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Title: Edward MacDowell
Author: Page, Elizabeth Fry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Edward MacDowell" ***

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His Work and Ideals



With Poetical Interpretations by the Author

New York


Founder and Honorary President of the MacDowell Club of Nashville,



  His Work and Ideals


  To MacDowell
  A. D. 1620
  In Deep Woods
  Shadow Dance
  At an Old Trysting-Place
  To a Water Lily
  Told at Sunset
  To a Wild Rose
  The Spirit Call
  A Deserted Farm
  In Memoriam


This is not merely an appreciation of Edward MacDowell as a man and a
composer, but a study of the influences and natural endowments that
combined to produce his style, a comparison of his work with that of
others who achieved fame in other branches of the fine arts, all of
which he felt were closely allied and supplemental, and a glance at
his ideals and their evolution at Peterboro.

Most of his compositions are written around some poetic idea and are
so suggestive and appealing to the imagination that in studying them
the native poetic fancy is easily aroused; but the full effect is lost
to the casual hearer who is not familiar with the theme. The
accompanying poems are interpretations of some of his best-known piano
numbers, based upon the briefly indicated poetic idea upon which they
are founded, reinforced by a careful intellectual study of each
composition and its appeal to the individual creative faculty of the

The sonnet to MacDowell was written at the beginning of the two
darkened years preceding his death, when he forgot that there was such
a thing as music.

"A.D. 1620" and "Song" are from the "Sea Pieces." The former describes
the sailing of the galleon bearing the Pilgrim Fathers to America. The
"Song," which is distinctly Irish in its melody, seems to me to be
sung by a lad on board the galleon, who sings and whistles to keep up
the courage of his fellow-pilgrims, thereby forgetting his own pain.

The "Shadow Dance" is written three notes to two, and this difficult
musical form is represented by the three shadows dancing before two
people. "A Deserted Farm" is a lyric description of the now beautiful
"Hill Crest" as he found it. "The Spirit Call" is suggested by the
Celtic vein of mystery and haunting sadness pervading most of the
MacDowell music.

The sonnet "To a Wild Rose" was inspired by a rumor from the
musician's sick room that his night had passed and he would recover;
but this was a false hope, and it was not long until he was sleeping
on a green hill-side at Peterboro, his resting-place, in the grandeur
of its simplicity, suggesting the modest, child-hearted, nature-loving
man who had passed on beyond earth's discord.

The other poems in this little collection speak for themselves, and
all are offered as a handful of rosemary to one who ever harkened to
the simplest strain.--E.F.P.



_"Late explorers say they have found some nations that have no God;
but I have not read of any that had no music." "Music means harmony,
harmony means love, love means--God."_--SIDNEY LANIER.

"Music is love in search of a word," said the same poet-musician. He
was born full of the music and the love, and so was enabled to find
and transmit to the world the undying word.

One cannot be a true poet, it seems to me, without at least an abiding
love and sympathetic appreciation of the finest in music, or a great
musician without a love of poetry and a responsiveness to its
witchery. The two arts are interdependent and well nigh inseparable. A
great musician may compose a song without words, but sooner or later
there will be born a poet-soul who, hearing the song, will be
irresistibly impelled to supply the words. On the other hand, many of
the greatest musical compositions we have were inspired, like most of
MacDowell's, by some poet's lines, a single figure, sentence or stanza
furnishing the theme of oratorio, cantata, opera or ballad. Schubert's
genius could be fired at any time, even under the most adverse
conditions, by a beautiful poem, and many writers have received the
inspiration for their masterpieces under the influence of music.

In some compositions combining both words and music, one will be very
much the inferior of the other, and the thoughtful student or listener
can but regret the discrepancy. Perhaps the words will be imposing and
the musical setting trivial, or the music rich and full of color, but
the words meaningless and inadequate. MacDowell's songs are
satisfying. In his work he reminds one very forcibly of Sidney Lanier,
whose genius was perfectly balanced. His music was full of poetry and
his poetry ran over with music. His was an harmonious nature and no
amount of external discord could cause him to lose his keynote.
Applying his own beautiful words to himself:

  "His song was only living aloud,
  His work a singing with his hands."

Lanier played beautifully upon a silver flute, which he lovingly
describes as "a petal on a harmony." He was a member of the Peabody
Symphony orchestra of Baltimore, and Asger Hamerik, his director for
six years, says of him: "In his hands the flute no longer remained a
mere material instrument, but was transformed into a voice that set
heavenly harmonies into vibration. Its tones developed colors, warmth
and a low sweetness of unspeakable poetry. His conception of music was
not reached by an analytic study of note by note, but was intuitive
and spontaneous, like a woman's reason." In 1878 he played a flute
concerto at a symphony concert, and the director said of him: "His
tall, handsome, manly presence, his flute breathing noble sorrows,
noble joys, the orchestra softly responding. The audience was
spellbound. Such distinction, such refinement! He stood the master,
the genius."

