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THE BOOK WAS
OUP 787 1 3-6-7510,000.
OSMANIA UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
CaU No. \\\ sty Accession No.
This book shoula be returned on or before the date last marked below.
Works by Charles Baudouin
LE MIRACLE DE VIVRE.
LA SERVE REINE.
LITERATURE AND SCIENCE
TOLSTOI DUCATEUR (English translation, Tolstoy the Teacher,
Kegan Paul, 1923).
LE SYMBOLS CHEZ VERHAEREN (English translation, Psychoanalysis
and Aesthetics, George Allen & Unwin, 1924).
LA FORCE EN NOUS (English translation, The Power Within Us.
George Allen & Unwin, 1923).
SUGGESTION ET AUTOSUGGESTION (English translation, Suggestion
and Autosuggestion, George Allen & Unwin, 1920, ninth im-
pression [new edition}, 1924).
STUDES DE PSYCHANALYSE (English translation, Studies in Psycho-
analysis, George Allen & Unwin, 1922).
THE BIRTH OF PSYCHE (Kegan Paul, 1923).
From a photograph by G. Kcfer
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY
EDEN AND CEDAR PAUL
LONDON : GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD.
RUSKIN HOUSE, 40 MUSEUM STREET, W.C. i
First published in 1924
(All rights reserved)
Printed in Great Britain by
UKVVIN BROTHKRS, LIMITED, THE C.RE8HAM PRESS, LONDON AND WOK I NO
FACSIMILE OF VERHAEREN'S MS.
Two thoughtful book-notices, published in the " West-
minster Gazette " last year, give the clue to much of
the interest and value of Charles Baudouin's Psychoanalysis
and Aesthetics. The first of these notices, a review of
a translation of Benedetto Croce's The Poetry of Dante,
appeared in the " Weekly Westminster Gazette " for
August 12, 1922. The writer says of Dante : " To
understand him, ... we require first some clue to his
symbolism and the world-view which inspires it. ...
Next, we require, at least in some degree, poetry of soul ;
conferring on us the power of sympathetic communion
with the spirit of the poet. These are the essentials
of the ' historico-aesthetic ' understanding of the Divine
Comedy ; or, indeed, of any supreme work of art/' The
other notice, signed " E. U./' was a review of F. C.
Prescott's The Poetic Mind, and was published in the
" Weekly Westminster Gazette " for September 2, 1922.
" To be complete/' writes the reviewer, " such a book
should be written, as it were, by spiritual Siamese twins,
one a poet and the other a psychologist, in vital union
and complete sympathy of soul. Where Professor Prescott
fails he does so because of an almost inevitable limita-
tion in such imaginative sympathy ; because he doesn't
really know what it feels like to be a poet. ... He
throws a new and interesting light on many phases and
peculiarities of poetic creation ; yet its concrete reality
escapes him still."
Now, Charles Baudouin has, not merely " in some
8 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
degree/' but in a high degree, that poetry of soul which
confers on us the power of sympathetic communion with
the spirit of the poet. There is no need, as far as he is
concerned, to search for " spiritual Siamese twins/ 1
since he is himself, in one and the same person, both
poet and psychologist. As the lattei, the author of
Suggestion and Autosuggestion, Studies in Psychoanalysis,
and The Power Within Us, is sufficiently well known
to English and American readers. But his reputation
as a poet can hardly be supposed to have crossed the
Channel and the Atlantic, for neither Ecce Homo, nor
L'arche flottante, nor any other of his poems and lyrical
dramas, has yet appeared in English translation. Indeed,
for reasons presently to be considered, their full poetic
beauty is only accessible to those who can read them in
It is, then, both as poet and as psychologist that
Baudouin has written Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics,
has made this study of poetic symbolism in the works
of Emile Verhaeren. The book is not by any means
the first venture into the province of psychoanalytical
aesthetics and psychoanalytical literary criticism, but
it is perhaps the most notable hitherto published
notable no less for the mode of treatment than for the
fact that it deals with so outstanding a figure as Emile
Verhaeren. In the introductory chapter on " The Laws
of the Imagination and Poetic Symbols " the author
expounds the principles that guide him throughout the
subsequent analysis of Verhaeren's life and works,
illustrating the way in which the newer psychological
outlooks are gradually modifying the canons of " literary "
criticism. This modification has hitherto been in large
measure unconscious ; but in Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics
at one stride it becomes aware of itself. Take, for instance,
the passage at the close of Chapter One which shows how
phrases which critics of the old school would have pilloried
as examples of literary inelegance, acquire a profound
TRANSLATORS' PREFACE 9
poetical significance from their bearing on Verhaeren's
most intimate personal experiences. The literary "in-
elegances " are psychologically vital.
Thus quite apart from its value and interest, thanks to
the understanding it brings to the study of one of the
supreme figures in contemporary imaginative literature,
Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics solves, as only the new
psychology is able to solve, the riddle of artistic apprecia-
tion. Hard upon forty years ago, Edmund Gurney,
in two essays respectively entitled Poets, Critics, and
Class-lists, and The Appreciation of Poetry, laid stress
upon what he termed " the non-reasonable element in
poetry " as a factor in appreciation, and showed that
this element was not identical with the purely musical
or sensory element in verse. But Gurney, well equipped
though he was with the psychological knowledge of his
day, could not run this " non-reasonable " factor to earth.
For the psychology of the eighteen-eighties was still
intellectualist. It was concerned with the " reason,"
the " judgment/' the shallows of the mind. Having
thus limited the scope of its enquiries, it naturally could
not perceive how, in artistic appreciation, deep calls
to deep. |The delight in poetry is largely an affair of the
subconscious. The symbols in which the mind of the
imaginative writer or the painter seeks self-expression,
are tinged with an affect that wells up from the depths ;
and in the hidden recesses of the mind of the observer
or the reader there is an affect that rings responsive.!
This is Gurney's " non-reasonable factor " of appreciation.
In both the artist and the appreciator there is (to use
Baudouin's own term in Suggestion and Autosuggestion)
an " outcropping of the subconscious/' and they are
outcroppings from kindred strata. When the symbol
makes a very wide appeal, it is an outcropping from a
stratum that exists universally in the minds of all the
individuals that comprise the human race an outcrop-
ping from what Jung terms the " collective unconscious."
10 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Being a surge from the unconscious,' it is " non-reasonable/ 1
For, as Ralph Hodgson writes :
Reason has moons, but moons not hers
Lie mirrored on her sea,
Confounding her astronomers,
But Oh ! delighting me,
Baudouin phrases the same thought in the language
of the new analytical psychology : " In the course of our
analysis we have seen that these poems are the outcome
of a very strong and very precise condensation of images.
That is why they have guided us into the most intimate
recesses of Verhaeren's soul. Such condensations would
seem to favour the genesis of great works. This is natural,
for condensation is the sign of an emotion or of a conflict
in the soul of the poet ; such poems give expression to
the profoundest feelings, and for this reason they pro-
foundly react on the reader's emotions. A noteworthy
fact is that the real object of the emotion or of the conflict
may be subconscious, may be quite unknown both to
the author and to the reader, and yet an intimate vibration
is awakened which may not be understood but will
certainly be felt. We are led to the view that it is wise
and proper to analyse the symbols employed by a poet,
and especially those which he introduces into his master-
pieces ; seeing that the most moving of works are at
the same time, and in general, the most explicative of
To sum up, the present book must not be looked upon
simply as a treatise upon psychoanalysis and aesthetics,
nor simply as an attempt at the appreciation of the writings
of a particular poet. It is an application of psycho-
analysis to the theory of aesthetics, as illustrated by
a detailed study of Verhaeren's works. The " inter-
pretation " Freud has supplied for dreams, Baudouin
achieves for the imagery of the artistic creator.
A few words may be permitted upon the task of the
TRANSLATORS' PREFACE 11
translators. The introduction, the conclusion, and the
comments interspersed throughout the chapters, were a
straightforward piece of work, offering no exceptional
difficulties. It was otherwise with the illustrative passages
from Verhaeren, which bulk so largely in the book.
After much consideration we decided that the best plan
would be to reserve the use of footnotes for the references
to the titles of the poems from which extracts are made,
and to print the translations of these extracts in the text
(enclosed in brackets) immediately following the French
citation in each case. Thus those who read French will
be enabled to enjoy Verhaeren's actual phrasing with the
least effort, whilst those who need to have recourse to the
translation will find it close at hand, and will not have
the trouble of turning to an appendix.
No attempt has been made to give a metrical trans-
lation. The rendering is as literal as possible. In view
of the need for accuracy this work being a study of
Verhaeren's symbolism we have not always succeeded
in avoiding roughness. Though we have, in general,
translated verse by verse, we have not translated word
for word. The latter would have produced a mere
semblance of accuracy at the expense of real meaning.
Those curious in such matters will note that we have
not followed what some authorities regard as a canon
of " good translation " ; we have not invariably translated
the same foreign word by the same English word not
even within the limits of a single citation. Human
beings think in sentences, rather than in words. The
connotations of the same word will vary in different
sentences, and one of the things which makes " good M
translation so difficult an art is that (except in the case
of terms for which there is a precise scientific definition)
words can never be translated in a way that is universally
applicable. That is why even the best of dictionaries
is often nothing better than a lame guide. That is why,
in the last resort, the translator has always to depend
12 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
upon what the Germans call Sprachgefiihl linguistic
tact. And one of the first requisites for the competent
translator is the possession of this linguistic tact in both
the languages in question.
For the most part, in the rendering of Baudouin's
extracts from Verhaeren, we have had to rely entirely
on ourselves, for not many of the poems have been
translated into English. (See bibliography.) Wherever
possible, however, the prose versions in the present
work have been checked by the renderings mostly
metrical made by other translators. Readers of
Baudouin's psychoanalytical study of a great poet will
not be slow to realise that it is impossible to reproduce
the meaning of poetry in another language while preserving
the original rhythms, and rhyming wherever the original
was rhymed. The result of any such attempt is to
reproduce the jingle, at the sacrifice of the message
despatched from the poet's subconscious in the forms
of thought and imagery.
EDEN AND CEDAR PAUL.
LONDON, October, 1923.
TRANSLATORS' PREFACE 7
INTRODUCTION : THE LAWS OF THE IMAGINATION.
POETIC SYMBOLS 15
I. LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 35
II. LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 70
III. THE CRISIS 106
IV. CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 155
V. AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 202
VI. LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 242
CE SOIR (poem by Verhaeren, here first published) -310
IF there be one thing in the world which seems to have
no other law than caprice, it is the imagination. We
need not, therefore, be surprised that in this domain
psychology is still in its infancy. For a long time science
was content with the rudimentary laws of the association
of ideas or, to speak more precisely, the laws of the
association of images. It was said that one mental
image called up another because the objects had been
perceived side by side, as when the image of an individual
made us think of the street in which he lived. This
was termed association by contiguity. Or else one image
called up another because the two images were alike,
as when a carrot makes us think of a peaked hat.
This was termed association by similarity. It must be
admitted that these explanations, these laws beloved of
the pundits, do not take us far. We are not informed
why, from among an infinite number of like things, one
thing in particular is selected. Is the choice the out-
come *of pure caprice, or rather of physiological chance ?
Does the brain process resemble the shaking of dice
in a box, when a number turns up without there being
any intelligent motive to account for the result ? In
view of the incoherence of day-dreams and of dreams,
there seemed good reason for the contention. But it
is no longer possible to hold such a view. We are
beginning to understand that what appears to be the
outcome of chance, depends upon a strict psychological
determinism. The lovers of fantasy may take heart
none the less. This determinism, far from robbing the
16 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
imagination of its charm, lends a new grace to the faculty.
Whereas we had been inclined to regard the imagination
as blooming capriciously on the very surface of the mind,
and as having no more significance than wreaths of cigarette
smoke, we now perceive that it springs from the very
depths of our being.
How has this knowledge been secured ? As long as
we tried to explain the imagination in terms of the imagina-
tion alone, we could get no further. At length, however,
we have become aware that the imagination is wholly
guided by the affective life ; by the sentiments, the emotions,
the instincts, that accompany the images. These are the
poles round which the images crystallise. Thus the images
disclose the affective kernel around which they have
been aggregated ; and the affective kernel, in its turn,
accounts for the formation of the images. We instantly
perceive that this reciprocal illumination of inner sensibility
by the imagination, on the one hand, and of the laws of
the imagination by sensibility, on the other, must be
peculiarly typical in the poet, who is at one and the
same time a great affective and a great imaginative.
The new psychology would almost seem to have been
specially designed to explain the poet.
No doubt the existence of such a relationship between
the life of feeling and the life of imagination has always
been suspected. It is almost self-evident in the case
of poets and in that of other persons of artistic tempera-
ment. Moreover, instances in which the relationship
is conspicuous are familiar to us all. Fear creates phan-
toms, and from the character of the phantoms may be
inferred the nature of the fear that induced them*
Reveries and fantasies are ripe at puberty, and the images
with which the mind is then filled leave us in no doubt
as to the nature of the emotions which have called them
into being. We see once again that our novelty is not
new. But the psychology of our own days, cautious
and modest in the hands of Ribot, ambitious in the
hands of Freud, has for the first time been able to discover
the laws of a relationship which has long been suspected.
Ribot set out from the idea of association, but was
struck by the inadequacy of this theory, and grasped
the importance of the " affective factor " in the genesis
and interconnexion of images. A fundamental matter,
and one whose importance was fully realised by this
author, is what we may term condensation. 1 He describes
it as follows : " Representations which have been
accompanied by the same affective state, tend hence-
forward to be associated ; their affective similarity forms
a link between the separate representations. This is
not the same as association by contiguity, which is a
repetition of the experience ; nor is it the same as associa-
tion by similarity in the intellectual sense. The states
of consciousness are linked, not because they have
previously occurred together, nor because we perceive
similarities between them, but because they have a
common affective tone. Joy, sadness, love, hatred,
surprise, boredom, pride, fatigue, etc., can each become
a centre of attraction, grouping representations or events
which are devoid of any intellectual interconnexion,
but which have the same emotional tinge joyful,
melancholy, erotic, etc. This form of association is
common in dreams and in day-dreams, that is to say,
in states of mind when imagination works in perfect
In another work, Ribot writes : " Substantially, this
form corresponds to what official psychology denotes
by the vague term ' the influence of the feeling on the
intelligence/ " 3
The influence of which Ribot speaks is not accidental
but constant. The intellectual life as a whole does not
become truly intelligible unless we take into consideration
x See Baudouin, Studies in Psychoanalysis, 1922, pp. 43 et seq.
a Essai sur I'imagination cratrice, 1900, p. 31.
3 Logique des sentiments, 1905, p. 22.
18 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
the underlying life of feeling. The psychologist Rignano
goes so far as to maintain, as regards various forms of
insanity, that these disorders of the intelligence are
fundamentally disorders of feeling. 1 The assertion may
be regarded as paradoxical, but it has none the less a
far-reaching significance. If feeling thus helps us to
understand the working of the intelligence, it is all the
more necessary to have recourse to a study of feeling
when we wish to understand that more primitive and
spontaneous form of intelligence which is known as
In addition to describing condensation, Ribot gives
an excellent account of what he terms the transference 3
of a feeling. Transference may, in a sense, be regarded
as the inverse of condensation. Here a feeling, instead
of grouping round itself a number of separate images,
is itself dispersed over a number of associated images.
Ribot writes : " Transference may result from similarity.
When an intellectual state has been accompanied by a
strong feeling, a similar state tends to arouse the same
feeling. It may result from contiguity. When intellec-
tual states have coexisted, the feeling linked with the
primary state tends, if strong enough, to be transferred
to the others. The lover transfers the feeling which
is at first associated with the person of his mistress to
her clothing, her furniture, her dwelling. In an absolute
monarchy, reverence for the person of the king' is
transferred to the throne, to the insignia of power, to
everything which is more or less closely connected with
the monarch/' 4
Anyone, however, who attempts to unravel phenomena
of such a character condensation or transference, for
example is likely to be led astray unless he knows that
in many cases this interplay of feelings and images goes
1 Psychologic du raisonnement, 1920.
Baudouin, The Affective Basis of Intelligence, 1920.
3 See Baudouin, Studies in Psychoanalysis, 1922, pp. 41, 51, etc.
4 Logique des sentiments, p. 4.
on unawares. Everything happens as if such links were
effected, but as if they were effected in the subconscious
(unconscious). Only part of the phenomenon occurs
within the realm of consciousness ; another part is un-
known to the conscious mind, or seems to be lacking.
In a transference, therefore, the origin may be forgotten ;
the cult of a relic may no longer be superadded to the
cult of the saint, but may take the place of the latter.
Such substitutions frequently occur in the personal life.
The apparently irrational preferences we have for certain
flowers or certain colours often depend on the fact that
the flowers or the colours in question became, in our
early childhood, associated with some beloved personality,
now forgotten. Irrational fears may have a like origin.
Similarly, a condensation of images may arise in conse-
quence of a feeling which we do not avow to ourselves,
and which is hidden from the conscious mind. But
if we turn our attention to the way in which the images
are grouped, we may now become aware of the feeling
which we had hitherto ignored. Such secret incubations
are a familiar experience to those who are falling in
Ribot, therefore, is perfectly right when to the " affective
factor " he adds the " unconscious factor," which is
fundamentally a form of latent affectivity. Thus " at
first we have an unconscious working, equivalent to a
series of judgments of value, and proceeding by analogy.
Subsequently, and mainly, we have an imaginative con-
struction, consisting of associations radiating in various
directions, but unified by the unconscious selective process
of a dominant desire." I
Such inferences from the new psychology seem self-
evident to anyone whose inner life is fairly vigorous and
imaginative. What surprises us is, not that they have
been drawn now, but that they were not drawn long ago.
Nevertheless, the previous failure was quite natural.
1 Logique des sentiments, p, 4.
20 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Until our own time, psychology, like science in general,
was purely intellect ualist. Science had to make an
effort before it could turn its attention towards the
affective and instinctive life. This effort has been
resolutely achieved ; it is parallel with that made by
the philosophy of intuition, and it is part of the general
trend of contemporary ideas. We discern in it a happy
symptom of the need for synthesis which is now widely
felt ; in this instance, we are concerned with a synthesis
of feeling and intelligence. Yet the effort entails dangers
for science, for there is a risk that science may forfeit
its essential qualities of clarity and method. Perhaps
there was no danger for a Ribot, whose genius was cautious
and methodical ; but the danger becomes apparent as
soon as we turn to Freud and to the doctrines of his
school, as soon as we turn to consider psychoanalysis.
Still, while caution has its place in science, there is also
a place for boldness even if boldness must be paid for
by a few mistakes. Nothing can be more injudicious
than the way in which many French men of science
continue to pour derision on Freud and psychoanalysis.
The new doctrine requires criticism ; but it is absurd,
at this date, to regard psychoanalysis as null and void.
No one who undertakes an impartial study of the
psychoanalytical conception of the imagination, can fail
to notice how closely akin this conception is to that of
Ribot. Freud examined the working of the imagination
in dreams, and the chief laws he deduced for the dream
imagination run parallel with those formulated by Ribot
for the waking life. Condensation, displacement, and the
role of the subconscious, form the foundations of the
psychoanalytical theory of dreams. 1
Let us first consider condensation, the Verdichtung of
1 Freud, Die Traumdeutung (The Interpretation of Dreams) ; Rgis and
Hesnard, La psychoanalyse des n6vroses et des psychoses, 1914, pp. 97
Freud. Ribot, in the passage previously quoted, states
that this form is " common in dreams " ; and he points
out that, through condensation, the images, not content
with being juxtaposed, are linked. The psychoanalytical
view is that this intimate linking may be regarded as
normal in dreams, a combination so close that keen
scrutiny is requisite before the combined elements can
be distinguished. Our dreams resemble the " composite
photographs " obtained by partial exposures of a photo-
graphic plate to the image of a number of different persons
of the same family, in order to bring out " family traits/ 1
In the case we are now considering, the family trait
is a likeness of feeling or emotion which serves as a link
between separate memories. Thus it is that in a dream
the landscape we have never seen, but which nevertheless
we seem to recognise, is an amalgam of a number of
landscapes which we actually have seen. Peculiarly
applicable to these dream landscapes is Armel's saying :
" A landscape is a state of mind." In like manner, in
a dream, several persons may fuse into one, because of
a common impression they have made on us, or because
they all have the same significance for us. This is why
we often feel that we have dreamed of a person or a thing
" which all the same was not precisely that person or
that thing." It explains, again, the amusing phrases
of Marinette (six years old), relating a dream which she
had after I had told her the story of Hercules : "I had
a dream about the lion man. He wasn't father, but he
was a man who was father. There wasn't any lion,
but all the same it seemed as if there was a lion/' Here
we have an obvious and simple condensation of father
In a dream we may condense, into an integer, objects
to which we have reacted in similar fashion, although
these reactions may have differed greatly in intensity.
We condense the starting on a railway journey with an
anticipated change in our mode of life. Or we condense
22 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
an examination we had to pass in early youth with some
trial we are undergoing in our adult life, and perhaps
we add to the condensation a real feeling of physical
distress from which we are suffering during sleep. Or
we may condense a pleasure of the table with an erotic
pleasure. In such condensations, which are composed
of elements varying in importance, there frequently
occurs a displacement of affective stress. In the dream,
the most important element may become secondary, and
an element of minor importance may assume the leading
role. When dreaming of an examination, for example,
we may cease to think of the matter which is troubling
us in our waking life ; when relating the dream, we do
not think we have been dreaming about this present
trouble, but only about the examination of long anterior
date ; we are astonished that the examination seemed
so important to us in the dream. Such a displacement
of stress is conspicuous in most nightmares. On awaking
we feel it was absurd to have been terribly frightened
by some object which was hardly important enough to
arouse alarm. The reason for the alarm was that we had
displaced on to this harmless object the affective stress
properly attaching to a real cause of anxiety. I knew
some one who dreamed of being attacked by a yellow
dog. This dream was founded upon the reminiscence
of an attack actually made by a dog during childhood,
but the peculiar yellow colour of the dream dog was 'the
colour of the waistcoat of a doctor who had recently
attended the patient. Condensation had been effected,
so that the attack by the dog had been fused with the
attack by the doctor (the patient's dread of the medical
treatment). But, in the dream, the recent cause of
distress was almost hidden in the image of the dog which
had been the old cause of trouble. Here is another
case which came under my notice. A young woman
who was pregnant fell asleep obsessed with the fear that
the birth of her baby would take place on a Sunday,
and that she would not be able to get a doctor. She
dreamed that the stove-pipe was blocked, that it was
Sunday, and that no chimney-sweep was available.
We may add that, in dreams, the association of images
plays a part as well as condensation. Thereby images
of minor importance are introduced, and the affective
stress may be transferred to these. This is the chief
reason why dreams seem so incoherent. If, for instance,
we dream that we are feeling for a cat emotions which
we really feel for the cat's owner, we are nonplussed.
Yet there has been nothing more than a transference
whose starting-point has been forgotten. Thus the law
of displacement (Verschiebung, in Freud's teiminology)
strongly reminds us of Ribot's law of transference. But
the notion of displacement is morv complex, for it involves
the simultaneous working of condensation, transference,
and subconscious activity. Given an integration of
images tinged with the same affective shade whether
by condensation or by transference, displacement is the
work which tends to thrust down into the subconscious
the more important among these images (those to which
the feeling or the emotion really attaches), and to bring
into relief images of minor importance.
In some instances, the forgetfulness of the real object
of the feeling is only partial ; the repression into the
subconscious is incomplete. In other instances, however,
the* real object is completely forgotten. Frequently,
in the latter case, we are not concerned with simple
oblivion, but with a process of repression whereby we
automatically disembarrass ourselves of something dis-
agreeable. This explains why we so rarely dream of
our major preoccupations. In reality we do dream of
them, but they appear under a mask. It is needless to
follow Freud in all his explanations of the determinants
of repression, or to accept his contention that these
determinants are almost invariably sexual. Nor need
we suppose that " repression " is at work wherever
24 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
" displacement " occurs. We have to recognise that the
Freudian concept of repression is an invaluable contribu-
tion to our understanding of the laws of the subconscious.
But we must avoid giving to this idea of repression (I
speak especially of sexual repression) the privileged,
not to say unique, role which the exponents of psycho-
analysis are apt to assign to it. By adopting condensa-
tion and transference as our points of departure, we shall
make our ideas more digestible, so that they will prove
acceptable even to those who are strongly opposed to
In like manner, we should avoid speaking of the
" symbolism " of dreams until we have finished our
exposition of the laws of condensation and transference.
There is justification for the alarm which the word
" symbolism," the term " dream interpretation," and many
other Freudian phrases, is apt to arouse in the circumspect.
Freud is fond of paradox ; he loves to startle the imagina-
tion, whose innermost secrets he has probed. The terms
in question often suggest that we are being offered a
" key to dreams," or some other product of a fantastic
mysticism. But behind the words we must seek the
things they represent, and the things are less disturbing.
The foregoing exposition will have made it easy to under-
stand in what sense dreams are symbolic. A dream
landscape, resulting from the condensation of several
real landscapes whose memories are tinged with a comtfion
affect, is a symbol of that affect. In a displacement, the
accessory element symbolises the chief element. That
which remains in consciousness is the symbol of that
which is repressed ; for example, in the cases previously
recorded, the yellow dog symbolises the doctor, the
chimney-sweep symbolises the accoucheur, and the stove-
pipe symbolises the pelvic outlet.
There can be no doubt that the dream represents the
most spontaneous play of the imagination, and it is
from a study of dreams that we can best ascertain the
inner laws of that faculty. The same laws are at work
in the imagination during the waking life. In the latter
case, however, their working is better hidden ; it is less
simple, being partly neutralised by voluntary and rational
activity. Hence it is essential to begin our study of
imagination in the dream, where we encounter it in the
pure state. To have done this was Freud's supreme
service, whatever we may think of the rest of his teaching.
Moreover, contemporary psychology stresses the re-
semblance of the dream, not only with the day-dream
(this is familiar, and is implicit in the respective names),
but also with works of art and above all with poetry.
Otto Rank, 1 in especial, draws attention to the relation-
ships of the dream with poetry and myth. He quotes
from Wagner's Meistersinger :
Mein Freund das grad' ist Dichters Werk,
dass er sein Traumen deut' und merk'.
Glaubt mir, des Menschen wahrster Wahn
wird ihm im Traume aufgetan :
all 1 Dichtkunst und Poeterei
ist nichts als Wahrtraum-Deuterei.
[My friend, the whole task of the poet
is to explain and to note what he dreams.
Believe me, man's truest illusion
is revealed to him in dreams :
all the poetry in the world
is nothing more than the interpretation of dreams.]
He quotes Schopenhauer, who considered that the
greatness of Dante consisted in his having given expression
to all the reality of the world of dreams, and who held
that a great poet like Shakespeare was one capable of
doing in the waking state that which lesser men do in
a dream. Finally, he quotes Kant, who in his Anthro-
pologie speaks of the dream as " involuntary poetry."
In France, Paul Souriau, though he has no affiliations
1 Traum und Dichtung, Traum und Mythus (Supplements to Freud's
Traumdeutung, 1919) ; Der Kiinstler, 1907.
26 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
with Freudism, has perhaps gone a step further. He,
too, discerns the kinship between the work of art
and the dream. 1 But he shows, in addition, that part
of the artist's task is to induce by spontaneous or
voluntary methods (among which rhythm is the most
conspicuous) a quasi-equivalent of sleep, a state of slight
hypnosis. For the auditor or the spectator in whom
this state is induced, the artist's dream becomes more
vivid and more absolute.
(A British psychologist, Prescott,* maintains that poetry
and dreams are equally the product of emotion. We,
who have recognised that the affective life is the founda-
tion of the imaginative life, shall not be surprised at this
assimilation. Prescott further remarks that the poet
and the dreamer alike enjoy a sense of deliverance from
social constraints. The poet, like the dreamer, returns
to childhood, shakes off the yoke of authority, and freely
affirms his individuality.)
Doubtless such resemblances, and others which might
be mentioned, should not lead us to assimilate the dream
and the poem without qualification. A good many
dreams have little of the aesthetic in them ; and when
we compare the work of art with the dream we cannot
fail to see that the former contains both more and less
than the latter, that the work of art has more order and
less litter. The dream is a bazaar, a curiosity shop ;
and the supreme task of the artist is to select. " Art/'
writes Alfred de Vigny, "is selected truth." In what,
then, lies the interest of the assertion that the poem and
the dream are akin ? Does this mean no more than that
both are products of the imagination ? If this were all,
we should merely have formulated a truism. What
we have to understand, when we speak of such a kinship,
is that the play of the imagination is identical in the
* Especially in his two books, La suggestion dans Tart, 1893, and La
rfiverie esth6tique, 1906.
^ Poetry and Dreams, " Journal of Abnormal Psychology," 1912.
dream and the poem (to take the poem as a typical work
of art). What we have to understand is that, properly
speaking, there is no such thing as aesthetic imagination
or poetic imagination but simply imagination. In other
words, the difference between the dream or the day-
dream, on the one hand, and the poem, on the other,
must not be sought in a difference of kind in the imagination
at work in the respective instances.
Where then is the difference to be found ? He who
speaks of imagination, speaks of sensibility ; and we know
that images are aroused and explained by the subjacent
sensibility. This suggests that we may expect to find
in sensibility the reasons for the differences in the work
of the imagination. Perhaps we may say that a dream
is the outcome of the imagination set to work by a common-
place sensibility, and that a poem is the outcome of the
imagination animated by a refined sensibility. Another
difference, to which we have already alluded, is that the
poem is, as it were, a dream organised by the voluntary
activity of choice of a choice determined by the sense
of the beautiful. Undoubtedly the poet is endowed
with a vigorous imagination, but not with a specific
form of imagination. That whereby the poet is dis-
tinguished from the child, the neuropath, the dreamer,
and the day-dreamer, and from those who are exercising
any kind of non-artistic imagination, consists of qualities
which do not belong to the imagination, but to sensibility
on the one hand, and to will on the other.
The main characteristic common to the poet's imagina-
tion and to the dreamer's imagination may be expressed
in a single word. Both the poet and the dreamer work
constantly through symbols. The symbol (in the sense
previously defined a result of condensations, displace-
ments, and repressions) is the very essence of imaginative
activity. It matters not whether the subject is or is
not aware that he is thinking symbolically ; the symbol
is often the expression of the subject's " unconscious/ 1
28 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Psychology has thus led us to a remarkable result, which
confirms one of the intuitions of language. The word
image is sometimes used to denote any kind of evocation
arising in the mind and resembling a perception of reality,
as when we say " I cherish the image of my mother. "
Sometimes it is used to denote a symbol, a poetical com-
parison, as when we say " the lily is the image [emblem]
of purity." Modern psychology has taught us that
these two senses of the term " image " overlap. We
may say that every spontaneous mental image is to some
A poem, therefore, presupposing as it always does
a certain spontaneity of the imagination, is invariably
more or less symbolical. It is more symbolical in pro-
portion as the work of the imagination is more spontaneous,
in proportion as the work of the imagination is less
modified by the interference of the conscious mind a
necessary interference, but one which involves some
sacrifice of the inner truth contained in the reverie as it
welled up in the unconscious. " The sweetest verses
are those which remain unfinished."
One school of poetry would jealously preserve all
the spontaneity that is compatible with the necessities
of expression. Rejecting, therefore, the rigid rules of
versification, but obeying an intuitive logic which the
foregoing considerations will enable us to understand,
the members of this " symbolist " school have insisted
that the symbol constitutes the essence of poetry. As
we should expect, it is to symbolist poems that the laws
of the dream are especially applicable ; and it is symbolist
poems which, even to the eyes of the profane, seem to
resemble dreams most closely.
Whatever we may think of the creations of symbolist
art, we must admit that this school has had remarkable
intuitions intuitions which psychological study is able
to confirm, We may also note that psychoanalysis,
like symbolism, has one of its roots in the philosophy
of Schopenhauer. Were it not that broadly conceived
parallelisms tend always to err in the direction of undue
simplification, we might say that psychoanalysis and
symbolism are respectively the psychology and the
aesthetics to which Schopenhauer's philosophy has given
Edouard Dujardin has drawn attention to Schopen-
hauer's influence upon the French symbolists. He
writes : " The first important study of Schopenhauer
in the French tongue, that by Ribot, was not published
until 1874. Burdeau's translation of The World as Will
and Idea appeared in 1888. Quite a number of us had
studied philosophy under Burdeau. At length, in 1885,
' La revue Wagnerienne ' began to make the work of
the great German philosopher widely known to the
younger generation." J
What did Schopenhauer teach these young people ?
First of all he taught the unreality of the world, which
is nothing but " unsere Vorstellung," our idea, and not
a reality in itself ; this doctrine, or its reflection in the
poet's mind, tends to take the form of an identification
of reality with a dream. Next, Schopenhauer taught
them of the mysterious and mystical " unconscious/ 1
the " night side of the soul " ; he thus gave them a desire
to express it. Music and the symbol, for both of which
these poets had a cult, were regarded by them as means
for giving expression to the unconscious.
" The symbol as means for giving expression to the
unconscious." Since then the idea has become a scientific
theory, a part of modern psychology. Upon this matter,
the intuitions of the symbolists were truly remarkable.
The idea they formed for themselves of the symbol was
as psychological as it could possibly be. The spontaneous
symbol of the dream, as we learn from psychological
study, is not as a rule a system of two terms (a parable),
but a system of three or more terms. A condensation
1 De StSphane MallarmS au proph&te Ez6chiel.
80 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
is often tightly packed ; the resulting symbol may be
usable in two different ways, like a sheepskin coat ;
the inside symbolises the outside, and the outside the
inside. We may say that each term of the condensation
symbolises one of the other terms, and conversely ; and
further we may say (though even then we doubtless fail
to probe the matter to its depths) that all the terms
symbolise the subjacent affective reality. This is why
divergent " interpretations " of a dream can be given
without these interpretations being mutually exclusive.
Returning to a previous example (p. 22), we may say
that the dream of the examination symbolises the extant
moral difficulty, or that it symbolises the physical distress
from which the sleeper is suffering at the time, or simply
that it symbolises his emotional distress. This multiple
parallelism is characteristic of symbolism ; we are reminded
of a polyglot Bible, in which the text is printed in parallel
columns in numerous languages. Mallarm^ had an in-
tuition of this multiple parallelism, of this complexity
of the symbol, in virtue of which the chief image emits
numerous overtones. Writing of Mallarmd, Theodore
de Wyzewa says : I "To each of his verses he has tried
to give several superimposed meanings. His ailh has
been that each verse should be simultaneously a plastic
image, the expression of a thought, the utterance of
a feeling, and a philosophical symbol/ 1
In like manner Jean Ott, in a study of Han -Ryner,
writes : " This author's favourite form is the symbol,
which to the crowd seems an ordinary fable, whereas
to the intelligent it is an inverted truth, highly enigmatic,
beneath whose hidden meaning there may lie a further
meaning yet more deeply hidden. The enigma of the
smile will discourage the ignorant, but will lead the wise
to think more deeply ; both these results are equally
' Nos maltres, 1895.
* EnquSte sur Han Ryner, " Lc Rythme," 1912.
According to Dujardin, 1 Mallaimd would fain " expunge
the word ' like ' [corame] from the dictionary. 11 The
condensation that occurs in the dream, with its identi-
fication of analogies, does this very thing.
The symbolist poet is animated with the conviction
that he is expressing his " unconscious." Beneath the
parallel and superimposed strata which make up his poem,
he senses something which remains obscure even for
himself, and is therefore still more obscure for his readersj
He does not know exactly what he wishes to symbolise ;
just as the musician, who hears a melody singing within
him, does not concern himself to know precisely what
the melody signifies. It is amusing enough to note
into what mazes this symbolist theory of the unconscious
may lead. The theory is sometimes used to justify
incoherence and even humbug. But we shall find more
interest in emphasising the psychological truth which it
embodies. Psychological analysis discloses that the poet,
even when he believes himself to be objective, is usually
expressing something more than he imagines himself
to be expressing something different. His work, ap-
parently objective, is likewise the involuntary symbol
of a subjective reality more or less unconscious.
Thus the idea which the symbolists have formed for
themselves regarding the symbol is not arbitrary. They
Jjave had an intuition of condensation, and of the un-
conscious substratum of the symbol. Therein they have
displayed a profound knowledge of the nature of their
art. It is a grave error to look upon them as morbidly
impulsive, to regard them as persons lacking clarity of
intelligence. Indeed, in some instances, their fault is
rather that their knowledge tends to remain at the level
of pure knowledge, so that the intellect of the theorist
is apt to hamper the expression of the poet. This is
what has happened to Mallarme, whose intelligence and
lucidity are manifest to all that have studied his writings.
32 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
" To each of his verses," as de Wyzewa says, " he has
tried to give several superimposed meanings," No doubt
this was where he went wrong ; he deliberately tried
to arouse the involuntary and the unconscious, and to
make his poem fit his theory.
Verhaeren, on the other hand, is one of the simplest
of writers, one of those who most conspicuously exhibit
the hallucinatory spontaneity of the dream. He is
subject to the influence of the art of his day, but he vivifies
what he assimilates. He is not encumbered with theories,
but contemplates art and life with the naive outlook of
the genius. Consequently his symbolism, being pre-
eminently spontaneous, is preeminently favourable for
the application of the analytic method of contemporary
psychology. The essence of this analytic method, as
might be foreseen, is found in unravelling the condensations
of an imaginative creation, in disentangling displacements
and repressions. To achieve this, we must seek to discover
the ideas, the feelings, and the memories to which each
element of the condensation is linked in the poet's psyche.
The method will reveal, with a clearness that is often
amazing, the inner psychological meaning of the most
No detailed description of the method is requisite,
for its theory is implicit in the laws of the imagination
which have just been considered. As to the practice of
the method, this can only be understood by studying it
in actual use, and it will be seen in application throughout
the present volume.
The method is partly derived from the school of Freud,
and many of the teachings of this school are fiercely
contested. But when we speak of Freudism we must
never forget the distinction between theory and practice.
Whereas the theory (still unstable in its outlines, and
variously modified by dissident sects) is in many respects
open to stringent criticism, the practice, harmonising
as it does with the most concrete data of psychology,
Nor need the medical origin of our method of investiga-
tion give us pause. The analysis of the dreams or fantasies
of a neuropath is curative, in that it disentangles the
obscure affective troubles which underlie the neurosis.
A similar analysis, when applied to the fantasies of
the normal imagination, reveals the normal sensibility.
Applied to the creations of the man of genius, it
discloses the secret soul of the man of genius.
Such analysis is far from presupposing, as field of action,
a morbid individual, towards whom the analyst assumes
an air of medical superiority. So true is this, that a
noted pastor, Georges Berguer, 1 has applied the analytic
method to the personality of Christ without feeling him-
self to be in the least irreverent.
Theodore Flournoy 3 and Ferdinand Morel 3 have applied
the same method to the study of certain mystics.
A number of foreign authors have made use of a
like method in the study of art and literature. 4 French
writers are only now beginning to undertake criticism
of this character. I may mention an essay by Maeder 5
upon the painter Hodler ; and a work in which J. Vodoz 6
studies the symbol of Roland, first in the medieval French
epic, and subsequently in Victor Hugo's Le Mariage de
Roland a poem which seems to reveal one of the mental
conflicts of the poet. But these first steps, tentative
though they be, are rich with promise. They show that
we have laid the foundations of the psychology of art,
of a science of aesthetics which shall be genuinely scientific
without thinking itself bound for that reason to approach
art as a psychological " case " or as a " subject " to be
catalogued, without succumbing to the danger of mani-
festing a sterile erudition, without losing contact with
1 Quelques traits de la vie de Jsus, 1919.
a Une mystique moderne, " Archives de Psychologic," 1915.
s Essai sur 1'introversion mystique, 1918.
4 Cf. bibliography in Rggis and Hesnard, op. cit. Sec also, Pfistcr,
Der psychologischc und biologischc Uatergrund exprcssionistischer Bilder,
5 Hodler, 19x7. * Roland, un symbole, 1920.
84 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
life, and without forfeiting the sense of beauty. We
have here a manifestation of the endeavour towards
synthesis to which reference has already been made, the
endeavour to achieve a mutual understanding between
art and science. There has been too much tendency
of late years for art and science to regard one another
with sovereign contempt a somewhat puerile contempt
which would have made Goethe or Da Vinci smile.
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES
REMINISCENCES of childhood are of great assistance in
the analysis of imaginative creations. They are valuable,
not only for the obvious and trivial reason that first
impressions are among the most influential, but also
for more subtle reasons which we have learned from
the contemporary psychological study of the imagination
and of memory. First of all, we perceive in reminiscences
of childhood the formation of certain associations of ideas,
exceptionally strong and stable, which will recur again
and again throughout life, and to which their origin
gives us a key. Secondly, a reminiscence is not a mere
fragment of the past ; it is a confluence of the past and
" In every past event/ 1 writes Ribot, " the interesting
elements revive alone, or revive with more intensity
than the others. When we speak of being interested
in a thing, we mean that it affects us agreeably or dis-
agreeably. I may mention that the importance of this
fact was pointed out, not only (as might have been ex-
pected) by the associationists, but also by writers who
had nothing to do with the associationist school by
Coleridge, by Shadworth Hodgson, and by Schopenhauer.
William James speaks of this law as the law of
' ordinary or mixed association/ * Doubtless the ' law
Psychology, vol. i. pp. 571 et seq.
86 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
of interest ' l lacks the precision of the intellectual laws
of contiguity and similarity. Nevertheless, it seems to
penetrate farther into ultimate reasons/' *
We remember the things which interest us. The
interest may be mainly practical or mainly intellectual,
but it always has an affective tinge. Ribot has pointed
this out. The interest, as Freud shows, is more strongly
affective in the case of reminiscences of childhood. These
are heartfelt. The interest which evokes them is, in this
case above all, a state of feeling. The state of feeling
achieves a " condensation " of a present and a past
tinged with the same affect the process being analogous
to that which we have seen at work in dreaming and
imagination. A reminiscence of childhood is such a con-
densation of the present and the past. Sometimes our
reminiscence condenses into a single picture several
scenes of childhood charged with the same affective
significance, so that the reminiscence becomes more
loaded with meaning than was any one of the individual
scenes. Above all, however, it is charged with a present
meaning, for it consists of elements from the past which
apply as closely as possible to an extant situation. Thus
the reminiscence of childhood is a " symbol " of the
present, and throws light on the present. Of course
the reminiscence is a representation of the past, but
one lacking in objectivity ; a portrait rather than a
photograph ; a portrait in which the artist (the mind
of to-day) following up certain lines and neglecting
others, uses this particular form as a means of self-
expression. It has been said that a portrait painter is
always painting his own portrait. If the child explains
the adult so well, this is not merely because, in the
child, the adult already existed in the germ ; it is also
because the adult makes use of memories of childhood as
a means of self-expression.
1 This ie Ribot's name for the law.
Esai Bur I'imagination crlatrice, p. 31.
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 8T
" Art is selected truth." In the same sense we may
say that a reminiscence is a selected past the past
selected by the present.
Obviously, then, Verhaeren's Les tendrtsses premieres
will be of great interest to us, for in this book, which
opens the series Toute la Flandre, the poet calls up
in verses at once tender and impassioned the scenes
of his childhood. He calls them up, or rather allows
them to call themselves up, with his characteristic
spontaneity. Verhaeren hardly troubles to tell us
the story of his childhood. He has no definite plan,
nor any concern for completeness. So true is this,
that I think he does not give as much as three lines
to reminiscences of his parents a fact to which we
shall return. Indeed a pedant would put his finger
upon it as a sign of disorder and of aimlessness,
referring to the terrible hiatus in a composition
wherein a pupil was professing to give an account
of his childhood. No writer who took up the theme
as a task would fail to pay his respects to the memories
of his father and his mother. But Verhaeren has not
set himself a task, and that is why he remains so
perfectly sincere. His reminiscences take the form of
imagery, appropriately childish, trivial for those who
look upon them only from without, but pregnant with
meaning for anyone who grasps them from within. We
are shown Saint- Amand, a village on the Scheldt ; the
minor craftsmen, such as the ropemakers, curriers, and
blacksmiths ; the old bellringer and the watchmaker ;
the juicy apples that looked so tempting. The value
of these evocations to us depends upon their spontaneity
Salient points of a more objective character are supplied
by the biographers. Suffice it to mention, once for all,
that Verhaeren was born at Saint-Amand, fifteen miles
from Antwerp, on May aa, 1855. The following details
88 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
are quoted from Lon Bazalgette : l " Verhaeren was a
child of the Scheldt. The approaches to the North Sea
were his consecration. The household consisted of his
father ; his mother, Adele, whose maiden name was
Debock ; the latter's brother, whose factory belched
forth its smoke hard by ; and an aunt, Amdlie Debock,
for whom Emile had a strong affection. The Debocks
belonged to this countryside, and were proud of the fact.
Their mother came from Herenthals ; her name had
been Lepaige, which suggests a French origin. The
Debocks gave a friendly reception to the f foreigner '
Gustave Verhaeren, Emile's father, who was from
Brussels. Gustave's father had been a cloth-mercer
in the rue de 1'Ecuyer, and, having retired with a modest
competence, had come to live at Saint-Amand. It is
probable, however, that the Verhaerejis were of Dutch
With regard to Emile Verhaeren's parents, one of
the poet's intimates has been good enough to supply
me with additional details : " Emile cannot really be said
to have been educated by his parents. They were too
much occupied. He was mothered by his aunt, who
devoted herself exclusively to the child. Verhaeren's
first great sorrow was the death of this relative. He
wrote a prose poem, which will show you better than
anything the intensity of Emile's affection for his aunt,
and his despair at losing her/' *
We understand, now, why the father and the mother
play so small a part in the Les tendresses premieres. It
is the aunt whom Verhaeren depicts at his bedside when
he falls ill. He speaks of her as " my dear aunt/' whereas
he says merely " my worthy old parents.' 1
Before examining Les tendresses premieres let us pause
for a moment to consider the Liminaire, which introduces
1 Emile Verhaeren, 1907.
This poem is printed as an appendix to the present volume.
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 89
the series Toute la Flandre. Here we have " the good
season " [halcyon days], the old life, the garden, " the
talks in summer on the doorstep/' Contrasting with
this picture of still life, there suddenly comes another
picture giving expression to the bustle of modern times :
Je me souviens de 1'usine voisine,
Tonnerres et metdores
Roulant et ruisselant
De haut en has, entre ses murs sonores.
Je me souviens des mille bruits brandis,
Des emeutes de vapeur blanche
Qu'on dechainait, le samedi,
Pour le chdmage du dimanche.
[I recall how, from the factory hard by,
Thunders and meteors
Came rolling and streaming
From above downwards between its reverberating walls.
I recall thousands of wild noises,
Riots of white steam,
Let loose on Saturday
In preparation for the Sunday rest.]
The factory plays a great part in Verhaeren's imagery.
We have just learned from Bazalgette that it belonged
to the poet's uncle Debock. We shall see later how it
thrusts itself roughly into Emile Verhaeren's life.
Bazalgette writes : " The Verhaerens and the Debocks
had a great wish to see young Emile succeed his uncle
some day at the oil-mill. Unfortunately the youth
was by no means allured by the prospect of spending
his life at the head of a factory in a petty township,
and had other views. He was just twenty, and his
education was regarded as finished. Provisionally, he
yielded, and worked for a year at a desk in his
uncle's office, where he was initiated into the mysteries
of book-keeping. In the end, however, he got his
We see how important the factory was in Verhaeren's
40 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
life. It became linked with the memory of the uncle
to whom it belonged and with that of the father who
wished his son to make it a career. In a word, it became
linked with the memory of the two figures embodying
paternal authority. In Emile Verhaeren's youth it was an
object of conflict. But the day was to come when he
would no longer feel any hostility towards the factory ;
when he would sing it in poems which were to be numbered
among his masterpieces. This was to happen at the
instant when, after a painful and momentous crisis,
he came to accept reality, even brutal reality ; when
he came to accept modern life, the life of action. For
him, the factory was the emblem of this reality and of
this active life. We must endeavour to secure a full
understanding of the conversion, which was the great
event in Verhaeren's life and art. Symbolically it may be
termed " the acceptance of the factory/' At this point
we have to note that for him the image of the factory
is a condensation. First of all, it may be said to be the
father, authority ; next, it is material reality and action.
The condensation of these two elements, the father and
reality, is no chance matter.
C. G. Jung introduced the convenient terms " ex-
troversion " and " introversion " to denote two contrasted
tendencies : towards reality, the outer world, and action,
on the one hand ; and towards the inner life, and
dreaming, on the other. The words have been adopted
by Flournoy and Morel, but their significance remains
ill-defined and varies considerably from author to author.
We must avoid, therefore, making entities of them ;
and yet we have to recognise that they are something
more than empty abstractions. Each of the trends
in question is associated with certain characteristic
psychological phenomena. Above all, psychoanalysts
have been able to show that, in the mind of the youth,
the introvert tendency is linked with the idea of the
mother, and the extrovert tendency with that of the
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 41
father. An attitude of protest against the father and
against authority, an individualist character, is generally
found in the introvert. This phenomenon is well
marked in Verhaeren, who was extremely introverted
until the crisis in his mental development.
It has been shown that anyone's earliest reminiscence
of childhood is apt, by condensation, to symbolise a
notable feature of his life. 1 The same may be said of
the reminiscence, whether it dates from earliest child-
hood or not, by which a poet thinks fit to begin the story
of his childhood. However this may be as a generality,
the image of the factory introduced as an exergue into
Les tendressts premieres is full of significance in the case
of Verhaeren. More noteworthy still, as we shall see,
is the contrast by which we have already been struck
between the garden and the factory. This corresponds in-
timately with the contrast between dreaming and action,
between introversion and extroversion. The abrupt
contrast between the garden and the factory is a miniature
emblem of the great conflict in the poet's life. The struggle
against the father and against the factory when Verhaeren
was twenty is one of the episodes of this conflict ; the
crisis which came later was an acute expression of it ;
the final conversion was its denouement.
In Verhaeren's imagery, the significance of the garden
i,s no less clear than that of the factory. The garden
of his childhood is fully described in one of the poems in
Lcs tendresses premieres. We become sufficiently well
acquainted with it to recognise it when it reappears in
Les rythmes souverains as the paradise where Adam and
Eve lived before the fall. Moreover, in the child's
imagination the garden was already identified with the
earthly paradise :
Un amateur d'Anvers m'ayant offert, dftment,
Deux oiseaux fiers qui s'en venaient de Numidie,
* Bo vet. Preface to Artus-Perrelet'i Le dessin au service de 1'Wucation.
42 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Et trois paons fous dont les plumes, soudain brandies,
Ouvraient dans 1'ombre, avant le soir, un firmament,
On les lacha, 1'etd, pendant tout un semestre,
Libres et familiers, parmi les gazons roux,
Si bien que le jardin se changea tout & coup,
Pour mon esprit naif, en paradis terrestre. 1
[A bird-lover in Antwerp having kindly offered me
Two stately birds from Numidia,
And three gay peacocks whose feathers, suddenly brandished,
Opened, in the gloaming as night fell, a firmament,
They were let loose for the whole summer,
Free and friendly, to roam upon the parched turf,
So that the garden was changed all at once,
To my simple fancy, into an earthly paradise.]
It is easy, now, to establish detail by detail that the
garden of childhood
Avec des fleurs, devant, et des 6tangs, derrire
[With flowers in front and ponds at the back]
is really the prototype of the paradise. It is easy to
compare the imagery and the phraseology of this paradise
with those of the garden in Les tendresses premieres.
We recognise even the insects. In Le jardin we read,
Et le vol jaune et vert des insectes fragiles ;
[And the yellow and green flight of frail insects ;]
while the corresponding passage in Le paradis runs,
Et d'y regarder luire et tout k coup bouger
Les insects fragiles.
[And to watch there shining and suddenly moving
We find once more in the paradise the very peacocks
which were let loose in the garden. The fantastic beasts
which the child's imagination fashioned out of the massive
1 From Le jardin, in Les tendresses premieres.
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 43
Comme on en voit sur le fond d'or des broderies,
[Such as one sees on the golden groundwork of embroideries,]
reawakened to life after the lapse of half a century in
the transfigured garden. The imaginary panther of
which he had been afraid one evening reappears beside
the peacocks :
Le vent jouait avec 1'ombre des lilacs clairs,
Sur le tissu des eaux et les nappes de 1'herbe.
Un lion se couchait sous les branches en fleurs ;
Le daim flexible errait la-bas pres des pantheres ;
Et les paons deployaient des faisceaux de lueurs
Parmi les phlox en feu et les lys de lumiere. 1
[The wind was playing with the shadow of the bright lilacs,
On the web of the waters and the surface of the grass.
A lion was lying beneath the blossoming boughs ;
The lithe buck was wandering over there near the panthers ;
And the peacocks were spreading sheaves of light
Amid the flaming phloxes and the radiant lilies.]
What was the sin for which Adam and Eve were driven
from this paradise ? It was love : that love which is,
we are told, preeminently a manifestation of extroversion ;
the love which was revealed to Verhaeren when he had
passed through his crisis, simultaneously with the revelation
of the beauty of the real universe and of human action ;
the ^love which contributed greatly to his deliverance.
In Adam's case, likewise, that which seen from the garden
had been punishment and exile, disclosed itself to him
after the expulsion as a joyful revelation. The two who
had been banished from paradise felt themselves impelled,
like the poet on the morrow of his crisis,
Vers les mondes nouveaux de la ferveur humaine.
[Towards the new worlds of human passion.]
It is the beauty of extroversion discovered amid a
1 From Le paradis, in Les rythmes souverains.
44 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
sense of wonderment comparable to that of La multiple
It is love for earthly reality:
L'homme sentit bientdt comme un multiple aimant
Solliciter sa force et la mler aux choses ;
Son coeur naif, sans le vouloir, aima la terre.
[Soon the man felt as though a multiple magnet
Were drawing forth his energy and mingling it with things ;
His simple heart, involuntarily, loved the earth.]
Faith in action, faith in human effort, suddenly exalts
Eve's soul :
Elle songeait, vaillante et grave, ardente et lente,
Au sort humain multipli par son amour,
A la volonte belle, <5norme et violente,
Qui dompterait la terre et ses forces un jour.
[She, brave and serious, ardent and deliberate, pondered
On human destiny multiplied by her love,
Upon the will, lovely, titanic, and passionate,
Which would one day tame the earth and its forces.]
Despite the welcoming gesture of the angel, Eve refuses
henceforward to reenter paradise, the closed garden
of the introverted spirit. We perceive how original a
trend Verhaeren gives to the ancient myth, endowing jt
with a meaning at once intimate and profoundly human.
We recognise, too, the overtones of the emblem of the
" garden." It is a life self-enclosed ; it is a dream.
That which the garden induced in the child poet, was it
not in fact a dream ?
Tout m'apparut enorme, Strange et merveilleux. . . .
Depuis ce temps, mon reve mon dsir tress6,
Illumina tout le jardin de faeries. . . .
Et ce reve dura autant que les beaux jours. 1
1 From L jardin, in Tout* la Flandre.
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 45
[Everything seemed to me huge, strange, and wonderful. . . .
Thenceforward my dream, interwoven with my longing,
Illumined all the garden with scenes of faery. . . .
And this dream lasted the whole summer.]
The " garden " and the " factory " are here made
equally intelligible to us. Resuming the language of sym-
bolism, we may say that " the flight from the garden "
is equivalent to " the acceptance of the factory."
Lcs tend? esses premieres begins with the poem Ardeurs
nai'ves, the poem of a child's love :
J'entends li-bas sa voix, sa voix
Oh ! la petite amie espiegle et blonde
Qui s'en alia, vers Tautre monde,
Toute fragile, alors qu'elle ni moi
Ne soupfonnions encor
Ce qu'est la mort.
[I heard over there her voice, her voice
Oh ! the little friend, roguish, fair-haired,
So soon to set out for the other world,
A frail being, although neither she nor I
Had an inkling as yet
Of what death is.]
Those who know the famous poem Le passeur d'eau
will perhaps immediately trace a resemblance between
this " voice over there " and the voice of the woman who,
fronx the other side of the impossible, hails the symbolical
ferryman, the ferryman who is striving to make his way
up-stream, and wishes to relive his life :
Le passeur d'eau, les mains aux rames,
A contre flot, depuis longtemps,
Luttait, un roseau vert entre les dents.
Mais celle Mas ! qui le h&ait,
Au delk des vagues, Ik-bas,
Toujours plus loin, par au del& des vagues,
Parmi les brumes reculait. 1
1 From La passeur d'eau, in Let villages illusoirei.
46 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[The ferryman, his hands on the oars,
Up-stream, for a long time,
Had been battling, a green reed between his teeth.
But she, alas, who was hailing him
From across the waters, over there,
Ever farther off across the waters
Receded into the mists.]
In Ardeurs naives, the poet talks to his little friend,
who is dead :
De ceux que nous avons connus, c'est ton aieule
Qui me parle le plus souvent,
Avec son coeur et son esprit fervents,
Des ans inoublies qui furent notre enfance.
A 1'entendre, je revois tout.
[Of those whom we knew, it is your grandmother
Who speaks to me most often,
With her loving heart and mind,
Of the unforgotten years of our childhood.
As I listen, it all comes back to me.]
Next come some pictures of their childhood together,
images which stand forth in his mind. One of them is
Le bourg de Saint-Amand, avec le fleuve au bout.
[The township of Saint-Amand, with the river beyond.]
Shortly afterwards he speaks of " the voices of the ferry-
men. 1 ' This river which is the end of the world for the
two children, the ferrymen on the river in these we have
been led back to the poem in Les villages illusoires, and
thus the kinship between the two reminiscences is fully
established. We cannot doubt that in the voice which
hails the ferryman there is much of the voice of the
little friend of childhood's days, who has crossed the
river and entered the other world.
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 47
Un jour on m'assura qu'en des pays d'etoiles
Elle s'6tait perdue, avec des voiles
Et des roses, entre ses doigts petits ;
Son image resta fixe en mon esprit
Que tout mon coeur partit vers elle.
[One day they told me that in the lands of the stars
She had lost her way with veils
And roses between her little fingers;
Her image remained fixed in my mind,
That my whole heart went out towards her.]
" Went out towards her," just as the ferryman went
out towards the impossible, the reminiscence of childhood
against the current of life. This " up-stream " of Le
passeur d'eau gives admirable expression to what psycho-
logists have termed the " regressive " tendency which
appears to be one of the regular characteristics of intro-
version. As we noted in the case of the term introversion,
the words regression and regressive are used in slightly
varying senses by different authors. Let us accept
them for the nonce in their simplest meaning, in a purely
temporal significance, to denote a marked tendency to
revive the past, and especially the days of childhood.
We will not enquire at present what other phenomena
may be presupposed by or involved in this tendency.
Enough to say that it manifests itself in one whose vital
energy has remained moored to unduly powerful " early
affections/' so that it leads to the spontaneous revival
of the images and states of childhood's days. One with
such a tendency turns towards dreams of childhood
rather than towards the realities of life. We see in it a
stage on the way to introversion. 1
Underlying this tendency, in the youth, there is
1 Freud's concept of regression is unduly complicated. For him the
term subsumes quite a number of phenomena (including, apparently,
introversion itself) phenomena which it would certainly be better to
name and study separately.
48 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
commonly supposed to exist a first love, one of great
intensity, for the mother, or for some person who acts
as substitute for the mother. Such a cause of introversion
probably existed in Verhaeren ; but as far as the revelations
in Les tendresses premieres are concerned, we have direct
evidence of a childish passion for the girl friend who died.
The " naive ardours " of children are sometimes the
most passionate of feelings. This sentiment turns the
poet's gaze towards his childhood, and towards the inner
life in which his childhood is revived. Psychoanalysts
are fond of discerning in a regressive love for the mother
one of the mainsprings of the mystical life, and above
all of the cult of the Virgin Mary. Verhaeren himself
informs us that his love for the little girl who died gave
him a similar trend, his case being paralleled by that of
Dante, whom Beatrice leads to heaven :
Je conservais longtemps son souvenir pieux,
Dans mon etroit livre de messe ;
On y lisait la bonne promesse
De se retrouver tous aux cieux ;
Et c'est ainsi que je fis plus douce connaissance
Grace k sa mort, avec la Vierge et le bon Dieu.
[I preserved for a long time an affectionate memory of her
In my little mass book ;
There could be read the good promise
That we shall all meet again in heaven ;
And it was thus that I came to know better,
Thanks to her death, the Blessed Virgin and God.]
An analysis of the verses which follow those just quoted
would take us a little away from our subject :
Depuis Oh ! que de morts et de naissances
Et que de gens defunts ses parents et les mien^
Et le cur de Marikerke et le gardien
Du tir & 1'arbaldte oft nous allions ensemble !
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 49
[Since then, how many deaths and births,
And how many people have died her parents and mine
And the parish priest of Marikerke, and the keeper
Of the cross-bow shooting range whither we were wont to
go together ! ] l
Nevertheless, this childish passion made no pretension
to be pla tonic. A confused sensuality was awake in it.
Mais vers le soir, quand seul j'^tais tapi,
Entre mes draps et que je m'endormais,
Je me souviens t'avoir alors
Si doucement serree et embrassee,
Avec les bras et les levres de ma pense
Que j'en frissonne encor :
La lampe tait ton front et 1'edredon ton corps
Et le coussin ta joue.
[But at night, when I was alone, curled up
Between the sheets, and when I was going to sleep,
I recall having then
So gently clasped and caressed you
With the arms and the lips of my thought
That I am still thrilled at the memory :
The lamp was your forehead, the quilt your body,
And the pillow your cheek.]
Death supervened to give a mystical trend to this
We shall be struck more than once, in the course of
ou* ^study, by the sudden and violent transition in
Verhaeren's writings from the sensual life to the mystical
life and from love to death. One of the causes of the
abrupt transition may perhaps be discovered in the
ruthless way in which death came to put a term to his
childish love. But at this stage we can already see that
there must have been other and deeper causes ; for even
1 One accustomed to analyse symbols will discover an idyllic emblem
iu " the cross-bow shooting range whither we were wont to go together/'
The relatives and the keeper of the shooting range are authorities who
exercise a censorship against the childish passion. This passion takes its
revenge in an unconscious delight at the idea of the dying off of all these
people with their obstructive morality.
