” 77. [Back]

[11]. This is not to say that I share Lubov Keefer’s argument of Chopin’s “intellectual inferiority” (presented in her article “The Influence of Adam Mickiewicz on the Ballades of Chopin “). However, most of Chopin’s letters written in French are very short and end with apologies regarding his style or spelling (for instance his letter to George Sand of December 5, 1844, or a letter to his friend Franchomme of August 6, 1848), which never occur in his letters written in Polish. In fact, some of Chopin’s biographers mention his inadequacies in expressing himself in French. According to Liszt, Chopin avoided writing in French and preferred to speak Polish: “it is said that he departed from this habit [not writing notes to his friends] in favor of his lovely countrywomen, some of whom hold several notes in his hand, written in Polish. This breach of what could have been taken as a law with him is explainable by the pleasure he had in speaking that language. He used it by choice with his family and was happy in translating its most expressive phrases. He was highly skilled in French, . . . and because of his French origin it had been taught to him with special care. But he was prejudiced against it and criticized it for being displeasing to the ear and cold in essence.” (Frederic Chopin, 122). Chopin’s linguistic problems are also reported by his pupil Georges Mathias, who claimed that Chopin could not write well in French (in Mathias’ letter to I. Philipp, quoted in A. Czartkowski and Z. Jeewska’s Fryderyk Chopin, 393). According to Niecks, Chopin spoke French with a foreign accent, and he quotes Chopin’s pupil Gutmann who testified that Chopin “sometimes began a letter twenty times, and finally flung down the pen and said: ‘I’ll go and tell her [or ‘him’ as the case might be] myself'” (Frederick Chopin as a Man and Musician, Vol. 2, 173). According to Zieliński, Chopin not only spoke French with a strong Polish accent, but also with mistakes (Chopin: Życie i Droga Twórcza, 287). Also, as Parakilas observes, “in the two decades Chopin lived in France (from 1831 to his death in 1849), he never set a text in French” (Ballads Without Words, 22). In case of his literary tastes, according to Niecks, Chopin also preferred Polish literature: “if Chopin neglected French literature—not to speak of other ancient and modern literatures—he paid some attention to that of his native country; at any rate, new publications of Polish books were generally to be found on his table.” (Frederick Chopin as a Man and Musician, Vol.2, 164). Also Mathias testified that Chopin’s favorite reading consisted of Polish poetry and that a volume of Mickiewicz’s poetry was always present on Chopin’s table (in a letter to I. Philipp, quoted in A. Czartkowski and Z.Jeżewska’s Fryderyk Chopin, 393). In his letters Chopin mentions books of poetry three times: in his letter to Biaobocki of January 8, 1827 he writes about buying Mickiewicz’s poetry, in his letter to Fontana of March 13, 1839 Chopin mentions receiving Mickiewicz’s Forefathers’ Eve, and in an undated letter of summer 1841 to Fontana Chopin asks his friend to buy him Witwicki’s Evenings of a Pilgrim. All of nineteen Chopin’s songs are set to Polish poems: ten of them to texts by Witwicki, three to texts by Zaleski, two to texts by Mickiewicz, and the three remaining songs to texts by Krasiński, Osiński, and Wincenty Pol. [Back]

[12]. Two of the earliest references to literary works in Chopin’s correspondence are related to Mickiewicz’s poetry. The first reference is contained in Chopin’s letter to his friend Jan Biaobocki dated on January 8, 1827, in which Chopin mentions buying Mickiewicz’s poetry (which at that time could only mean either Ballady i Romanse [Ballads and Romances] or Dziady Cz II [Forefather’s Eve, Part II]. The second reference comes from a letter to Biaobocki dated March 14, 1827. In it, describing a humorous misunderstanding, Chopin concludes “It’s a pity Mickiewicz isn’t here; he would have written a Ballad called ‘The Cook'”[in Chopin’s Letters, 35]. Consequently, there can be no doubt that Chopin knew Mickiewicz’s Ballady by March 1827. [Back]

[13]. Prior to the 1795 partition, Vilno was part of Poland. [Back]

[14]. This Insurrection, known also as November Uprising because it was begun in November of 1830, was the first in a series of Polish uprisings in a fight for national liberation following the partitions of Poland between Prussia, Austria, and Russia at the end of the eighteenth century (the last partition took place in 1795). [Back]

[15]. Examples of this repression included death penalties or exile to Siberia for any members of the Polish independent government from the time of the Insurrection; abandonment of the Polish constitution, parliament, and army; the closure of Warsaw University, Music Conservatory, scientific organizations; and intense censorshi [Back]

[16]. Lewis Namier, 1848: The Revolution of the Intellectuals (Garden City: Anchor Books, 1964), 53. [Back]

[17]. For the exact distribution of the 1831 emigration, see Namier’s 1848: The Revolution of the Intellectuals, 53. [Back]

[18]. The Great Emigration included members of the National Government Adam Czartoryski, Joachim Lelewel, Bonawentura Niemojowski, Teodor Morawski; generals Józef Bem and Skrzynecki; politicians and writers Maurycy Mochnacki, Andrzej Plichta, Ludwik Plater; writers Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki, Stefan Witwicki, Bohdan Zaleski (the last two were Chopin’s friends from Warsaw). [Back]

