« VorigeDoorgaan »
is one of the poet's finest word-pictures, boundless stretch of heather-grown this of the old man, a martyr to duty, the flames, "les crins rouges de l'incendie," encircling the tower until with a crash he is buried in the ruins. Here is a finely conceived incident of the conflagration:
plain over which hovers a silence that can be felt. Nothing has broken it since the last thunder-storm of summer. Here and there the church bells ring, here and there a wagon creaks slowly past:
Mais aucun bruit n'est assez fort
So overwhelming is the sense of silence, that those who fall under its spell come to regard it as a living force:
Les vieux bergers que leurs cent ans disloquent,
Et tout-à-coup, parmi les houles de la Et leurs vieux chiens usés et comme en
Most profound of all in conception, and most illustrative of the mystical optimism of the poet's later mood, is "Les Cordiers." Stepping always backwards, twisting the pale hemp in endless strands, the rope-maker seems to draw down upon himself the horizons of life, and reads the past, the present, and the future: the wild, free, passionate life of the past, crowned by "la mort folle et splendide;" the present, with its materialism, its pride of intellect, its miracles of mechanical invention replacing the miracles of faith; and the future, a double golden staircase of hope and of science leading upwards to where faith unseals the eyes of all, and all are united in a universal peace.
In melodious rhythmical verse nothing, it seems to me, surpasses Verhaeren's word-pictures of the elements, giving to each its peculiar quality of mournful beauty, whether he sings of the rain:
La longue pluit avec ses ongles gris,
or of "Le vent sauvage de Novembre," or of the infinite, heavy monotony of a fall of snow:
La neige tombe indiscontinûment
Le regardent par fois dans les plaines sans bruit
Sur les dunes en or que les ombres cha
S'asseoir immensément du côté de la nuit. Alors les eaux ont peur au pli des mares La bruyère se voile et blêmit toute, Chaque feuillée à chaque arbuste écoute Et le couchant incendiare,
Tait devant lui les cris brandis de sa lumière.
Of this haunting poem, as also of "La Pluie," English readers have already had an opportunity of judging in a translation of singular felicity from the pen of Miss Alma Strettell. It is much to be hoped that so accomplished a translator will feel encouraged to pursue her Verhaeren studies. The poem is further interesting as bringing the author into direct comparison with his friend and compatriot Georges Rodenbach, whose volume, "Le Règne du Silence," has had a considerable success in Paris, and whose admirers frequently place him on a level with Verhaeren and Maeterlinck. In such a judgment I cannot concur. After the broad sweep of Verhaeren's verse, and the temerity of his images, there is something essentially timid, restricted, even précieux, about Rodenbach's elegant boudoir verses, graceful and ingenius as they frequently are, and I venture to say, that in the whole of his volume on silence, there is nothing half so penetrating or convincing as Verhaeren's one exquisite rhythmical
But Verhaeren's finest poem in this strain is "Le Silence," showing the poem.
The leading motive of both "Les Campagnes Hallucinées" and "Les Villes Tentaculaires" is the destruction of the former by the latter. The constant inroads of the town on the country is as a nightmare to the poet's soul. He foresees that, stretching out its loathsome tentacles, the city will suck in and devour, bit by bit, the vast plain that he loves so well, and that in these later volumes he mourns over as over the body of a dead friend. "La plaine est morne et lasse et ne se défend plus," he laments in the opening poem of his latest work. In modern industrialism, with its factories, and chimneys, and railways, and crowded docks, he can see nothing but what is hideous and revolting. He passes in review, one after the other, the features of a modern town-the theatre, the bourse, the sailors' quarter-and he paints each in lurid colors, working himself up into a frenzy of eloquent denunciation. There is much that is incoherent in the volume, much, too, that is overstrained and labored, as though Verhaeren himself had wearied over his subject, and here and there he is positively grotesque, as in the line:
Concerning the idiosyncrasies of Verhaeren's style, it would be easy to be captiously critical, and doubtless there is much in the form of his poems to which that august body, the French Academy, would sternly take exception. If a rhyme possesses the required sound Verhaeren does not trouble himself about spelling and terminations. He has a passion for sonorous and manysyllabled adjectives, especially those ending in "aire" and "oire," such as "diamentaire," "myriadaire," "ostentatoire," and, where the French language fails him, he does not hesitate to enrich her vocabulary according to his needs. So, too, he takes liberties with his syntax, and makes effective use of such phrases as "la souvent maison de ma tristesse," and "le tout-à-coup SaintGeorges." But, with all this, the fact remains that Verhaeren is a wonderful master of style. He commands a cease less flow of sonorous and harmonious language, a singular rich vocabulary, and an unique gift for bold and picturesque imagery. In his hands the "vers libre" becomes a marvellously flexible instrument for the use of his somewhat fantastic genius. He stands to-day in
Les âles d'or et le whisky, couleur topaze, the plenitude of his gifts, on the thresh
in writing of factory life. twice only he melts into a gentler mood in his descriptions, clear and vivid as an outline drawing, of the statues that adorn the town-monk and soldier, apostle and bourgeois-the individuality of each indicated with exquisite perception. The long poem, "La Révolte," is a veritable tour-de-force, and brings his denunciation of la ville tentaculaire to a climax. The misery, the vice suddenly explode, and revolution sweeps all before it. At such a moment Verhaeren has all the dramatic instincts of Victor Hugo, whom he curiously resembles. The rush of the maddened people, the lust for blood, the sack of churches, the torches with tongues of flame setting fire to the buildings, oppress the reader with an irresistible sense of reality. Anarchy lives in his powerful lines; it is a dramatic moment rendered with infinite art.