In studying MacDowell, one is reminded at every turn of this dual
genius. Like Lanier, his message is being better understood every
year, and now that he is gone, "fulfillment is dropping on a come-true

MacDowell had great advantages over Lanier in his early life in
freedom from financial worry. In his youth he was privileged to travel
and search until he found his own real masters, in the Frankfort
Conservatory, where he studied piano with Heymann and composition with
Raff. At Weimar he met Liszt, who recognized his ability and accorded
him such unstinted praise that he was invited to play his first piano
suite before the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musik-Verein at its nineteenth
annual convention, held at Zurich in July, 1882. Both the composition
and his rendition of it won enthusiastic appreciation and applause.

Lanier had a hard, brave struggle to maintain his ideals in the face
of a continually thwarting fate that would have caused many a man,
stronger physically than he, to become discouraged, despairing. Ill
health, poverty and lack of appreciation of his life work had not the
power to destroy his optimism. He bravely waged an unequal combat with
the three, when many a man would have fallen on his own sword to end
the bitter struggle with either one of them. From out the gloom he
sang thus:

  "The dark hath many dear avails,
     The dark distils divinest dews;
  The dark is rich with nightingales,
     With dreams and with the heavenly Muse."

Just at the awakening of public appreciation of his work and
recognition of his right to rank as America's greatest composer of
music, MacDowell died to the world of men through a mental collapse
brought on by over-work, and for two years, forgetting that there was
such a thing as music, the great tone-poet dwelt in a soundless world.
Sorrow for such a fate at the zenith of a career of so much promise
was world-wide, and many hoped that he would emerge from the dark,
after a time, with his genius enriched by long subjective communion
with the "heavenly Muse"; but he had dwelt too long in the abstract
world of sound and had heard the music of the spheres until earth
tones became fainter and fainter and finally ceased altogether.

Then, after having admitted his greatness during those two shadowed
years, when the hand of death rang down the curtain on his
earth-drama, his contemporaries began to examine more critically into
the why and wherefore of the decision that accorded him leadership.

A well-known critic calls him the American Grieg, but while applauding
the fanciful style of the Norwegian, one often hears MacDowell accused
of being merely capricious. But what is caprice?

Bishop Trench reminds us in his famous treatise that the word is
derived from _capra_, "a goat," and represents, in a picturesque
manner, a mental movement as unaccountable, as little to be calculated
on beforehand, as the springs and bounds of that whimsical animal.

The work of MacDowell certainly has the characteristic vigor and
vividness, the unstudied activity, the unexpected leaps and springs
that the derivation of the word "caprice" suggests. And, if one cares
for mysticism, it is interesting to know that according to the
teachings of the ancient science of astrology, which is having a
considerable revival at present, the composer is entitled to
unconventional methods and an unusual combination of qualities, as he
was born on the cusp between the zodiacal signs of Sagittarius and
Capricornus. The latter sign produces people who will work well
independently, but are very restless when under orders or hampered by
rules and regulations. They love freedom, are fine entertainers, have
little self-esteem, are inclined to be either on the heights or in the
depths, are excellent musicians and lovers of harmony and beauty. They
are often victims of over-work because of the determination to make a
brilliant success of what they undertake and of their lack of judgment
in regard to their powers of endurance. Sagittarius people are
characterized by directness of speech and act. They are of varied
talents, very musical and turn naturally to the spiritual side of
life. They belong to the prophetic realm and see wonderful visions,
but are no idle dreamers, being always mentally and physically active.
Whatever there may be in the science of astrology, one who is familiar
with the life and character of Edward MacDowell cannot fail to be
impressed by the correctness of this delineation, so far as it goes.

But his style of composition is not, to my mind, capricious. It is the
result of many interesting influences of heredity, culture and
individual temperament and application. When he went to Paris, at
fifteen, he was a pupil of Marmontel in piano and of Savard in theory
and composition; but young as he was, the French school did not
satisfy him. He heard Nicholas Rubinstein play while in Paris, and
became fired with enthusiasm by his style and impressed with the idea
that in Germany he would find his own. His father was of Quaker
extraction and had decided artistic ability, but his pious parents
would not permit him to indulge even the thought of cultivating or
pursuing so trivial a calling. Edward inherited his father's talent,
and while in the French capital, during a period of despondency over
his slow progress with the language, he made a caricature of the
teacher of his French class on a leaf of his exercise book. In some
way it fell under the tutor's eye, and it was of such excellence that
it aroused new interest in the gifted hoy instead of indignation. The
teacher showed it to one of the leading artists in Paris, who implored
young MacDowell to leave off music and study art, assuring him that he
had unusual ability. But the lad also had a well-developed
discriminative faculty. He had chosen his ideal and could not he
persuaded to forsake it, preferring tone-pictures to those made with
brushes and palette.

Besides the Quaker strain, with its tendency toward dignity,
simplicity and openness to the leadings of spirit, he owes to his
Celtic lineage the mystic, poetic, dashing, unsophisticated vein that
might be easily mistaken for caprice, and to his American birth is
due, no doubt, many of the more solid, practical characteristics that
combined to produce the proper balance.

Naturally, he was deeply influenced by his foreign teachers and also
by his favorites among the great masters whose works he studied. He is
said to have adored Wagner, with Tschaikowsky and Grieg for lesser
musical loves. To what extent he drew upon Wagner no one can say, but
that he did so, either unconsciously or with that imitation that is
sincerest flattery is very evident. Many passages suggest Wagner, and
one can easily imagine the ardent young American worshiping the great
German master, as he in turn had adored Beethoven.