[19]. Lewis Namier, 1848: The Revolution of the Intellectuals, 52. [Back]

[20]. The main question facing the politicians was their stand in regards to serfdom, for if the peasants were given lands, they would probably join the gentry in their fight against Russians. [Back]

[21]. Lewis Namier, 1848: The Revolution of the Intellectuals, 52. [Back]

[22]. The National Government particularly counted on France’s support, which never materialized.[Back]

[23]. Lewis Namier, 1848: The Revolution of the Intellectuals, 57. [Back]

[24]. Particularly in his Ksęigi Narodu Polskiego i Pielgrzymstwa Polskiego [The Books of the Polish Nation and of the Polish Pilgrims] written in 1832, and also in his Dziady, Część III [The Forefathers’ Eve, Part III], written in 1831. [Back]

[25]. Thus, although Chopin and many members of the Great Emigration were not Messianists, they were still influenced by the ideology of the émigré circles. That is, they felt alienated and powerless in an existential sense, and they believed in necessity of pan-European war to bring the liberation of Poland. As Berger claims, “they all shared with the European revolutionary intellectuals of the period a common vision of history and of their place in it, a vision—driven by the ideology of national sovereignty—of the coming pan-European revolution and war” (“Chopin’s Ballade Op. 23,” 76). Chopin mentions Messianism in three of his letters; in a letter to Fontana of September 13, 1841, referring to the most fiery believers of Messianism, he wrote: “Shall we ever get back to our own land!!! Have they gone quite mad?! I’m not afraid for Mickiewicz and Sobaski; they’re solid heads, they can stand exile, they won’t lose either their senses or their energy” (Chopin’s Letters, 239). The other two references to Messianism can be found in Chopin’s undated letter of September 1841 to Fontana (Chopin’s Letters, 240), and in his letter of March 1845 (indicated as Easter 1845) to Witwicki, where Chopin writes: “Mickiewicz is not in the same relations with Towiaski [a religious mystic and founder of Messianistic sect, to which Mickiewicz belonged and later abandoned] as before. Towiaski declares that they have overweighted the thing, that they have gone too far. In a word: disputes; so no doubt it will come to a melancholy end.” (Chopin’s Letters, 281). [Back]

[26]. Andrzej Walicki, Philosophy and Romantic Nationalism: The Case of Poland (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 242. [Back]

[27]. Ibid., 248. [Back]

[28]. James Parakilas, Ballads Without Words, 24. [Back]

[29]. Andrzej Walicki, Philosophy and Romantic Nationalism, 76-77.[Back]

[30]. Karol Berger, “Chopin’s Ballade, Op. 23,” 74. [Back]

[31]. This fact is emphasized by most of Chopin’s biographers, including Chomiski, Iwaszkiewicz, Samson, Siepmann, Murdoch, and Zieliński. [Back]

[32]. Jim Samson, The Music of Chopin (London: Routledge & Kegan, 1985), 12-13. [Back]

[33]. Jeremy Siepmann, Chopin: The Reluctant Romantic (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1995), 81-82. [Back]

[34]. As they are described by other people, mostly Liszt and George Sand. [Back]

[35]. Jeremy Siepmann, Chopin: The Reluctant Romantic, 81. [Back]

[36]. Their road to emigration was similar: Chopin left Poland on November 2, 1830 (only four weeks before the November Insurrection), for an artistic trip to Vienna, while Mickiewicz left Russia in mid-May of 1829 for a trip to Germany and Italy. Both artists left with legal Russian passports, and never suspected that they would not return to their homeland again. News of the Uprising reached Chopin in Vienna in early December, and Mickiewicz in Rome in mid December of 1830. They both declared their intentions to take part in the fighting, and, while Chopin’s exclamations seem at the very least overstated and difficult to take seriously, Mickiewicz’s seem more sincere. In his letter of January 1, 1831, Chopin wrote to his friend Jan Matuszyski (who joined the insurrection army), describing his own inaction and his emotions: “My Best Friend in the world, you have what you wanted. I don’t know what I am doing. . . . Today is New Year, —how sadly I begin it! Perhaps I shall not end it. Embrace me. You are going to the war. Come back a colonel. Good luck to you all. Why can’t I even beat the drum!” (Chopin’s Letters, 135-36). While this emotional outburst indicates that Chopin at least considered joining the Insurrection, more importantly, in this and other letters of the winter of 1830/31, Chopin began to express feelings of the exile—loneliness and alienation intensified by his own inaction. For his own part, Mickiewicz did not reach Poland in time to take part in the Uprising. Instead, he moved to German Poland in the summer of 1831, to Dresden in March of 1832 and subsequently to Paris in July of 1832. Chopin left Vienna in July of 1831 for Munich and Stuttgart, and reached Paris in November of that year. Although both Mickiewicz and Chopin had not done anything illegal in the eyes of the Russian government up to this point, they decided not to return and declared themselves exiles (Mickiewicz renounced his Russian passport as soon as he heard about the suppression of the Uprising and therefore could not return to Poland, while Chopin entered into conflict with Russian authorities through obtaining a residence permit in Paris). This is not to say that I believe that Chopin would have stayed in Poland. Warsaw had little to offer him in terms of artistic development and he probably would have left Poland in the future. But he would have probably visit his family and friends were it not for political reasons. Also, his nostalgia must have been intensified by the fact that he could not go back to his homeland, not to mention continuous relations with other émigrés in Paris, who, were it not for the collapse of the Uprising, would not have been there. In fact, the existence of the Great Emigration, although providing Chopin with cultural and ideological background, in some ways intensified his isolation in Paris—otherwise perhaps he might have become more of an international artist. The fact remains that leaving Poland in November 1830 Chopin did not expect never to return. [Back]

