kings of art are not so far removed from the battles of
the beasts. Rosa Bonheur has pictured a duel to the
death between stallions ; and that battle of the stags
horn-locked with the morning sun revealing Death as
victor, by Landseer, is familiar to us all.
has another picture which he called " The Monarch,"
showing a splendid stag, solitary and alone, standing on
a cliff, overlooking the valley. There is history behind
this stag. Before he could command the scene alone, he
had to vanquish foes; but in the main, in some way, you
feel that most of his battles have been bloodless and he
commands by divine right. The Divine Right of a King,
if he be a King, has its root in truth.
One mark of the genius of Handel is shown in the fact
that he has achieved a split and created a ruction in the
Society of Scribblers. He once cut Dean Swift dead at a
fashionable gathering the doughty Dean, who de-
lighted in making men and women alike crawl to him
and this won him the admiration of Colley Gibber, who
immortalized the scene in a sonnet. People liked Handel,
or they did not, and among the Old Guard who stood by
him, let these names, among others, be remembered:
Colley Gibber, Gay, Arbuthnot, Pope, Hogarth, Fielding
People who through incapacity are unable to compre-
hend or appreciate music, are prone to wax facetious
over it the feeble joke is the last resort of the man who
does not understand. <J The noisy denizens of Grub
Street, drinking perdition to that which they can not
comprehend, always getting ready to do great things,
seem like fussy pigmies beside a giant like Handel. See
the fifth act ere the curtain falls on the lives of Oliver
Goldsmith, Doctor Johnson, Steele, Addison and Dean
Swift (dead at the top, the last), and the others un-
happily sent into Night ; and then behold George Fred-
erick Handel, in his seventy-fifth year, blind, but with
inward vision all aflame, conducting the oratorio of
" Elijah " before an audience of five thousand people!
*I The life of Handel was packed with work and projects
too vast for one man to realize. That he deferred to the
London populace and wrote down to them at first, is
true; but the greatness of the man is seen in this he
never deceived himself. He knew just what he was doing,
and in his heart was ever a shrine to the Ideal, and upon
this altar the fires never died.
Handel was a man of affairs as well as a musician, and
if he had loved money more than Art, he could have
withdrawn from the fray at thirty years of age, passing
rich 53 53
Three times in his life he risked all in the production of
Grand Opera, and once saw a sum equal to fifty thou-
sand dollars disappear in a week, through the treachery
of Italian artists who were pledged to help him. At
great expense and trouble he had gone abroad and
searched Europe for talent, and, regardless of outlay,
had brought singers and performers across the sea to
England. In several notable instances these singers
had, in a short time, been bought up by rivals, and had
turned upon their benefactor.
But Handel was not crushed by these things. He was
philosopher enough to know that ingratitude is often
the portion of the man who does well, and a fight with a
fox you have warmed into life is ever imminent. At
fifty-five, a bankrupt, he makes terms with his creditors
and in a few years pays off every shilling with interest,
and celebrates the event by the production of " Saul,"
the " Dead March " from which will never die.
The man had been gaining ground, making head, and at
the same time educating the taste of the English people.
But still they lagged behind, and when the oratorio of
" Joshua " was performed, the Master decided he would
present his next and best piece outside of England.
Jealousy, a dangerous weapon, has its use in the diplo-
Handel set out for Dublin with a Hundred musicians,
there to present the " Messiah," written for and
dedicated to the Irish people. The oratorio had been
turned off in just twenty-one days, in one of those
titanic bursts of power, of which this man was capable.
Its production was a feat worthy of the Frohmans at
their best. The performance was to be for charity to
give freedom to those languishing in debtors' prisons at
Dublin. What finer than that the " Messiah " should
give deliverance? ^ The Irish heart was touched. A
fierce scramble ensued for seats, precedence being
emphasized in several cases with blackthorns deftly
wielded. The price of seats was a guinea each. Handel's
carriage was drawn through the streets by two hundred
students. He was crowned with shamrock, and given the
freedom of the city in a gold box. Freedom even then,
in Ireland, was a word to conjure with. Long before the
performance, notices that no more tickets would be
sold were posted. The doors of the Debtors' Prison were
thrown open, and the prisoners given seats so they could
hear the music thus overdoing the matter in true Irish
style 33 33
The performance was the supreme crowning event in
the life of Handel up to that time.