50 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
while his little friend was still alive, the boy's imagination
was fond of playing with gloomy fancies in which love
mingled with death :
Je me souviens aussi de cette histoire
Ou deux enfants, les doigts unis, mouraient
D'un meme coup de hache, un soir, dans la foret ;
Et je voulais mourir ainsi, et je voulais
Dormir ainsi, avec toi seule,
Loin du monde, sans qu'on le sut jamais.
[I recall, further, the story
In which two children, hands clasped, died
From a single blow of an axe, one evening, in the forest ;
And I wanted to die thus, and I wanted
To sleep thus, alone with you,
Far from the world, with never a soul to know.]
Let us consider the " axe " which, in the child's mind,
is so intimately associated with the idea of the death
he longs for. In the same poem Ardeurs naives we read
a little farther on :
Quand je ferme les yeux,
Le choc des fers et des essieux,
Et les lourds camions sur les routes profondes.
[When I close my eyes,
I can still hear
The clank of the irons and of the axles, , ~
And the heavy drays on the sunken roads.]
We fail to understand at first why this reminiscence of
irons and of axles should revive at such a moment, or
what concern it can have with the lad's girl friend. But
it is precisely when the images appear in such a fashion,
devoid of any logical tie with their context, that they
are of the utmost value for the analysis, since they have
in truth a more secret and often a more intimate tie.
The next poem, Les pas, supplies the clue to the enigma,
for now the clash of the irons and of the axles is con-
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 51
joined with the image of the axe in association with the
idea of death :
Un soir, qu'avaient passe des attelages,
Avec des bruits de fers entrechoques,
On trouva mort, le long du quai,
Un roulier roux qui revenait de Flandre.
On ne surprit jamais son assassin.
Mais certes, moi, oh! j'avais du Tentendre
Frdler les murs, avec sa hache en main.
[One evening, when some teams had passed
With a clash of iron,
There was found dead, by the quayside,
A red-haired wagoner who was on his way back from Flanders.
The murderer was never discovered.
But I am sure I heard him,
Brushing against the walls, axe in hand.]
We see that the clashing iron of the axles is condensed
with the iron of the axe to express the anguish of death
an anguish vaguely associated with longing. These are
powerful and intimate associations which will retain a
tragical significance throughout the poet's life. More-
over, the significance undergoes extension to all the clashes
of metal, to the heavy clatter of the axles and other iron-
work of the trains which, in Verhaeren's writings, invariably
seem to produce a nightmare impression as they pass.
This generalisation is a perfectly natural one. It is a
transference, in which some of the new elements are
stressed at the expense of the old. In the following
passage, Auguste Forel gives a typical instance of such
a transference, which he terms " conversion ; " it affords
at the same time an excellent example of the strange way in
which the emotions of childhood preserve a latent activity
in the subconscious : " Breuer, Freud, and others, have
proved that the emotions or passions pent up may remain
latent, whether forgotten or not, in the subject's brain
for ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years, and even longer.
A fright, for example a sexual assault, experienced at
52 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
the age of five, may continue to produce effects at the
age of fifty or more. I am personally acquainted with
a woman of sixty-four who was bitten in childhood by
a vicious horse. She lives in Stockholm, and always
makes her way about the town on foot, being affected
with a latent terror, not merely of horse-drawn vehicles,
but also of electric trams (conversion)." l
The case recorded by Forel has little to do with the
science of aesthetics, but it belongs to the same psycho-
logical family as the more impressive case of Verhaeren,
who transferred to the trains which always " hallucinated "
and fascinated him, the fear and the dread delight of
the death from the axe-blow that in childhood he had
dreamed of undergoing in company with his little friend.
We shall study the evolution of these symbols. Suffice
it now to select, from among a number, some of the
gloomy visions of frenzied trains. They will serve to
show us how terrible is destined to become the emblem
whose simple origin has just been disclosed.
Et stride un tout coup de cri, stride et s'eraille :
Et trains, voici les trains qui vont plaquant les ponts,
Les trains qui vont battant le rail et la feraille,
Qui vont et vont manges par les sous-sols profonds
Et revomis, la-bas, vers les gares lointaines,
Les trains, Ik-bas, les trains tumultueux partis.*
[The air is riven with a sudden and harsh noise :
Trains, here are the trains jolting over the bridges,
The trains which clatter along the rails and the ironwork,
Which go and go, swallowed by the deep tunnels,
And revomited, over there, towards the distant stations,
The trains, over there, the noisy trains, have gone.]
This vision is from the poem Les villes in Les flambeaux
noirs. That which follows is from La mile in Les campagnes
* La psychanalyse et la guerre, " Le Carmel," 1917.
From Les villes, in Les flambeaux noirs.
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 53
Des quads sonnent aux entrechocs de leurs fourgons. . . .
Des ponts s'ouvrant par le milieu,
Entre les mils touffus dressent un gibet sombre. . . .
Par au dessus, passent les cabs, filent les roues,
Roulent les trains, vole Teffort,
Jusqu'aux gares, dressant, telles des proues
Immobiles, de mille en mille, un fronton d'or.
[The quays resound with the clashings of the wagons. . . .
Bridges opening in the middle,
Among the thickly clustered masts, look like gloomy gibbets. . . .
Above pass the cabs, turn the wheels,
Roll the trains, flies effort,
Towards the stations, rearing, like motionless prows,
Thousands upon thousands, a golden front.]
I underline two words in this extract. First of all
" clashing," the same clashings that we have heard in
Les tendresses premieres, that of the axles and other
ironwork of the drays. Next I underline " gibbets,"
which call up the idea of death a death the thought of
which is closely associated with that of death by the
executioner's axe. Numerous instances of such juxta-
positions could be selected to confirm our conviction
of the kinship of these images. 1
One of Verhaeren's strongest memories of childhood
was that of the watchmaker who stimulated the curiosity
of the little boy peering at him through the window after
Et tout a coup, comme un vieux fou,
Face pale, levait vers nous
Son ceil geant, avec sa loupe.
Mes compagnons fuyaient : ils avaient peur.
La crainte galement serrait mon coeur,
1 Confining our analysis to the passages already quoted, let us recall,
in connexion with the reminiscence of the axles, the vision of the wagoner
who was found dead on the quayside. We could hardly discover a word
more intimately associated with trains. [In French the word " quai "
denotes a railway platform as well as a quay.]
54 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Mais, n^anmoins, je restais Ik, plants
Quand meme & la vitrine.
L'oeil noir de 1'horloger
Planait de tous cdtes. 1
[And suddenly, like an old madman,
His face pale, he lifted towards us
His huge eye, with its lens.
My companions fled, they were afraid.
Fear seized my heart, likewise,
And yet I stayed there, glued,
In spite of myself, to the windowpane.
The black eye of the watchmaker
Swivelled in every direction.]
One day the child plucked up courage and made up
his mind to cross the threshold of this human enigma,
at once alarming and fascinating.
II etait ma folie et deja mon tourment.
[He was my madness and already my torment.]
But as soon as he ventured into the shop, the inquisitive
little hero was spellbound by an image seeming to multiply
to infinity the haunting power of the solitary round eye
which a moment before he had been looking at through
the windowpane :
Les ronds joufflus des gros cadrans
Ornaient d'un lunaire sourire
La chaux des grands murs blancs.
[The great, round, chubby clock-faces
Decked with a full-moon smile
The whitewash of the vast walls.]
In this round eye of the watchmaker and in these
full moons of clock-faces we can certainly discover the
prototypes of a visionary image which continually haunted
Verhaeren, and which, somewhat like the trains, was
his madness and his torment. It is the image of the
1 From L'horloger, in Les tendresses premieres.
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 55
dials in the clock-towers, or that of the round dormer-
windows (sometimes, by transference, of any window)
dormer-windows and clock-faces in which he sees " eyes "
and " moons. 11
Les cadrans blancs des carrefours obliques,
Comme des yeux en des paupieres, 1 . . .
[The white clock-faces, where the slanting cross-roads meet,
Like eyes in eyelids, . . .]
These affrighted eyes watch the futile efforts of the
ferryman to reach the woman who hails him :
Les fenetres, avec leurs yeux,
Et le cadran des tours, sur le rivage,
Le regardaient peiner et s'acharner.
[The windows, with their eyes,
And the clock-face of the towers on the bank,
Watched him toiling and straining.]
It is they which will impassively contemplate his defeat :
Les fenetres et les cadrans,
Avcc des yeux beats et grands
Constaterent sa ruine d'ardeur. 2
[The windows and the clock-faces,
With their large and impassive eyes,
Noted the ruin of his ardour.]
And these moon-faced dials are mad, like the eye of
that " old madman/' the watchmaker. During the crisis
they will be the obsessive emblem of madness :
Je veux marcher vers la folie et ses soleils
Ses blancs soleils de lune au grand midi, bizarres.3
[I would fain walk towards madness and its suns,
Its strange white moon-suns shining at high noon.]
1 From La r6volte, in Les villes tcntaculaires.
* From Le passeur d'eau, in Les villages illusoires.
3 From Fleur fatale, in Les soirs.
56 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Je sens pleurer sur moi 1'ceil blanc de la folie. 1
[I feel the white eye of madness weeping over me.]
Again, the Lady in Black of the cross-roads will say :
Vers les lunes de mes deux yeux. 1
[Towards the moons of my two eyes.]
Indubitably, of all the symbols in Verhaeren's writings,
this is one of those most fraught with meaning and with
anguish. The reason is that from the first it contains
something over and above the child's dread of the watch-
maker, for on this very day the watchmaker told the
little boy the tale of the gnome and the three lady gnomes.
Young Emile must have been greatly impressed thereby,
for he relates the story in every detail, making of it the
centre-piece of his poem. The gnome used to bustle
all over the world (this meaning Flanders !) setting the
clocks in the church-towers and the belfries. His heart
kept perfect time, so that he could set the clocks by it.
Of a sudden, all the clocks in the country went wrong,
and the right time was lost. The watchmaker, who
used to keep the invaluable little creature in a boxwood
clock-case, found that the cage was empty and that the
gnome had vanished :
Bien plus. Li-bas, sur la pelouse humide,
Une troupe en or de gnomides.
Le silence souffrait, ployait et se cassait.
Quand au gnome, vautr au centre
D'un tourbillon de mains, de bras, de seins, de ventres*
Son coeur regulateur des jours
Battait et sursautait, comme un tambour.
[Nay more. Over there, on the dewy lawn,
Were disporting themselves
A number of golden lady-gnomes.
1 From Inconscience, in Les d6b4cles.
* From La dame en noir, in Les flambeaux noirs.
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 57
The silence suffered, bent, and broke.
As for the gnome, wantoning amid
A whirlwind of hands, arms, breasts, and bellies,
His heart, the regulator of the days, the timekeeper,
Was beating and throbbing like a drum.]
The watchmaker grasped the situation, and knew what
to do. At nightfall he put the gnome to sleep with a
poppy draught. Then, with a magic flute, he lured
the three little ladies into his shop, and locked each of
them up in a separate clock-case. Thereupon the gnome's
heart grew calm again, and the clocks began to keep
time once more in all the church-towers and belfries.
Here, then, in association with the round eyes of the
clock-dials, we have a strange story of escapades which
"lead to madness." At the time of the crisis, when
Verhaeren is haunted by the idea of madness, we re-
discover similar themes, in which there is an obvious
condensation of the grown man's crisis with the child's
But what are these escapades which lead to madness ?
Are we to think of the miscellaneous revels characteristic
of a student's bohemian life such as Verhaeren led for
a time a life which certainly played its part in causing
the moral and nervous depression of the ensuing years.
Obviously this is the first element to be considered. If,
however, we have recourse to an analysis of the " collective
unconscious " (remembering that such an analysis must
be made with due caution, and that its results can only
be accepted with reserve), we shall find it possible to
attune the foregoing interpretation with one having a
more general application.
The story of the gnome and the three lady-gnomes
recalls a common mythological motif, that of the three
women from among whom a man has to choose. We
have Paris and the three goddesses ; Lear and his three
daughters ; Cinderella and her two sisters ; the Parcae
of classical antiquity, or the three Norns of Scandinavian
58 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
mythology. The analysis of this motif has led Freud
to admit that it is the manifestation of a spontaneous
and widely diffused working of the human imagination.
The three feminine figures, he says, respectively symbolise
the mother, the wife, and death. 1
If we accept this interpretation, in Verhaeren the
vision of the clock-faces will be found linked to the drama
of love and death, and we shall have no reason for surprise
because it arouses the same prophetic anguish as the
image of the trains. We have to admit that it is a risky
matter to interpret an individual symbol with the aid
of a collective myth. I should not myself take the risk
unless I had been led to the same conclusion by the direct
analysis of this image throughout the poet's works, before
I had studied L'horloger, and before I had even thought
of this poem or of the lady-gnomes. We shall see, in
fact, that in Verhaeren's writings, " gold " is constantly
used as a symbol of the impassioned life in its aspects
of fertility and love ; " blackness " is a symbol of death ;
the clash between black (or ebony) and gold is a symbol
of the clash between love and death. The clock-faces,
now lighted and now unlighted, appear to him by turns
as golden or as black ; now they are burning eyes, and
now again the black eye-sockets of a skull. The transition
is abrupt and startling like those of a nightmare. For
the moment, one example will suffice :
Vers les lunes de mes deux yeux,
[Towards the moons of my two eyes,]
cries the Lady in Black of the cross-roads. Then,
Vers les lunes de mes deux yeux en now.
[Towards the moons of my two eyes showing black.}
* Cf. " Imago, 11 No. 3, 1913. Summarised in French by Regis and
Hesnard, op. cit., p. 172.
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 59
Mes dents comme des pierres d'or
Mettent en moi leur etincelle :
[My teeth, like stones of gold,
Put their sparkle into me :]
Then, without transition :
Je suis belle comme la mort
Et suis publique aussi comme elle.
[I am as beautiful as death,
And I am public too, like death.]
The emblem of the clock-faces is closely connected with
that of the clock-towers. Flanders is a land of church-
towers and belfries, and it is therefore natural that their
image should have impressed itself on Vcrhaeren's mind.
But the dramatic significance of these images was under-
lined by an incident of bis childhood, the burning of
the village clock-tower, related in Les tendresses premieres.
" I was proud of my clock-tower," says the poet.
Aussi de quelle angoisse et de quelle douleur,
Mon ame en deuil fut atterree,
La nuit que je le vis tout ruisselant de feux
S'affaisser mort, dans Tancien cimetiere,
Le front fendu par le milieu,
A coups d'eclair et de tonnerres. 1
[With what anguish, then, and with what sorrow
My mourning spirit was crushed
The night when I saw the tower, lapped in flames,
Crumble to death in the old churchyard,
Its front split down the middle,
While the lightning flashed and the thunder rolled.]
The clock-towers, like the clock-faces, will continue
to be charged with prophetic anguish. Moreover, again
and again we shall see this reminiscence of the burning
1 From Mon village, in Les tendresses premieres.
60 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
tower revive. In Les villages illusoires the whole scene
is reconstructed :
Avec, k son faite, la croix brandie,
Epand vers Thorizon hallucin,
Les crins rouges de Tincendie.
Le bourg nocturne en est illumine.
Les visages des foules apparues
Peuplent de peur et de clameur les rues,
Et, sur les murs soudain eblouissants,
Les carreaux noirs boivent du sang. . . .
Un decisif fracas, .
Gris de poussifere et de platras,
La casse en deux, de haut en bas.
Comme un grand cri tue, cesse la rage,
Soudainement, du glas.
Le vieux clocher
Tout a coup noir semble pencher. 1
With the cross displayed at its summit,
Extends towards the hallucinatory horizon
The red mane of the conflagration.
The darkling village is lighted up thereby.
The crowds that have gathered
People the streets with fear and clamour,
And on the walls suddenly flashing into light,
The black window-panes drink blood. . . .
The tower !
A final uproar,
Grey with dust and plaster,
Rends it in twain from top to bottom.
Like a great cry strangled, the fury of the knell
The old clock-tower, black all at once, seems to lean over.]
The two passages I have italicised present to us once
again the abrupt contrast between black and gold which
was described in the case of the clock-faces, alternately
1 From Le sonneur, in Les villages illusoires.
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 61
glowing and dark. The clock-tower only thrusts upward
amid the conflagration to die " black all at once." These
brusque reversals of value in the picture, contribute
greatly to the hallucinatory aspect of Verhaeren's clock-
faces and towers.
We shall meet with the towers again, pinning up " the
garland of the dunes/' Just as in childhood the poet
was proud of his clock-tower, so in later life he felt a
pride in all the towers of Flanders :
O que mon coeur tou jours reste avec vous d 'accord !
Qu'il puise en vous 1'orgueil et la fermet haute,
Tours debout pr6s des flots. . . .*
[Oh that my heart may always be in harmony with you,
That it may derive from you pride and lofty firmness,
Towers erect near the waves. . . .]
They bear witness to the lost glory of Flanders. In
the days of that glory, beacon fires flared from them :
Jadis on allumait des feux
Sur leur sommet, dans le soir sombre;
Et le marin fixait ses yeux
Vers ce flambeau tendu par Tombre.
[Of old they used to light fires
On the top, at nightfall ;
And the sailor kept his eyes fixed
Upon this torch held out to him by the night.]
Now the fires have been quenched and the towers are
in mourning :
Et d'autres blocs et d'autres phares,
Arms de grands yeux d'or et de cristaux bizarres,
Jettent, vers d'autres flots, de plus nettes clart^s.
[And other blocks of masonry and other lighthouses,
With great golden eyes and with strange crystals,
Throw, towards other waves, clearer lights.]
1 From Les tours au bord de la mer, in La guirlande des dunes.
62 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
But it is in his pictures of revolt that Verhaeren shows
his fondness for flaming towers, from which, as from
the burning clock-tower, the tocsin continues to sound.
They play a part in the rising of the people against Jacob
van Artevelde :
On le tua k 1'heure ou les tours taient rouges
Et comme en feu, de loin en loin, sous le couchant. . . .
Coeurs tragiques, fievreux et haletants dans 1'ombre,
La-haut, sans qu'on les vit, battaient les tocsins sombres. 1
[He was killed at the hour when the towers were red,
As if flaming, from point to point, in the light of the setting
sun. . . .
Tragic hearts, feverishly panting in the darkness,
Up there, unseen, were sounding the dismal tocsins.]
The towers have a similar aspect in the poem specifically
named La revolte :
La rue, en un remous de pas,
De corps et d'epaules d'oti sont tendus des bras
Sauvagement ramifies vers la folie,
Semble passer volante. . . .
Toute la mort
En des beffrois tournants se 16ve. . . .
Tappant et haletant, le tocsin bat,
Comme un cceur dans un combat,
Quand, tout a coup, pareille aux voix asphyxies,
Telle cloche qui aprement tintait,
Dans sa tourelle incendiee,
[The street, in an eddy of footsteps,
Of bodies and shoulders from which are stretched forth arms
Waving wildly towards madness,
Seems to pass on the wing. . . .
In the spinning belfries. . . .
Pulsating and panting the tocsin sounds,
As a man's heart beats in the fight.
* From Jacques cT Artevelde, in Les h&ros.
From La rSvolte, in Les villes tentaculaires.
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 63
Now, all at once, like a voice that has been strangled,
Some bell, which has been harshly clanging
In its burning tower,
These visions of towers in the pictures of revolt are
instructive. Our fantasies of revolt are apt to give
expression to that which is in revolt within ourselves. In
especial they give expression to the mob of our instincts.
These, after being held in leash by some moral or religious
scruple, after having been restrained by our judgment
and our will, in a word by the " front," I take sudden
and brutal revenge. The clock-tower just now looked
like a " front " suddenly split. In like manner, Artevelde
is a " front " against the assaults of the revolt :
Et ce torride amas de rages populaires
Montait battre le seuil d'Artevelde debout.
II etait let, le front tourne vers la maree
De ces ames, par sa presence, exasperees.*
[And this hot wave of popular wrath
Rose to assault the threshold of Artevelde standing there.
There he stood, confronting the tide
Of these souls infuriated at the sight of him.]
Again, we shall encounter in Les moines the heretic who,
having lost his faith, rears himself up like a " tower/ 1
and like a scarlet and lightning-riven fa9ade [front].
To the last the poet will tell us :
. . . j'eduque aussi ma volonte
A me batir un front qui doit rester mon maitre.3
[. . . moreover I train my will
To build me a front which shall be my master.]
1 There is an untranslatable word-play, a " condensation " in fact,
in the French original here. " Front " means forehead as well as front
or fa$ade. The forehead or brow is symbolical of the judgment or
intellect which holds the mob of instincts in leash ; this forehead or
fa9ade is split, is rent in twain, by the revolt of untamed instincts.
a From Jacques d'Artevelde, in Les h6ros.^
3 From La vie ardente, in Les flammes hautes.
64 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
The front or fa?ade of the towers and belfries repre-
senting will and religious scruple is exposed to the
assaults of the lower nature. This is why, in Le sonneur,
the fierce conflagration vents its rage upon the symbol
of the Christian faith :
Et, dans Teffondrement du faite entier, la croix
Choit au brasier, qui tord et broie
Ses bras Chretiens, comme une proie.
[And when the summit crashes, the cross
Falls into the furnace, which twists and brays
Its Christian arms as if they were prey.]
The same gesture of rage is seen in La revolte :
Telle une neige, on dissemine les hosties
Pour qu'elles soient, sous des talons rageurs, aneanties.
[The consecrated wafers are scattered like snowflakes
So that they may be ground to powder beneath the raging
We must, moreover, link this image with another in the
same poem :
Les cadrans blancs des carrefours obliques,
Comme des yeux en des paupieres,
Sont defences k coups de pierre.
[The white clock-faces, where the slanting cross-roads meet,
Like eyes in eyelids,
Are smashed with hurtling stones.]
It would seem that the white clock-faces, like the con-
secrated wafers, arouse the fury of the mob.
The towers, like the clock-faces, bring us back to a
contrast, to the way in which the higher life, for the very
reason that it is higher, suddenly destroys itself and
collapses into negation. We shall see how Verhaeren was
impressed by this contrast in the hour of crisis, when
giving up the gluttonous and fleshly life into which he
had wildly plunged, he fell into an abyss of depression.
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 65
The paroxysm of frantic enjoyment had originated in
the loss of religious belief occurring in a man of strong
character, a man made for an ardent life but from whom
the old reason for ardour had been snatched. Thereupon,
for a space, he threw himself blindly into the furnace
of purely sensual delights, with which persons of fine
endowment cannot long rest content. Now, whereas
other symbols used by the poet seem to allude to the
crisis in general terms, the emblem of the tower and that
of the burning tower stress one of the causes of the
crisis. We can divine this cause from our study of
Verhaeren's life, and an analysis of the emblem of the
burning tower confirms our judgment. This destruction
of the bell-tower in his native village could there be a
clearer and more exquisite symbol of the loss of the faith
of childhood ? The disaster leaves the soul lonely and
stifled. We have the bell which has been silenced " like
a voice that has been strangled " in La revolte ; and we
have also the bell-ringer buried under the fallen bell :
Le vieux sonneur n'a pas boug&
Et la cloche qui defona le terrain mou
Fut son cercueil et fit son trou. 1
[The old bell-ringer had stuck to his post.
And the bell, burying itself in the soft ground,
Dug his grave and formed his coffin.]
We are told in Les tendresses premieres how fervently
religious Verhaeren had been since childhood's days :
Je me cachais pour sangloter d'amour;
J'aurais voulu prier toute ma vie,
A 1'aube, au soir, la nuit, le jour,
Les mains jointes, les deux yeux ravis
Par la tragique image
Du Christ saignant vers moi tout son pardon.*
* From Le sonneur, in Les villages illusoires.
From Les P&ques, in Les tendresses premieres.
66 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[I hid myself to sob out my love ;
I should have liked to pray all my life,
At morn, at eve, by night, by day,
Hands clasped, eyes rapt
By the tragic figure
Of Christ bleeding towards me his full forgiveness.]
But when the repast of the first communion degenerated
into a blasphemous orgy of gluttony one of those gross
Flemish merry-makings which Verhaeren depicts in a
later poem " I was frightened, he says :
. . . et m'en allai je ne sais oft
Dans un recoin de la maison profonde,
Prier pour ceux qui outrageaient mon Dieu.
[. . . and crept away, I hardly know
Into some out-of-the-way corner of the house,
To pray for those who were outraging my God.]
It was natural that in such a mind the loss of faith should
cause one of those shipwrecks after which the sufferer
long remains derelict. Such is the significance of the
burning tower, and that is why its image is always so
This interpretation explains certain details which might
otherwise have been overlooked, and whose significance
is only made plain by the new light. For instance, in
La guirlande des dunes, the darkened towers are replaced
by modern lighthouses, which
Armds de grands yeux d'or et de cristaux bizarres,
Jettent, vers d'autres flots, de plus nettes clart^s.
[With great golden eyes and with strange crystals,
Throw, towards other waves, clearer lights.]
Verhaeren is using the phraseology habitual to him when
he wishes to convey the idea of modern science replac-
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 67
ing the traditional creed. The lighthouses are closely
paralleled by the observatories and laboratories in La
Cristaux monumentaux et min^raux jasps. . . .
Instruments nets et d61icats. . . .
C'est la maison de la science au loin dard^e
Obstinement, par k travers les faits et les idees,
Vers 1'infini et ses mystferes
Et ses silences refractaires.
Avec des yeux
Meticuleux ou monstrueux,
On y surprend les croissances ou les d&astres
S'chelonner depuis 1'atome jusqu'k 1'astre*
La vie y est fouillee, immense et solidaire,
En sa surface ou ses replis miraculeux,
Comme la mer et ses gouffres houleux,
Par le soleil et ses mains d'or myriadaires. 1
[Huge crystals and veined minerals. . . .
Delicate instruments of precision. . . .
It is the house of science, persistently impelled,
Far athwart facts and ideas,
Towards the infinite and its mysteries
And its refractory silences.
Microscopic or telescopic,
Those who work there detect growths and disasters
Ranging from the atom to the star.
Life, vast and integral, is rummaged there,
Both on its surface and in its wonderful recesses,
As the sea and its troubled depths
Are searched by the sun and its myriad golden fingers.]
The reader can study similar images in Les penseurs
(La multiple splendeur).
Our interpretation can also take into account an
apparently insignificant detail with which Verhaeren
1 From La recherche, in Les villes tentaculaires.
68 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
concludes the poem Mon village, wherein he tells the story
of the conflagration. Speaking of the clock-tower, he
II lui fallut trois ans pour ressurgir au jour !
Trois ans pour se dresser vainqueur de sa mine !
Trois ans que je gardai, dans ma poitrine,
La blessure porte k mon naif amour !
[It took three years for the tower to rise again !
Three years to rise victorious out of its ruins !
Three years during which I harboured, in my breast,
The wound inflicted on my simple love !]
From a literary point of view, this repetition of " three
years " might be considered inelegant. But if it be the
outcome of a spontaneous need for expression, we shall
do well to search for the subconscious cause of the poet's
insistence. However intense a fondness the child may
have felt for the village tower, his love cannot justify
the importance given to the fact that three years were
needed for its rebuilding. It seems unlike Verhaeren to
conclude a beautiful poem by stressing a minor detail.
We have, therefore, to ask whether the term of " three
years " has a personal significance. In fact, the only
way in which it can possess such a significance is
by way of condensation, so that the rebuilding of the
clock-tower is not the only matter at stake. If we recall
that the destruction of the clock-tower by fire has been
condensed with the moral crisis in the poet's own life,
that this crisis apparently lasted three years (1887-1890),
and that it secured literary expression in the three stages
of Les soirs, Les dtbdcles, and Les flambeaux noirs, we
shall understand why the term of three years is so im-
portant the three years that were requisite for Verhaeren
himself " to rise again." Moreover, we can hardly avoid
thinking of how Christ rose again on the third day, and
how three days were needed to " rebuild this temple/ 1
LES TENDRESSES PREMIERES 69
Such a train of thought is impressed on us all the more,
seeing that Verhaeren, at the time of the crisis, imagines
himself crowned with thorns and bleeding on the cross.
It is verily the Christ who is dead in him, and who must
be resurrected in the form of a new faith
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES'
(DAYS OF YOUTH, DOWN TO 1886)
Les flamandes and Les moines were the two chief works
of Verhaeren's youth a youth slowly ripening in one
who thus early attained to mastery. Les flamandes was
published in 1883, when the poet was twenty-eight ;
Les moines in 1886, when he was thirty-one. In these
interrelated works, vehement in their contrasts, are
polarised the two opposing aspects of the vigorous Flemish
nature, which is at once voluptuous and mystical. They
likewise exhibit the two contradictory aspects of Flanders
itself ; Verhaeren is surrounded by scenes which are the
concrete expression of his own duality. We are in the
Parnassian * period of his art. He produces objective
works, in which he delights to portray the luxuriance
and vigour of the forms in his environment. But what
Maeder 3 has established concerning Hodler, when
analysing this artist's symbolism, is equally true of
1 Flemish Women, and The Monks.
* The term " Parnassian," as applied to a Belgian poet, has a precise
significance. " The Belgian poets are divided into two . . . camps
with regard to metrical questions. The Parnassians . . . cling to the
traditional forms of French verse . . . and to the time-honoured diction ;
whereas the verslibristes use the free forms of verse. . . . Verhaeren,
who wrote in vers libres after his first two volumes, has in his last book,
Les rythmes souverains, approximated to the regular alexandrine.'
Quoted from the introduction to Jethro BithelTs Contemporary Belgian
Poetry, p. xv. TRANSLATORS' NOTE.
3 Op. cit.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 71
Verhaeren. Although the latter's aim seems to be nothing
more than to limn in great frescoes the warm colouring
and rude contrasts of his native land, he is simultaneously
giving expression to one of the deepest conflicts within
himself. The twofold Flanders is in Verhaeren. Stefan
Zweig, one of the most perspicacious of Verhaeren's
commentators, and a personal friend of the poet, sees
this clearly, and puts the matter very well. He writes :
" This conflict for a conception of the world pierces through
the constant contrast between the acceptance and the
denial of life in the poet. . . . The hostility which divides
his country into two camps seems to have taken refuge
in his soul to fight it out in a desperate and mortal duel ;
past and future seem to be fighting for a new synthesis." x
Lesflamandes is a rising of the sap, a paroxysm of carnal
life, a festival of all the senses, a kermesse opened under
the auspices of the old Flemish masters, the poet's models,
whose way it was " to paint a masterpiece between two
drinking bouts." The verses are not so much to be read
as to be chewed and swallowed. They savour of orgies.
In these poems, love is still " gormandising," and a funeral
is an occasion for a debauch. Veuillot declared that
in Chansons des rues et des bois Victor Hugo had procreated
the most splendid beast in the French tongue. Now
that Lesflamandes has been written, the dictum is perhaps
no longer true.
Dites ! jadis, ripaillait-on
Dans les bouges et dans les fermes :
Les gars avaient les reins plus fermes
Et les garces plus beaux tetons. . . .
De grands buveurs compacts et forts
Riaient, chantaient, gueulaient & boire,
Bafraient k casser leur machoire,
Hurlaient k reveiller des morts.*
1 Zweig, Emile Verhaeren, English translation, pp. 52-3.
1 From Truandailles, in Les flamandes.
72 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[Tell me, did they guzzle in days of old
In the hovels and in the farms ?
The lads had stouter loins
And the girls, finer nipples. . . .
Hard drinkers, well-knit and strong,
Laughed, sang, bawled over their liquor,
Stuffed their mouths so as almost to break their jaws,
Shouted till they nearly woke the dead.]
These pictures, so aggressive in their frankness, in their
effrontery, are veritable mines for the purposes of the
present study. We shall profit by the crude realism
with which they portray the world wherein the poet's
childhood and youth were passed. For in this first
work, much as in the reminiscences of childhood, we
discover images whose objective origin is unquestionable.
We know the definite things and memories with which
these images were, from the beginning, linked in the
poet's mind, and we shall therefore be able to detect the
symbolic resonances of the images throughout all his
Among such emblems, gold is one of those whose signifi-
cance is fixed and obvious from the outset. It expresses
wealth and plenty. It is the gold of the rich harvests
which have rejoiced Verhaeren's eyes in the Flemish
plains ; it is love as one of life's elemental forces ; it
is the sensuous fertility of all things.
Les graines d'or. . . .
Un tressaillement d'or court au ras des moissons,
La terre sent 1'assaut du rut monter en elle,
Son sol generateur vibrer de longs frissons,
Et son ventre gonfler de chaleur eternelle. 1
[Golden grain. . . .
A golden shiver runs athwart the crops,
The earth feels the onset of the rut rising within her,
Feels her fecund soil vibrating with long thrills,
Feels her womb swelling with everlasting heat.]
1 From Les plaines, in Les flamandes.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 78
Et telles, plus folles encor,
Arrondissant leurs hanches nues
Et leurs belles croupes charnues,
Ou cascadaient leurs cheveux d'or. 1
[And others, even more frenzied,
Rounding their naked haunches,
And their beautiful fleshy buttocks,
Down which their golden hair cascaded.]
Ses cheveux sont plus blonds que 1'orge dans les plaines. . , .
Ses mains sont de rougeur crue et reche ; la seve
Qui roule, k flots de feu, dans ses membres hales,
Bat sa gorge, la gonfle, et, lente, la souleve
Comme les vents levent les bles.
Midi, d'un baiser d'or la surprcnd sur les saules.*
[Her hair is fairer than the barley in the plains. , . .
Her hands arc raw and red and chapped ; the sap,
Which flows in fiery waves through her sunburnt limbs,
Beats in her throat, swells it, and slowly lifts it
As the breeze lifts the corn.
Noon, with a golden kiss, surprises her among the willows.]
Gold, then, symbolises this very exuberance of life,
which in Les flamandes is pushed to an extreme. We
are even tempted to say an exuberance of health. But
in this ardour, this desperate ardour, for life, there is
something hypertrophic which arouses our alarm. The
cynical critic who stigmatised Les flamandes by saying,
" M. Verhaeren seems to have just been opening an
abscess/' let his wit run away with his judgment. Never-
theless, in the foolish phrase there was a meaning which
the critic may never have suspected. We know how this
poet's imagination clashes the ideas of blackness and gold
one against the other, and how for him an exuberant
life is to be a life that is self-destructive. This superfluity
3f health embodies, in the germ, to-morrow's crisis ;
1 From Art flamand, in Les flamandes.
From La vach&re, in Les flamandes.
74 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
hidden in the lovely fruit is a gnawing worm. There
is a presage of evil already in Les flamandes, but the fore-
shadowing grows much plainer in the beautiful Meditation
the second of the two Meditations in Les moines.
Toute science enferme au fond d'elle le doute,
Comme une mbre enceinte etreint un enfant mart.
Vous qui passez, le pied hardi, le torse fort,
Chercheurs, voici le soir qui vous barre la route.
Toute chair est fragile et son declin est tel
Que jeune elle est dejd maudite en ses vertbbres,
Quels crocs ont dechird Torgueil des seins cetebres.
Vous qui passez, songez au chien de Jesabel.
[All science encloses a hidden doubt,
As a pregnant mother clasps a dead child.
You who are passing by, robust of frame and firm of tread,
Seekers, lo nightfall blocks the way.
All flesh is frail, and its decay is such
That even in youth it is smitten in its very bones.
What fangs have torn the pride of far-famed breasts.
You who are passing by, remember the dogs of Jezebel.]
The last image leads directly to one of Verhaeren's
chief poems, one we have already considered, La dame
en noir in Les flambeaux noirs. Here we have the most
concise expression of the drama in gold and black of
carnal love which at the same time is death :
Les chiens du noir espoir ont aboyd, ce soir,
Vers les lunes de mes deux yeux,
Si longuement vers mes deux yeux silencieux,
Si longuement et si lointainement, ce soir,
Vers les lunes de mes deux yeux en noir, . , .
Dites, quel incendie et quel effroi
Suis-je pour ces grands chiens, qui me techent ma rage ?
Et quel naufrage esp6rent-ils en mon orage
Pour tant chercher leur mort en moi ?
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 75
[The hounds of black hope were baying this evening
At the moons of my two eyes,
For so long a time at my two mute eyes,
For so long a time and so distantly this evening,
At the moons of my two eyes showing black.
Tell me, what sort of a conflagration and horror
Am I for these huge hounds which are licking my frenzy ?
And what shipwreck do they look for in my storm
That they should thus seek their death in me ?]
As for the golden eyes which " hallucinate " the hounds,
we are not perfectly clear whether they are really eyes
or breasts. The two images seem to be fused. Towards
the end of the poem, with one of those sudden transitions
which are common in dreams, and of which La dame en
now contains several examples, we read :
La demence incurable et tourmentante
Qui done en lui la sentira
Monter, jusqu'a mes seins qui hallucinent ?
[Madness, incurable and torturing,
Who can feel in himself how it surges
Upwards towards my breasts which hallucinate ?]
Such a vision of breasts which shine like eyes, or like the
moon-faces in the clock-towers, is found in other poems
by Verhaeren :
Le soir quand, sur sa couche amoureuse, la chair
S'illumine du large clat de ses seins clairs. 1
[At night when, on her amorous couch, her flesh
Is lighted up by the radiance of her lustrous breasts.]
Les deux seins noirs, pareils k deux lunes funbres,
Laissent deux baisers froids tomber en des tenebres.*
[The two black breasts, resembling two mournful moons,
Let two cold kisses fall into the gloom.]
1 From La vie ardente, in Les flammes hautes.
* From Aprement, in Les bords de la route.
76 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
We are here at the very heart of the complex which
we have more than once encountered : that of black
contrasted with gold ; that of life which exalts itself,
and which by the very fact of its exaltation negates
itself. The Flemish plains exhibit this double aspect
and this abrupt contrast. They have been golden plains,
but when autumn supervenes they become " sombre
plains." All their fertility has been changed into
barrenness. Something wretched, effete, and sickly has
suddenly followed upon the fullness and richness of life.
Hence these images of decay, mouldiness, torpor, inertia ;
of cripples ; of things which grow flaccid and flutter in
the wind :
Villages et hameaux geignent au vent du Nord ;
L'humidite fletrit les murs de plaques vcrtes,
La neige tombe et pese et lourdement endort
Les chaumes noirs groupant entre eux leurs dos inertcs.
Sur les digues un nid d'oiseau ballotte encor.
Us [les vents] s'acharnent au ras des champs planes et mous,
Cinglant les nudites scrofuleuses des terres,
La vegetation pourrie et leur remous
Abat sur les chemins les ormes solitaires.
Et dans la plaine vide on ne rencontre plus
Que sur les chemins noirs de poussifs attelages,
Que des voleurs, le soir, le matin, des perclus,
Se trainant mendier de hameaux en villages,
Que de maigres troupeaux, rentrant par bataillons,
Sous les soufflets du vent, avec des voix belantes,
Que d'6iorme corbeaux planants, aux ailes lentes,
Qu'ils agitent dans 1'air ainsi que des haillons. 1
[Villages and hamlets moan in the north wind ;
The damp blights the walls with green patches. . . .
1 From Les plaines, in Les flamandes.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 77
The snow falls, and lies, and heavily puts to sleep
The black hovels humping their inert backs side by side.
On the dike, a bird's nest still swings. . . .
The winds rage across the flat and sodden fields,
Lashing the scrofulous nakedness of the ploughlands,
And the decayed vegetation ; their gusts
Blow down the solitary elms across the roads,
And, in the empty plain, one meets with nothing
But, on the black roads, creaking carts,
Thieves, at nightfall, in the morning cripples,
Limping along to beg from hamlet to village,
Nothing but lean flocks coming home in troops
Bleating under the buffets of the wind,
Nothing but huge crows hovering on slow wings,
Which they flap in the air as one flaps a rag.]
Here we have all the emblems which will abound once
more before the crisis ; we can put a finger on their
origin, and can thus learn their meaning. Such emblems,
and the ideas they express, are not conspicuous in Les
flamandes, but they lie in ambush, they are threatening.
They seem to warn us that the health and the fertility
which overflow from the poems were being furtively under-
mined. They warn us that the all-pervading thought
of the Meditation is obscurely making itself felt :
Toute chair est fragile et son d^clin is tel
Que jeune elle est dejk maudite en ses vert&bres.
[All flesh is frail, and its decay is such
That even in youth it is smitten in its very bones.]
It is not difficult to perceive the shadow cast by this
threat upon the " golden " emblems of exuberant life.
The cows, for instance, the mill and the miller, seem
78 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
to be associated with coarse and rustic loves, with this
flux of sensual and gluttonous life :
C'est sa besogne k 1'aube, au soir, au coeur du jour,
De venir traire, k pleine empoignade, ses betes
En songeant d'un oeuil vide aux bombances d'amour,
Aux baisers de son gars dans les charnelles fetes,
De son gars, le meunier, un gros rustaud rabl,
Avec des blocs de chairs bossuant sa carcasse,
Qui la guette au moulin, tout en veillant au ble,
Et la bourre de baisers gras, ds qu'elle passe. . . .
Et c'est Ik qu'elle vit, la pataude, bien loin
Du cur6 qui sermonne et du fermier qui rage,
Qu'elle a son coin d'amour dans le grenier & foin,
Ou son gar$on meunier la roule et la saccage,
Quand 1'etable profonde est close prudemment,
Que la nuit autour d'eux repand sa somnolence,
Qu'on n'entend rien, sinon le lourd michonnement
D'une bete eveillee au fond du grand silence. 1
[It is her task, at dawn, at eve, and at high noon,
To milk, with vigorous hands, her cows,
While her thoughts wander to love orgies,
To the kisses of her lover in their feasts of the flesh,
Of her lover, the miller, a strong-loined rustic,
His body embossed with lumps of flesh,
Who waylays her at the mill, keeping his eye on the wheat all
And smothers her with fat kisses as she passes by. * . .
And it is there that she lives, the hoyden, remote from
The cure who sermonises and the farmer who scolds,
There that she has her love nook in the hay-loft,
Where her lover, the miller, tumbles and rummages her,
When the great cowshed is discreetly closed,
When the night spreads its drowsiness around them,
When there is nothing to be heard, amid the profound silence,
Save the heavy chewing of one of the wakeful beasts.]
1 From Kato, in Les flamandes.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 79
Since Verhaeren has made so frank an avowal (one of
those avowals which are as unashamed as some of
Rousseau's confessions), we may suitably give ear to
an overtone of this poem, may listen to the echo of
emotions actually experienced by the poet during
Pendant des mois au jour le jour,
Nos corps se sont aims, dans la ferme lointaine,
Ou rien, sinon les bruits monotones des plaines,
Venaient mourir au soir tombant.
Les Stables et, plus encor, les vieux greniers,
Ton versait le grain, par sacs et par paniers,
Nous invitaient et nous servaient d'asile. 1
[From day to day, for months,
Our bodies were joined in love, at the remote farm,
Where nothing save the monotonous noises of the plains
Came to die at nightfall.
The cowhouses, and still more the old lofts,
Where the grain was emptied in basketfuls and sackfuls.
Beckoned us and served us as refuge.]
The passage gives a strangely enhanced meaning to all
these emblems of gold, grain, and lofts. We may note,
too, that " Kato," which is the name of the milkmaid
in Lesflamandes, becomes in Les bords de la route the name
of the loved woman whose glories the poet sings, to tell
us in the end of her death. For she, too, dies, like the
little friend of his childhood's days. Suddenly she goes
" to the cross-roads of death " ; suddenly her luxuriant
body is blighted. Who can doubt that this experience
helped to create in the poet's mind the idea of an
abrupt reversal of ^values, of a precipitate transition
from love to death. Henceforward we shall under-
stand how vigorous a condensation of manifold impres*
i From L'gtrang&re, in Les tendresses premieres.
80 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
sions there is in this contrast ; we shall understand
how strongly charged it is with meaning and with
Tes bras qui s'etalaient au mur de ta jeunesse,
Tel qu'un cep glorieux vetu de vins et d'or,
Au long de tes flancs creux lignent leur secheresse,
Pareils aux bras osseux et sarmenteux des morts.
Tes seins, bouquets de seve etales sur ton torse,
lies de rouge amour sur un grand lac vermeil,
Dlustr6s de leur joie et vides de leur force. . . .
A voir si pale et maigre et proche de la mort,
Ta chair, ta grande chair, jadis evocatoire,
Et que les roux midis d'ete parsemaient d'or
Et grandissaient, mes yeux se refusent k croire
Que c'est i ce corps-Ik, leche, flatte, mordu,
Chaque soir, par les dents de 1'ardeur d'une bete,
Que c'est i ces deux seins pales que j'ai pendu
Mes desirs, mes orgueils et mes ruts de poete. 1
[Your arms which were spread on the wall of your youth
Like the branches of a splendid vine clad with grapes and gold,
Are now drooping their withered length adown your hollow
Like the bony and sapless arms of the dead.
Your breasts, nosegays of vintage displayed upon your body,
Islands of red love in a vast crimson lake,
Have now lost their lustre of joy and are emptied of their
strength. . . .
. * *
When I see so pale and thin and near to death,
Your flesh, once so splendid and so stimulating,
Which the russet noons of summer strewed with gold
And magnified, my eyes refuse to believe
That it is upon this body, licked, stroked, bitten
Evening after evening by passionate animal teeth,
That it is upon these two pale breasts that I hung
My desires, my pride, and my poet's ardours.]
1 From Au carrefour de la mort, in Les bords d la route.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 81
Beside the golden grain, beside the miller, we find bread-
making associated with the emblems of carnal health :
Les servantes faisaient le pain pour les dimanches. . . .
La sueur les mouillant et coulant au petrin. . . .
Leur gorge remuait dans les corsages pleins,
Leurs deux poings monstrueux pataugeaient dans la pate
Et la moulait en rond comme la chair des seins. 1
[The maids were making bread for Sunday. . . .
They were damp with sweat, which ran down into the kneading-
trough. . . .
Their throats were moving in their well-filled bodices,
Their huge fists were plunging into the dough,
And were moulding it in rounds like the flesh of breasts.]
But the grain and the flour (emblems of fecund sensuality)
are threatened by the teeth of the beast we have just seen,
at " the cross-roads of death/' biting and gnawing the
flesh, " once so stimulating," of his doomed mistress. The
teeth, and everything which gnaws and bites, are em-
blematic of a hidden ailment which is undermining health,
fertility, and life :
S'elargissaient, Ik-bas, les granges recouvertes,
Aux murs, d'epais crepis et de blancs badigeons,
Au faite, d'un manteau de pailles et de joncs,
Ou mordaient par endroits les dents des mousses vertes.*
[Over there extended the great barns,
Their walls rough-cast and whitewashed,
Their roofs thatched with straw or rushes,
Bitten into here and there by the teeth of green mosses.]
These mosses bite the barns and their thatched roofs,
emblems which immediately recall the golden harvests.
The " green mosses/' moreover, must be brought into
relation with a verse previously quoted :
1 From Cuisson du pain, in Les flamandes.
* From Les granges, in Les flamandes.
82 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
L'humidit fltrit les murs de plaques vertes.
[The damp blights the walls with green patches.]
The reader will remember that this was part of a descrip-
tion of one of the aspects of the sombre plains which,
in autumn, suddenly replace the golden plains. All these
invasions of green blight bring us back once more to " the
cross-roads of death " :
La mort peindra ta chair de ce vieux ton verdatre. 1
[Death will paint your flesh with the greenish hue of decay.]
We readily recognise the corpselike tints of these mosses
and green patches. All the emblems hang together,
mutually strengthen one another, and enforce a definite
The same menace of blight broods over the margin of
the stagnant water of the ditches and ponds. When the
noontide sun " sabred the water " of the ditches,
La ferme s'allumait d'un encadrement d'or.*
[The farm was lighted up by an enchasement of gold.]
But this charm was doomed to extinction, like everything
" golden " ; and thenceforward the ditches presented no-
thing but emblems of dead torpor :
Us s'etendaient, plaques aux bords de mousse verte
Et de lourds nenuphars etoilant le flot noir.
Les grenouilles venaient y coasser, le soir,
L'ceil large ouvert, le dos enfle, le corps inerte.
[They extended, flecked at the edge with green moss
And with great lilies starring the black waters.
The frogs came to croak there every evening,
Their eyes opened wide, their backs humped, their bodies inetf.
* From Au carrefour de la mort, in Le8 bords de la route.
* From L'enclos, in Les flamandes.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 88
The golden waters have become black waters. Once
more life has been " flecked f> with death.
In Les flamandes the funereal significance of blackness
and of ebony are already growing manifest :
Et sur fond de soleil, des barques toute noires
Vont comme des cercueils d'ebene au fil des eaux. 1
[Against a background of sunshine, black barges,
Looking like ebony coffins, float down the stream.]
Again we have been brought straight back to " the cross-
roads of death/' to that poem in Les bords de la route
which is highly charged with meaning for so many
emblems call it up to our minds and jostle one another
in its verses :
Et n^anmoins je Taime cncor, quoique fldtri. . . .
Ce corps de pulpe morte et de chair effacde,
Et je le couche en reve au fond du bateau noir,
Qui conduisit jadis, aux temps chanteurs des fees,
Vers leurs tombeaux orns d'ombre, comme un beau soir,
Traines au fil des eaux et robes dgraf6es
Les dfuntes d'amour. . . .*
[Yet I still love it, blighted though it be. ...
This body of dead pulp and faded flesh
My fancy beds in the black barge
Which, in days of old when fairies were sung,
Conveyed, towards their graves decked with shadow like a fine
Borne along by the current with gowns ungirdled
Maidens who had died of love.]
From time to time, in this beautiful poem, we note a
somewhat repellent fondness for stripping and caressing
a corpse ; but we must not take it too much amiss in
Verhaeren, who, in his student days, was strongly in-
fluenced by the excessive realism of Baudelaire and Zola.
1 From Marines, in Les flamandes.
From Au carrefour de la mort, in Les bords de la route.
84 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
This influence is felicitously illustrated in a study of
Verhaeren by Georges Doutrepont, professor at the
University of Louvain. Though the poet (writing under
the pen-name of Rodolphe in the " Semaine des Etu-
diants " of which he was founder and editor) some-
times takes the liberty of caricaturing his masters, he
continues to regard them as his masters. Concerning
" Olivier " (Maurice Warlomont, alias Max Waller) he
Son coeur, les betes 1'ont mang.
Qu'en reste-t-il pour sa donzelle ?
Rien qu'un amas en vers change,
Rien qu'un paquet de vermicelle. 1
[His heart the beasts have eaten it.
What is left for his mistress ?
Nothing but a heap of worms,
Nothing but a packet of vermicelli.]
Of Baudelaire, Verhaeren says :
Et Charles Baudelaire, opiumesque ivrogne,
Qui demandait, tous les soirs, aux vents etonnes
De lui servir tout frais un parfum de charogne,
Et pour le respirer s'ouvrait les trous du nez.*
[And Charles Baudelaire, drunkard and opium-eater,
Who, every evening, asked the astonished winds
To serve him up, quite fresh, an odour of carrion,
And who, to inhale it the better, stretched his nostrils wide.]
However, this influence exercised by the school of
literary sadism served merely to exaggerate the confused
and disturbing instinct underlying the voluptuous senti-
ment the algolagniac instinct which implants the germs
of cruelty in every love. A frank mind will not hesitate
to avow the existence of this instinct, which is indubitably
1 Quoted by Doutrepont, Les d6buts litttraires d'Emile Verhaeren
fr Louvain, p. 63.
* Ibid., p. 67.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 85
the biological foundation of all those fantasies dear to
the human imagination in which death rubs shoulders
with love. Such an avowal, therefore, is quite appro-
priate to this poem which typifies love and death.
The trees (and the rows of trees), which we shall find
conspicuous in Verhaeren's subsequent works, make their
appearance already in Les flamandes, being simultaneously
associated with images of superabundant life and images
of ruin and sterility :
Des arbres vieux, moussus, les branches etagees,
Baignaient dans le soleil de Mai, sur vingt rangees,
Leur domes elargis en toute leur ampleur.
Les bourgeons sous Teclat de la jeune chaleur
Pointillaient les rameaux de rosatres dragees,
Les verdures vetaient les cimes de frangees,
Les vaches, le pis lourd, vaguaient dans Therbe en fleur. 1
[Old trees, moss-grown, their branches in tiers,
Twenty rows of them, were bathing in the May sunshine,
Their domes expanded to their utmost width.
The shoots, under the stimulus of the early heat,
Were thrusting upwards their sprays of pink buds ;
The verdure was fringing the summits ;
The cows, heavy-uddered, were roaming in the flowery mead.]
In this picture, the trees, though old and moss-grown,
are swollen with the sensual sap which rises and exudes
throughout Les flamandes ; and they are juxtaposed with
the " heavy-uddered cows " an emblem whose overtones
we already know. But in the following picture, the row
of trees will be encountered in association with the beggars
of autumntide ; and the trees, acquiring powers of loco-
motion, will march in file, as we shall see them marching
soon in the company of the monks :
From Les vergers, in Les flamandes.
86 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
La misfire schant ses loques sur leur dos,
Aux jours d'automne, un tas de gueux, sortis des bougcs,
R6daient dans les brouillards et les prs au repos,
Que barraient sur fond gris des rangs de hetres rouges. 1
[In autumn days, a rout of beggars, coming forth from their
The rags of poverty drying on their backs,
Prowled through the fog and across the quiet fields,
Hedged in the grey distance by rows of ruddy beeches.]
The beggars who were passing through this sepulchral
autumn landscape were making the sign of the cross :
Puis reprenaient en chiens pouilleux, & Taventure,
Leur course interminable k travers champs et bois,
Avec des jurements et des signes de croix.*
[Then, like lousy dogs, haphazard, they resumed
Their interminable tramp through meadows and woods,
Cursing the while and making the sign of the cross.]
This sign of the cross is a sign of death :
Un gars tra$a des croix sur le front de la vache.
Et, le licol tendu, la mena vers la mort.3
[A lad traced some crosses on the forehead of the cow,
And, pulling the halter, led her to death.]
If we recall that the cow is one of the emblems of a
fleshly and superabundant life, we shall grasp the full
significance of these signs of the cross on the cow's fore-
head. It is the sign of doom, an omen, for it is the sign
made by the simple folk of the Flemish plains, believing
in the destiny which hazard or magic brings them. The
cross is also associated with the death of Kato, and, just
as upon the actual crossing of the ways, so its outline is
projected upon " the cross-roads of death " :
* From Les gueux, in Les flamandes.
s From La vache, in Les flamandes.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 87
Et rien n'effacera jamais de ma m&noire
La croix que sur ton caur dessineront tes mains. 1
[And nothing will ever obliterate from my memory
The cross which your hands will form over your heart.]
Let me add that this sign of death is also the Christian
and mystical emblem, the emblem of " cruciferous "
monks. There is no contradiction here, for to be born
to the mystical life is to die to the fleshly life.
In the sonnet entitled Les greniers several of the symbols
just mentioned are amalgamated. In view of what we
already know concerning the overtones of the loft, we
need not be surprised to find this heaping up of symbols,
as a sign of the heaping up of meanings :
Sous le manteau des toits s'etalaient les greniers,
Larges, profonds, avec des geantes lignees
De solives, de poutres, de sommiers,
Les recoltes en tas s'y trouvaient aligndes :
Les fromcnts par quintaux, les seigles par paniers. . .
Un silence profond et lourd, tel une mare,
S'etendait sur les grains. . . .
Au reste les souris toutes se tenaient coites.*
[Cloaked by the roofs, the lofts stretched
Wide and deep, with huge lines
Of rafters, cross-beams, and struts . . ,
The crops were ranged there in heaps :
The wheat in sacks, the rye in baskets. . . .
A deep and heavy silence, like that of a mere,
Brooded over the grain. . . .
The mice were all as still as could be.]
The cwss-beams have already been mentioned in
L'dirangire, the poem in Les tcndresses premieres, the
poem which, a few pages back, threw light on the Kato
of Les bords de la route :
1 From Au carrcfour de la mort, in Les bords de la route,
From Les greniers, in Les flamandes.
88 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Nos corps nou& s'incendiaient Tun Tautre,
Sous les angles et sous les croix
Que dessinaient 1'arete et les poutres du toit.
[Our intertwined bodies lent fire each to the other,
Beneath the angles and under the crosses
Traced by the groin and the beams of the roof.]
Knowing the prophetic significance attached to this
symbol of the cross, which presents itself almost as an
obsession in some of Verhaeren's other works (Les cam-
pagnes hallucinees), we can see once more, in these crosses
described in the loft of his love-making, the familiar
menace. Indeed, the whole sonnet is fraught with this
foreboding : the mere, which is an emblem of the stagnant
water that threatens the harvests at flood-time ; the little
mice. We know the significance of something which
gnaws and bites, of the " beast " which nibbles at the
grain of fruitfulncss. Mice are preeminently nibblers.
As yet they are only a menace ; they are as still as can
be, watching the golden grain but later they will be
loosed, and we shall hear them pattering, and nibbling
with their little teeth, in nightmare poems.
L&>n Bazalgette writes as follows concerning the origin
of Les moines : " This sequence of poems was the outcome
of impressions of childhood. At Bornhem, two or three
miles from Saint-Amand, was a Cistercian monastery
Gustave Verhaeren . . . was in the habit of visiting the
place once a month, ao a pious pilgrim. The son, whenever
he happened to be at home, accompanied his father, and
the two would set out at half-past four in the morning
for confession and communion. The early expeditions,
and the figures of the monks, looking so tall and dignified
as they moved through the cloisters in their voluminous
habits, had greatly struck the child's imagination. Long
afterwards, his mind was still haunted by the recluses of
Bornhem. They were his models for Les moines. Brood-
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOUSES 89
ing over the verses thus entitled, and wishing to revive
his memories of the cloister, he went into retreat for
twenty-one days at Forges monastery near Chimay." l
In works of fantasy, the cloister is apt to symbolise
the idea of introversion. In Vcrhaeren's writings, such a
meaning of this symbol is obvious. The interpretation
will have to be considered once more when, in one of the
plays, we see Dom Balthazar driven to the cloister by having
committed parricide, just as young Verhaeren was led
there by his father. Furthermore, when the poet went
into retreat, it was in order to revive the memories of
childhood, to plunge again into this distant past. The
movement of regression does not surprise us in this con-
nexion, for we know how close a tie there is between the
regressive tendency and the tendency to introversion.
Already we begin to realise the atmosphere of inwardness,
and of the past, which must be breathed by those who
would understand Les moines, and our analysis of the
work will confirm this first impression.
In Les flamandes we see Verhaeren urged towards a
carnal paroxysm whose very exaggeration discloses the
sense of effort. Generally speaking, anyone who is ag-
gressive in a profession of faith, as the poet is aggressive
in this Rabelaisian evangel, is one who feels the need to
preach to himself for the very reason that he is not an
enthusiastic convert. He cries so loudly, because he is
attempting to drown another voice which would fain make
itself heard within him. There is a good deal of doubt
underlying fanaticism, and this applies to carnal fanaticism
no less than to other forms.
In boyhood, Verhaeren was strongly religious ; we
have seen him weeping because, on the day of his first
communion, the guests participated in an orgy ; we have
seen how, month after month, he accompanied his father
on the pilgrimage to Bornhem. These things could not
fail to make a deep impression on him. A grown person
Bazalgette, op. cit.
90 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
may have lost the faith of childhood, and yet the vigorous
sublimation imposed upon his instincts by that faith
may none the less remain intact ; there has been, as it
were, an organic change, which must be reckoned with
henceforward. A religious tendency has been born ; it
has the force of an instinct (in part, no doubt, it is in-
herited) ; it claims its rights.
In Les flamandes, the voice of this tendency had been
stifled. In Les moines, it made itself heard once more,
and was all the more clamorous because it had previously
been stifled. Let me take this opportunity of pointing
out that the psychoanalytical concept of repression is in
need of amplification. We do not repress crude instincts
merely ; we repress, likewise, sublimated instincts. For
instance, we repress a religious tendency when we lose
our faith. This repression of sublimated instincts would
appear to be subject to the same laws as the repression
of crude instincts. Thus, the sublimated instinct, when
it has been repressed, seeks derivatives ; tries to undergo
conversion into new sublimations ; and, if denied this
outlet, may give rise to a neurosis. It is possible, indeed,
that the sublimated instinct may be unable to resume a
crude form, so that there may be nothing but a choice
between another sublimation and a neurosis. Les moines
discloses to us a checked tendency to mysticism which
has sought a derivative in literary expression. In like
manner, the combative instinct, when checked, may seek
a derivative in the perusal or the writing of works of
heroic literature. 1
The monks are emblems of introversion, regression, and
repressed mystical sublimation.
The introversion of the monks is obvious. They are
" recluses seated on the white mountains." They are
" vessels of chastity which never run dry." The poet
compares them to the mirror of tranquil waters. One
' Cf. Bovet, L'instinct combatif.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 91
who looks into this mirror is apt to be fascinated by his
own image :
Miroirs reverberant comme des lacs lucides
Des rives de douceur et des vallons de paix. 1
[Mirrors shining like limpid lakes,
Banks of sweetness and valleys of peace.]
We shall have to return to this emblem of the mirror of
the waters, for it is one which haunts Verhaeren. In the
" collective unconscious " it would seem to be associated
with the myth of Narcissus, the beautiful youth, the
parent of all introverts.
The regressive tendency which accompanies this intro-
version is likewise expressed by numerous images. The
Du c6te de 1'aurore et de la solitude.*
[Towards the dawn and towards solitude.]
In truth, these are one and the same. He who turns
towards " the daw r n " (towards his own childhood, and
towards the maternal image bending over that childhood),
is simultaneously turning towards " solitude " and towards
introversion. Various writers have recognised this, and
especially Morel, in his Essai sur introversion mystique.
The monks, clad in white, have the guileless candour
of children. There are " gentle monks " and " simple
monks " for whom this candour has become the only
garment of the soul. They are pure types of " infantile
regression." They resemble the mystics studied by Morel,
those mystics whose persistent longing for the mother
leads to a worship of the Virgin Mother and predisposes
them to visions like that of the Virgin and Child :
1 From Les moines (the first poem).
a From the same poem.
92 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Ces moines dont Tesprit jette un reflet de cierge,
Sont les amants naifs de la Trs Sainte Vierge ;
Us sont ses enflamms qui vont La proclamant
Etoile de la mer et feu du firmament.
