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temporary periodicals bear witness him a love of silence, of immensity, of both to his diligence as a critic and to austere beauty, and to encourage him the sanity and generosity of his literary to penetrate by slow degrees into the appreciations. But far above these hidden secrets of nature, the great prose contributions rank his poetical mystical lessons of life. All these writings, a series of plaquettes, slim characteristics have been Verhaeren's quarto mes, on rough tinted paper, throughout his career, marki him off for the most part long out of print, in as Flemish by birth. Yet there are in which the poet has given to the world in his complex nature other characterisrapid succession, “Les Flamandes,' tics - his nervous temperament, bis “Les Moines,” "Les Soirs," “Les gloomy outlook on life, his marvellous Débâcles," "Les Flambeaux Noirs," sense of color—which would lead one to "Les Apparus dans mes Chemins," "Les suppose—and there is nothing extravaCampagnes Hallucinées," "Les Villages gant in the supposition—that there is a Illusoires," and, within the last few streak of Spanish blood in his veins. months, "Les Villes Tentaculaires." To his century, or rather to this latter The soul's growth of the poet may be end of our nineteenth century, belong traced throughout the series, and his his intense subjectivity, his utter lack life's history is laid bare to those who of moral reticence, his morbid love of would read.
self-analysis, amounting at times alAs emphatically as Maeterlinck is the most to insanity. The eternal "Moi” representative dramatist of his coun- of the supreme egotist dominates too try at the close of this nineteenth cen- many of his pages, yet so pathetie are tury, so is Verhaeren the representative his revelations, so soul-stirring the pic. lyric poet. It is impossible to avoid tures he paints in glowing language of bringing the two names into constant his soul's suffering, that the sternest juxtaposition, for both are the product moralist must fain forgive him a selfof one and the same literary movement; concentration turned to so artistic an and both are in many ways profoundly account. As a poet he is gifted with an characteristic of their age and country. almost boundless imagination, a pasVerhaeren, though to-day only in his sion for harmonious sounds, a vivid forty-second year, has been in turn power of snatching fleeting impresmaterialist and symbolist, the poet of sions, of reproducing rapid action, of blind revolt and the poet of mystical painting a gesture, and of more recent faith, the passionate lover of beauty and years with an exquisite sense of the the morbid delineator of life in its most mystical beauty of life and a subtle gift hideous aspects. But throughout the of symbolical representation. His ever-varying emotions of an intense and friend and critic, Albert Mockel, hails poetic temperament, capable of appre- him as the "poète du paroxysme," a ciating at one moment the purest and term which admirably renders the lead. most ecstatic joys, and at another of ing characteristic of one period of his wallowing in the blackest and most life, but which only recognizes a single unrelenting misery, we can trace the aspect, and, in my opinion, by no. strong and lasting influences of his means the highest aspect of his poetical early surroundings and his Flemish faculties. But without having passed birthright. Born at St. Amand, not far his poems in review it is not easy to from Antwerp, his boyhood was spent arrive at any true estimate of his on the mist-laden banks of the Scheldt, genius. in the midst of that flat, wide-spreading, Curiously enough, Verhaeren started dyke-bound Flemish landscape, which on his literary career as a materialist. possesses indeed a beauty and a poetry There is a positively Zolaesque quality of its own, but is also pervaded by a about some of his early work, and in profound melancholy. It is a landscape "Les Flamandes,” his first published volto render a thoughtful boy still more ume of verse, there are descriptive thoughtful and dreamy, to develop in poems of Flemish village life that read
like a page of "Germinal.” Already at vious work from “Les Débâcles” and this stage he sees with that passion for “Les Flambeaux Noirs," published detail which has never left him, and re- some years later. It is these powerful, produces with faithful accuracy; but he gloomy, and lurid volumes which have prefers to linger over the least att.ac earned for their author the epithet of tive aspects of peasant-life, its coarse “poète du paroxysme,” and which by brutality, and superabundant flesh and many of his admirers are regarded as drunken revelling. His “Flamandes” the high-water mark of his genius. I are the women that Rubens painted; his confess that I have never been able to village scenes those that we are famil- share this view. I prefer to regard iar with in the canvases of the Dutch these years of despair and gloom in the masters, but without atmosphere, with- life of the poet as a transitional period, out inspiration, and so without cbarn. years of “Sturm und Drang" through Happily the materialistic stage did not which he had to pass in order to rid last long, and there
already himself of his early materialism before glimpses of higher things in “Les passing into the higher stage of mysMoines,” the outcome of a visit to a tical communion with nature, which is Trappist Monastery in Hainault. Ver- the prevailing note of “Les Villages haeren's monks are the solid, square Illusoires.” "Les Débâcles” seems to shouldered Flemish peasants, strong me to mark a stage, not a result, and it and fiery, triumphing over their animal had for its external cause a prolonged passions, or again simple, benign and nervous crisis, the result of ill-health. placid, “les amants naïfs de la Très- From the moral point of view the volSainte Vierge.” But he is mainly in- ume is utterly morbid, hysterical, and spired by memories of the mighty self-centred, the outcry of a suffering abbots and priors of the Middle Ages, soul in desperate revolt against fate. the rivals of kings and barons, the For the time at least the black cloud of civilizers of nations.
