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Works by Charles Baudouin 











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 







First published in 1924 

(All rights reserved) 

Printed in Great Britain by 




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 



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 
the original. 

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 


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." 


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 
works. 11 

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. 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 


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. 


LONDON, October, 1923. 














CE SOIR (poem by Verhaeren, here first published) -310 


INDEX 321 


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 



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 
freedom." * 

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. 



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 
imagination. * 

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. 


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 
et seq. 


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 
and Hercules. 

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 


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 


" 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 
Freudian doctrine. 

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. 


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 


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 
extent symbolical. 

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. 


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 
desirable. " 

' 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. 

Op. cit. 


" 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 
obscure symbols. 

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. 



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. 


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 
the present. 

" 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 

Early affections. 

Psychology, vol. i. pp. 571 et seq. 


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. 


" 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 
and subjectivity. 

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 


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. 


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 
own way." 

We see how important the factory was in Verhaeren's 


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 


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. 


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 
Frail insects.] 

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. 


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. 


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. 


[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. 


[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 
that of 

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. 


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 

Si belle, 
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, 

So lovely 
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. 


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 ! 


[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. 



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, 

J'entends encor 

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- 


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 


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. 


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 
nightfall : 

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.] 


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. 


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. 


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, 

Se tremoussait 

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. 


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 


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, 
suddenly : 

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. 


Then : 

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. 


tower revive. In Les villages illusoires the whole scene 
is reconstructed : 

La tour, 

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. . . . 

La tour, 

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 

[The tower, 

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 

Suddenly ceases. 

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. 


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. 


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, 

Se tait.* 

[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. . . . 

Death rises 

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. 


Now, all at once, like a voice that has been strangled, 
Some bell, which has been harshly clanging 
In its burning tower, 
Is silenced.] 

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. 


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. 


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. 


[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- 


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. 

With eyes 

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. 


concludes the poem Mon village, wherein he tells the story 
of the conflagration. Speaking of the clock-tower, he 
writes : 

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 


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 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. 



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. 


[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 
later work. 

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. 


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. 


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 ? 


[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. 


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. 


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 


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 

the time, 
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. 


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 
adolescence : 

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. 


sions there is in this contrast ; we shall understand 
how strongly charged it is with meaning and with 
emotion : 

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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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 
writes : 

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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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- 


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. 


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. 


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 
monks turn 

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. 


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. 


[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 
premieres : 

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. 


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. 


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 

shrunken epoch. 
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. 


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. 


[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. 


[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. 


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. 


[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 
and ardour. 

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. 


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. 

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 
Lea moines. 


[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 
your life.] 

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 


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 
devotee : 

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 moines. 


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 
somewhat lugubrious. 




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 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 
of mine/' 

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 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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 


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 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. 


[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. 


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, 

Et s'^parpille 

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* 


[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. 


Un soir plein de pourpres et de fleuves vermeils 

[An evening full of purple lights and crimson rivers 
Is decaying.] 

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. 


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. 

Again : 

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 
happy : 

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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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- 
philia : 

1 From Le roc, in Les flambeaux noirs. 


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 
canst not!} 

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. 


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. 


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." 


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 
pain : 

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. 


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 
quoted : 

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. 


[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 
itself : 

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 


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 : 



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 ; 

the crosses, 

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. 


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 

their branches 

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. 



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. 


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. 


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- 
towers : 

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. 


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 
complexes : 

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. 


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 
vision : 

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. 


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. 


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 
directed passion. 

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. 


[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. 


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 
Regarde encor. 

[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 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 
equally clear. 

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. 


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. . . , 


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. 


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. 


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. 


[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. 


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. 


[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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


[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, 
S'ecroula toute 
Et l^zarda, craquement noir, ma volont.* 

[How agonising was that opaque night 

In which my soul, hopelessly undermined by doubt, 

Foundered completely, 

And my will, a black crevasse, broke up.] 

1 From L'heure mauvaise, in Les bords de la route. 
1 From the same poem. 


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, 
towards neurosis. 

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. 


(1890 TO 

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. 


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 
heart/' 3 

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. 


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. 


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. 


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 
problems/' 3 

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. 


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 


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 
chemins : 

1 From Saint Georges, in Les apparus dans mes chemint. 



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. 


