Quote-of-the-Month author: American poet the late Richard Brautigan

Thursday, 25 September 2008

A Franco-Belgian Symbolist

The Franco-Belgian poet and symbolist Emile Verhaeren (1855 - 1916) in Zweig's opinion (see below), gave Europe what Walt Whitman gave to America - faith in the times and in the future.
In these times when our faith in the times and in the future is constantly tested and sometimes found wanting we may reflect on our life and times using a couple of Emile Verhaeren's poems as candles in the wind.
The poems Tenebrae and Infinitely render an atmosphere reminiscent of some of the best scenes in Zola's epic novel Germinal.
But remember that in this art, scenes from nature and human activity, and all other real phenomena will not be described for their own sake: here they are perceptible surfaces created to represent their esoteric affinities with primordial ideals as the Symbolist Manifesto (Figaro 1886)informs.
Wallace Stevens, a poet insured up to the hilt as R S Thomas famously remarked and previously featured here on Poet-in-Residence, was one who carried the torch prominently onward and in his own inimitable style.

Tenebrae

A moon, with vacant, chilling eye, stares
At the winter, enthroned vast and white upon the hard ground;
The night is an entire and translucent azure;
The wind, a blade of sudden presence, stabs.

Far away, on the skylines, the long pathways of frost,
Seen, in the distance, to pierce the expanses,
And stars of gold, suspended to the zenith,
Always higher, amid the ether, to rend the blue of the sky.

The villages crouched in the plains of Flanders,
Near the rivers, the heather, and the great forests,
Between two pale infinities, shiver with cold,
Huddled near old hearthsides, where they stir the ashes.


Infinitely

The hounds of despair, the hounds of the autumnal wind,
Gnaw with their howling the black echoes of evenings.
The darkness, immensley, gropes in the emptiness
For the moon, seen by the light of water.

From point to point, over there, the distant lights,
And in the sky, above, dreadful voices
Coming and going from the infinity of the marshes and plains
To the infinity of the valleys and the woods.

And the roadways that stretch out like sails
And pass each other, coming unfolded in the distance, soundlessly,
While lengthening beneath the stars,
Through the shadows and the terror of the night.


Emile Verhaeren (1855 - 1916)

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