Constance Elizabeth Maud.

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expresses a sentiment at once more elementary-
more fundamental, it sounds an imperative claim,
a prior claim, on the heart's blood of every French-
man. He draws in the significance of these words
with his mother's milk. He is France and France
is his the very soil is his, her noble traditions,
her sacred shrines, her glorious past, her long roll
of immortal names of heroes, statesmen, artists-
all are his, and in return she claims his sword to
defend her in her hour of need. The man who
would not die proudly, eagerly, is no true son, there
is no place not even the miserable " objectors' '
internment camp for him in France.

Down the long avenues of fallen leaves I followed


with the black-robed crowd, turning off where I could
into the little paths less frequented. Here and
there the solitary figure of a young widow or an old
man knelt by a newly- made grave with as yet nothing
to mark it but the little tricolour starting out brightly
among the wreaths and flowers. And suddenly the
distant boom of guns broke the stillness of the
place, and made the subdued whispers change to
anxious questionings. One realised that even at
that moment Frenchmen were laying down their
lives in thousands as their bodies formed a living
rampart against the oncoming Hun a wall that
will never be broken down, a wall whose breaches
are filled up as fast as they are made, a wall that
finally will fall upon and crush the accursed grey
swarm of invaders, desecrators, destroyers, once
and for ever rid the land of them ; for that wall
is composed not only of the bodies of young France,
but welded together by the unconquerable spirit

of the entire nation.

" The booming it is probably practice," said the
sentinel at the entrance gate. " It is the voice of
the War." The voice of the War the ever-present,
all-absorbing War !


ON All Saints' Day in whatever direction I went in
Paris it was to meet Cesar Franck with his message
of courage and consolation.

The Great War called up not only its naval and
military forces, but its statesmen, inventors, scientists,
writers and artists, all those who could truly serve
in the great hour of need. And so it came to pass
that the call reached Cesar Franck, and he came
into his own at last, though his body had lain in the
earth nearly thirty years and he had changed his world
for one in which Conservatoire Directors cease from
troubling and the weary are at rest.

While here he was ahead of his time, and like all
great spirits with a message for the world he sang
to deaf ears and to ears untuned, who hearing, resented
his inspired music as "an innovation."

At Notre Dame the beautiful uplifting strains of
" Les Beatitudes " rang through the dim arches of the
old cathedral, falling like a benediction on the kneeling
crowds of black-robed people.

" Blessed are they that mourn blessed, blessed
for they shall be comforted."

France was like Rachel, mourning for her slain
children, but further on the winding road than poor



Rachel, heard the divine promise, brought to her on
the wings of that inspired music, and found comfort.
The tears which were falling from many eyes all
round one, were healing tears that day, and many a
sad face among the mourners as they streamed out,
positively shone with a great peace, a quiet confidence.
I was with one such, a French mother, whose firstborn,
the light of her eyes, had been killed by German guns
in the opening onslaught one of those fine specimens
of young France, chivalrous, noble, stainless, leaving
a blank never to be filled in his home or in public
life. It was at her request I went with her to hear
the music which possessed such wonderful power to
console the mothers of France. And hearing it as
given that day I understood why Csar Franck was the
chosen musician of the Jour des Morts.

Not only in the churches but everywhere he was
to be heard. At the Grand Palais a vast throng
attended a " Festival Franck " where his " Ruth,"
"Panis Angelicus" and "Choral Symphony" were
given, while at the Salle Gaveau was another concert
entirely devoted to his works.

Whether his versatile genius manifested itself in
oratorio, symphony or opera, it had this quality it
radiated a kind of serenity and light which uplifted
the soul, bringing not only comfort and consolation
to the bereaved, but giving strength and vision to
the fighting man strong in a righteous cause, and faith
in ultimate triumphant victory to the wounded and


That such a gift as Franck has left to the world
should be practically still unknown in England is only
in accordance with past tradition. How long I wonder
will it be before the arches of Westminster Abbey will
thrill to the sound of the glorious " Redemption "
and " Beatitudes." No doubt it is true of music as
of governments, that " every nation has that which
it deserves," and we in England have not yet deserved
these great masterpieces left to the world by the
organist of Ste Clotilde.

