Leaving Warsaw at his 20 years old because of the uprising, with the strong homesick mood, Chopin brings a handful of Poland’s soil to Paris with him. After he settles down well in Paris, living peacefully as a composer without war or uprising, he becomes so sad every day. He composes 60 Mazurkas when he is in Paris; they’re more like character pieces, using inspired melodies and intricate harmonies to express wistful memories and homesickness seemingly without remedy. With the longing for homeland in his rest life, he becomes more and more sick and he is gone when he is 39 years old. Everyday after he leaves Warsaw, he is struggling in the pain of homesickness. But he never comes back in his rest 19 years, even once time. After he is died, his funeral is established in Warsaw. With Mozart’s requiem, his body is burned in the Warsaw’s soil and he comes back the homeland finally.
Chopin’s life is so sad and impressive as his works. Every time when I play his Mazurka, I even feel I can see the young and talent man who holds a soil of Poland, with tears on his face. Besides being sad for him, I begin to wonder other questions: Why not he never comes back to Warsaw in the 19 years? Why does he still want to be burned in Warsaw? In order to figure out the answer, I read many essays about homeland. “Lost in Translation” of Eva Hoffman is impressive one for me. In her essay, Hoffman describes her translation from Cracow to Canada with her family to avoid the Second World War when she was thirteen years old. She is so sad as Chopin when they leave Cracow, her homeland. She believes she loses a lot and says, “ my mind rejects the idea of being taken there. I do not want to be pried out of my childhood, my pleasures, my safety, my hopes for becoming a pianist.” (177) Due to the leaving, everything that she used to have in Cracow is gone, as she says, “ I t is a notion of such crushing, definitely finality that to me it might as well mean the end of the world.” (176) With such a pain, she translates to Canada.
Even though she gets the peaceful life and good education in Canada, Cracow is always the paradise and is always the place she is longing for and searching for. Hoffman recounts a conversation with a woman in a stylish party in New York. The woman’s father was a diplomat in Asian country, so “ she had lived surrounded by sumptuous elegance, the courtesy of servants and the delicate advances of older men.” (177) For the woman, that life is paradise and it is a common sense that people wants to pursue the gorgeous life. But for Hoffman, the paradise is the life in Cracow, even though her life in Cracow is under, “ dark political rumblings, memories of wartime suffering, and daily struggle for existence.” The life for her is poor and dark, but with pleasure childhood, her safety and her hope to be a pianist.
These beautiful memories and sweet feelings make her never forget Cracow and make her always trust that Cracow is the paradise for her whole life. However, with the strong longing for Cracow, Hoffman, like Chopin, never comes back to Cracow, even though the war ends and Cracow comes back to peace. All she does to satisfy her longing for Cracow is reminding these memories and she lets her mind come back to Cracow and come back to the time when she was four years old. “ It is Cracow, 1949, I am four years, and I do not know that this happiness is taking place is taking place in a country recently destroyed by a war,” she recounts. She never comes back, like Chopin; she lets her mind totally sink into the old memories to satisfy her longing for home and to make her feel sweet and pleasure.
Both Hoffman and Chopin have the strong longing for homeland, but they both never come back the land they expect for a long time. I begin to wonder why they do not come back to the land that they miss strongly? Do they not have opportunities to come back or do they not want to come back essentially? N. Scott Momaday’s essay, “ The Way To Rainy Mountain” inspires me. In his essay, Momaday recounts his journey to Rainy Mountian which is an old landscape for Kiowa tribe that his grandmother was the member of them. Walking on the Rainy Mountain, he memorializes how the way of life of the Kiowa tribe and how Kiowa tribe disappears. Kiowa people used to control the whole of the Oklahoma Plains; they have their language, culture and tradition. But modern culture, soldiers and government make Kiowa disappear. His grandmother is one of the last generation to witness the brilliance of that culture.
After leaving Kiowa tribe and translating to the modern life, his grandmother, Aho is sad to lose her homeland. Her childhood is defined by “ frogs away by the river” and “ the motion of the air”(183), but her life after Kiowa disappears is sunk into the memories of Kiowa. She uses the language of Kiowa to pray; she dances Sun Dances. These two ways are all she can do to memory her homeland so that she can feel Kiowa again. However, like Chopin and Hoffman, Aho never comes back the Oklahoma Plains either. If she came back, everywhere she would pass in the plain triggers memories of Kiowa people and culture of Kiowa. However, everything about Kiowa does not exist anymore. No people will hunt on the plain; no people dance the Sun dance; no people would pray using the Kiowa language under noon. Even though she can walk on the Rainy Mountain, she cannot find the trace of Kiowa. Maybe this is also the reason why Hoffman can Chopin did not come back their homelands. Everything during the time when they leave has changes, and the place is not the homeland as they remember.
Chopin, Hoffman and Momaday’s grandmother cannot see the homeland they miss and expect, because everything changes so quietly on land, such as the buildings, roads and bridges. But landscape, soil and the land will not change always. I have seen the satisfied face of my grandfather when he touched the soil of his homeland. My grandfather was born in a small town of southern China. Because of the red soil, the land was so poor that they had to go fishing to survive. My grandfather’s family lived on a small boat. Even though the life was poor, my grandfather was so happy since everyday he can see his parents and brother. However, when he was ten years old, the internal war begins in China and his brother was force to go to Taiwan. Since that time, my grandfather never saw him again until last year he got a phone and was told his brother was died in Taiwan.
After he got the news, my all family came back the homeland of my grandfather. I can clearly remember how happy he was when he saw many fishing boats on the shore; how exited he was when he saw the mountain where he often climbed with his brother; how moved he was when he touched the red soil on the land. He told me that these fishing boats, landscape and the soil made him feel the sweet and warm as before he was ten years old. He is right. The soil will not change, and it is totally the same as before no matter how long time has gone. The soil can make my grandfather to remind the old and beautiful memories and feelings. I think this is the reason why he wants to come back to his homeland even though the small town has changed a lot in the past 60 years.
The sad Mazurka comes into my mind. Now, I have already known why Chopin does not come back to Warsaw when he is alive and why he wants to be burned in the land. He does not come back since he knows the Warsaw has changed and it is not the city as he remembered and imaged. He will not get the trace of the old city as Momaday’s grandmother cannot find the trace of Kiowa. However, as my grandfather, he still believes the soil of Warsaw does not change. The moment when his body is burned in the soil is the moment when he comes back home. With the Mozart’s requiem, lying in the soil he is longing for, he will feel peaceful, sweet and happy because he comes back the homeland. Maybe this is the reason why the majority people want to be burned in the homeland. Maybe this is the mysterious attachment between individual and land.
Courtney from Study Moose
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