despair had descended upon him. In
his own words he is “immensément A batteurs d'hérésie à larges coups de emmailloté d'ennui;” “le néant” reigns croix.
supreme. He rakes over all the emo. The life of the modern recluse is too tions of his being only to discover no uniform and cramped for his taste; he cause for hope. He calls upon himself loves space and size, and giant sins and to triumph over his despair, only to fall boundless repentance, and his 'sym- back more deeply into the slough. His pathies are only really aroused by some imaginings become those of a maniac. thing yast, mighty, infinite. In spite of certain monotony of form
Quand je suis seul le soir, soudainement, “Les Moines” is full of beautiful and
par fois, sonorous rhymes and subtle observa- Je sens pleurer sur moi l'oeil blanc de la
folie. tion of line and color. But even so the young poet does not penetrate far below He describes his own corpse rotting the picturesque exteriorities of clois- in the grave; he longs to be an idol in a tered life, of the cowled monks in choir Benares temple before whom fanatics and cell. Of the hidden mystical life, prostrate themselves, or again a monk the life of prayer and renouncement so in a "clôitre de fer,” his erotic passions marvellously shadowed forth in "En crushed by inhuman penance. In “Les Route,” we find traces only here and Flambeaux Noirs" the element of madthere. Yet it is only fair to remember ness becomes still more intens'fied, and that “Les Moines” belongs emphatically the poet grows more and more incoheto the apprentice-stage of the poet's rent. His weird ballad of "La Dame en career, and as such it is full of power noir des Carrefours" is pract:cally a and promise.
giorification of prostitution, and is charA chasm, both moral and intellectual, acteristic of the morbidly unhealthy seems to divide all Verhaeren's pre- side of his genius. His hallucinations
find their most poetic expression in a result is not always edifying, or beautitragic poem with the constant refrain, ful, or harmonious, yet we feel grateful
to the poet for being true to his own Je suis l'halluciné de la forêt des Nombres, self, and true, in great measure, to life. full of the wild and tangled imagery of But as the ripe product of Verhaeren's an intellect tottering on the borders of mature genius I must once more decline lunacy. While revelling in his suffer- to accept "Les Débâcles.” ings and his passions and his pride, he
It is a positive relief to escape from turns from time to time with longing these gloomy pages into the purer and eyes to the externals of religion, to the clearer atmosphere of “Les Apparus æsthetic calm of cathedral aisles, to the dans mes Chemins.” The volume in. harmony of slow chanting in dark deed opens in the minor key with rechapels, to visions of flaring candles newed visions of the melancholy land. and mitred abbots and golden mon
scape in which the poet's soul has hiber. strances, to the peace of midnight vigils, nated so long, and renewed lamentations and in some exquisite lines he has him- over the death-like bondage from which self recourse to prayer in a moment of there seems no escape. A series of symhope which he believes to be vain.
bolical figures passes before his eyes;
“Celui de l'Horizon,” “La Fatigue," La nuit d'hiver élève au ciel son pur calice. "Le Savoir," and finally, “Celui du Et je lève mon cæur aussi, mon cœur noc- Rien," a poem at once so grotesque, so turne
ghastly, and so hopelessly incoherent, Seigneur mon coeur! vers ton pâle infini that it reads like the lurid visions of a
vide, Et néansmoins je sais que rien n'en pourra frequently coarse, but in this instance
delirium-tremens patient. Verhaeren is l'urne Combler, et que rien n'est dont ce caur
he passes all bounds. Then suddenly meurt a vide;
the clouds of despondency roll asunder, Et je te sais mensonge et mes lèvres te and the sunshine of hope irradiates the prient
landscape in the beautiful poem “SaintEt mes genoux. .