Sainte Clotilde ! How often I have stepped inside
the quiet spacious church, standing aside from the
noisy thoroughfares in its little green garden where
his statue now presides, and listened if perchance I
might hear some far-off, faint echoes of that divine
music still clinging to the walls and arches which
rang with it for thirty years. So steeped is the place
in his memory, and so identified with his personality
that marvellous organ, that it would never have
surprised me had the instrument begun to speak of
its own accord.

When Franck was appointed to Ste Clotilde he
was just recovering from a severe illness brought on
by overwork and many worries. Ste Clotilde came
to him as a ray of light at a dark, depressing time,
a calm haven ensuring him not against toil, that
he always had but a small and certain means of
livelihood. It was here that his art grew and unfolded
year by year to ever greater beauty and perfection,
but absolutely unrecognised in his lifetime except


by a small band of brilliant disciples, many of them
now famous throughout the musical world, such as
Vincent d'Indy, Ernest Chausson, Paul Dukas, Henri
Duparc, Augusta Holmes, Charles Bordes and many
others. Like Walther von der Vogelweide he was
despised and rejected by the Meistersanger of the
Conservatoire and all the official heads and directors
of his art. When bidden to the feast prepared for
them at his own house on the completion of his
life's great work, the chef d'ceuvre, " Les Beatitudes,"
thinking in the naive simplicity of his heart it would
give them pleasure to greet a work in which an artist
had put his highest endeavour, his best and noblest
thought, with one accord they all made excuse. The
Minister of Fine Arts sent " sincere regrets," the
Director of the Conservatoire had " another engage-
ment," one had the grippe, and another a sick aunt.

Standing before the statue in the garden I thought
of that deserted feast, and how twelve years after
his death those same gentlemen who refused him
recognition in his lifetime had all met there, heads
uncovered, to do him honour for not to have been
present on such an occasion would have reflected on
their own glory.

It was in Ste Clotilde he found that friend whose
companionship blessed his daily life for thirty years
his wonderful organ an instrument which even after
fifty years retains its full freshness of tone and rich
timbre. It was constructed by that master-builder
Cavaille-Coll, when at the zenith of his fame. To


Cesar Franck it became as a living being, a responsive
friend calling forth the tenderest affection, the most
intimate understanding. The tie between him and
his organ was like that between Orpheus and his

" Si vous saviez comme je Taime," he said to a friend.
" II est si souple a mes doigts et si doux a mes pensees."

And who can venture to say whether some soul did
not in truth come into being born of the union of the
two great artist spirits, builder and composer, who
threw into the instrument so much of their own
creative essence, even as Siegfried welded into his
sword " Nothung " so much of himself that it became
alive with his spirit.

This theory is quite in keeping with the testimony
of those who had the joy of hearing the master's
inspired improvisations a spontaneous creation of
music which impressed the listener with a feeling
of being in the presence of some power almost super-
natural, and gave to the spirit an uplift into serene
spaces of light and beauty never to be forgotten.
M. Vincent d'Indy declares when on rare occasions one
of his pupils was called upon to replace the master
detained by other work " it was with a kind of super-
stitious awe that pupil would venture to touch with
his profane hands the quasi- supernatural being accus-
tomed to vibrate, to sing, to weep, under the a compelling
influence of the great genius of whom it had become,
so to say, an integral part."

His improvisations were one of the marvels of


his many-sided genius. Liszt himself, that great im-
proviser, on one occasion his sole auditor in the
empty aisles of Ste Clotilde, speaking afterwards
of that hour in which he sat enthralled, and wrapt,
listening to the music which passed spontaneously
from the soul of the great artist through his organ,
declared he had " no peer save Bach."