Qui La servent enfin dans de telles delices
Qu'ils tremperaient leur foi dans le feu des supplices,
Et qu'Elle, un soir d'amour, pour les r6compenser,
Donne aux plus saints d'entre eux son Jesus a baiser. 1
[These monks, whose mind sheds a light like that of a candle,
Are the simple lovers of the Holy Virgin.
They are enthusiasts who proclaim Her
Star of the sea and fire of the firmament,
Who serve Her with such rapture
That they would fain steep their faith in the fire of torment,
So that She, one evening of love, to reward them,
Gives to the most holy among them her Jesus to kiss.]
The convent gardener is one of these " simple monks,"
naively devoted to the service of the Virgin Mary :
Au temps de Mai, dans les matins aureoles
Et Yenfance des jours vapoureux et perles,
Qui font songer aux jours mysterieux des limbes
Et passent couronnes de la clarte des nimbes,
II etalait sa joie intime et son bonheur,
A parer de ses mains Tautel pour faire honneur
A la tres douce et pure et benoite Marie,
Patronne de son coeur et de sa closerie.
II ne songeait k rien, sinon k 1'adorer,
A lui tendre son &me entiere k respirer.*
1 From Moine doux, in Les moines.
* From Moine simple, in Les moines.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 93
[In the month of May ; in the golden mornings
And the childhood of the misty and lustrous days,
Which recall the mysterious days of limbos,
And pass crowned with the clearness of nimbuses,
He displayed his inward joy and his happiness
At being able with his own hands to deck the altar in honour
Of the sweet and pure and blessed Mary,
Patron of his heart and of his garden ;
He dreamed of nothing but of worshipping her,
Of giving her his whole soul to breathe.]
This simple monk has, among his early memories, images
recalling those which irradiated the memory of the virginal
soul of Verhaeren's little dead friend in Les tendresses
Tout enfant il pleurait aux legendes d'antan,
Oil les vierges s'en vont par de roses chemins,
Avec des grands missels et des palmes aux mains. 1
[As a child he had wept over the ancient legends,
Which told of virgins, passing along rosy ways,
Bearing great missals and palms in their hands.]
With his eyes fixed on such images, he sees death as
" accueillante et bonne et maternelle." *
Similar images arabesques in children's mass books
form the framework of Verhaeren's picture of the " gentle
monk " :
II est des moines doux avec des traits si calmes,
Qu'on ornerait leurs mains de roses et de palmes,
1 From Moinc simple, in Les moines.
Welcoming and good and maternal.
94 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Qu'on formerait, pour le porter au dessus d'eux,
Un dais palement bleu comme le bleu des cieux.
Et pour leur pas foulant les plaines de la vie,
Une route d'argent d'un chemin d'or suivie.
Et par les lacs, le long des eaux, ils s'en iraient,
Comme un cortege blanc de lys qui marcheraient. 1
[There are gentle monks whose aspect is so calm
That one likes to picture them with roses and palms in their
And one would provide for them, to be carried over their heads,
A canopy pale blue in colour like the blue of the skies.
For their feet, as they tread the plains of life,
One would fain make a road of silver followed by a road of gold.
By the lakes and beside the waterways they would move
Like a procession of white lilies on the march.]
Thus the same road with its rosy images, its palms,
and its lilies, which in the poem of the simple monk led
to " motherly death," now leads to landscapes filled with
lakes and waterways, which in turn will speedily give
place to images of the Virgin. There is, then, good reason
for believing that these visions of lakes and waterways
are not very different from those of " motherly death,"
and that they symbolise (as has often been surmised)
the fantasy of " narcissism " and of reimmersion in the
mother's womb to which the cult of the Virgin Mary
seems to be akin.
The poet, however, describes other types of monk,
contrasting with those hitherto mentioned. There are
the " epic monk," the " wild monk," the " feudal monk,"
and the " heresiarch." They are strong, virile, tragical,
monumental, ardent. These types do not display any
infantile characteristics, but nevertheless they likewise give
expression to the regressive tendency. They belong to an
1 From Moine doux, in Les moines.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 95
earlier day, to the Middle Ages, being lofty figures from
a titanic past.
C'etait un homme dpris des ^poques d'^pde,
Ou Ton jetait sa vie aux vers de 1'epopee,
Qui, dans ce siecle flasque et dans ce temps batard,
Ap6tre pouvantant et noir, venait trop tard,
Qui n'avait pu, suivant 1'abaissement, d&roitre,
Et meme 6tait trop grand pour tenir dans un cloitre,
Et se noyer le coeur dans ce marais d'ennui
Et la banalit^ des regies d'aujourd'hui. 1
[He was a man in love with the days of the sword,
When people threw away their lives to an epic accompaniment,
He was an alarming and sinister apostle, born too late
Into this flaccid century, into this bastard age ;
One who had not been able to shrink to the measure of a
Who was too big to be kept in a monastery,
And to drown his heart in the swamp of tedium
And the triteness of the rules of to-day.]
The monks represent the glorious childhood of the poor
modern world ; they represent the past, the days when
faith was alive. This past of the world's faith is condensed
with the past of Verhaeren's own faith in such a way
that the historical evocation becomes, involuntarily, a
symbol of the personal drama. * We find always in
operation the same law, in accordance with which the
objective work of art undergoes a spontaneous organisation
1 From Moine 6pique, in Les moines.
In the poem " Moine pique," the condensation is perhaps even
more complex. It may well be that this poem gives expression, in addi-
tion, to the fact that Verhaeren's own epic genius feels itself cribbed in
the " swamp of tedium " formed by the vague literature of the century
then drawing to its close, and in the " triteness of the rules " of prosody.
We must not forget that the moment is at hand when Verhaeren's poetry
is going to escape from this prison, and rush to the creation of the most
lawless free verse.
96 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
into an involuntary symbol of a subjective fact in the
artist's life. Furthermore, a fondness or a regret for the
historical past is in many cases the symbol of a yearning
for our own past ; and the love of remote and legendary
epochs is a sign of a tendency to regression and introversion.
The love of the romanticists for the Middle Ages is a typical
instance : the dream and the past go hand in hand ;
flight from the real towards the dream has as its natural
accompaniment a flight from the present towards the past.
This outlook harmonises extremely well with Morel's *
striking suggestion that there is a kinship between Pierre
Janet's " function of the real " and Bergson's " attention
to the present life."
These two functions are closely linked, if they be not
indeed identical ; and introversion is usually characterised
by the enfeeblement of both. In such cases, we may
add, a passion for the dream is often associated with a
hatred of the real, and a love of the past with a strong
dislike of the present. As so often happens with love
and hatred, these feelings are apt to be transferred from
their objects to the symbols of the objects, from the past
and the present of the individual to the past and the
present of mankind. There is good reason to believe that
the detestation of contemporary life typical of such persons
as Rousseau is the outcome of a subconscious reasoning,
illogical but profound. We shall see that Verhaeren will
be able in time to free himself from this complex, so as
to become an impassioned singer of the present. But
in the days when he wrote Les moines, he was anything
but that, for the past impressed him by its grandeur and
the present repelled him by its triviality :
Ces temps passaient de fer et de splendeur vetus
Et le progres n'avait encor de sa racloire
Rien enlev6 de grand, de feroce et de gourd
Au monde oii se taillaient les blocs de l'pope.*
* Op. cit.
* From Les cloitres, in Les moines.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 97
[These days, clad in iron and splendour, were passing away,
And progress had not as yet, with its strike,
Levelled off from the world where the blocks of epic were being
Anything of the grandeur, the ferocity, and the torpor.]
At length a new spirit, the spirit of philosophy, blows
across the primitive and Christian world ; the monks 1
grip is tenacious, but they are doomed.
Us tr&nfcrent pareils, les cloitres lumineux,
Jusqu'aux jours ou les vents de la Grce fatale
Jetdrent brusquement leurs souffles veneneux
A travers la candeur de Tame occidentale.
Le monde 6merveill6 s'emplit d'esprit nouveau,
Mais les moines soudain grandirent & sa taille. . . .
Us porterent ainsi que de puissants faisceaux,
Devant leur Christ nie, devant leur foi chassee,
Qui se penchait djk du c6td de la nuit,
Leurs coeurs brulant toujours de sa flamme premiere. 1
[They reigned thus, the cloisters that were centres of light,
Till the day when the wind from Greece, the land of fate.
Suddenly blew its envenomed breath
Across the candour of the western soul.
The wonderstruck world was filled with a new spirit,
But the monks swiftly grew to its stature. . . .
In front of their Christ denied, their faith driven out,
Their faith which was already being engulfed by the night,
They carried like bright torches
Their hearts that burned ever with the old flame.]
To-day the doom has been fulfilled, and the monks
have become mere vestiges of their past selves :
Seuls vous survivez grands, au monde chr^tien mort,
Seuls sans ployer le dos vous en portez la charge
Comme un royal cadavre au fond d'un cercueil d'or. . . .
Vous etes les porteurs de croix et de flambeaux
Autour de Tidal divin que Ton enterre.*
* From Les clottres, in Les moines.
* From Aux moines, in Les moines.
08 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[You alone survive, great, in the dead Christian world ;
Alone, without bending your backs, you carry its burden
As if it were the dead body of a king enclosed in a golden coffin. . .
You are the bearers of crosses and of torches
Around the divine ideal which is being buried.]
The fact was that at the very moment when Verhaeren
was dedicating these verses to the monks, his own faith
had become but a vestige of its former self. One of the
poet's intimates tells me that Les moines was written
" when he had what may be called no more than a memory
of faith/' It is easy to discern in the historical process
which inspires him, a stupendous parallel of his own mental
L'hfrdsiarque makes his appearance, a great figure dating
from the past age of the faith which he is ruthlessly
destroying within himself. The heresiarch secures ex-
pression in images strangely reminiscent of the vision of
the burning tower which we have already come to regard
as a symbol of perishing faith :
Et li, ce moine noir, que vet un froc de deuil,
Construit, dans sa pensee, un monument d'orgueil. . , ,
Et Toeuvre est 1&, debout, comme une tour vivante,
Dardant toujours plus haut sa tranquil epouvante. . . ;
Les yeux brdles aux feux rouges des visions. . . .
Jusqu'au jour ou, pousse par sa haine trop forte,
II se posskie enfin et clame sa foi morte.
Et se carre massif sous Tazur dploy
Avec son large front vermeil de foudroye. . . ,
Son ombre, projetee, obscurcira le jour. . . .
Tandis qu'k horizon luiront les incendies. 1
[And there, this black monk, clad in a mourning robe,
Builds in his thoughts a monument of pride. , . .
1 From L'h6r<siarque, in Les moines.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 99
And the work is there, upright, like a living towar
Darting ever higher its silent warning. . . .
His eyes seared with the red fire of visions. . . .
Till the day when, impelled by the excess of his hate,
He becomes himself at length, and proclaims that his faith is
He squares his massive shoulders beneath the canopy of the sky,
With his great forehead scar let, as of one struck by lightning. , . .
The shadow he casts will block the daylight. . . .
The while, on the horizon, conflagrations flare. , . .]
Every one of these images makes more distinct the
vision of the tower with fiery eyes. The shadow which
blocks the daylight recalls the towers in La revolte :
D'&iormes tours obliquement dories
Barrent la ville au loin d'ombres dmesures.
[Gigantic towers, gilded aslant,
Cast huge bars of shadow far across the town.]
But, while faith may perish, there is something that
will not perish the sublimation which faith has nurtured.
The acquisition of every higher tendency, the religious
tendency not excepted, presupposes the derivation of
crude instincts towards higher aims. This derivation,
which can often be followed step by step, is what we mean
by sublimation. Verhaeren, in his poem Les conversions,
finds pleasure in turning his eyes towards the past of
these ardent monks. He sees them as they were before
their conversion ; creatures with vigorous instincts,
untamed desires, and a rugged will :
Tu montais autrefois au palais de la vie,
Le cerveau grandiose et les sens embras^s ;
Les beaux desirs ainsi qu'une table servie
S'&alaient devant toi sur des terrasses d'or. 1
1 From Les conversions, in Les moines.
100 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[In former days you mounted to the palace of life,
Your head filled with grand ideas and your senses inflamed ;
Your fine desires, like a table spread,
Were displayed before you on golden terraces.]
They were headstrong, these men of the senses. But
" un vent les abat aux pieds d'airain de Dieu," * and then
all their vehemence is converted (in the strictest sense of
the term), is turned against itself, is eager to destroy
itself ; but so eager that it remains always vehemence
In this struggle they wage against themselves, there
burns ever the joy of victorious effort :
Ta volonte d'airain superbement maitresse
A dompte tes desirs, et brid tes espoirs
Et fait crier ton cceur d'angoisse et de detresse.
Mais ton humilite, c'est encor de Torgueil. . . .
La regie en sa rigueur grave et preceptorale,
Dont les convers pieux suivent les sentiers d'or,
Tu Texageres tant que c'est toi qui domines.*
[Your iron will, proud of its mastery,
Has tamed your desires, bridled your hope,
And wrung your heart with anguish and distress.
But your humility is still pride. . . .
The rules, in their grave and preceptorial strictness,
Whose golden paths the pious lay-brothers follow,
You overstress so much that you are still the master.]
Verhaeren is emphatically " the poet of energy, 1 ' of
internal energy, of the struggle against oneself. The
conversions he loves to limn in his frescoes are fierce
struggles in which the will wrings the heart with anguish
and distress. When we enquire what are the primary
instincts which chiefly manifest themselves, sublimated
in such a wrestling of Jacob and the angel, we find, first
of all, the combative instinct ; next we find the algolagniac
1 A wind casts them down at the brazen feet of God.
From Les conversions, in Les moines.
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 101
instinct that form of algolagnia in which an introvert
experiences a voluptuous pleasure in being made to
suffer, wishing to be simultaneously victor and victim. 1
Thus we find in Verhaeren a lofty form of sublimation,
resembling the durch Leiden Freude * of Beethoven. To
the last, such a sublimation will remain characteristic of
Verhaeren, and it is preeminently this which makes of
him " the poet of energy/' Here are some verses written
towards the close of his life, which give expression to the
same ardent struggle :
Mon coeur k moi ne vit dument que s'il s'efforce ;
L'humanite totale a besoin d'un tourment
Qui la travaille avec fureur, comme un ferment,
Pour elargir sa vie et soulever sa force.3
[My own heart is not really alive unless it is striving.
The whole of mankind needs an agony
Working it fiercely, like a ferment,
To expand its life and sustain its strength.]
In Les moines, the tree becomes the symbol of sub-
limation thus understood. At first for Verhaeren (in
Les flamandes] the tree was what it usually is according
to the psychoanalysts, one of the symbols of crude instinct
But now this instinct is struggling against itself. Trees
will henceforward have a gnarled and twisted aspect,
like the limbs of men in a wrestling bout. They represent
sensuality which overcomes itself, in a victory which is
still voluptuous. They become identified with the monks
who, with the convulsive grip of a fervent will, have
" twisted " their own natures.
1 The word " algolagnia " was coined to denote the inner unity of
a tendency embracing two instincts, the instinct of suffering and
that of making others suffer, the pathological forms of these instincts
being known as " masochism " and " sadism " respectively. A profound
study of the combative instinct will always disclose in it an algolagniac
clement. Cf. Bovet, L'instinct combatif, pp. 94 to 99.
* Out of suffering, joy.
a From La vie ardente, in Les flammes hautes.
102 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Ceux dont les tourments noirs ont fait le corps tordu. 1
[Those whose black agonies have twisted their bodies.]
Tout ce qui fut norme en ces temps surhumains
Grandit dans le soleil de leur ame feconde
Et fut tordu comme un grand chSne entre leurs mains
[All which was huge in those titanic days
Grew in the sunshine of their fecund soul,
And was twisted, like a great oak, by their hands.]
Une altee invaincue et gdante de chSnes. . , .
Ces arbres vont ainsi des moines mortuaires.3
[An unconquerable avenue of giant oaks. . . .
These trees seem to move, like sepulchral monks.]
Pour en tordre le mal, ses mains tortionnaires
Ont d'un si noir effort etreint son corps pdme,
Qu'il n'est plus qu'une ame enfin et qu'il vit sublime,
Tout seul, comme un rocher meurtri par les tonnerres.4
[To wring the evil out of it, with a twisting action, his hands
Have with so fierce an effort wrung his swooning body,
That it has become only a soul, at length, so that it lives
Alone, like a rock shattered by thunderbolts.]
But sublimation, which used to be religious in quality,
can no longer remain religious.
Les pofetes, venus trop tard pour tre prgtres 5
1 From Rentr6e des moines, in Les moines.
1 From Les cruciferes, in Les moines.
3 From Soir religieux, the second of the six poems thus named, in Les
4 From Meditation, in Les moines.
5 From Aux moines, the second of the two poems thus entitled, in
LES FLAMANDES AND LES, MOINES 103
[The poets who have been born too late to become priests]
are the successors of the monks. Art is to be conceived
as a substitute for faith. Verhaeren shuts himself up in
his art as though it were a cloister, thus resembling his
contemporary and fellow-countryman Rodenbach, who
made an ascetic discipline of art, and imposed on himself
the law :
Pour vivre aprSs ta mort sois done mort dans ta vie.
[That you may live after your death, you must be dead during
The formula would be Christian in spirit, were it not
that the immortality of fame has replaced the immortality
of the soul. In like manner, Verhaeren pledges himself
Je vivrai seul aussi, tout seul, avec mon art,
Et le serrant en main, ainsi qu'un tendard,
Je me Timprimerai si fort sur la poitrine,
Qu'au travers de ma chair il marquera mon coeur.
Car il ne reste rien que Tart sur cette terre
Pour tenter un cerveau puissant et solitaire
Et le griser de rouge et tonique liqueur. 1
[I, too, shall live alone, quite alone, with my art,
And, grasping it in my hands like a standard,
I shall clasp it so strongly to my breast
That through my flesh it will stamp its imprint on my heart.
For there is nothing left on earth but art
To tempt a powerful and lonely brain
And to intoxicate it with red and tonic liquor.]
The " powerful and lonely " brain is doubtless a remin-
iscence of de Vigny's Moise, for Verhaeren was a disciple
of de Vigny :
1 From Aux moines, the second of the two poems thus entitled, in Les
104 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Seigneur j'ai v6cu puissant et solitaire.
[0 Lord ! I have lived powerful and lonely.]
Certainly, the atmosphere is that of Moise. We have
the same tone of austere doubt, and of pride that knows
nothing of hope. It expresses the introversion of a strong
man who in earlier days would have been a priest or a
prophet, but who, now that his faith has been wrested
from him, feels that his energy and his fervour have
become aimless. Paul Bourget, the earlier Paul Bourget
of the closing nineteenth century, of the period' tortured
with sceptical idealism, wrote in like manner of the aimless
Et ne sait k quel Dieu d^vouer tout son sang.
[And does not know to what God he is to offer up his blood.]
If the one who is thus searching for a new god should
happen to be a poet, he will try to find his god in his art :
Quand tout s'branle et meurt, 1'Art est li qui se plante
Nocturnement bctti comme un monument d'or. . , .
Et ce temple tou jours pour nous subsistera
Et longtemps et toujours luira dans nos tenbres,
Quand vous, les moines blancs, les ascetes fun&bres
Aurez disparus tous en lugubre apparat,
Dans votre froc de lin et votre aube mystique,
Au pas religieux d'un long cortege errant,
Comme si vous portiez k votre Dieu mourant,
Au fond du monde athee, un dernier viatique. 1
[When all has been shattered and dies, Art remains,
Built in the night like a golden monument. . . .
We shall always have this temple with us,
For long, for ever, it will lighten our darkness,
When you, white monks, sepulchral ascetics,
Will all have disappeared in mournful pomp,
From Aux moines, the second of the two poems thus entitled, in
LES FLAMANDES AND LES MOINES 105
In linen habit and mystic alb,
As you walk solemnly in a long procession,
As if, into the abysses of an atheist world,
You were bearing the last sacrament to your dying God.]
But this new act of faith is a trifle forced ; its joy is
WE now reach a tortured and tragical phase. It seems
strange, at first, that there should have been so abrupt
a transition from the Parnassian art of Les flamandes and
Les moines to the startlingly intimate poems which were
a product of extreme mental anguish : Les soirs, 1887 ;
Les ddbdcles, 1888 ; Les flambeaux noirs, 1890. In Albert
Mocke!' s biography, for example, the contrast is discon-
certing in its suddenness. No doubt Mockel was too
emphatic in his insistence upon the descriptive objectivity
of Verhaeren's earliest writings, and upon the religious
character of Les moines which was written, as we know,
with nothing more than " a memory of faith/ 1 In the
overwhelmingly sensual health of Les flamandes and in
the religious and mystical ardours of Les moines we have
discerned a double menace : on the one hand, a presenti-
ment of the ruin of the flesh which " even in youth is
smitten in its very bones " ; on the other hand, sadness
for the faith which was now no more than the vestige of
its former self. This double menace was to be fulfilled,
and was to take the form of moral and physical chaos.
We have therefore little reason for astonishment at the
crisis. Nevertheless, despite these foreshadowings, we
cannot but be struck by the suddenness with which the
" gold " is transmuted into " blackness."
We have spoken of moral and physical chaos. But
THE CRISIS 107
the two interpenetrate one another, and comprise a single
entity. The narrow materialism of medical science at
that epoch would doubtless have led to the belief that
the moral crisis was solely determined by the physical
disorder. Neurology has made some progress since then,
and is inclined to reverse the order of causation. In
doing so, the neurologist does not trouble himself with
the question whether he has arrived at ultimate causes.
He knows well enough that his descriptions, now that he
has discovered this moral or mental element in causation,
have become more subtle, more adequate, and more
useful. In any case, the close correlation between the
physical and the mental is a fact, and it is difficult to
separate the two elements.
Concerning the illness from which Verhaeren suffered,
I am assured by one of his intimates that the primary
cause was his loss of faith ; thereafter he led rather a
wild life, eating too much, drinking too freely, and also
working to excess. All these induced an obstinate
neurasthenia complicated with digestive trouble ; there
was physical depression and there was moral despair.
His friend adds : "As regards this epoch of Verhaeren 's
life, Les soirs, Les debdcles, and Les flambeaux noirs will
give you fuller and better information than any words
The official science of 1890 would have regarded these
poignant poems as evil nightmares due to a fit of indi-
gestion. Happily we are no longer satisfied with such
facile etiology. Even if the critic should consider the
matter from a medical outlook, he will study these creations
of the imagination with more sympathy, and will regard
them as psychic manifestations presenting far finer and
more numerous shades than are presented by the accom-
panying physical symptoms ; he will believe that, for
this very reason, a study of the psychic manifestations
will enable us to gain a fuller understanding of the patient's
inner life, and to ascertain more successfully the cause
108 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
of his sufferings. Finally, psychoanalytical treatment,
representing the extreme left of the psychological trend
in medicine, would do what we are proposing to do our-
selves. With a medical aim, it would adopt a purely
psychological point of view, concentrating attention upon
the symbolism of these works of the imagination. The
analyst would penetrate through the symbols to discover
the hidden conflicts in the patient's affective life, being
guided by the principle that in such affective conflicts
(conscious or subconscious) will be found the general cause
of the nervous disorders on the one hand and of the
imaginative creations on the other in a word, the hidden
cause of the crisis considered as a whole.
This way of looking at the matter would appear to
be justified in Verhaeren's case Setting out to study
the crisis in its psychological aspect, we seem to have
elucidated its nature almost completely.
In fact the nervous symptoms from which Verhaeren
suffered were unmistakably those which the new psy-
chology regards as symbolical. They were unconscious
autosuggestions realising in a masked form a desire whose
existence was more or less unknown to the subject. Let
us consider what Stefan Zweig writes concerning the poet's
break-down in health : " Every noise, every colour, every
thought presses in upon him as though with sharp needles ;
his healthy sensibility becomes hypertrophied ; that fine-
ness of hearing, of which one is conscious, say in sea-
sickness, which perceives every noise, even the slightest
sound, as though it were the blow of a hammer, undermines
his whole organism. . . . The bell on the door had to be
removed because it shocked his nerves ; those who lived
in the house had to wear felt slippers instead of shoes ;
the windows were closed to the noise of the street/' l
We read, further, that his stomach rejected food, and
this completes the resemblance to sea-sickness. Now it
is possible that Verhaeren's digestion had been disordered
1 Zweig, Emile Verhaeren, translated by Jethro Bithell, p. 56.
THE CRISIS 109
by excesses ; but there is no doubt that he suffered from
neurasthenia, as a complication to any other disorder,
and determining the course of the symptoms. If we
survey these symptoms, we shall note that they exhibit a
remarkable unity of " symbolical " meaning. They all
indicate a refusal of what comes from without, be it a sensation
or be it a food. They are a sea-sickness, a nausea against
life itself. Perhaps the rejection of food may have repre-
sented an autosuggestion of suicide, for this element has
been detected in similar cases. At any rate, the " sym-
bolism " of these symptoms is perfectly accordant with
that of the poems, except that the symbolism of the
poems is much richer and more decisive in its significance.
What is disclosed, as we shall see, is (among other things)
extreme introversion, a refusal of the outer world, a
nausea against life, and an aspiration towards death. It
is here, in especial, that we note the sudden clearness of
the illumination which the analysis throws upon symbols
that at first sight appear involved and extremely obscure.
Without being a sage, one can recognise that Verhaeren's
crisis was a crisis of introversion. This harmonises with
what we already know of the poet, and it also accords
with the descriptions of his illness. The latter, we are
told, was neurasthenia, and there is a connexion between
neurasthenia and introversion. Moreover, the symptoms
just described are sufficiently clear. But the indications
in the poems are even clearer. They express introversion
without any periphrasis :
Se replier toujours sur soi-meme, si morne !
Comme un drap lourd, qu'aucun dessin de fleur n'adorne. . . .
Si morne ! Et se toujours interdire Ten vie
De tailler en drapeau Tetoffe de sa vie. 1
[To retire perpetually within oneself, so sombre,
Like a heavy cloth unadorned by any design of flowers. . f .
* From Si morne, in Les dbcles.
110 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
So sombre I And always to refuse oneself the gratification
Of cutting the stuff of one's life into a flag,]
And this retirement into himself is described as being
part of the illness :
sentir la bouche &cre des moisissures
Gluer, et les taches s'&endre en leurs morsures.
Pourrir, immens&nent emmaillott d'ennui,
Etre 1'ennui qui se replie en de la nuit.
Tandis que lentement, dans les laines ourdies,
De part en part mordent les vers des maladies. 1
[Already to feel the corrosive mouth of the moulds
Clinging, and the patches spreading under their bites.
To rot, overpoweringly swaddled in tedium,
To be the tedium which becomes the very embodiment of night.
What time the worms of disease are, here and there,
Slowly eating their way into the woven woollen stuffs.]
We find also the sexual images in which some of the
Freudian extremists take such delight. As usual in the
case of introverts, these images express an introversion
of the sexual instinct. The stirrings of that instinct are
accompanied by anguish and are followed by remorse.
The gratification of the instinct is rejected more or less
completely, and it thus becomes pent up ; and since the
sexual instinct is capable of undergoing all kinds of deriva-
tions and sublimations, its introversion may determine
the highest development of the spiritual life. Perhaps
such an introversion of the sexual instinct is, to some
extent, an essential condition of an intense inner life.
It follows that the term autoerotism, which has been
proposed to denote this phenomenon, is unsuitable, for
it may give rise to unfortunate misunderstanding.* It
From Si morne, in Les db&cles.
* One might say that the use of this term degrades the inner life into
a sort of sexual perversion of a more complex character.
THE CRISIS 111
would be better to speak of autophilia, to indicate that
the instinct undergoes desexualisation in the process of
introversion. Nor must we take offence if, from time to
time, this autophilia should make use of sexual images,
for everyone knows that the purest form of mystical
love does the same thing sometimes. Even the skeleton
of a Plato retains a vestige of the ancestral tail. This is
the sign of evolution, and the evolution of lower instincts
into higher mental manifestations need not disturb our
self-esteem any more than it is disturbed by the biological
evolution from lower animals to man. Whoever accepts
the fact of bodily evolution, must accept mental evolution
as well. ^Such writers as Nietzsche and Freud, who have
endeavoured to sketch " the genealogy of morals " and
of mental life, setting out from the primitive instincts,
have merely drawn the psychological inferences of the
theory of evolution though they have often done so in
a paradoxical and aggressive fashion.! We need not,
therefore, veil our faces when we discover in the human
imagination, and even in the imagination of a man of
genius, that which is the pendant of the caudal vestige
in Plato's skeleton. We have merely to recall that the
evolution of one thing from another does not mean that
the two things are identical a fact which is forgotten by
those who are scandalised at the reasoning of a Nietzsche
or a Freud. We do not say that Plato was himself a
monkey, or that this or that poetical or religious mani-
festation is itself sexuality.
Let us have no more prudery than Verhaeren, who
did not hesitate to descend into these pullulating depths
of the troubled human mind. The vulgar (and there are
critics and scientists who must be classed with the vulgar)
like to discern in genius something that is morbid and
essentially monstrous, simply because the genius, thanks
to the sincerity characteristic of genius, dares to see and
knows how to see these pullulating depths whose existence
within themselves most people refuse to admit. Yet
112 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
they exist in us all, as the analysis of the subconscious
proves beyond dispute. We must recall this sincerity of
genius when we are studying Verhaeren, and especially
the Verhaeren of the crisis. For never was there a more
pitiless sincerity than his, and never did sincerity delve
more deeply amid the slimy flora and fauna of our inward
recesses. Neither La Rochefoucauld (in whom the rough-
nesses of cynicism were smoothed over by the polish of
the man of the world) nor Nietzsche was more ruthlessly
heroic in human vivisection. But there is this difference,
that Verhaeren's vivisection was lyrical. Our sensibilities
can understand him well enough ; but our intelligence
can only understand him by means of a translation into
its own language. The analysis of the symbols makes
such a translation possible.
In view of the preceding argument, we shall not be
surprised to find, in the expression of autophilia and
introversion, a condensation of the religious image of the
cloister with the crudest sexual imagery.
Et les mauvaises mains tatillonnes de vice
Encore et lentement cherchant, sur les coussins,
Et les toisons de ventre, et des grappes de seins
Et les tortillements dans le reve complice ? l
[And the evil, busily searching hands of vice
(Even now slowly seeking on the bed
The curly hair of the belly and the clusters of breasts),
And the writhings in the accomplice dream ?] *
Et, plus intimement encor, mes anciens rales
Vers des ventres, muffles de lourdes toisons d'or,
Et mes vices de doigts et de levres claustrales. . . .3
[And, still more intimately, my whilom pantings
Towards bellies muffled in thick tufts of golden hair,
And the viciousness of my fingers and my claustral lips.]
From Vers le cloftre, in Les debdcles.
In subsequent editions these images have been bowdlerised.
s From La couronne, in Les debacles.
THE CRISIS 113
The first quotation is from a poem entitled Towards the
Cloister, and in the second we find the allusion to claustral
lips. It would be difficult to discover a better example
of the introversion of instinct. In most instances, more-
over (as psychoanalysis has proved to be the case in
dreams), the cruder images are hidden behind others, the
kinship between the cruder and the more subtle being
rendered recognisable only by certain indications.
Sometimes, moreover, we have " busily searching
hands/ 1 things and actions which " grope," " totter, 1 '
" flutter " all images of a life that has been disordered
and disintegrated as well as thrust back into itself. We
rediscover, besides, several of the images we have already
noted, as in the poem Les plaines, from Les flamandes,
when autumn has passed by. In the poem entitled The
Thatched Roofs, we again meet those roofs which, over
there, were " humping their inert backs " :
A cropetons, ainsi que les pauvres Maries
Des legendes de 1'autrefois,
Par villages, sous les cieux froids,
Sont assises les m^tairies. 1
[Squatting, like the poor Maries
Of the legends of ancient days,
In village after village beneath the chilly skies
The farms are placed.]
" Squatting " this depicts the shrivelled and shrunken
life of extreme introversion. The quite unexpected simile
of the " poor Maries " recalls what we have already noted,
the link between this introversion and the yearning for
the mother, or for the Virgin Mary.
Consider, too, the imagery of the following stanza :
A cropetons, ainsi que les vieilles dolentes,
Avec leurs cannes aux mentons,
Et leurs gestes comme d tdtons,
Elles tremblent toutes branlantes.
1 From Les chaumes, in Les soirs.
114 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[Squatting, like poor old women
With their chins bent over their sticks
And their groping gestures,
They shake totteringly.] *
With regard to the sounds of the words used by the
poet, note the frequency of the consonantal sounds k, t,
and 1, whose jostlings suggest the idea of something " dis-
ordered," something which " flaps " or " flutters." Ver-
haeren will frequently make us hear this noise of snapped
laths, the noise of castanets ; it will always be in con-
nexion with the same images and the same ideas,
and the sign will itself betoken similar ideas, so
that it cannot be misunderstood. There are several
instances in this very sequence of poems, Les soirs. For
example, in the poem Le moulin, one of the most ex-
pressive, we have the " trs soffreteuses bicoques," a
with their " carreaux en loques " ; 3 and these hovels
are exactly like the farms in Les chaumes. The latter
have " carreaux fendus " ; 4 the latter, too, are " trs
miserablement assises." 5 Elsewhere we listen to the
" tic tac d^bile " 6 of the " tranquille mort des fous," 7
when the poet is haunted with the idea of madness. In
another place we have
Un roulement plaintif de chariot quinteux. 8
[The fretful rolling of a squeaky cart.]
and this image is closely akin to that of the reflections
in the water (an unmistakable emblem of autophilia)
to which we now come :
1 An alternative version of the last line is " elles s'entrecognent
branlantes " (they jostle against one another totteringly).
Suffering hovels. 5 Shattered window-panei*
4 Broken window-panes. 5 Wretchedly situated.
* The feeble tic tac. 7 Quiet death of madmen.
From Les rues, in Les soirs.
THE CRISIS 115
Une lune souffrante et p&le s'entrevoit
Et se mire aux 6gouts, oti des claries pounissent. 1
[A suffering and wan moon is glimpsed,
And is mirrored in the foul ditches wherein radiances rot.]
These reflections in mirrors, but especially in water,
and preferentially in the water of meres and marshes
in foul and stagnant water are an obsession throughout
Verhaeren's writings, just like the trains and the moons
of clock-faces. Their significance is perfectly clear, being
that of the myth of Narcissus to which we have already
referred. It is natural that the tendency to use such
imagery should be fortified by a crisis in which the poet
is thrust back into himself. More than once, as in the
last quotation, these reflections are associated with images
of " foul ditches " or " sewers " and similar repulsive
objects. These are the fantasies of autophilia sickened
with itself, sickened above all by discovering within
itself this pullulation in the abysses. (We may recall
that Verhaeren's symptoms reminded us of " sea-sickness/ ')
Sometimes, they are also fantasies of death :
L'gotit charrie une fange velue
Vers la riviere qu'il pollue. 2
[The sewer bears along a villous sludge
Towards the river which it pollutes.]
Comme d'un panier d'or,
La lune tombe au fond de 1'eau,
En ronds qui brillent ;
La lune et tout le grand ciel d'or
Tombent et roulent vers leur mort. . . .
Elle le fausse et le salit,
L'attire k elle au fond du lit
D'algues et de goemons flasques.3
From Les rues, in Les soirs.
From La plaine, in Les villes tentaculaires.
I From La bale, in Les vignes de ma muraill*
116 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[As if from a golden basket
The moon falls to the bottom of the water,
And scatters itself
In shining circles;
The moon and all the great golden firmament
Fall, and roll towards their death. . . .
Death violates it and defiles it,
Drags it to her right down into the bed
Of algae and of flaccid seaweed.]
La mort enjambe le trottoir
Et 1'egout pale, ou se mirent les bornes. 1
[Death strides across the pavement
And the pallid gutter in which the curbstones are mirrored.]
Often it is the " moon " which is thus mirrored. Here
we have a link between the " reflections " and the
" moons " and " clock-faces." If we interpret the clock-
face complex as signifying " mortal love," we may in
like manner interpret the reflection complex as signify-
ing "mortal love of one's self. 1 ' In Les soirs we find
several instances of these lunar reflections :
Et 1'etang plane et clair reflate norm&nent
Entre de fins bouleaux, dont le branchage bouge,
La lune qui se leve epaisse, immense et rouge.
[And in the level and clear pond is mirrored, enormous
Amid the tremulous leafage of the slender birches,
The moon, which is rising, thick, huge, and red.]
These verses are from the poem Mourir, and from
them there sounds once again the funereal note which
attends such tragical reflections in the water though
the idea of death is not so directly expressed as it was
in the earlier quotation, where death is described as
striding across the pavement. Furthermore, Mourir, an
autumnal poem, is likewise full of images of the sewer,
of putrid decomposition :
* From La mort, in Les villes tentaculaires.
THE CRISIS 117
Un soir plein de pourpres et de fleuves vermeils
[An evening full of purple lights and crimson rivers
Sometimes the reflections are associated with " hounds/'
the same hounds of fury, love, and death which rage in
La dame en noir.
Les chiens du desespoir, les chiens du vent d'automne
Mordent de leurs abois les echos noirs des soirs,
Et I'ombre, immensement, dans le vide, tatonne
Vers la lune, miree au clair des abreuvoirs.*
[The hounds of despair, the hounds of the autumn wind,
Bite with their baying into the black echoes of the evenings,
And the gloom, in its vastness, feels out through the void
Towards the moon, mirrored in the clear water of the drinking-
The " echoes " are no more than an auditory version
of the " reflections/' They are closely akin, just as in
classical folklore the myth of Echo is closely akin to
that of Narcissus. The echoes, like the reflections, are
the expression of a fruitless effort to clasp one's own self,
an effort which leads only to the void of death. We
find these echoes again in Les debacles, once more associated
with " hounds " :
Les molosses d'hiver, le gel, le vent, la neige. . . .
Us hurlent k la mort, ecoute ! et leur cortege
S'enfuit, avec des pleurs, vers le n^ant. Voici,
Qu'ils ululent sinistrement, et qu'on ulule
Vers eux, parmi les lourds echos du crepuscule.3
[The Molossian hounds of winter, the frost, the wind, the snow . . .
They raise the view-halloo of death, hark ! and the pack
Flees whimpering towards the void. And now
They howl in sinister fashion, and a howl
Answers them, amid the heavy echoes of the twilight.]
1 From Mourir, in Les soirs. * From Infiniment, in Les aoirs.
s From Heures d'hiver, in Les d6bcles.
118 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Sometimes the signification of the " mirrors " is more
plainly disclosed. It is actually translated for us :
Ton front comme un tombeau dominera tes rSves,
Et sera ta frayeur, en des miroirs, la nuit.
Te fuir ! si tu pouvais ! mais non. 1
[Thy forehead like a tomb will dominate thy dreams
And will affright thee in mirrors at night.
If thou couldst, thou wouldst flee from thyself 1 But thou
canst not !]
The emblem of the mirror, with a like atmosphere and a kindred
meaning, is met with in the poems of Henry Spiess.
Dites, serai-je seul avec mon Ame?
Mon ame helas ! maison d'ebene,
Ou s'est fendu, sans bruit, un soir,
Le grand mirror de mon espoir.*
[Say, shall I be alone with my soul?
My soul, alas, is an ebony mansion,
Where, one evening, was noiselessly broken
The great mirror of my hopes.]
In the prose fragment, Le plus prtcieux des cinq sens,*
the mirror reappears in a tragical setting. The hero of
this fragment, which is largely autobiographical, looking
out of the window sees a blind man who seems to him
Et sans reflechir, sans Toser, en un extreme tressaut d'exas-
p6ration, je saisis mes ciseaux et plus immediatement encore,
perdu, avec je ne sais quel fiert6 de moi, je me fis sauter les
yeux comme des billes devant le miroir.
[Without thinking, without daring, in a terrible access of
exasperation, I seized my scissors and, even more directly, at
my wits' end, with an indescribable pride in my exploit, in
front of the mirror, I cut my eyes out as if they had been marbles.]
From Le glaive, in Les
* From Le roc, in Les flambeaux noirs.
3 Published in the review "La Wall on ie," No.
THE CRISIS 119
This imaginary act puts the crown on the nervous
symptoms we have been studying, symptoms characterised
by acute suffering on account of any kind of sensation,
and by a renunciation of the outer world. In many
other cases, psychoanalysts have been led to interpret
fantasies of blindness as symbolical of an extreme intro-
version in which the subject shuts himself away from
the world. The extirpation of the eyes in front of the
mirror is the expression of the climax of the drama of
autophilia, of the moment when the subject, not content
with becoming objectified to his own eyes and with loving
himself as a reflection, rejects this duality which is the
last vestige of the multiplicity of the world. Hence-
forward, self-enclosed, he will possess himself in the
absolute unity of his own being that unity to which
Morel's mystics made their way in the end.
Now that we know the significance of the reflections,
we shall not be surprised to find them linked with the
" fluttering " visual and auditory images with which
we are already familiar :
Etre Terrant au monde et le pauvre de soi,
Avec le feu bougeant d'une ame, qui tremblote
Derriere une main frele et ballotte son moi ;
Qui tremblote comme un reflet dans 1'eau ballotte. 1
[To be a vagrant in the world and one's own pauper,
With the flickering flame of a soul which trembles
Behind a frail hand, and flutters its ego ;
Which trembles as a reflection in the water flutters.]
Kindred ideas (a failure of the impetus towards the real
world, debility, and withdrawal into the self) are expressed
by images of " broken " and " flaccid " things :
Cassis les mits d'orgueil, flasques les grandes voiles.*
[Broken the masts of pride, flaccid the great sails.]
From Inconscience, in Les debacles.
From Les malades, in Les soirs.
120 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
A tout jamais mortes mes fermet^s brandies !
Mes poings ? flasques ; mes yeux ? fanes ; mes orgueils ? serfs. 1
[For ever dead my well-knitted vigour !
My fists ? Flaccid ! My eyes ? Lustreless ! My pride ? Enslaved !]
As for the " green blight " which was corroding in
Les flamandes, its devouring influence has been extended :
Des crapauds noirs, velus de mousse,
Y devorent du clair soleil, sur la pelouse.
[Black toads, hairy with moss,
Are there devouring the bright sunshine on the lawn.]
When studying Les moines, we noted that this intro-
version presented itself also as an infantile regression.
It is the same here, for one of the poems in Les debdcles
bears the suggestive title of Vers I'enfance :
Ecoute : et les processions et puis encor
Les ex-votos en Mai dresses sur les estrades,
Et la Vierge Marie, avec son Jesus d'or,
Et les enfants de chant qui sont des camarades.
Ecoute : et du petit village il s'en souvient
Ton coeur ; dcoute : et puis, accueille en confiance,
A cette heure d'ennui, ton bon ange gardien,
Le tien, qui te rhabillera de ton enfance.
[Listen : the processions and then, too,
The ex votos, in the month of May, ranged on the platforms,
And the Virgin Mary with her gilded Jesus,
And the choir children who are comrades.
Listen : your heart recalls the little village,
Listen : and then, in this hour of tedium
Trustfully welcome your good guardian angel,
Yours, who will reinvest you with your childhood.]
Elsewhere, the poet imagines the blessedness of a
cloister ; but it is an infantile blessedness. (We niay
* From Le roc, in Les flambeaux noirs.
THE CRISIS 121
interpret this as an introversion which has a regressive
character.) He has a longing for the " quite humble
ways " of these " cloisters of the simple souls " :
Voici me rabaisser i des niaiseries :
Petites croix, petits agneautf, petits Jesus,
Petite offrande douce aux petites Maries
En des niches, avec des fleurs peintes dessus.
Pri&re, k jointes mains, en des recoins d'eglise
Et se recommencer enfant, avec calcul. 1
[Look how I descend once more to trifles :
Little crosses, little lambs, little images of Jesus,
Dear little offerings to little statues of Mary
In niches where flowers are painted on the wall.
Prayer, with clasped hands, in a nook of the church,
Deliberately becoming a child once more.]
These verses are like those of the Moine doux and the
Maine simple. Is it again necessary to point out that
the images of the Virgin and of the Child symbolise the
yearning for the mother ? Sometimes, as in the beginning
of the passage next quoted, the fantasy is plainly one of
a return to the primitive limbo or of a return to the
mother's womb :
Avant que ne sortit du somme, Vendormi,
Le premier homme, on a vu mes pareils sur terre. . . .
Leurs doigts, qui n'ont jamais touche le mauvais feu,
Dansent des airs lointains, sur des flutes tremblantes,
Les puerils et les vaguants, mais loin du mal :
Et les doux egares par les bruy6res vertes :
Hamlet rirait peut-etre, helas ! mais Parsifal ?
Oh ! Parsifal benin et clair comprendrait certes ! *
[Before there awoke from his slumber the sleeper,
The first man, those like me were seen on earth. . . .
1 From S'amoindrir, in Les d6bicles.
From Inconscience in Les debacles.
122 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Their fingers, which have never touched the wicked fire,
Dance as they play airs of long ago on trembling flutes;
They are infantile, they are wanderers, but far from evil.
And the gentle ones who are straying on the green moorland ;
Alas, Hamlet might laugh ! But Parsifal ?
Oh, Parsifal, kindly and pure, would certainly understand 1]
The reader will probably remember how Parsifal is
depicted in Wagner's work. He is a manifestation of
the Virginal child, redeeming the world by the " simple
purity of his heart." Parsifal also represents Wagner's
own return to the religious spirit of his early days, a
spirit which was linked in his mind with the memory of
the mother. Parsifal represents the victory over desire,
and over woman the temptress. Preeminently, he sym-
bolises the return to the mother, to childhood, to prim-
itive purity ; he symbolises a negation of sexuality
the " wicked fire " which the " infantile " fingers have
not yet touched.
Regression is likewise expressed by an image which
recalls the effort of the " ferryman " to make his way
" up-stream " :
Sur ce roc cari que d^traque la mer,
Vieillir, triste reveur de l'escarp domaine,
Les chairs mortes, Tesperance en-alle,
A rebours de la vie immense et dsole. x
[Upon this worn rock which is vexed by the sea,
To grow old, sad dreamer of the scarped domain,
Flesh dead, hope vanished,
Retracing life which is huge and desolate.]
In another passage, Verhaeren is no longer writing
symbolically, but addresses himself directly to the
understanding. Here he gives plain expression to auto-
1 From Le roc, in Les flambeaux noirs.
THE CRISIS 123
Quelqu'un m'avait prdit, qui tenait une
Et qui riait de mon orgueil sterilise ;
Tu seras nul et pour ton ame inoccupfe
L'avenir ne sera qu'un regret du passee. . . .
Te fuir I si tu pouvais / mats non. 1
[Some one holding a sword prophesied to me,
Making mock of me for my sterilised pride :
Thou shalt be null. For thy vacant soul
The future shall be nothing but regret for the past. . . .
If thou couldst, thou wouldst flee from thyself I But thou
But in this desire ff to belittle oneself " (S'amoindrir
is the title of the poem which contains the reference to
"the cloister of the simple souls"), there is an element
of rage which is neither implicit nor explicit in the idea
of regression. " There is nothing more closely akin to
love than hate is, and we witness here a definite trans-
formation of the love of self into the hatred of self.
Consider the following passage, in which autophilia and
introversion are expressed, at first by the symbols we
already know (blind man, echo), and then in a bald and
abstract fashion. But soon this vain effort to clasp
oneself is, owing to exasperation that the effort is fruitless,
transformed into hatred, into a delight in giving pain,
into what the Germans call Schadenfreude :
Autant que moi malade et veule, as-tu goute. . . *
Le coupable conseil de Tinutilite ?
Et doux soleil qui baise un ceil teint d'aveugle ? . , .
Et neutre et vide 6cho vers la taure qui meugle ?
O les reves de rien, en un cerveau mordu
D'impossible ! S'aimer, dans un effort qui leurre !
Se construire, pour la detruire, une demeure !
Et se cueillir, pour le jeter, un fruit tendu 1 *
[As ill and listless as myself, have you tasted . . .
The guilty counsel of uselessness ?
i From Le glaive, in Les debacles.
* From Conseil absurde, in Les dbcles.
124 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
And the sweet sunshine which kisses the darkened eye of the
blind man ? . . .
The neuter and vain echo which answers the mooing heifer ?
Oh, the dreams of nothing in a brain gnawed
By the impossible ! To love oneself, in an ensnaring effort !
To build for oneself a dwelling, simply that one may destroy it !
To pluck a tempting fruit, simply that one may throw it away 1] *
This fierce delight in self -in jury undergoes exacerba-
tion in the poem Vers le cloitre a cloister which has a
certain kinship with " the cloisters of the simple souls/'
But in the latter, everything was childlike and kindly ;
here everything is bitter and cruel :
Et se mesquiniser en pratiques futiles
Et se faire petit et n'avoir qu'aprete,
Pour tout ce qui n'est pas d'une acre nullit^,
Dans le jardin vanne des floraisons hostiles.*
[To demean oneself by futile practices,
To become petty, and to feel nothing but asperity
For everything which is not characterised by an acrid nullity,
In the garden which has been winnowed of hostile blossoms.]
The foregoing passage reminds us of the infantile
convent, though the tone has changed. Here is
another strophe which expresses, like the one quoted
earlier, the desire " to belittle oneself " but expresses
it, now, in all its fury :
Oh ! la constante rage k s'ecraser, la hargne
A se tant torturer, se tant amoindrir,
Que tout 1'etre n'est plus vivant que pour souffrir
Et se fait de son mal sa joie et son pargne.3
[Oh the perpetual rage to crush oneself, the morose desire
To torture oneself so much, to belittle oneself so much,
That one's whole being lives only to suffer,
And of one's ill one makes one's joy and one's treasure-house.]
1 The '* neuter " echo is, no doubt, a castration fantasy.
* From Vers le cloitre, in Les dbcles.
I From the same poem.
THE CRISIS 125
Here, again, are some verses which give frank expression,
athwart this desire for asceticism and self-mutilation,
to the hatred and the horror of self.
Je rve une existence en un cloitre de fer,
Brul<e au jeune, et sfeche, et rapee aux cilices,
Oil Ton abolirait, en de muets supplices,
Par seule ardeur de Tame enfin, toute la chair.
Sauvage horreur de soi si mornement sentie ! . . .
Dites, ces pleurs, ces cris et cette peur du soir !
Dites, ces plombs de maladie en tous les membres,
Et la lourde torpeur des torpides novembres,
Et le degodt de se toucher et de se vow ? x
[I dream of an existence in an iron cloister,
Burned with fasting, parched, and scraped with the hair shirt,
Where, in dumb torment, by nothing but the ardour of the soulj
One would at length annihilate the flesh.
Fierce horror of oneself, so gloomily felt I . . .
Say, these tears, these cries, and this fear of night I
Say, this leaden feeling of illness in all the limbs,
And the dull torpor of torpid Novembers,
And disgust at touching and seeing oneself ?} *
We see that there is a close connexion between auto-
philia and autophobia, and we feel that they are closely
related. This kinship is exactly the same as that between
love and hate, and its underlying cause is to be found in
the algolagniac instinct to which reference was made
on p. 84, in connexion with Les flamandes and with
the poem Au carrefour de la mart in Les bords de la route.
If love can be so quickly transformed into hate, this is
because (however paradoxical it may seem) hate was
already present as a component of love. When love
undergoes introversion, it is natural that its component
1 From Vers le clottre, in Les d^bicles.
After the last verse comes the image noted on an earlier page of
the "busily searching hands of vice."
126 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
should likewise be introverted, and this brings us back
to the ascetic sublimation already met with in Les moines
there is a voluptuous delight in suffering, in self-inflicted
Tu n'en peux plus et tu n'espfcres plus ; qu'importe 1
Puisque ta haine immense encore hennit son deuil,
Puisque le sort t'enrage et que tu n'est pas morte
Et que ton mal cingl se cabre en ton orgueil.
Et que ce soit de la torture encore ! encore !
Et belle et folle et rouge et saoule et le desir
De se boire de la douleur par chaque pore,
Et du vertige et de 1'horreur. 1
[You are at the end of your tether, you are hopeless ; what
Seeing that your overwhelming hate still whinneys its lament,
Since your fate infuriates you, and since you are not dead,
And your smarting misery rears in your pride.
And let there be torture, more and yet more,
Lovely and mad and red and drunken and the longing
To imbibe pain by every pore,
And dizziness and horror.]
This strange delight in suffering, in self-inflicted pain,
is doubtless one of the primary determinants of the
ascetic tendency, which is in fact a pent-up and sublimated
cruelty. Nietzsche, who was an expert in this field,
wrote of asceticism : f" It was the last power invented
by antiquity, after it had become bored by the spectacle
of the hunting of beasts and of fights between men.")p
But asceticism is more complex than this quotation would
imply, and Nietzsche was not one to overlook the element
of the will-to-power in the ascetic temperament. That
is why he insists upon asceticism, and the formula of
his own asceticism is the maxim amor fati. He means
that we must not put up with necessity, but must .love
* From Eperdument, in Lcs d6Wcles.
From Human, All-Too-Human.
THE CRISIS 127
it, must will it, in such a fashion that in experiencing the
thraldom of necessity we are submitting to our own will
and are enjoying the delight of feeling that we are our
own master. Now, Vehraeren goes even further, if possible.
Not only does he wish his wound to be what it is, but
he turns the knife in the wound. In effect, he says to
fate : " You think you are crushing me. But I will
what you are doing, and to prove it I add my own quota/'
The whole Dialogue which opens Les debdcles might be
La vie, hlas ! ne se supporte et ne s'amende
Que si la volontd la terrasse d'orgueil. . . .
Certes je veux nouer mes tortures en moi :
Comme jadis les grands Chretiens mordus de foi
S'&naciaient avec une ferveur maligne,
Je veux boire les souffrances, comme un poison
Vivant et f ou ; Je cinglerai de mon angoisse
Mes pauvres jours ainsi qu'un tocsin de paroisse
S'exalte disperser le deuil sur Thorizon.
[Alas, life is intolerable and cannot be bettered
Unless the will quell it with pride. . . .
Certainly I wish to weave my tortures within myself,
As in former days the great Christians, bitten by faith,
Took a malign pleasure in emaciating themselves,
I want to drink sufferings, like a poison
Living and mad ; With my anguish I will lash
My miserable days, just as the tocsin of the parish church
Delights in spreading woe far and wide.]
This asceticism, as previously in the poem Vers le clotire,
though now less directly, presents itself once more as
the antidote to the " void " of autophilia :
Get h^roisme intime et bizarre m'attire :
Se preparer sa peine et provoquer son mal,
Avec acharnement, et dompter Tanimal
De misSre et de peur qui dans le coeur se mire
Toujours ; se redresser cruel et centre soi,
Vainqueur de quelque chose enfin, et moins languide,
Et moins banalement en exstase du vide. 1
! From Dialogue, in Les dlb&cles.
128 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[This intimate and strange heroism allures me :
To prepare one's own pain and induce one's own suffering
With fierce zeal, and to tame the wild beast
Of wretchedness and fear which in the heart mirrors itself
Always ; to stand erect once more, cruel to one's self,
Victor at length over something, and less languid,
50 that your ecstasy of voidness is no longer utterly trivial.]
The allusions in the former of these last two quotations
to the " great Christians bitten by faith " and to the
11 tocsin of the parish church/' and the words " to weave
my tortures," confirm us in the belief that this " strange
asceticism " is akin to genuinely religious asceticism,
that which was acclaimed in Les moines. Nevertheless,
there is a notable difference. Faith is now dead. Al-
though its reminiscence, asceticism, survives, it is no longer
religious, no longer a sacrifice to God, no longer penitential.
It functions in the void, and has no aim external to
51 le bonheur regnait dans ce male goisme,
Souffrir pour soi, tout seul, mais par sa volont. x
[If happiness reigned in this virile egoism,
To suffer for oneself, quite alone, but by one's own will.]
This aimless asceticism is especially conspicuous in
Les de'bdcles, comprising the main theme of the book,
or at least furnishing its atmosphere. The fact is made
plain in the opening words :
. . . Sois ton bourreau toi-meme ;
N'abandonne 1'amour de te martyriser
A personne, jamais. . . .
Les maux de coeur qu'on exaspre, on les commanded
[. . . Be your own executioner ;
Never relinquish to any one the delight of martyrising
Yourself. . . .
Heartaches which we aggravate, we are masters of.]
1 From Les malades, in Les soirs.
From Dialogue, in Les d6bcles
THE CRISIS 129
This stanza seems like the translation into lay terms of
the passage previously quoted from Les moines :
La rgle en sa rigueur grave et prceptorale, . . .
Tu 1'exagSres tant que c'est toi qui domines,
[The rules, in their grave and preceptorial strictness, . . .
You overstress so much that you are still the master,]
and the translation sums up the change that has been
We thus verify the existence of a true ascetic tendency
which, when resolved into its elements, is found to consist
mainly of a voluptuous delight in suffering, of the will-
to-power, and of the fighting instinct all being " pent
up," introverted, and directed exclusively towards the
subject himself. The religious or moral reasons which
seem to be the causes of this tendency are, primarily at
least, effects rather than causes. They are a rationalisa-
tion of the tendency ; they are a canalisation of it and
a sublimation ; but they do not constitute it. The
tendency may persist after they have disappeared. Thus
it comes to pass that in Les debdcles the ascetic tendency
presents itself in isolation, looking irrational and knowing
itself to be so. This phase of instability, of loss of balance,
which is disastrous if it be not overcome, will be over-
come in the case of Verhaeren, who will resolve it into
harmony. He will know, as Nietzsche knew, how to
give a fresh meaning to his asceticism. Even during
the crisis, we feel that he is reaching out for this. And
yet, fundamentally, it always remains the same asceticism.
From first to last, its kinship with religious asceticism
is disclosed by the emblems used to express it.
Crosses are among these emblems. We see them in
Les flamandes as the ominous sign of the death of the
flesh, and their significance becomes explicit at the
" cross-roads of death." Now the meaning is again
made clear, for the cross signifies the way in which the
flesh kills itself and martyrises itself :
180 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Una torture en moi qui frappe et me lacSre ? . . .
Une torture, & coups de clous et de marteaux ?
Lk-bas, ces grandes croix au carrefour des routes,
Ces croix ! Oh ! n'y pouvoir saigner son coeur ; ces croix,
Oti s'accrochent des cris d'espace et de d6routes,
Des cris et des haillons du vent dans les grands bois. 1
[A torture within me which strikes, and tears me ?
A torture with blows of nails and hammers ?
Over there the giant crosses at the cross-roads,
The crosses ! Oh, to be unable to bleed out one's heart there ;
Where the cries of space and of defeats are caught up,
The cries and the tatters of the wind in the great woods.]
Les soirs crucifies sur les Golgothas noirs
Exaltent les douleurs et les fers dans les plaies.*
[The evenings crucified on the black Golgothas
Intensify the sufferings and the nails in the wounds.]
Another image is that of the trees, which we have already
seen to be an expression of religious asceticism. In
the quotation from the opening of Les debacles we under-
lined the words nouer mes tortures (weave my tortures),
which brings us in touch with the trees which are nouts et
tordus (gnarled and twisted). The trees that line the
roads, which were " monks " in the earlier poem, are
rf pilgrims " in this one :
On voit d'un carrefour livide et monotone,
Partir vers Tinfini les arbres p^lerins.3
[From the livid-tinted and monotonous cross-roads we see,
Setting out towards the infinite, the pilgrim trees.]
These trees are always gnarled and twisted in the volup-
tuousness of a voluntarily imposed and ascetic torture :
1 From Heures monies, in Les d6bicles.
* From Humanity in Les soirs. $ From Les arbres, in Les soirs.
THE CRISIS 181
L'hiver, les ch&nes lourds et vieux, les chfenes tors,
Geignant sous la temp&te et projetant leurs branches
Comme de grands bras fous qui veulent fuir leurs corps,
Mais que tragiquement la chair retient aux hanches. 1
[In winter, the massive old oaks, the twisted oaks,
Groaning under the buffets of the storm, and stretching forth
Like huge mad arms trying to escape their bodies,
But tragically fettered to the trunks by the flesh.]
They " try to escape their bodies/' Here we have
another symbol of the autophilia which censures itself
and becomes an ascetic torment.
Car r<lme des pays du nord sombre et sauvage
Habite et clame en eux ses nocturnes douleurs,
Et lord ses d6sespoirs d'automne en leur branchage. . . .
Oh ! les chenes ! oh ! les monies supplicies.*
[For the soul of the gloomy and wild northern lands
Dwells in them and wails its nocturnal pains,
And twists its autumnal despair in their leafage. . . .
Oh, the oaks ! Oh, the sad victims.]
At length comes an extraordinarily typical symbol,
one closely connected with that of the cross. The final
poem in Les ddbdcles tells us of the " crown of thorns/'
the account of which forms the actual conclusion and
crown " of this Passion :
Et je voudrais aussi ma couronne (Tlpines !
Une pine pour chaque pensde, travers
Mon front, jusqu'au cerveau, jusqu'aux frSles racines
Oil se tordent les maux et les r&ves forges
En moi, par moi. . . .
Et, plus au fond, le rut mime de ma torture.
Et tout enfin ! couronne de ma douleur
Et de ma joie, 6 couronne de dictature
* From Les vieux chfines, in Les soirs.
From the same poem.
182 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Debout sur mes deux yeux, ma bouche et mon cerveau.
la couronne en reve & mon front somnambule,
Hallucine-moi done de ton absurdite ;
Et sacre-moi ton roi souffrant et ridicule. 1
[I, too, long for my crown of thorns !
A thorn for every thought, piercing
My forehead, to the brain, to the delicate roots
Where writhe the ills and the dreams forged
Within me, by myself. . . .
And, deeper still, the very rut of my torment.
And, last of all, O crown of my sorrow
And of my joy, O crown of dictatorship,
Erect over my eyes, my mouth, and my brain.
dream crown on my somnambulist brow,
Hallucinate me with your absurdity,
And consecrate me as your king, suffering and derided.] *
We infer that this ascetic tendency, this desire to
lacerate himself, is one of the chief among the elements
that induce Verhaeren to vivisect himself, to undertake
the pitiless and sanguinary analysis which intensifies
the malady, to the greater delight of the sufferer. There
is a certain tragical nobility in such a passion for self-
conquest at all hazards, a self-conquest which is aimless
when faith is lacking to provide a reason for it. We may
say that Verhaeren's malady is, to a large extent,
deliberately sought ; and the most pathetic feature in
the case is that he knows it. He speaks of " the ills
forged within me, by myself." But these self-sought
ills are not mere semblances. Thanks to a persistent
autosuggestion, they grow day by day more real, thus
bringing a fierce delight to the man who has willed them.