old of a high reputation, and it may well be that his best work lies still before him. Any attempt, therefore, to assign him a permanent place in the literary ranks of the age would be vain and premature; yet there can, I think, be no doubt that, in virtue both of the nobility of his language and the wide sweep of his imagination, he is entitled to a very high rank among contemporary poets. I should like to say that he is something more than a poet, that he is also a thinker. He appeals at once to the intellect and to the imagination; his poems bear the impress of personal suffering and personal knowledge, and they are full of suggestive thoughts on the eternal problems that arrest the attention of mankind. In a word, Emile Verhaeren is intensely human, both in his joys and sorrows, in his hopes and his despair, and it is this near sense of comradeship which evokes in the 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.
VIRGINIA M. CRAWFOrd.
From Temple Bar.
A FREAK OF CUPID.
Courthope opened the shutters of his window to look out upon the night; they were heavy wooden shutters clasped with an iron clasp. A French window he could also open; outside that a temporary double window was fixed in the casement with light hooks at the four corners. The wind was still blustering about the lonely house, and, after examining the twilight of the snow-clad night attentively, he perceived that snow was still falling. He thought he could almost see the drifts rising higher against the outbuildings.
Two large barns stood behind the house; from these he judged that the fields around were farmed.
It was considerations concerning the project of his journey the next day which had made him look out, and also a restless curiosity regarding every detail of the ménage whose young mistress was at once so childlike and so queenlike. While looking out he had what seemed a curious hallucination of a dark figure standing for a moment on the top of the deep snow. As he looked more steadily the figure disappeared. All the outlines at which he looked were chaotic to the sight, because of the darkness and the drifting snow and the light, which was behind him, shimmering upon the pane. If half-a-dozen apparitions had passed in the dim and whirling atmosphere of the yards, he would have supposed that they were shadows formed by the beams of his lamp, being interrupted here and there by the eddying snow where the wind whirled it most densely. He did not close his shutters, he even left his inner window partially open, because, unac customed to a stove, he felt oppressed by its heat. When he threw himself
after days among snow-fields, when a 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 piercing the night. He woke to feel snow and wind driving upon his face, to realize a half-waking impression that a man had passed through his room, to know that the screams of a woman's voice were a reality. As he sprang for his clothes he saw that the window was wide open, the whole frame of the outer double glass having been removed, but the screams of terror he heard were within the house. Opening the door to the dark hall he ran, guided by the sound, to the foot of the staircase which the girls had ascended, then up its long straight ascent. He took its first steps in a bound, but, as his brain became more perfectly awake, confusion of thought, wonder, a certain timidity because now the screaming had ceased, caused him to slacken his pace. He was thus hesitating in the darkness when he found himself confronted by Madge King. She stood majestic in grey woollen gown, candle in hand, and her dark eyes blazed upor him in terror, wrath and indignation.
It seemed for a moment that she could not speak; some movement passed over the white sweep of her throat and the full dimpling lips, and then,
"Go down!" She would have spoken to a dog with the same authority, never with such contemptuous wrath. "Go down at once! How dare you?"
Abashed, knowing not what he might have done to offend, Courthope fell back a step against the wall of the staircase. From within the room Eliz cried, "Is he there? Come in and lock the door, Madge, or he'll kill you!" The voice, sharp, high with terror, rose at the end, and burst into one of those piercing shrieks which seemed to fill the night, as the voices of some small insects have the power to make the welkin ring in response.
Before Courthope could find a word to utter, another light was thrown upon
him from a lamp at the foot of the stair. It was held by Jacques Morin, greyhaired, stooping, dogged. The MoriL family-man, wife, and daughter-were huddling close together. They, too, were all looking at him, not with the wrath and contempt to which Madge had risen, but with cunning desire for revenge, mingled with the cringing of fear. There was a minute's hush, too strong for expression, in which each experienced more intensely the shock of the mysterious alarm.
It was Madge who broke the silence. Her voice rang clear, although vibrating.
"Jacques Morin, he came into our room to rob!" She pointed at Courthope.
The thin voice of Eliz came in piercing parenthesis: "I saw him in the closet, and when I screamed he ran."
