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She liked to watch him play the violin. She wasn't sure why - but she could not truthfully imagine anything more pleasurable than crouching down near to where he stood in all his rag-festooned glory, the ground at his feet littered with old newspaper and discarded plastic cups - and just listening , her bright eyes fixed on the long, crooked nose bent toward his instrument and the lengthy shadow he cast, set to trembling by the flickering light of passing subway cars.

It gave her a curious sense of ownership, and of pride, to know that she alone, out of all the people who had ever heard this music, understood the melodies that this man wove like tapestries of light over the deafened ears of men and women who rushed past day in and day out. She, alone, knew that to fling coins into the battered violin case sitting open beside him with that careless flick of the benevolent, alm-giving wrist would be as much of an insult to him as a slap in the face - perhaps moreso.

He was not an old man, but nor was he young like her - his face was pock-marked and bristly, his hair wild and dark, graying only faintly at the temples and casting his brilliantly green eyes into the sharpest relief. He was tall and thin, almost ascetic of build - he wore a tattered coat of dark green over layers and layers of ancient, thinning sweaters. His body swayed, to and fro, back and forth as he drew his bow across the strings, like a metronome to his own music - and sometimes when she watched him, she could swear that she saw him spinning fire from his fingertips, in thick, hot webs that wrapped around him to lend to him a glow of such unsappable vitality that it took her breath away.

She came, every chance she had, to lean against the back of this rotting bench in this fetid subway station, to listen to him with the same intention one has when refueling a car - the intention to render oneself able to carry on. Sometimes after leaving, she felt as though she could stay awake for weeks, if only she could carry that gorgeous flame of melody with her when she went.

She would never ask him for his story. She had never even so much as advertised her presence to him, but she thought that he must know she was there - and more, she thought that he probably knew why. He seemed to know more about her from a few simple glances exchanged at week-long intervals than any person she had ever verbally confided in. It was an odd thought, too, that she should feel pride in this - that her closest friend was a tramp playing music on a broken-down violin in a subway station, with whom she had never exchanged so much as a word. But the fact was there - and it made her proud.

She left with her chin up, emerging onto the snowy sidewalk with one hand on the rail, the other pulling her scarf tighter about her neck. The street was lit by the long train of golden window displays that meant Christmas was on its inevitable way; small, electric Santa Clauses ho-ho-ho'd every few feet, ringing their bells and smiling, all in the same warm, inviting, and very plastic manner. She stood still for a moment, taking it all in - and then, siezed by a sudden, violent whim, she pushed through the milling crowd of businessmen and shoppers, toward yet another golden window above which was a sign proclaiming, "Pritchett's Musical Supply, Ltd.," in large, blinking red and green letters.

A small bell over the door punctuated her entry, serving as a period to end the sentence of the street behind her - and the vague smile of the fresh-faced youth behind the counter served as the beginning of the sentence infront of her.

"C'n I 'elp you, miss?" he asked in a polite, practiced tone - she wondered for a moment who had mended the old newsboy's cap on his head, and why it should sieze her attention so.

"I'm looking for a violin, please," she answered, dragging her eyes to his, though she could not look long, turning her eyes instead to the rows upon rows of neatly stocked instrument parts and books of sheet music that ran parrallel the length of the small store.

"A violin, miss?" He grinned, casting her a cheery wink before turning toward the glass case behind the counter, unlocking it to lay bare the instruments inside. "For someone special, is it?"

She paused. Then, slowly, she nodded.

"For someone very special."

She emerged back into the chill of the street minutes later, a small smile on her lips and a gift-wrapped package under her arm. She hurried back along the sidewalk toward the stairs that lead down into the station, flat-packed snow crunching softly under her boots. She strode purposefully down into the cluttered dimness, against a tide of people emerging from a newly departed train, and toward the pillar by which he always stood. Instead of seating herself to the side, however, this time she moved to stand directly infront of him, clutching her package to her chest, watching him with her head held high and bright flames licking behind her eyes.

