— George Sand
Context: It was there he composed these most beautiful of short pages which he modestly entitled the Preludes. They are masterpieces. Several bring to mind visions of deceased monks and the sound of funeral chants; others are melancholy and fragrant; they came to him in times of sun and health, in the clamor of laughing children under he window, the faraway sound of guitars, birdsongs from the moist leaves, in the sight of the small pale roses coming in bloom on the snow. … Still others are of a mournful sadness, and while charming your ear, they break your heart. There is one that came to him through an evening of dismal rain — it casts the soul into a terrible dejection. Maurice and I had left him in good health one morning to go shopping in Palma for things we needed at out "encampment." The rain came in overflowing torrents. We made three leagues in six hours, only to return in the middle of a flood. We got back in absolute dark, shoeless, having been abandoned by our driver to cross unheard of perils. We hurried, knowing how our sick one would worry. Indeed he had, but now was as though congealed in a kind of quiet desperation, and, weeping, he was playing his wonderful Prelude. Seeing us come in, he got up with a cry, then said with a bewildered air and a strange tone, "Ah, I was sure that you were dead." When he recovered his spirits and saw the state we were in, he was ill, picturing the dangers we had been through, but he confessed to me that while waiting for us he had seen it all in a dream, and no longer distinguished the dream from reality, he became calm and drowsy while playing the piano, persuaded that he was dead himself. He saw himself drowned in a lake. Heavy drops of icy water fell in a regular rhythm on his breast, and when I made him listen to the sound of the drops of water indeed falling in rhythm on the roof, he denied having heard it. He was even angry that I should intepret this in terms of imitative sounds. He protested with all his might — and he was right to — against the childishness of such aural imitations. His genius was filled with the mysterious sounds of nature, but transformed into sublime equivalents in musical thought, and not through slavish imitation of the actual external sounds. His composition of that night was surely filled with raindrops, resounding clearly on the tiles of the Charterhouse, but it had been transformed in his imagination and in his song into tears falling upon his heart from the sky. … The gift of Chopin is [the expression of] the deepest and fullest feelings and emotions that have ever existed. He made a single instrument speak a language of infinity. He could often sum up, in ten lines that a child could play, poems of a boundless exaltation, dramas of unequalled power.
On Chopin's Preludes in Histoire de Ma Vie (1902-04), Vo. IV, p. 439