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The Evolution Of A Violinist
by [?]

He was a famous artist whom kings and queens and emperors delighted to honor. The emperor of all the Russias had sent him an affectionate letter, written by his own hand; the empress, a magnificent emerald ring set with diamonds; the king of his own beloved Norway, who had listened reverently, standing with uncovered head, while he, the king of violinists, played before him, had bestowed upon him the Order of Vasa; the king of Copenhagen presented him with a gold snuffbox, encrusted with diamonds; while, at a public dinner given him by the students of Christiana, he was crowned with a laurel wreath. Not all the thousands who thronged to hear him in London could gain entrance to the concert hall, and in Liverpool he received four thousand dollars for one evening’s performance.

Yet the homage of the great ones of the earth, the princely gifts bestowed upon him, the admiration of the thousands who hung entranced on every note breathed by his magic violin, gave less delight than the boy of fourteen experienced when he received from an old man, whose heart his playing had gladdened, the present of four pairs of doves, with a card suspended by a blue ribbon round the neck of one, bearing his own name, “Ole Bull.”

The soul of little Ole Bull had always been attuned to melody, from the time when, a toddling boy of four, he had kissed with passionate delight the little yellow violin given him by his uncle. How happy he was, as he wandered alone through the meadows, listening with the inner ear of heaven-born genius to the great song of nature. The bluebells, the buttercups, and the blades of grass sang to him in low, sweet tones, unheard by duller ears. How he thrilled with delight when he touched the strings of the little red violin, purchased for him when he was eight years old. His father destined him for the church, and, feeling that music should form part of the education of a clergyman, he consented to the mother’s proposition that the boy should take lessons on the violin.

Ole could not sleep for joy, that first night of ownership; and, when the house was wrapped in slumber, he got up and stole on tiptoe to the room where his treasure lay. The bow seemed to beckon to him, the pretty pearl screws to smile at him out of their red setting. “I pinched the strings just a little,” he said. “It smiled at me ever more and more. I took up the bow and looked at it. It said to me it would be pleasant to try it across the strings. So I did try it just a very, very little, and it did sing to me so sweetly. At first I did play very soft. But presently I did begin a capriccio, which I like very much, and it did go ever louder and louder; and I forgot that it was midnight and that everybody was asleep. Presently I hear something crack; and the next minute I feel my father’s whip across my shoulders. My little red violin dropped on the floor, and was broken. I weep much for it, but it did no good. They did have a doctor to it next day, but it never recovered its health.”

He was given another violin, however, and, when only ten, he would wander into the fields and woods, and spend hours playing his own improvisations, echoing the song of the birds, the murmur of the brook, the thunder of the waterfall, the soughing of the wind among the trees, the roar of the storm.

But childhood’s days are short. The years fly by. The little Ole is eighteen, a student in the University of Christiana, preparing for the ministry. His brother students beg him to play for a charitable association. He remembers his father’s request that he yield not to his passion for music, but being urged for “sweet charity’s sake,” he consents.