It was to his organ, this unfailing friend, Franck
was wont to rush with the inspirations that frequently
came to him during the night. Whether these in-
spirations were due to what R. L. Stevenson describes
as " the little grey men " who carry on their silent,
subliminal, creative work while the body sleeps, or
whether the spirit, while still attached by the silver
cord, rises in the night to the plane where dwell its
kindred souls, holding sweet communion and bringing
back to the earth like trailing clouds of glory some
of the music of those spheres, who can say ? Cesar
Franck himself clearly held that he was but the
medium, the organ pipe as it were, through which
these celestial messages passed.

A friend recounts how early one morning he met
Franck dashing out of his house in the Boulevard St
Michel oblivious of the world around him. The friend
threw himself across his path, insisting on recognition.

" Ha I mon ami " cried Franck, seizing his arm,
" have you a moment to spare ? Then come with me
to Sainte Clotilde, I have heard last night such celestial
harmonies I must go at once and try to render them
on my organ. Come with me."


The friend records that the gates of heaven swung
open as the organ pealed forth under the compelling
touch of the master. It was characteristic of his
genial nature that Franck sought eagerly this human
sympathy and understanding, gratefully accepting
wherever he found it, though he was equally incapable
of seeking popularity or writing to please the public
as incapable as a well of changing the water springing
from its source.

Even to please his wife, between whom and himself
there existed a lifelong, devoted affection, he could
not alter a passage when once it had taken form as
he heard it spoken by that inward voice. Mme Franck
was a good musician and often helped him by
preparing his young pupils for him. Following his
work with keen interest she would listen from the
adjoining room. Certain of his compositions would
draw her like a magnet, and she would softly open a
crack in the communicating door. But she was no
blind or uncritical admirer, and any unusual passage,
even of unusual beauty, met with her disapproval,
her mind being of the conventional and slow-moving
type. No pioneer, her temperament was for the
beaten paths, and where she found herself there to
remain. Any passage stamped with the cloven hoof
of over- much originality would invariably bring her
kindly, anxious face to the door with the remark :
" Decidement, Cesar, je n'aime pas a."

And Cesar would, by way of reply, just regard her
with gentle serenity, and proceed quietly on his way,


being as powerless to oblige her by altering the offend-
ing passage as he would have been to alter the rather
peculiar shape of his nose, had she proffered the

To the wide circle of his own family he was the sun
and centre. All came to him whatever their needs.
He lived in the midst of his boys and girls, working
often under conditions which would have baffled
any composer. His family circle comprised not only
his own children, but Brissaud and de Monvel re-
lations. During the summer vacation a large family
party would take a small country house together at
Grez or Nemours, within reach of the forest of
Fontainebleau. There in the little salon overrun
by young Brissauds, de Monvels and Francks, he
would pace from the piano to the table jotting down
his music, while at another table sat Dr Edouard
Brissaud equally absorbed in his great Treatise on
the Brain, both completely lifted above the din of
cache-cache or la chasse as the cyclone of laughing
children dashed in and out.

It was under such conditions one summer that he
composed the exquisite little Organ Pieces for a
young girl cousin engaged to play for the service in
church, and unable to find anything " easy enough."

There is a portrait in the home of a member of his
family which shows Franck to have borne a curious
likeness to Beethoven the same breadth of brow
and general outline of head, but the expression of
troubled spirit, fighting through obstacles, which


characterises Beethoven is replaced by an expression
of wrapt aloofness with Franck. He too met lions
in the way, but he had not the terrible trial of deafness
to battle with, and he heard, both with soul and body
senses, the divine music which lifted his spirit into the
" serene spaces."

Perhaps nowhere can the loved presence and
influence of the great master more vividly be felt
than in the home of Mdlle Cecile de Monvel, the well-
known pianist and teacher, sister of the famous
artist Boutet de Monvel. She loves to tell how it
was to the " Cousin Franck's " fostering care of her
talent she owed everything in her early musical life.
It was to this young cousin Franck dedicated his
" Prelude Aria and Final " for piano.

" Another name appears on the cover," she smiled
sadly. " Ah, how well I remember that day, as though
it were yesterday, when he came to me with many
excuses and explained how a great lady pianist had
signified her royal wish to play the piece in public.
What, alas, could he do ? He was desolated to make
a disappointment for his petite cousine. Of course
I was obliged to pretend it made me nothing that
I was pleased about the great pianist, and the simple-
minded Pere Franck he never suspected that the music
was soaked with my tears when he left I was very
young," she added apologetically.

