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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Beggar's Daughter, parts 4780 - 4783

 4780. Several people came up to me on the station platform to see if I was all right. I calmed down. I said, “My mother has recently died, that is why I am crying like this, but never mind".

 4781. People seemed to accept my explanation with sympathy, and a few minutes later we boarded another train. Later, in the hotel, I looked up the passage in "Crime and Punishment," that this incident had reminded me of. Here is what I found, on the first page of Part 2, chapter 6:

 4782. From "Crime And Punishment:" From old habit he took his usual walk in the direction of the Hay Market. A dark-haired young man with a barrel organ was standing in the road in front of a little general shop and was grinding out a very sentimental song.

4783. From "Crime And Punishment:" He was accompanying a girl of fifteen, who stood on the pavement in front of him. She was dressed up in a crinoline, a mantle and a straw hat with a flame-colored feather in it, all very old and shabby.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Beggar's Daughter, parts 4776 - 4779

 4776. But that was all perhaps just a story telling daydream, and of no consequence, but the upshot of it was that, right there on the train I began to cry, and not muffled sobs, no, not by any means, but hysterics, and cries of anguish, right there in public, in front of a lot of strangers.

 4777. Imagine my embarrassment. I was convulsed with sobs. It was hysterics. Everyone in the car eyed us with mounting alarm, as if something very untoward and frightening was about to happen.

 4778. I took a firm grip on B's arm, and indicated that we had to get off at the next stop. And what was it all about. I don’t even care for that song, and she wasn’t even singing it very well. 

 4779. She was just singing those lines, “And I began to Pray,” as I rushed by her and put a bill in her cup. She broke off her singing at the very instant she saw the note, and went off to another car, without even bothering to finish the line of the song.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Beggar's Daughter, parts 4772 - 3775

 4772. She sang that sad American song about the leaves being brown, and the sky being gray, with those words, “If I didn’t tell him, I could leave today.”

 4773. It seemed to me that it was not a song at all, and that I could see in her sad distracted eyes, that this girl was singing about her decision to leave her old father, and cease their begging. 

 4774. She knew that he was soon to simply die of grief, and that there was not a thing that she could do about it. In his face I thought I could see his certain knowledge of his coming abandonment and certain death,

4775. ,and his even more certain awareness that he could play the violin, but that she could not sing. And in that awkward balance was the charm and substance their existence.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Beggar's Daughter, parts 4768 - 4771

 4768. The Corelli performance was a failure in every way. I sat on the edge of my seat, I rocked slightly back and forth, but the tears, they just wouldn’t come.

 4769. After that we rode home on the subway, and I sat next to B. in a rather depressed state of mind. We sat across from the doors, and at a stop two people got on the train and they captured my interest at once.

 4770. The two of them reminded me of some characters in “Crime and Punishment” which I just happened to be reading at the time. They were beggars, an old man, and what might have been his daughter, an intensely beautiful black eyed, thin girl of about fourteen, with a face of sad abstraction.

 4771. He had a violin, which he began to play, and a moment later she began to sing in a soft, slightly tremulous untrained voice. From the very first instant, when that bow began to scratch across a string I began to feel my heart ache, and when the child’s voice emerged, as if it had been hidden in the sound of the violin string, I suddenly felt as if I was going to pass out, so intensely did I feel the sound of her voice unexpectedly in the center of my heart.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Beggar's Daughter, parts 4764 - 4767

 4764. The music began; the performance was perfect in every way. They were playing the Opus Six, Number Eight, the “Christmas Concerto.” I glanced at the program and saw that it was being performed on period instruments. My excitement began to build, and I looked forward to sobbing any instant.

 4765. But B. interrupted me to mention again that the chairs were impossible to sit on. I looked around and noticed that in sections of the church the cushions were on the floor rather than the chairs. They were not cushions for sitting on they were for kneeling on.

 4766.  This broke my concentration, and I began to think about the prayer cushion. I must admit that often in a concert I start to daydream, and lose my concentration.

 4767.  I began to imagine that I would drop down on my knees and begin praying, instead of listening to the music. I began to debate with myself whether I would pray silently, or if I would cry out in despair to God as a voice echoing in a wilderness.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Beggar's Daughter, parts 4760 - 4763

 4760. It was even worse when Pachabel’s Cannon was so popular, but fortunately, you do not hear that so much anymore. 

 4761. I began to save up my tears for the occasion, and I debated with myself if I would indulge in muffled sobs, with an occasional gasp, or if I was going to go all out, and wail out loud. Obviously I would never do that, but I must admit, there have been times when I have been sorely tempted.

 4762. When we arrived at the church however I became suspicious. I felt something was amiss. It was an English Anglican Church, and Corelli was decidedly not an Anglican. He was a priest in the Church of Rome. I ignored this however, as best I could. The English build great churches, and certainly Handel, and Purcell make me cry also, so all was not lost. 

 4763. But the chairs were terrible and uncomfortable, in the worst way. They had enormous overstuffed cushions on them, so that it was impossible to sit comfortably.  B. noticed this also, and commented on it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Beggar's Daughter, parts 4756 - 4759

 4756. I begin with a description of a concert, given in Rome some years ago. As far as I can tell, he was at the concert with his beloved. I suspect it was the evening just before a terrible misfortune befell them. I think he must have had some premonition of an impending disaster. Here is his description of the concert.

 4757. My last night in Rome I was able to attend a performance of Archangelo Corelli in a church on the Via Del Corso. You cannot imagine with what pleasure I anticipated the event.

4758. Corelli has always been my favorite composer since childhood. He was Roman and his body has the strange honor of being buried in the Pantheon. This then, to me, was to be the quintessential experience of our trip to Rome. 