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- 
side : 

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. 


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 
asceticism : 

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. 


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. 


" 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 
Chapter Six. 

i Saint Georges, in Les apparus dans mes chemins. 


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. 


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, 


L'^quipage diamantaire 

Fait de sa chute, un triomphal chemin. . . . 

II m'a rempli de son essor. 


[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 
paradise : 

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. 


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- 
hood : 

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 


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 


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 
images : 

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. 


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 
later : 

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. 


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 
recognisable : 

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. 


[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. 


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. 


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. 



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. 


[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, 

Mon cceur, 

Cette heure 

Qui chante et crie au coeur du monde ? * 

1 From La foule, in Les visages de la vie. 
* From the same poem* 


[Oh, say, do you feel how beautiful and profound, 

my heart, 

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 
being : 

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. 


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. 


[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. 


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. 


In the same poem we find a transition to other images, 
those of ships setting out on a voyage, and those of the 
sea : 

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 
premieres : 

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 


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. 


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. 


Les Sir&nes, couvertes d'or, 
Tordaient, comme des vignes, 
Les lignes 
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 
A bord. 

[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 
On board.] 

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. 


[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. 


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. 


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. 


(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. 


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. 


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. 



and occasionally, as we saw during the crisis, by directly 
sexual symbols. 

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. 


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 
poem : 

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 


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 
forgotten : 

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 
Deux caillous. 

[For we have as testicles 
Two pebbles.] 



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 
La revolte. 

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. 


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. 


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. 


" 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 

L'impermeable vetement 

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. 


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. 


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 



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 
Verhaeren's dramas. 

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 
preeminently so. 

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 


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 


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. 


occur in the dreams and the imaginative creations of 
adult men. 

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. 


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. . . . 

Ma rage 

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. . . . 

My fury 

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. 


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. 


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. 
Act Four. 

3 Cf. in particular, Morel, op. cit. 



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 
with blindness. 
Act Four. 


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 " 
(p. 168). 

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 : 

Un cri 

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. 


[A cry 

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. 


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 ! 


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. . . . 



... 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. . . . 


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 


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. . . . 


... 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. . . . 


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 

Act Two. 


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 : 

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 
to me.] 


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.] 


Ce n'est plus moi qu'ils punissent et tuent, c'est lui, 
Le pauvre enfant en qui je reveillais la vie. 4 


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. 


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. 


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 

Voudraient descendre, 

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 
turn : 

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. 


[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. 


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 


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. 


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., 
p. 174. 


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. 


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 


the desire is filled with overflowing and fierce voluptuous- 
ness : 

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 

willow walks, 

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. 


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, 


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 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 
the Second. 

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. 


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." 



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 
same order. 

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, 


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 ; 


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. 


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, 

Hlne ! 

Us sont si grands tous deux que Ton dirait des Dieux.* 

1 Act One, Scene Four. * ^\ct One, Scene Three. 


[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 

Helen ! 

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. 



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. 


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. 


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. 


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 : 


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. . . . 


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 


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. . . . 


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. 



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 


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 


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, 


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. 


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 


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 
more universal. 

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 


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. 



" 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 
read : 

Dites, se plonger 2t s'y perdre dans la vie contradictoire mais 
enivrante ! 

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 



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. 


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, 

Are dead.] 

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 
death : 

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. 


[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 
M&rincourt : 

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 
of sublimation. 

The first poem in the collection, Sur la mer, expresses 

1 From Theroigne de MSrincourt, in the sequence L'amour, in Lcs 
forces tumultueuses. 


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. * . .] 


Need we repeat that here once more, while describing 
human evolution, Verhaeren is describing his own 
evolution ? 

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- 


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, 


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 


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. 


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 


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. 


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. 


[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 
soul : 

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 


Oh, those walks through the woods, over the plains, along 
the dikes, 

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. 


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. 


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 
city : 

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. 


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 
own precept. 

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. 


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 

Se meurent. 

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. 


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. 


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. 


[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 


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. 


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. 


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 
universe : 

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. 


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 


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 
hautes : 

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- 
privately printed). 

a Op. cit., p. 131. 3 From Ma ville, in Les flammes hautes. 


[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. 


[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. 


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 
Tout 1'infini.a 

[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. 


