is one of the poet's finest word-pictures, boundless stretch of heather-grown this of the old man, a martyr to duty, plain over which hovers a silence that the flames, "les crins rouges de can be felt. Nothing has broken it l'incendie,” encircling the tower until since the last thunder-storm of summer. with a crash he is buried in the ruins. Here and there the church bells ring, Here is a finely conceived incident of here and there a wagon creaks slowly the conflagration:


Mais aucun bruit n'est assez fort
Le vieux sonneur sonne si fort qu'il peut
Comme si les flames brûlaient son Dieu.

Pour déchirer l'espace intense et mort.

So overwhelming is the sense of silence, Les Corneilles et les hiboux

that those who fall under its spell come Passent avec de longs cris fous

to regard it as a living force:Cognant leurs têtes aux fenêtres fermées Brulant leur vol dans la fumée

Les vieux bergers que leurs cent ans disBattus d'effroi, cassés d'essors

loquent, Et tout-à-coup, parmi les houles de la Et leurs vieux chiens usés et comme en foule

loques S'abattant morts.

Le regardent par fois dans les plaines sans

bruit Most profound of all in conception, Sur les dunes en or que les ombres chaand most illustrative of the mystical marrent optimism of the poet's later mood, is S'asseoir immensément du côté de la nuit. “Les Cordiers.” Stepping always back. Alors les eaux ont peur au pli des mares wards, twisting the pale hemp in end- La bruyère se voile et blêmit toute, less strands, the rope-maker seems to Chaque feuillée à chaque arbuste écoute draw down upon himself the horizons Et le couchant incendiare, of life, and reads the past, the present, Tait devant lui les cris brandis de sa and the future: the wild, free, passion

lumière. ate life of the past, crowned by "la Of this haunting poem, as also of “La mort folle et splendide;" the present, Pluie,” English readers have already with its materialism, its pride of intel- had an opportunity of judging in a lect, its miracles of mechanical inven- translation of singular felicity from the tion replacing the miracles of faith; and pen of Miss Alma Strettell. It is much the future, a double golden staircase of to be hoped that so accomplished a hope and of science leading upwards to translator will feel encouraged to purwhere faith unseals the eyes of all, and sue her Verhaeren studies. The poem all are united in a universal peace. is further interesting as bringing the

In melodious rhythmical verse noth- author into direct comparison with his ing, it seems to me, surpasses Ver- friend and compatriot Georges Rodenhaeren's word-pictures of the elements, bach, whose volume, “Le Règne du giving to each its peculiar quality of Silence,” has had a considerable success mournful beauiy, whether he sings of in Paris, and whose admirers frethe rain:

quently place him on a level with Ver

haeren and Maeterlinck. In such a La pluie,

judgment I cannot concur. After the La longue pluit avec ses ongles gris,

broad sweep of Verhaeren's verse, and or of “Le vent sauvage de Novembre," the temerity of his images, there is or of the infinite, heavy monotony of a something essentially timid, restricted, fall of snow:

even précieux, about Rodenbach's ele

gant boudoir verses, graceful and inLa neige tombe indiscontinûment

genius as they frequently are, and I Comme une lente et longue et pauvre laine venture to say, that in the whole of his Parmi la morne et longue et pauvre plaine volume on silence, there is nothing halt Froide d'amour, chaude de haine.

so penetrating or convincing as VerBut Verhaeren's finest poem in this haeren's one exquisite rhythmical strain is “Le Silence," showing the poem.



[ocr errors]

