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Page:The Prose Tales of Alexander Poushkin (Bell, 1916).djvu/422

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The eyes of the Italian sparkled: he tried a few chords, raised his head proudly, and passionate verses—the expression of instantaneous sentiment—fell in cadence from his lips. . . .

The Italian ceased. . . . Charsky remained silent, filled with delight and astonishment.

"Well?" asked the improvisatore.

Charsky seized his hand and pressed it firmly.

"Well?" asked the improvisatore.

"Wonderful!" replied the poet. "The idea of another has scarcely reached your ears, and already it has become your own, as if you had nursed, fondled and developed it for a long time. And so for you there exists neither difficulty nor discouragement, nor that uneasiness which precedes inspiration? Wonderful, wonderful!"

The improvisatore replied: "Each talent is inexplicable. How does the sculptor see, in a block of Carrara marble, the hidden Jupiter, and how does he bring it to light with hammer and chisel by chipping off its envelope? Why does the idea issue from the poet's head already equipped with four rhymes, and arranged in measured and harmonious feet? Nobody, except the improvisatore himself, can understand that rapid impression, that narrow link between inspiration proper and a strange exterior will; I myself would try in vain to explain it. But . . . I must think of my first evening. What do you think? What price could I charge for the tickets, so that the public may not be too exacting, and so that, at the same time, I may not be out of pocket myself? They say that La Signora Catalani[1] took twenty-five roubles. That is a good price. . . ."

It was very disagreeable to Charsky to fall suddenly from

  1. A celebrated Italian vocalist, whose singing created an unprecedented sensation in the principal European capitals during the first quarter of the present century.