[37]. Chopin’s closest friends in Paris included also Jan Matuszyński, Wojciech Grzymała, and Antoni Wodziński. Poles were also Chopin’s first audience in Paris; according to Atwood, at Chopin’s first concert in Paris on February 26, 1832 “Most of those present were members of the Polish diaspora” (in Fryderyk Chopin: Pianist from Warsaw, 60). [Back]

[38]. According to Niecks, “. . . his most intimate friends were Poles, and this was so in the aristocratic as well as in the conventionally less elevated circles. However pleasant his relations with the Rothschilds may have been . . . —they can have been but of small significance in comparison with almost passionate attachment he had to Prince Alexander Czartoryski and his wife the Princess Marcelline,” “Chopin often accorded to persons of his own country what he would not accord to anyone else—namely, the right of disturbing his habits; . . . he would sacrifice his time, money, and comfort to people who were perhaps unknown to him the day before” and “indeed, anything Polish had an especial charm and value for Chopin. Absence from his native country so far from diminishing increased his love for it”; in Frederick Chopin, 165, 164. According to Zieliński, Chopin’s two aunts (his father’s sisters) lived in Marainville, in Chopin: Życie i Droga Twórcza, 287. [Back]

[39]. The quote comes from Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, translated by E. L. Voynich (Desmond Harmsworth, 1932), 166.[Back]

[40]. Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, translated by Edward N. Waters (London: Collier-Macmillan, 1963), 148, 113. [Back]

[41]. Such as the Polish Polytechnic Society, established in 1835; according to Chomiński (in Chopin, 82). Although it seems unusual that the composer would belong to a scientific society, Chopin seemed to be genuinely interested in scientific discoveries. In his letter of October 11, 1846 to his family, he mentions the discovery of the planet Neptune, with a comment “What a triumph for science, to be able to arrive at such a discovery by means of calculation,” the invention of guncotton, and the construction of Euphonia—”a very ingenious automaton, which . . . pronounces fairly clearly not one or two words, but long sentences” (in Chopin’s Letters, 308).

According to Niecks (Frederick Chopin, 165), Chopin’s pupil Georges Mathias (in his letter to I. Philipp of February 12, 1897), Chomiński (Chopin, 83) and Zieliński (Chopin: Życie i Droga Twórcza, 286). Chopin also gave benefit concerts for Polish exiles; in Paris on April 4, 1835, and in London on November 16, 1848 (Chopin’s last public concert). [Back]

[42]. Mickiewicz was the chairman of Slavonic Literature at the College de France in Paris from 1840-44. Chopin attended Mickiewicz’s lectures accompanied by George Sand. According to Chomiski (Chopin, 120, 132), Chopin translated Mickiewicz’s poetry for George Sand on some occasions. In 1839 Chopin translated Dziady impromptu for her study on Goethe, Byron, and Mickiewicz (entitled Essai sur le drame fantastique: Goethe, Byron et Mickiewicz, and published on December 1, 1839 in Revue des Deux Mondes), and in 1840 he translated some poetry for Sand’s article on Mickiewicz. Chopin refers to George Sand’s article in three of his letters to Grzymała: in a letter dated March 27, 1839 (in which he describes George Sand’s essay and hopes it will influence dissemination of Mickiewicz’s poetry), in a letter of April 16, 1839, and in a letter dated September 4, 1848. However, although in his letters Chopin discusses George Sand’s study with great admiration, he does not mention translating Mickiewicz’s drama (in fact, in a letter of March 27, 1839, he asks Grzymała who translated Dziady to French). Nonetheless, it is possible that Chopin was looking for proper French translation even though he translated the drama for George Sand’s article. Otherwise either Chomiski is mistaken here, or he had access to more specific sources. In her essay, George Sand praised Mickiewicz’s Dziady and equated the drama with Faust and Manfred.[Back]

[43]. The understanding of Chopin’s role by the émigrés may be illustrated by their repeated requests for Chopin to compose a national opera (which was repeatedly argued by Elsner, Mickiewicz, and Witwicki among others). Chopin never composed an opera, but his opera plans went as far as asking Polish poet Stanisław Koźmian to write a libretto based on facts from Polish history.