What is the nature of this interest in suffering ? We
may say that suffering is regarded as a substitute for
Nor is Verhaeren content with the actual suffering
1 From La couronne, in Les d6bdcles.
* In the part of this poem which is not quoted, occurs the phrase
" Mes vices de doigts et de l&vres claustrales," cited on p. 112.
THE CRISIS 183
of the moment. He wants his sufferings to be even
greater ; he wants them to assume an epic character.
He dreams of a Passion, and of a crown of thorns. Even
this does not suffice him, for he dreams also of madness,
as if it were a transfiguration :
Je veux marcher vers la folie et ses soleils,
Ses blancs soleils de lune au grand midi, bizarres. 1
[I would fain walk towards madness and its suns,
Its strange white moon-suns shining at high noon.]
He dreams of madness as of the supreme return to the
Virgin to the mother :
Serai- je seul avec mon orgueil noir,
Assis en un f auteuil de haine ?
Serai-je seul, avec ma pale hyperdulie
Pour Notre Dame, la Folie ? *
[Shall I be alone with my black pride
Seated on a throne of hatred ?
Shall I be alone with my pale hyperdulia
For Our Lady, Madness ?]
To die a madman's death has become an obsession
to die insane like the clocks in the old watchmaker's
tale of the mad lady-gnomes :
L/inconscience gaie et le tic tac dbile
De la tranquille mort des fous, je Tentends bien.3
[The cheerful unwittingness, and the feeble tic-tac
Of the quiet death of madmen, I hear it well.]
Wandering through this " hallucinatory " London
which was to become the prototype of " the tentacular
towns/' he sees " the corpse of his reason." It has the
colour of " green blight " :
1 From Fleur fatale, in Les soirs.
* From Le roc, in Les flambeaux noirs.
s From Fleur fatale, in Les soirs.
184 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
En sa robe couleur de feu et de poison,
Le cadavre de ma raison
Traine sur la Tamise. 1
[In a gown which is the colour of flame and of poison,
The corpse of my reason
Floats on the Thames.]
Around this corpse, in sepulchral array, flock the
tragical images that issue from the poet's early complexes
the clashing of the axles, the red orbs of the clock-
Des ponts de bronze, oft les wagons
Entrechoquent d'interminables bruits de gonds,
Et des voiles de bateaux sombres
Laissent sur elle, choir leurs ombres.
Sans qu'une aiguille, k son cadran, ne bouge,
Un grand befiroi masqu6 de rouge,
La regarde, comme quelqu'un
Immens&nent de triste et de defunt.*
[Bronze bridges where the carts
Jostle, with the unceasing noise of hinges,
And the sails of sombre barges
Cast their shadows upon the river.
With the hands on the clock-face motionless,
A hugh clock-tower, glowing redly,
Looks down upon the Thames, like a titan
Sad and dead.]
We seem to be looking once more at the clock-towers
which, in Le passeur d'eau, " noted the end of his
endeavour/' The body floating on the Thames might
be that of the ferryman overcome in the effort to work
his way up-stream. In the background we have images
of the Passion :
* From La morte, in Les flambeaux noirs.
* From the same poem.
THE CRISIS 185
Ce sont de grands chantiers d'affolement
Pleins de barques d6mantel6es
Et de vergues 6carteles
Sous un ciel de crucifiement.*
[They are great ship-yards of dementia
Full of dismantled vessels
And broken spars
Beneath a sky of crucifixion.]
This cruel will-to-power which has formed a habit of
turning against itself, sometimes attempts in desperation
to leap out of the circle in which it feels itself im-
prisoned. Then we have the most terrifying fancies
of misdeeds and murder :
D6sir d'etre, soudain, la bfite hi&ratique,
D'un clat noir, sous le portique
Escarboucl d'un temple k Benar&s**
[Suddenly comes the wish to be the hieratic beast,
Black and lustrous, beneath the carbuncled
Portico of a temple at Benares.]
This vision is linked with the deepest of Verhaeren's
Masque divin et criminel,
Avec de grands yeux vides
Avec, sous le front d'or, un oeil d'or kernel. . . .3
[The divine and criminal mask
With huge, empty eye-sockets,
With, under the golden brow, an eternal eye of gold.]4
The whole of suffering humanity comes from the ends
of the earth to offer up prayers to the idol. But this
terrible and deceitful superman dreams of power only
to enjoy the delight of doing harm :
* From La morte, in Les flambeaux noirs.
From L-bas t in Les d6bcles.
I From the same poem.
4 A mask would seem to be a frequent symbol of introversion.
186 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Et se complaire Jt se sentir cruel et fourbe : . , .
Et les hair et regretter son impuissance
Non pour les secourir, mais pour rageusement
Les affoler et se prouver sa malfaisance. 1
[To take pleasure in feeling that one is cruel and false. . , ,
To hate them and to regret one's powerlessness,
Not to aid them, but furiously
To drive them mad and to prove one's maleficence.]
This is the same hatred as that which, a moment before,
was turned inward. Now it is seeking extroversion.
Always the same image of torture occupies the field of
Et devant ce decor incendie maudire
L'homme niais et nul, qui se gave d'espoir,
Alors qu'un symbolique et quotidien martyre
Saigne la vie en croix, au quatre coins du soir,*
[And before this scene devastated with fire, to curse
The simpleton, the man of no account, who gluts himself with
What time a symbolical and daily martyrdom
Bleeds out its life on a cross at the four corners of the evening.]
The cruel and divine beast appears again and again,
in various forms. It is a mountain which rises up, " idole
&iorme et nocturne de pierre " (huge and nocturnal
idol of stone) :
Et sa tte s'en va dans les mares lointaines,
Mirer de la splendeur et du fulgurement.3
[And its head vanishes in distant meres
To mirror splendour and fulguration.]
Towards this introverted and monstrous god, all the
evening life writhes in its suffering, a holocaust :
1 From L-bas, in Les db4cles. From the same poem.
s From L'idoie, in Les soirs.
THE CRISIS 187
Et quand montent au loin, des vals et des ramies,
Les feux et les brouillards et les plaintes du soir,
A Theure ardente et triste, on s'imagine voir
Se tordre un holocauste en de rouges fumes. x
[And when there rise far off, from the valleys and the branches,
The fires and the fogs and the plaints of the evening,
At this ardent and sad hour, one seems to see
A holocaust writhing in red smoke-wreaths.]
Elsewhere, this strange god disintegrates himself to
form a whole population of gods, but it is only the same
image become an obsession :
Et mon desert de cceur est peupte de Dieux noirs. . . .
Avec des yeux, comme les yeux des loups, la nuit,
Avec des yeux comme la lune, ils me regardent. . . .
Mes dieux 1 ils sont : le mal gratuit, celui pour soi,
L'unique. . . .
Et les uns des autres insoucieux : seuls tous.
Chacun pour soi revant k sa toute puissance,
Sous les plafonds de fer des firmaments jaloux ;
Et la taisant, pour Taiguiser, sa malfaisance. , . .*
[The desert of my heart is peopled with black gods. . . .
Their eyes are like the eyes of wolves at night,
Their eyes are like the moon, they look at me. ...
My gods I they are : gratuitous evil, self-seeking,
The unique. . . .
One heedless of the other : alone all of them.
Each one for himself dreaming of supreme power,
Beneath the iron canopy of the jealous firmament ;
And concealing his malevolence in order to intensify it.]
From L'idole, in Les soirs.
From Les dieux, in Les flambeaux noirs.
188 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
They are symbols of introversion filled with hate ;
but the very effort which this hate makes towards extro-
version recoils inwards :
Us sont mes kernels et mes tortionnaires. . . .
Ecrasez-moi, je suis victime. 1
[They are my eternal companions and my torturers. . . .
Crush me, I am a victim.]
If this hatred could really extrovert itself, if it could
culminate in murder, it would be a triumph, for the being,
prisoned within the ego, would then at least secure
contact with the real world, would demonstrate the
possibility of having an external interest, an outwardly
En ces heures de vice et de crime rigides,
Se reve un meurtre ardent, que la nuit grandirait. , . .
D'autres sens te naitront, subtils et maladifs,
Us renouvelleront ton etre, us de rages,
Et tu seras celui qui fut sanglant un peu,
Qui bondit hors de soi et creva les mirages,
Et, biff ant une vie, a fait ceuvre de Dieu.*
[In these hours of unbending vice and crime,
You dream of a passionate murder which the night would
magnify. . . .
Other senses, subtle and morbid, will be born in you.
They will renew your being, worn with frenzies,
And you will be the one who was bleeding a little,
Who leapt out of himself, scattered the mirages,
And, wiping out a life, accomplished God's will.]
We find the same wish in La rdvolte :
Vers une ville au loin d'^meute et de tocsin,
Oft luit le couteau nu des guillotines,
En tout & coup de fou desir, s'en va mon coeur.3
1 From Les dieux, in Les flambeaux noirs*
> From Le meurtre, in Les d6bdcles.
3 From La rvolte, in Les flambeaux noirs.
THE CRISIS 189
[Towards a distant town of rebellion and tocsin,
Where the naked knife of the guillotine is gleaming,
My heart reaches out in a sudden access of wild desire.] l
But this will-to-hate and will-to-murder is under an
illusion when it believes that it is " leaping out of itself. "
Such a one as Verhaeren can torture none but himself,
can seek out no other victim than himself. Dreaming
himself a murderer, he is still ever the ascetic.
Tuer etre tu6 qu'importe !
[To kill to be killed what does it matter !]
is the last line of the poem just quoted. The fantasies
of maleficence are accompanied by the same images
as the fantasies of asceticism. With the Benares idol
goes the fantasy " bleeds out its life on a cross at the
four corners of the evening"; here, too, we have the
holocaust which " writhes " towards the idol ; and we
have the gods which have become the poet's "torturers."
In Le meurtre, there is once more a tragical procession
of the pilgrim trees :
Tous les memes, luisants de lierre et tous les memes
D'^corce et de rameaux, comme un effarement,
Sur double rang, Ik-bas, jusqu'aux horizons blemes,
Muets et seuls, les arbres vont, infmiment. *
[All alike shining with ivy, and all alike
In bark and branches, an alarming spectacle,
In a double file, over there, towards the pale horizons,
Mute and lonely the trees move in unending processions.]
Thus the wish to murder is, above all, a wish to murder
oneself. This will-to-power (maleficent power) breaks
away from the ascetic tendency and yet comes back to
it. The same phenomenon occurred in Nietzsche. We
1 This poem is, as it were, the first draft of the poem of the same
name in Les villes tentaculairesi
* From Le meurtre, in Les d^bdcles.
140 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
cannot fully understand the violence of the clash between
love and death in Verhaeren, unless we take into account
the ascetic tendency in which self-love turns into deadly
It is in these poems of the crisis that the coupling
of the images ebony (or black) and gold, as symbols of
the clash, begins to force itself upon the reader's attention.
A striking use is made of it in La dame en noir. The
image reappears in L'idole :
Tandis qu'un horizon d'dbfene et de soleil
[While a horizon of ebony and sunshine
Stands at gaze. . , .]
The hateful god of Benares, the " hieratic beast/ 1 is
Avec sous le front d f or un oeil d'or kernel,
Sous un plafond de marbre noir.
[With, under the golden brow, an eternal eye of gold
Beneath a canopy of black marble.]
The same contrast recurs again and again :
Les quais dtaient 61ectriss de lunes,
Et le navire, avec ses mats pavoises d'or,
Et ses mousses d'bne, ornait galment son bord. 1
[The quays were lighted with great electric moons,
And the ship, its masts dressed with gold,
And with its ebony crew, gaily adorned the edge.]
Les chats d'^b&ne et d'or ont travers le soir.*
[The ebony and golden cats have prowled through the evening.]
* From Les voyageurs, in Les soirs.
From Les livres, in Les flambeaux noirs*
THE CRISIS 141
The foregoing images contain definite allusions to
" eyes " and to " moons " : we have the horizon which
stands at gaze, the Cyclopean eye of the Benares idol,
the electric moons on the quays, the eyes of the cats
(see below pp. 149-150) ; these are golden, and are pro-
jected upon an ebony background. Elsewhere, the
details of the imagery are blurred, so that nothing
remains but the contrast between ebony and gold :
Oursons d'bne, et tigres d'or. 1
[Ebony bear-cubs, and golden tigers.]
But a juxtaposition of this with the passages previously
cited makes the significance of the simplified image
The most obstinately persistent references to death
to the death for which an ascetic hatred of self had
engendered a craving are conveyed by the use of iron
as an emblem :
Et vous aussi, mes doigts, vous deviendrez des vers. . . .
Quand vous serez nous les dix sur ma carcasse
Et que s'crasera sous un cercueil de fer,
Cette apre carcasse, qui dj& casse ; *
[And you likewise, my fingers, will become worms. . . .
When you will have been clasped, all ten of you, on my corpse,
And when there will have been crushed, in an iron coffin,
This rugged corpse, which is already breaking up ;]
Sait-on jamais quels imminents spulcres sombres,
Sceltes de fer, vont clater ? 3
[Does one ever know which of the ominous, gloomy tombs,
Sealed with iron, are going to burst open ? ]
From Les villes, in Les flambeaux noirs.
From Mes doigts, in Les d6bcles.
3 From Un soir, in Les flambeaux noirs.
142 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
N 'entendre plus se taire, en sa maison d'tblne,
Qu'un silence de fer dont auraient peur les morts, 1
[And all the silence one hears in one's ebony mansion
Is an iron silence which strikes terror into the dead.]
These images are frequently associated with those of
porches (sometimes, iron porches), where one is swallowed
up, and which crush one :
Heure morte, li-bas, quelque part, en province,
En une ville dteinte, au fond d'un coin desert ;
Oil s'endeuillent des murs et des porches, dont grince
Le gond monumental, ainsi qu'un poing de fer.*
[Dead hour, over there, somewhere in the country,
In a decaying town away in a remote corner;
Where mourn the walls, and the porches whose monumental
Hinge grates like an iron fist.]
Psychoanalysts are prone to interpret images of porches
and underground chambers as symbols of an unconscious
wish to return to the mother's womb, to the nullity of
foetal life, this being the wish of an introvert, and often
merging into a wish for death. Unquestionably it
seems hazardous to infer from the use of such imagery
that the writer is animated by this desire, but we have
already noted (p. 121) a similar fantasy in one of
Verhaeren's poems (" avant que sortit du somme
1'endormi." ... 3) Moreover, we know how intense is
the poet's yearning for the mother. Finally, there is a
poem definitely entitled Sous les porches, which affords a
remarkable confirmation of this classical interpretation :
L'ombre s'affermissait sur les plaines captives,
Et, de ses murs, barrait les horizons d'hiver,
Comme en un tombeau noir, de vieux astres de fer
Brulaient, trouant le ciel de leurs flammes votives.
* From Le roc, in Les flambeaux noirs.
From Les malades, in Les soirs.
i Before there awoke from his slumber the sleeper. . . ,
THE CRISIS 148
On se sentait serr dans un monde d'airain
Oft quelque part, au-loin, se dresseraient des pierres
Monies et qui seraient les idoles guerrires,
D'un peuple encore enfant, terrible et souterrain. 1
[The shadows were deepening upon the prisoned plains,
And with their walls they striped the wintry horizons,
As if, in a black tomb, ancient stars of iron
Were burning, piercing the sky with their votive flames.
One felt cribbed in a brazen world,
In which, somewhere, far off, mournful stones
Were rearing their heads the warlike idols
Of a race still infantile, terrible, and subterranean.}
Elsewhere, iron is replaced by all kinds of " metals "
and " knives/' The ascetic Dialogue with which Les
flambeaux noirs begins, closes with the words
Les clatants couteaux de crime et de soleil.
[Flashing knives of crime and of sunshine.]
The Lady in Black is awaiting " the man with the red
knife." But the poem La t&te is one of the most terrible
in this respect :
Sur un chafaud noir, tu porteras ta tete
Et sonneront les tours et luiront les couteaux
Et tes muscles criront et ce sera la fete,
La f&te et la splendeur du sang et des m6taux. a
[On a black scaffold you will carry your head,
And the towers will peal forth, and the knives will gleam,
And your muscles will cry out, and it will be high festival,
The festival and the splendour of blood and of metals.]
Sometimes iron appears in the form of trains and
clashing axles ; then the tunnels or the stations where
the trains are engulfed take the place of the porches.
* From Sous les porches, in Les soirs;
From La t&te, in Les d6bcles.
144 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Turn back, for instance to the account of the trains in
Les villes, quoted on p. 52. Consider in conjunction
with it the following passage :
Et ce Londres de fonte et de bronze, mon &me,
Ou des plaques de fer claquent sous des hangars, . . .
Gares de suie et de fumee
Et tout k coup la mort parmi ces foules. . . .'
[And this London of iron and bronze, O my soul,
Where steel plates clash beneath the arched roofs, . . .
Stations full of soot and smoke
And suddenly death stalks amid these crowds. . . .]
The poem about the Benares idol is one of the most
poignant. Therein several of the foregoing images converge*
We hear again, and even more clearly, the clashing of the
wheels and the axles the clashings which our analysis of
Les tendresses premieres disclosed as the origin of this
whole series of images :
Et regarder, temoin impassible et tragique,
Dardes, les yeux de fer, et les naseaux, hagards,
Droit devant soi, Ik-bas, le ciel mythologique,
Oil le Siva terrible echevle ses chars,
Par des ornires d'or, & travers les nuages :
Scintillement d'essieux et tonnerres de feux.-
[And to contemplate, an impassive and tragical witness,
Flashing, the iron eyes, and the nostrils, distraught,
Straight before one, over there, the mythological heaven,
Where the dread Siva ruffles his chariots,
Along the golden ruts, athwart the clouds :
Sparklings of axles and thunders of fires.]
When we study these evocations of trains, iron, and
death, how can we fail to be struck by their resemblance
with the circumstances actually attendant on Verhaeren's
death a quarter of a century later ? It will be remembered
' From Londres, in Les soirs.
> From L*bas, in Les d6bcles.
THE CRISIS 145
that he died from an accident on the evening of November
27, 1916. He had just given a lecture in Rouen, and
was to return to Paris by train.
The platforms in the station were packed with people. Ver-
haeren was impatient, and in an irritable frame of mind. When
the train was coming in, he tried to get in before it had stopped,
stumbled over a portmanteau, slipped upon the step, and, falling
under the train, had both his legs cut off. 1
In the newspapers at that time there were comments
upon the strange and apparently prophetic resemblance
between Verhaeren's poems and the manner of his death.
He had sung the beautiful and tragical horror of railway
trains, and he was killed by a train. Those who were
familiar with his writings could not but be impressed
by this working out of destiny ; and the least mystical
among them found it difficult to escape the feeling of
a preconceived fatality. I was a member of a small
literary circle which, in private, held a commemorative
gathering. We read Verhaeren's poems aloud. Among
others we read La tete. "On a black scaffold you will
carry your head. 1 ' Anyone haunted by thoughts of the
recent death of the poet, who listened to the reading
of this poem ; anyone who heard the lines, " and when
there will have been crushed in an iron coffin this rugged
corpse, which is already breaking up " must inevitably
have felt that these passages contained elements of a
prophetic vision. Even more striking is the nightmare
poem about the trains in Les forces tumultueuses, the poem
entitled La folie :
Rails qui sonnent, signaux qui bougent. . , .
Appels stridents, ouragans noirs. . . .
Parce que ceux qui les montaient glissent i terre,
Soudainement, parmi les morts.
* Mockel, Emile Verhaeren, p. 169.
146 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[Resounding rails, moving signals. . * .
Strident clamours, black hurricanes. . . *
For those who were boarding them slip to the ground.
Suddenly numbered among the dead.]
Psychology has to take such emotions into account.
There is a reason for them, and as a rule that reason has
more significance than any ativistic survival of outworn
beliefs. A mystical sentiment may be something very
different from what it seems ; it may be, not metaphysical,
but psychological. The emotion that affects us may
be the expression of the confused recognition of a sub-
conscious reality, and analysis may enable us to bring
this subconscious reality to light. In the present instance,
how can we help thinking of Freud's views concerning
deaths apparently due to accident, which are (he holds)
in many cases involuntary suicides determined by
subconscious complexes. In an earlier work x I have
endeavoured to show that such an interpretation is
acceptable, however strange it may seem at first sight,
for it harmonises with a whole series of facts that have
been well established during the study of autosuggestion.
In Verhaeren, these emblems of iron and of trains give
expression to a deep-rooted, subconscious complex, dating
from early childhood, and linked from the first with the
idea of a death at once longed for and dreaded. There
may well have been a tie between the visions of the
poems and the facts of the poet's death, without its being
necessary to suppose that the visions of iron and of
trains were veiled prophesies of a predetermined event.
It was not the predestined accident which determined
the visions. The causal sequence was that the visions
were the expression of the subconscious complex which
would, in due time, determine, or partially determine,
the accident. Such a view does not deprive the causal
sequence of its tragedy, nor does it invalidate the emotion
we feel when we contemplate the tragedy.
1 Suggestion and Autosuggestion, p. 85.
THE CRISIS 147
We have thus disclosed several of the psychological
elements of the crisis. By simplification they may
be reduced to two : the tendency to introversion, and
the ascetic tendency. Simplifying yet further, we may
say that the tendency to introversion finds expression
mainly in Les soirs, and that the ascetic tendency makes
its appearance and becomes dominant in Les d&dcles.
But these two tendencies do not suffice to explain
Verhaeren's crisis, for some ascetic introverts enjoy
perfect internal equilibrium. According as our own
standpoint is religious, on the one hand, or materialistic,
on the other, we shall regard this equilibrium as good
or as bad. Incontestably, however, it is an equilibrium ;
and I know of no objective canon which entitles us to
regard extroversion as more normal and more desirable
than introversion. 1
We may recall, however, having noted that, at the
outset of his crisis, Verhaeren experienced a loss of faith.
In a metaphysical disturbance we may discern the
reasonable cause of the crisis. The other causes could
not become effective without the superaddition of the
third determinant. When Verhaeren's biographers tell
us that the poet's troubles were the outcome of this
disturbance, they do not see to the heart of the matter,
but nevertheless they see accurately up to a certain point.
The literary expression of the third factor is especially
noticeable in Les flambeaux noirs, the last portion of the
What overwhelms Verhaeren is the vision of universal
determinism, of the rigid laws which shackle the world
and crush man :
Un paysage noir, lign d'architectures,
Qui decoupent et captivent 1'dternit^,
En leur paral&les et fatales structures,
Impose k mes yeux clos son immobility.*
1 Morel does so regard it, but 1 think his opinion is the outcome of
feeling rather than of logical deduction. Jung takes a different view.
From Les lois, in Les flambeaux noirs.
148 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[A black landscape, aligned with buildings
Which silhouette and prison eternity
With their parallel and inevitable structures,
Imposes its fixity upon my closed eyes.]
In Victor Hugo, the sight of the starry heavens in-
duced a mood of lyrical and fervent contemplation, but for
Verhaeren this was but an additional reason for fear.
The stars and their unbending evolutions were a soulless
determinism rendered visible :
Lk-haut le million pars des diamants
Et les regards, aux firmaments,
Myriadaires des toiles;
Et des voiles aprds des voiles
Autour de 1'Isis d'or qui reve aux firmaments.
Je suis rhallucin6 de la foret des Nombres.
Us me fixent avec les yeux de leurs probl&mes ;
Us sont, pour eternellement rester : les memes.
Primordiaux et ddfinis,
Us tiennent le monde entre leurs infinis ;
Us expliquent le fond et 1'essence des choses,
Puisqu'4 travers les temps, planent leurs causes. 1
[Up there, the scattered millions of diamonds,
And, in the skies,
The myriad eyes of the stars;
And veil upon veil
Around the golden Isis who is dreaming in the skies.
I am hallucinated by the forest of Numbers.
They fix me with the eyes of their problems ;
They are, that they may rest for ever, the same,
They are primordial and definite ;
They hold up the world between their infinities ;
They explain the basis and the essence of things
For their causes brood adown the ages.]
This metaphysical anguish is mingled with that of
the poet's familiar complexes. For him, the astronomical
1 From Les nombres, in Les flambeaux noirs.
THE CRISIS 149
heaven is a vast clockwork mechanism. This recalls to
us the watchmaker of Les tendresses premieres. Here are
the closing verses of L'horloger :
Mais jour k jour, de plus en plus, les mouvements
Innombrables, indefinis tentaculaires
Attirferent mes yeux d&nents
En leurs vertiges circulaires
Si bien que mon esprit,
Avec autant d'ardeur, plus tard, s'dprit
Des tumultes regies, par les causes profondes
Qui font, dans le mystere, 6voluer les mondes.
[But, day by day, more and more, the movements,
Innumerable, vague, tentacular,
Attracted my maddened eyes
Into their circular vortices,
So that my mind
With all the more ardour later became enamoured
Of the tumults regulated by the inner causes
Which bring about the mysterious evolution of worlds.]
He now sees the stars fixing him like the watch-faces
and the clock-faces " with the eyes of their problems" :
Regards abstraits, lobes vident et sans paupteres. 1
[Abstract looks, empty and lidless eye-sockets.]
In the following poem, Les limes, Verhaeren gives
expression to the distress that arises in a modern mind
owing to the secular evolution of philosophic doctrines,
and their crazy dance in such a mind. But here, likewise,
the metaphysical anguish is clad in images representing
the poet's familiar complexes :
Les chats d'ebbne et d'or ont traversd le soir,
Avec des cris de vis et de fermoir,
Us ont griff6 mon cceur et le miroir
De mes yeux clairs vers les 6toiles. , . ,
1 From Les nombres, in Les flambeaux noirs.
150 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Lorsque soudain les noirs chats d'or
Se sont assis sur ma muraille
Et m'ont fix de leurs grands yeux,
Comme des fous silencieux. 1
[The ebony and golden cats have prowled through the evening
With cries like screws and clasps,
They have torn my heart and scratched the mirror
Of my eyes that were directed serenely towards the stars. . . .
When suddenly the black and golden cats
Seated themselves upon the wall
And stared at me with their great eyes,
Silently, like madmen.}
A reference to the strange title of the collection known
as Les flambeaux noirs will now be appropriate. Here
we have a pithy formula describing the clash of gold
with ebony, of fire with blackness. In an earlier poem,
these images were simply juxtaposed ; when the tower
was burned, this " torch " (the old clock-tower that
was burning, see p. 60) became " black all at once " as
it was falling. On this occasion the images are super-
posed, and blackness is thrust on our attention when we
were expecting the image of fire which has not even time
to make its appearance. The same mechanism is dis-
played in La dame en noir : " The moons of my two eyes
showing black " (p. 58). We find it again in certain
images in Les campagnes hallucintes :
La mort a mis sur le comptoir
Un cu noir.*
[Death has staked
A black crown-piece.] 3
1 From Les livres, in Les flambeaux noirs.
From Le fl6au, in Les campagnes hallucines.
J The French usually speak of " un 6cu d'or," a golden crown-piece,
and the use of the words un ecu noir is an abrupt substitution of the
image of black for the image of gold. TRANSLATORS' NOTE.
THE CRISIS 151
Le deuil, au fond des cieux, tourne comme des meules
Les soleils noirs. 1
[Grief in the depths of the heavens turns, like millstones,
The black suns.]
Thus the title " Les flambeaux noirs " (black torches)
gives the most intense formulation of the clash between
black and gold. What can be the meaning of this intimate
association of the metaphysical torment with the com-
plexes, if it be not that the former is inseparable from
the latter, so that the metaphysical torment only acquires
its hallucinatory force in virtue of the complexes. If
we are really to understand the crisis, both elements
must be taken into account.
What, then, are the relationships, in the production
of the crisis, between the metaphysical torment, on the
one hand, and the introversion and asceticism on the
other ? They are not difficult to discover, and we have
already touched on them. Where there is faith, there is
a reason for introversion and asceticism, so that a mental
balance can be sustained. It is probable that an absolute
[self-dependent] introversion, like an absolute extroversion,
will necessarily culminate in a crisis. But when the in-
trovert sees God within himself, his introversion is no
longer absolute ; he loves and feels that he is loved ;
between God nd himself there are relationships analogous
to those which other human beings, extroverts, form
with their fellows. It matters no whit whether the
introvert's god possesses metaphysical reality ; the god
has a psychological reality, and this guarantees an inner
balance. Besides, a religious conversion usually implies
that the convert recognises certain human duties as
incumbent upon him the love of his kind, charitable
deeds, etc. and these are extroverted actions. That is
why the introvert who has been affected with a crisis
can overcome the crisis if he succeeds in attaining a balance
* From La bdche, in Les campagnes hallucines.
152 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
in his religious life. To give a recent and well-known
instance, this is what happened in Tolstoy's case. In
like manner, asceticism practised in the name of faith
is rational ; it simultaneously satisfies the intelligence
and the tendencies, and is thus a state of equilibrium.
But when faith vanishes, the balance is upset. Ascetic-
ism has become a mill grinding without grist, so that
there is nothing left but a senseless passion for self-injury,
self-destruction. Verhaeren describes it as " moral de-
formation," this being the sub-title of Les dttdcles. As for
the impetus towards introversion, which found a whole
world in the inner life, it finds there now nothing but
vacancy. Hence Verhaeren 's image of a being who
retires perpetually within himself, " squatting, like the
poor Maries " a creature who bites his lips, and tears
his loathed flesh with his own finger-nails. Rodin's
" Thinker," but feverish, and sickened with his thoughts :
Je voudrais me cracher moi-meme,
La lvre en sang, la face bleme. . . .
Clos tes volets c'est bien fini,
Le mors-aux-dents vers rinfini. 1
[I should like to spue myself out of my own mouth,
Bleeding at the lips, pallid of visage. . . ,
Close your shutters all is over,
Bolting towards the infinite.]
The mind then attains to an impassibility akin to
that of the oriental ascetic, but an impassibility which
knows itself vain and devoid of hope :
Et main tenant plus rien en eux jamais ne bouge ;
Ni les dsirs, ni les regrets, ni les effrois;
Us n'ont plus mme, hlas ! le grand reve des Croix
Ni le dernier espoir tendu vers la mort rouge.*
From Un soir, in Les bords de la route.
From Quelques-uns, in Les bords de la route.
THE CRISIS 158
[In them, now, nothing ever stirs ;
No desires, no regrets, no alarms ;
They have even lost, alas, the fine dream of the Crosses,
Lost, too, the last hope reaching out towards red death.]
Thus the loss of faith leads to a collapse of equilibrium.
It is like the tower splitting from summit to base in the
conflagration, or like the mirror which broke noiselessly
one evening. At first, Verhaeren tries forcibly to ex-
1 trovert himself, to give himself up to the fierce pleasures
of a carnal life. This is the epoch of Les flamandes ;
but the attempt runs counter to deep-rooted tendencies,
and the phase cannot last. Then he tries to transform
the old faith into a new one, faith in himself and in his
art. This is the period of Les moines. But the new
faith is unattainable. The inner world is narrow and
confined ; its depths are distasteful ; how can one believe
in oneself when one knows oneself to be merely an atom
at the mercy of the inevitable laws of matter ? The
new faith is foredoomed to ruin by the ruin of the old
faith. Doubt recurs, and collapse is complete.
J'avais foi en ma tete ; elle tait ma hantise x
[I had faith in my head ; it was my obsession]
says the poet, just as elsewhere he has told us " I was
proud of my tower/' But the head was threatened with
the same fate as the tower ; the poet's faith in himself
crumbled as his faith in God had crumbled :
Ah ! comme il fut dolent ce soir d'opacit
Oil mon &me minde infiniment de doutes,
Et l^zarda, craquement noir, ma volont.*
[How agonising was that opaque night
In which my soul, hopelessly undermined by doubt,
And my will, a black crevasse, broke up.]
1 From L'heure mauvaise, in Les bords de la route.
1 From the same poem.
154 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Thus had the tower broken up. It is this tragical
collapse of the former equilibrium which conveys
the profound significance of Verhaeren's crisis, which
teaches the lesson of that crisis. Our tendencies are
unreasoning. Psychoanalysis shows, pitilessly sometimes,
that the conscious aims we assign to these tendencies are
mere " rationalisations.' 1 Nevertheless, this process of
rationalisation is essential ; it is a true biological function.
Gonzague True defines " grace " (which he laicises)
by saying that it is inner health and inner harmony
a condition of " affective convergence." l Excellent, but
it would be more accurate to speak of a " convergence
of aff activity and intelligence." The inner balance
cannot be secured unless reason and tendency, the
conscious and the subconscious, are simultaneously
satisfied. Conflict between these elements, on the other
hand, like every grave conflict, leads towards a crisis,
Verhaeren's education, and perhaps his heredity,
predisposed him to an equilibrium established upon re-
ligious faith. Loss of faith was followed by a temporary
loss of harmony. But Verhaeren was too resilient to
rest content with this ruin, and we shall see that ere long
he set out upon the conquest of a new equilibrium
and a new faith.
* La grce, 1918, pp. 33 and 99.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE
VERHAEREN'S crisis was, above all, a crisis of extreme
introversion, like that of Faust. Like Faust, he could
only find deliverance by getting out of himself, and by
opening his eyes and his mind to the " multiple splendour "
of the world.
I " I said to myself, writes Goethe, " that to deliver
my mind from this state of gloom in which it was
torturing itself, the essential was to turn my attention
towards nature, and to share unreservedly in the life
of the outer world/' 1 '][
This continued to be one of the precepts of Goethean
wisdom. Victor Hugo, who during the first half of his
life had been the typical romanticist, the introvert who
Jusqu'au fond dsol du gouffre int^rieur,
[To the desolate depths of the inner abyss,]
was to verify it in his turn. After 1843 he found his
deliverance by learning to direct his energies towards
his fellows, both in his art and in his public activities.
At any rate such is the interpretation of Vodoz,* who
seems to have admirably understood the inward evolution
of this poet.
1 Goethe, Die Campagne in Frankreich.
Vodoz, Roland, un symbole, 1920, p. 70.
156 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Jung thinks that he is entitled to expand Goethe's
precept into a law. 1 Absolute introversion and absolute
extroversion seem to him critical states bouillons for
the culture of neuroses. We can only escape from them
by completing ourselves. The extrovert must learn
to look within himself, and the introvert must learn
to look without himself ; these are the essentials of the
new psychotherapy. Furthermore, Jung considers that
we may sum up the position by saying that in the
extrovert there is abundant expression of sensibility,
but repression of thought ; whereas in the introvert it
is sensibility which is repressed and which has to be
exhumed. Such simple generalisations are risky. But
here we are not called upon to examine how far this
particular generalisation of Jung's is justified, and we
may be content to admit that Verhaeren's case seems
to fit very well into such a scheme.*
The poet's sensibilities had been pent-up and prisoned ;
they were now to be set free.
Albert Mockel writes : " Until the triumphant St.
George revealed himself, Verhaeren had ignored the
This lapidary formula is substantially true. Verhaeren
was to find salvation in the heart : in a noble and exalted
love for a woman ; and in an impassioned interest directed
towards human beings in general, towards modern life,
towards all the spectacle of the world. This is " the
acceptance of the factory " to which we referred on
p. 45. It is a true conversion, one of those sudden changes
of front thanks to which a human being, hitherto at
war within himself, recovers balance and rediscovers
joy. The term "conversion" is not an overstatement.
In fact, the phenomena of religious psychology are
usually psychological, primarily, rather than religious.
1 Jung, The Psychology of the Unconscious, pp. 416 et scq.
* Jung, op. cit., passim, especially p. 201.
3 Mockel, Eraile Verhaeren, p. 60.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 157
In other words, they exhibit a form which is independent
of and separable from the content ; and although traditional
thought confounds the form and the content, it is in-
cumbent upon the psychologist to distinguish between
them, and to study the form wherever he encounters it.
We cannot therefore approve too highly Gonzague
Truc's endeavour to laicise the psychology of grace
(supra p. 154) ; our only criticism being that this writer
takes too elastic a view of the significance of the term
" grace," and thus loses sight of the real causes of the
From the Roman Catholic point of view, of course,
a conversion to Catholicism is the only conversion that
counts. Psychology, however, cannot discern any specific
difference between a Catholic conversion, a Protestant
conversion, and a conversion sui generis such as that
of Tolstoy. 1 Though such conversions vary in content,
they do not differ in form. We recognise in this con-
nexion the importance of the distinction drawn by
James, in the field of religious psychology, between
" existential judgments " and " propositions of value "
or " spiritual judgments " a distinction accepted by
Theodore Flournoy * (who, however, phrases it some-
what differently, speaking of the principles of " biological
interpretation " and the " exclusion of transcendence ").
James and Flournoy were both religious-minded men,
and it would seem, therefore, that this distinction might
be accepted by all such persons.
The content of a conversion is the theme for a pro-
position of value, and this is the concern of philosophy.
Psychology, on the other hand, being a science of facts,
must restrict itself to an existential judgment ; and such
a judgment permits of the recognition that there is a
kinship in the various forms of religious conversion.
1 In tliis respect, we share the view expressed by William James in
his Varieties of religious Experience.
* See the opening pages of Une mystique moderne.
158 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
But we have to go further, and to admit that, from the
psychological point of view, the essential characteristic
of conversion is not its religious element at any rate
in the current sense of the term religion. Verhaeren,
like Goethe, is not converted to the Christian God ; he
is converted to men, or at most to a sort of pantheistic
monism which might be just as well denoted a philosophy
as a religion. But who can deny that the crisis of a
despairing introversion, followed by the sudden revolution,
through which Verhaeren regained balance, comprise a
drama closely paralleled by the experiences of a Tolstoy ?
The psychological essential of conversion may be sum-
marised as follows. One who has been the victim
of a conflict, recovers balance through a sudden, or
comparatively sudden, setting free of the forces that
have been prisoned in the subconscious, and through
the change of direction which the psychic energy thus
undergoes. The outcome is a new conception of life,
and perhaps a new conception of the universe.
Georges Buisseret has written a penetrating work
upon the psychology of Verhaeren 's conversion. He
understands that the most essential thing was that the
poet should find his way out of himself : " Ailing, a
sceptic, almost a misanthrope in Les soirs and Les de'bdcles,
what he needed above all was to escape from the disastrous
subjectivism by which he was held captive. Thus Les
flambeaux noirs> despite their tragical gleam, were the first
symptoms of the desirable reaction." 1
In actual fact, Les flambeaux noirs (the sub-title of
the book is " Projection ext&rieure "), which deals with
philosophical and objective problems, was the first ex-
pression of a move towards the outer world. But the
definite assurance of victory was to be given in subsequent
years and in subsequent poems.
Buisseret writes in another passage : "It was, I believe,
a victory very similar to the one dreamed of by Nietzsche
> Buisseret, Involution idologique d'Emile Verhaeren, 1910, p. 76.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 159
who likewise longed for joy at all cost, and in whom
we find sufferings and revolts identical with those of
Verhaeren. These two men of genius carried on the
same ardent and pitilesb struggle, the main difference
between their respective tones being that the sarcastic
ill-humour of Zarathustra is not found in the author
of Visages and Forces." l
Our own analysis has already justified the comparison
often made between Verhaeren and Nietzsche. 2 But
Verhaeren, for his part, was in due time to " leap out
of " his introversion.
Stefan Zweig, who has been greatly struck by this
conversion towards things without, has given the apt
title of " Flight into the World " to the chapter he devotes
to its study. This is how he describes the evolution,
or the revolution, Verhaeren underwent : " He had
arrived at that last possibility, at that possibility which
means destruction or transformation. ... He who had
previously felt everything only subjectively, only in
isolation, now objectifies himself ; he who had previously
shut himself off from reality, now lets his veins pulse
in harmony with the breathing organism of life. He
relinquishes his attitude of pride ; he surrenders himself ;
lavishes himself joyously on everything ; exchanges the
pride of being alone for the immense pleasure of being
everywhere. He no longer looks at all things in himself,
but at himself in all things. . . . Supreme solitude is
changed to supreme fellowship. ... He saved himself
by no longer fixing his gaze rigidly on himself and deeply
probing every feeling of joy and torment, but by turning
to the world of phenomena and flinging himself on its
1 Op. cit, p. 85.
* The two writers resemble one another especially in the ascetic
tendency, in energy, and in their love of risk. But we must not strain
the comparison. It would be quite as easy to depict them as contrasted
3 Zweig, Emile Verhaeren, English translation, pp. 68, 70, 76, and 81.
160 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
The change did not merely show itself in the poet's
writings, 1 his very life took a turn for the better.
Verhaeren wedded Mademoiselle Marthe Massin in the
year 1892. " She proved to be an admirable companion
to the poet, being simple and straightforward, full of
courage, and devoted to the pitch of abnegation/' *
It was at this period, too, that Verhaeren began to
display an interest in the people and in socialism, lending
his aid to Vandervelde, and working in the art section
of the Maison du Peuple.3
During the period of transition, the symbols of intro-
version are still fairly common in the poet's writings.
Indeed, we could hardly expect anything else. Cold,
the silent immobility of frost, is one of these symbols ;
Et mon ame connait le pays clair,
Oii le silence est une joie
Qui, dans 1'argent et la neige, flamboie.
Elle connait li-bas, la grotte en diadme,
Belle de froid et de pendeloques de gel,
Oii le luxe des feux myriadaires est tel
Qu'elle s'eblouit elle-meme
Et, dans son coeur, se satisfait.4
[And my soul knows the serene land
Where silence is a delight
Which scintillates in the silvery snow.
It knows, over there, the grotto with its lovely diadem
Of frost and of icicles,
Where the abundance of the myriad fires is such
That it is dazzled
And is inwardly satisfied.]
The poet now feels remorseful for his proud isolation :
1 Les apparus dans mes chemins, 1891 ; Les campagnes hallucines,
1893 ; Les villages illusoires, 1895 Les villes tentaculaires, 1895 I Les
heures claires, 1896 ; Les aubes, 1898 ; Les visages de la vie, 1899 ; Les
vignes de la muraille, 1899.
Mockel, op. cit., p. 79.
i Buisseret, op. cit., p. 35 ; Mockel, op. cit., p. 64.
4 From Au loin, in Les apparus dans mes chemins
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 161
J'ai 6t6 l&che et je me suis enfui
Du monde, en mon orgueil futile.
J'ai soulev6, sous des plafonds de nuit,
Les marbres d'or d'une science hostile. 1
[I was a coward ; I fled
From the world in my vain pride.
Beneath the canopy of night I raised
The golden marbles of a hostile science.]
The characters in Les villages illusoires are often intro-
verts. They are " the fishermen," side by side and
silent at the edge of the darkling water, each buried in
himself and ignoring his companions ; " the miller,"
who lives alone on his hill-top, so that people are only
apprized of his death because the mill no longer turns :
" the snow " in its perfect stillness ; " silence " brooding
on the horizon ; " the gravedigger " talking to his dead.
There are also poems which seem continually to give
expression to the yearning for the mother. In actual
fact they must have been fashioned from memories of
the aunt who was Verhaeren's real mother, whose
personality was enshrined in his memory, and to whom
we shall have to refer once more in the next chapter.
These poems have a tender and ardent atmosphere.
Take, for instance, Souvenir in Les visages de la vie :
Ceux d'autrefois & qui Ton a fait tord :
Les doux, qui se donnerent, sans envie. . . ,
H61as comme au delk de Theure humaine,
On les aime d'un triste et regressif amour.
[Those who have passed away, whom one wronged :
The dear ones who gave themselves ungrudgingly. . . .
Alas how, when they are no more,
We love them with a sad and retrospective love.]
Consider, again, Uatten&ue in Les apparus dans mes
1 From Saint Georges, in Les apparus dans mes chemint.
162 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Elle est morte, sans bruit, tout doucement. , , .
Depuis elle m'assiste, ainsi qu'on aide un pauvre enfant. . , .
Je suis 1 'ardent de sa toute presence;
Je la voudrais plus morte encor
Pour Tevoquer avec plus de puissance !
[She died, without a sound, peacefully. . . .
Since then she has tended me as one tends a child. . . .
I am fain of her all-pervading presence ;
I would gladly have her yet more dead,
So that I might evoke her even more forcibly !]
There recur, too, the images of stagnant waters, putre-
factive decomposition, and ruined fertility, which were
prevalent during the crisis :
Je suis celui des pourritures grandioses
Qui s'en revient du pays mou des morts.
Leurs yeux, avec du sang ; leurs mains, avec des ors ;
Leurs livides phallus tordus d'efforts
Casses et, par les mares de la plaine,
Les vieux caillots noys de la semencc humaine. 1
[I am the one who comes back from the land of widespread
The one who comes back from the flaccid realm of the dead.
Their bloodshot eyes ; their hands flecked with gold ;
Their livid phalluses contorted with vain
Efforts and amid the meres of the plain
The old, drowned clots of the human seed.]
Akin to this last image is the following :
L'heure est venue oti les soirs mous
Psent sur les terres envenim^es,
Ou les marais visqueux et blancs,
Dans leurs remous,
> From Celui du rien, in Les apparus dans mes chemins.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 168
A longs bras lents
Brassent les fifevres empoisonnes. . . .
Et la glaise comme un paquet
Tombe dans 1'eau de bile et de salive. 1
[The hour has come when the languorous evenings
Weigh upon the envenomed lands,
Where the marshes, clammy and white,
With long, sluggish arms,
Brew in their backwaters
Poisonous fevers. . . .
And the clay falls heavily
Into the water which is but bile and spittle.]
Associated with such ideas, we are continually coming
back to the meres as evil mirrors :
Prs d'une mare monotone,
Dont 1'eau malade reverbere
Le soir de pluie et de misere.*
[Near a monotonous mere,
Whose sickly water reflects
The evening of rain and wretchedness. . . .]
Here we have " the crone/ 1 the witch of the country-
Ame d'entetement et de m&ancholie,
Qui se penche vers des secrets perdus
Et se mire dans les miroirs fendus
Des vieilles choses abolies ! 3
[The very soul of obstinacy and melancholy,
Who reaches out towards lost secrets,
And gazes at her own image in the broken mirrors
Of old, forgotten things.]
We find other symbols of debilitated life and frustrate
fertility ; beggars and cripples, flapping things, things out
of joint :
1 From Les fifcvres, in Les campagncs hallucin^es.
From Le donneur de mauvais conseils, in Les campagnes hallucinSes.
I From La vieille, in Les villages illusoires.
164 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Les lucarnes rapicies
Ballottent leurs loques falotes
De vitres et de papier. 1
[The patched dormer-windows
Flap their crazy rags
Of glass and paper.]
In the same poem, " The Wind/' we encounter a
number of the images dating from the period of crisis :
Le moulin noir fauche, sinistre,
Le moulin noir fauche le vent. . . .
Les vieux chaumes, & cropetons,
Autour des vieux clochers d'eglise,
Sont 6branles sur leurs batons. . . .
Les croix du cimetiere etroit,
Les bras des morts que sont ces croix
Tombent. . , .
[The black mill is reaping in sinister fashion,
The black mill is reaping the wind. . . .
The old thatched cottages, squatting
Round the old church towers,
Are shaken to their very beams. . . .
The crosses of the narrow cemetery,
The crosses which are really the arms of the dead,
Fall. . . .]
Verhaeren is always fond of writing about the wind.
In the poem entitled Les saints, les marts, les arbres et
le vent, the image of the wind is mingled with that of
Les grand' routes tracent des croix
A rinfini, k travers bois ; . . .
Arbres, et vents, pareils aux pelerins,
Arbres tristes et fous ou 1'orage s'accroche,
Arbres pareils au defite de tous les saints,
> From Le vent, in Les villages illusokes.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 165
Au dfil de tous les morts
Au son des cloches, . . .
Oh ! vos luttes et vos sanglots et vos remords
Se debattant et s'engouffrant dans les ames profondes ! *
[The high roads trace crosses
Ad infinitum athwart the woods ; . . .
Trees and winds resembling pilgrims,
Trees sad and mad, at grips with the storm,
Trees like the procession of all the saints,
Like the procession of all the dead
To the sound of bells, . . .
Oh ! your struggles and your sobs and your regrets,
Wrestling and plunging into the abysses of the souls !]
By one of those remarkable identifications that occur
in dreams, the trees are confounded with the names of
the saints, with the wind :
Oh ! tous ces noms de saints semes en litanies,
Tous ces arbres, li-bas, . . ,
Oh ! tous ces bras invocatoires,
Tous ces rameaux perdument tendus
Vers on ne sait quel Christ aux horizons pendu ! , . .
Les saints, les morts, les arbres et le vent,
Dites, comme ils se confondent dans la memoire,
[Oh, all these names of saints scattered in litanies,
All these trees over there, . . .
Oh, all these beseeching arms,
All these branches passionately stretched out
Towards some Christ gibbeted on the horizon ! . . .
The saints, the dead, the trees, and the wind,
How they are mingled in one's memory.]
In Les soirs we have already seen the " old oaks "
struggling against the wind. We remember the " arms
trying to escape their bodies " (p. 131), but the attempt
was aimless, being merely made in a feverish desire to
escape from oneself. Here the branches, the beseeching
arms, are once more stretched out, but this time it is
1 From Novembre, in Les vignes de ma muraille.
166 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
" towards some Christ on the horizon." We feel that a
new faith, still vague, is arising ; that a new rationalisa-
tion is going to give meaning to the urges. There has
been a change, and doubtless it is this change that is
expressed henceforward by the appearance of the image
of the wind, in place of the earlier images of trees or of
the cross. The great difference is that the former image
is animated : the wind is a force which passes by, and
sweeps us along with it ; a force which ranges through
the world. Later, the poet will write :
Si j'aime, admire et chante avec folie,
Le vent, . . .
C'est qu'il grandit mon etre entier et c'est qu'avant
De s'infiltrer, par mes poumons et par mes pores,
Jusques aux sang dont vit mon corps,
Avec sa force rude ou sa douceur profonde,
Immensement, il a etreint le monde. 1
[If I love, admire, and fervently sing the praises,
Of the wind, . . .
It is because the wind enlarges my whole being, and because,
Before permeating, through my lungs and through my pores,
The very blood, which is the life of my body,
It has with its rugged strength or its consummate tenderness,
Clasped the world in its titanic embrace.]
The wind expresses the deliverance from that gigantic
force which was " twisted " and " gnarled " within the
body of the trees, those phantom pilgrims, those great
motionless marchers. The energy which was being wasted
within the fenced precinct of a sterile struggle, has now
been extroverted, and has taken the world for its career. 1
The breath of life has passed by. Spiritus fiat.
St. George 3 has made his appearance, serene, " flashing
1 From A la gloire du vent, in La multiple splendeur.
* In reality, Verhaeren's struggle was still an inward one, T>ut he
provided for it an object which was outside himself. Cf. the close of
i Saint Georges, in Les apparus dans mes chemins.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 167
like diamonds/ 1 fervent ; he has revealed what Albert
Mockel speaks of as " the heart n :
II vient, en bel ambassadeur
Du pays blanc, illuming de marbres,
Ou, dans le pares, au bord des mers, sur 1'arbre
De la bonte, suavement croit la douceur.
[He comes as a beautiful ambassador
From the white country that shines with marble,
Where in the parks, on the sea strand, and on the tree
Of goodness, gentleness grows peacefully.]
Now we have an unexpected and happy symptom.
Whereas hitherto there has so often been an abrupt
change from gold to black, St. George miraculously effects
the contrary transformation :
II sait de quels lointains je viens,
Avec quelles brumes, dans le cerveau,
Avec quels signes de couteau,
En croi% noires, sur la pense. . . .
Et lui, s'en est alle m'imposant la vaillance
Et, sur le front, la marque en croix d'or de sa lance,
Droit vers son Dieu, avec mon coeur.
[He knows from what distant bournes I have come,
With what fogs in my brain,
With what signs cut with a knife,
In the form of black crosses, on my thought. . . .
Then he went away, bidding me be of good courage,
And on my forehead having signed a golden cross with his lance,
He went straight back to his God, bearing my heart with him.]
The cross, the black cross, was the symbol of inward
torment and of death. Now the cross has become golden, a
symbol of life and love. (This transformation is analogous
to the substitution of the wind for the dead, the saints,
and the trees.) But the life and the love now to be born
will no longer exhibit the fleshly luxuriance of Le$ flamandes.
168 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
They have been sublimated. Gold henceforward will
take the form of the cross. Love the poet's love for his
life's companion, and his love for his fellows will hence-
forward take the form of goodness, tenderness, self-
sacrifice. St. George, bringing this, brings healing ;
he negates the images of the crisis :
Contre les dents du dragon noir,
Contre 1'armature de lepre et de pustules,
II est le glaive et le miracle.
La charit, sur sa cuirasse, brule
Et son courage est la debacle
Bondissante de Tinstinct noir. . . .
L'aube s'ouvre, comme un conseil de confiance,
Et qui Tecoute est le sauv
De son marais, ou nul pech ne fut jamais
[Against the teeth of the black dragon,
Against the armour of leprosy and pustules,
He is the sword and the miracle.
Love glows from his breastplate,
And his courage is the doom,
The swift doom, of black instinct. . . .
Dawn comes like a counsel of hope ;
He who hearkens, is saved
From the marsh where no sin was ever washed away.]
Nevertheless, this St. George exhibits some of the
characteristics of infantile regression. The apparition
coming from the skies is modelled upon the image of
another celestial ambassador, le comte de la Mi-Car6me
(The Count of Mid-Lent) who in Brabant plays the part
of Father Christmas, or St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) :
Et Saint Georges, fermentant d'ors,
Avec des plumes et des 6cumes,
Au poitrail blanc de son cheval, sans mors,
Fait de sa chute, un triomphal chemin. . . .
II m'a rempli de son essor.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 169
[And St. George, sparkling with gold,
And with foam and plumes
On the white breast of his unbitted charger,
The diamond-rayed trappings
Make his descent a triumphal progress. . . .
He has filled me with his buoyancy.]
Obvious is the resemblance of this figure with that
of the wonder-working dispenser of the playthings from
A\\ trot de son lent cheval blanc,
Passe, dans les villes du Brabant,
Le comte de la Mi-Careme.
II va, li-haut, de toit en toit. . . .
Son cheval suit tous les chemins
Qu'il lui suggere, avec la main,
Et quand parfois, au loin, s'essorent
Ses hauts galops silencieux,
Sa sueur blanche et son cume
S'entremelent, comme des plumes,
Aux nuages qui vont aux cieux. . . .
Mais les enfants, eux tous, 1'ont vu. . . .
Traversant 1'air superbement,
Avec sa bete en diamant. 1
[Trotting by on his slow white steed,
There passes, through the Brabant towns,
The Count of Mid-Lent.
Up there he goes, from roof to roof. . . .
His horse takes all the roads
Which the rider suggests with the hand,
And when sometimes, in the distance, there spring upward
His soft hoof-treads in the sky,
His white sweat and his foam
Mingle like feathers (plumes)
With the clouds trailing across the heavens. . . *
But the children, they have all seen him. . . .
Passing proudly through the air,
His horse flashing with diamonds.]
* From Le comte de la Mi-Careme, in Les tendresses premieres.
170 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
The perpetual recurrence of the same images and the
same words is enough to prove the close kinship of the
two evocations. In St. George there is, then, a return
to the impressions of childhood. The innovation brings
with it a waft of memories :
Feux cribles d'or, feux rotatoires
Et tourbillons d'astres, ses gloires,
Aux galopants sabots de son cheval,
Eblouissent les yeux de ma m&noire.
[Flames spangled with gold, spinning flames,
Whirlpools of stars, his glories
Fire struck from the galloping hoofs of his charger
Dazzle the eyes of my memory.]
The whole atmosphere is matutinal like that of child-
Et tout effort humain n'est clair que dans Taurore. . . .
Le Saint Georges rapide et clair
A traverse, par bonds de flamme,
Le frais matin, jusqu'k mon ame.
[Only at dawn is human effort serene. . . .
St. George, swift and serene,
Has sped with leaps of flame,
Athwart the fresh morning, to reach my soul.]
Moreover, the image of the Virgin, whose significance
we know, rises once more on the mystical horizon :
Ce royaume, d'ou se lve, reine, la Vierge,
II en est 1'humble joie ardente et sa flamberge
Y vibre en ostcnsoir, dans Tair.
[This kingdom out of which the Virgin rises as a queen,
He is its humble, ardent joy and his sword
Glimmers in the air like a monstrance.]
But we must not let these images lead us astray,
for the atmosphere is very different from that of the
poems in which we previously encountered them. Then
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 171
there was a mute, gracious, and gentle adoration ; there
was an urge towards crouching and slumbering, hands
clasped, while retracing life's footsteps. At this later
date, if the poet still goes back imaginatively into his
childhood, it is no longer with the aim of burying himself
there " belittled " (p. 123) ; he wants to rediscover there
the primary impetus of boyhood which the subsequent
introversion has arrested ; he wishes to renew there his
fresh vigour ; he wishes to make it his starting-point
for a leap towards life. There is no longer any question
of gowns of coarse serge ; of palms, lilies, roses, held
by little fingers. St. George is a fighter. He does not
dwell in the land of processions, but in the land of caval-
cades. He wears armour that is blinding in its brightness ;
his " aureolar " sword whirls :
Le Saint Georges, celui qui luit
Et vient, parmi les cris de mon desir,
Mes pauvres bras tendus vers sa vaillance.
[St. George he who shines,
Who comes amid the cries of my longing
To seize hold of
My poor arms stretched out towards his courage.]
It is this same courage which St. George enjoins on
his devotee at the close of the poem (p. 167). He is
vibration, lightning, " a golden tumult " : "He has
filled me with his vigour." Let the reader compare these
words with those written by Verhaeren during the crisis :
M To retire perpetually within oneself, so sombre " (see
p. 109), and he will promptly realise how extensive the
change has been. The profoundest forces of Verhaeren's
nature have been extroverted.
At the same time, the harmony of the new tendencies
has been prepared, and this finds expression in the beautiful
and simple image of the golden cross. The ascetic trend,
and the impetus towards life (the cross of gold), converge
172 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
in the love sacrifice. This is the unexpected gift which
St. George, a new Count of Mid-Lent, brings the poet
from heaven ; and Verhaeren welcomes this surprise
with the naive astonishment of a child.
For Verhaeren, love is a discovery ; the love of
which he now writes is very different from the sensual
passion described in Les flamandes. He uses quite another
tone in these Heures claires, serene hours which bring
him the simple, sober, and penetrating revelation of
genuine love :
La brise et les l&vres des feuilles
Babillent et effeuillent
En nous les syllabes de leur clarte. 1
[The breeze, and the lips of the leaves,
Murmur and scatter
In us the syllables of their brightness.]
Like Saint Georges, the poems in which this love
blossoms or is presaged are still decked with regressive
Dites ? Dites ? Serait-ce elle qui veut venir,
Vers Tagonie en feu de mon desir,
Non pas la mort, mais elle,
La trepass^e et la sainte que je reve eternelle ? a
[Say ! Say ! Can it be she who is coming
Towards the burning agony of my desire,
Not death, but she,
She who died, the saint whom I dream of as immortal ?]
But here, as previously in Saint Georges, the regression
is no more than apparent. It is an effort to reknit that
which " is coming " to that which existed in the days of
childhood; to unite, athwart the years when the heart was
arid, these two fragments of the love life. The yearning
1 From Les heures claires, ix.
From Dans ma plaine, in Les apparus dans mes ckemins.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 173
for the mother is too imperious to allow the heart simply
to ignore it. Perhaps when this yearning is intense,
deliverance from it can be secured by a man only when,
to some extent, he rediscovers the mother in his beloved.
Otherwise the urge towards the mother would merely
be repressed ; and might then, like every repressed
tendency, give rise to new conflicts. If, however, the
idea of the mother can be moulded on the reality of the
wife, the urge towards the mother is no longer repressed
but derived. Whereas hitherto this urge has had a
paralysing influence, damming up or penning up the
energies, it can now find an outlet towards the real :
Doucement mere, avec ses doigts d'aurore,
L'amante est 1, qui fait eclore
En des cerveaux de soir, la lumiere fragile. 1
[Like a gentle mother with her auroral fingers
The beloved is there, and she kindles
In darkling brains a delicate light.]
This surrender to maternal arms is one of the persistent
images of the new love, in which there is so much candour
and simple trust. We shall find it again some years
Trs doucement, plus doucement encore,
Berce ma tete entre tes bras,
Mon front fievreux et mes yeux las ; ...
C'est toi qui m'es la bonne aurore. . . .*
[Very gently, yet more gently,
Cradle my head in your arms,
My fevered brow and my weary eyes ; . . .
For me, you are the good dawn.]
Need we be surprised, after this, to find that a fresh,
auroral atmosphere bathes these Serene Hours, and that
this newly blossoming love resembles a new childhood ?
1 From Les saintes, in Les apparus dans mes chemins.
* From Les heures d'apr&s-znidi, vii.
174 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Et je te sens si bien en paix de toutes choses,
Que rien, pas mme un fugitif soup$on de crainte,
Ne troublera, fiit-ce un moment,
La confiance sainte
Qui dort en nous comme un enfant repose. 1
[I feel that you are so absolutely at peace with all things,
That nothing, not even a passing breath of fear,
Will trouble, were it but for an instant,
The holy confidence
Which slumbers in us as a child slumbers.]
Nor need we be surprised to find that the poet delights
in reviving, as the appropriate setting for his love, the
garden of the Les tendresses premi&res, with its flowers
in their delicate beauty, its limpid ponds :
Voici pareils a des baisers tombes sur terre
De la bouche du frele azur
Deux bleus etangs simples et pures,
Bord^s nai'vement de fleurs involontaires.
O la splendeur de notre joie et de nous-memes,
En ce jardin oft nous vivons de nos emblemes ! *
[Here, like kisses fallen to earth
From the lips of the delicate azure,
Are two ponds, blue, simple, and pure,
Bordered artlessly with flowers unaware.
Oh the splendour of our joy and of ourselves
In this garden where we are nourished by our emblems !]
The peacock and the insects of the garden of childhood's
days, the garden of paradise (pp. 42, 43), are likewise
Au clos de notre amour, l't se continue :
Un paon d'or, Ik-bas, traverse une avenue . . ,
Un insecte de prisme irrite une cour de fleurs. . . .3
1 From Les heures claires, iv. From Les heures claires, i.
s From Les heures claires, xviii.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 175
[In the precinct of our love it is still summer :
A golden peacock over there is strutting down an avenue . . .