Couriers were dispatched to London to convey the news
of Handel's great triumph to the newspapers; bulletins
were posted at the clubs the infection caught ! On the
return of the master a welcome was given him such as
he had never before known Dublin should not outdo
London! When the " Messiah " was given in London,
the scene of furore in Dublin was repeated. The wild
tumult at times drowned the orchestra, and when the
" Hallelujah Chorus " was sung, the audience arose as
one man and joined in the song of praise. And from that
day the custom has continued : whenever in England the
" Messiah " is given, the audience arises and sings in
the " Chorus," as its privilege and right. The proceeds
of the first performance of the " Messiah " in England
were given to charity, as in Dublin. This act, with the
splendor of the work, subdued the last lingering touch of
obdurate criticism. The man was canonized by popular
acclaim. Many of his concerts were now for charity
' The Foundlings' Home," ' The Seamen's Fund,"
" Home for the Aged," hospitals and imprisoned
debtors all came in for their share.
Handel never married. That remark of Dean Swift's,
I admire Handel principally because he conceals his
petticoat peccadilloes with such perfection," does not
go. Handel considered himself a priest of art, and his
passion spent itself in his work.
The closing years of his life were a time of peace and
honor. His bark, after a fitful voyage, had glided into
safe and peaceful waters. The calamity of blindness did
not much depress him " What matters it so long as I
can hear? " he said. And good it is to know that the
capacity to listen and enjoy, to think and feel, to
sympathize and love to live his Ideals were his, even
to the night of his passing Hence.
Of all the operas that Verdi wrote,
The best, to my taste, is the Trovatore;
And Mario can soothe, with a tenor note,
The souls in purgatory.
The moon on the tower slept soft as snow;
And who was not thrilled in the strangest way,
As we heard him sing while the lights burned low,
" Non ti scordar di me " ?
But O, the smell of that jasmine-flower!
And O, the music! and O, the way
That voice rang out from the donjon tower,
" Non ti scordar di me,
Non ti scordar di me! "
E sort of clung to the iron pickets,
did the boy, and pressed his face
through the fence and listened.
Some one was playing the piano in
the big house, and the windows
with their little diamond panes were
flung open to catch the evening
breeze. He listened.
His big gray eyes were open wide, the pupils dilated
he was trying to see the music as well as hear it.
The boy's hair matched the yellow of his face, being one
shade lighter, sun-bleached from going hatless. His
clothes were as yellow as the yellow of his face, and
shaded off into the dust that strewed the street. He was
like a quail in a stubble-field you might have stepped
over him and never seen him at all. He listened. Almost
every evening some one played the piano in the big
house. He had discovered the fact a week before, and
now, when the dusk was gathering, he would watch his
chance and slide away from the hut where his parents
lived, and run fast up the hill, and along the shelving
roadway to the tall iron fence that marked the residence
of Signore Barezzi. He would creep along under the
stone wall, and crouching there would wait and listen
for the music. Several evenings he had come and waited,
and waited, and waited and not a note or a voice did
he hear. <I Once it had rained and he did n't mind it
much, for he expected every moment the music would
strike up, you know and who cares for cold, or wet, or
even hunger, if one can hear good music! The air grew
chill and the boy's threadbare jacket stuck to his bony
form like a postage-stamp to a letter. Little rivulets of
water ran down his hair and streamed off his nose and
cheeks. He waited he was waiting for the music 33
He might have waited until the water dissolved his
insignificant cosmos into just plain, yellow mud, and
then he would have been simply distributed all along
the gutter down to the stream, and down the stream to
the river, and down the river to the ocean; and no one
would ever have heard of him again.
But Signore Barezzi's coachman came along that night,
keeping close to the fence under the trees to avoid the
wet; and the coachman fell over the boy.