He waited until his melody had ended to acknowledge her - and when he raised his eyes to hers, she noted with surprise that the aura of warmth and inspiration around him had not died with the final notes. It held fast, shining from his implacable, ageless face.

Wordlessly, she held up the package, her fingers curled around its gift-wrapped neck. And then, slowly, deliberately, she began to tear the wrappings off until the rosey wood of the instrument gleamed naked, hanging from her hand like a stilled pendulum.

He watched, impassive, slowly lowering his violin from its place under his chin.

"This is not a gift," she said, her voice quiet and almost mocking, while her heart fluttered in her breast when she thought that this was the first time that he'd ever heard her voice. "It's an exchange. My violin - for yours."

She saw the smile in his eyes more than on his face - and she heard the laugh in his solemn voice as clearly as she'd heard the tinkling of Christmas bells on the street above.

"And why, miss," he asked in the quiet, breathy, unused voice of a man who has given his most eloquent form of speech to his music, "should I be tempted to trade?"

Her smile broadened gaily, and she tossed her hair back, never taking her eyes from his. "Because mine is worth more."

He chuckled, giving his wild head a shake. "You know better."

She nodded. "I do. But I still want yours. It's not the instrument that you care about - it's not that at all. It's the songs that you play that mean something, but that violin is a symbol to me, and I want it."

His eyes, clear as still river-water, twinkled.

"You see well, miss," he said, just as softly as before. "And you have good ears, too."

She laughed. "So will you trade?"

He considered her for a few moments, his fingers moving slowly over the length of his instrument. She had time only to realize that he was saying goodbye before he turned, the movement sudden and wild, to smash his violin against the stone pillar beside him. It snapped cleanly in two, the main body crashing to the tiles a few feet away. The neck and pegbox remained clutched in his hand as he turned back to her, smiling as serenely as he ever had. "You'll find your own, if you want to learn to play."

She nodded her understanding, her smile growing fixed, almost reverent as she reached out both hands, one to offer him the new violin, and the other to take the remnant of the old. "Perhaps I will."

His smile broadened, becoming the smile of an old friend - he was moving, his long fingers stroking the smooth wood of his new instrument, plucking gently at the strings as if they were acquainting themselves with a living being. And then he turned away from her, taking up his bow and preparing to play again.

She stood, staring at the broken fragment in her hand, her face devoid of any expression save for a slow, musing thoughtfulness. And then she raised her eyes to the back of his head.

"O, for a Muse of Fire," she said, slowly, softly, clearly.

He gave a little start, and turned to look at her over his worn, sloping shoulder. ". . . You know what that means, miss?"

Her lips curved into a slow, warm smile; she leant forward to press a kiss to his whiskery cheek.

"I'm beginning to," she whispered. Then she turned away, heading toward the stairs that would lead her back to the street above.

The sounds of his firesongs followed her as she emerged once again into the golden light.

End
I'm pleased to be able to tell you that this story has won the Karen Pelz Memorial Writing Contest for the fiction category.

Thanks to Heathden for recommending this story for the DD!
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Daily Deviation