Georges." So vivid is the picture of the But, in spite of all his extravagances radiant knight sweeping down from and incoherencies, it would be absurd
heaven in all the panoply of war to the to deny that as poetry, which after all deliverance of the suffering soul below, is the main point, "Les Débâcles” marks
so joyous and triumphant is the rhythm an enormous advance on its predeces of the short resonant lines, so tender sors. It can show an exuberant wealth
the gratitude of the soul dragged forth of imagery, a freedom from conven
from its slough of despond, that the tional restraint, and a widening of the poem must surely commemorate some horizon of life over which the imagi- spiritual crisis in the life of the poet nation can roam. In form, too, Ver- himself, some sudden awakening to the haeren has developed many of what infinite possibilities of human existence. have remained as his special character. It was a charming and felicitous fancy istics: his bold handling of the "vers
to symbolize his conception of hope in libre" in preference to more academic
the warlike figure of the legendary forms, his predilection for polysyllabic saint who triumphs by courage and rhymes, his haunting rhythmical effects purity over the dragon of sin and obtained by an artful repetition and despair. No English poet, I venture to manipulation of words of similar sound. think, has written with such rapturous "Les Flamandes” and “Les Moines” enthusiasm or with such perfection of contained but two aspects of human literary form of our national saint-a existence to which the poet restricted
circumstance which must be my excuse himself; in “Les Débâcles" he fings for a somewhat lengthy quotation:himself into the primary emotions of Ouverte en tout-à-coup parmi les brumes life, taking the whole scale of human Une Avenue! experiences within his grasp, and if the Et Saint Georges, fermentant d'ors,
Avec des écumes de plumes
gers lovingly, in some of the most Au chanfrein tors de son cheval sans mors exquisite lines he has penned, over the Descend.
sunny garden landscape, gay with
bright flowers and green sward and Il sait de quels lointains je viens,
butterflies, symbolical of the new life Avec quelles brumes dans le cerveau
that has dawned in his soul. Thus it Avec quels signes de couteau En croix noire sur la pensée,
becomes evident that Verhaeren is ten. Avec quelle dérision de biens,
tatively launching his skiff on the deep Avec quelle puissance dépensée
waters of mysticism. He has come to Avec quelle colère et quel masque et quelle see that the relations of man's confolie
science to life are all important, and Sur de la honte et la lie!
that the outward and visible manifestaJ'ai été lache et je me suis enfui
tions of nature are mainly beautiful and Du monde en un grand moi futile;
interesting, in so far as they give eviJ'ai soulevé sous des plafonds de nuit dence of their inward and spritual Les marbres d'or d'une science hostile
meaning. For the mystic the realities Vers un sommet barré d'oracles noirs.
of life fade into the background; the Le Saint Georges cuirassé clair
spiritualities are' omnipresent. Ver
haeren's mysticism, however, is neither A traversé par bonds de flamme Le doux matin, parmi mon âme;
theological nor ascetic, nor, it must be Il était jeune et beau de foi,
confessed, very profound; rather it is Il se pencha d'autant plus bas vers moi
the graceful sympathetic mysticism of Qu'il me croyait plus à genoux.
the dreamer, whose tender suscepti
bilities are being continually jarred by Devant sa vision altière
the material brutalities of life, and who J'ai mis en sa pale main fière
turns for consolation to joys and appreLe sang épars de toute ma doleur:
ciations of which the uninitiated can Et lui s'en est allé, m'imposant la vaillance have no perception. There is no conEt sur le front la marque en croix d'or de version—to use the hackneyed phrasesa lance,
in all this; it is the natural development Droit vers son Dieu, avec mon cour.
of the poetic temperament purged by a The same spirit of freshly awakened period of suffering. Yet "Les Apparus hope pervades the subsequent poems of dans mes Chemins” undoubtedly marks the volume. The whole landscape is a turning-point in the poet's life. changed, or rather it is gazed upon with Henceforth he gazes outwards rather changed eyes. The plain is bathed in than inwards, and his genius takes a sunshine; the north winds have fled, wider flight. and the poet meets in his wanderings The work on which Verhaeren is at with tender, saint-like figures, blue- present engaged is a Trilogy, of which robed Mercy and white Virtue and pen- the first two volumes, “Les Campagnes sive Love, who talk to him with
Hallucinées" and "Les Villes Tenta
culaires" have already appeared, and De belles voix douces et consolantes
the third, “Les Aubes,” is in course of Comme leurs robes et leures mantes Long-tombantes et longuement calmantes. preparation. It is his longest and most
ambitious effort, written throughout in Lines, illustrative of the hypnotically a tragic and prophetic spirit, and unsoothing effect of harmoniously re- doubtedly contains much admirable and peated sounds, an effect in the use of striking work. But for my own part, which both Verhaeren and Maeterlinck with all due respect for the Trilogy, I are past masters.