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. 


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. 


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 

to 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). 



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. 


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 
powers : 

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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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 


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. 


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 


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 


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. 


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. 


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 
formula : 

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. 


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 


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. 


[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 

is it! 

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. 


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 
fldmandes) : 

. . . 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. 



[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. 


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. 


[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. 


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 
edition, 1916. 


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. 


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 


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, 


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. 


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 
psychological tie. 

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 



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- 


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 
mon coeur. 

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 
our village. 

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. 



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 
mon coeur. 

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 
mon coeur. 


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 
edition), 1924. 

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, 
Geneva, 1919. 

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 & 
Unwin, 1923. 

BOVET, Pierre, Le sentiment religieux, " Revue de th^ologie et 
de philosophic," Lausanne, No. 32, 1919. 



BOVET, Pierre, Preface to Artus-Perrelet's Le dessin an service 
de r&Iucation. See ARTUS. 


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/' 
Geneva, 1917. 

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. 


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, 
London, 1890. 


JAMES, William, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Longmans, 
London, 1902. 

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, 
October, 1912. 

PAULHAN, Les transformations sociales des sentiments, 
Flammarion, Paris, 1920. 


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. 


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, 
London, 1906. 

RIBOT, Th^odule Armand, La logique des sentiments, Alcan, 
Paris, 1905. 

RIGNANO, Eugenio, Psychologic du raisonnement, Alcan, Paris, 

ROLLAND, Romain, Quelques lettres de Verhaeren et Romain 
Rolland, Cahiers idealistes fran^ais, Paris, No. 14, 
March, 1918. 

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, 

see below. 
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, 

Paris, 1909. 

Les aubes, drame lyrique, Deman, Brussels, 1898. 
Les visages de la vie, 1899, reissued, Mercure de France, 

Paris, 1908. 
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, 

Brussels, 1904. 
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, 

Brussels, 1907. 
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, 

Paris, 1912. 


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. 


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, 176 

Action, U, 176, 177, 178 

ABLER, 206, 208, 235, 315 

Aegistheus, 228 


Affective Basis of Intelligence, 18, 


Ailes rouges de la guerre, 255, 273, 

276, 320 
All Flanders, 272, sec also Toute 

la Flandre 
A me de la ville, 198 
Amazon, 247, 248, 278, 279, 280, 

281, 301, 302 
Amazone, L', 247, 303 
AMIEL, 21 

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 
Aprement, 75 
Arbre, V , 287 
Arbres, Les, 130 
Arche flottante, 2, 8 
" Archives de Psychologic/' 33, 

295. 3i6 
Ardeurs naives, 45, 46, 50, 219, 


Art flamand, 73 
ARTEVELDE, 62, 63, 240 
Aspects of Life, 185 
At Sea, 185 
Athens, 256 
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 

Babel, 256 

Bacchantes, 234 

Baie, La, 115 

Balthazar, Dom, sea Dom Bal- 

Bank, 265 

Banque, 265 

Baptismales, 2 

Barbarians, 272 

BARD, 203 

BARON, 317 


BAUDOUIN, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 17, 
18, 315 

BAZALGETTE, 38, 39, 88, 89, 212, 


Beatrice, 48 

Bdche, La, 151 

BEETHOVEN, 101, 289 

Belgique sanglante, 273, 319, 320, 

see also Belgium's Agony 
Belgium's Agony, 320, see also 

Belgique sanglante 
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 




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 
BRILL, 316 
BRINK, 316 
Brussels, 38, 213 
BUISSERET, 158, 1 60, 315 


Bur graves, Les, 202 


"Cahiers idealistes fran^ais," 274, 

318, 320 

Caillou-qui-Bique, 266, 270, 274 
Cambyses, 256 

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 

1792, 316 
Canaan, 179 

Carlos, Don, see Don Carlos 
" Carmel, Le," 52, 274, 275, 316, 
Castor, 229, 230, 231, 232, 233, 

236, 237 

Ce soir, 220, 221, 310-312 
Celle de Vile, 200 
Celui du rien, 162 
Chanaan, 178 

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 

Thatched Roofs 
Chimay, 89 
Choephori t 203 
Choix de podmes, avec un preface 

d' Albert Heumann, 295, 320 
Christ, 165, 166, 182, 186, 198.. 

