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BELGIUM

[literature

He gives us the peasant as a human being, the most 1893; in Les Villages Illusoires, 1895; in Les VUles elemental of human beings. His descriptions are so Tentaculaires, 1895, the hallucinations become entirely admirable because they are so human. His men and external; it is now the country, the village, the town, that women are admirable because they are seen as a part is to say, the whole organized world, which agonizes of the same substance as the woods and fields they move among cloudy phantoms, and no longer a mere individual, in, not as social items. They live, love, act, as they do, abnormal brain. With Les Heures Claires, 1899, we see because a mysterious force, of which they are for the most him, in these poems of fiery reverie, sending his soul into part unconscious, is in them ; the same mysterious force the universe, and becoming a vehement voice for all that which germinates in the furrows which they turn. And he finds most passionate in it. It is, in its way, a so he has surprising naivetes, can be gross, accepts no dramatizing of emotion, but, if one may say so, an compromises, and yet is full of restraint, of a kind of abstract dramatizing. In his two plays, Les Aubes, 1898, dignity, the strong man’s mastery over his own strength. and Le Cloitre, 1900, he tries to give a more lyrical form His style is large, coloured, vividly sober, always firm and to the new subjective kind of drama which Maeterlinck decisive, always the faithful interpreter of his thought or has made possible, giving us, in his brief and fiery scenes, little broken bits of the savage forces of the world, sensation. Maurice Maeterlinck was born 29th August 1862. working out their passionate issues in a conflict of cities, His first book was a collection of verses, Serves Chaudes, or under the quiet roofs of the cloister. His latest 1889 ; this was followed by La Princesse Maleine, 1889 ; collection of poems is Pelites Legendes, 1900. What he Les Aveugles, 1890 ; Les Sept Princesses, 1891 ; Pelleas et has so far achieved is a melodrama of the spirit; there Melisande, 1892 ; Alladine et Palomides, 1894; Le Tr'esor is poetry in it, as there is in everything written by the des Humbles, 1896; Aglavaine et Selysette, 1896; La Sagesse only contemporary writer of French verse who has a et la Destinee, 1898; La Vie des Abeilles, 1901. Maeterlinck, really vivid energy, but there is rhetoric as well as poetry. Georges Eekhoud (born in 1854) is in some ways the though he began with plays, and has only latterly written essays, is rather a philosopher who has turned dramatist most passionately Flemish of the Belgian group, partial than a dramatist who has turned philosopher. A brooding and imperfect as he is. In his Kermesses, 1883; Nouvelles poet, a mystic, a contemplative spectator of the comedy of Kermesses, 1887; Le Cycle Patibulaire, 1892; Mes Comdeath: that is how he presents himself to us in his work, munions, 1895; Eseal-Vigor, 1899; La Faneuse d’Amour, and the introduction which he has prefixed to his transla- 1900, he has evoked, in a prose more feverish than tion of HOi'nement des Noces Spirituelles of Ruysbroeck the verse of Yerhaeren, the image of all that is most 1’Admirable shows how deeply he has studied the mystical excessive, outcast, extravagant, in the life of his country. writers of all ages, and how much akin to theirs is his He writes the tragedies of those whom their own natures, own temper. In his plays he is always concerned with or the misery of circumstance, have brought into conflict spiritual issues, with action as it might be seen in dreams, with society. He writes with a kind of fury of sympathy, with a world reflected in a chamber of mirrors, with dis- a sort of perverse ecstasy, as if he delighted in the sorrows embodied passions and the tragedies of childish and for which he has so revolutionary a pity. Every story is ghostly souls. He has invented a whole theatre of a little violent episode, full of cruelty and compassion. marionettes, who are more mysteriously simple than The life of the people comes into his pages with all its human beings; he has made the stage at once more exuberance, colour, disorder, its pell-mell of noble and subjective and more pictorial than it ever was before. In abominable sentiments, its gross joys and sordid disasters;, his essays he is content to speak with his own voice, and life so vehemently realized that it seems, in these pages, to his own voice is more beautiful, and has more beautiful overflow all bounds. He is impatient with words, as with and profound things to say, than the feigned voices of his acts ; his words seem to reel under some airy intoxication ;. characters. Speaking without intermediary, he speaks he writes always at full speed. All his work is a kind of with a more absolute abandonment of every convention of confession, in which he seems to unburden himself of a human reserve, except the reserve of an extreme fastidious- heart-load of hates and sympathies, dramatizing his own ness in the choice of words simple enough and sincere emotions into incidents of an only too vigorous externality. In Georges Rodenbach (born 16th July 1855, died enough to convey exactly his meaning, more spontaneously, it would seem, than any writer since Emerson. His 25th December 1898) we find the sleepy spirit of Bruges, essays might well be the favourite reading of those to that other side of what is typically Flemish, and the whom beauty must come with a certain dogmatism, if it is titles of his books are themselves significant of the aspect under which he saw his corner of the world : Le liegne to be accepted for what it is. The poetry of Emile Yerhaeren (born 21st May 1855), du Silence, 1891 ; Bruges-la-Morte, 1892; Les Vies more than that of any other modern poet, is made Encloses, 1896; Le Carillonneur, 1897; Le Miroir du directly out of the complaining voices of the nerves. In Ciel Natal, 1898. His best known book, Lmges-lahis early books, Les Flamandes, 1883; Les Moines, 1886, Morte, is an attempt to study the soul of a town, which he began by solid, heavily-coloured genre pictures in the he evokes with an almost feminine delicacy of perception. Flemish style. But it is not until Les Soirs, 1887, that His prose and verse are pallid, elegant, monotonous with we find what was to be his really individual style develop- a kind of sweet monotony; they are sincere to a certain ing itself. In Les Debdcles, a year later, this art of aspect of Belgian life, and to a personal way of receiving writing in coloured and audible metaphor, and on increas- sensation, but they have none of the energy of a temperaingly abstract and psychological subjects, the sensations ment able to dream strongly. They have charm, but it is externalized, has become more master of itself, and at the a drowsy charm, a little conscious of the effectiveness of same time more immediately the servant of a more and its languor; they are like faint pictures, not faded by more feverishly nervous organization. In Les Flambeaux time, but painted with timid colours. By the side of these writers, or preceding them, as Fairs, 1890, there is a self-analysis, a kind of self-torture, with Charles de Coster, Octave Pirmez, Theodore Hannon, which conveys to one the sense of all that is most solitary, picturesque, and poignant in the transformation of an are many writers whom space forbids to do more than intensely active and keen-sighted reason into a thing of mention; but an account of Belgian literature would not conflicting visionary moods. Gradually, in Les Appamis be complete without at least mention of the names of dans mes Chemins, 1891; in Les Gampagnes Halludnees, Edmond Picard, Eugene Demolder, Charles van Lerberghe,