Liszt used to say: "I only value people by what they are to Wagner."
There is no estimating the value of Wagner to those who came after
him. He was not satisfied, we are told, with either the melody of the
Italians or the rhetorical excesses of the French. The music of
Beethoven was his ideal, and the dramas of Shakespeare, whose work, to
his mind, compared with the early Greek plays, was like a scene in
nature in comparison with a piece of architecture. Mme. de Staël
called beautiful architecture "frozen music." It was just this
architectural, frozen, congealed condition that Wagner wished to
overcome, without running into any frivolities. He was in every sense
a living, breathing _man_, and his work is pervaded by this virile,
life-like quality. In his first youthful attempt at drama, forty-two
persons perished in the development of the plot and most of them had
to be brought back as ghosts to enable him to complete the piece. Now,
however, one is haunted by the faithfulness to life of his creations,
not by the ghosts of his slaughtered victims, and an aspiring young
composer who adored him could not help imbibing some of his power.

Wagner thought that the musician should write his own lines in opera
or song, and conceived and mastered a new form, taking poetry into
music just as Sidney Lanier took music into poetry in his "Science of
English Verse." Wagner also thought that because of the exactness of
musical science, a composer became practically the actor of each of
his parts, while the dramatic author could never be sure what meaning
would be read into his lines.

The native poetic temperament of MacDowell and his almost invariable
use of lines, figures or stanzas of poetry as inspiration in
composition leads one to believe that he would have attempted opera
when he had grown to it. This was one of the few musical forms that he
did not essay. Perhaps he was of the opinion of Beethoven, as Wagner
conceived him, who said when speaking of opera: "The man who created a
_true_ musical drama would be looked upon as a fool--and would _be_
one in very truth if he did not keep such a thing to himself, but
wanted to bring it before the public."

MacDowell is frequently called a mystic, and most of his efforts
breathe the Celtic spirit, which is full of melancholy, romance and
tenderness. Ghosts creep through their pages and wandering, restless
spirits call from his most characteristic harmonies. Wagner was a
mystic at sixteen, dwelling largely in the abstract, but grew out of
this, through varied experience, into an active philosopher, with
every objective faculty on the alert, and thus escaped, perhaps, the
fate of MacDowell.

The literary loves of MacDowell, who supplied him with such a wealth
of inspiration, were Goethe, Heine, Shakespeare, Tennyson and Keats,
and he was himself a poet of no mean ability. Lawrence Gilman says, in
his thorough analysis of his work, that, writing as he usually does
from some poetic theme, the effect is lost if the hearer does not know
the idea around which the composition is woven. For instance, one is
apt to take "A.D. 1620" for a funeral dirge, just to hear it without
knowledge of the subject, as it somewhat resembles the Chopin Funeral
March; but the title suggests something historic, and knowing the
lines that inspired it, one can easily distinguish the waves and the
majestic movement of a great ship putting out to sea.

Naturally, MacDowell drew heavily upon the German poets, Goethe and
Heine, in his earlier works, as he began his serious study of
composition in Germany. Equally naturally did he turn to Tennyson, as
they are alike in psychic development and in their powers of
interpretation of nature. Recently, in Lincoln, England, a new statue
of Tennyson was unveiled. It is by Watts, and represents the poet clad
in a cape overcoat, with slouch hat in hand and his dog at his side.
He and his dumb friend have been strolling in the woods and his head
is bent over an uprooted flower held lovingly in his hand. Underneath
are the lines which inspired the striking pose:

  "Flower in the crannied wall,
  I pluck you out of the crannies,
  I hold you here, root and all, in my hand.
  Little flower--but if I could understand
  What you are, root and all, and all in all,
  I should know what God and man is."

It is a beautiful conception, the big, tall man contemplating thus
reverently, with bared head, the tender epitome of life. The dog, with
head upraised, points a comprehending nose in the direction of his
poet-master's find, and looks as if he longed to help him unravel the
mystery. MacDowell would adore this piece of sculpture, for he sought
the secret of life in flower and brook and landscape, in mountain and
vale and sea.

Gilman compares the "Sea Pieces" to Walt Whitman and Swinburne. Like
Whitman, MacDowell is no strict adherent to set forms, placing
inspiration ahead of tradition. Some of his most beautiful
compositions are very brief. Poe claims that there is no such thing in
existence as a "long poem." Since a poem only deserves the name in
proportion to its power to excite and elevate the soul, and a
sustained condition of soul excitement and elevation is a psychic
impossibility, the oft-used phrase is a contradiction in terms.
Applying this idea to the familiar piano compositions of MacDowell,
they have every right to be called "tone poems." Poetry is the
color-work of the mind, as distinguished from its sculpture and
architecture, which represent mere form. There is more than form in
the compositions under consideration; the tinge of color is
everywhere, the wave of poetry that produces soul excitement and
elevation, from signature to final chord. While he handles a subject
broadly, as an impressionist, accomplishing striking effects with a
few bold, characteristic strokes, MacDowell still works out his tone
picture with considerable detail, carefully indicating the results he
wishes to achieve. He reminds one in his methods of Corot, the great
landscape painter. He will tell you to play a passage "very tenderly,"
or "somewhat savagely," or "daintily and joyously," not being content
with the usual color terms. When he is loud, he is very, very loud,
and in the same composition will have a passage marked with four p's.
He likes contrasts and uses them very effectively. His music has the
charm of infinite variety, but there is an insistent note of
sombreness pervading most of it that is heard even above the majesty
of the "Sea Pieces," the beauty of the "Woodland Sketches" and the
humor of the "Marionettes." In the "New England Idyls" there is a
plaintive little wail, "From a Log Cabin," the rustic retreat in the
woods at Peterboro, his "house of dreams untold," where MacDowell did
most of his later composition. It speaks of solitude, isolation and a
moan of the wind is heard in the tree tops, with an answering moan
from the heart of a man who may have had some premonition of his fate.

