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Dec 8, 2023

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Musically Inclined (Part 2)

 In continuing with last week’s musical fairy tales, I bring you another interesting snapshot. It’s called “The Magic Violin and The Enchanted Slippers” by famed author Anne Sidwa. Hope you enjoy it!

In the hills above the village of Ciezkowice in southcentral Poland, there was of old a beautiful meadow enclosed within the most romantic of groves. To the meadow lovers were wont to go, to “test”, as they said, their love, and by the radiance or gloom on their faces as they returned to the village you could tell what the verdict had been, whether true love, or pretended.

What happened up there in that enchanted meadow the old knew exactly, and one of these remembers to this day. She is Balbina Ciezka, my own mother, and she will tell you if you will listen.

In the Ciezki family, which owned most of the country hereabout, there was a beautiful daughter who loved nothing so much as to dance. The girl’s name was Anna and her parents had in mind for her to wed a handsome young warrior of the region whose name was Jerzy.

Jerzy would have given his life for Anna. The glory he won in battle, fame, money, all were nothing to him except as they might win him the love of this fair, dancing girl.

But Anna loved someone else.

In the Ciezki household was one who, without ever knowingly seeking it, received the smiles Anna withheld from Jerzy. He was Michael, a young man of good family, who had been apprenticed to Anna’s father for the purpose of learning the art of good husbandry. Frail of health, Michael was not cut out for a warrior, yet he had an inner strength that drew and held the lighthearted girl.

There was a gift which Michael possessed that did much to help the lad in winning Anna. It was the gift of music. An old shepherd who lived in the grove at the edge of the meadow we have spoken of had an ancient and remarkable violin. He gave this to Michael one day, and the instant his fingers drew the bow across the strings, the lad knew he had found his soul’s desire. The shepherd taught him to play the instrument, and soon he was excelling his master, releasing from it sheer magic and enchantment.

Every day when the weather was fine, Anna and Michael would go to the meadow on the hilltop. They would start from the house separately so as not to cause comment. But up there under the open sky they would meet. The kindly old shepherd would be waiting to receive them and preside over the ceremony that would follow. Michael would play and Anna would dance. She would dance in the open meadow at first, and then in the grove round and round the trees, then back in the meadow again. Often, as he watched her, Michael would have the feeling that it was Anna’s soul that was dancing, not merely her body.

Of the love that grew up between Anna and the frail, poetic Michael, little was know in the family. As for Jerzy, he did not know, for he actually had nothing to go on, but he suspected. At any rate, Jerzy determined to find out. And so, taking care not to be observed, he followed Anna one day as she stole to the meadow. There he saw.

The ecstasy on the faces of the two as they met on that hilltop meadow could mean but one thing. Jerzy knew it was hopeless to combat it, but jealousy robbed him of his senses, and when he beheld the dance, when he heard the music that sprang from the liquid strings of Michael’s violin, he could not control himself. Leaping from behind a tree where he had stood while the dance of love proceeded, Jerzy drew his sword and slew the two lovers in cold blood.

The shepherd saw what Jerzy had done, but dared not reveal his presence or protest. He watched Jerzy as he came to himself and gazed in horror at the bodies. He saw him bury the bodies and flee. The shepherd himself fled, over the mountains which loomed nearby, into Slovakia, where for years he said nothing, and never let it be known whence he had come.

In the Ciezki home there was grief unappeasable. But who had committed the crime was not found out. Only years and years later did the truth filter round the Ciezki domain, when it was brought back by a traveller who had heard it from the shepherd, now so close to the grave as to fear no longer.

But the story has a happier ending than this. Love so strong and pure as that of Michael and Anna for each other can not be destroyed by the sword, nor annihilated by the mere crumbling to dust of two bodies. Such love lives on, to become a force, even a benediction, in the lives of generations to come.

When Jerzy buried the bodies of the lovers he had slain, two things remained on the ground unnoticed, hidden in the grass of the meadow. They were the two things that, as we see it now, had caused the tragedy: the magic violin and the two tiny French dancing slippers which Anna always wore on her visits to the meadow. Michael’s enchanted fiddle and Anna’s no less enchanted slippers. Over the years these crumbled too, but in losing their earthly substance by some magic they came to life in another way.

Weird stories began to be told in the region around Ciezkowice, stories of how in that meadow up on the hill people had seen slippers dancing by themselves across the field and into the grove and back; of how they danced to music unearthly and divine, coming from a violin which no mortal played. Some declared they had even put on the slippers themselves and had been carried by them in a wild and romantic dance. Some declared they had actually handled the violin and played upon it.

And so it was that lovers began to seek out the upland meadow, especially couples on the point of marrying. For it was said that if love were true, a vision of the fiddle and the dancing slippers would be vouchsafed. Unearthly music could be heard and the slippers would dance before you in ecstasy. But if your love were not genuine, you would see nothing. What a pity it would be to make the expectant pilgrimage and to see nothing. And what joy to be reassured that your love was indeed “made in heaven,” and to behold the slippers, hear the strains of the enchanted violin!

    . . . . SEE YOU SOON, GOD BE WILLING . . .