Given 2007-07-14
When I read O, For A Muse Of Fire by ~AngelicAzriel I literally felt my heart flutter. It's a moving piece of prose that sums up my feelings for art and life. ( Suggested by zephyrchaser and Featured by StJoan )
:iconsprockervp:
sprockervp Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2011
I bow my head. Beautiful. Not only your command with words, but the thought behind them. I read it three times. This is not about music, it is not about this two concrete people. It is a story about one of the greatest feelings, that religion took sole possession of - sacredness. Not sacredness for something out-worldly, but for the human spirit. For what it is capable of. An admiration for values. It's about the connection between two people who never met, but know each other better then they ever could, because of their intimate understanding of the other's personal value to themselves.
Congratulations :)
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:iconholy-kittens-batman:
Holy-Kittens-Batman Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2009
Absolutely gorgeous. I'm a violin player myself and you captured the feeling of what it is to play and enjoy the instrument: especially when watching someone more experienced yet being the only one who truly understands the worth of the song.
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:iconmoonrosa:
Moonrosa Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2009   Photographer
This is a brilliant piece, it's at once a little sad as well as calmming and serene. Though I'm sure you alreaddy have enough praise, I will add that this is an amazingly thought provoking piece, and that I adore the detail of fire within the story.
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:iconangelicazriel:
AngelicAzriel Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2009
Thanks so much. ^^
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:iconinisangelous:
inisangelous Featured By Owner May 28, 2008
I love this so much
Reply
:iconbethlehemlights:
BethlehemLights Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2008
"...serving as a period to end the sentence of the street behind her." That part was fantastic; the entire story was moving. I think I could maybe appreciate it more if I played an instrument, but I definitely understand that feeling of wonder and pride that the girl felt just listening to him. Now I want to read more of your writing.
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:iconsometimenotime:
sometimenotime Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2007   Writer
MMmmm....wonderful piece!
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:iconkadarian:
kadarian Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2007
Excellently written; you're very skilled with the words, both in choosing them and combining them. I could see (and feel, and hear) him weaving his music, and was swept into the story by the girl's strong viewpoint. It was a great read - thank you! :+fav:
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:iconzeekkers:
zeekkers Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2007
Very very well written. calming.
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:iconlpowell:
lpowell Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
A very beautiful, powerful story. There are so many things, people especially, that are so lovely, that the world ignores. But when you do notice them, it's the most wonderful thing it the world.

This very much earned the Daily Deviation. :)
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:iconbluewriter:
bluewriter Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
this was most beautiful....it made my heart beat faster as i read long, and i was almost for some odd reason reminded of Heathcliff....but at the same time a real life person....man i'm not even sure if i know what i'm talking about any more...but ....just wow.
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:iconrainonasunnyday:
rainonasunnyday Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
this really is beautiful, and i LOVE your name ;)
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:iconzephyr-rizing:
zephyr-rizing Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
Wow. This is the kind of piece that really reminds me why we live. I love your imagery and the complex, descriptive, satisfying sentences. I think that this has been said, but it feels like a song, in every way. Well done, and congratulations on the DD!
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:iconsorael-ignis:
Sorael-Ignis Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007  Hobbyist General Artist
Beautiful really, I can imagine him breaking the violin in slow motion :)
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:iconatsanguine:
atsanguine Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
Gorgeous! :D
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:icontwilightblade:
TwilightBlade Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
Shakespeare. King Henry V.

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide on man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play."


Azriel, your writing is truely superb. :) I enjoyed this very much. The only things that threw me off, although the flow was wonderful, were the loooong sentences. And then, there were the many adverbs. lol. I'm sensitive to those because I often overuse them. However, no matter how many there were, you worked most of them in so seemlessly that they just fit. There were only a few that kind of caught my attention.

I can understand that they lend a certain impact when used all in a row, like "slowly, softly, clearly." but at the same time...it can be a bit much. lol.

Please, don't get annoyed with me for this critique. ^^; :blushes: I appreciated the story and it's power very much! It has a definite life of its own. And the characters were also very alive. The only thing that disappointed me about them was that I couldn't 'see' the girl except through her thoughts/emotions/actions. I would like to be able to 'see' what she looks like...

Again, thanks for such a beautifully written powerful story.
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:iconkildgeek:
KildGeek Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
Beautifully written. I really like it. Sometimes we feel that artists understand us better than anyone else, when their art touches us.:)
It has a great peaceful feeling from start to end and your descriptions are amazing, they don't drag around the story like most do.
I must be honest and say I don't really understand the title and its mention on the story. I'm sure it's just some american reference I don't get.;)
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:icontheanti-bambie:
theAnti-Bambie Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
you had me by the first line
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:iconchuquita:
Chuquita Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
That was very well-written. I really enjoyed it. :3
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:iconel-egant:
EL-egant Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
Although I'm not quite sure what exactly it's about, I still really like it and it's very memorable.