He is the first composer of world-note since Brahms who did his best
work for the piano. Others have used that instrument as a means
merely, reserving their crowning efforts for the orchestra, where it
is, of course, far less difficult to achieve fine effects. While he
wrote successful orchestral suites, he dignified the single instrument
by devoting his first thought to piano literature.

His humorous suite, "The Marionettes," very strongly suggests Jerome
K. Jerome's "Stageland," in which the villain is represented as an
individual who always wears a clean collar and smokes a cigarette. The
hero approaches the heroine from the rear and "breathes his attachment
down her back," and the poor heroine is pursued by the relentless
storm, while on the other side of the street the sun is shining.
MacDowell portrays the coquettish "Soubrette," the longing "Lover,"
the strong-charactered "Witch," the gay "Clown," the sinister
"Villain" and the simple, tender "Sweetheart," with a Prologue
indicating "sturdy good humor" and an Epilogue to be rendered
"musingly, with deep feeling." The suite is very attractive and in
sharp contrast to his romantic, heroic and lyric work.

Another potent factor in the formation of MacDowell's style of
composition was his love of nature. No one has put truer brooks,
birds, flowers, trees, meadows or sea into tone. Whenever he "loafed
and invited his soul," the tired, city-worn world reaped the benefit.
His lesser piano compositions may be, in a sense, considered in the
light of a diary. We are with him in a fisherman's hut, in deep woods,
on a deserted farm, in the haunted house, by the lily pond, in
mid-ocean, by a meadow brook, by smoldering embers, always seeing the
picture, hearing the voices or feeling the atmosphere that appealed to
his artist mind. The charm of common things, the ever-present beauty
and harmony in all forms of life, supplied him with endless

In portraying nature, he is in no sense a copyist. He does not
describe a scene, an occasion or an object, but suggests it, being an
adept in the use of musical metaphor. Robert Louis Stevenson says that
the one art in literature is to omit. "If I knew how to omit," says
he, "I should ask no other knowledge." Painters tell us that the
highest evidence of skill in transferring nature to canvas is to avoid
too much detail, and they squint up their eyes in order not to see too
much. These standards prove MacDowell the artist. He does not make the
mistake that so many preachers and public teachers do of presuming
upon the ignorance or stupidity of his hearers, but leaves something
to their imagination and inner artistic senses.

There is a reverence of nature, a depth of love that amounts almost to
sadness, in this man's work that stamps him the pantheist in the
highest sense. This is, I think, a common characteristic of the
mystic. Their consciousness of the oneness of all life is so perfect
that God is seen even in its lowest forms. Sermons are read in stones
and books in the running brooks. This suggests MacDowell's kinship to
Shakespeare, Ruskin, Emerson and Thoreau; but it is a limitless
analogy. All genius, in the end, is of one blood, and MacDowell is
unquestionably a genius.

When one is entering upon a literary career, the first injunction is
to "acquire a style." "But how?" asks the aspirant. Some say by
becoming familiar with the forms of expression of the best authors,
and such advise that you read without stint. Others bid you write,
write incessantly about everything under the sun, until by long
practice you evolve a style of your own, unhampered in its originality
by the memory of the achievements of others resulting from much
reading. There are still others who advise an equal division of time
between study of the classics and self-expression. The latter is the
most natural and common method and leads in time to the goal. Perhaps
the same is true of musical style. Technical skill, accuracy,
interpretation and appreciation come from studying and performing the
works of others; then if one aspires to original work, let him
compose, essaying any and everything until his own peculiar bent is
discovered, unless it forces itself upon him with the insistence of
destiny from the outset.

While the critics have admitted the freshness, originality and general
excellence of MacDowell's work and marveled over his versatility, his
shorter piano pieces and songs are as yet most popular in the making
of programmes. However, Henry T. Finck says of his sonatas: "As
regards the sonatas, I ought to bear MacDowell a decided grudge. After
I had written and argued a hundred times that the sonata form was
'played out,' he went to work and wrote four sonatas to confute me. To
be sure, I might have my revenge and say they are 'not sonatas'; but
they are no more unorthodox than the sonatas of Chopin, Schumann,
Liszt and Grieg, though they have a freedom of their own which is
captivating. They are brimful of individuality and charm; they will be
heard often in the concert halls of the future."

