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The Violinist’s Story
by [?]

That was not Rodriguez’s fate. Whatever the temperamental struggle had been, he was “take him for all in all,” the least disappointing famous man that my experience had ever shown me. He was more virile than handsome, and no more aesthetic to look at than he was ascetic. At that time he was on the sunny side of forty, and not yet at the zenith of his great career. His face was fine, manly, and sympathetic. His brow was broad, his eyes deep-set and widely spaced, but very heavy lidded. The mouth and chin were, I must own, too delicate and sensitive for the rest of the face. His dark hair, young as he was, had streaks of grey. In bearing he was so erect, so sufficient, that he seemed taller than he was. If he had the vanity which so often goes with his kind of temperament, it was most cleverly concealed. Safe in the dignified consciousness of his unquestioned gifts, secure in his achievements, he had a winning gentleness, and an engaging manner difficult to resist.

But for a singular magnetic light in his eyes, which belied the calm of his bearing, when he chanced to raise the heavy lids full on one–they usually drooped a little–but for a sensitive quiver along the too full lips, as if they still trembled from the caress of genius–the royal accolade of greatness–he might have looked to me, as he did to many, more the diplomat than the artist.

It would be useless for me to analyse his command of his instrument. I could not. It would be superfluous for me to recount his triumphs. They are too recent to have been forgotten. Both tasks have, moreover, been done better than I could do either.

This I can do, however, bear witness to the glowing wings of hope, of longing, of aspiration which his singing violin lent to hearts oppressed by commonplace every-day cares, to the moments of courage, of re-awakened endeavor which he inspired in his fellowmen, to the marvellous magnetism of his playing which seemed for the moment to restore to a soul-weary world its illusions, and to strike off the fetters of despondency which bind mortality to earth.

It was not alone the musically intelligent who felt this, for his playing had a universal appeal. Thorough musicians marvelled at and envied him his mastery of the details of his art, but it seemed to me that those who knew least of its technique were equally open to his influence.

I don’t presume to explain this. I merely record it. There were those who analysed the fact, and explained it on the ground of animal magnetism. For myself, I only know that, as the magic music which Hunold Singref played in the streets of Hamelin, whispered in the ears of little children words of promise, of happiness, of comfort that none others could hear, so, to the emotional heart, Rodriguez’s violin spoke a special message.

The man who sets the faces of the throng upward, and lights their eyes with the magic fire of hope, has surely not lived in vain, whatever personal offerings he may have made on the altar of his genius to keep alive the eternal spark. It cannot be denied that Art has fulfilled some part of its mission on earth, if, but for one hour, thousands, marshalled by its music, as the children of Israel by the pillar of flame, have looked above the dull atmosphere where pain and loss and sorrow are, to feel in themselves that divine longing which is ecstasy, that soaring of the spirit which, in casting off fear and rising above doubt, can cry out in joy, “Oh, blessed spark of Hope–this soul which can so rise above sorrow, so mount above the body, must be immortal. This which can so cast off care cannot die!”

All the great acts of life, and all the great arts, are purely emotional. I know that modern cults deny this, and work to see everything gauged by reason. But thus far musicians and painters, preachers and orators all approach their goal by the road to the emotions–if they hope to win the big world. Patriotism, fidelity–love of country, like love of woman–are emotions, and it would puzzle logicians, I am afraid, to be sure that these emotions, at times sublime, might not be as sensual as some of Rodriguez’s critics found his music.