Madge began again. "Jacques Morin, what part of the house is open? I feel the wind." All the time Madge kept her eyes upon Courthope, as upon some wild animal whose spring she hoped to keep at bay.
That she should appeal to this dull, dogged French servant for protection against him, who only desired to risk his life to serve her, was knowledge of such intense vexation that Courthope could still find no word, and her fixed look of wrath did actually keep him at bay. It took from him, by some sheer physical power which he did not under stand, the courage with which he would have faced a hundred Morins.
When Jacques Morin began to speak, his wife and daughter took courage and spoke also; a babel of French words, angry, terrified, arose from the group, whose grey night-clothes, shaken by their gesticulations, gave them a half. frenzied appearance.
In the midst of their talking Court hope spoke to Madge at last. "I ran up to protect you when I heard screams; I did not wake till you screamed. Some one has entered the house. He has entered by the window in my room; I found it open."
With his own words the situation became clear to him. He saw that he must
hunt for the housebreaker. He began to descend the stairs.
The Morin girl screamed and ran. Morin, producing a gun from behind his back, pointed it at Courthope, and madame, holding the lamp, squared up behind her husband with the courage of desperation.
It was not this fantastic couple that checked. Courthope's downward rush, but Madge's voice.
"Keep still!" she cried, in short, strong accents of command.
Eliz, becoming aware of his movement, shrieked again.
Courthope, now defiant and angry, turned towards Madge, but, even as he waited to hear what she had to say, reflected that her interest could not suffer much by delay, for the thief, if he escaped, could make but small speed in the drifting storm over roads which led to no near place of escape or hiding.
It was the judge's daughter which Courthope now saw in Madge-the desire to estimate evidence, the fearless judgment.
"We took you in last night, a stranger; and now we have been robbed, which never happened before in all our lives. My sister says it was you she saw in our room. As soon as I could get the candle lit I found you here, and Jacques Morin says that you have opened your window so that you would be able to escape at once. What is the use of saying that you are not a robber?"
He made another defiant statement of his own version of the story.
The girl had given some command in French to Morin; to Courthope she spoke again in hasty sentences, reiterating the evidence against him. He: manner was a little different now-it had not the same straightforward air of command. He began to hope that he might persuade her, and then discovered suddenly that she had been deliberately riveting his attention while the command which he had not understood was being obeyed. A noose of rope was thrown round his arms and instantly tightened; with a nimbleness
"What do they say?" asked Courthope
The Morin girl was following close to her mother, and Jacques Morin was eagerly discussing their information.
which he had not expected Morin
"Tell him to untie this rope at once. There is some villain about the house who may do you the greatest injury; you are mad to take from me the power of arresting him.”
Madame Morin, seeing the prisoner secured, hastened with her lamp to his bedroom.
Madge passed Courthope in silence: They all went to the window to see; Courthope, following in the most absurd helplessness, trailing the end of his binding-cord behind him, brought up the rear of the little procession. Madge walked straight on into his room, where Madame Morin was again opening the window-shutters.
"They say," said Madge to Courthope, "that you have had an accomplice, and that he is gone again; they saw his snow-shoe tracks."
He begged her to make sure that the man was gone, to let him look at the tracks himself and then to search the house thoroughly. Outside the window the same choatic sweep and whirl of the atmosphere prevailed. It was difficult, even holding a lantern outside, to see, but they did see that a track had come 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.
It was not for herself that she was afraid! She stood a few steps above him; her little candle, flashing its rays into the darkness of the upper and lower halls, made walls and balustrades seem vast by its flickering impotence to oust the darkness. Surely this girl, towering in her sweeping robe and queenly pose, was made to be loved of men and gods! Hero, carrying her vestal taper in the temple recesses, before ever Leander had crossed the wave, could not have had a larger or more noble form, a more noble and lovely face.
Well, if she chose to tie his arms he would have preferred to have them tied, were it not for the maddening thought that more miscreants than one might be within reach of her, and that they would, if skilled, find the whole house hold an easy prey.
Madame Morin came back from the room with the open window, making proclamation in the most excited French,
the house, Courthope allowed to be of the company, apparently because he could thus be watched. The thief of the night had come and gone; some sil. ver and jewellery which had been stored in a closet adjoining the bedroom of the sisters had been taken.
Courthope understood very little of the talk that went on. At length, to his great relief Madge gave her, full atten. tion to him in parley.
"Won't you believe that I know nothing whatever of the doings of this sneak-thief?"
Some of her intense excitement had passed away, succeeded by distress, discouragement, and perhaps perplexity, but that last she did not express to him. She leaned against the wall as she listened to him with white face.
"We never took in any one we didn't know anything about before, and we never were robbed before." She added, "We treated you kindly; how could you have done it? If you did it"-his heart leaped at the "if" as at a beam of sunshine on a rainy day-"you must have