The "Sonata Tragica" might have been written of the composer himself,
and "The Heroica" could easily have been inspired by his wife, instead
of by the Arthur legends, for she is a knightly soul, combining to a
most unusual degree the artistic temperament, womanly tenderness and
charm, with a chivalrous sort of courage, suggesting Tennyson's lines:

  "My woman-soldier, gallant Kate,
  As pure and true as blades of steel."

These are busy days for her at Peterboro, where she is daily striving
to put the MacDowell ideals into permanent and practical effect. The
plan is most appealing and can, perhaps, be better understood by
contrast, if a little insight is given into a state of things, the
amelioration of which is the purpose of the project.

You are invited, then, to step into a neat and attractive modern
apartment kitchen, say three years ago. The grocery boy had just left.
Everything was there, and of unusually good quality--crisp lettuce,
golden oranges, the inevitable loaf of whole wheat bread, the sugar
and lemons--and as the housekeeper compared the articles with the
grocer's book which she held in her hand, she gave a start. Some one
across the way was playing "To a Wild Rose." Yes, it was Wednesday,
and a glance at the kitchen clock revealed the fact that in ninety
minutes the MacDowell Club would be called to order, and she had
promised a poem for the programme. Shades of Sappho! What was to be
done? There had been no time in the two weeks since the last meeting,
between housekeeping, mending, grinding out of pot-boilers and
countless interruptions, to give the matter a thought, and she had
never been known to forget such a promise.

Pegasus neighed reassuringly, and seizing the stub of a pencil
attached to the grocer's book, after a moment of concentration, in
which she closed her eyes to shut out the material vision before her,
she scribbled rapidly on a few blank pages in the back of the plebeian
record. After several readings of the lines and sundry interlined
revisions, she tore out the sheets, blessed Pegasus for coming in
under the wire so nobly, and hurried away to dress. At the appointed
time, sheepishly trying to conceal her unpoetic manuscript, which
there had been no time to copy, behind a lace fan, she arose, flushed
but sustaining her reputation for reliability as a programme feature.

'Twas for like-conditioned people, aspiring to work out their dreams
in words, tones, color or clay in congenial surroundings, undisturbed
by any domestic or other distraction or inharmony, that Edward
MacDowell conceived the idea now being carried out at Peterboro, New

The plan was not to provide a rest-cure or moderate-priced summer home
for broken-down musicians, artists and writers, as many seem to think,
but to give those at the very height of their productiveness a chance
for undisturbed work, under the inspiration of nature in her most
alluring guise, and association, after work hours, with such rare
souls as could arouse higher aspiration by thought interchange and
comparison of ideals.

Ask the average workman along any artistic line what he would rather
have than anything else and he is very sure to tell you, "Leisure for
work!" And after that, the strongest desire is for the companionship
of some one who really understands what he is trying to do.

His good angel must have led Edward MacDowell to Peterboro. I can
imagine no other setting so perfect for the last act of his life, with
its shifting scenes. Whatever else the great power back of the
universe may be, He is the Master Artist, and in the making of this
village of enchantment He seems to have gathered together all His most
beautiful materials and combined them with lavish hand. Quaint and
picturesque houses are sprinkled over the foot-hills of the Monadnock
Mountains. Green fields go down to meet clear streams of placid water,
where trailing vines and overhanging boughs make charming shadows. The
sun sparkles against great gray boulders, lichen-grown, and upon
yellow sand dunes. There are pines, larches, firs, spruces and all
their sturdy kinspeople, scattered freely that the eye may at any
season be gladdened by the sight of living green, and interspersed
with these are deciduous trees of every kind, to make a fantastic
tracery of bare branches against the wintry sky and furnish a series
of beautiful contrasts, from the earliest tender bud to the last sere
autumn leaf. And the ferns! Did the Great Artist have any left after
planting the fence-corners, roadsides and deep woods of Peterboro?
Overarch these features with a fair dome of fleece-scattered blue and
waft abroad throughout the place a succession of mountain breezes,
ozone charged, and you have a place to live and work and grow young

MacDowell thought that the fine arts were supplemental, each of the
other, and wished to include them all in his scheme, so well-built
rustic studios, equipped to suit the needs of the occupant, are being
placed at intervals on advantageous sites in the woods, tree-screened
and far enough apart to insure quiet and privacy, but sufficiently
near to give that comfortable sense of human comradeship and safety.
There is a common domicile at the foot of "Hill Crest," called "The
Lower House," presided over by a capable housekeeper, where the
workers sleep, breakfast, dine and recreate in the evening; but after
breakfast, provided with a simple lunch, each hies away happily to his
own studio to spend the day in alternate working and waiting on the
Muses in blissful solitude. This routine is broken sufficiently by
cups of tea with Mrs. MacDowell at "Hill Crest," rambles in garden and
wood, drives over the picturesque mountain roads and tramps to the
village, to prevent Jack from having any chance of becoming a dull

The departed musician's own log cabin, already referred to as the
place where most of his later works were composed, was the first of
the studios to be built, and it would be difficult to imagine a more
perfect retreat for his purpose.