While discussing the analogies between Chopin and Mickiewicz, it is worth noting some other similarities: both Chopin and Mickiewicz strongly valued their youthful friendships with male friends; both Chopin and Mickiewicz were noted as geniuses of improvisation; Chopin’s music was always described as poetic, while Mickiewicz’s poetry is full of references to music.[Back]

[44]. The part of Poland under Russian partition, which prior to the November Uprising enjoyed limited political and cultural autonomy under Russian rule. Cf. Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, Chopin (Krakow: Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne, 1984), 151-52. [Back]

[45]. Karol Berger, “Chopin’s Ballade, Op. 23,” 76. [Back]

[46]. Berger adapts these elements of their self-understanding from an essay by Maria Janion and Maria migrodzka entitled “Frédéric Chopin parmi les héros de l’existence du romantisme polonais.” In “Chopin’s Ballade, Op. 23,” 82-83.[Back]

[47]. This drama was written by Mickiewicz in Dresden in Spring of 1832 (following the collapse of the November Uprising), and published after his arrival in Paris in summer of that year. It consists of a prologue, nine scenes, and a sequence of six poems. The drama tells the story of a metamorphosis of Romantic hero Gustav into Konrad, the embodiment of his nation’s martyrdom and the champion of its freedom, set against background of contemporary Polish history. According to Krzyżanowski, “the loose structure of this dramatic poem, in which some saw a revival of the traditional mediaeval miracle plays, makes possible the linking of a dozen or so pictures, scenes with individual characters and above all collective scenes, both realistic and fantastic, which despite appearances go to make up one uniform whole, for all of them are associated directly or at least indirectly with the story of Conrad” and it is “the moving masterpiece, immediately recognized as the greatest achievement of Polish poetry”; in History of Polish Literature (Warsaw: Polish Scientific Publishers, 1978), 242-43.

Adam Mickiewicz, Dziady Cz III, in Selected Poetry and Prose, translated by Dorothea Prall Radin, 94. This and the following quotations come from Konrad’s Great Improvisation—the esoteric and highly symbolic poetic expression of his spiritual struggle and rebirth. The Great Improvisation is generally considered one of the greatest works of Polish literature, and it forms Scene 2 of the first act of Dziady Cz III.[Back]

[48]. This quotation may be understood in two ways: Mickiewicz’s “song”—his poetry—is misunderstood in exile because its medium is language; Chopin’s “song”—his music—is not limited by ramifications of language (according to Parakilas, Chopin’s choice to compose Ballades was an attempt to “embody his nationalist sentiments and yet to win the acclaim of a European public indifferent to the fate of Poland and to Polish culture” and to “evoke, without language, a nationalism defined by language”; in Ballads Without Words, 26-27). Still, even Chopin’s music was described in Paris as foreign and exotic. Moreover, both artists were alienated and misunderstood in an existential sense—their “songs” were too national for audience in exile to understand. [Back]

[49]. Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, 148. [Back]

[50]. In Dziady Cz III Konrad personifies Mickiewicz himself. The drama alludes to Mickiewicz’s trial and imprisonment in November of 1823 (until May of 1824, followed by his banishment to central Russia) for his involvement in youth clandestine organizations. According to Helszetyski, “Konrad stands for the poet himself, who, in a powerful outburst of patriotism wrangles with God for the sake of Poland, crushed by the Russian army in the uprising of 1830” (Selected Poetry and Prose, 190). The quote comes from: Adam Mickiewicz, Dziady Cz III, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 98. [Back]

[51]. Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, 131. This letter is often linked to the origins of Chopin’s Scherzo in B-minor, with its emotional outbursts and tranquil, almost ethereal quotation of the Polish Christmas CarolLulajże Jezuniu in the middle section [Iwaszkiewicz links the emotional content of Scherzo in B-minor with Mickiewicz’s Dziady Cz III (in Chopin, 135)].[Back]

[52]. In the original Polish version of Chopin’s letter he writes here “I thought of mournful harmonies.” [Back]

[53]. The letter was written on September 8, 1831; cf. Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, 150. [Back]

[54]. Adam Mickiewicz, Dziady Cz III, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 99.[Back]

[55]. Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, 149. Jaś and Wiluś are probably the names of Chopin’s friends; Jaś is most likely Jan Matuszyński.Sowiski was a general of Polish army, Paszkiewicz a Russian general; they took part in battle of Warsaw in September 1831. [Back]

[56]. “Moscow rules the world”—this sentence is mistranslated here: Chopin uses the word “Moskal,” which means Russian, or, literally, the inhabitant of Moscow—thus, it should be read “Russians, or Muscovites, rule the world.” Also, in Polish version of the Diary, as presented by Zieliński in Chopin: Życie i droga twórcza ( 236), this portion is followed by “They burned the city!! Ah, why couldn’t I kill at least one Russian?,” omitted in the English version as translated by Voynich. [Back]

[57]. Adam Mickiewicz, Dziady Part III, in Selected poetry and Prose, 105. This analogy between Chopin’s Diary and Konrad’s monologue is also noted by Berger in his essay “Chopin’s Ballade Op. 23,” 76. [Back]