Now, when we fall over anything we always want to
kick it no matter what it is, be it cat, dog, stump,
stick, stone or human. The coachman being but clay
(undissolved) turned and kicked the boy. Then he
seized him by the collar, and accused him of being a
thief. The lad acknowledged the indictment, and
stammeringly tried to explain that it was only music he
was trying to steal ; and that it really made no difference
because even if one did fill himself full of the music,
there was just as much left for other people, since music
was different from most things.
The thought was not very well expressed, although the
idea was all right, but the coachman failed to grasp it.
So he tingled the boy's bare legs with the whip he
carried, by way of answer, duly cautioning him never to
let it occur again, and released the prisoner on parole 33
But the boy forgot and came back the next night. He
sat on the ground below the wall, intending to keep out
of sight; but when the music began he stood up, and
now, with face pressed between the pickets, he listened.
*I The wind sighed softly through the orange-trees ; the
air was heavy with the perfume of flowers; the low of
cattle came from across the valley, and on the evening
breeze from an open casement rose the strong, vibrant,
yet tender, strains of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."
The lad listened.
" Do you like music? " came a voice from behind. The
boy awoke with a start, and tried to butt his head
through the pickets to escape in that direction. He
thought it was the coachman. He turned and saw the
kindly face of Signore Barezzi himself.
14 Do I like music? Me! No, I mean yes, when it is like
that! " he exclaimed, beginning his reply with a
tremolo and finishing bravura.
' That is my daughter playing; come inside with me."
The hand of the great man reached out, and the urchin
clutched at it as if it were something he had been long-
They walked through the big gates where a stone lion
kept guard on each side. The lions never moved. They
walked up the steps, and entering the parlor saw a young
woman seated at the piano.
" Grazia, dear, here is the little boy we saw the other
day you remember? I thought I would bring him in."
The young woman came forward and touched the lad
on his tawny head with one of her beautiful hands the
beautiful hands that had just been playing the "Sonata."
<I " That 's right, little boy, we have seen you outside
there before, and if I had known you were there tonight,
I would have gone out and brought you in ; but Papa has
done the service for me. Now, you must sit down right
over there where I can see you, and I will play for you.
But won't you tell us your name? "
" Me? " replied the little boy, " why why my name is
Giuseppe Verdi I am ten years old now going on
'leven you see, I like to hear you play because I play
myself, a little bit! "
OR over a hundred years three-fourths of
Italy's population had been on reduced
rations. Starvation even yet crouches just
around the corner.
In his childhood young Verdi used to wear a bit of rope
for a girdle, and when hunger gnawed importunately, he
would simply pull his belt one knot tighter, and pray
that the ravens would come and treat him as well as
they did Elijah. His parents were so poor that the
question of education never came to them; but desire
has its way, so we find the boy at ten years of age run-
ning errands for a grocer with a musical attachment.
This grocer, at Busseto, Jasquith by name, hung upon
the fringe of art, and made the dire mistake of mixing
business with his fad, for he sold his wares to sundry
gentlemen who played in bands. This led the good man
to moralize at times, and he would say to Giuseppe, who
had been promoted from errand-boy to clerk: " You can
trust a first violin, and a 'cello usually pays, but never
say yes to a trombone nor an oboe; and as for a kettle-
drum, I would n't believe one on a stack of Bibles! "
<I Over the grocer's shop was a little parlor, and in it was
a spinet that young Giuseppe had the use of four even-
ings a week. In his later years Verdi used to tell of this,
and once said that the idea of prohibition and limit
should be put on every piano then the pupil would
make the best of his privileges. In those days there was a
tax on spinets, and I believe that this tax has never been
rescinded, for you are taxed if you keep a piano, now,
in any part of Italy. Several times the poor grocer's
spinet stood in sore peril from the publicans and sinners,
but the bailiffs were bought off by Signore Barezzi, who
came to the rescue.
The note of thrift was even then in Verdi's score, for he
himself has told how he induced the Barezzi household
to patronize the honest grocer with musical proclivities.