A prismatically-tinted insect teases a bevy of flowers.]
Nos bleus et merveilleux tangs
Tremblent et s'animent d'or miroitant ;
Des vols merauds, sous les arbres, circulent. 1
[Our blue and wondrous ponds
Are a-tremble, and quicken with gleaming gold ;
There is a flash of emerald wings among the trees.]
No longer is this a childhood desired with a morbid
craving ; it is the past which has been revivified, rein-
corporated into the present. All the keen sensations
of childhood rivulets which have long been lost from
sight in their underground channels, so that their flow
could only be detected in tones muffled by distance have
found their way to the surface once more, to burst forth
with renewed strength from a fresh spring. The poet,
his whole being filled with joy at this deliverance, feels
that love is opening the world to him :
Et notre ame, comme agrandie, en cet eveil,
S'est mise & cetebrer tout ce qui aime,
Magnifiant 1'amour pour Tamour meme,
Et i cherir, divinement, d'un desir fou,
Le monde en tier qui se resume en nous. 2
[Our soul, exalted, as it were, in this awakening,
Devotes itself to celebrating all that loves,
Magnifying love for love's own sake,
And to cherishing divinely, with a mad longing,
The whole world that is summed up in us.]
The need for action is another characteristic of one
who is undergoing extroversion. Now it is natural that
action should be acted rather than sung. It is in his life,
above all, that Verhaeren exhibits the impulse to action
in the social activity which is human love grown active.
1 From Les heures claires, xvii.
* From Les heures claires, xxviii.
176 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
The drama Les aubes reflects the social aspirations of the
Verhaeren of that date (1898), his ardour for the idea of
internationalism, his movement towards the humanist
paradise of democracy, towards the city of justice. But
his writings now convey, in addition, an imperious
longing for action.
As for Les saintes, although this poem still contains
vestiges of the idea of the mother, and although we
might anticipate that it would be an invitation to some
mystical nirvana, it is really a call to action :
Chacune, au long de sa personnelle avenue,
Sans rien me dire est advenue,
Avec, en main, la fleur-merveille
Cueillie & 1'aube et qui conseille
Des actions plus belles que tout reve. 1
[Each one along her special avenue
Without saying anything to me has come
Bearing in her hand the wonder-flower
Plucked at dawn, the flower which whispers of
Actions more beautiful than any dream.]
A little later will come a poem definitely consecrated
to Action :
Lasse des mots, lass des livres,
Qui tiedissent la volonte,
Je cherche, au fond de ma fierte,
L'acte qui sauve et qui delivre.*
[Weary of words, weary of books,
Which enfeeble the will,
I seek in the depths of my pride
The deed which saves and sets free.]
" I seek/ 1 says the poet. In truth, action is still a
wish rather than a realisation. Verhaeren admires it
from afar, and would fain throw himself into the. fray:
From Les saintes, in Les apparus dans mes chemins.
* From L 'action, in Les visages de la vie.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 177
La vie, elle est Ik-bas violente et f^conde,
Qui mord, k galops fous, les grands chemins du monde.
Dans le tumulte et la pousstere,
Les forts se sont pendus k sa criniSre. 1
[Life, she is over there, passionate and fecund.
Galloping madly, she eats up the great highways of the world ;
Amid the tumult and the dust,
The strong cling to her mane.]
But this tumult and dust are not wholly congenial
to one who is emerging from a phase of intense intro-
version. Action is multiform ; it may be
La vie en cris ou en silence, *
[Life in clamour or in silence,]
and it is rather where there is silence that Verhaeren
seeks the deed which will be unmistakably his own :
Et je le veux puissant et entet,
Lucide et pur, comme un beau bloc de glace ;
Sans crainte et sans fallace,
Digne de ceux
Qui n'arborent 1'orgueil silencieux
Loin du monde, que pour eux-memes.3
[And I want it to be mighty and steadfast,
Lucid and pure like a beautiful block of ice ;
Fearless and flawless,
Worthy of those
Who raise the flag of silent pride
Far from the world, and for themselves alone.]
This rescues the tendency to introversion ; and the
rescue is necessary, for the tendency must not be repressed.
It is, no longer, exclusive ; it is balanced by the reverse
tendency, the loving tendency, outwardly directed
towards fellow human beings.
1 From L'action in Les visages de la vie. > From the same poem.
3 From the same poem.
178 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Et je le veux tremp, dans un bapt&ne
De nette et large humanit,
Montrant & tous sa totale sincerity
Et reculant, en un geste supreme,
Les fronti&res de la bont6.
[And I want it to be steeped in a baptism
Of frank and broad humanism,
Displaying to all its absolute sincerity.
And, with a superb gesture, enlarging
The frontiers of goodness.]
Social activity will be no more than an episode in
Verhaeren's life. His true sphere of action will be his
writings. Of course, these writings are themselves action
an action which does not lose sight of living humanity ;
which aspires to be counsel, precept, comfort ; which,
too, is social. Almost always, the poet seems to be
addressing an interlocutor, or rather a crowd whose
tribune or prophet he is. The abrupt imperative " Say ! "
with which his poems arc so often and so strikingly
interspersed, are a sign of this spontaneous need and
fixed desire to address his fellow men, to convince them,
to act on them. When we encounter this word, we feel
that we have been waylaid by somebody who has
an urgent message for us.
What, then, is his message ? It is the message of his
new faith in the world, in life, in human energy and
human fervour ; a faith which at that period was still
nothing more than a stammering amazement :
Oh ! vivre et vivre et se sentir meilleur
A mesure que bout plus fervemment le coeur;
Vivre plus clair, des qu'on marche en conqu&te ;
Vivre plus haut encor, ds que le sort s'entSte
A d&sScher la s&ve et la force des bras ;
RSver, les yeux hardis, i tout ce qu'on fera
De pur, de grand, de juste, en ces Chanaans d'or,
Qui surgiront, quand meme, an bout du saint effort. 1
1 From I/action, in Les visages de la vie.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 179
[Oh, to live and to live, and to feel oneself better
In proportion as the heart boils more fervently ;
To live more serenely when one marches to victory ;
To live yet more intensely when fate obstinately endeavours
To dry up the sap and the strength of one's arms ;
To dream, with bold eyes, of all that one will do
That is pure, is great, is just, in these golden Canaans
Which will appear, whatever happens, at the close of the bless&d
The poet is intoxicated by the crowd, whose fever
works like a ferment in the towns. He loves to feel
himself lifted by this surging wave, sustained by this
stormy clamour. The fervour which he now experiences
is the joy of extroversion :
Et tout coup je m'apparais celui
Qui s'est, hors de soi-meme, enfui
Vers le sauvage appel des forces unanimes. 1
[And all at once I seem to myself one
Who has fled out of himself
Towards the fierce call of unanimous forces.]
Henceforward, the crowd, the town, become for Verhaeren
symbols of the extroversion which is still ebullient, dis-
ordered, " tumultuous " ; but in which, through the
chaos, he feels the elaboration of a new equilibrium.
And when, in the modern town and its fever, he sees
that there is being forged for humanity, too, a new
equilibrium and a new faith, he subconsciously identifies
this turning-point in the history of mankind with the
turning-point in his own life. He uses one to express
the other, and this is what gives so much intensity to his
poem, The Crowd :
Oh ! dis, sens-tu qu'elle est belle et profonde,
Qui chante et crie au coeur du monde ? *
1 From La foule, in Les visages de la vie.
* From the same poem*
180 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[Oh, say, do you feel how beautiful and profound,
Is this hour
Which is singing and crying in the heart of the world ?]
Perhaps it is. But what is above all beautiful and
profound is the hour which has struck and is singing
in the heart of the poet, the decisive hour of his life, the
hour pregnant with the future. The town materialises
around him all the ferment of his life. In an anguished
intoxication, he discerns there the image of his former
complexes, which are resurging from the depths of his
Des gens hagards courent avec des torches,
Une rumeur de mer s'engouffre, au fond des porches,
Murs, enseignes, maisons, palais, gares,
Dans le soir fou, devant mes yeux, s'effarent. . , .
Un cadran luit, couleur de sang, au front des tours. 1
[Haggard folks are running with torches ;
A noise as of the sea is swallowed into the depths of the porches ;
Walls, sign-boards, houses, palaces, and railway stations,
In the mad evening, before my eyes, are affrighted. . . .
Red as blood, a clock-face shines from the front of the towers.]
But he sees also in the town the image of to-morrow's
faith, which is being elaborated within him, and which
is filling the void left by the loss of the old faith.
Que t'importent et les vieilles sagesses
Et les soleils couchants des dogmes sur la mer ;
Voici Theure qui bout de sang et de jeunesse,
Voici la violente et merveilleuse ivresse
D'un vin si fort que rien n'y semble amer.
Un vaste espoir, venu de Tinconnu, dplace
L'equilibre ancien dont les ames sont lasses ;
La nature parait sculpter
Un visage nouveau k son ternit& . . .
From La foule, in Les visages de la vie.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 181
Le temps est Ik des debacles et des miracles
Et des gestes d'clair et d'or
Lik-bas, au loin, sur les Thabors. 1
[What matter to you the old wisdoms,
The setting suns of the dogmas as they sink into the sea ?
This is the hour that boils with blood and with youth ;
This is the fierce and wondrous frenzy
Of a wine so strong that nothing seems bitter in it.
A giant hope, hailing from the unknown, replaces
The old balance of which our souls are weary ;
Nature seems to be fashioning
A new countenance for its eternity. . . .
Come has the time of crashes and of miracles,
Of manifestations of lightning and of gold,
Over there in the distance, on the Tabors.]
These images of Mount Tabor and (a moment ago) of
Canaan are instructive. The search for a faith is going
on, a faith which can satisfy Verhaeren's strongly religious
temperament, and also the faith of a prophet who is
to be a lawgiver to mankind. In a lovely carol abounding
in the familiar Catholic symbols, the poet describes the
mysterious dawning of this new faith, which is to be
knitted to the old faith of his childhood's days just as the
new love was knitted to the early affections, the wife
to the mother, St. George to the Count of Mid-Lent.
In this case, doubtless, as in the others, it is thus that
the new can be born without giving rise to conflicts,
inasmuch as it assimilates the old instead of repressing it :
Oh ! vous, les gens, les vieilles gens,
Qui regardez passer dans vos villages
Les empereurs et les bergers et les rois mages
Et leurs betes dont le troupeau les suit,
Allumez d'or vos cceurs et vos fenetres,
Pour voir, enfin, par travers la nuit,
Ce qui, depuis mille et mille ans,
S'efforce k naitre.*
1 From La foule, in Les visages de la' vie.
From Dcembre, in Les vignes de ma muraille.
182 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[Oh you people, you old people,
Who see passing through your villages
The emperors and the shepherds and the magian kings
And their beasts of burden which follow them,
Light up with gold your hearts and your windows
To see at length athwart the night
That which, for thousands and thousands of years,
Has been pressing to be born.]
But this faith is merely " pressing to be born ff ; it
is " some Christ on the horizon/' We are in an epoch
of vague preparation ; in an hour that is still critical,
and palpitating like a drama :
On sent qu'un meme instant est mattre
D^panouir ou d'craser ce qui va naitre. 1
[One feels that the hour is ripe
Either for the blossoming or for the crushing of that which is
about to be born.]
These words apply equally to humanity-at-large and
to the poet to the stage which both have reached. The
condensation explains how it is that at this period of
his life Verhaercn was enabled to give so magnificent
a poetic expression to the anguish of the modern mind.
We have one more example of the way in which an
objective drama can only be organised into a work of
art when its roots draw nourishment from the life of
a kindred subjective drama.
Although the new ideal is still in the throes of birth,
Verhaeren himself has definitely regained contact with
life, and he is filled with wonder at the fact. He already
feels the impetus which may be termed faith in life ; joy
in recovered health, and renewed confidence.
At the date when Les flamandes was written, life was
a succulent and fleshy fruit. In addition to the symbolism
1 From La foule, in Les visages de la vie.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 188
of gold, Verhaeren was fond of using for it the emblem
of a laden espalier :
Les forts montent la vie ainsi qu'un escalier,
Sans voir d'abord que les femmes sur leur passage
Tendent vers eux leurs seins, leurs fronts et leurs visages,
Et leurs bras dargis en branches d'espalier. 1
[The strong mount life as we mount a stairway,
Without seeing at first that the women whom they pass
Are stretching out towards them their breasts, their foreheads,
and their faces,
And their arms that spread like the branches of an espalier.]
To-day the espalier has become a trellised vine. Life
is less greedy, but more intoxicating than before. The
image of the vine is Verhaeren's favourite during the
continuance of the frenzied desire to rediscover life.
The idea of the trellis is even incorporated into the title
of one of the collections, Les vignes de ma muraille (the
vines on my wall)* But the poem L'ivresse in Les visages
de la vie is doubtless the most exalted of all :
J'tais entr6 dans ce caveau, Tame l<5gre,
Uniquement sduit, par la beaut des verres
Et la folie et son levain,
Qui sommeillent, au fond du vin,
Quand Tivresse puissante et deborde,
Fondant le monde, au feu qu'dtait mon coeur,
Grandit soudain jusques & Tinfini, Tidfe
Que pauvre et nul je m'etais faite du bonheur.
[I had gone into this wine cellar, light of heart,
Attracted merely by the beauty of the glasses,
And by the madness and its yeast
Which slumber in the depths of the wine,
When the mighty and surging intoxication,
Melting the world, at the furnace which my heart was,
Magnified of a sudden to an infinite degree
The paltry notion I had formed of happiness.]
1 From Hommage, in Les bords de la mute.
184 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
In the same poem we find a transition to other images,
those of ships setting out on a voyage, and those of the
Toute la vie dclose, en ces pays du Rhin,
Tenait et s'clairait, dans le raisin :
C'tait pour lui que les monts taient verts
L'6t6 briilant, les gars joyeux, le fleuve ouvert
Aux navires passant, joufflus de voiles,
Et s'loignant, la nuit, sous des grappes d'dtoiles.
[All the life that burgeons in these Rhenish lands
Was retained in and shone forth from the grape :
It was for the grape that the hills were green,
The summer ardent, the young folk gay, the river open
To the passage of ships with bellying sails
And setting out at night beneath the clusters of stars.]
The last image revives a memory of childhood, for
we read at the beginning of Liminaire in Les tendresses
Je me souviens du village prs de 1'Escaut,
D'ou Ton voyait les grands bateaux
Passer, ainsi qu'un reve empanache de vent
Et merveilleux de voiles,
Le soir, en cortege, sous les toiles.
[I recall the village on the banks of the Scheldt,
From which one could see the great ships
Passing by, like dreams plumed with wind,
Wondrous with sails,
In the evening, a procession beneath the stars.]
In the foregoing reminiscence, the garden is framed in
this vision and that of the factory, both of which contrast
with its old-fashioned and secluded peace. For the
child, the ships, like the factory, represented the outer
world. The ships were starting on their way to the
great world ; it was natural that their image should be
revived (like that of the factory) at the moment when
the poet was undergoing extroversion, and when he
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 185
too was setting out for the conquest of the world. Les
visages de la vie (Aspects of Life) ends with the poem
Vers la mer, a poem which seems to give the signal for
departure. Intoxication still reigns over this sea, for
it is sparkling with " grappes de joyaux " (clusters of
jewels). Soon, in his Tumultuous Forces, the poet will
not close with " Towards the Sea," but with " At Sea " ;
and still later, his Sovran Rhythms will close with the
poem The Ship. He who is to-day about to sail, will
then have gained the open sea, and will voyage in a
victorious calm :
Nous avancions, tranquillement, sous les toiles ;
La lune oblique errait autour du vaisseau clair. . . .
II tanguait sur 1'effroi, la mort et les abimes,
D 'accord avec chaque astre et chaque volont,
Et maitrisant ainsi les forces unanimes,
Semblait dompter et s'asservir rternit.
[We moved forward quietly beneath the stars ;
The slanting moonbeams shone around the bright ship. . . .
Which pitched and sended over terror, death, and the abysses,
Which was in harmony with every star and every will,
And which, thus mastering the blended forces,
Seemed to tame and subjugate eternity.]
We have not yet reached this stage, but the ship has
weighed anchor ; she is making for the offing, life is
opening up, life is God.
L'Eternelle, qui est la vie. 1
[The Eternal, who is life.]
The word " vie " seems at this date to be a magic syllable
for Verhaeren. He is intoxicated by it ; positively
haunted. It is not improbable that this is why the syllable
vi recurs with such strange insistence in the titles of the
* From L'attente, in Les visages de la vie.
186 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
poems of this period : Ullages illusoires, Ftlles tentacu-
laires, Visages de la vie, Vignes de ma muraille. 1
Owing to the operation of the tendency with which
we are familiar, pain, the voluptuousness of suffering,
is an invariable element of the joy of life :
Et je t'aime d'autant que je te fais du mal
Et que je souffre aussi, ma tant martyrise,
Par tes regards et tes penses. a
[And I love you in proportion as I hurt you,
And as I am hurt too, my tortured one,
By your looks and your thoughts.]
Au fond de la torture, on voit des yeux sourire :
Nous sommes tous des Christs qui embrassons nos croix.3
[In the deeps of torture, we see smiling eyes ;
We are all of us Christs embracing the cross.]
This is why the " vine " is " twisted " like the ascetic
trees ; " torture " or " torment " always arouse in
Verhaeren the frenzy of intoxication. He pictures a ship
laden with Sirens. Here we have an image which con-
denses all the foregoing, and summarises what has just
been said concerning this hour of intoxication.
1 Verhaeren is an artist in words, and a special study of auditory
symbolism might be devoted to his writings. I fear, however, that
psychology, in its present stage of development, would not take us very
far along this path. We have already noted (Chapter III, p. 114) the
frequent recurrence of the consonants c (k), t, and 1. In the titles of his
poems, Verhaeren has a fondness for a group formed by the liquid 1 and
another consonant, preferably c ; or for 1 with the vowel u : Les debdc/es,
Les campagnes ha//wcinets, Les forces tumw/tueuses, La multiple
s/endeur. Note also the recurrence of the syllable flam from the first
collection, Les ^awandes, by way of Les /fawbeaux noires to Les
flammes hautes. There must be something more than coincidence here,
but it would be hazardous to rush headlong into an interpretation.
* From L'amour, in Les visages de la vie.
s From La joie, in Les visages de la vie.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 187
Les Sir&nes, couvertes d'or,
Tordaient, comme des vignes,
Sinueuses de leurs corps. 1
[The Sirens, covered with gold,
Twisted like vines
The sinuous lines
Of the bodies.]
Let us pause awhile to consider this poem about the
Sirens, and we shall learn more from it. It represents
the first appearance in Verhaeren's writings of the figures
of classical mythology, and therefore marks a turning-
point in his art. It is the herald of Pegasus and Venus
in Les forces tumultueuses ; of Hercules and Perseus in
Les rythmes souverains.
Deux vieux matins des mers du nord
S'en revenaient, un soir d'automne,
De la Sicile et de ses iles mensongSres,
Avec un peuple de Sirnes
[Two old sailors, men of the northern main,
Came back home again, one autumn evening,
From Sicily and its delusive isles,
With a company of Sirens
The Sirens are creatures of sunlit and delusive Sicily
creatures of Mediterranean mythology. That is why
they seem strangers at first " sous un vent morne et
monotone " (under a mournful and monotonous wind)
and amid the spindrift of the northern seas. The moody
dwellers on the coast do not even hear their song :
Us ne comprirent rien & ce grand songe
Qui enchantait la mer de ses voyages,
Puisqu'il n'etait pas le meme mensonge
Qu'on enseignait, dans leur village.
1 From Au nord, in Les vignes de ma muraille.
188 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[They understood nothing of this great dream
Which delights the sea with its journeyings,
For it was not the same fable
That was taught in their village.]
Verhaeren seems here to be astonished at his own failure
to realise sooner how an ever-young poetry is breathed
by these ancient myths. For his part, he has wanted
to create other " fables/' other myths, with the types
of "his village" (think of the Illusory Villages). It
would be a pity for him to renounce this highly individual
art, this art racy of the soil. Consequently he does not
renounce it ; but he glimpes another art, more objective,
and bearing a more universal stamp. It is towards such
an art that he is now evolving. Such is the art in which
he wishes to renew his being " se retremper " (to resteep
himself), as he writes elsewhere :
Sur des recifs cabr^s en cavales qui fument, . . .
Le corps baign6 dans Tor, les Sirenes s'appellent, . . .
Dites, les voix des soirs legendaires en mer 1
Et comme on les entend
L&-bas, au Nord, le cceur battant !
Et comme on va, vers leur folie,
Avec la joie ou la melancholic
De retremper son etre en ces brassins de vie
Qui fermentent encor aux confins de la mer. 1
[From the reefs, rearing like steaming mares, . . .
Their bodies bathed in gold, the Sirens are calling one to
another. . . .
Think of the voices of the fabled evenings at sea !
How one hears them,
Over there in the north, with beating heart I
And how one goes towards their madness
With joy or with sadness,
To resteep one's being in these vats of life
Which are still fermenting at the sea's farthest bounds.]
Between one poem and the other, a long road had
been traversed. In the former, the northerners did not
> From L'eau, in Les visages de la vie.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 189
hear the Sirens. Now, not only do they hear the nymphs,
but they answer to the call. The resurrection of the
myths is at hand.
It is interesting to note that the use of the symbols
of the North and of the South as representing barbaric
art and classical art respectively has been stressed by
Vodoz x in his critique of Victor Hugo's Le manage de
Roland, a poem expressing that which in Hugo, too,
may be termed the acceptance of the classical. Nothing
can be more natural than the use of such symbolism,
especially in view of the fact that the romanticists have
themselves set up " northern poesy " in opposition to
" southern poesy." This has been common form since
the days of Chateaubriand and Madame de Stael.
Moreover, was it not the Italian sunshine which opened
Goethe's eyes to the fresh youth of classical beauty.
Very natural, too, was it that the moral evolution of
Verhaeren, like that of Hugo, should have brought an
aesthetic evolution in its train, should have led the poet
to search for a more objective art, for an art that was
less exclusively internal. From this point of view the
series of Les villages illusoires, for instance, already marks
a notable transformation. These poems have been termed
the master work of the symbolist school. Unquestionably,
they are among the most richly symbolic of Verhaeren's
poems. Preeminently they fulfil Mallarm^'s definition of
the symbol, as something that simultaneously conveys
images, sentiments, and superposed ideas. We have
already seen how rich a field for analysis is offered by
Le sonneur and Le passeur d'eau. The reader will perhaps
have been surprised that we did not say more about this
collection. But de Smet, a who has a special admiration
for Les villages illusoires, and who holds that in these
poems we can find the germs of all the subsequent works,
has made a detailed analysis of them, to which little
1 Vide supra, pp. 33 and 155.
* Emile Verhaeren, sa vie et ses ceuvres, vol. ii, passim.
190 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
need be added here. He has shown how the Illusory
Villages issued from real villages, and above all from
Verhaeren's native village ; and how these images,
transmuted by a seer's emotions, served for the expression
of a moral or a social idea. What we have to point out
here is the evolution which this collection obviously
marks in the poet's art. It manifests itself by the appear-
ance of the moral and social idea, and by the convergence
of the symbols in the direction of this idea. In the days
of Les flamandes and Les moines, Verhaeren inclined to*
wards a plastic and objective art, which could only serve
to symbolise internal dramas involuntarily and almost
unconsciously. During the crisis, on the other hand, the
poems were nothing but symbols of what was going on
within, images arising in many cases out of the ostensible
incoherence of dreams and nightmares, in accordance
with the imperious laws of the emotional life and of
the unconscious, and guided solely by the logic of feeling.
The illusory villages are symbols of the inner life, and
the poet is well aware that in them he is giving expression
to himself by means of these evocations of childhood.
At the same time, however, they are intended to symbolise
an objective idea : that of a desperate persistence in
The Bellringer ; and that of a stubborn hope in The
Ferryman, who, despite all, continues to hold the green
reed between his teeth ; that of destiny thricefold great,
past, present, and future, in The Ropemakers * (brethren
of the Parcae of classical mythology) who are twisting
a rope of strands coming from the far horizon ; the
idea of menacing patience and of the approaching social
revolution in The Blacksmith. 2 These are symbols with
two faces, one turned inwards and the other outwards.
They are complete symbols, endowed with all the richness
of the dream, but superadding the richness of thought.
This more objective art is already dawning in some of
the poems of the collection entitled Les flambeaux noirs
1 Les cordiers. Le forgeron.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 191
(The Books, The Numbers), and in some of those in the
collection entitled Les campagnes hallucinfes. But it is
above all in Les villages illusoires that this duplex symbolism
comes to fruition. The poems in that collection form, as
it were, the pivot of Verhaeren's art. In his subsequent
writings, the elements of objectivity and of thought
will gain ground, as the poet turns towards a more
classical ideal. At the same time, the visions will lose
much of their hallucinatory force, their dreamlike aspect,
their " dusky and ruddy fog " J all that has hitherto
been so characteristic of Verhaeren. We are entitled
to regret what we are losing, even while we rejoice at
what we are gaining. But we are passing from the North
to the South, and we must not expect to do so without
experiencing a change of climate.
The poems which, in my opinion, most potently reflect
the period of " conversion and deliverance " are those
contained in the two collections entitled Les campagnes
hallucinies and Les villes tentaculaires. To these may be
added Les aubes, a drama which portrays the same conflicts,
and shows a blazing countryside (as in Les meules qui
brdlent in Les villages illusoires) from which the wretched
villagers have to seek refuge in the towns. It is well
to note that this drama concludes with an unexpected
reconciliation at the very moment when a similar
reconciliation between opposing forces was taking
place in Verhaeren's soul.
Let us linger for a while among these Countrysides
and these Towns. We have here a fine example of a
symbol with two faces : on the surface it is the exodus
of the people from the country into the industrial towns ;
within, it is Verhaercn's " conversion/' the poet's sublime
vision of a new life and a new art.
Les campagnes hallucinies conjure up from beginning
to end the images of the crisis. But these images are
1 Brume fuligineuse et rouge.
192 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
now made so objective as to express the crisis taking place
in the countryside where poverty and depopulation were
increasing to an alarming extent. Though this objectiva-
tion is important, in that it is a happy sign of Verhaeren's
psychic evolution, we should be grossly misled were we
to see athwart the poetic vision nothing more than the
problems of the agrarian crisis and of industrial civilisation.
" Verhaeren is a poet, not an economist. If, when
describing the depopulation of the Belgian countryside,
he has failed to mention the successful efforts of those
engaged in ameliorating agricultural conditions, we are
not entitled to surmise that he has ignored this better-
ment. The truth is that, on emerging from his crisis
of profound pessimism, Verhaeren was still allured by
gloomy ideas ; he wished, at that time, to depict great
sorrows, and great sorrows only. One who fails to
recognise the fact is incapable of passing a just opinion
on Verhaeren/' 1
Excellent ! But Smet has not said all there is to say
on the matter. We have to show how far the images
of Les campagnes hallucintes still express Verhaeren's
own crisis, how they renew and perfect the images of
Les dtbdcles or of Les soirs.
First there are the symbols of sterility familiar to us
as early as Les plaines mornes in Les fiamandes.
De pauvres clos, ourls de haies
Ecartelent leur sol couvert de plaies ;
De pauvres clos, de pauvres fermes,
Les portes laches. . . .
Ni lin, ni b!6, ni frondaisons, ni germes. . . .*
[Sorry enclosures, hemmed in by hedges,
Their soil quartered, and covered with wounds;
Sorry enclosures, sorry farmsteads,
The doors hanging loose. . . .
No flax, no corn, no leaves, no seeds. . . .]
1 Smet, op. cit., vol. ii. p. 67, note.
From Les plaines, in Les campagnes hallucinges.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 193
Le sol et les germes sont condamn^es. l
[The soil and the seeds are doomed.]
These seeds fated to be poisoned or doomed recall the
cross on the cow's forehead (p, 86), and many other
images of ruined fecundity.
Quelqu'un a du frapper Tete
De mauvaise fecondite,
Le ble, tres dru, ne fut que paillc. . . .
Le semeur d'or des mauvais germes,
Aux jour d'avril dorant les fermes,
Les vieux Tont tous senti passer. *
[Some one must have struck the summer
With an evil fecundity,
For though the corn grew thickly it was nothing but straw. . , .
The golden sower of bad seed,
During the April days gilding the farms,
All the old folk felt him passing by.]
In these symbols of seeds which have brought forth
no fruit there are condensed the havoc wrought by
rank fleshliness, and the introversion of instinct. It is
interesting to find the same symbols in one of the classical
myths relating to introversion, the myth of Proserpina
carried off by Pluto :
Ruricolasque boves leto dedit arvaque jussit
Fallere depositum vitiataque semina fecit,3
we read in Ovid. The oxen die, the fields bring forth
no crops, the seeds are blighted.
As we have seen, this " introversion of instinct " is
a deviation of part of the sexual energy towards the inner
life (consequently it is a process of desexualisation). The
deviation is sometimes expressed by " inverted actions/'
1 From Chanson de fou, in Les campagnes hallucines.
* From P&lerinage, in Les campagnes hallucin6es.
3 Ovid, Metamorphoses, v. 479-480.
194 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
and occasionally, as we saw during the crisis, by directly
Le Satan d'or des champs brules
Et des fermiers ensorcel^s
Qui font des croix de la main gauche. 1
[The golden Satan of the parched fields
And of the bewitched farmers
Who make the sign of the cross with the left hand.]
The symbol of " inverted actions " is here closely associated
with the " sterile seeds " in the poem entitled PHerinage. In
the following extract the symbol approximates to the directly
sexual. All these symbols are intimately akin.
Sur sa butte que le vent gifle,
II tourne et fauche et ronfle et siffle,
Le vieux moulin des peches vieux. . . .
Tous passerent par le moulin. . . .
Les conjureurs de sort et les sorcicres
Que vont trouver les filles-meres ; . . .
Ceux qui n'aiment la chair que si le sang
Gicle aux yeux, frais et luisant ; . . .
Les vagabonds qui habitent des fosses
Avec leurs filles qu'ils engrossent ; . . .
Les fous qui choisissent des betes
Pour assouvir leur rut et ses tempetes. . . .
Ceux qui pro jet tent leurs prieres
Croix k rebours et paroles contraires, . . .
Tous passerent par le moulin. *
[On a hillock buffeted by the wind,
The mill turns and sickles and snorts and whistles,
The old mill of the old sins. . . .
All of them have gone through the mill. . . .
The fortune-tellers, and the witches
Whom the unmarried mothers seek out ; . . .
Those who love the flesh only when the blood
Gushes visibly forth, fresh and lustrous ; . . .
The vagabonds who live in the ditches
With their girls whom they make with child ; . . .
1 From P&lerinage, in Les campagnes hallucinecs.
* From Le P6ch6, in Les campagnes hallucines.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 195
The madmen who choose the beasts
To appease the rut of their passions. . . .
Those who offer up their prayers
With inverted crosses and words said backwards, . . .
All of them have gone through the mill.]
These images are but variations on the theme of
" sterile " or " poisonous " seeds, We read in the same
Us sont montes et quand ils sont redescendus. . . .
Charges de farine et de grain
Par groupes noirs de pelerins,
Les grand' routes chariaient toutes,
Infiniment comme des vcines,
Le sang du mal parmi les plaines.
Et le moulin tournait au fond des soirs,
La grande croix de ses bras noirs.
[They went up, and when they came down again. . . .
Carrying flour and grain
In black groups of pilgrims,
All the highways bore along
Like arteries, unceasingly,
The evil blood athwart the plains.
And the mill turned in the depth of the evenings
The great cross of its black arms.]
The last image recalls The Mill in Les soirs, which is
now further elucidated. The mill, which was the symbol
of sensual health in Les flamandes (with the " miller "
and the "flour"), has ever since those days expressed
ruined health, the introversion of instinct, and, possibly,
introversion in its general sense. To this is added the
" cross " of its black arms wherein is expressed the
whole drama of the crisis, which finds so tragical a por-
trayal in the beautiful poem in Les soirs.
Le pe'che should be compared with Le donneur de
mauvais conseils. But we do not wish to make any
further analysis of the crisis, and this we should be con-
strained to do were we to pursue this line of investigations
196 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
We see, however, that Les campagnes hallucindes is flesh
and bone of Les soirs, and the poems in the former
collection can be fully comprehended only when brought
into relation with the latter. Then such songs as the
Chansons de fou, incoherent and inexplicable at a first
reading, can be interpreted word by word, and offer us
a content of surprisingly full meaning. The first of these
songs, for instance, to our great surprise, is a remodelling
of the episodes of the Clockmaker in Early Affections
from the huge, haunting eye
Avec des ycux plus grands que n'est grande sa tete.
[With eyes bigger than its head.]
down to the three lady-gnomes
Nous, les trois fous,
Qui epousons, au clair de lunc,
Trois folles dames sur la dune.
[We, the three madmen,
Who wedded, in the moonlight,
Three mad ladies on the dunes.]
Nor is the episode of the gnomes asleep in the clock-cases
J'ai su qu'il habitait un bouge
Avec des morts dans ses armoires.
[I knew he dwelt in a hovel
With dead people in his cupboards.]
All this is interlaced with images of " flour," of " mills,"
and of " sterile seeds " :
Car nous avons pour glnitoires
[For we have as testicles
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 197
The last of the Songs of Madmen condenses the ruin
of the flesh with the loss of faith. We have already
made acquaintance with " rodents " as symbols of a
gnawing and threatening evil. In Les flamandes, for
instance, " all the little mice w r ere as still as could be "
(p. 87). Here the rats " reverberate in the bell " and
" eat the host/' and we are reminded of the bell in Le
sonneur, and the sacred wafer trampled under foot in
We need not prolong the game of guessing riddles.
These examples will suffice to show how Les campagnes
hallutine'es may be interpreted, and how the country-
sides are still " personal landscapes."
Other " personal landscapes " are constituted by the
Tentacular Towns which henceforward take Verhaeren
in thrall. They are the symbol of his extroversion, of
his social activities, of his growing faith in human effort,
of the labours of to-day " pointed " toward the future.
Here we encounter the symbolical acceptance of the
factory. The poem entitled Les usines (Factories) has
earned well-merited celebrity ; it is in fact the focal
point of the Villes tentaculaires ; the great industrial
town is the limitless enlargement of the small factory
of the poet's childhood. This acceptance is fraught with
anguish, it does not occur without an inward struggle,
without a secret reserve. There is, in these hymns to
the real, an indescribable desolation :
Et des files, toujours les memes, de lanternes
Menant I'egout des abattoirs vers les casernes. 1
[And always the same rows of street lamps,
Guiding the effluent of the slaughterhouses towards the barracks.]
But there is also an effort to overcome this disgust,
a constant will towards enthusiasm. A resigned accept-
ance of the inevitable does not suit Verhaeren' s tempera-
1 From Les usines, in Les villes tentaculaires.
198 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
ment ; he wishes for, and he will through his own effort
achieve, the joyful acceptance of the new life against
which the old Adam within the poet is still in revolt.
Verhaeren will come to love the trains which were once
so like death to him :
L'esprit des campagnes etait I'esprit de Dieu ;
II eut la peur de la recherche et des rvoltes,
II chut ; et le voici qui meurt, sous les essicux
Et sous les chars en feu des nouvellcs recoltes. 1
[The spirit of the countryside was the spirit of God ;
It was alarmed by research and by revolts,
It has fallen ; and now it is dying beneath the axles
And beneath the fiery chariots of new harvests,]
The promise which the future holds for him will
prevent Verhaeren from regretting the past :
Le reve ancien est mort et le nouveau se forge. . . .
Et qu'importe les maux et les heures dementes,
Et les cuves de vice ou la cite fermente,
Si quelque jour, du fond des brouillards et des voiles,
Surgit un nouveau Christ, en lumiere sculpte,
Qui souleve vers lui I'humanite
Et la baptise au feu de nouvelles etoiles ? *
[The old dream is dead and a new dream is being forged. . . .
What matter, then, the ills and the frenzied hours,
And the vats of vice wherein the towns ferment,
If one day, surging up from the depths of the fogs and the mists,
A new Christ arises, sculptured in light,
Who will lift humanity towards him
And will baptise it in the fire of new stars.]
Les campagnes hallucinees marks a period when pity
makes its appearance in Verhaeren's work. Though
this collection of poems is inspired by the poet's per-
sonal sufferings, he makes use of these sufferings to express
those endured by his fellow mortals ; thus he conies to
* From Vers le futur, in Les villes tentaculaires.
From L'Ame de la ville, in Les villes tentaculaires.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 199
understand the anguish of his neighbour. Condensation,
which is characteristic of symbolisation, here acts as a
sympathetic agent ; by mingling the suffering of mankind
with the suffering of the poet, condensation reaches a
point where it is impossible to differentiate the individual
from the general. The understanding of this essential
unity in suffering has created pity and Verhaeren's
commiseration embraces the wretchedness of poverty-
stricken people and unhappy beasts :
Et leurs troupeaux reches et maigres
Par les chemins rapes et par les sablons aigres,
Egalement sont les chasses
Aux coups de fouet inepuises
Des famines qui exterminent :
Moutons dont la fatigue a tout caillou ricoche,
Boeufs qui meuglent vers la mort proche,
Vaches hydropiques et lourdes
Aux pis vides commes dcs gourdes
Et les anes, avec la mort crucifi^e
Sur leurs cdtes sacrifices. 1
[And the flocks, rough-coated and thin,
Along the worn roads and over the harsh sands,
Are likewise driven
By the unceasing lash
Of exterminating famine :
Sheep whose weariness rebounds from every stone,
Oxen lowing towards imminent death,
Heavy, dropsical cows
With udders empty as gourds,
And donkeys, with death crucified
On their tortured flanks.]
Such lines show Verhaeren's kinship to other French
poets of pity, to Michelet, to Hugo, This " universal
pity " (to which de Smet devotes an admirable chapter
in his book on the Belgian poet a ) is henceforward to be
Verhaeren's inseparable companion. It is, indeed, a
* From Le depart, in Les campagnes hallucines.
Smet, op. cit., vol. ii. pp. 286 et seq.
200 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
" resurrection of the heart." The moment of realisation
is, however, likewise a moment of expectation. We may
quote in this connexion the poem depicting the vision of
the silent women who are weaving patient goodness in the
depths of their secret isle :
Tr6s doucement, avec la douce patience,
En leurs reves d'obdience,
DCS 1'aube, elles tressent pieusement
Les tapis blancs que le silence
Met sous les pieds du devouement. . . .
Elles tissent avec la laine
Qui fait le tour de la misfire humaine. 1
[Very gently, with gentle patience,
In their dreams of obedience,
As soon as day dawns, they piously weave
The white carpets which silence
Spreads under the feet of devotion. . . .
They weave with wool
The impermeable garment
Which goes the round of human wretchedness.]
But there is no landing place as yet on the island ; it
lies in the sea like a promise :
J'ai navigue autour de Tile,
En ma barque, depuis quels jours,
Vers Tune d'elles qui toujours
Sans regarder s'attarde et file.
[I sailed round the island
In my boat for many a day,
Heading towards one of them who always,
Without looking up, lingered behind and span.]
But strength must be found to rescue the spinner who
is enchained on the island by fate, and who is herself,
as it were, a goddess of fate. It is Andromeda, who
on a day to come will be rescued by Perseus. 2 We
1 From Celle~de Tile, in Les vignes de ma muraille.
Rythmes souverains. Vide infra pp. 283-4.
CONVERSION AND DELIVERANCE 201
may see in this the symbol of the soul, which is even now,
and in its own despite, enchained by early loves and a
yearning for the mother. In order to complete the
rescue we must delve into the profoundest depths of the
subconscious. Verhaeren was greatly assisted in the task
by working at his three dramas, Le cloitre, Philippe II,
and Hetene de Sparte. In his poems we have witnessed
his struggle to hitch his soul and his passion on to new
objects. This constitutes the positive side of the work
of deliverance. There is also, however, the negative
side, and that is to detach the soul from the internal
objects, the personal objects, which still hold it captive.
In order to do this it is necessary to reveal even more
clearly that \\hich slumbers in the subconscious. This is
the part an involuntary one played by the dramas.
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY
IN the past, critics have been unjust in their condemnation
of Verhaeren's dramas, and it may be that this injustice
will continue. There is a very simple reason for the un-
fairness : Vcrhaeren is a poet, a lyrical artist ; therefore
it is concluded, or at least implied, that he cannot be
a playwright. Such a method of reasoning, by no means
uncommon, arises out of the essentially prosaic con-
ception of the drama which it is the fashion nowadays
to adopt. Lyricism on the stage is looked upon at best
as no more than the hors d'oeuvre. In spite of Hugo's
Les burgraves (which by the way had to await the poet's
centenary celebration before it came into its own), and
in spite of Wagner's stupendous efforts, the eyes of the
critics have not yet been opened. They speak to us
of " the classical drama " in connexion with the most
prosaic of plays, so long as the muscles of the work in
question appear to be strenuously directed towards action.
But if we go deeper into matters, we have to ask ourselves
whether this is in reality their criterion of the classical.
Of course it is not. Having decided that the romantic
drama is poetry, they conclude, by a singularly illogical
method of reasoning, that classical drama cannot be
poetry. Lack of lyricism, or rather, lack of poesy, is
their true criterion of " classical drama." A more
delicious piece of incongruity could hardly be imagined.
How can they have forgotten that classical drama in
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 208
the highest sense of the term, i.e. Greek drama, arose
and took birth from music ? Nay, more. No plays
are more lacking in " action," in the modern sense of
the word, than such tragedies of ^Eschylus as the
Ghoephori, the Suppliants, the Seven against Thebes,
and the Prometheus. These dramas are certainly not
lacking in action of a kind ; but the action is intellectual
and lyrical ; it is not material and episodic. Such action
is the ebb and the flow of emotions, an ebb and a flow
rendered palpable by the chorus. To-day action is
material, and almost cinematographic. Strange, indeed,
that Wagner's ideas should find no enthusiasts among
us ! But when our critics have become imbued with
those ideas, they will perhaps be more generous towards
Though these plays are lyrical, they are real dramas ;
for Verhaeren's lyricism is essentially dynamic, and full
of movement. Such lyricism always contains within
itself the essence of drama. Jean Bard, a highly original
young artist and an enthusiastic admirer of Verhaeren,
who once mischievously observed to me " I do not care
for action in drama/' has had the daring idea of staging,
not Verhaeren's plays, but some of his poems. While
these are being recited, they are simultaneously acted,
and thus demonstrate before our very eyes all the hidden
dynamic which is potential within them. The success
of the experiment seems conclusive in favour of lyrical
drama. In especial does it reveal the dramatic genius
of our poet ; for if the poems alone are so dramatic,
how should his plays not likewise be full of the same
spirit ? We shall soon be able to show that they are
Drama and lyricism are often taken as the objective
and subjective aspects of the same entity. But, indeed,
when one speaks of art, these two aspects cannot be
considered as contrasted entities. Objective art is always
to a certain extent subjective ; in truth it is often more
204 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
subjective than is usually suspected. In the course of
the present study this has been proved time and again.
We need but recall the symbolic part played by imagina-
tive creations ; or, again, how the imagination makes use
of images from the outer world to express the feelings,
whether conscious or unconscious, of the subject ; how
the outward symbols are used to express these inward
emotions far more than to describe the outer world.
Lyrical drama will, therefore, probably be subjective.
It will utilize situations in the exterior life to symbolise
the internal conflicts of the poet ; and this symbolisation
may be accomplished with or without the knowledge of
the author himself.
Here my readers will demur. The three psychological
dramas written by Verhaeren confront us with situations
which, at the least, may be described as strange, but
which some will certainly regard as monstrous. The
situations are pressed on our notice with insistence, one
might even say paroxysmally. Le clottre deals with
a son who has killed his father ; in Philippe II, the father
kills the son ; in Hel&ne de Sparte, murder is flavoured
with incestuous and inverted passions. Fine company,
forsooth ! When we insist that these dramas are sub-
jective, do we mean to imply that the poet has committed
parricide and incest, or that he is endowed with a per-
verted and amoral nature ? Certainly not ; any more than
Sophocles was a parricide and an incestmongcr because
he wrote the (Edipus trilogy (a work surcharged with
lyricism). The poet needs only to be spontaneous, or
unusually sincere in his lyricism, in order to indue with
life those " monsters " which modern psychology has
shown to be slumbering in the depths of our subconscious ;
just as paleolithic monsters are revealed to those who
delve deeply enough into geologic strata as relics of the
creatures that dwelt in our ancient world. Verhaeren
has met these monsters ; he has described them so
faithfully that one is amazed at finding how closely the
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 205
prophetic vision of the poet confirms the scientific
researches of the psychologist.
Freud was the originator of the idea of the " Oedipus
complex/' By this complex we have to understand a
subconscious trend in two_ directions : incestuous love
bl the mother ; and mortal hatred for the father. ^ Freud
has been reproached, not without good reason, for the
use of the terms " incestuous love " and " mortal hatred. 11
As a matter of fact, the Oedipus complex has revealed
itself to be of very frequent occurrence. And yet it
would be false to maintain that the majority of men are
in fact or by desire either incestuous or parricidal. The
affair is much more simple. These impulses must be
classed among the paleolithic monsters we were speaking
of a moment ago ; they are vestiges of very early child-
hood, dating from a period of life when the child is ab-
solutely amoral ; vestiges which have been subsequently
thrust down into the subconscious at the first onset of
the " moral age." To such an extent is this the case
that an Oedipian (and who can say positively that he
has no Oedipus complex ?), far from being a parricide,
may love his father sincerely. Now in those early years
of amorality the words " incestuous love " and " moral
hatred " have no meaning, for the child is completely
ignorant of what incest is, and for him " absence " is
synonymous with " death." We can well understand
that a little child may have an exclusive love for its
mother, a love which may go hand in hand with moments
of jealousy of the father, hand in hand with a desire to
get rid of the father as an obstacle and a rival. 1 It is also
easy to understand how the adult imagination, wishing
to express in actual words these violent passions
of a little child, should find no better terms than
" incestuous love " and " mortal hatred." This explains
the frequency with which parricidal and incestuous
phantasies (usually disguised under the cloak of symbols)
1 Cf. Paulhan, Les transformations sociales des sentiments.
206 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
occur in the dreams and the imaginative creations of
We may agree with Adler x that the Oedipus complex
is itself above all symbolical. We know with what sort
of ideas the concepts of the father and the mother are
often condensed. In Verhaeren, as we have seen, the
idea of the mother is condensed with that of the dream,
with introversion ; the idea of the father, with that of
the real, with extroversion. Thus the Oedipus complex
may, in Verhaeren, be represented by the conflict with
which we have already made acquaintance.
I may remind the reader that in the following pages
the words " father " and " mother " would be understood
by many commentators in a symbolical sense : the " idea
of the father " and the " idea of the mother " with all
their respective connotations. If the Freudian explana-
tion appears to be too paradoxical, some readers may
>refer such an interpretation.
However much tastes may differ on this point, there is
no gainsaying the fact that the " Oedipus complex/' when
it is intense, seems to have a preponderating influence
upon the whole psychic development of the human being.
If we trace its origin to a very early and very violent
love for the mother,* it is possible that this complex is
the attribute of every normal boy endowed with sensitive
feelings. Should it be intense, it would be the sign
of exceptionally refined sensibilities. Verhaeren's dramas
reveal in the most striking manner a very powerful
Oedipus complex, and they reveal this complex with
a clarity by no means inferior to the revelation in the
trilogy whence the name of the complex has been derived.
The hero of Le clottre, Dom Balthazar, is a gloomy
and vehement monk, who has come to the cloister in
order to bury his remorse for his crime and to hide
1 Adler, Ueber den nervosen Charakter, 1919, p. 5.
* Or the person who " mothers " the child.
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 207
it in God. But his secret weighs him down, and the
remorse will out. He confesses his misdeed, and publicly
announces that murder led him to the cloister :
Mon pere est mort, je 1'ai assassin^,
La tete folle et sauvage de vin. 1
[My father died, I murdered him
When my mind was frenzied and made wild with wine.]
He tells his auditors where his father was sleeping, and
goes on :
Mon pere ouvrit les yeux et tout a coup surgit
Muet et soupfonneux devant ma haine. . . .
Se ralluma, rien qu'a sentir ses doigts brutaux
Et sees, scrrer ma chair en leur etau. . . .
II paraissait, lui seul, etre tous mcs a'ieux
Si grande etait sa taille et si dure sa force.
[My father opened his eyes, and suddenly rose up
Mute and suspicious, confronted by my hate. . . .
Rekindled, merely at the feel of his brutal
And withered fingers squeezing my flesh as in a vice. . . .
He seemed to be the embodiment of all my forefathers,
So huge was his stature and so obdurate his strength.]
This last detail is very significant. We shall meet with
it again in Helene de Sparte. Analysts have recognised
that the gigantic and archaic ''father," is the father
as pictured by the tiny child. The dreams and phantasies
(not to mention popular tales of giants) which conjure
up the image of the father are, as a rule, akin to these
impressions of very early childhood.
In Le cloitre the motive of hatred for the father is not
perfectly clear. The murder takes place " one evening
when I was drunk/' It is therefore a blind hate, welling
up from the depths of the being who himself does not
* Act Two.
208 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
understand it. The one thing that is clear to Balthazar
is that his hatred of his father constitutes a revolt against
an authority which ruthlessly oppresses him, against those
" brutal and withered fingers squeezing my flesh as in a
vice." " My father was stern, and I was a wild fellow.
He seemed like an obstacle in my path : my vices
coveted his wealth/'
In considering Le cloitre we find but one aspect of
the Oedipus complex exposed, for the love of the mother
does not at any time enter into the picture. We find
only the negative component of the complex (hatred for
the father), not the positive component (love of the
mother). Such being the case, we may make use of
an interpretation of this phenomenon furnished by
Adler, 1 and need not have recourse to Freud. Adler
would probably say that Le cloitre is for the subconscious
the drama of the son who, feeling his powers waxing,
revolts against paternal authority. This interpretation
would be, in large part, accurate. We have already
mentioned the actual conflict which took place between
Verhaeren and his father at the outset of the poet's career ;
nor did we overlook the significance of the " factory "
in this connexion. Now the stresses arising out of a
conflict where the vocation of a lifetime is in the balance,
cannot fail to leave upon the subconscious an impression
which in later life may revive in the form of fantasies.
Verhaeren is, as has been rightly observed by Albert
Mockel, a " poet of energy/' He has been compared with
Nietzsche, the philosopher of the will-to-power. The
heroes of Verhaeren's plays, and Dom Balthazar with the
rest, are, like Hernani, " forces which speed along " ;
even more than Hernani, they are conquering forces,
powers which seek dominion. The whole of the action
in Le cloitre is concerned with ascertaining which monk
shall succeed to the prior when he dies ; who shall be
the force capable of curbing the other inmates' wills ;
1 Op. cit.
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 209
who shall be strong enough to grasp the crosier. It is
essentially a drama of the will-to-power.
But here we must point out that, excellent as this
interpretation may be, it does not exclude the other. For
in the two subsequent dramas, Philippe II and Rlllne de
Sparte, we are confronted with the same primary theme,
which is, however, completed by the secondary theme ;
we shall find these plays imbued with the will-to-power
and the will-to-love.
Knowing this, we can the better understand what sort
of a "crime has brought Balthazar to the "cloister/ 1
The cloister is for Verhaeren a familiar symbol of intro-
version. The " monks " in their " cloister " are for the
poet the obverse of the " Flemish women," " the carnal
ideal." 1 Les flamandes represents extroversion and
sensuality ; Les moines represents introversion and
mysticism. The " crime which leads to the cloister "
may therefore be explained (in a somewhat schematic
terminology it is true, but a terminology which is both
concise and easy to understand) as : " the Oedipus
complex which leads to introversion."
J'ai tue mon p&re I j'ai tue mon pdre I
Et Ton m'enferme ici
Comme une bete en une cage
Pour etouffer les cris
Et les remords de mon &me sauvage.*
[I killed my father, I killed my father,
And they have locked me up here
Like a beast in a cage
So as to stifle the cries
And the remorse of my tempestuous heart.]
Various authors have drawn attention to this link
between the Oedipus complex and introversion. 3 While
studying Les tendresses premieres we had occasion to
1 Cf. Les flamandes, the last verse of the concluding poem.
3 Cf. in particular, Morel, op. cit.
210 PSYHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
point out that the tendency to introversion, in a boy,
is often linked with the idea of the mother ; whilst the
tendency to extroversion is linked with the idea of the
father. In the specific case of Verhaeren, the struggle,
during the twentieth year of his age, against paternal
authority, was at the same time a protest of his inner
being against the realism of the factory.
Le clotire, therefore, may well symbolise the intense
crisis of introversion through which Verhaeren passed
just as, in the Oedipus at Golonus, the blindness which
afflicts Oedipus, causing him to turn his gaze within,
must symbolise the same introversion which follows in
the footsteps of the same " crime/ 1 1 There is now nothing
to be surprised at if we find Balthazar describing his crimes
in terms of Les debdcles and Les flambeaux noirs :
Mon crime est un orage en flamme
Qui moid et brule et saccage mon ame. . . .
Je suis comme un buisson de pechds noirs :
Toutes les epines du sacrilege
Se recourbent sur moi, comme des ongles noirs ;
Le manteau saint qui me protege
Ment sur mes epaules ; j 'en suis convert ;
Mais la lepre pourrit ma chair.*
[My crime is a flaming storm
Which bites and burns and ravages my soul. . . .
I am like a thicket of black sins :
All the thorns of sacrilege
Are turned against me like black nails;
The holy mantle which protects me
Rests a living lie upon my shoulders ; I am covered by it ;
But leprosy gnaws my flesh.]
In especial docs the " lying mantle " recall the days
of Les moines. That was the period when Verhaeren,
at the very time when he was wrapping himself in the
sumptuous folds of his religious poems, knew full well that
1 This is perhaps the symbolic content of all the myths which deal
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 211
his faith was dead ; and he was confusedly preparing
for the crisis. " Leprosy gnaws my flesh " ; but in those
days St. George was to come, the messenger of a new
faith who was to exorcise " the leprosy and pustules "
The theme of the drama Philippe II is the struggle
unto death between father and son. The young and
ebullient, feeble and morbid Don Carlos can no longer
submit to his father's authority :
Oh I nos haines, oh ! nos rages inassouvies, . . .
Je suis restd, comme un enfant, sujet du roi. 1
[Oh, our hatred, oh, our unappeased fury. . . .
I have remained, like a child, subject to the king.]
Don Carlos wishes to command in his turn. Aided by his
love, the Comtesse de Clermont, he intends to escape
to Flanders. In that country he will reign ; they will
love one another far removed from the cold, suspicious
king, who spies on them at every turn. His impatience
is passionate :
D'ailleurs ce que le roi pense ou dit :
Que nous importe, k 1'heure ou c'est moi seul qui monte,
Oil mon impatience, avec fifevre, decompte
Les trop nombreux instants qui retardent encor
Mon arriv^e en Flandre, avec mes clairons d'or ? *
[Besides, what matters what the king says or thinks :
At the hour when it is I alone who climb
Whither my impatience, feverishly, ticks off
The all too numerous minutes which still delay
My arrival in Flanders with my golden trumpets ?]
And he allows himself to be lulled with the idea that :
De dlivrance acclamera notre cortege
En leur cit6s dont renaltront les privileges. 3
1 Act One. f Act Three, Scene One.
3 Act Three, Scene One.
212 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Of deliverance will acclaim our progress
Through their cities whose privileges we shall restore.]
It is necessary, therefore, that he shall tear himself
away and shall liberate Flanders from the tyranny of
his father. Once more we are faced with a dramatisation
of the will-to-power ; but there is something besides.
" Flanders ! " at the very word, one who is accustomed to
analyse symbols will prick up his ears, will be on the scent,
for he will remember that our native land, in our fantasies
and our dreams, is often the symbol of that other home-
land, the maternal bosom, the mother. 1 We may well
ask ourselves whether the act of wresting Flanders from
the hands of the king does not subconsciously represent
the act of the little boy who appropriates to himself
the mother, and wrests her from the father. This inter-
pretation is confirmed in the most remarkable manner
when we come to study the character of the Comtesse
de Clermont. She is no ordinary lover ; we are forced
to see in her a reincarnation of the idea of the mother.
It is left to Fray Bernardo, the king's confessor, to tell
the king of this, and thus to reveal it to ourselves :
Don Carlos Taime. Elle ressemble & la reine votre compagne.
Toutes deux viennent dc France ; on les croirait soeurs.*
[Don Carlos loves her. She is like the queen, your spouse.
Both come from France; they might well be sisters.]
In connexion with this foreign king who is to make
himself master of Flanders, the foreign king who symbolises
the father, and in connexion with the princess hailing
from France, who plays the part of the mother, it is
interesting to recall a passage already quoted from
Bazalgette's book where he is writing about Verhaeren's
i Cf. Vodoz, op. cit., apropos of the Song of Roland.
* Act Two.
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 213
family on the maternal side : " The Debocks belonged
to this countryside, and were proud of the fact. Their
mother came from Herenthals ; her name had been
Lepaige, which suggests a French origin. The Debocks
gave a friendly reception to the ' foreigner ' Gustave
Verhaeren, Emile's father, who was from Brussels. . . .
It is probable . . . that the Verhaerens were of Dutch
origin. 1 ' It would likewise not be a difficult matter to
find among Verhaeren's infantile impressions the source
of the peculiar duality of the maternal symbol in this
play. Why, we ask, should there be a simultaneous
love for Flanders and for the beloved ? Why is the
beloved as it were the " sister " of the mother ? We
may conjecture that we have here a reminiscence of
two maternal figures : the mother, and the aunt, both
of whom had their place in Verhaeren's childhood ; indeed,
we have already learned that the aunt was like a mother
to the boy. But we need not venture farther along the
path of possibilities ; let it suffice that the maternal role
of the beloved is proved beyond question.
After having been shown that we have in the mother
and the countess the figures of two " sisters," we are
presented with a scene which cannot fail to appear
somewhat strange. King Philip and the countess are
talking about Don Carlos, just as a father and a mother
might talk of their child, of the education of their son !
LA COMTESSE :
Sire, j'ai pour V infant une tendrcsse ardent.
Que m'importent 1'exces de ses haines mordantes
Et ses abattements et ses fureurs d* enfant!
Je Taime tel qu'il est et suis fi6re qu'il m'aime.
Je ne raisonne point combien cet amour meme
Touche parfois & la piti6, combien. . . ,
PHILIPPE II (tout coup sv&re) :
C'est outrager mon fils que de 1'aimer ainsi. . . .
214 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
LA COMTESSE :
... Si je donne &
Don Carlos ma tendresse attentive et soumise,
Je lui montre le courage qu'il faut aux rois.
Je le grandis et je le gagne
Au bel orgueil de se sentir infant d'Espagne. . . .
PHILIPPE II :
Moi seul et des hommes choisis par moi forment le cceur
et Tesprit d'un futur roi d'Espagne. , , . Vos conseils, votre
adresse, votre amour, tout est nuisible. 1
[THE COUNTESS :
Sire, I have an ardent tenderness for the Infante.
What do I care for his biting hatreds
And his fits of despondency and his childish tantrums !
I love him as he is, and I am proud of his love for me.
I do not pause to think how near this love
Sometimes is to pity, how . . .
PHILIPPE II (suddenly severe) :
It is an insult to my son to love him thus. . . .
THE COUNTESS :
... If I give to
Don Carlos my attentive and submissive love,
I show him the courage which all kings should have.
I enhance his own worth, and I win him
To the splendid pride of feeling he is Infante of Spain. . . .
PHILIPPE II :
I alone, and men chosen by myself, shall shape the heart
and the mind of Spain's future king. . . . Your counsel, your
cleverness, your love all are harmful.]
Such a conversation is perhaps not very appropriate,
taking place as it does between Philip II and his son's
beloved. But though we may have objective grounds
for criticism, the characters play their symbolical and
unconscious part in a most admirable fashion. The father
and the mother are here fighting for the son. The
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 215
scene records one of those commonplace talks wherein the
father is all severity and good sense, and the mother all
feeling and affection ; it is a scene whereat the child
is often present, powerless and mute, where he feels that
his fate is being decided, and where, in his imagination he
magnifies into cruelty the severity of the father.
The countess is frequently assigned the part of mother
in her relations with Don Carlos. Sometimes the actual
word is used :
DON CARLOS :
Oh! tu me fus, et soeur et m&re, autant qu'amante. 1
[Oh, you have been both sister and mother, as well as love
DON CARLOS :
Je sens qu'elle m'est sure et bonne et n&essaire. . . .
Elle m'est la sant rendue.* Elle accompagne,
Sur des chemins nouveaux, mes pas encor tremblants.i
[I feel that she is trusty, that she is good and necessary to
me. . . .
She is my health restored. She accompanies me
As I take my first trembling steps upon new roads.]
LA COMTESSE :
Ce n'est plus moi qu'ils punissent et tuent, c'est lui,
Le pauvre enfant en qui je reveillais la vie. 4
[THE COUNTESS :
It is no longer I whom they are punishing and killing ; it is he,
The unhappy child whom I was awaking to life.]
* Act Three, Scene Two.
Here seems to be a condensation of the aunt (Verhaeren's true mother,
whose figure appears in Les tendresses premieres in connexion with
convalescence) with the wife whose love, when the poet was emerging
from the crisis, was likewise " la sant6 rendue."
3 Act Two. 4 Act Three, Scene Two.
216 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
LA COMTESSE (maternelle) :
Berce en mes bras ta ftevre et ton triomphe, 6 roi !
Espre et sois heureux de ta belle folie,
Goute la volupt6 de tes dsirs ; oublie
Ton pass morne et prends ton reve merveilleux
Pour un monde rel que t'aurait fait un dieu. 1
[THE COUNTESS (maternally) :
Lull your fever and your triumph in my arms, O king !
Hope, and be happy in your fine frenzy,
Taste the voluptuousness of your desires ; forget
Your gloomy past, and take your wondrous dream
For a real world which a god would have made for you.]