[58]. Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, 303.[Back]

[59]. Adam Mickiewicz, Pan Tadeusz, Prologue adopted from Polish verse into English prose by George Rapall Noyes, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 119.[Back]

[60]. Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, 383. [Back]

[61]. Adam Mickiewicz, “Pieśń Pielgrzyma,” translated by George Rapall Noyes and Doris Durst, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 88. [Back]

[62]. Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, 182.[Back]

[63]. Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, 349.[Back]

[64]. Many of Mickiewicz’s characters are either orphans or homeless: Gustav and Konrad of Dziady are homeless, while Tadeusz and Zosia, the main characters of Pan Tadeusz, are introduced as orphans (the identity of Tadeusz’s father is revealed at the end of the poem). [Back]

[65]. Adam Mickiewicz, “Pieśń Pielgrzyma,” in Selected Poetry and Prose, 88. [Back]

[66]. Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, 397.[Back]

[67]. Ibidem, 132. [Back]

[68]. Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, 139. This quotation is taken from Chopin’s letter to Matuszyński, dated Spring 1831. It is interesting to note how often both Chopin and Mickiewicz refer to dreams and dream-like states. Chopin mentions dreams repeatedly in his letters (an interesting example is his letter to Fontana of August 11, 1841, where Chopin actually mentions dreaming of dying: “I once dreamed that I had died in a hospital; and it stuck so fast in my head that it seems to me like yesterday. If you outlive me, you will know whether to believe in dreams; a few years ago I dreamed of other things, but my dreams did not come true. And now I dream awake”; in Chopin’s Letters, 231), while Konrad’s revelation of being freed from the prison comes in a dream; he also considers the nature of dreams: “But dreams? —Ah, that silent, speechless, mysterious world,/ The life of the soul—is not that worthy of man’s inquiry?” (translated by David Welsh, in Adam Mickiewicz, 78) and compares them to memories [Back]

[69]. This quote comes from Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, 148, the segment quoted after the following sentence is taken from 149-50 of the same letter. It is interesting to note that among other similarities, both Chopin’s Stuttgart Diary and Mickiewicz’s Great Improvisation were written at night. According to the legend, Mickiewicz wrote the Great Improvisation during one night, finished it and collapsed of exhaustion at sunrise.[Back]

[70]. Ibidem, 150. [Back]

[71]. Gustav is a hero of Dziady Cz IV [Forefathers’ Eve Part IV] published in 1823. He is a self-dramatizing Romantic hero, totally immersed in his personal suffering caused by unhappy love. [Back]

[72]. “Gustav died November 1823,” “Konrad born here, November 1823.” In Selected Poetry and Prose, 95. [Back]

[73]. Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, 166.[Back]

[74]. Adam Mickiewicz, “Pieśń Pielgrzyma,” in Selected Poetry and Prose, 88. [Back]

[75]. This and the following quotation is from Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, 149. [Back]

[76]. Ibid., 393. This quotation is taken from Chopin’s letter to Mlle de Rozieres, dated October 20, 1848. [Back]

[77]. Adam Mickiewicz, Dziady Cz III, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 105. There are other powerless characters in Dziady, for instance Mme. Rollison who is powerless to save her son, Sobolewski who is powerless to help children condemned to Russian exile, and Januszkiewicz who is powerless to force Cichowski into telling the history of his imprisonment. [Back]

[78]. Adam Mickiewicz, Dziady Cz III, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 102-103. [Back]

[79]. Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin’s Letters, 135. This letter is dated December 26, 1830. [Back]

[80]. Ibid., 148. This quotation is taken from Chopin’s notebook, dated in Spring 1831. The letter to Fontana is quoted from 367 of Chopin’s Letters. [Back]

[81]. The poem was written in 1834 in Paris and it consists of twelve Books. [Back]

[82]. Adam Mickiewicz, Pan Tadeusz, Prologue, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 119, 120. [Back]

[83]. Adam Mickiewicz, Pan Tadeusz, translated by Maude Ashurst, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 122. Mickiewicz refers here to Lithuania, his native region (he was a Pole born at Lithuania, which, since 1384 until the partition of 1795, formed a political confederation with the Kingdom of Poland). [Back]

[84]. And indeed, of all times. The Romantic notion of pilgrimage originated in Romantic philosophy (the concept of divided and alienated man) as well as in the Platonian conception of life as eternal circular procession from and towards the One (metaphysical unity identified with Goodness) and in the Christian conception of life as a linear journey identified by division from God through sin, redemption, and reintegration. Various manifestations of these archetypes include the myths of Odysseus, Orfeo, and Hercules; Biblical stories of the exodus and the prodigal son; the myth of the Wandering Jew, and the legends of the wandering knights of the Middle Ages. The Romantic conception of pilgrimage was particularly formulated by German philosophers Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. Progressive self-improvement, as postulated by Mickiewicz towards exiles, is discussed by Hegel in his Phenomenology of the Spirit. Some of the most prominent Romantic personifications of the wanderer/pilgrim archetype include Byron’s Child Harold and Giaur, to some degree Goethe’s Faust, and Wagner’s heroes such as the Flying Dutchman, Tannhauser, Lohengrin, and Parsifal. [Back]