  "It looks out over the whispering treetops,
  And faces the setting sun,"

which glints on the bark roof, now covered with a thick shower of
fragrant brown pine needles, giving the appearance of a pre-designed

Within, the personality of the absent composer lingers perceptibly,
and the two names--"Edward--Marian-1899"--written in his bold
chirography in the damp cement, when the cabin hearth was laid before
the open fireplace, tell a touching story of a union so real as to
make no plan complete, no realization of a long-cherished hope
perfect, that did not openly include his wife.

These two were married in New York in 1884. A gifted South Carolina
aunt, who went to New York after the war and soon made her way to the
front rank of metropolitan teachers, gave to Marian Nevins, a
country-bred girl of York State, the only musical training she ever
had until she went abroad in 1880 to pursue her studies. Edward
MacDowell was at that time in high favor with his masters, Heymann and
Raff, at the Frankfort Conservatory, and she became his pupil. Her
industry and ambition aroused his interest in the development of her
talent, and he put her through a long season of severe drill and
study, imparting to her all his original methods and personal ideals,
as well as those acquired from his masters. It was hard work between
the gifted teacher and his promising pupil, with no idea of romance;
but with her preparations for her return to America, at the expiration
of three years, came the revelation to each of the meaning of the
impending separation, and in a twelvemonth after her departure he went
to New York and returned to Germany with his bride, settling at
Wiesbaden, where they spent some ideal years. While he began his
career as a composer in that inspiring atmosphere and won a hearing
and a verdict that opened the way to fame, it was after his return to
America that he did his best work, when he freed himself from the
chance of unconscious imitation and reflection and gave rein to
individuality and imagination in the Peterboro retreat. Weber says:
"To be a true artist you must be a true man." This tribute has been
paid MacDowell by his associates: they say he was a true man.
Nobleness has been called the chief characteristic alike of himself
and his music, with a simplicity that is ever the accompaniment of
real nobility. In playing, he had certain little tricks of using his
fingers that produced certain effects, but he did not teach these to
his pupils, preferring that they should use their own ingenuity,
explaining: "You might find a better way than mine," showing a modest
willingness to be taught, even by his own pupils, instead of always
posing as master. He never forced his personality, as a man or as a
musician, upon any one, choosing rather to encourage and foster

Much is said and written about an American national music. I am
reminded of a colored mammy who was left in charge of "Marse John" and
the house while "Miss Mary an' de chillun" were away at the springs.
When the larder needed replenishing she would break the news to her
employer like this: "Marse John?" "Yes, Mammy!" "You know the flour?"
"Yes, Mammy!" "Well, _there ain't none_!" It is even so with our
national music--"there ain't none."

Arthur Farwell, president of the American Music Society, thinks
differently. He says: "One must make a very broad study of the works
of eighty or one hundred American composers before he will begin to
perceive the indisputable American qualities arising in our music. The
endeavor not to repeat, parrot-like, the formulæ of the Old World has
driven many American composers to seek out new inventions and has led
to a freshness, in a considerable mass of American work, as in
MacDowell's, which may be said to be directly a product of American

Music is seldom a thing of nationality or locality. Early opera in
Germany was Italian and the French grand opera school was founded by a
Florentine. The style of music that appeals most keenly to the people
of a country or community influences largely the method and manner of
its native composers. Authors, musical and literary, write more often
to fill a demand, subjectively felt perhaps, than to create one or to
establish a form representative of their nation or section, though
occasionally, when the author is a genius and fearlessly gives
expression to his own divinity, regardless of precedent, he finds
himself responsible for a new order, though in that case the
individuality of the author is the leaven that leaveneth the lump, and
not the locality.

We are only beginning, as a nation, to recognize music as an essential
to general culture. A new country must become familiar with and learn
to appreciate what has already been done along artistic lines before
it is capable of evolving its own type in any permanent, living
fashion. We have no people's music. "Give me, oh give me, the man who
sings at his work," said Carlyle, and I often think when I hear an
American laborer singing at his task that if dear old Carlyle were
only alive and I _could_ give him the unmelodious disturber of the
public peace, the pleasure would be _all mine_. American music, the
music of the people, is built upon the Puritan hymn tunes and savors
of the persecution that made the Pilgrim Fathers fly to the new land.

Some think that the negro melodies should form the basis of our
American music; but why? The negro is an importation, not a native,
and if we want the real thing, it seems to me that we will have to
find it in the Indian melodies, but it will take artistic handling to
develop them from aboriginal simplicity to the intricacy necessary to
represent in any sense present-day, cosmopolitan America.

Universality is just now the philosophical ideal, and it seems to me
that America, the composite nation, is the proper center from which
such a spirit should emanate. Why try to foster the limited local idea
with regard to music, or any artistic or intellectual pursuit? Why
encourage the production of distinctive American music in a country in
which there is not even a distinctive type of face or mode of speech?
Here is a Virginian, descended from an American Indian and an English
colonist, living next door to a Plymouth Rock Yankee whose husband is
a French Canadian. Across the street is a German-American born in the
Middle West, who is married to a Californian of Spanish lineage. My
cook is an African, yours is Chinese and perhaps your housemaid is
Scandinavian, your chauffeur Irish, and so on. Music, to be effective
in such a patchwork civilization as this, would have to be _simply
music_--universal, composite, international.