The leading motive of both "Les Concerning the idiosyncrasies of VerCampagnes Hallucinées" and "Les haeren's style, it would be easy to be Villes Tentaculaires" is the destruction captiously critical, and doubtless there of the former by the latter. The con- is much in the form of his poems to stant inroads of the town on the coun. which that august body, the French try is as a nightmare to the poet's soul. Academy, would sternly take exception, He foresees that, stretching out its loath. If a rhyme possesses the required sound some tentacles, the city will suck in and Verhaeren does not trouble himself devour, bit by bit, the vast plain that he about spelling and terminations. loves so well, and that in these later has a passion for sonorous and manyvolumes he mourns over as over the syllabled adjectives, especially those body of a dead friend. "La plaine est ending in "aire” and “oire,” such as morne et lasse et ne se défend plus,” he “diamentaire,” “myriadaire," "ostentalaments in the opening poem of his toire," and, where the French language latest work. In modern industrialism, fails him, he does not hesitate to enrich with its factories, and chimneys, and her vocabulary according to his needs. railways, and crowded docks, he can So, too, he takes liberties with his see nothing but what is hideous and re- syntax, and makes effective use of such volting. He passes in review, one after phrases as “la souvent maison de ma the other, the features of a modern tristesse," and "le tout-à-coup Sainttown—the theatre, the bourse, the Georges." But, with all this, the fact sailors' quarter-and he paints each in remains that Verhaeren is a wonderful lurid colors, working himself up into master of style. He commands a cease a frenzy of eloquent denunciation, less flow of sonorous and harmonious There is much that is incoherent in the language, a singular rich vocabulary, volume, much, too, that is overstrained and an unique gift for bold and picturand labored, as though Verhaeren him-' esque imagery. In his hands the "vers self had wearied over his subject, and libre" becomes a marvellously flexible here and there he is positively gro- instrument for the use of his somewhat tesque, as in the line:

fantastic genius. He stands to-day in Les âles d'or et le whisky, couleur topaze, old of a high reputation, and it may well

the plenitude of his gifts, on the threshin writing of factory life. Once or be that his best work lies still before twice only he melts into a gentler mood him. Any attempt, therefore, to asin his descriptions, clear and vivid as an sign him a permanent place in the outline drawing, of the statues that literary ranks of the age would be vain adorn the town-monk and soldier, and premature; yet there can, I think, apostle and bourgeois—the individuality be no doubt that, in virtue both of the of each indicated with exquisite percep- nobility of his language and the wide tion. The long poem, "La Révolte,” is sweep of his imagination, he is entitled a veritable tour-de-force, and brings his to a very high rank among contemdenunciation of la ville tentaculaire to a porary poets. I should like to say that climax. The misery, the vice suddenly he is something more than a poet, that explode, and revolution sweeps all be- he is also a thinker. He appeals at once fore it. At such a moment Verhaeren to the intellect and to the imagination; has all the dramatic instincts of Victor his poems bear the impress of personal Hugo, whom he curiously resembles. suffering and personal knowledge, and The rush of the maddened people, the they are full of suggestive thoughts on lust for blood, the sack of churches, the the eternal problems thai arrest the attorches with tongues of flame setting tention of mankind. In a word, Emile fire to the buildings, oppress the reader Verhaeren is intensely human, both in with an irresistible sense of reality. his joys and sorrows, in his hopes and Anarchy lives in his powerful lines; it his despair, and it is this near sense of is a dramatic moment rendered with in- comradeship which evokes in the finite art.

reader a strong personal sympathy for the man, in addition to the homage due down, he slept deeply, as men sleep to him as a poet.

after days among snow-fields, when a VIRGINIA M. CRAWFORD, sense of entire security is the lethargic

brain's lullaby.

He was conscious first of a dream in which the sisters experienced some

imminent danger; he heard shrieks From Temple Bar.

piercing the night. He woke to feel A FREAK OF CUPID.

snow and wind driving upon his face,

to realize a half-waking impression CHAPTER III.

that a man had passed through his Courthope opened the shutters of his room, to know that the screams of a window to look out upon the night; they woman's voice were a reality. As he were heavy wooden shutters clasped sprang for his clothes he saw that the with an iron clasp. A French window window was wide open, the whole he could also open; outside that a tem- frame of the outer double glass having porary double window was fixed in the been removed, but the screams of terror casement with light hooks at the four he heard were within the house, Opencorners. The wind was still blustering ing the door to the dark hall he ran, about the lonely house, and, after ex- guided by the sound, to the foot of the amining the twilight of the snow-clad staircase which the girls had ascended, night attentively, he perceived that then up its long straight ascent. He snow was still falling. He thought he took its first steps in a bound, but, as could almost see the drifts rising higher his brain became more perfectly awake, against the outbuildings.