Truly it is the essential mother who speaks these words ;
it is the mother spirit which, in the depths of the being,
gives the rhythm to this captivating lullaby whose con-
cluding words constitute so open an invitation to intro-
version. One of the characteristics of introversion is
wilfully to renounce the real in order to dwell in the
realm of dreams, to make for oneself out of the dream
an equivalent of the real, to see in the world of dreams
a better and finer realm. In extreme cases this flight
into the land of dreams brings about a " loss of the function
of the real/' a a " disadaptation " to life.
Don Carlos, like Balthazar, is, from beginning to end
of the drama, an introvert. In the very first scene he
is a prisoner in the Escurial, " rigid and black/ 1 another
cloister. We hear him exclaim :
Oh mon r&ve ferm, que j'ai peur d'entr'ouvrir.3
[Oh my closed dream, which I dread even to half-open.]
Towards the end, where he allows himself to be lulled
to rest by the countess (" maternally "), he beholds in
her the image of the " Virgin " and he dreams of " with-
drawing from the world/ 1 just like a monk, while folded
in her mystical arms :
1 Act Two. * Cf. Morel, op. cit., pp. 24-25.
3 Act One.
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 217
DON CARLOS (comme s'il priait) :
Ce n'est plus que ta voix que je voudrais entendre
Ce n'est plus qu'entre tes yeux et leurs regards
Que mes d^sirs hagards
Pendant rternit ;
Et ce n'est plus, qu'en ton Sme profonde,
Que je voudrais me retirer du monde
Tu m'es la Vierge
Tromphante parmi les forets d'or des cierges. 1
[DON CARLOS (as if in prayer) :
Your voice alone do I wish to hear
For all eternity ;
It is only in your eyes and their glances
That my wan desires
Wish to descend
For all eternity ;
It is only into your deep soul
That I wish to retire far from the world
For all eternity.
You are for me the Virgin,
Triumphant amid the golden forest of candles,]
If we recall the fact that monks are in Verhaeren's
writings the symbol of introversion, we shall understand
somewhat better the meaning of the strange nocturnal
vision, in the first act, when the father, mute as a shadow,
spies upon the lovers, and when the " black monk " follows
the father at a distance, spying upon the latter in his
Tu vois, Ik-bas, ce moine noir qui, par mgarde, semble
gagner le coin ovt disparut le roi. Eh bien 1 ce moine-lk, c'est
1'espion du Saint-Office. Philippe II surveille, mais il est
surveille. Chaque pas qu'il fait vers nous, quelqu'un le fait
vers lui. Regarde, il rentre et le moine disparait*
* Act Three, Scene Two. * Act One.
218 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[Do you see, over there, that black monk who, as if by accident,
seems to make for the very spot where the king disappeared ?
Well, that monk is the spy of the Holy Office. Philip II may
keep watch ; but he, too, is watched. Each step he takes
towards us is dogged by one taken towards him. Look, he is
going in, and the monk has disappeared.]
Somewhat earlier in the scene Don Carlos had said :
Ce n'etait point mon pere qu'il fallait craindre, c'dtait les
moines, eux seules sont redoutables.
[My father need not be feared ; we need fear only the monks ;
they alone are to be dreaded.]
Is it not obvious that, just as in Le cloitre, the Oedipus
complex seems to lead inevitably to introversion ? The
menace of a too intense introversion, of a " monkish "
dominion, brings the man to the realisation of the real
danger, the true enemy. This fact is only hinted at in
Philippe II. From the beginning to the end of this play,
the enemy is the father, and the revolt against him
grows and grows until it becomes a mortal hatred.
DON CARLOS :
Le mal atteint en vous je ne sais quel exces.
Lorsque je songe a lui, je songe a vous mon pere.
Que je gouverne un jour, j'oublierai tout, hormis
L'horreur que j'ai de vous, et la sourde colre
D'etre quelqu'un de votre sang.
Je sens un projet sombre en mon ame germer ;
Le chreme est efface dont vos tempes sont ointes,
Et vous pouvez remercier a deux mains j ointes
Le Ciel, qu'en cet instant, je me sois d^sarm^. 1
[DON CARLOS :
Evil in you seems to exceed all bounds.
When I think of evil, I think of you, my father.
If ever I come to govern, I shall forget all, save
The horror I have of you, and the speechless rage I. feel
At being one of your blood.
1 Act Two.
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 219
I feel a sombre purpose germinating in my soul ;
The chrism which annointed your brow is wiped off,
And, with your two hands joined, you may thank
Heaven that at this moment I have laid my arms aside.]
Now Don Carlos is weak and at the mercy of his father.
It is the father who kills the son ; this act will be a kind
of revenge on the son for having wished to kill his father.
We might almost call it a posthumous revenge if we
admit that Philip II (who makes his first appearance
in the play as a nocturnal vision, and passes off the stage
without saying a word) possesses certain characteristics
of a shadow and of a remorse. 1 However this may be,
the theme of the drama is closely akin to that of Le
clottre, in which play the burden of his parricide leads the
hero to his doom. Don Carlos and Dom Balthazar are
both of them victims of the Oedipus complex.
We will leave the dramas for a while in order to
reconsider Liminaire, the opening poem in Les tendresses
premieres, for the analysis of Philippe II has brought to
light certain novel aspects of that poem.
In Liminaire Verhaeren devotes the following lines to
the memory of his parents :
Mes simples vieux parents, ma bonne tante !
Oh ! les herbes de leur tombeau
Que je voudrais mordre et manger. . . .
[My simple, old parents, and my good aunt !
Oh, the grass on their grave,
Which I would fain bite and eat. . . .]
In Ardeurs naives there is a yet shorter reference, as
we saw on pages 48, 49 : " How many people have died,
her parents and mine/ 1 This is not much of a funeral
oration ! The paucity of the reference may of course
be due to the fact that Verhaeren was more with his
1 Concerning the significance of mutes, cf. Regis and Hesnard, op. cit.,
220 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
aunt than with his parents. For his aunt alone does
he feel real filial affection. He tells us this himself in
a moving prose poem, Ce soir, which has hitherto remained
unpublished. 1 His sorrow at the loss of his aunt finds
pathetic and simple expression : "0 you the best loved
among my dead, the only one I ever really loved ! "
And it is doubtless the aunt's image which has served
as model, from an early age, for the maternal imago,*
and the forms of the Virgin and Child. " My whole
childhood seemed to hang on your heart. . . . Are you
the beneficent Diana whom the legends of old depict
for us, not the mother but the aunt, the virgin sitting
by the cradle, patient, tender, and self-sacrificing, as
though she were the sister of a happier sister ? "
But can this be the only reason for the almost complete
silence concerning the parents ? The extraordinary in-
tensity of the Oedipus complex which the dramas
have revealed leads us to seek in this complex a deeper
meaning, the outcome of infantile experiences. Indeed,
this is no case of indifference but, on the contrary, a drama
of the Oedipus complex within the sensitive young soul of
the poet. The tragical desire had no sooner been born
than it was repressed, as was meet. The fact that his
mother did not belong to him but was wrested from
him by his father and by business affairs, far from
allaying the tragedy (as it does in many children) only
intensified matters, stimulating the child's hatred for
business and the " factory," exacerbating his revolt
against paternal authority, and increasing his yearning
for the mother. For the aunt, be she never so good,
cannot completely take the place of the " happier sister/ 1
1 See Appendix, pp. 310 et seq.
The word " imago " is taken from the title of a novel by Carl Spitteler.
It is used by German psychoanalysts and has been adopted by Theodore
Flournoy. It is now current likewise among psychoanalysts in Great
Britain and the United States. The term denotes an interior type, a
type moulded upon real persons (in especial upon the father or the mother),
and which, from the depths of our subconscious, continues to guide our
actions, and to stimulate our sympathies and our antipathies.
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 221
and there seems to be a veil of melancholy over his love
for the mother-substitute. In the poem Ce soir there
occurs a passage which is fraught with deep meaning :
" Silently, and as though absent from the existence of
others, you loved me with a repressed maternity, with the
dream of a solitary woman, sad, apart, and alone. Have
you ever loved otherwise ? " Perfect reciprocity of love
breathes through every word even to its sadness ! The
words repressed maternity are specially significant : for
if the instinct for motherhood has been repressed in the
aunt, the instinct towards the mother has likewise been
repressed in the child. He is in search of a mother-
substitute, just as she is in search of a child-substitute.
Both feel lonely and aloof from other mortals, and this
makes their mutual affection so perfectly harmonious.
In the passage just quoted, and, in fact, in almost every-
thing which the imagination creates for us in relation
to those we love, we must scrutinise each detail (especially
in the present instance the expression repressed maternity)
must look for a double and reciprocal meaning.
It is therefore this circumstance (the mother wrested
from the child's aftection by the father and by business
affairs), combined with the child's precocious and sensitive
emotional character, which must account for the special
intensity of the Oedipus complex in Verhaeren. We
shall have to grasp the fact fully if we are really to
understand his dramas.
With this guiding idea in mind let us reconsider some
of the verses in Liminaire :
Oh, the grass on their grave,
Which I would fain bite and eat !
The violence of the inward drama exhales from the words,
to be instantly repressed. What is the meaning of the
desire to bite and to eat the grass ? We meet with the
same desire in another poem of Verhaeren's ; but here
222 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
the desire is filled with overflowing and fierce voluptuous-
Et pendant qu'il la chauffe, ils vont par les saulaies,
Par les sentiers moussus, faits pour s'en aller deux,
Ils vont toujours, tirant les feuilles hors des haies,
Les mordant avec fivre et les jetant loin d'eux. 1
[And while he is ardently wooing her, they stroll along the
By mossy paths just wide enough for two,
They stroll along, and ever as they go they pluck the leaves
from off the hedges,
Feverishly biting them and throwing them away.]
Vois-tu, j'ai si souvent songd avec envie
A cette heure affolee oil j'entrerais en toi
Comme un vainqueur soudain avec toute ma vie,
Ou mes yeux te verraient, apres Tinstant d'effroi,
Haleter de bonheur et crier de tendresse
Et mordre le feuillage en ne le sachant pas. 2
[You see, I have always dreamed with longing
Of the mad hour when I would go in unto you
Suddenly, like a conqueror, giving my whole life,
When my eyes would see you, after the first moment of fright,
Breathless with happiness and crying with tenderness
And biting the leafage not knowing what you did.]
But the act of biting comes also to Don Carlos hurling
his hatred at his father :
II agit par detours, je n'agis que par bonds.
Comprends-tu ma fureur et mon d&ir de mordre ? 3
[His ways are devious, but I leap to my goal.
Can you understand my fury and my desire to bite ?]
1 From Amours rouges, in Les flamandes.
* From Dialogue rustique, in Les bles mouvants.
3 From Philippe II, Act One.
AN OEDIPUS /TRILOGY 223
Ah ! mon frere Don Juan, lorsqu'on est moi,
Comprends-tu que Ton crie et que Ton morde ? l
[Ah ! my brother Don Juan, since I am I,
Can you understand that I cry out and that I bite ?] \
N'ayez crainte ; le roi nc court aucun danger.
Avant de m'en venir, j'ai muscle ma haine.*
[Fear nothing, the king runs no risk.
Ere coming here, I muzzled my hate.]
In Le cloiire, Dom Balthazar the parricide exclaims
from the pulpit to the crowd :
Moi Balthazar due de Rispaire,
J'assassinai, avec ces deux mains sanguinaires ;
Regardez-les, ce sont des mains
Plus feroce que des mdchoires.3
[I, Balthazar, Duke of Rispaire,
I slew, with these two bloody hands ;
Look at them, they are hands
More fierce than jaws.]
We see now that the subconscious did well to use the
symbol of biting the grass on the grave to express, at one
and the same time, the monopolist and passionate love of
the child for the mother, and the jealous revolt against
the father in fact, to voice in a single phrase the whole
of the Oedipus complex. Unawares, of course ; for we
must never forget that this complex is repressed from
early childhood, and only exists in the subconscious ;
it is a " paleolithic monster," but is an active monster
for all that !
Repression of this complex is so great in Verhaeren's
case that no sooner does he utter the cry than it is instantly
stifled, as though he feared he had said too much. Without
any transition, quite abruptly, other and apparently
1 From Philippe II, Act Two. * Ibid., Act Two.
3 From Le cloltre, Act Four,
224 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
unconnected ideas surge up. But these ideas are only
superficially unconnected ; the abruptness of the transition
signifies, as we know, that the emergence of new images
masks a subconscious reasoning :
J'appris alors quel pays fier 6ta.it la Flandre ! . . .
Je sus le nom des vieux martyrs f arouches ;
Et maintes fois, ivre, fervent, pleurant et fou,
En cachette, le soir, j'ai embrasse leur bouche
Orde et rouge sur llmage & deux sous.
J'aurais voulu souffrir 1'exces de leur torture,
Crier ma rage aussi et sangloter vers eux,
Les clairs, les exaltes, les dompteurs d'aventure,
Les arracheurs de foudre aux mains de Philippe Deux. 1
[Then I learned what a proud country was Flanders ! . . .
I learned the names of the fierce martyrs of old,
And many a night, frenzied, fervent, weeping, and mad,
Secretly, at eventide, I kissed their mouth,
Dirty and red on the penny picture.
I should have liked to suffer the excess of their torture,
Cry forth my wrath and sob out my heart to them,
The bright ones, the exalted ones, the doughty adventurers,
Who wrested the thunderbolts from the hands of Philip
Philip II ! There we have it. We are thus brought
in contact with the drama bearing that name, in the
analysis of which we have unearthed the tragedy of the
son in revolt against the father. We see that those who
" wrested the thunderbolts from the hands of Philip II "
are playing the same part as Don Carlos. Philip II is
the father ; they are the son who rises against the father.
They wrest Flanders, symbolising the mother, from the
tyranny of the king ; and they become masters in their
own country. The sudden change of subject in Liminaire
was apparent merely, seeing that the new images are no
more than a fresh symbolisation of the same Oedipus
complex. A few verses farther on the revolters perform
the same act of " biting " which we had previously in
1 From Liminaire, in Les tcndresscs premieres.
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 225
the lines about the grave. This time, however, as in
Philippe II, the biting is an outcome of anger :
Cetaient les tisserands et les foulons sordides,
Mordant les rois comme des chiens ardents, \
Et leur laissant aux mains la trace de leurs dents.
[They were weavers and sordid fullers
Biting the kings as though they were mad dogs,
And leaving the marks of their teeth in the royal hands.] x
The intimate condensation of the mother with Flanders
leads us to surmise that Verhaeren's deep affection for his
homeland is one with his original love for his mother,
a love which, as we have seen, was in large part transferred
to his aunt. The last book of the series Toute la Flandre,
which is entitled Les plaines, opens with a poem (likewise
named Liminaire) wherein the Flemish lad's affection for
his native Flanders is expressed by a symbol pregnant
with meaning for us. The condensation of the mother
with Flanders gives rise in this poem to a most curious
result which illustrates the theory in the happiest way :
Soudain son corps s'affale aux pentes d'un fossd,
Le sang lui bat et les tempes et les narines.
Alors mettant a nu sa farouche poitrine
Et 1'appuyant sur le sol dur ct crevasse
Longuement, sourdement, dans ce coin solitaire,
Les poings serres, il sanglote contra la tcrre.
[All at once his body falls on the sides of a ditch,
The blood beats in his temples, in his nostrils.
Then, baring his distraught breast,
And pressing it against the hard and crannied earth,
For a long while, secretly, in this solitary place,
With clenched fists, he sobs upon the ground.]
These lines are akin to those concerning the bitten grass
on the grave. In addition, we can hardly fail to be
1 The Oedipus complex is accountable for the strange nightmare visions
of L'aventurier in Les villages illusoires. The rival of the employer is,
symbolically, " the rival of the father."
226 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
reminded of the action of a little child pressing passionately
against the mother who suckles it. The lad bares his
chest, eagerly, just as the baby in its impatience uncovers
the maternal breast ; a reversal of roles which is consonant
in every respect with the mechanism of spontaneous
symbols, and a reciprocity which is to be witnessed
in dreams. The "repressed maternity" referred to in
connexion with another poem is an example of the
As to the " hard and crannied earth " which has no
logical reason for appearing here, either we must attribute
the reference to the exigencies of rhyme (a rare fault
in Verhaeren), or else we must recognise that the detail
has special significance in the construction of this symbol.
Our interpretation of the foregoing lines is absolutely in
keeping with the second conjecture. We have the con-
tinuation of the reversal of roles. The earth is " dry/ 1
the earth is thirsty, at the moment when the child presses
his breast to it for comfort. This is followed by the words
" for a long time, secretly ... he sobbed, " which is
symbolic of the infant imbibing the mother's milk.
The detail about the " clenched fists " completes the
The condensation of the mother with the native land
is of frequent occurrence. Somtimes this condensation
is conscious ; in such a case it is a stock metaphor, a
mere comparison of the native land to a mother. The
common link has been utilised by Verhaeren in a dedication,
and though Verhaeren, like other poets, makes use in
these lines of the trite image, we know that for him it
is a truth, a thing both vital and unconscious :
C'est la qu'est le foyer
Ou mon amour profond ose te begayer
Ce qu'un mot net et trop precis ne peut dire.
Tu m'y rejoins, 6 Flandre, avec ton lent sourire,
Tu prends mes mains entre tes mains
Et doucement tu les poses, et sur ton sein,
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 227
Et sur tes yeux sacres d'ou coulSrent les larmes.
Oh ! le tremblant respect qui m'envahit alors,
Tandis que tu m'etreins en tes larges bras forts
Centre ton flanc, revetu d'armes.
[There is the hearth
Whither my deep love dares come to stammer forth
That which precise and definite words could never say.
Thither you come, O Flanders, with your slow smile ;
You take my hands betwixt your hands
And tenderly you lay them upon your breast
And upon your holy eyes whence gushed forth tears.
Oh, the trembling respect which invades my being then,
The while you press me, with your great, strong arms,
Against your weaponed side.]
Flanders is here again the mother ; and though the
actual mother is not once mentioned in Les tendresses
premieres, the poet makes up for the omission when he
devotes a collection of poems to Toute la Flandre, to the
land which was a second mother to him.
The analysis which started tentatively in Le cloitre,
and which developed yet further in Philippe II, is to
receive a deeper significance still when we consider Rtttne
de Sparte. This drama, which has lightheartedly been stig-
matised as " queer/' and wherein the critics could only
see exceptional and paradoxical situations, is in reality
obeying in the strictest manner the laws of a subconscious
logic. It is Verhaeren's supreme merit that, in spite of
his conscious rational faculties, he was able to remain
true to this subconscious process of reasoning, no matter
how baffling it might appear.
Helen is a fateful person whose path through life is
strewn with loves, with murders, and with frenzy. Electra
speaks of Helen as an dray/o?, an inner doom which,
weighing upon her [Electra's] life, makes of that life,
like that of Dom Balthazar, a " flaming storm." Now
we have a recrudescence of the tortures and frenzies
occurring in Les debacles and in Les flambeaux noirs ;
228 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
but in H6Une de Sparte they appear in a more controlled
and classical guise :
Mais ignorez-vous done qu'elle seule est la cause
De cette ardent e mort que je nourris en moi ?
C'est elle ma fureur, ma fiSvre et mon effroi ;
Elle qui me fait peur, ainsi qu'un incendie
Qui m'entoure la nuit, de ses flammes brandies.
Si Menelas, vers elle, un jour n'etait alle
Certes, jamais, nul orage n'aurait brule
De sa foudre mon coeur tranquil et solitaire.
J'ecouterais encore et mon pere et ma mere
Me parler doucement, pres du foyer, le soir.
Le sol ne serait point convert de leur sang noir,
Clytemnestre jamais, n'aurait connu Egiste.
La vision d'horreur qui dans mes yeux persiste
Ne me poursuivrait point, avcc des gestes fous,
Efje ne craindrais pas d'aller vers n'importe ou,
Hagarde et torturee et demente et funeste,
Comme erre au loin et crie et se dechire Oreste. 1
[But do you not know that she alone is the cause
Of this consuming death which I harbour within me ?
She is my fury, and my fever, and my fright ;
She fills me with alarm, as would a conflagration
Encircling me at night with its leaping flames.
Had Menelaus not approached her upon a certain day,
No storm would have seared
With its lightning my quiet and lonely heart.
I should still be listening to my father and mother
Talking quietly to me by the fireside at nightfall ;
The ground would not be stained with their black blood,
Clytemnaestra would never have known Aegistheus.
The ghastly vision which is never absent from my sight
Would not pursue me thus with its wild gestures,
And I should not fear to go, no matter whither,
Wan and tortured and mad and baleful,
Like Orestes, who wanders afar, wailing, and rending himself.]
The " leaping flames " and the " storm " which " sears "
bring us back to the " flaming storm " which* ravaged
Balthazar's heart. The evocation of the parents at the
1 Act One, Scene Two.
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 229
hearthside, an evocation which is immediately followed
by the picture of their blood drenching the earth, helps
to steep us further in the same atmosphere. But there
is no mistaking the significance of Castor's incestuous
love for his sister Helen :
Helfene cst a mes yeux, non ma soeur, mais la femme
Dont TEurope et TAsie ont respire la chair. . . .
Celle que j'aime avec ddmence et avec rage
Et d'un amour si brusque, et si rouge, et si fort
Que j'exulte & sentir le feu qui me ravage
Jusqu'en ses os et scs moelles, bruler mon corps. 1
[Helen, in my eyes, is not my sister, but the woman
Whose flesh has been longed for by Europe and by Asia. , . .
She whom I love madly and ferociously
With a love so sudden, so red, and so strong,
That I exult in the feeling of the fires which consume me
To my very bones and their marrow, burning my body.]
Here we are once more confronted with the Oedipus
complex. The substitution of the sister for the mother
is by no means rare in such fantasies (" Oh, you have
been both sister and mother, as well as love to me/'
exclaims Don Carlos). It requires no great penetration
to understand that Helen and Menelaus subconsciously
represent the mother and the father. Their entry upon
the scene is superb :
Regardez tous : voici le char de pourpre et d'or
Qui traverse la plaine
Et Men^las qui tient les renes
Et les chevaux plus noirs que Vebene,
Et la foule qui suit
Avec les bras leves et les rameaux brandis
Et qui acclame, au cceur de son pays,
Us sont si grands tous deux que Ton dirait des Dieux.*
1 Act One, Scene Four. * ^\ct One, Scene Three.
280 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[All of you, look ! here comes the chariot of purple and gold
Across the plains,
And Menelaus who holds the reins,
And the horses blacker than ebony,
And the crowd following after,
Raising arms and brandishing branches,
Acclaiming to the heart of the country
Both are so great, one would think they were gods.]
This last verse is very significant. We have seen when
analysing Le cloitre that Balthazar's father took on vast
proportions. This growth of stature in the fantasy
is a reminiscence of the size of the parents as viewed
from the standpoint of a little child. Let us also notice
the contrast, gold against black, between the " chariot
of purple and gold " in which Helen comes, and the
"horses blacker than ebony" driven by Menelaus. The
mother is surrounded by the symbol of love, whereas the
father is placed near the symbol of death. Castor's love
for Helen is one with his deadly hatred for Menelaus :
Vraiment, que n'est-il mort dans Thorreur de la nuit,
Quand le carnage ameutait Tair de ses vertiges
Et qu'Ilion brulait.
II vit, te dis-je, il vit.
Ah ! quel rouge dessein hante soudain men ame !
Et qu'importe la vie ou la mort d'un vieillard. 1
Oh why did he not die in the night of horror
When carnage filled the air with its frenzy,
And when Ilion flamed ?
He lives, I tell you, he lives.
1 Act One, Scene Four.
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 281
Ah ! what red purpose suddenly invades my soul !
And what matters the life or the death of an old man.]
The whole action and the words remind us of Don Carlos
when he exclaimed : " I feel a sombre purpose germinating
in my soul." Throughout the three plays, the fantasy
of parricide is identical, except that in Helen of Sparta
the father, the real object of the deed, is less obvious.
Hatred is no longer felt for the father as such, but for
the possessor of Helen (or of the mother). This, how-
ever, is not a repression. On the contrary, the analysis
is leading us to detect the positive and primitive side of
the Oedipus complex, love for the mother, which was
completely hidden in Le cloitre. In that play only the
negative aspect, the revolt against the father, was mani-
fested. In Philippe II, the mother put in an appearance,
but tentatively, almost unrecognisable under the two-
fold symbolisation of Flanders and the beloved. In
Rtllne de Sparte the fantasy comes openly into line with
the incest fantasies. No longer does the beloved replace
the mother ; here we have the sister acting as mother-
substitute. The symbol approximates to the thing it
really represents, and the latter becomes more clear.
We may observe that if the mother image is altered
and rejuvenated under the features of the sister, this is
compensated by the fact that Menelaus, the father, is
presented as an " old man."
But in the second act we encounter an unexpected
incident, an incident which has no equivalent in the two
earlier dramas. The Oedipus complex becomes trans-
formed into the Sappho complex ; that is to say, we
pass from incest fantasies in the first act to fantasies of
homosexuality in the second. Early in the play, Helen
receives the declaration of her brother Castor's love,
which seems to sear her like a flame.
232 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Je te desire
Sans hesiter, violemment et tout & coup ;
Je ne suis pas celui qui feint et qui sait dire
Ce qu'il ne pense pas quand son coeur est jaloux ;
J'aime, je hais, avec fureur, avec rancune,
Et je passe en criant vers ton coeur effar6
Qu'il sera libre un jour et suivra ma fortune. 1
[I desire you
Unfalteringly, violently, and precipitately ;
I am not one to feign, nor one who knows how to say
That which he does not think, when his heart burns with jealousy ;
I love, I hate, passionately, resentfully,
And I go, crying towards your affrighted heart,
That one day it will be free and will follow my fortunes.]
In the next scene, Castor's place is taken by Electra,
and Helen has to hearken to a second declaration of love
even more passionate and mad, this time from a woman :
Tu es toutc ma vie. . . .
C'est mon destin, & moi, de ne sentir mon coeur
Que comme un feu qui brule et mord et dont j'ai peur.
Oh ! ce pas saccade des nocturnes Furies
Qui retentit jusqu'en ma chair pale et meurtrie
Et me foule, et m'entraine et m'affole toujours !
Et voici que je sens rugir en moi Tamour
Et que je pleure et crie et que je meurs ct t'aime.*
[You are the whole of life for me. . . .
I have been fated to feel my heart
Burning like a fire, devouring me and filling me with fear.
Oh, the tramp of the nocturnal Furies
Which reverberates in my very flesh, so pale and bruised,
Which tramples upon me, and allures me, and drives me mad !
I feel love raging within me,
I weep and cry, I die, and I love you.]
The transformation in the second act is presented to
us under the guise of words, lyrically : but in the third
act it is dramatised. Castor's hate increases, as previously
hate grew in Don Carlos :
1 Act Two, Scene Two. * Act Two, Scene Three.
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 233
Je vous hais tous. Mais lui, le roi, possede et garde
Impun&nent, ici, dans son lit, sous son toit,
Celle dont la splendeur fait mon amc hagarde.
Je ne puis plus attendre ct ma tote est en feu ;
Je me vois emportd par ma fievre et ma rage,
Par les bonds de mon coeur, par les cris de mes voeux,
Comme par un terrible et despotique orage.
Je suis hante. Helene est la, ici, partout,
Je devore sa chair en mes reves voraces,
J'assiege ses flancs nus avec mes desirs fous.
Et Menelas me raille, et m'a vole ma place.
J'ai mes desseins. Je sais qu'il est li-haut. J'y vais. 1
[I hate you all. But he, the king, possesses and keeps,
Unpunished, Kere, in his bed, beneath his roof,
Her whose beauty ravages my soul.
No longer can I wait, my brain is afire ;
I see myself swept along by my fever and my frenzy,
By the leaps of my heart, by the cries of my longing,
As though by a terrible and despotic tempest.
I am haunted. Helen is there, she is here, is everywhere ;
I devour her flesh in my voracious dreams,
I assail her naked flanks with my mad desires.
Menelaus mocks me, he has stolen my place.
My plans are ripe. I know he is up there. I go thither.]
Happier than Don Carlos if one may speak of happiness
in such a connexion Castor is able to go the full length
of his hate ; he kills Menelaus (the image of the father)
on the mountain side.* But vengeance follows swiftly
in the steps of murder. In the following scene, Electra
slays Castor. She is impelled by a love frenzy similar
to that which drove him to his deed of blood In psycho-
analytical language, this signifies that Sappho replaces
Oedipus, the fantasy of homosexuality takes the place
of the incest fantasy. We have the same situation as
that in the previous act when Electra replaced Castor ;
but what was then passion, has now become action, and
the interior conflict has been exteriorised.
Act Three, Scene Two. Act Three, Scene Three.
284 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
In the fourth act, Electra, in her turn, vanishes. The
drama concludes in the heart of Helen herself, and takes
the form of a beautiful sapphic ode in which all nature
joins, which pursues the distraught Helen's beauty like
an obsession :
UNE NA'IADE :
Helne, 6 toi qui vis et respires sur terre
Dans un corps plus brillant que le ciel etoile,
Nos grottes de lumiere et nos flots translucides
Te feront un palais bougeant de joyaux clairs.
L'amour est souple et doux entre nos bras liquides
Et de longs baisers d'or glisscront sur ta chair. . . .
UNE BACCHANTE I
Nous sommes les Thyades
Et nos corps sont de flamme, Helene, et nous t'aimons ;
L 'ombre comme un vin noir nous cnivre et nous brule
Et nos danses, la nuit, font trembler les forets. 1
[A NAIAD :
Helen ! O you who live and breathe on the earth
In a body more lovely than the starry skies,
Our grottoes of light and our translucent waters
Will make for you a palace of glowing jewels.
Love is supple and sweet in our liquid arms,
And long, golden kisses will glide over your limbs. . . .
A BACCHANTE :
We are the Thyades,
And our bodies are of flame, Helen, and we love you.
Darkness, like a black wine, intoxicates and burns us,
And our nightly dances make the forests tremble.]
But Helen does not hearken to the love words of these
dream creatures ; she has fled the living in order to
escape from incest and from homosexuality. She has
taken refuge in a dream, which is still haunted by the
memory of these monstrous loves. * In the invitation
1 Act Four, Scene Four.
These " monstrous loves " illumine the images in Le p6ch6, the
poem we discussed as part of the collection entitled Les campagnes
hallucines and all the like images.
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 235
of the naiads and in the translucent waters of their
grottoes we have the suggestion of a fantasy of autophilia,
of narcissism. Helen has become an introvert. She is
now no more than a spirit confronted by the creatures
of her dream. These creatures take shape ever more
definitely ; the world of men, of the real, recedes into
the background and vanishes.
Narcissus succeeds Sappho, just as the latter succeeded
Oedipus. First came incest, then homosexuality, and
finally narcissism, profound introversion : such are the
three stages of the drama. " All the same/' the reader
may protest, "it is very queer. The analysis discloses
nothing more than a pathological condition, an exceptional
case, which in no way reveals that secret logical process
of which you spoke." We are coming to that. Psycho-
analysts have described these three stages (fantasies of
incest, of homosexuality, and of narcissism) as those
through which the subject usually passes during the course
of a properly conducted analysis. They maintain that
this evolution represents the precise progress of an instinct
which is undergoing introversion. Many different theories
could be adduced, but this is not the place for such
an examination, any more than for a discussion of
the various interpretations of the Oedipus complex the
comparatively literal interpretations of Freud, and the
comparatively symbolical interpretations of Adler. 1 We
must note that such fantasies, far from being exceptional,
pathological, or paradoxical, seem to represent the natural
progress of an imagination guided by a tendency to
introversion. These fantasies are as natural as intro-
version, as natural as the inner life itself. This is what
1 Freud holds that it is part of the polymorphous concept of regression,
and represents a regression of the sexual instinct which during the course
of its prepuberal development (a phase investigators are apt to overlook)
might go through a similar process in an inverse direction. (Cf. Freud,
Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex.) Adler, on the other hand,
maintains that these fantasies make use of sexual images merely as
symbols to represent an evolution which may not be fundamentally
236 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
it behoved us to show. It is true, they usually so offend
our conscious thought by their apparent illogicality and
immorality, that for the most part they are repressed,
and at best are only allowed to come to life in the realm
of dreams and under cover of the night. But a great
poet, as vSchopenhauer has said, is one who in the waking
state is able to do that which ordinary mortals are only
able to do in dreams.
There is, however, an important difference, to which
we drew attention in the Introduction. In the waking
state, the rational faculty works upon the raw material
furnished by the imagination, corrects apparent absurdities,
in a word, rationalises them. The three phases of this
drama of introversion should take place within one and the
same soul, and in a dream that would probably be the
course of development. The logic of the conscious rejects
such a sequence and demands that the phenomena shall
be presented in terms more harmonious to that logic.
This is why each phase is symbolised by a different person.
The Oedipus drama is the one which is playing itself
out in Castor's heart ; and, when he leaves Helen in
the second act, the natural course of events would be
for the drama to continue within him, and he should
now be possessed by the homosexual fantasy. Instead
of this, Electra is assigned the part. But note how ad-
mirably well chosen she is to replace Castor, the Oedipian.
Electra, in the classical drama, is the female counterpart
of Oedipus. So much is this the case, that psychoanalysts
speak of the Electra complex as the obverse of the Oedipus
complex (love of a little girl for the father, and jealousy
towards the mother). The characters of Castor and
Electra fit into one another even more completely,
and Electra is aptly chosen to succeed Oedipus. For
whereas the mythological sense relates Electra to the
Oedipus complex, the myth of Castor and Pollux is a
homosexual fantasy. In Verhaeren's drama, Castor is
the first to take the stage. He is an Oedipian, but the
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 237
connotations of the myth we associate with his name
give us a premonition of homosexuality. Now Electra
appears. Similar memories of the myth in which she
figures lead our thoughts back to her past life, and here
we find the counterpart of the Oedipus complex. She,
herself, voices this in the speech we have already quoted :
" Had Menelaus not approached her upon a certain
day. ..." When the drama enters the third phase,
Electra yields place to Helen.
These various substitutions bring a reversal of roles
into play, a reversal similar to that which we noted earlier
between Flanders and the mother, on the one hand, and
the child, on the other. Thus, when in Act Two Castor
and Helen separate, the reversal is mathematically precise
and perfect ; properly speaking it is Helen who should
disappear and Castor who should remain and love a
man ; whereas in the play it is Castor who disappears
and Helen who remains and is loved by a woman. In
order to satisfy the logic of the subconscious, the role
should form a unity ; it should be played from beginning
to end of the drama by one person only, the beloved,
who should be a man ; there would then be a multiplicity
in the objects of this man's love. But the logic of the
conscious has, like Moliere's doctors, " changed all that " ;
the unity is made to exist in one person only but it is
in the loved object, and that object is a woman, Helen.
In the third phase, when narcissism prevails, the subject
and the object are fused,
It is well that this should be so ; and these successive
complications are not without significance. At the moment
when Castor has to merge his personality into a homosexual
fantasy, it is natural that he should become identified
with a feminine character ; it is also natural that an
Oedipian should identify himself with the " maternal
imago/' for he carries this imago within himself ; this
is precisely what the Flemish lad in the poem did when
he condensed the mother with his motherland (supra,
288 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
p. 225). It is also quite right that Helen, the symbol of the
mother, should remain, throughout the tragedy, the central
figure, for she is the very fountain-head of the whole
internal drama: "Do you not know that she alone is
the cause of this consuming death which I harbour within
She alone : the mother, or the longing for the mother.
No figure could have been better chosen to express this
longing than Helen of Sparta, who was stolen by a foreign
prince (as Flanders was by Philip II) who, for ten years,
was longed for by an entire people. She is the preeminent
and classical figure of the unattainable beloved.
We can now realise how profoundly subjective and
lyrical are Verhaeren's dramas, and yet they remain
true dramas all the while. Even the " yet " seems to
imply too much ; but the prejudice against lyrical drama
is so great that one is obliged to take up the cudgels in
order to defend the dramatic nature of these works.
The inner and subconscious tragedy which they exhale
is one of the most poignant it is possible to imagine.
Now it is precisely because of this subjectivity and
lyricism that Verhaeren has been able to plumb such
tragical depths. We must never forget that his dramas
were born as simple poems. The primary inspiration
of each was a lyrical nucleus around which the action
of the drama was subsequently to gather. The work
was slow, and underwent a period of patient incubation.
This is why Verhaeren' s plays delve so deeply into the
subconscious : they are excavations, as it were, around
the original poem, which had gushed forth like a spring.
Whereas Verhaeren's other works were given to the world
almost as soon as he wrote them (a fact which permits
of our noting the periods of his life by means of the dates
at which his works were published), the dramas* were
written concurrently with other works, and were begun
many years before they were published.
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 289
The lyrical nucleus of Les aubes is Herenien's speech
to the people in the fourth act, an outburst against war
and the army, and in favour of an understanding between
the peoples ; in Le clottre, the lyrical nucleus is the con-
fession made by Dom Balthazar in order to cleanse himself,
to reinstate himself through truth and humility ; in
Philippe II, it is a monologue spoken by Don Carlos
when he is simultaneously broken with weariness and
fevered with enthusiasm ; finally, in Helbne de Sparte,
the most significant of all the dramas, the lyrical nucleus
is hidden away at the very close of the tragedy in the
sapphic ode which follows every step of Helen's inner
dream and which forms the whole of scene four in the
fourth act. On the back of the manuscript page con-
taining the passages quoted above, we find the following
note in Verhaeren's handwriting : " This was the first
page I wrote for my drama about Helen, February 1901."
The drama was not published until 1912 ; a considerable
lapse of years ! The whole action of the play converges
towards this point, and towards this beautiful vision
of Helen, who is the leading personage throughout the
Such work is in itself a veritable analysis of the sub-
conscious. The analysis is similar to those conducted
by psychoanalysts, only in this case it is spontaneous.
It seems to play that " cathartic " role which such
psychologists as Breuer, Franck, and Augustc Forel
attribute to these analyses. By delving into the recesses
of the subconscious, by revivifying the emotions which
have been repressed, the patient is able to " exteriorise "
them and to deliver himself of their burden. He decon-
denses whilom condensations. He liberates that part of
his vital energy which had been monopolised by the
subconscious, and which had acted like a brake upon
all his movements towards life. This " descent into
hell " which is the object of therapeutic analysis may also
be accomplished spontaneously. The myth of Orpheus
240 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
who descends into the realm of the shades in order to
rescue Eurydice, the legend of the Greeks warring for
Helen, the old tales about hidden treasure, Dante's
Inferno all these may be interpreted as the expression
of a spontaneous analysis. Verhaeren's Oedipian dramas
are a similar " descent into hell/' Henceforth his vital
impulse will no longer be enchained, but it will be able
freely to march towards mankind and towards the
universe of the " multiple splendour."
The descent into " the desolate depths of the inner
pit " becomes, by dint of subjectivity, a revelation of
universal truths. Can we imagine anything more
universally human than Sophocles' dramas or Dante's
Divine Comedy ? These poems reveal the " collective
unconscious," and because of this they share the charac-
teristics of myth. We do not exactly know why we
are profoundly moved by the strange situations or the
fantastic visions they contain. The fact is that the situa-
tions and visions are fantastic in appearance merely ;
they express the human subconscious, our own subcon-
scious, in symbolical language by the mouth of those
whose vision is turned towards the inner life. Verhaereris
drama is akin to myth. This is the very essence of all
truly lyrical drama. The myth is the objective, the
universal, form, which belongs to this kind of drama,
to the Greek drama ; there is none more dramatic, none
Les aubes lies outside the Oedipus trilogy. In this
play Verhaeren is concerned with social questions ; he
is " exteriorising " himself. And yet he is doing so less
than at a first glance one might suppose. The struggle
of Herenien, the tribune, against the Regency of Oppido-
magne is closely akin to the theme we have just been
dealing with the rebellion against Philip II, against
the tyrant, against the father. Herenien resembles
Artevelde, and there comes a time when the ungrateful
AN OEDIPUS TRILOGY 241
people " assault his threshold," where he, too, " stands "
expectant. But there is more than this ; the very first
scene takes us to the heart of the conflicts with which
we have now grown familiar. First we have the symbol
of conflagrations, in which towers collapse. The flames
" bite " the heavens, and the crowd of ragged insurgents
sees in these flames the symbol of its hate :
Les flammes qui mangent,
A cette heure, leurs granges,
Me paraissent etre nos dents. . . .
[The flames which, at this hour,
Eat their barns,
Seem to me as though they were our teeth.]
In this scene of fire and flame, Herenien senior, the father
of the tribune, dies. A man of the old faith, which has
been rejected by his son, he dies attended by the village
priest and the men of the plough, he dies in the midst of
the dying countryside. The same struggle is present ;
but Hdr^nien and Verhaeren are finding deliverance
through social work, by means of the " tribune's " role
into which they throw themselves with enthusiasm,
H^rdnien is to die, but his death takes place in the
triumph of the new faith ; he will continue to live in
the living work he has created, and in his son (another
symbol of a living work), who is acclaimed by the
populace. And this work will make towards peace.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR
" HE has filled me with his buoyancy " cries the poet,
speaking of St. George. Henceforth " all life is buoyancy/'
as Verhaeren writes in Les forces tumultueuses (1902),
the words being the last verse of an exergue near the
beginning of the collection. In this same exergue we
Dites, se plonger 2t s'y perdre dans la vie contradictoire mais
Vivre, c'est prendre et donner avec liesse.
Mais les plus exaltes se dirent dans leur cceur :
" Partons quand meme, avec notre ame inassouvic,
Puisque la force et que la vie
Sont au-delk des verits et des erreurs."
[What if one plunges into life until one is lost, into life so con-
tradictory and so intoxicating !
To live, is to take and to give joyfully.
But the most exalted ones have said in their heart :
" Let us go, natheless, with our insatiate souls,
Since strength and life
Are beyond truth and error.' 1 ]
Such are the inaugural words of Verhaeren's new gospel.
Henceforward (we are on the threshold of the twentieth
century) the poet is master of his thought, and his poetry
assumes the form of heroic prediction.
What are we to understand by " strength and life are
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 248
beyond truth and error " (as Nietzsche said : " beyond
good and evil ") ? We are to understand that though
the intelligence be incapable of giving us a satisfactory
conviction, a faith, a reason for action, we must never-
theless throw ourselves heart and soul into life and action,
we must love life passionately as though it were a huge
wave bearing us along, and not fret because life may
seem irrational and contradictory. Perhaps there is no
common measure between intelligence and life. Faith
is transferred from the intelligence to action and to
instinct ; faith is, above all, impetus, buoyancy, intoxica-
tion at being alive :
L'instinct me rive au front assez de certitude. , . .
Homme, tout affronter vaut mieux que tout comprendre. 1
[Instinct rivets enough confidence on my brow. . . .
Man, to dare everything is far better than to understand every-
Such a doctrine taking possession of a philosopher
could not fail to induce further philosophising, were it
only to reconcile this intelligence and this life between
which no preestablished harmony exists. But when the
same doctrine takes possession of a lyrical writer, it
will inevitably turn him away from pure speculation.
Verhaeren can certainly not be accounted a philosopher.
In this connexion, Jean de Smet has spoken of Haeckel's
monism. We may likewise refer to the kinship of his
convictions with those of Nietzsche, and with those of
the pragmatists ; his " buoyancy " may be compared
with Bergson's " vital impetus," and with the heroic
lyricism of Jean Ghristophe. Thus, ideas which were
in the air at the opening of the twentieth century are
condensed into Verhaeren's writings but we must not
expect a philosophical synthesis from our poet. He
moulds these ideas ; hammers them to his liking ;
i From Les rfives, in La multiple splendeur.
244 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
endows them with a commanding aspect ; gives them
the appearance of a bronze.
What direction will this buoyant energy of life pursue ?
Two roads are closed to it : that of crude instinct (a
stage Verhaeren has passed through never to return) ;
and that of sublimated religion. A third road remains,
that of human and social fervour, a keen participation
in the sufferings and aspirations of modern times. In
L* amour, a poem which forms part of the collection Les
forces tumultueuses, Verhaeren expresses this participa-
tion by happily chosen symbols. A return to primitive
instinct, to the pandemian Venus, is out of the question,
though certain images may recall Kato in Les lords de
la route :
La joie est morte au jardin de ton corps,
Et les grands lys des bras et les glaieuls des levres
Et le$ raisins de fievre et d'or,
Sur 1'espalier geant que fut ton corps,
Sont morts. 1
Joy is dead in the garden of your body ;
And the great lilies of your arms, and the gladioluses of your lips,
And the grapes of fever and of gold
Hanging from the giant trellis that was your body,
Later, Venus becomes Magdalen : and then love is
introverted into an ascetic cloister wherein intoxication
is wedded to suffering, wherein the soul is turned toward
Habille toi de lin, V&ius, voici le Christ,
Voici ses longues mains imperatives,
Voici les crins, les clous, les pierres,
Pour y meurtrir et y rouler ta chair ;
Voici Tivresse et la souffrance alternatives ;
Voici les couvents blancs et leurs linceuls de murs
Immensement dresses par la mort allouvie.*
1 From V6nus, in the sequence L'amour, in Les forces tumultueuses.
From Madeleine, in the sequence L'amour, in Les forces tumultueuses.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 245
[Clothe yourself in linen, Venus, here is the Christ,
Here are his long, commanding hands,
Here are the thorns, the nails, and the stones
Wherewith to bruise your flesh, wherein to roll your body,
Here is alternate rapture and suffering ;
Here are the white convents and their walls like winding sheets
Spread wide by insatiable death.]
But even the day of Magdalen passes beyond recall.
By a new metamorphosis, the everlasting Venus is to
become the heroine of the revolution, Theroigne de
Vets-toi de sang, Venus, voici quatre-vingt-treize. . . .
Deviens la Theroigne apre et tragique,
Comme tu fus la sainte et 1'amoureuse. . . .
On ne sait quel tonnerre autour des peuplcs gronde. . . .
Aime Thumanit^ qui est Tame meilleure
En tourmente et en vertige vers le bonheur,
Livre et prodigue-toi a tous ceux qui t'appellent. 1
[Clothe yourself with blood, Venus, here is, eighty-three. . . .
Become the stern and tragical Theroigne,
Just as you have been the saint and the passionate woman. . . .
A strange thunder mutters around the peoples. . . .
Love humanity for it is the better soul
In torment, and ascending the dizzy heights towards happiness ;
Give yourself, be lavish of your gifts to all who invoke you.]
This is a beautiful poem, and all the more so because
it is profoundly true, because in it the poet gives proof
of penetrating and intuitive understanding of the laws of
the evolution of the instincts. For from beginning to
end we witness the same impulse of love, which is gradually
sublimated into religious ecstasy and into social fervour.
The sequence is an admirable illustration of the psychology
The first poem in the collection, Sur la mer, expresses
1 From Theroigne de MSrincourt, in the sequence L'amour, in Lcs
246 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
the same evolution in another form. Here we have the
crisis with whose imagery we are already familiar :
Le navire rentra comme un jardin fand,
Drapeaux teints, espoirs mines,
Avec Teffroi de n'oser dire a ceux du port
Qu'il avait entendu, li-bas, de plage en plage,
Les flots crier sur les rivages
Que Pan et que J6sus, tons deux, etaient des morts.
[The vessel came to port like a faded garden,
Flags adroop, hopes undermined,
With the terror of not daring to tell those in the harbour
That it had heard, over there, from strand to strand,
The waves crying out along the shore
That Pan and Jesus, both of them, were dead.]
Pan and Jesus: primitive nature and Christian
sublimation ; new names for Venus and Magdalen, for
Flemish women and monks. But the sailors on the
symbolic vessel do not give up hope. Stubborn, as are
most of Verhaercn's heroes, they sail away to the
conquest of other ecstasies :
Mais ses mousses dont Tame tait rest^e
Aussi fervente et indompt^e
Que leur navire k son depart,
L'amarrerent prds du rempart ;
Et ds la nuit venue, avec des cris de fete,
Us s'en furent dans la tempete,
Tout en sachant que 1'orage gant
Les pousserait vers d'autres oceans. , . .
[But the crew, whose soul had remained
As fervent and indomitable
As the vessel when it first set sail,
Moored her near the rampart ;
No sooner had night come, than with jubilant cries
They sped away into the tempest,
Well knowing that a giant storm
Would drive them forward to other seas. * . .]
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 247
Need we repeat that here once more, while describing
human evolution, Verhaeren is describing his own
The victory of the new ideal is not yet quite secure,
and suddenly the old evil delivers an assault. One must
ever be on the alert, ever ready to fight. The Amazon
will fight. She is the successor to St. George. She, like
him, rides along miraculous paths. The whole poem
recalls Saint Georges ; even the dragon is there, the dragon
of ancient sin, all scaly with symbols of the crisis :
Et la guerriere se souvient
Du reptile qu'il faut tuer sans cesse
Et qui renait et qui revient
Et dont les tetes d'or et Ics gueules redressent,
Comme une vigne en sang, la floraison
Violent e de leurs poisons.
Elle arrive. Sitot il erige sa force,
Tel un arbre dont la rapeuse ecorce
Dartres, langues, sugoirs et dents
Empeste, au loin, les soirs ardents. . . .
Un remuement d'anneaux glauques et verts
Bande son corps dont la lepre parait vivante. 1
[And the amazon remembers
The reptile which must be killed ever and again,
Which is ever reborn and which comes back,
Whose golden heads and mouths raise up,
Like a vine in the season of vintage, the violent flowers
Of their poisons.
She comes. Immediately it rears its strength
Like a tree whose rough bark
Tetters, tongues, suckers, and teeth
Poisons, afar, the passionate evenings. . , .
A movement of glaucous and green rings
Encircles its body whose leprous scales seem to glow with life.]
The Amazon wishes to liberate suffering mankind from
the dragon, and at the same time she wishes to free the
* From L'amazone, in the sequence Les femmes, in Les forces tumul-
248 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
soul of the poet. But she is powerless, and allows her
weapons to fall from her hands :
L'humanitd restait rivde au bagne. . . .
Alors que le dragon que saccagea Pers^e
Et qu'il dompta, par la pense
Et le regard,
Sortait, apres mille ans, de son sommeil hagard,
Et la machoire inassouvie
Se redressait contre la vie.
[Mankind was still chained to the galley. . . .
Then the dragon, which had been overthrown by Perseus
And quelled by his thought
And his look,
Awoke after a thousand years from its haggard sleep,
And with insatiate jaws
Reared itself up against life.]
Happily Perseus himself will reappear a few years
hence, when Verhaeren will write Les rythmes souverains.
Then he is to be a conqueror once more. But now the
Amazon cannot overcome the dragon. This strange
heroine is a distant relation of Theroigne de Mericourt,
near of kin to St. George, a kind of new Venus who has
subdued her primitive instincts :
Pour se sentir plus ci Taise dans la victoire
Elle a brule Tun de ses seins.
[In order that she may feel more at ease in the fight
She has burned off one of her breasts.]
The complexes of youth (such as the clock-faces and
the trains) are still very tenacious. In the following
lines these two images coalesce into the eyes of the train.
The result is an intensification of feeling :
Rails qui sonnent, signaux qui bougent,
Et tout & coup le passage des yeux
Crus et sanglants d'un convoi rouge.
Appels stridents, ouragans noirs,
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 249
Pays de brasiers roux et d'usines tragiques. . . .
C'est parmi vous. . . .
Que s'en viennent chercher asile
Les cerveaux delates des d&nents et des fous. 1
[Resounding rails, moving signals,
And suddenly the passage of the eyes,
Raw and bleeding, of a red train.
Strident shrieks, black tempests,
A land of glowing brasiers and of tragical workshops. . . .
It is towards you
That come, as if to a refuge,
All the cracked brains of the demented and the mad.]
But these complexes no longer impede the poet's
" buoyancy " ; they are carried along in its wake.
They accompany the buoyancy with their thrill and
their anguish :
Le corps ploy6 sur ma fenetre,
Les nerfs vibrants et sonores de bruit,
J'^coute avec ma fievre et j'absorbe, en mon etre,
Les tonnerres des trains qui traversent la nuit. . . .
Oh ! les rythmes fougueux de la nature entiere
Et les sentir et les darder k travers soi ! -
[With my body bent forward at the window,
My nerves aquiver and sonorous with noise,
I listen feverishly, and I absorb into my being
The thunder of the trains which pass in the night. . . .
Oh the vehement rhythms of the whole of nature !
Oh the joy of feeling them as they flash athwart one's body !]
Thus the trains hitherto fraught with symbols of
deadly anguish, now become, just as the town and the
factory have become, images of the " Forward, march ! "
of the new faith in life. Nevertheless, anguish is inherent
in them still ; through the image of the trains this anguish
invades the realms of buoyancy and of joy :
1 From La folie, in Les forces tumultueuses.
From L'en-avant, in the sequence Les cris de ma vie, in Les forces
250 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Et mes muscles band& oti tout se rdpercute. . . .
Communiquent, minute par minute,
Ce vol sonore et trepidant & mon esprit.
II le remplit d'angoisse et le charme d'ivresse
Etrange et d'ample et furieuse volupte.
[And my taut muscles, wherein everything is repercussed, . . .
Communicate, from minute to minute,
This sonorous and quivering flight to my mind.
This flight fills me with anguish and beguiles me with
A strange rapture and with a plenitude of frenzied voluptuous-
The alliance between rapture and anguish, between life
and death, does not surprise us : it is the same contrast
that we have already seen, the clash between black and
gold. The amazing thing is that a complex dating from
earliest childhood should have come to symbolise the
idea of a march forward. The symbolisation had already
begun in La joule, a poem belonging to the collection
entitled Les visages de la vie. 1 The transfer is a perfectly
natural one. Such complexes of anguish more or less intense
are normally formed in the child during the fifth or sixth
year of its life, or during the years immediately following.
The crisis which takes place at this period (a crisis hitherto
very little studied) is as it were an initial puberty, less
apparent than the real puberty which develops at a
later stage. Like puberty, it is a crisis of development,
and the psychological manifestations influence the whole
being. Freudians insist upon the sexual aspect of the
phenomena ; but they can be quite as advantageously
studied from the outlook of the metaphysical anxiety
which characterises them. 2 Most often this crisis seems
to occur at the first contact of the child with reality,
with objective life (the birth of curiosity) ; at the same
time, it may be the first encounter between the objec-
tive and the subjective, between the practical and the
1 Vide supra, Chapter IV, pp. 179-182.
* Cf. Bovet, Le sentiment religieux, " Revue de th6ologie et de philo-
sophic," No. 32, 1919.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 251
visionary, between the progressive tendency and the
regressive tendency, between the " reality principle "
and the " pleasure principle " (the latter being linked
with the idea of the mother). The trouble is often
expressed in dreams, or rather nightmares. Anguish is
intensified according to the strength of the conflict, for
anguish seems to be the specific symptom of the conflict
between our tendencies. I have often had occasion to
notice that, in the complexes aroused by the struggle,
the symbols chosen to express the real have taken the
form of hard objects such as iron and stone; or, again,
the symbols may be associated with the memory of a
" childish love/' In Verhaeren's case, alongside the
factory, we have the clock-faces at the watchmaker's,
the man who related the story about the love of the
lady-gnomes ; we have the iron of the axe, ano. of the
axles which clank an image recurring later in con-
nexion with trains. Such infantile images are not in
themselves regressive ; on the contrary, they are the first
symbols of reality, of the progressive tendency, of the
forward movement. It is only the anguish with which
they are impregnated that discloses the regressive tendency.
They have caused the anguish precisely because they
jostled and alarmed the regressive and introspective
tendency. When the poet tears himself away from his
introversion and starts on his forward path, when he
hurls himself into the real in order to live in it and hug
it to his breast, it is quite natural that the same images
should reawaken in him to express the real, the " forward
march " once so dreaded and now beloved which are
even now, and in spite of himself, secretly held in awe.
The anguish accompanying such images never leaves
them. The real is accepted " with an open heart " (this
is the new and wholesome side of the affair) ; but it has
not been accepted without a subconscious protest, of
which anguish is the symptom. Verhaeren can only
gain and maintain his victory by daily combat ; his
252 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
temperament is such that he delights in a victory thus
achieved with danger. He has no wish for " a regular
happiness/' He does not desire peace. He would
blithely exclaim with Nietzsche (and, of course, in the
same metaphorical sense) : "I love peace as a means
to fresh wars, and a short peace better than a long one ! "
Mon coeur & moi ne vit diiment que s'il s'efforce. 1
[My heart cannot live duly unless through effort.]
Je veux rester, je ne peux pas ; . . .
Mieux vaut partir, sans aboutir,
Que de s'asseoir, meme vainqueur, le soir,
Devant son ceuvre coutumiere,
Avec, en son cceur morne, une vie
Qui cesse de bondir au-delk de la vie. 2
[I would like to stay, I cannot ;
Tis better to go, though you reach no goal,
Than to sit down, even as a victor, at eventide
To your accustomed task,
While, in your mournful heart, life
Ceases to leap beyond life.]
The constant desire to fight against oneself proceeds
for the most part from the ascetic tendency ; it may
also represent the confused consciousness of a vital need,
for Verhaeren knows, or feels, that he must fight with his
whole strength if he is not to succumb to the assault
of his foes in the subconscious :
La force la plus belle est la force qui pleure
Et qui reste tenace et marche, d'un pas droit,
Dans sa propre douleur, qu'elle confoit
Sublime et ncessaire, k chaque appel de Mieure.3
[The most beautiful strength is the strength which weeps
And which remains steadfast and goes forward, with unfaltering
1 From La vie ardente, in Les flammes hautcs.
* From Au bord du quai, in Les visages de la vie.
3 From La joie, in Les visages de la vie.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 258
Wrapped in its own sorrow, which it conceives to be
Sublime and necessary, in response to every claim of the moment.]
Verhaeren seems never wholly to have overcome his
early complexes, never wholly to have triumphed over
his early conflict. (" Who has ever been cured of his
childhood ? ") We may even admit that he, as a fighter,
did not really yearn for victory. Rather he enjoyed the
struggle, resembling in this way the gladiator who fed his own
beasts in order to fight them :
Nourrir, avec fcrveur, les angoisses profondes
Dont s'effare I'instinct mais dont vibre 1'esprit. 1
[Fervently to feed the deep anguish
Which affrights instinct but which makes the mind vibrate.]
Verhaeren has become extroverted, though not as
fully as his new intonation would lead us to believe ;
and there is nothing contradictory in supposing that in
his hymn to the real (just as previously in Les flamandes,
though to a less degree) he is involuntarily forcing the
tone, urged to this by a secret need to preach to himself,
for he feels that he is not fully converted. Thus the
old complexes whose most powerful symbol is the
train if they are no longer capable of preventing
the forward march, still have the power of making it
dangerous and fraught with anxiety. But the anxiety
and the danger, which may be mortal, serve to spur on
the combative energy, to intensify the will to run risks,
to stimulate defiance. Once again we return to the trains
in La folie and to those animals which
N'arrfetent point 1'essor
De leurs ailes vers la lumtere,
Parce que ceux qui les montaient glissent & terre,
Soudainement, parmi les morts.*
1 From La joie, in Les visages de la vie.
* From La folie, in Les forces tumultueuses.
254 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[Do not stop in the flight
Of their wings towards the light
Because those who were mounting them fall to the ground,
On a sudden, among the dead.]
We understand now what interior conflicts, what feverish
anxiety, have been concentrated in these two lines,
which are so tragically prophetic.
The new buoyancy bears along with itself the old
emotions. We have already seen how Verhaeren's new
faith, far from repressing his erstwhile devotion, absorbs it
and makes it part of itself ; we have seen how the mother
reappears in the spouse. Autophilia, too, the introverted
love which was so manifest in the symbols of the crisis, is
still there. Verhaeren is advancing towards a pantheistic
love of the world, but he loves himself as part of the world.
This is a sublimated autophilia : no longer a mere retire-
ment within himself ; no longer " squatting " but erect,
chest squared, inhaling and exhaling the universe. The
extroversion and the introversion are now in a state of
perfect equilibrium, as in the rhythmic breathing of a
J'aime mes yeux, mes bras, mes mains, ma chair, mon torse
Et mes cheveux amples et blonds
Et je voudrais, par mes poumons,
Boire 1'espace entier pour en gonfler ma force.
Oh ! ces marches k travers bois, plaines, fosses,
Oil l'tre chante et pleure et crie
Et se depense avec furie
Et s'enivre de soi ainsi qu'un insens^, 1
[I love my eyes, my arms, my hands, my flesh, my body,
And my thick, fair hair,
And through my lungs I would fain
Drink in space itself so as to increase my strength.
1 From Un matin, in the sequence Les cris de ma vie, in Les forces
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 255
Oh, those walks through the woods, over the plains, along
When the whole being sings, and weeps, and cries,
And spends itself with intensity,
And is drunken with itself as though it were mad !]
The Tumultuous Forces, as the very name suggests,
are as it were the turmoil of waters when a river has at
last broken through an obstacle. With Multiple Splendour
the era of harmony is definitely entered upon. 1 This
harmony in not the expression of a dull placidity. But
dionysian art is being converted into apollinian art, the
tempestuous visions are " finding repose in the form of
statues " : *
O ces frises de marbre autour des temples blancs,
Ou s'incruste, dans la pierre dure asservie,
Le tumulte apaise des gestes de la vie ! 3
[Oh the marble friezes around white temples,
Wherein are petrified, in the hard, obedient stone,
The stilled tumult of the actions of life.]
And now the rhythms are approximating to classical
regularity. The ancient myths of Hercules and of
Perseus will arise in their undying youth, in all their
well-knit vigour and nervous energy.
The struggle between the past and the future is finished
in so far as the struggle of a perennial fighter can ever
come to an end. Verhaeren continues to sing of the past
and to love it. But we need merely compare his new
1 La multiple splendeur (1906) ; Les rythmes souverains (1910) ; Les
b!6s mouvants (1912) ; Les flammes hautes (1914) [this work was not
published until 1917]. During the same years we have Les heures d'apr&s-
midi (1905) ; Les heures du soir (1911) ; Toute la Flandre (1904-1911).
Les ailes rouge de la guerre (1916) must be placed in a category apart,
Car aucune des visions qu'il avait eues
Ne s'etait, &, ses yeux, apaisSe en statue.
(From Michel-Ange, in Les rythmes souverains.)
3 From Les vieux empires in La multiple splendeur.
256 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
evocations with those of Les moines to notice the difference.