There's always something about the violin that makes it special. When I hear a violin playing faster, louder, and higher notes it reminds me of a person who can't stop talking, then when they're finished they apologize for talking so much :giggle:

If you DO get published, just like :iconkoolaidmaid: hopes, I'll definitely buy your stuff.
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:iconfoxgirl06:
foxgirl06 Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
what a magnificent piece of literature!!!! its the best pieces ive read so far!!!!!excellent job!!!
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:iconsadisticicecream:
SadisticIceCream Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007   Writer
I love the imagery you used here; you have a real talent in making the words flow, and it almost seems as if they make a music of their own.

This is a beautiful piece, good job on it. :D

(And the title is very pretty. Heh.)
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:iconmeztlicihuatl:
meztlicihuatl Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
beautiful!
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:iconblackcat101:
blackcat101 Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
wow! this mostly caught my attention because i play the violin, too! <D i think it is a wonderful instrument and i feel strangely honored to have such a beautiful piece written in respect to it. it also reminds me of walking through the streets of krakow, poland and other places in europe where talented musicians fill the resturaunts and stores with their songs...its a good memory ^^ thanks so much for the read! :D
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:iconbirdee-blake:
Birdee-Blake Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007  Student Digital Artist
Holy crap this is awesome XD. When I was reading this, I had that kind of feeling in the back of my head, the one you get when you listen to a really beautiful song.

The rest of it, though, was a little to deep for me XD. I'll fave it so I can come back and read it again :>
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:iconskellington13rose:
Skellington13Rose Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
That is so beautiful. I love the flow of the words, you can see that this is brimming with the great amount of effort put into it. This really made my day. ^^
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:iconx-pointless-x:
x-Pointless-x Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
This reminds me why I started playing music in the first place.
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:iconwinterfang:
Winterfang Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007  Hobbyist Writer
This is beautifully written, with a very strong grasp of character and language.

"She paused. Then, slowly, she nodded.
"For someone very special.""

I'm not sure if those were intended to be two separate paragraphs, or part of the same one.

Although this is about a violin player, it makes me want to go listen to a solo piano playing something kind of mellow.
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:icongeneral-thor:
General-Thor Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
I'd die before wasting time with a stupid analysis. It's beautiful, and that is all there is to it. Good Job.
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:iconobsidiangauntlet:
ObsidianGauntlet Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007  Hobbyist General Artist
I am left short of words at the amazing beauty of this story.
Reply
:iconsarahmm:
sarahmm Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
Wow... I am a violinist. Well, I was once. It has greatly troubled me since i put the instrument down. My fingers itch and burn. I once wrote a poem about it.

My heart fluttered as he broke the violin. A breath taking piece, I love it.
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:iconparchmentheron:
parchmentheron Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007  Student
I am a musician.

My entire life - short as it may be - has been devoted to playing, creating and listening to music as much as I can.

You have accurately depicted the relationship between a man and his instrument - the way we as musicians view things...

I wish I could be more eloquent, but this is stunning and equally inspiring.

Gorgeous, gorgeous work.

Thank you for sharing your talent with the rest of us.
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:iconollieteo:
OllieTeo Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007
Beautiful, incredibly well-written.

A muchly-deserved DD. I only wish I knew how to say more about it.
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:iconchristwriter:
christwriter Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2007  Hobbyist General Artist
...this has just made me cry.

I do not think I have ever, in my entire life, read anything that beautiful. Ever. I can't even find the words to explain how it made me feel. There's all the analytical BS you can pile into it, but...I wouldn't want to degrade it that way.

Aside from all the fancy things I could say about the imagry and the word choice, the only thing that really matters...at least, to me...is that when he smashed the violin I felt like the bottom dropped out of my stomach.

