Poetry: Poor Fred – The Decade of Impossible Love Between Frederic Chopin & George Sand

Portrait of George Sand and Chopin by Eugene Delacroix

Celebrity couplings and breakups are fame fodder in the modern world. But in the early 1800’s it was not so common. Chopin the composer and Sand (writer Amantin Lucille Dupin who found it easier to publish under the male name George) shared nearly ten years of passion, creativity and connection.  The story goes that she would lie naked under his piano, smoking cigars and scribbling away while he composed his nocturnes.

It ended badly between them, spurring her to write Lucrezia Florioni in which the villain is a dead ringer for Chopin. He would die two years later at the age of 39, still a prolific composer. In fact, his last posthumous publication was “Devil’s Trill” in 2001.

The couple were painted by their mutual friend, artist Eugène Delacroix. It hung in Delacroix’s studio until his death. His estate curator split the portrait in half in the belief that two paintings would sell better than one.

And so they are now forever separated. Sand’s half hangs in the Ordruppgaard Museum in Copenhagen.  Chopin’s half is in the Louvre.


I wanted to bring them back together. To imagine the heady fragrance of her cigar smoke, the uncertain touch of piano keys, the sweetness. So I wrote this:

Poor Fred

It is too much sometimes in the nocturne,
Too personal. She
Lies beneath his piano in her own
World. Making her own
Wanton heroes and villains. Unaware,
Untouchable and
Unbearably close. So he sits above
Her banging on his
Instrument. He lets his hand find their own deft caress.
Body rigid, his
Heart beats secrets into the stricken keys.
White keys are pearl planes
Of her body, her skeleton, the curve
Of her neck when she
Dozes, arc of her hip when she dances.
Black keys are the blaze
Of her eyes, the dark of her lashes. Her
Fathomless, boundless
Imagination where he cannot quite
Follow, the endless
Sorrow he can never quite possess her.
Major chords are tight
Clear resonant words. Her lovely words drive
Him, her willing arms.
him, her laughter and sly wit.
Minor chords are deep
Violent, frustrated echoes, swallowed by
Her written page, her
Beautiful naked peach shell body just
Out of his reach. Her mind and
Spirit utterly lost in the world of
Her own dark scribbling.
7th chords are maybes…
9th chords are what-ifs…
The Nocturne is now–tonight–here–with her.
Inches apart with
The world between them. The same music and love
Will survive them both…
When Lucrezia Florioni is
Written and he has
Become her villain. When hisPreludes
have become interludes,
And he has abandoned her. When they fade
To shadow and dust.
For ev’ry lover in divine passion,
Suspended between
Desire and art, between true love and its
Pale written ghost, on
The sheerest edge of desolation, in
His dying heartbreak
Transgression of shattering her perfect
Reverie to Live
The romance she writes,
To break her dream and take her beyond pages,
Beyond her story,
To his aching bed and into history.

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