prefer Verhaeren in his lighter moods, In another poem the poet meets with moods which have already produced his Angel Guardian, pure and calm, the “L'Almanach” and “Les Villages hem of her robe embroidered with the Illusoires,” and which, I rejoice to hear, three theological virtues, seated in the will shortly give birth to a volume with midst of luxurious blossoms. He lin. the promising title of “Heures Claires."
Yet even at his gayest there is a pro- Such, in very inadequate outline, is found streak of melancholy running the poet's later attitude towards life. through everything that falls from his To this period belongs "Les Villages pen. A distinctive note of many of his Illusoires” which has always seemed later poems is the sense of death by to me at once the most beautiful and which they are pervaded, of death and the most powerful of all his works, of madness which lurk in the darkening most full of true poetical feeling and landscape, and to which, sooner or later, most perfect in form. But I advance man falls a helpless prey. Death is the opinion not without diffidence, for I ever relentless, merciless, omnipotent; find that it is not shared by his adnothing can avail against her, not even mirers among "les Jeunes" either of La Sainte Vierge, to whom the peasants Paris or of Brussels, to whom he apturn in their despair. It is here that peals most strongly as the poet of Verhaeren and Maeterlinck approx- revolt, in blind conflict with fate. Such imate most nearly to one another. To a mood is, however, as a rule, somewhat both the spirit world has become the antagonistic to the English temperareal, the dominant world, and man in ment, and I still venture to think that his material form, in his outward and when the English public rises to an visible being, is the mere sport of the appreciation of Verhaeren, it is “Les infinite and immeasurable forces which Villages Illusoires" rather than "Les surround him, which he feels dominat- Débâcles" or the Trilogy, that will be ing his life, but of whose personality he best appreciated on this side of the remains necessarily in ignorance. Channel. In painting these illusory vilFree-will becomes almost blotted out lages his symbolism finds its most perfrom life; we are all at the mercy of fect expression; with delicate art and these dimly perceived influences, and with a wonderfully minute appreciamore often the evil triumphs over the tion of the conditions of labor, he selects good. Yet there is beauty in life to save the humble toilers of the plains as symus from despair-abstract beauty, in- bols of the primary truths of life. vincible in her strength and soul-satisfy. Many of the poems are protests against ing in her manifestations. Beauty is selfish, narrow, and materialistic aims. nature undefiled by man, the virgin He writes with bitter scorn of the car. plain which the “Ville Tentaculaire,” or penter who settles all the problems of modern industrialism, is eating up. life by rule and line, and can realize Man's works for the most part are evil: nothing outside his own petty mathhe is fallen humanity, with material ematical calculations. "Les Pêcheurs” instincts, a lust for gold and animal gives a weird picture, full of suggestive passions. Yet he is possessed of a soul, teaching, of the fishermen fishing with and those who will may commune with bent backs in stagnant waters through nature and so rise to some measure of the misty night. So absorbed are they, appreciation of the higher mystical life. each in his own selfish labors, that, Verhaeren points no moral in all this, though side by side, they never see one the poet is not concerned with results, another, or speak to one another, or help he simply paints life as it appears to one another. Of the enthusiasts and him, and would disclaim responsibility visionaries, the idealists of this world, for the sadness of his pictures. For even though their labor be barren and himself he finds his happiness, in the their dreams impracticable, Verhaeren conviction that a benign spirit beyond writes with a note of triumphant tenderthe grave watches over and directs his ness. We find it in the beautiful and life. He feels her hand in his hand, pathetic poem of the ferryman rowing her robes brush past him, her eyes gaze vainly against time and tide in answer into his, and the forlorn hopelessness of to a distant voice from the clouds, and his former life is transformed into an again in more dramatic form in the bellenergizing passion of love and grat- ringer wildly tolling his bell in the itude.
tower when the church is in flames. It