This is dialog from a play of mine called Boulevard East. In it you’ll find an explanation of the text behind Chopin’s Ballade No. 1. As far as I know, this is all true.

I’ve been reading Mickiewicz.


What are they?

It’s a him. Mickiewicz was the great Polish national poet. You’ll think that’s a joke—I know you Midwesterners. But he was a Byronic figure, a friend of Chopin and Georges Sand, and a fighter for freedom. He died while organizing a legion of Jews to fight against the Czar.

You’re making this up.

(holding his right hand in the Boy Scout oath position)

I kid you not.

I never heard of him.

That’s because in English his name looks like it’s “Micky-witz,” and no one’s gonna take a poet seriously if his name is Micky-witz. Anyway, that piece the old man plays . . . Chopin based it on a poem by Mickiewicz about a leader of the Germans who tries to destroy his own army—because he is secretly a Lithuanian who was kidnapped as a boy. His true love thinks she’s lost him, so she has herself bricked into a tower. But listen: he subverts an entire army by acting crazy!

Then what?

They kill him, of course.

Listen to it here:


One comment

  1. Ernst Schoen-René · · Reply

    I am one of the few people you know who has visited the Mickiewicz Museum on the Isle Saint-Louis south of the Isle de la Cité on the Seine in Paris. We also went to a mostly French-Jewish band concert there. I know about Mickiewicz because that was the name of the founder of the Yale Russian Chorus. He taught for years at Duke and is still alive. This coming year is the 60th anniversary of the Chorus, including a big concert at Yale. Och’en Khorosho!

    Ernst Schoen-René

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