<I When twelve years of age Verdi occasionally played
the organ in the village church at Busseto. It will be
seen from this that he had courage, and even then
possessed a trace of that pride and self-will that was to
be his disadvantage and then his blessing. Signore
Barezzi' s attachment to the boy was very great, and
we find the youngster was on friendly terms with the
family, having free use of their piano, with valuable
help and instruction from Signorina Grazia. When
he was seventeen he was easily the first musician in the
place, and Busseto had nothing more to offer in the way
of advantages. He thirsted for a wider career, and cast
longing looks out into the great outside world. He had
played at Parma, only a few miles away, and the Bishop
there, after hearing him improvise on the organ, had
paid him a doubtful compliment by saying, " Your
playing is surely unlike anything ever before heard in
Parma." Fair fortune smiled when Signore Barezzi
secured for young Verdi a free scholarship at the Con-
servatory at Milan.
The youth went gaily forth, attended by the blessings
of the whole village, to claim his honors.
Arriving at the Conservatory, the directors put him
through his paces, after the usual custom, to prove his
fitness for the honor that had been thrust upon him. He
played first upon the piano, and the committee advised
together in whispered monotone. Then they asked him
to play on the organ, and there was more consultation,
with argument which was punctuated by rolling
adjectives and many picturesque gesticulations. Then
they asked him to play the piano again. He did so, and
the great men retired to deliberate and vote on the
issue ,53 3&
Their decision was that the youth was self-willed,
erratic, and that he had some absurd mannerisms and
tricks of performance that forbade his ever making a
musician. And therefore, they ruled that his admission
to the Conservatory was impossible.
Barezzi, who was present with his protege, stormed in
wrath, and declared that Verdi was the peer of any of
his judges; in fact, was so much beyond them that they
could not comprehend him.
This only confirmed the powers in the stand they had
taken, and they intimated that a great musician in
Busseto was something different in Milan Signore
Barezzi had better take his young man home and be
content to astonish the villagers with noisy acrobatics.
There being nothing else to do, the advice was first
flouted and then followed. They arrived home, and
Grazia and the grocer were informed that the Con-
servatory at Milan was a delusion and a snare " a
place where pebbles were polished and diamonds were
dimmed." Shortly after, the townspeople, to show faith
in the home product, had Verdi duly installed as organ-
ist of the village church at a salary equal to forty dollars
a year 33 33
Under the spell of this good fortune, Verdi proposed
marriage to the daughter of Jasquith, the grocer, his
friend and benefactor. Gratitude to the man who had
first assisted him had much to do with the alliance; and
in wedding the daughter, Verdi simply complied with
what he knew to be the one ardent desire of the father.
^ The girl was a frail creature, of fine instincts, but her
intellect had been starved just as her body had been.
Her chief virtue seems to have been that she believed
absolutely in the genius of Verdi.
The ambition of Verdi began to show itself. He wrote
an opera, and offered it to Merelli, the impresario of
" La Scala " at Milan. The impresario had heard of
Verdi, through the fact that the Conservatory had
blackballed him. This of itself would have been no
passport to fame, but the Committee saw fit to defend
themselves in the matter by making a public report of
the considerations which had moved them to shut the
doors on the young man from Busseto. This gave the
subject a weight and prominence that simple admission
never would have given. <I Merelli, the Major Pond of
Milan, saw the expressions " bizarre," " erratic,"
" peculiar," " unprecedented," and kept his eye on
Verdi. And so when the opera was written he pounced
upon it, thinking possibly a new star had appeared on
the horizon. The opera was accepted. Verdi, feverish
with hope, moved his scanty effects to Milan, and there,
with his frail and beautiful girl-wife and their baby-boy,
lived in a garret just across from the theater.
Preparations for the performance were going on apace.