244, 259, 267, 268 
Cinderella, 57 

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 
Clytemnestra, 228 
Clytemnestre, 228 


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, 

315, 320 

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 


Dame en noir, 56, 74, 75, 117, 

140, 150, 295, see also Lady 

in Black 
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), 

39, 213 
Dtbut litteraire d'Emile Verhaeren 

a Louvain, 84, 316 
Decembre, 181 
Depart, Le, 199 
Dessein au service de I'cducation, 

4L 315 

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 

Tendresses premises 
Eau, U, 188 
Ecce Homo, 2, 8 
Echo, 117 
Eclats d'obus, 2 
Effort, L 1 , 258 
Egiste, 228 

Electra, 227, 232, 233, 234, 236, 237 
Emile Verhaeren (Bazalgette), 31, 


Emile Verhaeren (Mockel), 145, 

156, 317 

Emile Verhaeren (Smet), 189, 318 
Emile Verhaeren (Zweig), 71, 108, 

159, 3^0 

En-avant, U, 249 
En sourdine, 2 
Enclos, U, 82 
Energie spirituelle, 315 
EnquSte sur Han Ryner, 30, 317 
Eperdument, 126 
Erinnerungen an Emil Verhaeren, 

267, 320 

Escaut, 184, see also Scheldt 
Escurial, 216 
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 
Eurydice, 240 

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 

FARIE, 316 

Father Christmas, 168 

Faust, 155, 304 

Femmes, Les, 247 

FERRIERE, 295, 316 

Ferryman, The, 190, 280, see also 
Passeur d'eau 

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 

FLINT, 320 

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- 

Forges, 89 

Foule, La, 179, 180, 181, 182, 250, 
see also Crowd 

FRANCK, 239 

Fray Bernardo, see Bernardo 

FREUD, 10, 17 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 
32, 36, 47, 51, 58, in, 146, 
205, 208, 235, 316 

Furies, 232 

George, Saint, see Saint George 
Glaive, Le, 118, 123 
GOETHE, 34, 155, 156, 158, 189, 
283, 302, 316 


Golgotha, 130 
Grdce, La, 154, 318 
Granges, Les, 81 
GREIG, 315 
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, 

239, 240 

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 
Hercule, 303 

Hercules, 21, 187, 255, 290, 308 
Hr&iien, 239, 240, 241 
Herenthals, 38, 213 
Ht'rcsiarch, L', 98 
Hernani, 208 
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 
HINKLE, 317 
HODGSON, Ralph, 10 
HODGSON, Shadworth, 35 
HODLER, 33, 70, 300 
Holy Office, 218 
Hommage, 183 
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, 

HumanM, 130 

Idol, The, 296 

Idole, L\ 136, 137, 140 

Ilion, 230 

Illusory Villages, 187, 190, see 

also Villages illusoires 
" Imago/' 58, 316 
Inconscience, 56, 119, 121 

Inferno, 240 

Infiniment, 117 

Instinct combatif, 90, 101, 315 

Interpretation of Dreams, 20, 316 

Isis, 148 

Ivresse, L 9 , 183 

Jacques d'Artevelde, 62, 63, 240 
JAMES, 36, 157, 299, 3^ 
JANET, 96 
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 

KANT, 25 

Kato, 79, 86, 244 

Kato, 78 

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 
Lear, 57 

Ltgende des Si&cles, 316 
LEPAIGE, 38, 213 
" Le Rythme," 30 
LEVY, 317 
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, 

19, 318 

Lois, Les, 147 
London, 133, 144 
Londres, 144 
Londres, 144 
Louvain, 84 
Louvre, 286 

Love Poems of Emile Verhaeren, 320 
"LOWELL, 318, 320 
Luther, 272 

Ma gerbe, 291 

Ma ville, 257, 267, see also Town 

Madeleine, 244 

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 

Marines, 83 

Marinette, 21 

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, 

233. 237 

Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, 317 

Mes doigts, 141 
Metamorphoses, 193 
Meules qui brftlent, 191 
Meurtre, Le, 138, 139 
Michel-Ange, 255 
Michelangelo, 272 