MacDowell has created a typical music, typical of _himself_, not of
any locality, and he wished it to be judged as _music_, not as
_American_ music, and the justice of his desire cannot be gainsaid.
Recalling all of the influences of inherited and natural temperament,
education, foreign environment and American experience, jealous as we
are of his genius, we must admit that he caught in his productions the
complexity of his time. His music is universal and reflects the genius
of his contemporaries, as well as that of the older masters,
impregnated with his individual creativeness. He had seeing eyes and
hearing ears, and realizing the eternal principle of rhythm and the
universality of tone, he caught the keynote of everything related to
him in the outer world, with its corresponding relation in the inner
or unseen realms, producing compositions that are complete in form,
accurate in intellectual grasp and spiritually prophetic.

  He fashioned his own wreath of immortelles,
  With matchless skill.
  Tones lent themselves with subtle eagerness
  To do his will.
  Repeat them as his genius did design,
  His pow'r devise;
  No higher tribute to his name and fame
  From us could rise.




  Now, in the darkness, mute, from hour to hour,
  Sits one who lov'd all life, and from the strings
  Of well-tuned harp brought sounds of common things,
  And sang of sea and wood and tree and flow'r.
  His task all done, fled usefulness and pow'r,
  Through the deep shade his uncurbed fancy wings,
  While with his fame his proud land loudly rings,
  And praise falls on his work in lavish show'r.

  The rosemary we bring, and no rude hand
  The laurel would withhold, the plaudits stay.
  For him is seen the magic circled wand
  That to creative genius points the way.
  His music's bold, true note Time's test will stand.
  His age in art begins with cloudless day.

A.D. 1620

  Exiled from home, for sake of faith held dear,
  To distant shores the Pilgrim Fathers turned.
  Their grief-stung hearts for Freedom's blessing yearned,
  Where persecution's lash they need not fear.
  In stately ships they sailed the ocean drear,
  And more of trial and of hardship learned;
  But in their loyal bosoms still there burned
  Religious zeal that lent heroic cheer.

  One hundred souls from Mother England came,
  And many days fared on a storm-tossed sea,
  Men, women, children, to be known to Fame
  For braving death for sacred Liberty.
  To our bleak, shelt'ring port they gave a name,
  And marked an epoch in our history.


  A merry song the pilgrim sang
  To check the sigh of pain,
  At thought of leaving his dear home
  He ne'er might see again.
  'Twas o-ho-ho and ah-ha-ha,
  He laughed and sang alway;
  When comrades' eyes were filled with tears,
  Or sad heads turned away.

  A cheery song, a merry song,
  As o'er Life's sea we sail,
  Will send a thrill of courage new
  To hearts about to fail.
  So sound a note, oh singer brave,
  Whate'er your own soul's pain;
  When time repeats its echo sweet,
  'Twill bless your life again.


  A solitary soul, I walk at eve
  Without the village walls, and in the deep
  And sacred hush of woods, where fairies sleep,
  Calm Nature soothes my senses, and I live
  In realms that only creatures can conceive,
  Who with their holy guardian spirits keep
  Firm faith, and into loving arms I creep,
  And mundane cares no more my spirit grieve.

  Cool breezes blow about me, and I hear
  The mellow bells of distant churches chime.
  I wander on, with never thought of fear,
  Secure as in some peaceful heav'nly clime.
  Majestic, mystic things seem close and clear,
  And all my soul is wrapt in thoughts sublime.


  We two sat watching the shadows dance,
  (Long years had passed since we were young),
  And o'er the days that had fled there hung
  A mist of sorrow and sad romance.

  From out the gloom of an old stone wall,
  The moon drew creatures of wondrous shape,
  And none of our lost dreams could escape,
  A cruel magic revealed them all.

  They bowed and swayed with a mocking grace,
  And held our gaze as they flitted by;
  Our deep-drawn breaths were our sole reply,
  As one by one we beheld each face.

  A dream of Wealth and a dream of Fame,
  And Love's dream, these were the foremost three,
  Each with its shadowy train, till we
  Could greet the phantoms of youth by name.

  Our faces paled and we trembled there,
  Watching the shadows dance on the wall;
  Wealth, Fame and Love--we had missed them all,
  And Sorrow's chalice had been our share.

  But there was hope and we still had life,
  And hearts are brave that the years have tried;
  We looked in each other's eyes and sighed,
  Sad, pain-filled eyes, but free of strife.

  Dance on, gaunt shadows, beside the wall,
  We shrink from you in your cruel mirth;
  But what are _you_ and the dreams of Earth?
  Our hard-won peace is worth them all.


  Where, dearest, fare thy feet this summer eve?
  Hast found a pasture green in which to tread,
  Beside refreshing waters art thou led,
  Content beyond my powers to conceive?
  Does overflowing cup thy thirst relieve,
  With princely feast hast thou thy hunger fed,
  Uplifted high is thine anointed head,
  Among thy kind dost thou esteem receive?

  I pray 'tis so; and evermore shall be,
  That year by year thy honors may increase,
  No shadow darken thy prosperity,
  Nor treach'rous pitfall mar thy way of peace.
  My loving eyes would always joy to see
  Thy path lie fair until thy journey cease.