Franck wrote but little for the piano,. which all
pianists deeply regret, but Mdlle de Monvel is a
great artist, and with wonderful skill makes her piano


act as a miniature orchestra or an organ in reproducing
the works of Franck. She can give her fortunate
guest a veritable Festival Franck in that charming
home of hers in the Rue Saint Honore. Asked to
play the music she loved best she began with her own
special " Prelude Aria and Final." Before beginning
the triumphant opening of the Final she observed,
ic This is what I should like to hear played when
victory to our arms is at last proclaimed." The
theme has in fact the same victorious ring sounded
in Mrs Ward Howe's battle song, " Mine eyes have
seen the coming of the Glory of the Lord."

An interesting feature of the master's music, of
which she pointed out many instances as she played
one thing after another from Symphonies, Chorales
and Beatitudes, is his use of the same theme to
express exact opposites. In the third Beatitude,
for example, the melody of " Oh ! Reine implacable
Douleur," expressing the profoundest melancholy,
suffering and sorrow, is the same which later on, with
other harmonies and tempo, arises with an uplift
into regions of divine consolation and hope, as though
he would show that out of the dire sorrows and trials
themselves God draws joy and peace passing human
understanding. Again and again Franck uses this
method in a significant manner, showing the under-
lying thought in all his musical creations.

On one occasion, in accordance with a promise
to play me the famous Sonate for violin and piano
dedicated to M. Isaye, Mdlle de Monvel was assisted


by a boyish young officer who had passed eight
months in the fiery ordeal of Verdun. While lying
severely wounded he had been taken prisoner by the
Germans, but had managed to escape from his Hun
captors, falling out of the ambulance in the dark.
A first prizeman of the Conservatoire, he promises,
if his life is spared, to be in the foremost rank of
violinists. I asked him if he could have played the
Sonata just like that before Verdun.

He answered slowly : " Nothing is quite the same
after one has passed through the experience of Verdun.
One is not studying music down there and yet one
is learning how to play the violin how to express
such thoughts as Franck has here as never before
one could have expressed them."

The Sonata as he played it was the story of a soul
descending into a veritable inferno of anguish, yet
never succumbing, but made strong by the purifying
fires and rising at last into regions of light and joy

For Franck never leaves the soul in Hell, and the
last movement of the Sonata opens with all the
serenity and hope of the new life, hope justified in
victorious resurrection as surely as the dark drear
winter is justified by the miracle of spring. Franck
was the prophet of that hour. Out of his own
heart's knowledge, sufferings, struggles and victories
he wrought his own imperishable works, and because
he had known his Dies Irce, yet never lost the vision
of the beyond, but heard through all the din of hostile


voices, all the disappointments and bereavements of
life, the voice of Him who uttered the Beatitude,
" Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be
comforted," for this reason he came to be the musician
of France, stricken yet unconquerable, in her Dies


IN Paris it was brought home to me as never before
what French women were doing the part they were
playing in the Great War. I had seen them in the
provinces acting as mayors of towns and villages, as
postmistresses, college and school teachers, and heard
of many taking the place of their absent husbands
as heads of commercial houses and working large farms,
but it was in Paris I got in touch with the mainsprings
of women's work all over the country.

" And what are French women doing ? " asked a
recently arrived American lady wanting to know all
about it.

" They are keeping the country going," answered
an English officer whose business it had been to travel
the length and breadth of France for three years
of wartime. And this verdict has been unanimously
confirmed by their own countrymen of all professions.