Then it was a question of the dead past ; and even when
this past seemed to persist, we felt it was doomed. But
in Les vieux empires (La multiple splendeur) all the
Egyptians and all the Chaldeans, all the Rameses and
all the Cambyses, all the Athens and all the Romes, pass
in unending files like a legend of the ages ; but they are
the living, the active past ; one feels that this past is
pregnant with the future ; the poet does not lose himself
in the past and linger there, wrapt in melancholy dreams ;
all the successive civilisations appear to him like the
successive storeys of the latter-day Babel. No longer
does he endeavour to go " up-stream," against the current
of the time ; he comes down the stream of history and
tarries amid the alluvial drift whence living man draws
his life :
Ainsi, au cours des temps plcin d'ombre ou de flambeaux,
L'homme s'est fait son corps, son verbe et son cerveau. 1
[Thus, adown the ages full of shadow or of light,
Man has fashioned his body, his speech, and his mind.]
This is the agelong work, slow of construction and never
ending, the work of humanity as it grows. The poem
closes with this refulgent verse :
La flamme et la splendeur de la vie embrasee.
[The flame and the splendour of glowing life.]
Verhaeren deals here with humanity's past just as he
dealt with his own childhood in Saint Georges ; he does
not mean to be lost in the past but to draw it towards
him and to nourish himself upon it. The present, the
real, action these are the goals of his enthusiasm-: and
through action he strives towards the future :
1 From Les vieux empires, in La multiple splendeur.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 257
Je sais, je sais
Le charme exquis des souvenirs inapais^s,
Mais mon coeur est trop fier et trop vivace
Pour se steriliser
Dans le regret et le pass.
Souffles et vents illuminent 1'espace,
Ma ville est trepidante aux bruits de Tunivers
Et Tavenir frappe ma porte et je le sers. 1
[I know, I know
The exquisite charm of restless memories ;
But my heart is too proud and too mettlesome
To allow itself to become petrified
In regrets and in the past.
Breezes and winds illumine space,
My town is aquiver with the noises of the universe,
And the future is knocking at my door and I serve it.]
The poet appears to be wholly released from the tyranny
of introversion and from the irresistible attraction exercised
over him by his " early affections." The poem entitled
Les attirances in Les rythmes souverains presents us with
the strange drama of a man who has been lured from his
beloved's arms by the magnetic attraction of the modern
O la cit6 &iorme, angoissante et tragique,
Comme elle entra fievreuse et fremissante en lui !
[Oh the vast city, so full of anguish, so tragical,
How feverishly and shudderingly it permeated his being.]
We know what the town symbolises for Verhaeren :
it is extroversion, enthusiasm for the real, for the present.
The beloved who awaits the coming of her dear, in the
distance, reminds us of her who hailed the ferryman,
or of the child friend in Les tendresses premUres :
Heures de paix, temps de nagure,
Charmes de celle, helas ! qui Tattendait toujours
Avec son &me et son amour,
A Tautre bout des mers et de la terre,
1 From Ma ville, in Les flammes hautes.
258 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
II n^gligea, brutalement, vos doux appels.
Son coeur grand! avait chang & un point tel
Qu'il ne s'angoissait plus que des forces profondes
Qui font d'un coeur humain le cceur meme du monde. 1
[Peaceful hours, days of yore,
Charms of her, alas, who ever awaited him,
With her soul and her love,
At the other end of the seas and of the earth,
He callously neglected your gentle call.
Owing to his mature experience he had altered so much
That he was no longer tortured save by those profound forces
Which make of a human heart the very heart of the world.]
Verhaeren feels that he is freed from the fascination
of a regressive image by means of the more powerful
attraction of reality. The poet is impelled towards
men and things, not only by sympathy, but also by
spontaneous admiration. The words " Admire one
another " are placed as an epigraph at the beginning of
La multiple splendeur ; and Verhaeren carries out his
Pour vivre clair, ferme et juste,
Avec mon coeur, j 'admire tout
Ce qui vibre, travaille et bout
Dans la tendresse humaine et sur la terre auguste.*
[In order to live serenely and firmly and justly,
With my heart, I admire everything
Which vibrates and ferments and boils
In human tenderness and on the august earth.]
Above all, the poet admires that which constitutes effort,
the effort of the worker :
Torses carres et durs, gestes prdcis et forts,3
[Bodies squared and hard, actions precise and strong,]
* From Les attirances, in Les rythmes souverains.
* From Autour de ma maison, in La multiple splendeur.
3 From L'effort, in La multiple splendeur.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 259
the effort of the scholar, persevering and bold : here
are the victors. He admires the effort of modern towns ;
the effort of Europe, the land of energy, straining towards
reality ; the efforts of scattered humanity to unite as the
workmen from the south and from the north, tunnelling
the mountains, meet at last. 1 The new faith which
Verhaeren feels welling up within him, is striving
towards a faith in human effort.
II n'importe que sous les toits
Dans les demeures,
Quand le jour nait ou qu'il d^croit,
Les prteres au Christ en croix
Efforts multiplies en tons les lieux du monde,
C'est vous qui rec&ez les croyances profondes :
Qui risque et qui travaille croit.*
[What matter if beneath the roofs,
Within the dwellings,
When day dawns or when it declines,
The prayers to Christ on the cross
Efforts redoubled in every part of the world,
It is you which sustain the profound faiths :
He who runs a risk and he who works, believes.]
The word cross is not too strong a symbol ; for what
Verhaeren seeks is a substitute for his sometime faith ;
he finds it in this fresh enthusiasm :
O prtere debout ! prifere nouvelle !
Futur, vous m'exaltez comme autrefois mon Dieu ! 3
[Oh the prayer one says standing ! Oh new prayer 1
Future which exalts me as formerly did my God !]
The whole attitude is different ; the new religious
sentiment is not regressive, it is addressed to the future
* See Le tunnel, in Les flammes hautes.
From L'orgueil, in Les flammes hautes.
3 From La prifcre, in Les rythmes souverains.
260 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
towards which every present effort is striving ; but at
bottom there exists the same ecstasy as in the past. The
attitude of the prayer, the meaning of the faith, have
changed because there was a vital need for the change : x
Seigneur, toi seul connais ce qui s'est fait en moi ;
Et comme il a fallu que 1'urgence de vivre
Eperonnat mon etre et Tincitat & suivre
Le montueux chemin qui m'eloignait de toi.*
[Lord, thou alone knowest what has happened within me,
And how the urgency of living had to
Spur on my being and incite it to follow
The uphill path which led me away from thee.]
The urgency of living, as we know, was the urgent need
to escape from the crisis of despair, to find an extroverted
and progressive faith, for the earlier faith was too infantile
to satisfy the poet. The old faith has become impossible,
for it is the cult of a child which being interpreted means
that it was for Verhaeren a regression towards childhood.
The kings who came from the east to worship the child
are symbolic of this naive faith :
Mages des nuits d'argent dont les astres caressent
Les fronts pench^s vers la candeur et la bont,
Vos regards sont ravis et vos coeurs exaltes
De croire au doux pouvoir nouveau de la faiblesse.
Mais Thomme en qui 1'audace a imprim6 sa loi,
Dont Tample volontd est 1'essor et la foi
Et qui part conqurir pour soi-meme le monde,
Admettra-t-il jamais qu'en son Sine profonde
Le r6gne d'un enfant fasse ployer Torgueil ? 3
[Kings of the silver night, whose stars caress
The foreheads bent towards candour and goodness,
Your eyes are rapt and your hearts exalted
By the belief in the gentle power of weakness.
But the man on whom courage has stamped her law,
1 Traditional faith is not necessarily regressive ; but for Verhaeren
it was so (roses, palms, etc., between little fingers).
* From L'ancienne foi, in Les flammes hautes,
s From Les mages, in La multiple splendeur.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 261
Whose abundant will is impetus and faith,
And who ventures forth alone to conquer the world
Could such as he ever admit that in his inmost heart
The reign of a child should curb his pride ?]
While seeking for a new faith, Verhaeren has met
human effort :
J'entendais retentir tous les bonds de 1'essor
Avec leurs sabots clairs sur le seuil de mon ame
Et je suivis leur course et leur galop de flamme
Vers les neuves cites dont s'exaltait Teffort.
La passion me vint et de Thomme et du monde. . . .
J'6tais ivre de me sentir un etre humain. 1
[I heard resounding the leaps of impetus,
With their glistening hoofs, upon the threshold of my soul,
And I followed their course and their flaming gallop
Towards the new cities whence effort was springing.
Two passions seized me, that of man and that of the world. . . .
I was intoxicated at the thought that I was a human being.]
But, as he well knows, this passion and exaltation are
no other than the old religious fervour transferred to
other objects :
Car, bien que vous m'ayez abandonne, Seigneur,
Ma ferveur d'autrefois ne s'est point apaisee.
[For though thou hast forsaken me, Lord,
My bygone fervour is not assuaged.]
Again we encounter Magdalen, who has become
Th^roigne. In another poem this is made clearer still :
Si je n'ai plus en moi cette angoisse de Dieu
Qui fit mourir les saints et les martyrs dans Rome,
Mon coeur, qui n'a chang que de liens et de voeux,
Eprouvre en lui Tamour et Tangoisse de rhomme.*
1 From L'ancienne foi, in Les flammes hautes.
From Au passant d'un soir, in Les flammes hautes.
262 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[If I no longer have within me the anguish of God
Which brought the saints and the martyrs to death in Rome,
My heart which has merely changed its bonds and its vows
Feels within itself the love and the anguish of man.]
The love and the anguish of man above all, but not
exclusively. We have just had the line about " the
passion of man and of the world/' and a little earlier we
read " in human tenderness and on the august earth/ 1
Though he outsoars mankind, Verhaeren never loses
sight of the earth which sustains him ; his faith does not
merely consist of human fervour ; it is a cosmic emotion,
and by this very sign the religious character of the faith
is marked. Verhaeren has made a definite profession of
faith. It forms his answer to an enquiry circulated among
writers of the day (1905) :
" What is to be the future of poetry ? I hesitate,
and yet believe in poetry with all the strength of my
faith. It seems to me that poetry will soon profess a
lucid pantheism. More and more are healthy and honest
minds coming to accept the unity of the world. The
old distinctions between soul and body, between God
and the universe, are being obliterated. Man is a frag-
ment of the architecture of the world. He is conscious
of the whole, of which he is a part ; he understands it.
He discovers things, he curtails the mystery enshrouding
things, he understands their mechanism. As he penetrates
their mysteries, both his admiration of nature and his
admiration of himself become firmer. He feels that he
is enfolded and dominated, and at the same time that
he enfolds and dominates things. Confronted by the
sea, he conquers it and builds harbours ; the rivers, he
dams up ; the towns, he constructs ; when he wishes to
explore the skies, he fashions thousands of marvellous
instruments ; to know matter and to scrutinise his own
being, he builds laboratories; during the last century
he has increased his strength, his energy, and his will
a hundredfold; he is creating a colossal work which
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 263
he superposes on the work of time ; by dint of prodigies
he is himself becoming the personal god in whom his
forefathers believed. Now I ask you, is it possible that
lyrical inspiration should remain indifferent before such
an unchaining of human power, and should delay cele-
brating so stupendous and magnificent a spectacle ? The
poet need only let himself be taken possession of by
that which he sees, hears, imagines, guesses, in order
that youthful, thrilling, new works should issue from
his heart and his brain. His art will then be neither
social, nor scientific, nor philosophical ; it will be simply
art as it was understood in those days elect when all
that was most worthy of admiration was sung with
fervour, when the most characteristic and the most
heroic elements of each age found expression in song.
We shall live in harmony with the present, and in closest
contact with the future ; caution will cease to curb the
boldness of our pens ; no longer will the poet be afraid
of his own frenzy, or of the red and surging poetry wherein
it will find expression. These are my hopes. 11
Faith in man and in the world are one. Verhaeren
has a dynamic outlook on the world ; we feel his admira-
tion for effort, for the struggles of the energetic will, for
the endless labours of the millenarians ; his outlook
is permeated with the evolutionary spirit. He no longer
sees the skies with their constellations set in perfect
geometrical order, but as a " forest " x swarming with
suns aglow, suns born from nebulas, whose heat flings
worlds into space. Everything is making an effort,
everything labours, as does the human crowd.
Le monde est fait avec des astres et des homines a
[The universe is made of stars and of men]
to such an extent, that the tangled struggle of the stars
might well serve as a symbol of the human conflict,
1 A la gloire des cieux, in La multiple splendeur.
1 From Le monde, in La multiple splendeur.
264 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
or vice versa. In one and in the other are manifested
the great dynamic law of the universe marching forward
and fighting as it goes :
Et s'enivrer si fort de Miumaine bataille
Pale et flottant reflet des monstrueux assauts
Ou des groupements d'or des etoiles li-haut
Qu'on vit en tout ce qui agit, lutte ou tressaille
Et qu'on accepte avidement, le coeur ouvert,
L'apre et terrible loi qui regit 1'univers. 1
[To become so mightily intoxicated with the human battle
A pale and floating reflection of the giant assaults
Or the golden groupings of the stars up there
That one lives in all that moves, that fights, that quivers ;
That one eagerly accepts, with an open heart,
The bitter and terrible law which governs the universe.]
Verhaeren divides his enthusiasm equally between the
world and man, between " the multitudinous whirling
gold of the skies " and the gold, no less multitudinous
and whirling, which hallucinates the eyes of men dwelling
in cities and spurs them forward to effort. In Les villes
tentaculaires, Verhaeren devotes a poem to the Stock
Exchange and to the feverish hunt for gold. He waxes
enthusiastic as he writes. Such enthusiasm may seem
strange on the part of a man so simple in his tastes, so
kindly ; on the part of a sage whose needs were so easily
satisfied, and to whom no action was so alien as the
dollar hunt. But explanation is hardly needed as soon
as we realise that the poet's cult of gold is, above all,
symbolical : we know that, ever since he wrote Les
flamandes, gold has been for him the symbol of an exalted
life ; at first this life was sensual, but as soon as St.
George signed the golden cross on his forehead, as soon
as a new inspiration took possession of Verhaeren, gold
was to become the symbol of the ecstasy of the soul, of
Venus transformed into Th&roigne. Gold still symbolises
life in all its wealth and fruitfulness ; but the fruitfulness
From La vie, in La multiple splendeur.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 265
is now human or cosmic effort rather than the fruitfulness
of the flesh and of golden harvests. Thus human gold
merges into celestial gold in the same whirlpool of symbolic
splendour. When the poet sings of the Bank, he re-
animates, in his song, all the old complexes, and the gold
is still interpenetrated with the whilom significance :
we can hear the primitive instinct which he symbolised
of yore vibrating through the lines as harmonics :
Et tout Ik-bas, au coin d'un carrefour gant,
Du haut de tes grands toils, ceilles de vitres rondes,
Tu rSgnes, de p61e en p61e, sur TOcean,
Toi, la Banque, ame mathematique du monde !
Les plus vieux des desirs retentissent en to/. 1
[And high aloft, at the corner of the giant cross-roads,
From the height of your great roofs pierced with round
windows like eyes,
You reign, from pole to pole, over the oceans,
You, the Bank, the mathematical soul of the world !
The most ancient of desires reverberate within you.]
Consider also the lines in La bourse (Les villes tentaculaires) :
La rue 6norme et ses maisons quadrangulaires
Bordent la foule et Tendiguent de leur granit
(Eille de fenetres et de porches ou luit
L'adieu, dans les carreaux, des soirs aur^olaires.
[The wide street and its massive blocks of houses
Hem in the crowd, and dam it up with their granite
Windows blinking like eyes, and their square porches
Whence shine forth the farewells of haloed evenings.]
Soon, however, the image acquires a deeper significance ;
in addition to the earlier meaning it comprehends new
meanings ; it comes to embrace all the wealth of a prodigal
O formidable pluie Sparse sur le monde !
O Tantique l^gende ! O chair de Dana !
O cieux brtiles de feux et d'^toiles fecondes
Qui vous penchez le soir sur 1'univers pam !
1 From L'or, in Les rythmes' souverains.
266 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
tourbillons de Tor oil les yeux s'hallucinent,
Or, ^change et conquete ; or, verbe universe! ;
Sfeve montant au falte et coulant aux racines
De foret en for&t, comme un sang ternel.
Or, lien de peuple k peuple k travers les contr^es,
Et tant6t pour la lutte et tant6t pour 1'accord,
Mais lien toujours vers quelque entente inesperee
Puisque 1'ordre lui-meme est fait avec de Tor.
[Oh formidable rain scattered over the world !
Oh the ancient legend ! Oh flesh of Danae.
Oh skies consumed with fire and with fecund stars,
Skies bending over the swooning earth at night !
Oh vortex of gold hallucinating our eyes,
Gold, exchange and conquest ; gold, universal speech ;
Sap rising to the top and flowing down to the roots
From forest to forest like an endless stream of blood.
Gold, link between peoples throughout all lands,
Now causing strife and now bringing concord,
A link ever tending towards an unhoped for understanding,
For order itself is builded of gold.]
Verhaeren may have fancied that he was singing about
gold as money, and he may have rationalised his song by
thinking that gold is the lever of human energy. In
reality, gold fascinated him much as the trains and the
clock-faces had tortured him. But the fascination was in
the realm of the symbolic ; were we to see in Verhaeren
a mere panegyrist of the almighty dollar, we should be
seriously misled ; the poet's whole life would rise up in
witness against us.
Another thing which Verhaeren glorifies, apparently to
excess, is the great modern town. True, he harboured
an intense love for the town of to-day, but his love in
this case resembled his love of gold : he loved it as an
artist (which by no means implies that he loved it as
a lover), without desiring it, and with a certain aloofness.
Verhaeren lived in a retired corner of the Walloon country,
at Caillou-qui-Bique. He came in close contact with the
neighbouring peasantry. The peasants, knowing him
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR S67
to be a writer, called on him for help when they were
faced with the onerous task of letter writing. The
poet acquitted himself with goodnatured and smiling
amusement. 1 One recalls his bent body ; his rather
clumsy gait, as of a man following the plough. Verhaeren
loved the open air and the wind, he loved the long walks
" through the woods, across the plains, along the dikes/'
While ranging over the countryside he composed his songs.
When he wanted to be in close touch with Paris, he did
not live in the capital but in the fresh oasis of Saint-
Cloud. No one could, therefore, accuse him of a great
love of the town, any more than of a love of gold as such.
The town Verhaeren sings is a symbolical town. Albert
Mockel understood this very well : " When Verhaeren
writes of throbbing towns, he is thinking of himself ;
one of these towns is his town, and one of them is his
own soul portrayed in a living picture." 2 The town,
which is his own town, is silhouetted in Les fiammes
J'ai construit dans mon ame une ville torride*
Gares, halles, clochers, voutes, ddmes, beffrois,
Et du verre et de Tor et des feux sur les toits.
Passant tu n'y trouveras pas
Autour des vieux foyers de quietude
Les fauteuils lourds, boiteux et las
Ou sommeillent et se chauffent en tas
Les habitudes ;
Ni sur les murs des ardentes maisons
Les antiques images,
Ni les bergers, ni les rois mages,
Ni le boeuf, ni 1'anon,
Ni la Vierge Marie,
Ni le Christ calme et doux
Que j'aime encor, mais plus ne prie
A deux genoux.3
1 Stefan Zweig, Erinnerungen an Emil Verhaeren (personal memories-
a Op. cit., p. 131. 3 From Ma ville, in Les flammes hautes.
268 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[Within my soul I have built a torrid town.
Stations, market halls, steeples, arches, domes, belfries,
The roofs all aflame with fire and with gold.
Passer-by, you will not find here
Around the peaceful firesides of yore
The massive, tired, decrepit arm-chairs
Wherein are dosing and huddling for warmth
The habits of a lifetime ;
Nor will you find on the walls of the glowing houses
The ancient images,
Neither the shepherds nor the Kings of the East,
Nor the ox nor the ass,
Nor the Virgin Mary,
Nor the calm and gentle Christ
Whom I still love but to whom I no longer pray
On my bended knees.]
But there is no trace in the Town of the habits of the
introvert who shuts himself up snugly within himself ;
the old-time faith ; the maternal Virgin Mary ; the
infantile images which illuminate the birth of the God-
Child. Verhaeren's Town stands at the antipodes of
these regressive things :
Rien ne s'y meut torpidement, a reculons.
[Nothing moves torpidly there, nothing moves backwards.]
More and more is the Town a symbol of extroverted
fervour, of vibrant human effort, of all that constitutes
the poet's new faith :
Oh ! 1'exaltante et brulante atmosphere
Que Ton respire en ma cit :
Le flux et le reflux des forces de la terre
S'y concentrent en volontds
Qui luttent. ...
Sois fier d'etre vivant quand tel a peur de vivre ;
Utilise 1'orgueil qui te porte et t'enivre,
Et ta pitte, et ta fureur, et ta bont.
LIFE IN ALL Its ARDOUR 269
[Oh, the exultant and burning atmosphere
Which one breathes in my city !
The flux and the reflux of the earth's forces
Are concentrated there in wills
That strive. . . .
Be proud of being alive when some fear to live ;
Make use of the pride which bears you up and exalts you,
Make use of your pity, your frenzy, and your goodness.]
In these lines Verhaeren reveals the deep significance
of his Town. What he admires therein is the visible
image of ardour for the fight and of energy in combat.
If, among all the energies, he has chosen to symbolise
those of the factory, the stock-exchange, and the goods-
yard, it is not because he loves these above all others ;
he certainly does not prefer them to the struggle within
himself, the struggle he wages day by day, and through
which he hopes to reach the heights of fervent beauty.
" He desires fever/' writes Jean de Smet, " but he desires
it to be within him." * There are other reasons for the
choice of such symbols. First of all, the factory has been
for Verhaeren, from childhood to manhood, the concrete
image of action, of the real ; later, the factory became the
symbol of the industrial town, just as the clank of the
axles was converted into the noise of the trains. In
addition, these aspects of the town are malleable, they
respond to the instinct of the great visualiser and great
visionary ; they best express for him the idea of throbbing,
straining energy. In the same way, Victor Hugo saw, in
the splendid action of the Sower, the plastic concentra-
tion of the action of all creators.
" Life, so contradictory and so intoxicating/' wrote
Verhaeren. To be intoxicated also by contraries such
will henceforward be the law inspiring his enthusiasm.
His life has become an equilibrium of contrasts ; a balance
of the two tendencies, extroversion and introversion,
town and country :
Op. cit., vol. ii. p.
270 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
La ville et tous ses bruits
Et ses trains d'or trouant la nuit
Ont effray pendant longtemps les blancs villages,
Mais aujourd'hui 1'accord est fait et les marches
Voient de beaux gars endimanch^s
Mener vers eux mille attelages. 1
[The town and its manifold noises,
And its golden trains piercing the night,
For long affrighted the white villages ;
But to-day harmony has been achieved, and the market places
Are thronged with handsome lads in their Sunday
Who have driven thither in their thousand carts.]
Verhaeren, in his own life, expresses this reconciliation ;
he expresses it by living part of the year in the town
and part of the year in the country, by dividing his time
between Saint-Cloud and Caillou-qui-Bique.
A balance between power and gentleness. At the
date of Les apparus dans mes chemins, St. George revealed
love ; the Saints, gentleness :
Elles sont quatre & me parler : leur voix d'ailleurs
Toutes freles, entre leurs l&vres lentes,
Sont calmantes et rechauffantes,
Comme leurs robes et leurs mantes.
L'une est le bleu pardon, 1'autre la bont blanche,
La troisiSme 1'amour pensif, la derntere le don
D'etre, mme pour les mchants, le sacrifice.
Chacune a bu dans le chr&ien calice
[There are four of them who speak to me : and their voices,
Issuing so frail from their slow-moving lips,
Are soothing and warming
Like their robes and their mantles.
From Tityre et Moelib6e, in Les b!6s mouvants.
* From Lee saintes, in Les apparus dans mes chemins.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 271
One of them is blue forgiveness ; another, white goodness ;
A third is pensive love ; and the last is the gift
Of being even for the wicked sacrifice.
Each has drunk from the Christian chalice
The whole of the infinite.]
But now, we have, in the figure of St. John, the highest
and purest expression of this divine and ardent gentleness,
a gentleness which has vanquished power :
La mauvaise fureur n'habitait plus en lui. . , .
II se faisait tres faible et se sent ait tr6s fort.
II recelait en lui le secret reconfort
De ceux qui dominent la vie
Non par la force droite et belle infiniment,
Mais par 1'humble vouloir et par Teffacement
Et la douceur inassouvie. 1
[Evil fury dwelt no longer within him. . . .
He made himself very weak and yet felt himself very strong.
He harboured within himself the secret refreshment
Of those who dominate life,
Not by a power which is infinitely beautiful and upright,
But by a humble will and by self-effacement
And inexhaustible gentleness.]
"He made himself very weak and yet felt himself
very strong " : this is a line that may be fully applied
to Verhaeren. There are now, as it were, two currents
in his poetry ; sometimes the currents run alongside
one another, at others they mingle and yet do not merge
so as to become indistinguishable. The older current
is one of force and of violence ; it is of this that we
think when called upon to describe Verhaeren's work.
The other current is one of gentleness and tenderness ; it
took rise at the date when Les apparus dans mes chemins
was being written ; ever since then this current has been
gathering strength. But the gentleness is that of a
strong individuality, a gentleness full of the most
fascinating awkwardness. Gentleness is the basis of
! From Saint-Jean, in Les rythmes souverains.
272 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
the poem about St. John ; whereas the neighbouring
frescoes depicting the Barbarians, Martin Luther, and
Michelangelo, are consecrated to power. All the books
devoted to the beloved, belong to the first category :
Les heures claires, Les heures d'apr&s-midi, Les heures du
soir. In these collections we hear a perfect melody
which flows alongside (without ever losing itself therein)
the sombre and rich orchestration of mighty works.
Thus balance is secured between the personal and the
general, between love of the countryside and passion for
all mankind. We find that such great achievements as La
multiple splendeur, Les rythmes souverains and Les flammes
hautes, are garlanded on one side by the collections of the
Hours and on the other by All Flanders : the trilogy
of private life and the tetralogy of the native land. These
more intimate works were being fashioned concomitantly
with the others, forming a burden of love which accom-
panied the lyrical flights of the mind.
No one has ever succeeded in wedding, more inti-
mately or with so touching a simplicity, an enthusiastic
love for humanity with devotion to the native land. One
represents the future, the other the past. Verhaeren
loves humanity as an effort ceaselessly straining towards
betterment ; he loves Flanders as he would love a mother.
The balance which these two sentiments have established
within him is perhaps the most faithful image of the
equilibrium between extroversion and introversion. This
balance, this equilibrium, acquired after so strenuous a
fight, was tested to the utmost when Verhaeren had to
look on while his beloved Flanders was crushed under
the heel of war. The tragedy rent his heart, and entailed
the danger of a fresh crisis. His faith in humanity was
wellnigh shattered ; not without good cause, for the
most serene of natures might have been shaken by such
calamities. He was the least prepared of men to sustain
the shock ; " this limpid, childlike soul who trusted so
naively in the goodness of men/' writes Jean de Smet.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 278
Verhaeren was correcting the proofs of Lesflammes hautes,
that supreme act of faith, when the tornado was let loose.
He thought for a moment that the whole structure of his
inner life was again splitting from summit to base, and
was crashing down amid the ruins of his country in flames.
In actual fact, as if by a special vindictiveness of fate,
the clock-tower of his native village crumbled once more
in a welter of flames ? * The tragic images of bygone
days are kindled anew : clock-towers on fire and reflected
in the mirror of the accursed meres. Such images throng
the lines of L'exode, the finest poem, it seems to me, of
the collection Les ailes rouges de la guerre :
Et tout i coup voici les tours,
Les grandes tours qui s'eclairent de bourgs en bourgs,
Et qui tendent jusqu'k la mer la tragddie
Haletante de I'incendie.
La plaine et la foret s'illuminent au loin.
Mares, fleuves, etangs et lacs sont les temoins
De la terreur qui dans les eaux se reverbere ; . . .
Et dans les clochers noirs les derniers tocsins sonnent.
[And now, of a sudden, here are the towers,
The great towers which throw their beacon flares from town
And which spread to the sea's far strand
The breathless tragedy of the conflagration.
Wide spreads the glow over forest and plain.
Meres, streams, ponds, and lakes stand there as witnesses
Of the terror reflected in these many waters ; . . .
In the black belfries the last tocsins sound.]
Is Verhaeren's faith once more to be wrecked ? The
poet feels as though something within him has been
wounded to death. In the preface to La Belgique sanglante
he owns to a feeling of hate. Let us consider this hate :
he is tortured by the idea that he is " no longer the same
man," that he is " diminished " ; and we have the poignant
1 On September 6, 1914 (Smet, op, cit., vol. ii. p. 131).
274 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
dedication to " the man I once was. 11 Similar feelings
are met with in his letters to Romain Holland : x "I
am filled with sadness and with hate. I have never felt
hatred before ; now I know what it is. I cannot rid myself
of the feeling, and yet I fancy I am an upright man who
formerly considered hate to be a degrading emotion." 3
These letters bear witness to the effort Verhaeren was
making in order to overcome his hatred, for hatred was
contrary to his nature and was undermining his faith
in humanity, a faith which was the very foundation of
his life. " How much greater and higher you are than
I ; you may well serve me as example/' he writes to Rolland
on December 3, 1914. " I own that while I am thus
consumed with sadness and anger, I cannot be just.
I am not standing by the side of a flame, I am in the
very flame itself ; I am suffering, I cry aloud. I can
do no otherwise." 3 How far deeper would his personal
grief have been, had he lived to see, three days before
the armistice, the incendiary bombs falling on his little
house at Caillou-qui-Bique and destroying it completely.
Up to then it had been protected, thanks to Stefan Zweig's
This correspondence raises the curtain on a poignant
drama of conscience ; and Albert Mockel, who does not
seem to know of the existence of the letters, has
nevertheless recognised the similarity between the dramas
within Verhaeren and Rolland respectively dramas which
worked out in very different ways in the two men. How-
ever, the two great writers never ceased to love one another.
When Henri Mugnier asked Verhaeren to contribute to
" Le Carmel," a magazine to which Rolland had promised
his collaboration, he received the following answer from
the Belgian poet : " Yes, you may count upon me. I
shall be happy to write for a review where I shall have
* Quelques lettres da Verhaeren et Romain Rolland, published by
Cahiers id^alistes fran9ais, Paris, No, 14, March, 1918.
Letter dated October 24, 1914.
3 Letter dated June 15, 1915.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 275
such companions as Spitteler and Romain Rolland. For
the moment I cannot follow the latter along the road he
has entered ; but I love him I might say that I love
him all the more since there is a certain danger in loving
him. Remember me very cordially to him/ 1 *
The words " for the moment " are significant. Ver-
haeren no longer considers his attitude on the war as
a definitive one ; nor does he feel that the renunciation
of his love for humanity is permanent. He has got a
grip on himself once more. Verhaeren was simply the
most passionate of lovers where his country was concerned ;
we should be guilty of grave injustice did we stigmatise
such a man as a jingo. In 1916 I had the privilege
(the reader will forgive me if I mention myself in this
connexion) of conveying to Stefan Zweig the fervent
admiration which Verhaeren still treasured for the
Austrian writer. When we understand the intensity of
Verhaeren's torture, we can readily condone his anger,
and can all the more appreciate his attitude towards
Rolland and Zweig. 2
Faith in humanity and love for his fellows could not
be extirpated from his great, tortured heart. His hate
was itself nothing else than the obverse of his love ; and
his faith, shaken at the first onslaught, was too firmly
founded and too vital not to be able to resist in the end ;
it arises again, less naively confident perhaps, but no
less sure of itself. Having once been shaken, his faith
becomes even firmer, as though buttressed with new
L'urgence de revivre envahit nos cerveaux ;
Les vieilles verits n'ont plus assez de force
1 Letter dated January 26, 1916.
In the opening issue of " Le Carmel " (April 1916) I published the
first half of Zweig's Tower of Babel. Verhaeren wrote in enthusiastic
appreciation, and expressed his desire to read the conclusion. To the
third issue of the review (June 1916) Verhaeren contributed the poem
entitled A cello qui a vingt ans.
276 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Pour armer notre foi et dresser notre torse
En face de 1'attente et de Tespoir nouveau.
Nous ne laissons rien choir de 1'ancienne esprance ;
Mais nous la contr61ons afin de n'avoir point
Au lieu d'un frre un ennemi comme t&noin
Du vieux combat dont 1'homme attend sa dlivrance. .
L'humanite a soif d'une quit profonde ;
L'angoisse du massacre est vivante en son sein,
Elle veut que d'aprSs un plus tendre dessin
On sculpte d'autres traits au visage du monde. 1
[The pressing need to relive is invading our brains;
The old truths no longer have the power
Of arming our faith and raising up our body
Confronted by expectancy and by the new hope.
We shall forfeit nothing of the erstwhile confidence ;
But we shall control it so as no longer to have
Instead of a brother an enemy as the witness
Of the agelong combat from which man hopes to be freed. . . .
Man is athirst for a far-reaching equity;
The anguish of the slaughter is alive in his breast ;
He wishes that there may be sculptured, in accordance with a
more tender design,
Other features upon the countenance of the world.]
It is well that Les flammes hautes, whose printing was
postponed owing to the outbreak of the war, should have
been published (posthumously) after Les ailes rouges de
la guerre ; for these aspiring flames will remain for
all time Verhaeren's last testament. The shock is
overpassed ; the poet takes up his pen once more to sub-
scribe the words which were written prior to 1914 ;
and in order to confirm the fact that he in no way goes
back upon his words he adds this strophe to the collection :
1 From Les tombes, in Les ailes rouges de la guerre.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 277
L'orde guerre n'a point sap ton vouloir droit
D'etre homme de lutte et non homme d'effroi
Et de hair jusqu'en tes os et tes entrailles
La fourmillante horreur des chocs et des batailles. 1
[Foul war has not undermined your upright will
To be a man of struggle, but not a man of terror,
To be one who hates to his very bones and to his very bowels
The teaming horror of blows and of battles.]
This crowning work is dedicated " to those who love
the future/ 1 Thus the concord between the past and
the future, between the maternal fatherland and a virile
humanity, a concord achieved by so bitter a struggle, has
been able to resist in the long run the severest of tests.
There may seem to be a contradiction between the cry
of hate and the affirmation of a belief in mankind ; well,
there is also a contradiction between gentleness and
power, between the humanity of St. John who denounces
all forms of pride, and the numerous hymns in which
the poet celebrated the pride which saves. Verhaeren's
lyricism is " contradictory and intoxicating M as life
itself. Verhaeren lives wholly in the emotion of the
moment ; such an emotion will work him up to a frenzy,
and it is for this very reason that he is able to write
with so much power. We pointed out that these two
currents of gentleness and power flowed along side by
side without ever completely merging their waters. It
is the same with all the contrasts existing in Verhaeren.
In his frescoes, the opposing tones do not harmonise
into a union giving birth to some more moderated shade ;
the juxtaposed masses balance one another by contrast.
The contrast is evident, but we must not therefore be
blind to the perfection of the balance. How did Verhaeren
attain to so perfect an equilibrium, why did he keep to
the last this intense need for contrast ? That is what
we shall learn by means of a further study of the symbols
in his great works.
1 From A I'komme d'aujourd'hui, in Les flammes hautes.
278 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Verhaeren's inner victory, his conquest of so splendid
a balance, is best expressed (it seems to me) by the myth
of Perseus in Les rythmes souverains. Just as St. George
issued from the Count of Mid-Lent, and the Amazon
from St. George, so Perseus is the new incarnation of
the warrior woman. We have here a typical example
of the evolution of a symbol. The kinship between
Perseus and St. George is apparent at the first reading
of the two poems, but Verhaeren confirms the impression
by actual words :
Qui domine votre ame et en defend le seuil
Contre la plainte amSre ;
Parfois meme, pour en triompher mieux,
Et la ployer sous son talon victorieux,
Par rheroisme pur, il 1'exaspere ;
Et c'est alors qu'au plus profond de votre coeur,
II prdpare, dirige et resume, en vainqueur
La plus belle des batailles humaines.
Jadis, dans les legendes souveraines,
Au temps des Dieux, maitres des cieux profonds,
C'etait hii le Saint-Georges et le divin Persee
Qui transper^aient du bel eclair de leur pensee
La douleur hriss6e en son corps de dragon. 1
Which dominates your heart and defends the threshold of your
Against bitter lamentation ;
Sometimes even, to triumph the better,
And to crush lamentation beneath a victorious heel,
Out of sheer heroism pride exacerbates the wound ;
Then it is that, in the recesses of your heart,
Pride prepares, directs, and recapitulates, as a conqueror,
The most splendid of human battles.
In times of yore, in the splendid myths,
In the days of the Gods, masters of the fathomless skies,
// was he t St. George, and the divine Perseus,
Who transpierced, with the effulgence of their thoughts,
The bristling body of the dragon, sorrow.]
1 From Les souffrances, in La multiple splendeur.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 279
Perseus is, therefore, the symbol of ascetic pride which
intensifies the evil before triumphing over it ; Perseus
is heroism incarnate. But, as is always the case with
symbols, the abstract words " pride " or " heroism "
present only one of the manifold aspects of the image.
The symbol itself is always richer in meaning than any
of the explanations one may give of it ; and we cannot
hope to discover the full significance of a symbol unless
we analyse it in every detail.
Perseus, like St. George and the Amazon, fights the
dragon of the old evil. Like the Amazon, he wishes to
deliver " suffering humanity/' which is symbolised in this
poem by the figure of Andromeda chained to the rock
and menaced by the dragon. In this symbol we encounter
an objectivation which did not yet exist in Saint Georges.
Then the struggle was an inner one merely, it was a fight
for a subjective deliverance ; the intimate significance of
this symbol is enshrined in the secret recesses of both
the Amazon and Perseus. We have in Perseus a duplex
symbolism such as we often meet with in Verhaeren's
works since the crisis. Objectively and consciously,
Perseus represents the proud, the fearless hero who is
to redeem mankind ; subjectively and unconsciously,
he represents the inner struggle of the poet which led
to ultimate victory and harmony. Here Verhaeren haps
upon the original and spontaneous meaning of the
myth ; this myth belongs to the same family as those
of Orpheus and of buried treasure. In such ancient
legends, psychoanalysts fancy they have discovered a
common factor : the endeavour to liberate that part
of the psychic energy which has become introverted
and is pent up in the subconscious. Similar figures
occur spontaneously in the dreams and fantasies of
introverts ; analysts have shown their general identity,
and have explained them as manifestations of the
11 collective unconscious." Certainly, such an interpre-
tation applies to Verhaeren's works. Further, it is
280 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
obvious that at the date when Les rythmes souverains
was composed (the very title is a hymn to victory)
Verhaeren had become master of himself and had
acquired inner harmony ; the " descent into hell, 1 ' the
delving into the subconscious, which is embodied in
the three plays, is now at an end ; Verhaeren carries
his soul into the broad daylight after having struck off
the chains which bound it to the maternal imago and
and to the affections of early childhood. He delivers
Jean de Smet x traces a kinship between Perseus and
the Ferryman ; and the woman who hails the ferryman
in La passeur d'eau
La tete effrayamment tendue
Vers rinconnu de 1'etendue.*
[Her head stretched out in affright
Towards the unknown expanse.]
seems to him the first sketch of Andromeda (or of suffering
humanity) calling for a saviour. The analogy is certainly
less salient than that between St. George and the Amazon ;
but there does seem to be an outline draft of the same
motif in the lines just quoted. It is normal that a
spontaneous symbol should express in a single image
both the objective and the subjective aspects of a feeling ;
that is to say, on the one hand, the creature which holds
part of our soul in thrall, and, on the other hand, this
portion of the captive soul. Speech effects the same
synthesis when a mother calls her child " my love,"
or when we speak of something as " my terror." It is,
therefore, perfectly normal that " she who hails," a
figure reminiscent of early affections and summarised
in the " little friend," should simultaneously express
these early affections, this introverted and captive soul.
So long as sentiments continue to manifest a regressive
1 Op. cit., vol. ii. pp. 192, 193.
a From Le passeur d'eau, in Les villages illusoires.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 281
tendency, so long will the two aspects be as one. But
at the date of Les rythmes souverains the deliverance
had taken place, and as a consequence the separation
of the two aspects has been effected. It is extremely
interesting, in this connexion, to compare the two poems
Les attirances and Persfo. In the former, the female
figure at the marge of the seas is nothing more than the
object of early affections, and the hero forsakes her ; in
the latter, Andromeda is the very soul of Perseus, a
soul long held captive at the marge of the seas, and the
hero rescues her.
How does he rescue her ? How, in other words, does
he finally escape from his introversion ? Why does
Perseus succeed where the Amazon failed ? Perseus'
triumph is due to Pegasus, the wonder-horse which the
hero conquers and tames. Now Pegasus has already
made his entry by the side of the Amazon in Les forces
tumiiltueuses. But Pegasus and the Amazon in those
days required a separate poem each ; in Persee the two
motifs are fused. Here we have the key to the riddle.
The enigma will be solved if we understand the cooperation
of forces which the confluence of the images expresses.
In Les forces tumultueuses, Perseus was the frank and
explicit symbol of art, whereas the Amazon signified
proud energy. More specifically, the Amazon was the
sister of Th^roigne and had to signify Verhaeren's tendency
towards " social activity." Such activity, however, was
not really part of himself, it could not fully satisfy him
or bring about inner harmony. But now Verhaeren has
realised that art is the only true realm for his activity,
the object of his pride and of his combative energy. All
his powers must be concentrated towards the mastery
of art, art which has become the auxiliary for his deliver-
ance : here is the explanation of the symbol of Perseus
becoming the master of Pegasus.
As we have often seen before in the course of our
analysis, the deductive interpretation is subsequently
282 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
confirmed by the details of the poems and helps us to
understand these details. Perseus does not conquer
Pegasus without a struggle. At first he tries coercion :
Le cheval outrag se cabra brusque et droit ;
Sa grande aile d'argent, en un effort tragique,
L/affranchit de la boue epaisse et lethargique,
Et ses reins revokes rejet^rent leur poids.
Persee eut beau crisper ses doigts dans la criniSre
Et resserrer les flancs dans 1'etau des genoux,
Aucune entente encor secrete et familtere
N'existait entre lui et le grand cheval roux.
[The indignant horse suddenly reared up straight ;
His great silver wing, with a dramatic swing,
Freed him from the thick and sluggish mire,
And his rebellious back flung off its burden.
All in vain did Perseus cling to the mane
And squeeze the horse's ribs in the vice of his knees,
No secret and familiar understanding
As yet existed between him and the great red roan.]
Critics have resented Verhaeren's choice of words, and
they accuse him of having maltreated art ; they have
spoken of his feverish creation of neologisms, and even
of his " prancing M methods of expression (I cannot
remember the author of the last-mentioned jibe) and
though they agree that some of these neologisms are
veritable inspirations, they insist that for the most part
such phraseology is incompatible with good taste and is
repugnant to the French genius. Verhaeren is accused
of having accosted poesy like a barbarian ; but his
" barbarism " has created such masterpieces that
we cannot regret it. Undoubtedly, however, a perfect
mastery of idiom is the outcome of greater reserve, and
Verhaeren attained this mastery as the years went by
In Les rythmes sotwerains he attained it in a " sovereign "
manner. " He has given up the strange words of his
vocabulary. He no longer offers us his thought, as in
the days of Les ddbdcles, in some demented phrase which
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 288
seems to arise out of chaos and to pitch back into chaos
again after a sublime flight : he now directs his thought,
he develops it, he orders it. ... The cult of modern
progress and the eloquent passion for humanity coincide
with an art more akin to French art. Its fullest realisation
may be found in Les rythmes souverains." l
The forward march from the romantic to the classic
corresponds in Verhaeren, as it did in Goethe, to the attain-
ment of extroversion and of harmony. Vodoz has shown
that Victor Hugo went through a similar evolution.
Perseus comes to recognise that coercion is dangerous :
Aussi, le jour qu'il vit, sous la hetrfe paisse,
Pegase, immense et las, au fond du bois dormir,
Rabaissa-t-il ses bras tendus pour le saisir
Et son geste brutal se changea en caresse. . . .
Ce fut par un matin couronne de rosee,
Que Pegase epousa le desir de Persee. . . .
Certes rebelle au mors, certes rebelle aux renes,
Mais ne se cabrant plus avec effarement
Des qu'une main touchait sa croupe souveraine. . . .
Avec le rythme aime de quclques lentes phrases
Qu'il murmurait, disait ou chantait tour & tour
On eut dit que Persee envahissait Pegase.
[Thus, on the day when he saw, among the shady beeches,
Pegasus, huge and tired, sleeping in the forest depths,
He dropped his arms stretched forth to seize the horse
And his rough gesture was changed into a caress. . . .
It was on a morning garlanded with dew
That Pegasus espoused Perseus' wish. . . .
Still rebellious to the bit, still rebellious to the reins,
But no longer rearing in fright
As soon as a hand touched his regal flank. . . .
With the loved cadence of certain slow-spoken phrases,
Which he murmured, or said, or sang,
It seemed as if Perseus were invading Pegasus.]
1 Mockel, op. cit,, p. 182.
284 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
The poet's mastery of his art is in truth the mastery
of himself, the liberation of the captive Andromeda.
There is yet another aspect of Perseus which we must
not lose sight of. It is one which Verhaeren has himself
emphasised : pride, a combative and ascetic pride, pride
at triumphing over self, which in its turn was a factor
in the triumph. But as a part of the same feeling, this
triumph can never rest upon its laurels ; it continues to
struggle ceaselessly, and with vigour ever renewed. In
the sentiment are fused and harmonised, in a sublimated
form, two tendencies which were in evidence at the time
of the crisis, and which despite all appearances to the
contrary seemed to grow from the same plant : the
two tendencies are autophilia and asceticism. The former
remains powerful, but it becomes increasingly purified
until I feel I may speak of it as a platonic love of self.
This love becomes holy and incites towards prayer :
Et tout a coup je sens encor,
Comme au temps de Tenfance, au fond de moi, fremir
L'aile qui dort
Des anciennes prires. . , .
Les temps 1'ont imprimee aux sursauts de mon coeur,
Des que je suis allegre et violent d'ardeur
Et que je sens combien je m'aime. 1
[And all of a sudden I feel vibrating once more,
As in the days of my childhood, in the depths of my being,
The folded wing
Of the prayers I used to say. . , .
Time has engraved them on my leaping heart
When I am joyful and strong with passion
And when I feel how well I love myself.]
The link between this love and pride is manifest. In
the poem entitled L'orgueil we read :
O croyance en mon front, en mes yeux, en mes mains,
Croyance en mon cerveau que la recherche enivre. , . .
1 From La pri&re, in Les rythmes souverains.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 285
Je m'aime et je m'admire en tel geste vermeil
Que fait un homme & moi pareil
En son passage sur la terre. 1
[Oh, belief in my brow, in my eyes, in my hands,
Belief in my brain which the pursuit of knowledge intoxi-
cates. . . .
I love myself and I admire myself in the glorious gesture
Which a man like me makes
In his passage through life.]
In the same poem we find the link between pride and
asceticism revealed in the following line :
Tout mon orgueil s'exerce i bellement souffrir.
[My pride is wholly devoted to bearing sorrow magnificently.]
But in two verses from another poem we have auto-
philia, asceticism, and pride expressed in a single concise
Nous admirons nos mains, nos yeux et nos pens&s,
Meme notre douleur qui devient notre orgueiL*
[We admire our hands, our eyes, and our thoughts,
Even our suffering which becomes our pride, 1 ]
We must notice that this pride is always balanced
with an admiring love for man and for the world. In
the two strophes which precede the above we are given
the precepts that form the nucleus of La multiple splendeur :
Si nous nous admirons vraiment les uns les autres . . .
Nous apportons, ivres du monde et de nous-mSmes,
Des coeurs d'hommes nouveaux dans le vieil univers.
[If we really admire one another . . .
We bring, drunken with the world and with ourselves,
The hearts of new men into the ancient universe.]
* From L'orgueil, in Les flammes hautes.
From La ferveur, in La multiple splendeur.
286 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Precisely because Verhaeren believes in the world and
in life, he can now believe in himself and in his art
a belief towards which he was vainly striving at the
time when he wrote of the Monks and of his dead faith.
This belief in self and in art is what will henceforward
justify both pride and asceticism. We recall how of yore
the ascetic tendency had lost all motive, all rationalisa-
tion ; it seemed to us that this was in large part the
cause of the crisis. Now Verhaeren has a definite goal ;
if he masters himself, if he renounces, he knows why.
I may quote in this connexion an admirable passage
from Albert Mockel :
" Verhaeren was inclined towards asceticism, his in-
difference to material things bears eloquent witness of
the fact. He who had sung the faeryland of the senses
was, in his own life, at the antipodes of sensuality. I
know of only one passion to which he succumbed and that
was to the Havana tobacco leaf. It was a delight to see
him choose a cigar ; he seemed to be anticipating its
aroma, tasting its delicacy in advance. But even this
passion had been curbed. , . .
" He had decided to give up everything for his work,
to devote himself entirely to his art ; he kept resolutely
to his plan of life. . . . The animation of the street,
a crowd in a hall, ail the manifestations of the living
world, were a source of the keenest enjoyment to him ;
and yet he refused to enter places of public refreshment.
He feared the habits so easily acquired and so difficult
to break, he remembered the waste of time such habits
entail. . . . Once for all he forbade himself these things
and kept his resolution ; if he had to meet anyone in
Paris, he would arrange for the meeting to take place
in the Louvre.
" The same determination was displayed in the care
of his health, which had long been poor. By dint of
attentive effort he became robust, and was in superb
condition ; but it had required a perseverance which
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 287
I can qualify only as admirable to obtain this result ;
he had to give up many of his pleasures, such as reading
till the small hours, going to concerts, or to the theatre.
He knew that good health, both of body and of mind,
were essential to his work. He acquired it at the sacrifice
of many little amenities which it invariably seems hard
to give up." l
The ascetic tendency which made of Verhaeren " the
poet of energy " was in truth profoundly rooted in his
nature. So much is this the case that the tree, which
has for long been the symbol of asceticism in the poet's
work, Henceforward comprises in itself the past struggle
and the present victory. We may recall L'arbre, the
triumphant tree, in La multiple splendeur :
Mais pour s'epanouir et rdgner dans sa force,
O les luttes qu'il lui fallut subir, 1'hiver ! . .
Tout lui fut mal qui tord, douleur qui vibre,
Sans qui jamais pourtant
Un seul instant
Ne s'alentit son energie. . . .
[But in order to spread its branches and reign in its full vigour,
What struggles it had to undergo, in winter days ! . . .
It suffered from every twist, from every vibration
Without ever, notwithstanding,
For one moment
Allowing its energy to slacken.]
When this gnarled tree dominates the autumn, the poet,
who feels himself to be in the autumn of life, identifies
himself most intimately with the old fighter of tempests :
En octobre, quand Tor triomphe en son feuillage,
Mes pas larges encor, quoique lourds et lasses,
Souvent ont dirige leur long pelerinage
Vers cet arbre d'automnc et de vent traverse. . . .
Et j'appuyais sur lui ma poitrine brutale,
Avec un tel amour, une telle ferveur,
Que son rythme profond et sa force totale
Passaient en moi et pntraient jusqu'i mon cceur.
1 Op. cit, pp. 167-168.
288 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[In October, when gold triumphs in the foliage,
My steps, which are still fairly vigorous, though somewhat
heavy and tired,
Have often made their long pilgrimage
Towards this autumnal tree through which the wind would blow.
And I leaned my rough breast against it
With so much love, with so great a fervour,
That its profound rhythm and its entire strength
Passed into me and penetrated my very heart.]
Even more faithfully does the Willow Tree in the
Guirlande des dunes express the crisis and the victorious
Un soir de foudre et do fracas,
Son tronc craqua,
Soudainement, de haut en bas. 1
[One evening of lightning and noise
Its trunk was riven,
Quite suddenly, from top to base.]
This disaster is well known to us : it is the clock-tower
rent in twain. But the " gnarled and twisted tree "
holds firm :
Est-il tordu, troud, souffrant et vicux !
Sont-ils creves et bossus, les yeux
Que font les nceuds dans son ecorce ! . . .
J'ai admire sa vie en lutte avec sa mort,
Et, je 1'entends, ce soir de pluie et de tenSbres,
Crisper ses pieds au sol et bander ses vertebres
Et defier 1'orage et rdsister encor,
[How gnarled, and hollowed, and suffering, and old
How torn and bruised are the eyes
Which are formed by the knots in its bark !
I have admired its life at grips with its death,
And now I hear it, in this evening of rain and darkness,
Convulsively clutching at the soil with its feet, every, vertebra
Defying the storm, resisting to the last,]
' From Un saulc, in La guirlande des dunes.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 289
Verhaeren loves trees so passionately because they
are the symbol of himself, even to the scars on their
tortured bark. He can write :
Ce saule-l&, je 1'aime comme un homme.
[I love that willow as though it were a man.]
This line recalls how Beethoven " loved a tree better
than a man."
In Les flammes hautes, the Forest is buffeted by the
same struggle. Already in the days when it was still
in good health (as for Verhaeren in the days of Les
. . . montaient en floraisons
Et les venins et les poisons :
L'hostile jusquiame et le gouet matevole,
Si bien qu'au ras de sol tout autant que Ik-haut
L'embuche se dressait et donnait son assaut
A 1'ardeur meritoire et loyale des choses. 1
[. . . there were rising in inflorescence
Both venoms and poisons
The hostile hyoscyamus and the malevolent arum
So that, on the ground-level just as much as higher up,
The ambush had been made ready and was delivering its
Upon the well-deserving and trusty ardour of things.]
At length came the inevitable crisis :
L'insidieux poison des fleurs violettes
Melait son malefice au souffle des tempetes. . . .
Chenes, ormes, bouleaux, sapins, tilleuls, erables
S'exaltaient tout k coup de leur front a leur pied
En un branle profond, dnorme et regulier. . . .
Quand mme, immens&nent, avec force, li-haut,
Les vents faisaient chanter la forSt toute enttere.*
1 Prom La forgt, in Les flammes hautes.
* From the same poem.
290 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[The insidious poison of violet flowers
Mingled its maleficence with the stormy winds. . . .
Oaks, elms, birches, pines, limes, maples
Swayed exultantly from crest to root
With a huge and regular rhythm. . . .
What time, with immense force, up aloft,
The winds were making the whole forest sing.]
And now, as previously with the tree, Verhaeren identifies
himself with the forest : " The forest is a world, and its
life is mine." Need I remind the reader of that Leading
Tree in the Avenue which leads the others like a prophet,
but whose strength is due solely to its mad confidence
and its obstinate energy ?
Le premier arbre est grand d'avoir souffert. . . .
L'arbre ploye criait, mais redressait quand meme,
Apres Tinstant d'angoisse et de terreur passe,
Son branchage tordu et son front convulse. 1
[The leading tree is great for it has suffered much. . . .
The bent tree cried aloud but uplifted again,
As soon as the moment of anguish and terror had passed,
Its twisted branches and its writhing crest.]
All these trees are akin. Gnarled and twisted as of yore,
they are ever fighting, ever ascetic ; but their asceticism
has acquired an inexplicable air of triumph. There
seems to be a continuous desire to conquer, to overcome
self, as does the superb Hercules of Les rythmes souverains.
In this poem, the hero not knowing what further exploit
to undertake in order to outdo all his other exploits,
tears up a forest, makes of it a pyre, and thus dies in
beauty dies fighting after " kindling a star upon the
earth." This imperious tendency to combat, and the
tendency to asceticism, are, as we have already seen,
the tendency which prohibits " regular happiness," and
excludes any harmony which is not dynamic, which
is not a balance of fighting and contrasted forces.
Verhaeren's " Life in all its Ardour " is a balance of this
From Le premier arbre de raltee* in Les flammes hautes.
LIFE IN ALL ITS ARDOUR 291
kind, and the splendid poem in which he sings it indicates
clearly that this balance of contrasts issues from the old
ascetic tendency and moves towards the " anguish "
which " twists " his inner forces :
Et vous, haines, vertus, vices, rages, ddsirs,
Je vous accueillis tous, avec tous vos contrastes,
Afin que ffit plus long, plus complexe et plus vaste,
Le merveilleux frisson qui m'a fait tressaillin
Mon coeur i moi ne vit dument que s'il s'efforce ;
L'humanite totale a besoin d'un tourment
Qui la travaille avec fureur comme un ferment,
Pour elargir sa vie et soulever sa force. 1
[And you, hates, virtues, vices, rages, desires,
I welcomed you all, with all your contrasts,
To prolong, to render more complex and vaster,
The wonderful thrill which made me quiver.
My heart cannot live duly unless through effort ;
Humanity-at-large has need of an anguish
Which fiercely works it like a ferment
To expand its life and sustain its power.] 3
Here we have once more a splendid pride, an ascetic
and combative tendency, the need for an inward clash
between the contrasting forces of the human spirit,
This mingling is the most notable characteristic of
Verhaeren. Of a sudden we encounter a new expression
of it, concisely phrased and with the familiar image of
" twisting/' in the closing strophe of Les flammes hautes :
Vous m'etes tous tributaires devant le temps
Qui seul est juge et maintiendra mon ceuvre vaste,
Oti j'ai d'un poing vainqueur tordu tous vos contrastes
Pour qu'en tonne 1'orage en mes vers exaltants.s
1 From La vie ardente, in Les flammes hautes.
1 These words " to expand its life " are equally applicable to the Tree
of La multiple splendeur.
3 From Ma gerbe, in Les flammes hautes.
292 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
[You are all tributary to me under the eyes of time,
Who is the sole judge, and will uphold my huge work,
In which, with a victorious hand, I have twisted all your Contrasts
So that the storm of them may resound in my panegyric verses.]
Such are the last words of Verhaeren's work, Ultima
Verba. In them he condenses what we have come to
recognise as the most salient features of his personality
of victory and strife. It would be impossible to achieve
a better conclusion, one more faithful to the writer.
WHEN science has given a novelty to the world, it is
unwise to proclaim from the housetops that the world
will change in consequence. We need not pronounce
judgment on our fathers ; neither need we be too
severe on the traditional methods of artistic and literary
criticism, nor trumpet abroad that these methods are
obsolete, and that instead of all such chatter we are now
going to undertake a really scientific discussion. There is
a modicum of good even in chatter ! Doubtless it would
become our critics better did they but realise that what
they give to the world is merely an exchange of impressions,
a kind of courteous colloquy upon beautiful things ; they
might then, perhaps, refrain from judgments which are
as contradictory as they are fallible. Such colloquies
are permissible far more so than judgments, especially
where matters of taste are concerned.
On the other hand it is desirable to seek out a concrete
platform, where we can meet when we wish to talk about
art where we may hope to reach certain objective
truths which are matters of science and not of opinion.
We may be allowed to understand art as well as to feel
art. Emile Hennequin's endeavour to lay the foundations
of " scientific criticism " was laudable. 1 But as a matter
of fact such a scientific point of view belongs far more
to the psychologist than to the critic ; if, after all,
Hennequin's effort remained no more than a sketch,
1 Hennequin, La critique scicntifique, 1888.
294 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
this may have been due to the exiguity of his psycho-
logical attainments. We cannot be accused of playing
with illusions if we affirm that since Hennequin wrote
in 1888 much water has flowed under the psychological
bridges. Psychology is still a youthful science, and has
many surprises in store ; but we are already enabled to
say that it has taken the definitive step forward which has
placed it in the rank of the sciences as an autonomous
science and a real science. Psychology is no longer
content to make use of the methods proper to the
physical sciences ; it has sought out, and to a large extent
has already found, methods proper to itself. The narrow
intellectualism which paralysed the associationist school
has been abandoned ; we have come to recognise that
the psychic life is rooted in the affective life, and
that the conscious cannot be studied apart from the
unconscious. In accepting an affective and subconscious
logic which is doubtless disconcerting to rational logic
in granting a validity to those reasons of the heart which
the reason of the brain cannot understand psychology
has taken a perilous leap, but does not seem to have
suffered from the venture.
We are now in a position to outline a psychology of
art without implying that it can replace criticism, and
yet confident that it can regenerate criticism, and may
in due time furnish the critics with a more objective
outlook. Aesthetic appreciation will probably remain
a subjective thing. It is no less subjective than physical
pain. But when physiological science tells us positively
that such or such a pain corresponds to such or such a
lesion, we are given an objective basis for physical suffering,
and the physician can say : " You suffer because of ..."
This is the way in which we may hope to see psychology
aiding criticism. If we come to recognise that certain
constant features in the psychological genesis of a work
which moves us, correspond to certain aesthetic emotions,
then we can say : " This work moves us because of ...."*
We psychologists are not yet in a position to give a precise
diagnosis, but we already perceive how valuable such
a method of criticism could be. Thus, our study of
Verhaeren's works has shown that many of the poems
universally regarded as masterpieces are precisely those
which are most fraught with symbolical meaning. Such
is the case with Le moiilin in Les soirs ; such is the case
with La dame en noir and Les nombres, in Les flambeaux
noirs ; with Saint Georges, in Les apparus dans mes
chemins ; with Le passeur d'eau and Le sonneur, in Les
villages illusoires ; with Les usines, in Les villes tentacu-
laires ; with Le paradis, in Les rythmes souverains.
These are the poems which everyone thinks of when
asked to mention Verhaeren's finest achievements. These
are the poems which have found a place in Albert
Heumann's collection.* In the course of our analysis we
have seen that these poems are the outcome of a very
strong and very precise condensation of images. That
is why they have guided us into the most intimate recesses
of Verhaeren's soul. Such condensations would seem
to favour the genesis of great works. This is natural,
for condensation is the sign of an emotion or of a conflict
in the soul of the poet ; such poems give expression to
the profoundest of feelings, and for this reason they
react powerfully upon the reader's emotions. A note-
worthy fact is that the real object of the emotion or of
the conflict may be subconscious, may be quite unknown
both to the author and to the reader, and yet an intimate
vibration is awakened which may not be understood
1 Needless to say the problem of aesthetic emotion is far more complex
than the problem of pain. Though the same lesion causes an analogous
pain in everybody, we cannot affirm as much of the moving power of
a work of art. The problem is a twofold one ; to account for a poetical
emotion, for instance, we must consider, on the one hand, the psychology
of the work itself ; and, on the other, the psychology of the reader.