MlCHKLET, 199 

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 

MOLARS, 237 

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 
Nombres, 148 
N ombres, Les, 148, 149, 295, see 

also Numbers 
Noras, 57 
North Sea, 38 
Nos mattres, 30, 320 
Novembre, 165 
Numbers, 148 

Numbers, 191, see also Nombres 
Numidia, 42 
Numidie, 41 

Oedipus, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 
218, 220, 221, 223, 225, 229, 
231, 233, 235, 236, 237, 240, 

300* 305 

Oedipus at Colonus, 210 
Oedipus Complex, 219 
Oedipus Trilogy, 204 
Olivier (pseudonym of Warlomont), 


Oppidomagne, 240 
Or, L', 265 
Oreste, 228 
Orestes, 228 

Orgueil, L', 259, 284, 285 
Orpheus, 239, 279 
OTT, 30, 317 
OVID, 193 

Pan, 246 

Pdques, Les, 65 

Paradis, 42, 43, 295, 303 

Parcae, 57, 190 

Paris, 57, 267 

Parsifal, 121, 122 

Parsifal, 122 

Pas, Les, 50 

PASCAL, 304 

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 

Pegase, 283 

Pegase, 303 

Pegasus, 187, 281, 282, 283 

P&lerinage, 193, 194 

Penseur, Le, see Thinker 


Penseurs, Les t 67 


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 

PLATO, in 

Plays of Emile Verhaeren, 320 

Plus precieux des cinq sens, 118 

Pluto, 193 

Poems by Emile Verhaeren, 320 

Po&te de I'energie, see Emile 

Verhaeren (Mockel) 
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 
Prometheus, 203 
Proserpina, 193 
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 
Untergrund Expressionistischer 
Bilder, 33, 317 

Psychology of the Unconscious, 156, 

Quelques lettres de Verhaeren et 

de Holland, 274, 318 
Quelques traits de la vie de Jesus, 

33, 315 
Quelques-uns, 152 

Rameses, 256 

RANK, 25, 316, 317 

Recherche, La, 67 

Regency, 240 

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, 

138, 197 

" Revue de Th^ologie et de Philo- 
sophic/' 315 

" Revue Wagn6rienne," 29 

Rhin, 184 

RIBOT, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 
29, 35. 36, 317, 3i8 

RlGNANO, l8, 318 

Rispaire, Duke of, 223, see also 

Dom Balthazar 

Roc, Le, 118, 120, 122, 133, 142 
RODIN, 152 
Rodolphe (Verhaeren's pseudonym), 


Roland, un symbole, 33, 155, 320 
ROLLAND, 274, 275, 318 
Rome, 256, 261, 262 
Ropemakeys, The, 190, 298, see 

also Cordiers 
ROUBAKINE, 295, 318 
ROUSSEAU, 79, 96 
Rues, Les, 114 
RYNER, 30 
" 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, 

303, 319 

Sadler, 320 

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 
Saint-Office, 217 
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 


Satan, 194 

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 

Sicile, 187 

Sicily, 187 

Sirfcnes, 187, 188 

Sirens, 186, 187, 188, 189 

Siva, 144 

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 

Souvenir, 161 

Sovran Rhythms, 185 

Sower, 269 

SPIESS, 118 

SPITTELER, 220, 275, 303 

STAL, 189 

Stock Exchange, 264 

Stockholm, 52 


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, 


Suppliants, 203 
Symbole chez Verhaeren, 2 
SYMONS, 320 

Tabor, 181 

Tamise, 134 

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 
Thabor, 181 
Thames, 134 
Thatched Roofs, 113, see also 


248, 261, 264, 281 
Thinker, The, 152 
This Evening, 311-313 
Three Contributions to the Theory 

of Sex, 235, 316 
Thyades, 234 
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 
Truandailles, 71 
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, 

Venus, 244 


Vergers, Les, 85 
VERHAEREN, Adele, 38 
VERHAEREN, Emile, passim 
VERHAEREN, Gustave, 38, 88, 213, 


Vers la mer, 185, see also Towards 

the Sea 
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 
" Wallonie, La," 118 
Wandlungen und Symbole der 

Libido, 317 
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 

Zarathustra, 159 
ZOLA, 83 

ZWEIG, 71, 108, 159, 267, 274, 
275, 320