The night of November Seventeenth, Eighteen Hundred
Thirty-nine came, and the play was presented. The
critics voted it a failure. Merelli, the manager, saw that
it was not strong enough with which to storm the town,
and so decided to abandon it. He liked the young com-
poser, though, and admired his work; and inasmuch as
he had brought him to Milan, he felt a sort of obligation
to help him along. So Verdi was given an order for an
opera bouffe. That 's it ! Opera bouffe ! the people
want comedy they must be amused. Even Verdi's
serious work ran dangerously close to farce bouffe is
Merelli's hope was infectious. Verdi began work on the
new play that was to be presented in the Spring. The
winter rains began. There was no fire in the garret where
the composer and his frail girl-wife lived. They were so
proud that they did not let the folks at Busseto know
where they were: even Merelli did not know their place
of abode. Under an assumed name Verdi got occasional
work as an underling in one of the theaters, and also
played the piano at a restaurant. The wages thus earned
were a pittance, but he managed to take home soup-
bones that the baby-boy sucked on as though they
were nectar 53 53
Another baby was born that winter. The mother was
unattended, save by her husband no other woman was
near. Verdi managed to bring home scraps of food by
stealth from the restaurant where he played, but it was
not the kind that was needed. There was no money to
buy goat's milk for the new-born babe, and the famish-
ing mother, ever hopeful, assured the husband it was n't
necessary that the babe was doing well. The child
grew aweary of this world before a month had passed,
and slept to wake no more.
But the opera bouffe was taking shape. It was rehearsed
and hummed by husband and wife together. They went
over it all again and again, and struck out and added to.
It was splendid work subtle, excruciatingly funny, and
possessed a dash and go that would sweep all carping
and criticism before it.
Food was still scarce, and there was no fuel even to cook
things ; but as there was nothing to cook, it really made
no difference. Spring was coming it was cold, to be
sure, but the buds were swelling on the trees in the park.
Verdi had seen them with his own eyes, and he hastened
home to tell his wife Spring was coming !
The two-year-old boy did n't seem to thrive on soup-
bones. The father used to hold him in his arms at night
to warm the little form against his own body. He
awoke one morning to find the child cold and stiff. The
boy was dead.
The mother used to lie abed all day now. She was n't ill
she said just tired ! She never looked so beautiful to her
husband. Two bright pink spots marked her cheeks, and
set off the alabaster of her complexion. Her eyes glowed
with such a light as Verdi had never before seen. No,
she was not ill she protested this again and again. She
kept to her bed merely to be warm; and then if one
did n't move around much, less food was required
don't you see?
Spring had come. The opera was being rehearsed. The
title of the play was " Un Giorno di Regno." Merelli
said he thought it would be a success; Verdi was sure
of it & 33
The night of presentation came. After the first act
Verdi ran across the street, leaped up the stairs three
steps at a time, and reached the garret. The play was a
success. The worn woman there on her pallet, the pale
moonlight streaming in on her face, knew it would be.
She raised herself on her elbow and tried to call, " Viva
Verdi!" But the cough cut her words short. Verdi
kissed her forehead, her hands, her hair, and hurried
back in time to see the curtain ascend on the second act.
This act went without either applause or disapproval.
Verdi ran home to say that the audience was a trifle
critical, but the play was all right it was a success!
He said he would remain at home now, he would not go
to hear the third and last act. He would attend his wife
until she got well and strong. The play was a success ! 33
She prevailed upon him to leave her and then come back
at the finale and tell her all about it.
He went away.
When he returned he stumbled up the stairway and
slowly entered the door.
The last act had not been completed the audience had
hissed the players from the stage!
Upon the ashen face of her husband, the stricken woman
read all. She tried to smile. She reached out one thin
hand on which loosely hung a marriage-ring. The hand
dropped before he could reach it. The eyes of the
woman were closed, but upon the long, black lashes
glistened two big tears. The spirit was brave, but the
body had given up the great struggle.
HE calamities that had come sweeping over
Verdi well-nigh broke his proud heart. He was
only twenty-six, but he had had a taste of life
and found it bitter.
He lost interest in everything. All his musical studies
were abandoned, his excursions into science went by
default, and he was quite content to bang the piano in a
concert saloon for enough to secure the bare necessaries
of life. Suicide seemed to present the best method of
solving the problem, and the various ways of shuffling
off this mortal coil were duly considered. Meanwhile he
filled in the time reading trashy novels anything to
forget time and place, and lose self in poppy-dreams of
nothingness S& 3&
Two years of such blankness and blackness followed.