[85]. An image of pilgrim and pilgrimage appear in many of Mickiewicz’s poems, such as “The Pilgrim’s Song,” “Petersburg,” and the pilgrim as the narrator of “Crimean Sonnets.” [Back]

[86]. Adam Mickiewicz, Ksigi Narodu Polskiego i Pielgrzymstwa Polskiego, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 113. [Back]

[87]. Ibidem, 116. [Back]

[88]. According to Liszt, Chopin would quote the sign in his passport, intended for trip to London, which said “passing through Paris”; in Frederic Chopin, 147. [Back]

[89]. According to Berger, Mallefille referred to either the First or the Second Ballade; in “Chopin’s Ballade Op. 23,” 81. Probst’s letter is quoted by Kallberg in his essay “Chopin in the Marketplace: Aspects of the International Music Publishing Industry in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century,” Notes 39 (1982/83), 812. [Back]

[90]. Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, 91-92. [Back]

[91]. As Liszt testified in an account cited previously.[Back]

[92]. The publication of Mickiewicz’s first collection of poems (which included Ballady i Romanse, considered a manifesto of Polish Romanticism) in 1822 stirred a fiery debate between the writers of the older generation and classical orientation (represented by Kazimierz Brodziski and Jan niadecki) and the young Romantics (Mickiewicz, Stefan Witwicki, Adam Zaleski among others). As Zofia Lissa observes, this aesthetic debate of 1820s coincided with Chopin formative years. According to Lissa, Chopin knew the Ballady since his adolescence, he was involved in literary discussions (his personal friends included Witwicki and Zaleski, while Brodziski was a friend of Chopin’s father and a frequent guest in Chopin’s home) and attended Brodziski’s lectures in aesthetics and Polish literature in 1826. Moreover, Lissa claims that Warsaw society of that time (with daily discussions in the cafés and over twenty literary periodicals published regularly) had a decisive influence on Chopin’s views on literature in general and on his creation of piano ballad genre in particular (in Studia nad Twórczoci Fryderyka Chopina, 77-80).[Back]

[93]. Nationalistic aspects of ballads in general are argued by James Parakilas in Ballads Without Words, 26, while nationalistic elements of Mickiewicz’s Ballady are also emhasized by David Welsh in Adam Mickiewicz,20. [Back]

[94]. According to Welsh, in Adam Mickiewicz (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1966), 19. [Back]

[95]. Ibid., 19. [Back]

[96]. Ibid., 20. [Back]

[97]. “Ballad” in Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol.1, 837.[Back]

[98]. David Welsh, Adam Mickiewicz, 18-19. [Back]

[99] Mickiewicz’s collection Ballady i Romanse of 1822 includes nine ballads: Romantyczność [Romanticism], Świteź [Świteź Lake], Świtezianka [Naiad of Świteź, sometimes translated as The Nixie], Rybka [The Fish],Powrót Taty [Father’s Return], To Lubię [This I Like], Pani Twardowska [Mrs. Twardowska, sometimes translated as Twardowski’s Wife], Tukaj albo Próby przyjaźni [Tukaj or the Tests of Friendship], and Lilije [The Lilies]. My discussion of Ballady will be largely based in these ballads, since this collection was most popular, stirred artistic debates in Chopin’s youth, and some of these poems are quoted as “programs” for Chopin’s Ballades in reception history. However, Mickiewicz also included a formal ballad [entitled Alpuhara’s Song] in his narrative poem Konrad Wallenrod of 1828 and wrote two other ballads in the same year: Czaty [The Guards] and Trzech Budrysów [The Three Sons of Budrys]. [Back]

[100]. Adam Mickiewicz, Pieśń Wajdeloty, translated by Maude Ashurst Biggs, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 77-78. Pieśń Wajdeloty is a part of Konrad Wallenrod of 1828. [Back]

[101]. William J. Entwistle, in European Balladry (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), classifies Polish as well as Lithuanian ballads as belonging to a group of Nordic ballads. An imaginative discussion of the characteristics of Nordic ballads is provided by James Parakilas in Ballads Without Words, 31-48. [Back]

[102]. The Ballady feature some exceptions to this rule; in Romantyczność and To Lubię the Narrator can be identified with the poet himself, in Powrót Taty the Narrator can be identified as the children’s mother, while in Świteź the first Narrator is substituted by Tuhan’s daughter relating her tale. In addition, in To Lubię the Narrator describes his skepticism and then his fear thus breaking the rule of impersonality. [Back]

[103]. Adam Mickiewicz, Tukaj, in Dziea Poetyckie Vol.1, 72.[Back]

[104]. Adam Mickiewicz, Lilije, translated by Dorothea Prall Radin, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 37. [Back]

[105]. The exception here is Romantyczność, where ballad opens in present tense with the Narrator talking to the Girl. [Back]

[106]. Adam Mickiewicz, Romantyczność, translated by George Rapall Noyes and Jewell Parish, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 28. [Back] [107]. Adam Mickiewicz, Świtezianka, translated by Dorothea Prall Radin, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 30. [Back]