This is mastery of language and story-telling, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing it with me.

CW
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:iconzephyrchaser:
zephyrchaser Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2007   Writer
I'm finding time in bits and pieces to go through your writing. I tried to start at the beginning of the gallery, but you'd mentioned this one, so I changed my habit and read it first.

And... well... damn. This is really good.

I have to disagree with Sammi up there--the writing style didn't even register for me, and I mean that in the most complimentary of ways. One thing that's been on my mind of late is that some of the point in writing, at least for me, is just to be able to get the story across. The best writing doesn't even strike you as words, because as you read it it's spinning images or emotions in your head. It's where writing ceases to be writing in favor of becoming a story.

If I read it as a journalist I might think differently--I've been both a creative writer and a journalistic writer. The point of a journalistic story, as I see it, is to get as much information across as you can, in as interesting a manner as you can, in as few words as possible. And I applaud you for not going that way.

You have to find a balance between the two, I think. Between ornate writing and bare-bones writing. It's a challenge that I've faced in my prose and I'm sure plenty of authors have. I think you did an excellent job of it; there are enough details to provide the skeleton and flesh it out a little, and the reader's mind easily takes that and paints in the details where they're needed, without even realizing they're doing it.

The one thing here that sort of sticks up the gears is when he smashes the old violin. It surprised me, and maybe that's a good thing. It made me sad. But I'm thinking of my own guitar, and thinking if I sat and played with the guitar as my sole company for so much time, I'd be hard pressed to destroy it. Maybe it's good. Maybe it's in keeping with the man's personality. I'm not sure. But I thought I'd mention it.

Over all, it left me with a good feeling, without that nasty syrupy aftertaste that so many happy endings have.

Um... I think this is the longest comment I've ever left. Cheers?
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:iconkoolaidmaid:
Koolaidmaid Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2006  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Well I finally was able to sit down and read your latest Azy. I must say you had me reading from one sentence to the next. Your previous stories are just as colorful yet this one seemed to delve deeper into a flowing mood from one sentence to the next. I really liked you're prose of Toredor as well. Its been one of my fav's because you can play with words and weave them beautifuly together. I don't know much about writing or proper form so I can't critique as I know you would like. Its where I have very little talent. *chuckles* I'm very glad that you have this wonderful gift and others like you. I love reading. ^.^
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:iconangelicazriel:
AngelicAzriel Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2006
XD As always Ari, I look to you as one of my main sources of encouragement - it's great to know that someone who reads so prolifically likes my stories so much. Thanks tons for all your compliments - they mean a lot.
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:iconkoolaidmaid:
Koolaidmaid Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2006  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I'm glad. I really would like to see you published soon. Keep at it my freind. You have a wealth of idea's and one hell of a vocab with awsome's play on words.
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:iconsammehsweet:
sammehsweet Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2006
Beautiful, thoughtful piece. It makes you sit and relax and just want to turn on some classical music, or only just pausing to -stop- and make sure you witness one beautiful thing each day. It's a message for the soul.

Congrats on your use of imagery, you've got some nice use of figurative languaged weaved into your work which sets it out from the common. It's a real strength of yours, as well as producing an empathical link and rapport between your characters and audience. Thumbs up on these two!

Something you may want to watch (and its hard for me to admit because I do it so easily too) is that when you have such a command of words and good vocabulary to let things get complicated and lose your audience in the complexity. In no way am I saying that you should cut out -any- description - do not cut any out - but it might make things alittle easier if you broke down some of your sentences - some are alittle long!

Good work! Keep writing!

Sammi
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:iconangelicazriel:
AngelicAzriel Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2006
Good lord, an actual critique! I don't think I've EVER seen one of these on any of my peices - thanks so much for taking the time to think about what I wrote! I'm very glad you enjoyed it, and I'll certainly take your ideas under consideration.
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