confusion of thought, wonder, a cerTwo large barns stood behind the tain timidity because now the screamhouse; from these he judged that the ing had ceased, caused him to slacken fields around were farmed.

his pace. He was thus hesitating in the It was considerations concerning the darkness when he found himself conproject of his journey the next day fronted by Madge King. She stood which had made him look out, and also majestic in grey woollen gown, candle a restless curiosity regarding every de- in hand, and her dark eyes blazed upor tail of the ménage whose young mis- him in terror, wrath and indignation. tress was at once so childlike and so It seemed for a moment that she could queenlike. While looking out he had not speak; some movement passed over what seemed a curious hallucination of the white sweep of her throat and the a dark figure standing for a moment on full dimpling lips, and then,the top of the deep snow. As he looked Go down!" She would have spoken more steadily the figure disappeared. to a dog with the same authority, but All the outlines at which he looked were never with such contemptuous. wrath. chaotic to the sight, because of the “Go down at once! How dare you?”. darkness and the drifting snow and the Abashed, knowing not what he might light, which was behind him, shimmer- have done to offend, Courthope fell back ing upon the pane. If half-a-dozen a step against the wall of the staircase. apparitions had passed in the dim and From within the room Eliz cried, “Is whirling atmosphere of the yards, he he there? Come in and lock the door, would have supposed that they were Madge, or he'll kill you!" The voice, shadows formed by the beams of his sharp, high with terror, rose at the end, lamp, being interrupted here and there and burst into one of those piercing by the eddying snow where the wind shrieks which seemed to fill the night, whirled it most densely. He did not as the voices of some small insects have close his shutters, he even left his inner the power to make the welkin ring in window partially open, because, unac- response. customed to a stove, he felt oppressed Before Courthope could find a word to by its heat. When he threw himself utter, another light was thrown upon him from a lamp at the foot of the stair. hunt for the housebreaker. He began It was held by Jacques Morin, grey- to descend the stairs. haired, stooping, dogged. The Moril The Morin girl screamed and ran. family-man, wife, and daughter-were Morin, producing a gun from behind his huddling close together. They, too, back, pointed it at Courthope, and were all looking at him, not with the madame, holding the lamp, squared up wrath and contempt to which Madge behind her husband with the courage of had risen, but with cunning desire for desperation. revenge, mingled with the cringing of It was not this fantastic couple that fear. There was a minute's hush, too checked. Courthope's downward rush, strong for expression, in which each but Madge's voice. experienced more intensely the shock of "Keep still!” she cried, in short, strong the mysterious alarm.


accents of command. It was Madge who broke the silence. Eliz, becoming aware of his moveHer voice rang ciear, although vibrat- ment, shrieked again. ing.

Courthope, now defiant and angry, “Jacques Morin, he came into our turned towards Madge, but, even as he room to rob!” She pointed at Court- waited to hear what she had to say, hope.

reflected that her interest could not The thin voice of Eliz came in pierc- suffer much by delay, for the thief, if he ing parenthesis: "I saw him in the escaped, could make but small speed in closet, and when I screamed he ran." the drifting storm over roads which

Madge began again. "Jacques Morin, led to no near place of escape or hidwhat part of the house is open? I feel ing. the wind.” All the time Madge kept It was the judge's daughter which her eyes upon Courthope, as upon some Courthope now saw in Madge—the dewild animal whose spring she hoped to sire to estimate evidence, the fearless keep at bay.

judgment. That she should appeal to this dull, “We took you in last night, dogged French servant for protection stranger; and

have been against him, who only desired to risk robbed, which never happened before his life to serve her, was knowledge of in all our lives. My sister says it was such intense vexation that Courthope you she saw in our room. As soon as I could still find no word, and her fixed could get the candle lit I found you look of wrath did actually keep him at here, and Jacques Morin says that you bay. It took from him, by some sheer have opened your window so that you physical power which he did not under. would be able to escape at once. What stand, the courage with which he would is the use of saying that you are not a have faced a hundred Morins.

