Days Like These

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The Independent Culture
4 December 1904

RAINER MARIA RILKE

(pictured) writes to

Lou Andreas Salome

from Denmark:

"We drove down a long avenue of old lime trees, the sleigh swung round and there was the forecourt, flanked by the two wings of the building. But yonder, where four steps climbed wearily and toilsomely out of the snow up to the terrace, and where the terrace, bounded by a balustrade decorated with stone urns, made as though to lead into the house, there was nothing, nothing but a few shrubs in snow; and sky, a grey, tremulous sky, from which falling flakes detached themselves into the dusk. You had to tell yourself: No, there is no house there. Nevertheless, you still felt it was there, somehow you sensed that the air behind this terrace had not yet become one with the rest of the air, that it was still divided up into corridors and rooms, and that it formed a hall in the middle, a high, empty, deserted, twilit hall."

2 December 1901

SOFIA TOLSTOY,

wife of the novelist,

writes in her diary:

"Now that physical infirmity has forced Lev Nikolaevich to abandon physical relations with his wife (this was not so long ago), instead of that peaceful affectionate friendship which I have longed for in vain all my life, there remains nothing but complete emptiness. Morning and evening he greets me and leaves me with a cold and formal kiss. He calmly accepts my anxieties about him as his due and tends to regard the world about him with utter indifference. There are now only two things that excite, interest and torment him in the material and intellectual realms - death and his work."

3 December 1838

FREDERIC CHOPIN

writes from Palma to his friend Julian Fontana

in Paris:

"I've been as sick as a dog... I had caught cold in spite of the 18 degrees centigrade, the roses, the orange trees, the palms and the fig trees. Three doctors - the most celebrated on this island - examined me. One sniffed at my spittle, another tapped to find out where I spat it from, the third felt me, listening to how I spat. The first said I was going to die, the second that I was dying, the third that I was dead already... I had great difficulty in escaping their bleedings, vesicatories and pack- sheets, but, thanks be to providence, I am myself again."

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