Home  »  library  »  poem  »  “How Paderewski Plays”

C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

“How Paderewski Plays”

By Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909)

IF songs were perfume, color, wild desire;

If poets’ words were fire

That burned to blood in purple-pulsing veins;

If with a bird-like thrill the moments throbbed to hours;

If summer’s rains

Turned drop by drop to shy, sweet, maiden flowers;

If God made flowers with light and music in them,

And saddened hearts could win them;

If loosened petals touched the ground

With a caressing sound;

If love’s eyes uttered word

No listening lover e’er before had heard;

If silent thoughts spake with a bugle’s voice;

If flame passed into song and cried, “Rejoice! Rejoice!”

If words could picture life’s, hope’s, heaven’s eclipse

When the last kiss has fallen on dying eyes and lips;

If all of mortal woe

Struck on one heart with breathless blow on blow;

If melody were tears, and tears were starry gleams

That shone in evening’s amethystine dreams;

Ah yes, if notes were stars, each star a different hue,

Trembling to earth in dew;

Or if the boreal pulsings, rose and white,

Made a majestic music in the night;

If all the orbs lost in the light of day

In the deep, silent blue began their harps to play;

And when in frightening skies the lightnings flashed

And storm-clouds crashed,

If every stroke of light and sound were but excess of beauty;

If human syllables could e’er refashion

That fierce electric passion;

If other art could match (as were the poet’s duty)

The grieving, and the rapture, and the thunder

Of that keen hour of wonder,—

That light as if of heaven, that blackness as of hell,—

How Paderewski plays then might I dare to tell.

How Paderewski plays! And was it he

Or some disbodied spirit which had rushed

From silence into singing; and had crushed

Into one startled hour a life’s felicity,

And highest bliss of knowledge—that all life, grief, wrong,

Turn at the last to beauty and to song!