robber?" When Jacques Morin began to speak, He made another defiant statement of his wife and daughter took courage and his own version of the story. spoke also; a babel of French words, The girl bad given some command in angry, terrified, arose from the group, French to Morin; to Courthope she whose grey night-clothes, shaken by spoke again in hasty sentences, reitertheir gesticulations, gave them a half- ating the evidence against him. He: frenzied appearance.

manner was a little different now-it In the midst of their talking Court. had not the same straightforward air of hope spoke to Madge at last. "I ran up command. He began to hope that he to protect you when I heard screams; I might persuade her, and then disdid not wake till you screamed. Some covered suddenly that she had been one has entered the house. He has en. deliberately riveting his attention while tered by the window in my room; I the command which he had not underfound it open."

stood was being obeyed. A noose of With his own words the situation be- rope was thrown round his arms and came clear to him. He saw that he must instantly tightened; with a nimbleness


[ocr errors]


which he had not expected Morin “What do they say?" asked Courthope knotted it fast. Courthope turned of Madge. fiercely; for a moment he struggled The Morin girl was following close to with all his force, bearing down upon her mother, and Jacques Morin was Morin from his greater height, so that eagerly discussing their information. they both staggered and reeled to the Madge passed Courthope in silence: foot of the stair. At his violence the They all went to the window to see; voices of the Morin women, joined by Courthope, following in the most absurd that of Eliz, were lifted in such wild helplessness, trailing the end of his terror that a few moments were suffi- binding-cord behind him, brought up cient to bring Courthope to reason. He the rear of the little procession. Madge spoke to Madge with haughty com- walked straight on into his room, where posure.

Madame Morin was again opening the S“Tell him to untie this rope at once. window-shutters. There is some villain about the house "They say,” said Madge to Courthope, who may do you the greatest injury; “that you have had an accomplice, and you are mad to take from the that he is gone again; they saw his power of arresting him.”

snow-shoe tracks." Madame Morin, seeing the prisoner He begged her to make sure that the secured, hastened with her lamp to his man was gone, to let him look at the bedroom.

tracks himself and then to search the Madge, feelinz herself safer now house thoroughly. Outside the window came a little way down the stair with the same choatic sweep and whirl of the her candle. "How can we tell what you atmosphere prevailed. It was difficult, would do next?" she asked. “And I even holding a lantern outside, to see, have the household to protect; it is not but they did see that a track had come for myself that I am afraid.”

up to the window and again turned The anger that he had felt toward her from it. After that they all searched died out suddenly.

the house, Courthope allowed to be of It was not for herself that she was the company, apparently because he afraid! She stood a few steps above could thus be watched. The thief of bim; her little candle, flashing its rays the night had come and gone; some sil. into the darkness of the upper and ver and jewellery which had been lower balls, made walls and balustrades stored in a closet adjoining the bedroom seem vast by its flickering impotence to of the sisters had been taken. oust the darkness. Surely this girl, Courthope understood very little of towering in her sweeping robe and the talk that went on. At length, to his queenly pose, was made to be loved of great relief Madge gave her, full atten. men and gods! Hero, carrying her tion to him in parley. vestal taper in the temple recesses, be- “Won't you believe that I know fore ever Leander had crossed the wave, nothing whatever of the doings of this could not have had a larger or more sneak-thief?” noble form, a more noble and lovely Some of her intense excitement had face.

passed away, succeeded by distress, disWell, if she chose to tie bis arms he couragement, and perhaps perplexity, would have preferred to have them tied, but that last she did not express to him. were it not for the maddening thought She leaned against the wall as she listhat more miscreants than one might be tened to him with white face. within reach of her, and that they “We never took in any one we didn't would, if skilled, find the whole house- know anything about before, and we hold an easy prey.

never were robbed before.” She added, Madame Morin came back from the “We treated you kindly; how could you room with the open window, making have done it? If you did it”-his heart proclamation in the most excited leaped at the “if" as at a beam of sunFrench,

shine on a rainy day-"you must have

« VorigeDoorgaan »