[108]. James Parakilas, Ballads Without Words, 36. [Back]

[109]. According to Parakilas, it is the “defiance of the nature of things,” which includes authority, truth, and the laws of family and social life (in Ballads Without Words, 35, 36). [Back]

[110]. Parakilas defines here a general narrative model for all ballads of Nordic tradition, not only Mickiewicz’s Ballady. In his Ballads Without Words, 35. [Back]

[111]. Here again Parakilas makes a general statement in relation to the ballads of Nordic tradition, in Ballads Without Words, 36.[Back]

[112]. In Świteź the Russians die when they try to touch flower-women of the sunken city; the unfaithful Youth of Świtezianka dies and is condemned to a thousand years of suffering; the lusty Lord in Rybka is changed, together with his wife, into a stone; Tukaj, the protagonist of the ballad Tukaj, is outwitted by the Devil and instead of eternal life, is condemned to hell; the murderous wife of Lilije is taken by her husband to the grave. The only three instances where revelation brings return or restoration are in two ‘belief ballads’ Romantyczność and To Lubię where rational protagonists must realize that the feeling and faith of the common people are closer to the Truth than their knowledge, and in Powrót Taty where the prayers of innocent children save their father from robbers. [Back]

[113]. Mickiewicz himself designated Rybka and Lilije as “ballads from folk songs”; Wanda Humiecka and Helena Kapelus trace the folk backgrounds of each ballad in Ludowo u Mickiewicza (Warsaw: Pastwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1958), 131-176. They describe Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian folk tales and fairy tales related to the Ballady, Polish legends related to wite, and European Faustian legends in relation to Tukaj and Pani Twardowska. Only wite, Tukaj, and Lilije feature mostly upper class characters (the owners of the lands, prince Tuhaj and his daughter). Other ballads feature peasant girls (Romantyczność, Rybka) and youths (Świtezianka), servants (Rybka, Tukaj), a merchant and robbers (Powrót Taty) [Back]

[114]. Adam Mickiewicz, To Lubięę, in Dzieła Poetyckie Vol.1, 59. Some of these epigrammatic verses (such as “Look in your heart, that still may see aright” from Romantyczność) belong to the most often quoted in Polish language. Some have truly universal meaning (such as “no crime/ But is punished in due time” and “Virtue’s path is slippery” from Lilije, and “woe to the man who has broken his oath” from ŚŚwitezianka). [Back]

[115]. Quoted from Adam Mickiewicz, Świteź, translated by David Welsh, in Adam Mickiewicz, 23. These descriptions were probably particularly important ten years after the publication of the poems for nostalgic émigrés in Paris and everywhere else. The names of Ruta, Płużyny refer to Lithuanian villages known to Mickiewicz. [Back]

[116]. Mendog is a legendary Lithuanian prince of the early Middle Ages. David Welsh argues (in Adam Mickiewicz, 26) that we do not know why the wife in Lilije killed her husband, and that we do not know her name; he is wrong in both accounts, for we learn that she was unfaithful to her husband during his absence and afraid to face his wrath, and we learn that her name is Hanka (although it is mentioned only once in the ballad). [Back]

[117]. The two exceptions in the Ballady are the second Narrator of Świteź (Tuhan’s daughter), and the Narrator of To Lubięę, who relate their own stories.[Back]

[118]. Adam Mickiewicz, ŚŚwitezianka, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 30. [Back]

[119]. Adam Mickiewicz, Romantyczność, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 27, 28. [Back]

[120]. Adam Mickiewicz, Świtezianka, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 29. [Back]

[121]. Adam Mickiewicz, Romantyczność, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 27. [Back]

[122]. Adam Mickiewicz, Świtezianka, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 32.[Back]

[123]. Adam Mickiewicz, Lilije, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 37, 38. [Back]

[124]. Ibid., 37, 41-42. [Back]

[125]. James Parakilas, Ballads Without Words, 37. [Back]

[126]. Adam Mickiewicz, Świtezianka, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 31, 32. [Back]

[127]. Adam Mickiewicz, Lilije, in Selected Poetry and Prose, 39, 44. [Back]

[128]. The only exception to the stanzaic form is Tukaj. The exceptions with irregular stanzas are Romantyczność and Lilije, which feature stanzas of irregular and varied length. Mickiewicz most often used alternating lines of eleven and eight syllables per line (in wite, Powrót Taty, To Lubię). In Świtezianka he used a pattern of alternating ten and eight syllables per line, in Czaty and Trzech Budrysów a pattern of alternating fourteen and ten syllables per line, and regular eight syllables per line in Rybka and Pani Twardowska. [Back]

[129]. James Parakilas provides a review of various pattern structures found in European ballads in his Ballads Without Words, 46-47. These patterns, according to Parakilas, include two-part structures (related to contrasts) based on balances, antitheses, appositions and parallelisms; three-part structures (related to repetitions and varied repetitions); and symmetrical structures (including framing techniques and building a ballad around central line or stanza).[Back]

[130]. James Parakilas, Ballads Without Words, 47. [Back]