 4759. I can hardly listen to certain passages of Corelli, when played correctly, and in the proper tempo, without weeping. My friends know this and are willing to forgive me my tears, if his music catches me unawares in a store or an elevator it can be very embarrassing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Beggar's Daughter, parts 4752 - 4755

 4752. I think he was in the habit of simply opening his book and writing things down, whatever page he opened to was the one he used. Every page was used, front and back, and there was not a page that was not crammed with information or drawings.

 4753. Have you ever looked at the draft pages of Dostoevsky's works, with their cramped hand, and their marginal drawings? That is what his pages reminded me of.  It was a profoundly important account of a period of a person's life, abandoned in a café.

 4754. The only explanation I can think of is that he may have had some sort of attack, and been taken away, perhaps in an ambulance, and so no one noticed the book, and it was left behind. 

4755. It was my intent to go through the book from one end to the other and figure out who its owner could have been, but I did not succeed. I must confess I read the entire thing, and I will share with you some of the most important passages.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Beggar's Daughter, parts 4748 - 4751

4748. Those old ledger books used to have many hundreds of thin pages, but since this was a sketchbook, the paper was a thick smooth drawing paper, and there were about a hundred and twenty sheets in all. It had been used often and it was covered with fine scratches, and spots of ink and paint, both on the covers and accidentally on various pages.

4749. Conspicuously missing was any kind of identifying information, dates, addresses or numbers. There were other papers stuck into various pages, and even manila envelopes with materials of various sorts. I found stubs from shows, and also announcements for museum shows and concerts. 

4750. Many of the concert folders had notes written on them in two different hands, as if it was a couple at a concert, passing the program back and forth and writing notes to each other on it.

4751. The majority of the book's pages were diary inserts, written in a very small cramped hand, and in the same hard pencil as the drawings. Unlike a conventional diary there were no dates. It was my impression that the writings were not consecutive.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Beggar's Daughter, parts 4744 - 4747

 4744. Three drawings were torn out, and not in a careful way, but as if in anger. The paper was not cheap lightweight paper but good cold press watercolor paper, and the torn pages had resisted being removed, and as a result there were even some red threads of the binding exposed.

 4745. It was a beloved book, and the subject was the owner's beloved. It was a book that never could have been abandoned by accident, and so I waited till nightfall, and once the café was closing I took the book up, and brought it home to my rooms. This all took place in Rome, many years ago.

 4746. I would like, however, to describe the journal, because it gives us an indication of what sort of a man he was, or might be, if he is still alive. The journal was rather new, but in an old style.

 4747. It was a large book about twelve by fifteen inches, created in the style of one of those old ledger books that they used to write accounts in. Like those books the covers overhung the paper on three sides, and from use, the covers were bent in.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Beggar's Daughter, parts 4740 - 4743

 4740. The drawings were more or less in the style of Degas, but not quite so perfectly elegant. These were the drawings of a man who had learned to draw over a long period of time; the struggle to master the craft was still evident.

 4741. Like all great artists of the past, he was left handed, this was obvious from the twelve O'clock to four O'clock rapid curving strokes that you see so often in Leonardo's silver point drawings.

 4742. All of the drawings were of one woman, a young and beautiful woman, just as you might expect, and the thing most obvious in the work was the man's evident love of his subject. Here and there were some uninspired and unfinished sketches and in them you could see a striving to get the effect of a work by Seurat.

 4743. In these drawings he used no lines, only tones of massed darks that show the texture of the paper. But the figure works were all in delicate hard pencil, probably a 4h, or even a 5. They had a silvery quality, on a white paper tinted toward a faint blue. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Beggar's Daughter, parts 4736 - 4739

 4736.  No drawing, no matter how skilled can ever compare to that drawing driven by the need of the artist to express desire for the subject depicted. This raises a difficult question to answer, what of those masterworks that depict some ugliness that the artist loathed. Are those not great works as well?

 4737. I am not going to attempt to answer that kind of question because it leads into a meaningless quagmire, a labyrinth useless to investigate.  One runs into the same problem with that strange line, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all we know on earth, and all we need to know," that puzzling line by John Keats.

 4738. But the line is not so strange, if you recall that it is not Keats talking to you, it is the sculptured lover on the vase, talking to his fleeing beloved. Their world was the vase on which they existed, and in that world, "Beauty was truth and truth was beauty." Until, alas, the vase falls off the shelf. Then, what is to be done? Go for the broom, or search for some glue.

 4739. So it was with the unknown artist's drawings. The drawing is greater that any other, because at the time it was drawn, nothing else existed in the world but the lover and the beloved. That was the kind of drawings I found in that abandoned sketchbook.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Beggar's Daughter, parts 4732 - 4735

4732. It is in this sense that I have called the tourist "you," and now that we know who he is, and why he exists, we will talk a little about why he is in Naples. Fortunately he wrote down in a diary an account of his trip to Naples, and his diary begins sometime previously, in some late October, I do not know the year

4733. I do not know the man, and since it is a diary, and diaries are always in the first person, we will have to dispense with his name. I had expected to find a name, or at least a phone number on the flyleaf of the book but there was nothing.

 4734. The journal was left on a small table in a café in Rome. I happened to sit down near the table and I was struck by what appeared to be large leather, hand bound book, rather worn, with some discreet gold edging on the binding. On the cover were some splatters of a dark red paint almost like dried blood. 

 4735. It was an artist's journal, because the pages were unlined, and the first fifteen pages had figure drawings in hard pencil. Whoever did the drawings knew what he was doing. They were not perfect drawings, not the kind you would expect of a modern day Ingres, but what the drawings lacked in technical skill was made up by a tender affection.