When the call to mobilise rang like a thunderclap
through France, it was answered not only by the men,
but also by the women, to whom a similar call was
addressed by the Prime Minister through the Press.
Women of all ranks and of every occupation, whether
among the noblesse and bourgeoisie, the professional,
commercial or agricultural classes, rose up and




responded with a burst of patriotic enthusiasm, an
ardent desire to serve, only to be found in a demo-
cratic country where national service is regarded as
the highest duty of every man, and to give ungrudg-
ingly her dearest for such service, the imperative duty
of every woman. And more, not only to buckle on
the sword of her departing sons with words of high
courage, but promptly to take his place at the desk,
the plough, the task of whatever kind, which the man
has perforce had to quit. This is a duty for which
the Frenchwoman is always partially prepared, by
her custom of sharing the life of her menkind in a
daily comradeship quite unknown in any rank of
life in England. The Frenchwoman not only takes
part in her husband's recreations the British work-
man's beanfeast has no equivalent in France but
she shares his business life, counsels him in his enter-
prises, is conversant with les affaires and more often
than not in small households, shops, hotels and cafes,
she keeps the accounts and holds the purse. Also, in
all agricultural life, as Millet's pictures have made
familiar to English eyes, she shares the daily toil,
man and woman sowing and reaping, side by side,
in the fields, the vineyards and orchards of their
beloved land.

First in the ranks of Frenchwomen answering the
call to mobilise were the members of the Croix Rouge,
comprising the three great societies Secours aux
Blesses Militaires, V Union des Femmes de France,
and V Association des Dames Franpaises. The war


of 1870 had shown Frenchwomen their heartrending
helplessness and ignorance, natural consequence of
lack of training and organisation. To realise was to
remedy. ' ' Never again, ' ' vowed the women of France.
The Society of the Croix Rouge was founded, and from
an acorn rapidly grew into a vigorous widespreading
tree " whose leaves were for the healing of the nation."

Long before the supreme hour struck in 1914 the
Society numbered its thousands in every province,
and the three main branches were doing splendid
efficient work, not only among the wounded and sick
of the army at home and wherever French troops
were stationed abroad, but also going to the assistance
of neutrals at war, and the victims of catastrophes
such as the earthquake in Sicily, and epidemic in

An important work undertaken by the Secours aux
Blesses Militaires was at the railway stations, bring-
ing food to the trainloads of wounded, dressing their
wounds and receiving those unable to continue the
journey in the dortoirs attached to their station

With one of the pillars of the Croix Rouge whose
wife was a Presidente and his daughter infirmiere
at the front, I spent an interesting time visiting some
of the station canteens. He was a strong advocate
of the entente cordiale as I found all Frenchmen to
be who had spent even a few weeks of their youth
in London. He brought out his long unused but
treasured words of English, as a woman takes out some


ball dress of her youth laid by in lavender. What
baffled him was my English replies, so much so that
the conversation turned into our speaking each other's
languages, by which means we got on famously.

The old familiar Gare du Nord was changed past
recognition. Everywhere hung flags of the Allied
nations. British troops, Canadians, Australians with
their feathered hats, Americans newly arrived,
Italians and flying men of all nations, Indians
turbaned and dignified, dark-faced Moroccans and
Senegalese, and thousands of the horizon bleu arriving
and departing all night and all day, together with
trainloads of wounded, made one feel at the very
heart of the great machinery of war.

Huge bales covered about an acre of the station,
supplies just come from America for their army,
which was pouring in daily to the great satisfaction
of everybody. Here the Croix Rouge had a hundred
and fifty beds and a free canteen for the French army.
The Women's Emergency Corps ran a canteen in
the great basement of the station for British and
Belgians. It seemed a pity to see these comrades in
arms sitting at separate tables and their fare kept
rigidly distinct to meet their respective tastes, the
British paying one franc twenty-five cents for their
repast and the Belgians fifty cents only, to meet their
respective purses. My guide and I agreed we should
like to see a free canteen for all the Allied troops no
separate tables, no barriers, but a complete entente
even in the matter of food the British Tommy


learning what an excellent thing is the Frenchman's
pot au feu instead of shunning it as though it were
concocted in Germany, and the Belgian learning the
satisfying joys of plum- dough. The pot au feu,
however, is a counsel of perfection only to be attained

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Online LibraryConstance Elizabeth MaudMy French year → online text (page 9 of 17)