[131]. For instance, see Michael Griffel’s article “The Sonata Design In Chopin’s Ballades,” Current Musicology Vol. 36, 1983: 125-36.[Back]

[132]. According to Michael Griffel in his article “The Sonata Design In Chopin’s Ballades,” it is a sonata form in which recapitulation of the first theme happens in the exposition, “and then a development section splits apart the reprise of the first theme from that of the second” (Current Musicology Vol.36, 1983:135). Even disregarding tonal issues (such as the recapitulations of both themes being in the same keys as in the exposition, the avoidance of dominant areas, or the tonal ambiguity of an entire composition that begins and ends in different keys), the notion of a recapitulation beginning at the end of the exposition and divided by the development seems to be stretching the matters considerably. [Back]

[133]. All of the measure numbers in the following discussion of the Second Ballade are based on the numbers used in the nineteenth edition of Chopin’s Ballades issued by The Fryderyk Chopin Institute and PWM Edition (Cracow: 1986), 21-29. In this edition the first, incomplete measure of the Second Ballade is counted as measure one, and thus there may be a one measure difference between my analysis and some other analyses of the work.[Back]

[134]. This characteristic of the first theme is also observed by Parakilas, in Ballads Without Words, 63. Griffel also notices that the first theme of the Second Ballade is in a song form (in “The Sonata Design In Chopin’s Ballades,” 129).[Back]

[135]. As it is done by Parakilas, in Ballads Without Words, 63 [Back]

[136]. Parakilas connects Chopin’s sudden transitions to a technique identified by ballad scholars and labeled as “leaping and lingering” (in Ballads Without Words, 66-67).[Back]

[137]. Parakilas describes here the structure of the First Ballade, but also relates this comment to other Ballades (in Ballads Without Words, 72).[Back]

[138]. In this Table I have also included the divisions of sonata form according to Michael Griffel for purposes of clarity.[Back]

[139]. In terms of the pattern of thematic repetition, this framing technique is represented by pattern [AB (AA’BA”) BA] in Table 5. The large-scale framing by the main themes in the structure of the Second Ballade is also observed by Parakilas, in Ballads Without Words, 81. [Back]

[140]. For instance, it is possible to interpret all—the first theme, the iambic rhythm, or ever-present pitch A—as a Narrator in the Second Ballade. [Back]

[141]. As does Parakilas in Ballads Without Words, 64-65. See also Jim Samson, Chopin: The Four Ballades, 86.[Back]

[142]. For the example of the Narrator’s final appearance, see Example 6. [Back]

[143]. In Ballads Without Words, 65. [Back]

[144]. Even though the second theme appears in d-minor in m. 141, this key is not firmly established (with second inversion tonic); it is possible to view the first segment of the second theme (mm. 141-148) as a large scale progression in A minor [with a prolonged second inversion subdominant (mm. 141-146), seven diminished seventh chord (m. 147), first inversion dominant (m. 148), and the tonic in m. 149]. In either way, the second theme clearly reaches A minor in m. 147, and the emphasis on d-minor in mm. 141-146 contributes to a sense of tonal instability at the beginning of the recapitulation (almost as though even the second theme had to “reach” its key instead of “arriving” in it). [Back]

[145]. The last appearance of the first theme would symbolize a relatively unchanging world, or rather a world returning to normal after absorbing a disturbance, because it brings the first theme not in its original key (F major), but rather in the key of the second theme (A minor). [Back]

[146]. Even though it “attempts” to return to F major in mm. 92-95. [Back]

[147]. I do not use the term “structural dominant” in Schenkerian terms here, but simply to emphasize the arrival of the main dominant in the piece. Even though the key of E major appears in the middle of the development (mm. 115-119), it is not confirmed by a cadence in A minor (or by any other cadence), and it is followed by further modulations. Moreover, its appearance is “based” on a third inversion dominant seventh chord for half of its length, and is further de-emphasized by sudden decrease in dynamics and texture. Thus it is difficult to consider this E major passage as a “structural” dominant arrival. [Back]

[148]. As reported by Chopin’s pupil Wilhelm von Lenz, quoted in Berger’s “Chopin’s Ballade Op. 23,” 80.[Back]


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Zakrzewska has studied musicology at the McGill University, Montreal, Canada, since 1995. In 1998, she received her M.A. degree for a thesis on “Alienation and Powerlessness: Chopin’s Ballades and Mickiewicz’s Ballady” (thesis advisor: Prof. Steven Huebner). In the same year, her paper based on this thesis, received the student prize in the competition of Wilk Prizes for Research in Polish Music. She presented shorter version of this paper at the annual meeting of the American Musicological Society. She also won Graduate Students’ Essay Competition at McGill University, received McGill Major Scholarship, and Government of Quebec research grant. She is currently a Ph.D. student at McGill University, Montreal, working on her dissertation entitled “Decadence and Pantheism: Karol Szymanowski’s King Roger.” Her research in Polish music benefits from her fluency in Polish and English. She has also taught music theory and music appreciation courses at McGill University, worked as a pianist, and translator.