Consult, in this connexion, Roubakine, Psychologic bibliologique ; cf.
also an article by Ferrtere in " Archives de Psychologic/ 1 Geneva, No. xiv.
* Choix de pofcmes, avec une preface d f Albert Heumann, fourth
296 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
but will certainly be felt. We are led to the view that
it is wise and proper to analyse the symbols employed
by a poet, and especially those which he introduces into
his masterpieces ; seeing that the most moving of works
are at the same time, and in general, the most explicative
of works. We shall have to reconsider our judgments
regarding works which have hitherto been placed in the
second rank if, during the course of analysis, such works
are shown to be pregnant with meaning. This is the
case with Verhaeren's plays ; and we have found that
the lack of appreciation of the plays is due to a prejudice
against lyrical drama. In the same way, many of the
poems which have been valuable in elucidating the
analysis should be reconsidered, and might then deserve
to be placed in a collection where they have hitherto
been denied admittance. To be convinced of this, we
need but reread, from the artistic point of view, the
poem about the Idol of Benares (Ld-bas, in Les debdcles) ;
or any of the Chansons de fou, in Les campagnes hallucinfos ;
or La joie, in Les visages de la vie ; or L* amour, in Les forces
tumultueuses ; or Ardeurs na'ives, in Les tendr esses premieres ;
or Saint Jean and Persde, in Les rythmes souverains.
Psychology, in addition, furnishes us with yet another
method of judging a work of art. What is the place of
the symbol in poetry ? It does not suffice to say that
the use of a symbol is permissible ; we must realise that
it is essential. Nothing is more wrong-headed than to
consider the symbol (or for that matter the simile or
the metaphor, those simplified symbols) as an affected
or roundabout method of expression which should be
replaced by a direct method of expression. The symbol
is the direct method of expression. Whenever the
imagination is left to its own devices, and whenever we
dream, the spontaneous method of the symbol is enjployed
as a means of expression. In truth, the imagination
is not left to its own devices. It has, indeed, escaped
from rational control, but only to enter the service of
sensibility. Thus it is that the symbol comes to be the
language of sensibility itself.
The underlying principle of the symbolist school seems
to conform in every way to the nature of things. This
school has set itself the simple task of bringing to our
notice the symbolical significance of expressions and
actions, a significance which is usually concealed. In
order to do so, the adepts of this school detach an action
from its environment ; such a method may be employed
to explain the action, without any loss of precision or of
realism. In this connexion Jean de Smet x has insisted
upon the realist character of Les villages illusoires ; here
we enter the realm of " symbolical realism " a happy
phrase which we owe to Edouard Dujardin. 2 Doubtless
the best symbolists are those who do not trouble over much
about style, and who, therefore, preserve the full savour
of the symbol. Is not Burn e- Jones a painter faithful
in his depiction of every detail ? But no matter how
real the action, it is separated from its surroundings,
is transferred to other combinations dictated by the
psychological law of the condensation of images. We
have an example of this in Les cordiers (Les villages ilhi-
soires) 9 a poem full of realistic and yet mystical action.
We are given the " humming of the wheel," the " rakes "
which are " staked out at regular intervals along the
road " and upon which the " flaxen hemp stretches its
coils/' Up to this point we have nothing more than a
Dutch painting. But in the very next line we escape
from direct description : " continuously, for days and
for weeks/' a line wherein is condensed the woof of the
hemp with the woof of time. The poet does not crudely
translate his thoughts, though we must admit that
Verhaeren does so occasionally and has been rightly
censured for the lapse. For instance, in Les p&cheurs
he writes of " the slimy bottom of the diseases," " the
small fry of his wretchedness," and " the dead waters
1 Smet, op. cit., vol. ii. Dujardin, op. cit.
298 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
of his remorse/ 1 Such expressions, says Jean de Smet,
are unduly specific. This is not always true but it is
very often the case, for, in general, the condensation of
images (giving rise to the symbol) is the outcome of more
than one factor ; and by allowing such crude translations
into words, the symbol suffers amputation, it is reduced
to two factors only, and the harmonics which should be
heard vibrating are stifled. In a word the symbol is
sacrificed, and we approach the realm of what is often
called direct expression, but is really abstract expression.
The sacrifice of the symbol is as legitimate as abstract
expression itself, but we must remember that in making
this sacrifice we stray from the symbol and from affective
We have already seen x how, in general, the translation
of our thoughts and feeling into abstract expression is
prone to impoverish the symbol. If the " woof " of
the Ropemakers, say those of mediocre artistic apprecia-
tion, is really time, surely it would have been better to
speak simply of time and not to " use a metaphor/ 1 As
a matter of fact, the poet does not use a metaphor ; the
metaphor uses him. Furthermore, he instinctively feels
that this metaphor represents time, and also destiny,
and (as overtones) many other things which are not very
clear to him, and which need not be. What is needful
is that we should detach the action of the Ropemakers
from its concrete surroundings ; this is far more important
than that we should link it up too intimately with an
abstract idea, for this would lessen its significance just
as much as the concrete surroundings would have done. It
is for this reason that the poet shows us the threads as
" coming from the infinite " alternatively with the woof
prolonging itself into " days and weeks " and the rope-
maker " drawing the horizons to himself/' The diversity
of metaphors prevents the symbol from becoming
stereotyped into an allegory ; and the harmonics, instead
1 Apropos of Perseus in Chapter Six.
of being stifled, are induced to vibrate over and over
This is, I believe, the basic principle of the symbolist
school. Psychology completely justifies it justifies even
the vagueness with which these poets have been so
irrelevantly reproached. Of course there may be
other forms of art, but this form is peculiarly true
and is admirably consonant with the nature of the
From what has gone before we see that at this stage
psychology permits us to formulate with precision certain
critical judgments. But we need not let ourselves be
encumbered by these critical preoccupations ; the
psychology of art is still in its infancy, and we must
not risk deforming it and weighing it down with a
burden it is not fit to carry.
Finally, the first rule of methodical investigation is
to divide. We must apply to aesthetical psychology
the methods which James and Flournoy applied to
religious psychology : that is, we must clearly differentiate
between an " existential judgment " and a " proposition
of value " or " spiritual judgment/' In the present
instance the " judgment of value " is the prerogative of
criticism. Psychology will do well to keep to the " judg-
ment of fact," and to the " biological interpretation "
of the phenomena of art.
A remarkable and important law is taking shape in
this field of enquiry. We might name it the law of the
subjectivation of images ; this law appears to us to be
the corollary of the law of condensation. We have
constantly encountered it in the course of the present
study, and we have seen that works which were apparently
objective in conception tended towards the realisation,
in symbolic form, of a subjective drama within the soul
of the poet ; such realisation may be involuntary and
subconscious, but it is rendered all the more striking
800 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
by this very fact. Thus Les moines, designed to present
" the Christian world which is dead/ 1 expresses at the
same time Verhaeren's loss of faith ; in a later work,
when the poet describes the hour of chaos and of confused
preparation which the modern world is traversing, he
likewise expresses the " tumult " and expectancy ex-
perienced by himself when he feels surging up within him
the tide of a new faith. The depopulation of the country-
side, the irresistible attraction exercised by the " tentacular
towns/' mark the end of the crisis of introversion ; they
point the way to an extroverted life and to human effort.
Perseus' victory is symbolical of the conquest of inner
harmony over the last assaults of the crisis. Even more
typical are the plays which, as we saw, grouped themselves
into a trilogy of the Oedipus complex. They express
quite involuntarily, but with amazing intensity, the
longing for the mother and the revolt against paternal
authority, two sentiments buried in the depths of the
subconscious and belonging to the days of earliest
Now all this is not peculiar to Verhaeren, nor is it
pecular to poetry. Analysts have found analogous
subjectivations in many kinds of artists ; Maeder,
among others, has brought this characteristic into relief
in his discussion of Hodler's paintings. 1 That a work
of art is always more or less subjective, that it always
bears the stamp of the author's individuality, goes without
saying ; but what we are beginning to perceive is, how it
has become a subjective expression, in virtue of what
intimate mechanism this development has occurred.
The phenomenon we have just described is doubtless
an essential part of the mechanism. It is not merely
a certain disposition of the senses or of the temperament,
a certain way of looking at things, which determines the
originality of a work of art and which impresses it with
the author's sign manual. It is also, and perhaps above
1 Op. cit.
all, a spontaneous faculty for subject! vating images. In
so far as this is the case, it is true that " in every portrait
an artist makes, he draws his own likeness/'
In addition we must, in order thoroughly to understand
the artist's vision, penetrate into what might be termed
his personal symbolism. In Verhaeren we have the
faces of the clocks in the towers, the towers themselves,
the contrast between black and gold, the trains, the
reflections in stagnant waters, the garden and the factory,
the monks and the cloister all are examples of personal
symbolism. This symbolism is determined by certain
emotions, by certain conflicts, which ever since infancy
have been associated with such images. By retracing
the images to their source, we are enabled to discover
the meaning of the obsessive symbols, which are so
largely responsible for the peculiar characteristics of
any poet's work.
We must remember, however, that this symbolism
is never stationary ; on the contrary it is in a constant
state of flux. Here we encounter yet another basic
law. It is therefore impossible to write, once and for
all, the code of laws which shall govern a poet's symbols :
the images undergo a progressive metamorphosis of shape
and of sense, even though certain features remain in-
delible and help us to recognise the original symbol.
Examples of such an evolution are not lacking in
Verhaeren's writings : we have the huge round eye of
the watchmaker, and the eyes of his clocks, which become
the eyes of the towers, and even moons ; the clank of
the axles heard by the child in the shuddering night is
to become the roar of trains ; his uncle's little factory
is the germ of the great industrial town ; the Count of
Mid-Lent, the bringer of celestial toys, is metamorphosed
into St. George, St. George changes into the Amazon,
and the Amazon into Perseus ; and with each meta-
morphosis the meaning of the image is modified, the
curtain rises on a new act of the same drama. Gold,
802 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
which at first symbolised sensual abundance, comes to
signify the fecundity of human effort ; the black cross
becomes the cross of gold, for inner torment is replaced
by the fruitfulness of loving sacrifice.
The metamorphosis of symbols informs us as to
the intimate evolution of the artist. The conversion of
the black cross into a golden cross is Verhaeren's own
" conversion " ; Perseus, when compared with the Amazon,
represents pure art replacing social action ; Perseus,
when compared with St. George, expresses the return of
the poet to classicism after a sojourn in the realm of
The evolution towards more classical and more objective
forms is manifest throughout the whole range of Verhaeren's
works. The two aspects of the symbol, interior and
exterior, were in evidence in Les villages illusoires ; but
subsequently the exterior aspect comes more and more
to prevail. At the same time Verhaeren frees himself
from the symbolism of the schools. This latter is pre-
eminently subjective, and is peculiarly suited to give ex-
pression to the most secret sensibility. But his growing
interest in the exterior world leads Verhaeren, as it led
Goethe, back towards classicism. Of course we cannot
affirm that the two tendencies invariably go hand in hand,
but we can well understand that an interest in the objective
world incites towards a greater objectivity in art. Neither
would it be right to say, apriori, that classical art is
superior to symbolist or to romanticist art. We may
ask ourselves, with Albert Mockel, if we do well to rejoice,
from the point of view of aesthetics, at this evolution of
Verhaeren. For Verhaeren, as for Goethe, the return
to classicism marked the beginning of extroversion,
of the conquest of inner harmony ; from this outlook we
may certainly rejoice. But we must not therefore assume
that the classical period of these poets was aesthetically
superior, or that classical art in general stands at a higher
level. What we have to realise is, that if symbolical
poetry be preeminently subjective, and classical poetry
preeminently objective, the balance of the two tendencies
of introversion and extroversion (which is harmony
incarnate) must lead a modern poet towards a synthesis
of the two forms of art. Classical symbolism x this is
the goal Verhaeren set himself when writing the myths
of his inspiration : Pegase, L'amazone, L 9 amour, in Les
forces tumultueuses ; Le paradis, Hercule, Persee, in Les
rythmes souverains ; and, finally, the drama Hellne de
Our analysis of these symbols and of their metamorphoses
has revealed to us the psychological characteristics and
the mental evolution of our poet. The facts thus disclosed
are confirmed by events in Verhaeren's life and by his
professions of faith.
We have thus been enabled to discover some of the
conflicts which took place in the Belgian poet's souL
In this connexion we have noted a phenomenon which
psychologists (in the course of a therapeutical analysis,
for instance) have glimpsed but never as yet sufficiently
emphasised a phenomenon which I shall characterise
by the name of polarisation of the conflicts. From earliest
childhood, most of the inner conflicts of man gather
around the two nuclei formed by the idea of the mother
and that of the father ; thus each conflict may appear
to be, at least to the subconscious, a renewal of the
" mother-father " conflict. Some of these polarisations
seem to be common to most individuals. Thus, in a
boy, it is usual to find the tendency to introversion
concentrating around the idea of the mother, whereas
extroversion is associated with the idea of the father.
Other polarisations are more individual, they depend
rather upon associations of ideas and upon environment,
Verhaeren's introversion finds a haven in the " garden,"
the art of the symbolist school ; whereas his extroversion
1 This term is peculiarly applicable to Carl Spitteler's work.
804 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
takes to itself the ''factory/ 1 classical art. In general
we could arrange the great conflicts of tendencies and
of ideas in couples : just as we found the contrasts of
images in Verhaeren could be grouped in such a way
that the first word of each couple would be subconsciously
associated with introversion, whilst the second would be
associated with extroversion ; the regressive tendency
and the progressive tendency, the cult of the past and
the cult of the future, autophilia and heterophilia,
mysticism and love, asceticism and joy, the " garden "
and the "factory/' the "country" and the "town/'
Christian faith and pantheistic faith, death and life,
symbolist art and classical art, individualism and the
tendency to social activity, the " monks " and the
"Flemish women/ 1 "black" and "gold." This is no
arbitrary play of contrasts which could be continued
ad infinitum just for fun ; these contrasts are not, to
quote Pascal's phrase, " false windows built in for the
sake of symmetry." All the contrasting terms are held
together, not by a logical bond, but by an intimate
Verhaeren's evolution may be described as follows :
up to the end of the crisis, towards the poet's thirty-fifth
year, he is a thorough introvert, strongly attached to his
" early affections," and suffering from a longing for the
mother ; later he becomes an extrovert, he acquires
an interest in the outside world, he has conquered and
is master of all the second terms of the coupled contrasts.
Then he encounters love, which he understands as the
intimate gift of self, as action ; he finds he is a socialist,
he realises the beauty of modern life, he " accepts " the
" factory " (a double symbol, representing for him paternal
authority and the reality of life). This is what we have
named Verhaeren's " conversion."
The tragical crisis which finds its final solution in this
conversion belongs to the same order of crises as that
of Faust; it is a crisis of extreme introversion from
which the sufferer can discover an exit only by coming
out of himself. The crisis would doubtless never have
arisen, other things being equal, had Verhaeren never
lost the faith of his adolescence, for he would then have
found a perfect equilibrium for his introverted tendencies
in some form of mysticism. We have, therefore, to look
upon his loss of faith as a matter of prime importance in
the causation of the crisis. But to what can we attribute
the loss of faith ? This is a very difficult question, and
I do not pretend to give a satisfactory answer. We
may, however, say that the series of conflicts which we
have brought to light during the present study were a
contributory cause of Verhaeren's crisis. Just as some
of the introverted mystics studied by Morel proved to
be subjects of a strong Oedipus complex, so we have
found the same complex in Verhaeren taking the form
of a longing for the mother and a protest against paternal
authority. But the mystics studied by Morel had a
religious mother and a worldly father, so that, on the
one hand, mysticism satisfied the introverted tendency
towards which the longing for the mother led them, and,
on the other hand, it formed an outlet for the secret
protest against the father. Gustave Verhaeren was of
a religious bent, he took young Emile with him on his
monthly pilgrimage to the cloister at Bornhem ; the
poet's father was more or less the model for Philip II,
the " most Catholic king." Thus Verhaeren's inclination to
mysticism, or, rather, his religious feeling, if it represents,
from one point of view, the tendency to introversion,
the longing for the mother, when contemplated from
another angle, it represents the non-acceptance of paternal
authority. Conflict had set up a focus of irritation in
the mystical sentiment, and was secretly undermining
it from the outset. We cannot assert that the poet was
constitutionally predestined to his loss of faith, for he
was of a profoundly religious and fervent disposition;
but we cannot help feeling that the complex was to a
306 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
certain extent a predisposing cause. 1 It is even possible
that the drama of the loss of faith acquired preponderating
importance in Verhaeren's soul, because the drama sub-
consciously represented for him the deepest of his con-
flicts, represented the full force of his inner anguish.
The fact remains that the fall of the religious sentiment
dragged down with it the whole of the poet's erstwhile
equilibrium. Already in Les flamandes, and still more in
Les moines, this ruin is foreshadowed : the acute crisis of
the subsequent years was the expression of its emerg-
ence above the threshold of consciousness. The evil was
accentuated because religious faith had provided a ration-
alisation of the tendency to introversion ; it had, so
to speak, justified the tendency. Henceforth there was
to be a ceaseless contradiction between tendency and
In especial does Verhaeren's strong ascetic tendency
function henceforward in the void. In Les debacles
it has been reduced to an insensate desire for self-
inflicted injury. It thus forms one of the main
factors of the evil, for it leads Verhaeren to yearn for
even more suffering, to wish "to diminish " himself yet
further, and " to forge distresses for himself at his own
This introverted world will no longer suffice to itself ;
all the energies dwell there in a state of chaos. In
order to set up a new unity, a fresh hierarchy, the forces
of extroversion had to be called to the poet's aid. But
the extroverted forces (all the second terms of the con-
trasting couples) were so intimately related that it sufficed
1 The regicide motif is for Verhaeren the symbol of protest against
paternal authority (in especial is it the case in the drama of Philip II).
The dead king symbolises for the poet his own loss of faith. The two
symbols taken together afford us a glimpse of the bond between the loss
of faith and the rejection of paternal authority. Cf. Les moines (supra
pp. 97-8) :
You alone survive, great, in the dead Christian world ;
Alone, without bending your backs, you carry its burden
As if it were the dead body of a king enclosed in a golden coffin.
Verhaeren to accept one or two of them for all the others
to follow. He welcomes Jove in the person of the noble
woman who, he tells us, was responsible for his salvation.
After having as a rebel thrown off every yoke, he comes
to accept " paternal authority " in the form of a new
duty, the duty to society. Around his love and his
social activity, all the other terms of extroversion are
gradually crystallised. By entering upon social work,
Verhaeren was led to " accept the factory," he was led
to a belief in the present, to faith in human labour. A
new ideal, a new meaning to life, serves to justify the
tendencies and to bring them under control. Harmony
has been achieved.
We claim no merit for having brought our analysis
to so satisfactory a conclusion, and for having found
so faithful an expression of Verhaeren's personal life
in the manifold symbols we encounter in his work. If
any praise be due, it should be given to Verhaeren himself,
whose writings are so spontaneous, so exceptionally sincere,
that the task of analysis calls for no great exertion on
the part of the analytical critic. If Verhaeren's symbols
appear twisted and obscure at a first glance, they
are not so because of a desire on the part of the poet
to be affected or to astonish his readers. It is precisely
when they are obscure that they are fundamentally
spontaneous ; they are like dreams or nightmares which
have been faithfully recorded, and they may be analysed
with the same rigorous method as that employed in the
analysis of dreams. Thus we find that the apparent
inconsequence of one or other of the Chansons de fou I is
a disguised presentation of the profoundest complexes
in the poet's psyche. Later, when Verhaeren's symbols
become simpler and more lucid, when they evolve towards
classicism, we have another proof of his sincerity. As the
1 There are six of these " Songs of Madmen " in Les campagnes hallu-
808 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
poet develops a wider interest in the world without, as
he " objectivates " himself, he feels less impelled to sing
of himself, and he tends towards an objective art which
is to be a more faithful reflection of his new personality
a personality " which has fled the confines of self and
has hastened to answer the call of the unanimous forces."
Verhaeren consents even to run the risk of sacrificing
originality to sincerity, for he gives up the visions, the
special method of expression, and the rhythms which he
had created, which were his signature, as it were, and of
which he could be legitimately proud. Whereas other
artists, less strong, cling desperately throughout life
to the most mediocre of their eccentricities, since they
see therein the guarantee of their artistic individuality,
Verhaeren regally disdains a treasure of which the smallest
jewel might make such seekers after originality weep with
envy. Verhaeren loves running risks, he loves defiance ;
these are part of his heroism. He loves to exceed
all his whilom exploits, as does his Hercules, even
to the accomplishment of the impossible. Above all,
he wishes to be sincere. When, therefore, the new soul
he has created within himself demands of him a less
spasmodic form of expression, an art less concentered
in self, more objective and even, if needs must, less
personal straightway he adopts such an art and makes
it his own. His decision hardly seems to be a voluntary
one. Verhaeren's sincerity is his instinctive conscience
as an artist. A new state of soul creates a new art.
This perfect artistic sincerity, this wholehearted obedience
to the dictates of an inward monitor, is what has rendered
our analysis possible. The analysis, in its turn, confirms
our conviction of Verhaeren's sincerity. In this way
the work becomes a mirror of the soul a symbolical
mirror, it is true, but none the less faithful. All who
knew Verhaeren, knew how simple and childlike he was ;
his whole life's work reflects his simplicity, his ingenuous-
ness : and it is because it does so that it is so true.
MADAME VERHAEREN has been kind enough to send me
the following prose poem by her husband. It has not
hitherto been published. The poem is dedicated to
the memory of the aunt who was his real mother ; his
love for her was one of the most passionate of his " early
affections." These lines will help us to appreciate all
that the idea of the mother, the image of the Virgin and
Child, and every analogous simile, represented for the
poet. This dearly loved aunt certainly exercised a pre-
ponderant influence upon Verhaeren ; one needs but to
know of it in order to understand it.
CE soir, seul avec moi-meme, je descends aux caveaux de mon
L&, reposent sous des croix, ceux dont j'ai console les agonies :
toi, mon pere ; toi, ma mere ; toi, ma douce et bonne tante
qui mourus la premiere, voici bien des ans, en ce funebre prin-
temps sans fleurs, oft tant de gens sont morts au village.
Toute mon enfance est restee comme pendue & ton coeur.
Silencieuse, et comme absent e de 1'existence des autres, tu
m'aimais avec une maternit refoutee, avec un reve de femme
seule, melancoliquement k part, et seule.
As-tu jamais aime autrement ?
Moi, je me confessais i toi, avant 1'heure ou Ton va chez
les pretres; j'avais choisi une de tes poches pour y glisser les
petits sous de mes epargnes ; les soirs de peur, je m'en venais
frapper & la porte de ta chambre, et tu m'y accueillais avec
des paroles calmantes. J'ai passe des heures et des heures,
k te parler de mes petits camarades, a te raconter mes chagrins,
larme a larme, a t'ennuyer de mes exigences, et, je me souviens,
qu'un jour, je t'ai battue !
Ce soir, seul avec moi-meme, je descends aux caveaux de
Et tes yeux me reviennent dans la m^moire, comme de vieux
joyaux ranimes soudain, doux yeux pales, dont j'ai moi-meme,
pour tou jours, abaisse les paupteres, en ces heures mortuaires
oft des cierges, en plein jour, brulaient autour de toi. Je te
revois, en ta funebre toilette : un petit bonnet blanc serrait
1'ovale cireux de ton visage, tes mains 6taient jointes, et sur
tes doigts tombaient les grains d'un chapelet. Dans ce lit, si
glacialement recouvert de grands draps blancs, je m'etais blotti
bien des fois, sous de chaudes couvertures, et j'avais compt
toutes les toiles en papier peint dont son ciel se constellait.
THIS evening, alone with myself, I go down into the crypts
of my heart.
There, resting under crosses, are all those whose death agony
I eased : you, father ; you, mother ; you, my gentle and dear
aunt who were the first to die, so many years ago, in that funereal
spring when no flowers bloomed, when so many people died in
My whole childhood seemed to hang on your heart. Silently,
and as though absent from the existence of others, you loved
me with a repressed maternity, with the dream of a solitary
woman, sad, apart, and alone.
Have you ever loved otherwise ?
I was wont to confess to you in the hour before I went to
the priest ; I had chosen one of your pockets in which to slip
the pennies I saved ; the nights when I awoke in a fright I
would come knocking at your door, and you would welcome
me with soothing words. Hour after hour I would tell you
about my little comrades, I would confide to you my sorrows
tear by tear, I would plague you with my unreasonableness,
and, one day, I remember that I beat you !
This evening, alone with myself, I go down into the crypts
of my heart.
And your eyes seem to me in memory like old jewels which
have suddenly become bright again, eyes pale and gentle whose
lids I myself closed for ever during those deathlike hours when
the tapers, in broad daylight, glowed around you. I see you
once again in your death robes : a small white bonnet framed
the waxen oval of your face, your hands were clasped, and over
your fingers fell the beads of your rosary. Into that very
bed, so glacially covered with great white sheets, I had crept
many a time and snuggled under the warm blankets, and I
had counted all the stars on the coloured paper which looked
like constellations on the tester.
812 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Tu restas ainsi de longs jours, longue, avec tes pieds en pointe,
et moi, qui, jamais, jusqu'k ces moments, n'avais regard^, de
mes yeux, ni d6funt, ni defunte, je ne te quittai qu'k Tinstant
de la mise en biere.
Oh ! les clous & travers mon ame ! Et quand ton corps fut
cach, pendant les dernieres heures avant les cloches, pour toi
sonnantes, ai-je embrasse le bois ! Oh ! 1'ai-je embrass6 le
fun^bre bois Chretien de ton cercueil !
Ce soir, seul avec moi-meme, je descends aux caveaux de
S'il est vrai que les morts reviennent par les minuits propices,
est-ce toi que je sens parfois, douce et bonne tante, quand la
lune visiteuse s'incline, est-ce toi que je sens penchee k mon
chevet ? Est-ce toi, cette Diane bienfaisante, telle que les
legendes lointaines nous la montrent, non pas la mere, mais
la tante, la vierge assise pres des berceaux, patiente, tendre
et sacrifice, comme la soeur d'une soeur plus heureuse ! Est-ce
ta caresse, cette imponderable et glissante lumtere, qui me
vient de si loin k travers Tair et la nuit de la terre ? Pauvre
douce et bonne tante, dis, m'es-tu toujours celle qui pardonne
et console ; suis-je toujours pour toi Tenfant ? M'aimes-tu
encore, 6 toi, la plus aimee parmi mes morts, la seule vraiment
aimee, quoique ddjk si morte pour tous les autres !
Ce soir, seul avec moi-meme, je descends aux caveaux de
THIS EVENING 818
Many days you remained there, looking so long with your
feet forming a point ; and I, who had never before that day
seen man or woman dead, I only left your side when they placed
you in the coffin.
Oh the nails driven into my heart ! And when your body
was hidden during the last hours before the bells tolled, tolled
for you, how I kissed the wood ! Oh how I kissed and kissed
the funereal, Christian wood of your coffin !
This evening, alone with myself, I go down into the crypts
of my heart,
If it be true that the dead return when midnight favours
their coming, is it you whom I feel sometimes, my gentle, my
dear aunt, when the visiting moon declines, is it you whom
I feel leaning over my bed ? Are you the beneficent Diana
whom the legends of old depict for us, not the mother but the
aunt, the virgin sitting by the cradle, patient, tender, and self-
sacrificing, as though she were the sister of a happier sister ?
Is it your caress, that imponderable light which comes glid-
ing towards me from afar through the air and the night of the
earth ? Poor gentle and loving aunt, say, are you not she
who always forgives and consoles ; am I always a child in your
eyes ? Do you still love me, O you, the best loved among
my dead, the only one I ever really loved, though you are so
dead for all the rest of the world ?
This evening, alone with myself, I go down into the crypts
of my heart.
ABLER, Ueber den nervosen Charakter, Bergmann, Wiesbaden,
2nd edition, 1919.
ARTUS-PERRELET, L., Le dessin au service de 1'education,
Delachaux et Niestle, Neuchatel and Paris.
BAUDOUIN, Charles, Etudes de psychanalyse, Delachaux et
Niestte, Neuchatel and Paris, 1922. English translation
by Eden and Cedar Paul, Studies in Psychoanalysis,
George Allen & Unwin, London, 1922.
BAUDOUIN, Charles, Suggestion et autosuggestion, Delachaux
et Niestle, 3rd edition 1922. English translation by
Eden and Cedar Paul, Suggestion and Autosuggestion,
George Allen & Unwin, London, sixth impression (new
BAUDOUIN, Charles, The Affective Basis of Intelligence, " Psyche
and Eros," vol. i, No. 2, New York, 1920.
BAZALGETTE, Leon, Emile Verhaeren, Sansot, Paris, 1907.
BERGSON, Henri Louis, L'energie spirituelle : essais et conferences,
Paris, 1919. English translation by H. Wildon Carr,
Mind-Energy, Lectures and Essays, Macmillan, London,
BERGUER, Georges, Quelques traits de la vie de Jesus, Atar,
BITHELL, Jcthro, Contemporary Belgian Poetry, Walter Scott,
BOVET, Pierre, L'instinct combatif, Delachaux et Niestle,
Neuchatel and Paris, 1917. English translation by
J. Y. T. Greig, The Fighting Instinct, George Allen &
BOVET, Pierre, Le sentiment religieux, " Revue de th^ologie et
de philosophic," Lausanne, No. 32, 1919.
816 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
BOVET, Pierre, Preface to Artus-Perrelet's Le dessin an service
de r&Iucation. See ARTUS.
BRINK, see JELLIFFE.
BUISSERET, Georges, L'evolution id^ologique d'Emile Verhaeren,
Mercure de France, Paris, 1910.
DOUTREPONT, Georges, Les debuts litt^raires d'Emile Verhaeren
i Louvain, Cr6s, Paris, 1919.
DUJARDIN, Edouard, De Stephane Mallarme au prophete Ezechiel,
Mercure de France, Paris, 1919.
FERRI&RE, Adolphe, article in "Archives de Psychologic,"
Geneva, No. xiv.
FLOURNOY, Theodore, Une mystique moderne, " Archives de
Psychologic/' vol. xv, Geneva, 1915.
FOREL, Auguste, La psychanalyse et la guerre, " Le Carmel/'
FREUD, Sigmund, Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie,
Deuticke, Leipzig, 3rd edition, 1915. English translation
by A. A. Brill, Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex,
3rd revised edition, New York, 1918.
FREUD, Sigmund, Die Traumdeutung, 5th and enlarged edition,
with contributions by Otto Rank, Leipzig and Vienna,
1919. English translation by A. A. Brill, from 3rd
German edition, The Interpretation of Dreams, George
Allen & Unwin, London, 1913.
GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von, Die Campagne in Frankreich,
1792. English translation by R. Farie, Campaign in
France in the year 1792, Chapman & Hall, London,
HENNEQUIN, Emile, La critique scientifique, Paris, 1888.
HESNARD, see RGIS.
HEUMANN, Albert, see VERHAEREN, Choix de po6mes.
HUGO, Victor Marie, Le Mariage de Roland. [This poem was
written in 1846. Thirteen years later it was incorporated
in the poet's La legende des siScles.]
" Imago/ 1 No. 3, Vienna, 1913.
JAMES, William, The Principles of Psychology, 2 vols., Macmillan,
JAMES, William, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Longmans,
JELLIFFE, Smith Ely, and BRINK, Louisa, Psychoanalysis and the
Drama, Nervous and Mental Disease Publishing Co.,
Washington and New York.
JUNG, Carl Gustav, Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido,
Deuticke, Leipzig and Vienna, 1920. English translation
by Beatrice M. Hinkle, The Psychology of the Uncon-
scious, Moffat, Yard & Co., New York, 1916, Kegan
Paul, London, 1921.
MAEDER, Alphonse, F. Hodler: eine Skizze seiner seelischen
Entwicklung und Bedeutung fur die schweizerisch-
nationale Kultur, Zurich, 1916.
MOCKEL, Albert, Un pofcte de l'nergie, Emile Verhaeren,
Toeuvre et Thomme, Paris, 1918.
MOREL, Ferdinand, Essai sur Tint ro version mystique : Etude
psychologique de pseudo-Denys TAr^opagite et de quel-
ques autres cas de mysticisme, Kundig, Geneva, 1918.
NIETZSCHE, Friedrich Wilhelm, Menschliches, Allzumenschliches,
ein Buch fur freie Geister, Chemnitz, 1878-9, English
translation, Human, All-Too-Human, being vols. 6 and
7 of Oscar Levy's complete edition, Foulis, Edinburgh
and London, 1909-13.
OTT, Jean, Enquete sur Han Ryner, " Le Rythme," Paris,
PAULHAN, Les transformations sociales des sentiments,
Flammarion, Paris, 1920.
PERRELET, see ARTUS-PERRELET.
PFISTER, Otto, Der psychologische und biologische Untergrund
expressionistischer Bilder, Bircher, Berne, 1920.
PRESCOTT, Frederick Clarke, Poetry and Dreams, " Journal of
Abnormal Psychology," vol. ii, No. 2, 1912.
RANK, Otto, Der Kiinstler, Ansatze zu einer Sexual-Psychologie,
Heller, Vienna, 1907.
RANK, Otto, Traum und Dichtung; Traum und Mythus.
(Supplements to Freud's Die Traumdeutung. See FREUD.)
Rcis, Emmanuel, and HESNARD, A., La psychoanalyse des
nSvroses et des psychoses, Alcan, Paris, 1914.
818 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
RIBOT, Th&>dule Armand, Essai sur Timagination cicatrice,
Alcan, Paris, 1900. English translation by Albert H. N.
Baron, Essay on the Creative Imagination, Kegan Paul,
RIBOT, Th^odule Armand, La logique des sentiments, Alcan,
RIGNANO, Eugenio, Psychologic du raisonnement, Alcan, Paris,
ROLLAND, Romain, Quelques lettres de Verhaeren et Romain
Rolland, Cahiers idealistes fran^ais, Paris, No. 14,
ROUBAKINE, Introduction & la psychologic bibliologique. La
psychologic de la creation des livres, de leur distribution
et circulation, etc. 2 vols., Paris, 1922.
SMET, Joseph de, Emile Verhaeren, sa vie et ses oeuvres, Part I,
1855-1894, Ryckmans, Malines, 1909 ; Part II, 1894-1916,
Ryckmans, Malines, 1920.
SOURIAU, Paul, La reverie esthetique. Essai sur la psychologic
du po&te, Alcan, Paris, 1906.
SOURIAU, Paul, La suggestion dans Tart, Alcan, Paris, 1893,
TRUC, Gonzague, La grace, Alcan, Paris, 1918.
[This bibliography of the poet's principal writings,
including all those mentioned in the text, is arranged in
chronological, not in alphabetical order. The translators
are greatly indebted to the careful bibliography published
by Amy Lowell in Appendix B of her Six French Poets,
The Macmillan Company, New York, 1915.]
Les flamandes, 1883, reissued in Po6mes, see below.
Les moines, 1886, reissued in Poemes, see below.
Les soirs, 1887, reissued in Poemes, nouvelle srie, see
Les debacles, 1888, reissued in PoSmes, nouvelle srie,
Les flambeaux noirs, 1891, reissued in Pofcmes, nouvelle
serie, see below.
Au bord de la route, 1891, reissued in PoSmes, see
Les apparus dans mes chemins, 1891, reissued in Po&mes,
III me s&ie, see below.
Les campagnes hallucinees, 1893, reissued in 1904, see
Les villages illusoires, 1895, reissued in Pomes, III e
serie, see below.
Po&mes : Les bords de la route ; Les flamandes ; Les
moines augmentes de plusieurs poemes, Mercure
de France, Paris, 1895.
Les villes tentaculaires, 1895, reissued in 1904, see below.
Poemes, nouvelle serie : Les soirs ; Les debacles ; Les
flambeaux noirs, Mercure de France, Paris, 1896.
Les heures claires, 1896, reissued, Mercure de France,
Les aubes, drame lyrique, Deman, Brussels, 1898.
Les visages de la vie, 1899, reissued, Mercure de France,
PoSmes, III me serie : Les villages illusoires ; Les apparus
dans mes chemins ; Les vignes de ma muraille,
Mercure de France, Paris, 1899.
Le cloitre, drame en prose et vers, Deman, Brussels, 1900.
Philippe II, tragedie, Mercure de France, Paris, 1901 ;
reissued in Deux drames, Mercure de France, Paris,
Les forces tumultueuses, Mercure de France, Paris, 1902.
Les villes tentaculaires, precdes des Campagnes hallu-
cin^es, Mercure de France, Paris, 1904.
Toute la Flandre : Les tendresscs premieres, Deman,
Les heures d'apres midi, Deman, Brussels, 1905 ; reissued
with Les heures claires, Mercure de France, Paris,
La multiple splendour, Mercure de France, Paris, 1906.
Toute la Flandre : La guirlande des dunes, Deman,
Les visages de la vie and Les douze mois, Mercure de
France, Paris, 1908.
Toute la Flandre : Les hros, Deman, Brussels, 1908.
Toute la Flandre : La ville k pignons, Deman, Brussels,
Les rythmes souverains, Mercure de France, Paris, 1910.
Les heures du soir, Insel-Verlag, Leipzig, 1911.
Toute la Flandre : Les plaines, Deman, Brussels, 1911.
de Sparte, tragedie, Nouvelle Revue Franfaise,
820 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Les bls mouvants, Cres, Paris, 1912, reissued, Mercure
de France, Paris, 1913.
La Belgique sanglante, Nouvelle Revue Frangaise, Paris,
Choix de pofemes, avec une preface d 'Albert Heumann, une
bibliographie et un portrait, 4th edition, Paris, 1916.
Les ailes rouges de la guerre, Paris, 1916.
Les flammes hautes, Mercure de France, .Paris, 1917.
Quelques lettres de Verhaeren et Romain Rolland, Cahiers
idealistes fran9ais, Paris, No. 14, March, 1918.
ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS OF VERHAEREN
Poems by Emile Verhaeren, selected and rendered into
English by Alma Strettell, with a portrait of the author
by John Sargent, Lane, London, 1915.
The Plays of Emile Verhaeren, Constable, London, 1916.
(The Dawn is translated by Arthur Symons, The
Cloister by Osman Edwards, Philip II b^ F. S. Flint,
Helen of Sparta by Jethro Bithell.)
Belgium's Agony (a translation by M. T. H. Sadler of
La Belgique sanglante), Constable, London, 1916.
The Love Poems of Emile Verhaeren, translated by F. S.
Flint, Constable, London, 1916.
Contemporary Belgian Poets, selected and translated by
Jethro Bithell, Walter Scott, London, contains a
number of metrical translations of Verhaeren.
Six French Poets, by Amy Lowell, Macmillan, New York,
1915, contains a few prose renderings.
VODOZ, J., Roland, un symbole, Preface by Georges Duhamel,
Champion, Paris, 1920.
WYZEWA, Theodore de, Nos maitres, Etudes et portraits litte-
raires, Paris, 1895.
ZWEIG, Stefan, Emile Verhaeren, 2nd edition, Insel-Verlag,
Leipzig, 1913. English translation by Jethro Bithell,
Emile Verhaeren, Constable, London, 1914.
ZWEIG, Stefan, Erinnerungen an Emil Verhaeren, privately
A celle qui a vingt ans, 275
A la gloire des cieux, 263
A la gloire du vent, 166
A I'homme d'aujourd'hui, 277
Action, U, 176, 177, 178
ABLER, 206, 208, 235, 315
Affective Basis of Intelligence, 18,
Ailes rouges de la guerre, 255, 273,
All Flanders, 272, sec also Toute
A me de la ville, 198
Amazon, 247, 248, 278, 279, 280,
281, 301, 302
Amazone, L', 247, 303
Amour, L' t 186, 244, 245, 296, 303
Amours rouges, 222
Ancienne foi, 260, 261
Andromeda, 200, 279, 280, 281,
Anthropologie , 25
Antwerp, 38, 42, see also Anvers
Anvers, 41, see also Antwerp
Apparus dans mes chemins, 160,
161, 162, 166, 172, 173, 176,
270, 271, 295, 318, 319
Appreciation of Poetry, g
Arbre, V , 287
Arbres, Les, 130
Arche flottante, 2, 8
" Archives de Psychologic/' 33,
Ardeurs naives, 45, 46, 50, 219,
Art flamand, 73
ARTEVELDE, 62, 63, 240
ARTUS-PERRELET, 41, 315
Aspects of Life, 185
At Sea, 185
Attentive, L\ 161
Attente, L\ 185
Attirancts, Les, 257, 258, 281
Au bord du quai, 252
Au carrefour de la mort, 80, 82,
83, 87 125
Au loin, 160
Au nord, 187
Au passant d'un soir, 261
Aubes, Les, 160, 176, 191, 239,
2 4 3*9* see a ls Dawn
Autour de ma maison, 258
Aux moines, 97, 102, 103, 104
Aventurier, L', 225
Baie, La, 115
Balthazar, Dom, sea Dom Bal-
BAUDELAIRE, 83, 84
BAUDOUIN, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 17,
BAZALGETTE, 38, 39, 88, 89, 212,
Bdche, La, 151
BEETHOVEN, 101, 289
Belgique sanglante, 273, 319, 320,
see also Belgium's Agony
Belgium's Agony, 320, see also
Bellringer, The, 190, see also
Benares, 135, 139, I4> *4* X 44*
BERGSON, 96, 243, 315
BERGUER, 33, 315
Bernardo, Fray, 212
Birth of Psyche, 2
BITHELL, 70, 108, 315, 320
Blacksmith, The, 190, see also
BUs mouvants, 222, 255, 270,
Books, The, 191, see also Livres
322 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Bords de la route, 75, 79, 80, 82,
83, 87, 125, 152, 153, 183,
244, 318, 319
Bornhem, 88, 89, 305
BO VET, 41, 90* 10 1, 250, 315
Brabant, 168, 169
BREUER, 51, 239
Brussels, 38, 213
BUISSERET, 158, 1 60, 315
Bur graves, Les, 202
"Cahiers idealistes fran^ais," 274,
Caillou-qui-Bique, 266, 270, 274
Campagne in Frankreich, 155, 316
Campagnes hallucinces, 52, 88, 150,
151, 160, 163, 186, 191, 192,
193, 194, 196, 197, 198, 199,
234, 296, 318, 319
Campaign in France in the Year
Carlos, Don, see Don Carlos
" Carmel, Le," 52, 274, 275, 316,
Castor, 229, 230, 231, 232, 233,
Ce soir, 220, 221, 310-312
Celle de Vile, 200
Celui du rien, 162
Chansons de fou, 193, 196, 296,
307, see also Songs of Madmen
Chansons des rues et des bois, 71
Chaumes, Les, 113, 114, see also
Choephori t 203
Choix de podmes, avec un preface
d' Albert Heumann, 295, 320
Christ, 165, 166, 182, 186, 198..
244, 259, 267, 268
Clermont, Comtesse de, 211, 212
Clockmaker, The, 196, see also
Cloister, The, 320, see also Cloitre
CMtre, Le t 201, 204, 206, 207,
208, 210, 218, 219, 223, 227,
230, 231, 239, 319, see also
CMtres, Les, 96, 97
Comte de la Mi-Car6me, 168, 169,
see also Count of Mid-Lent
Comte de la Mi-Car erne, 169
Conseil absurde, 123
Contemporary Belgian Poetry, 70,
Conversions, Les, 99, 100
CordierS) Les, 190, 297, see also
Count of Mid-Lent, 168, 169, 172,
181, 278, 301, see also Comte
de la Mi-Caime
Couronne, La, 112, 132
Cris de ma vie, 249, 254
Critique scientifique, 293, 316
Crowd, The, 179, see also Foule
Cruciferes, Les, 102
Cuisson du pain, Si
DA VINCI, 34
Dame en noir, 56, 74, 75, 117,
140, 150, 295, see also Lady
Danae, 265, 266
Dans ma plaine, 172
DANTE, 7, 25, 48, 240
Dawn, The, 320, see also Les
De Stcphane Mallarme au prophdte
Ezcchiel, 29, 316
Debacles, Les, 56, 68, 106, 107,
109, 112, 117, Il8, 119, 120,
121, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127,
128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 135,
136, 138, 139, 141* I43 I44>
147, 152, 158, 186, 192, 210,
227, 282, 296, 306, 318, 319
DEBOCK, Adele, 38, 213
DEBOCK, Amelie, 38, 213
DEBOCK, (Emile Verhaeren's uncle),
Dtbut litteraire d'Emile Verhaeren
a Louvain, 84, 316
Depart, Le, 199
Dessein au service de I'cducation,
Dialogue, 127, 128, 143
Dialogue rustique, 222
Diana, 220, 312, 313
Dieux, Les, 137, 138
Divine Comedy, 240
Dom Balthazar, 89, 206, 208,
209, 210, 216, 219, 223, 227,
228, 230, 239
Don Carlos, 211, 212, 214, 215,
216, 217, 218, 219, 222, 224,
229, 231, 232, 233, 239
Don Juan, 223
Donneur de mauvais conseils, 163,
DOUTREPONT, 84, 316
Douze mois, 319
Drei Abhandlung zur Sexualtheorie,
DUJARDIN, 2Q, 3I 297, 316
E. U., 7
Early Affections, 35, 196, see also
Eau, U, 188
Ecce Homo, 2, 8
Eclats d'obus, 2
Effort, L 1 , 258
Electra, 227, 232, 233, 234, 236, 237
Emile Verhaeren (Bazalgette), 31,
Emile Verhaeren (Mockel), 145,
Emile Verhaeren (Smet), 189, 318
Emile Verhaeren (Zweig), 71, 108,
En-avant, U, 249
En sourdine, 2
Enclos, U, 82
Energie spirituelle, 315
EnquSte sur Han Ryner, 30, 317
Erinnerungen an Emil Verhaeren,
Escaut, 184, see also Scheldt
Essai sur r imagination crcatrice,
I?* 36, 3^7
Essai sur Mntroversion mystique,
33> 9i, 317
Essay on the creative imagination,
Etudes de psychanalyse, 2, 315
Etrang&re, U, 79
Evolution ideologique d'Emile Ver-
haeren, 158, 315
Exode, U, 273
.F. Hodler ; eine Skizze seiner
seelischen Entwicklung und Be-
deutung fttr die schweizerisch-
nationale Kultur, 317
Father Christmas, 168
Faust, 155, 304
Femmes, Les, 247
FERRIERE, 295, 316
Ferryman, The, 190, 280, see also
Ferveur, La, 285
Fi&vres, Les, 163
Fighting Instinct, 315
Flamandes, Les, 70, 71, 72, 73,
74* 76, 77> 7 8 79, 8i f 82, 83,
85, 86, 87, 89, 90, roi, 106,
113, 120, 125, 129, 153, 167,
182, 186, 190, 192, I95> I97
209, 222, 253, 264, 289, 306,
318, 319, see also Flemish
Flammes hautes, 63, 75, 101, 186,
252, 255, 257, 259, 260, 261,
267, 272, 273, 276, 277, 285,
289, 290, 291
Flambeaux noirs, 52, 56, 68, 74,
106, 107, 118, 120, 122, 133,
134, 135, 137, 138, 140, 141,
142, 143, 147, 148, 149, 150,
151, 158, 186, 190, 210, 227,
295, 3i8, 319
Flanders, 51, 56, 59, 61, 70, 71,
211, 212, 213, 224, 225, 227,
231, 237, 238, 272
Flandre, 51, 211, 224, 226, 227
Ftiau, Le, 150
Flemish Women, 70, 304, see also
Fleur fatale, 55, 133
Flight into the World, 159
FLOURNOY, 33, 40, 157, 220, 299,
Folie, La, 145, 249, 253
Force en nous, 2
Forces tumultueuses, 145, 159, 186,
187, 242, 244, 245, 247, 249,
253, 254, 281, 296, 303, 319,
see also Tumultuous Forces
FOREL, 51, 52, 239, 3*6
Forest, The 289
Foret, La, 289
Forgeron, Le, 190, see also Black-
Foule, La, 179, 180, 181, 182, 250,
see also Crowd
Fray Bernardo, see Bernardo
FREUD, 10, 17 20, 21, 23, 24, 25,
32, 36, 47, 51, 58, in, 146,
205, 208, 235, 316
George, Saint, see Saint George
Glaive, Le, 118, 123
GOETHE, 34, 155, 156, 158, 189,
283, 302, 316
824 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Grdce, La, 154, 318
Granges, Les, 81
Greniers, Les, 87
Gueux, Les, 86
Guirlande des dunes, 61, 66, 280,
Hamlet, 121, 122
Helen, 227, 229, 230, 231, 232,
233, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238,
Helen of Sparta, 231, 320
H&fcne, 233, 234
Hctene de Sparte, 201, 204, 207,
209, 227, 228, 231, 239, 303,
HENNEQUIN, 293, 294, 316
Hercules, 21, 187, 255, 290, 308
Hr&iien, 239, 240, 241
Herenthals, 38, 213
Ht'rcsiarch, L', 98
Heros, Les t 62, 63, 319
HESNARD, 20, 33, 58, 219, 317
HEUMANN, 295, 316, 320
Heure mauvaise, 153
Heures claires, 160, 172, 17*1, 175,
272, 319, see also Serene Hours
Heures d'hiver, 117, 272
Heures d'aprds-midi, 173, 255, 272,
Heures du soir, 255, 319
Heures mornes, 130
HODGSON, Ralph, 10
HODGSON, Shadworth, 35
HODLER, 33, 70, 300
Holy Office, 218
Horloger, L\ 54, 58, 149, see also
Hours, 272, see also Heures
HUGO, 33, 71, 148, 155, 189, 199,
202, 269, 283, 316
Human, All Too Human, 126,
Idol, The, 296
Idole, L\ 136, 137, 140
Illusory Villages, 187, 190, see
also Villages illusoires
" Imago/' 58, 316
Inconscience, 56, 119, 121
Instinct combatif, 90, 101, 315
Interpretation of Dreams, 20, 316
Ivresse, L 9 , 183
Jacques d'Artevelde, 62, 63, 240
JAMES, 36, 157, 299, 3^
Jardin, 42, 44
Jean Christophe, 243
Jesus, 120, 121, 246, 309
John, Saint, see Saint John
Joie, La, 186, 252, 253, 296
" Journal of abnormal Psycho-
logy/' 26, 317
Juan, Don, see Don Juan
JUNG, 9, 40, 147, 156, 317
Kato, 79, 86, 244
Kunstler, Der, 25, 317
La-bas, 135, 136, 144, 296
Lady in Black, 56, 58, 143, see
also Dame en voir
Laws of the Imagination and
poetic Symbols, 8
Leading Tree in the Avenue, 290
Ltgende des Si&cles, 316
LEPAIGE, 38, 213
" Le Rythme," 30
Life in all its Ardour, 290, see
also Vie ardente
Liminaire, 39, 184, 219, 221, 224,
LIONARDO, see Da Vinci
Livres, Les, 140, 149, 150, see also
Logique des sentiments, 17, 18,
Lois, Les, 147
London, 133, 144
Love Poems of Emile Verhaeren, 320
"LOWELL, 318, 320
Ma gerbe, 291
Ma ville, 257, 267, see also Town
MAEDER, 33, 70, 300, 317
Magdalen, 244, 245, 246, 261
Mages, Les, 260
Maison du Peuple, 160
Malades, Les, 119, 128, 142
MALLARM&, 30, 31, 189
Manage de Roland, 33, 189, 316
Maries, 113, 152
Marikerke, 48, 49
Martin Luther, 272
MASSIN (Madame Emile Ver-
haeren), 160, 309
Matin, Un, 254
Meditation, 74, 77, 102
Meister singer, 25
M&idlas, 228, 229, 233
Menelaus, 228, 229, 230, 231,
Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, 317
M^RINCOURT, see THEROIGNE de
Mes doigts, 141
Meules qui brftlent, 191
Meurtre, Le, 138, 139
Mill, The, 195, see also Moulin
Mind Energy, 315
Miracle de vivre, 2
MOCKEL, 106, 145, 156, 160, 167,
208, 267, 274, 283, 286, 302, 317
Moine doux, 92, 94, 121
Moine epique, 95
Moine simple, 92, 93, 121
Moines, Les, 63, 70, 74, 88, 89, 90,
Qi, 92, 93> 94 95 96, 97 98,
99, 100, 102, 103, 104, 106,
120, 126, 128, 129, 153, 190,
209, 210, 256, 300, 306, 318,
319, see also Monhs
Molse, 103, 104
Molossian Hounds, 117
Mon village, 59, 68
Monde, Le, 263
Monks, The, 70, 286, see also
MOREL, 33, 40, 91, 96, 119, 147,
209, 305, 317
Mort, La, 116
Morte, La, 134, 135
Moulin, Le, 114, 295, see also Mill
Mourir, 116, 117
Multiple splendeur, 44, 67, 166,
186, 243, 255, 256, 258, 260,
263, 264, 272, 278, 285, 287, 319
Multiple Splendour, 255
Mystique moderne, 33, 316
Naiads, 234, 235
Narcissus, 91, 115, 117, 235
Nicholas, Saint, see Saint Nicholas
NIETZSCHE, in, 112, 126, 129,
139, i5 8 > 208, 243, 252, 317
N ombres, Les, 148, 149, 295, see
North Sea, 38
Nos mattres, 30, 320
Numbers, 191, see also Nombres
Oedipus, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210,
218, 220, 221, 223, 225, 229,
231, 233, 235, 236, 237, 240,
Oedipus at Colonus, 210
Oedipus Complex, 219
Oedipus Trilogy, 204
Olivier (pseudonym of Warlomont),
Or, L', 265
Orgueil, L', 259, 284, 285
Orpheus, 239, 279
OTT, 30, 317
Pdques, Les, 65
Paradis, 42, 43, 295, 303
Parcae, 57, 190
Paris, 57, 267
Parsifal, 121, 122
Pas, Les, 50
Passeur d f eau, 45, 47, 55, 134,
189, 280, 295, see also Ferry-
Passion, 131, 133, 134
PAUL, 12, 315
PAULHAN, 205, 317
Pfcht, Le, 194, 195* 234
P&cheurs, Les, 297
Pegasus, 187, 281, 282, 283
P&lerinage, 193, 194
Penseur, Le, see Thinker
326 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Penseurs, Les t 67
PERRELET, see ARTUS-PERRELET
Pers6e, 248. 278, 282, 283
Perste, 281, 296, 303
Perseus, 187, 200, 248, 255, 278,
279, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284,
298, 300, 301, 302
PFISTER, 33, 317
Philip II, 213, 214, 217, 218, 219,
224, 238, 240, 305
Philip II, 320
Philippe II, 201, 204, 209, 211,
2l8, 219, 222, 223, 225, 227,
231, 239, 306, 319
Plaine, La, 115
Plaines, Les, 72, 76, 113, 192, 225,
Plaines mornes, 192
Plays of Emile Verhaeren, 320
Plus precieux des cinq sens, 118
Poems by Emile Verhaeren, 320
Po&te de I'energie, see Emile
Poetic Mind, j
Poetry and Dreams, 26, 317
Poetry of Dante, 7
Poets, Critics, and Class-Lists, 9
Pollux, 230, 236
Power within us, 2, 8
Premier arbre de ValUe, 290
PRESCOTT, 7, 26, 317
Pri&re, La, 259, 284
Principles of Psychology, 36, 316
Psychanalyse et la guerre, 52,
" Psyche and Eros/' 315
Psychoanalyse des nevroses et des
psychoses, 20, 317
Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics, 2,
7> 8, 9
Psychoanalysis and the Drama,
Psychologie bibliologique, 295, 318
Psychologic du raisonnement, 18,
Psychologische und biologische
Bilder, 33, 317
Psychology of the Unconscious, 156,
Quelques lettres de Verhaeren et
de Holland, 274, 318
Quelques traits de la vie de Jesus,
RANK, 25, 316, 317
Recherche, La, 67
R&GIS, 20, 33, 58, 219,
Rentr&e des Moines, 102
Reverie aesthStique, 26, 318
RSves, Les, 243
Revolte, La, 55, 62, 64, 65, 99,
" Revue de Th^ologie et de Philo-
" Revue Wagn6rienne," 29
RIBOT, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23,
29, 35. 36, 317, 3i8
RlGNANO, l8, 318
Rispaire, Duke of, 223, see also
Roc, Le, 118, 120, 122, 133, 142
Rodolphe (Verhaeren's pseudonym),
Roland, un symbole, 33, 155, 320
ROLLAND, 274, 275, 318
Rome, 256, 261, 262
Ropemakeys, The, 190, 298, see
ROUBAKINE, 295, 318
ROUSSEAU, 79, 96
Rues, Les, 114
" Rythme, Le/ 1 317
Rythmes souverains, 41, 43, 187,
200, 248, 255, 257, 258, 259,
265, 271, 272, 278, 280, 281,
282, 283, 284, 290, 295, 296,
Saint George, 156, 166, 167, 168,
169, 170, 171, 172, 181, 211,
242, 247, 248, 264, 270, 278,
279, 280, 301, 302
Saint Georges, 168, 170, 171, 278
Saint Georges, 161, 166, 172, 247,
256, 279, 295
Saint Jean, 271, 296
Saint John, 271, 272, 277
Saint Nicholas, 168
Saint-Amant, 37, 38, 46, 88
Saint-Cloud, 267, 270
Saintes, Les, 173, 176, 270
Saints, The, 270
Saints, les morts, les arbres, et 1$
vent, Les, 164
S'amoindrir, 121, 123
Santa Claus, 168
Sappho, 231, 233, 235
Saule, Un t 288, see also Willow
Scheldt, 37, 3 8 * l8 4
SCHOPENHAUER, 25, 29, 35, 236
" Semaine dcs Etudiants," 84
Sentiment religieux, 250, 315
Serene Hours, 173, see also Heures
Serve reine, 2
Seven against Thebes, 203
$/>, The, 185
Sa morne, 109
Sirfcnes, 187, 188
Sirens, 186, 187, 188, 189
Six French Poets, 318, 320
SMET, 189, 192, 199, 243, 269,
272, 280, 297, 298, 318
Soir religieux, 102
Soir, Un, 141, 152
Soirs, Les, 55, 68, 106, 107, 113,
114, 116, 117, 119, 128, 130,
131* J 33> *3 6 ' J 37 HO, i4 2 >
143, 144, 147, 158, 105, 192,
195, 196, 295, 318, 319
Song of Roland, 212
Songs of Madmen, J97> 37 scc
also Chansons de fou
Sonneur, Le, 60, 64, 65, 189, 197,
295, see also Bellringer
Souffranccs, Les, 278
SOURIAU, 25, 318
Sous les porches, 142
Sovran Rhythms, 185
SPITTELER, 220, 275, 303
Stock Exchange, 264
Studies in Psychoanalysis, 2, 8,
i7 18, 315
Suggestion and Autosuggestion, 2,
8, 9, 146, 315
Suggestion dans Vart, 26, 318
Suggestion et Autosuggestion, 2,
Symbole chez Verhaeren, 2
Tendresses premieres, 37, 38, 41,
42, 45, 48, 53, 54, 59, 65, 79,
93, 144, 149, 169, 174, 184,
209, 219, 224, 227, 257, 296,
319, see also Early Affections
T&te, La, 143, 145
Thatched Roofs, 113, see also
TH&ROIGNE de M^RINCOURT, 245,
248, 261, 264, 281
Thinker, The, 152
This Evening, 311-313
Three Contributions to the Theory
of Sex, 235, 316
Tityre et Moelibee, 270
Tolsto'i educateur, 2
TOLSTOY, 152, 157, 158
Tolstoy the Teacher, 2
Tombes, Les, 276
Tours au bord de la mer, 61
Toute la Flandre, 37, 39, 44* 225,
227, 255, 319, see also All
Towards the Cloister, 113, see also
Vers le cloitre
Towards the Sea, 185, see also
Vers la mer
Tower of Babel, 275
Town, 268, 269, see also Ma ville
Transformations sociales des senti-
ments, 205, 317
Traum und Dichtung, 25, 317
Traum und Mythus, 25, 317
Traumdeutung t 20, 316
TRUC, 154, 157, 318
Tumultuous Forces, 185, 255, see
also Forces tumultueuses
Tunnel, Le, 259
Ueber den nervosen Charakter t 206,
Ultima verba, 292
U sines, Les, 197, 295
Vache, La, 86
Vach&re, La, 73
Varieties of religious Experience,
Vent, Le, 164, see also Wind
Venus, 187, 244, 245, 246, 248,
828 PSYCHOANALYSIS AND AESTHETICS
Vergers, Les, 85
VERHAEREN, Adele, 38
VERHAEREN, Emile, passim
VERHAEREN, Gustave, 38, 88, 213,
VERHAEREN, Marthe, see MASSIN
Vers la mer, 185, see also Towards
Vers le clottre, 112, 124, 125, 127,
see also Towards the- Cloister
Vers le futur, 198
Vers I'enfance, 126
Vie, La, 264
Vie ardente, 63, 75, 101, 252,
291, see also Life in all its
Vieille, La, 163
Vieux chSnes, 131
Vieux empires, 255, 256
Vignes d& ma muraille, 115, 160,
165, 181, 183, 186, 187, 200,
VlGNY, 26, 103
Villages illusoires, 45, 46, 60, 65,
160, 161, 163, 164, 186, 189,
191, 225, 280, 295. 297, 302,
318, 319, see also Illusory
Vitte, La, 52
Vill$ a pignons, 319
Villes, Les, 52, 141, 144
Villes tentaculaires, 55, 62, 67,
115, 116, 139, 160, 186, 191,
197, 198, 264, 265, 295* 319
VINCI, see Da Vinci
Virgin Mary, 48, 92, 94, 113, 120,
121, 133, 170, 216, 217, 220,
267, 268, 309
Visages de la vie, 159, 160, 161,
176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181,
182, 183, 185, 186, 188, 250,
252, 253, 296, 319
VODOZ, 33, 155, 189, 212, 283, 320
Voyageurs, Les, 140
WAGNER, 25, 122, 202, 203
WALLER, see WARLOMONT
" Wallonie, La," 118
Wandlungen und Symbole der
11 Weekly Westminster Gazette/!
" Westminster Gazette," 7
Willow Tree, 288, see also Saule
Wind, The, 164, see also Vent
World as Will and Idea, 29
WYZEWA, 30, 32, 320
ZWEIG, 71, 108, 159, 267, 274,
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