  This is her bed!
  Dip the oars lightly,
  Guide the craft rightly,
  Where her sweet head
  Nestles so calmly.

  What says her heart,
  Fragrant and golden?
  In its depths holden,
  With maiden art,
  Whose image hath she?

  Dare I disturb
  Fancies so tender,
  E'en to surrender?
  Better to curb
  Self for her peace.

  Dream on, my flow'r!
  Eyes have caressed thee,
  I have confessed me,
  In this still hour.
  Will she requite me?


  Upon the mountain's top we pensive stood,
  The day was waning and the sun drooped low;
  Long shadows fell across the vale below,
  And deepened as they reached the distant wood.
  The sky seemed in arm's reach: in holy mood,
  The trees stretched forth their boughs as to bestow
  A vesper blessing, ere we turned to go.
  Like feathered mother hovering her brood,
  Gray twilight o'er the landscape spread her wings.
  I looked into your eyes: in their clear glow,
  There dwelt the light that altar candles throw
  On imaged saint and penitent who clings
  To God, whose likeness such pure beings show.
  The strength'ning peace that contemplation brings,
  Obliterating trace of earthly things,
  Wrapt you in radiant aura, safe from woe.
  The path became a long cathedral aisle,
  The sinking sun, the Host to bow before
  With folded hands and rev'rently adore,
  The zephyrs wafting incense sweet the while.
  There was a far-off priest, with gentle smile,
  Whose parting benediction seemed to pour
  Upon us, from the verge of some blest shore,
  To which our ling'ring steps he would beguile.
  An organ pealed from somewhere in the heights
  Above us, and a sweet-voiced chorus rang
  A "Nunc Dimittis," and from caverns sang
  In echo all the list'ning mountain wights.
  Uniting fervently in their "amen,"
  We stood a moment in the dark'ning gray;
  In silence, as the knowing only may,
  And then, refreshed, turned to our tasks again.


  Awake, wild rose, lift up your lovely face
  And smile a welcome sweet to one whose days
  Were spent of yore in rose-embowered ways,
  Where lovingly he marveled at your grace
  And found in music lore for you a place,
  Telling in tones the world heard with amaze,
  How fair you were to his inspiréd gaze.
  A grieving people lost him for a space,
  And 'round his darkened home there hung a band
  Of messengers, half-dreading, day by day,
  Lest they should bear sad tidings o'er the land.
  But now, as Nature wakes, joy hath full sway.
  MacDowell lives! Grim death could not withstand
  The tide of loving thought that flowed his way.


(_Celtic myth: "The ghosts of Fathers, they say, call away the souls
of their race, while they behold them lonely in the midst of woe."
"Erin's clouds are hung 'round with ghosts."_--OSSIAN.)

  I go: my father's spirit calls!
  From his gray cloud beholding,
  He sees how thickly sorrow falls,
  My lonely path enfolding.

  So near he comes: I see him well:
  He beckons, smiling, pleading!
  I cannot in this sad world dwell,
  When he is drawing, leading.

  My heart is sore, he loves me dear,
  My soul is weary, weary!
  Father, I come, naught holds me here:
  Thou lov'st, and life is dreary!

  Bend lower, cloud, his spirit's home,
  My helpless form to cover!
  A gasp, a sigh, one faint, low breath,
  And all life's woes are over.


  Seeking a lodge remote from men,
  A place for rest and labor,
  Where I might inspiration gain,
  Dame Nature for close neighbor,

  I came on a deserted farm,
  By forest deep surrounded;
  'Twas mine, by ev'ry subtle charm,
  I saw, with joy unbounded.

  I wandered through its empty halls,
  And 'mong its spreading acres,
  Where birds and bees and frisky squirrels
  Were undisturbed caretakers.

  What sturdy youth and maid demure
  Within that garden olden,
  Their vows of love and constancy
  Pledged in the sunset golden?

  What lady hands in lilac hedge
  Or tansy bed went gleaning?
  Who placed that rusty flintlock there,
  Against the stone fence leaning?

  The very nails within your walls
  Handwrought, with skill, proclaim you
  A relic of colonial days,
  And home of comfort name you.

  The spinning-wheels, in attic hid,
  Tell me of busy fingers;
  And 'round the farm, long tenantless,
  An air of home still lingers.

  Of bygone days you speak to me,
  With all your ling'ring treasures;
  You summon musings of the past,
  And promise future pleasures.

  My Sleeping Beauty, I'm your Prince,
  At my kiss you will waken
  To fuller life than e'er you knew,
  Before you were forsaken.

  The great of earth will gather here,
  'Twill be the home of Muses;
  Thy beauty and thy peacefulness
  A wondrous charm diffuses.

  I have a dream that years ahead,
  From out your humble portals
  Will issue music, art and song,
  To bless aspiring mortals.

  And mayhap when the eyes of men
  Turn toward you lovingly,
  Some gentle heart will breathe a prayer,
  Or sing a song for me.


  Out of the night and the silence,
  That held him in pitiless thrall,
  Came a gleam and a song of glory,
  And his spirit answered the call.

January 23, 1908

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