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Maeterlinck Poems
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And in his hand a glass which shows us many more. – SHAKESPEARE.


O hot-house deep in the forest's heart!

O doors forever sealed!

Lo, all that lives beneath thy dome,

And in my soul, and the likeness of these things!

The thoughts of a princess who is sick with hunger,

The listless mood of a mariner in the desert,

And brazen music at the windows

Of men who are sick to death!

Seek out the coolest corners

And you think of a woman who has swooned on a day of harvest.

Postillions have entered the courtyard of the hospital,

And yonder goes an Uhlan who has turned sick-nurse.

Behold it all by moonlight!

(Nothing, nothing is in its rightful place!)

And you think of a madwoman haled before the judges,

A warship in full sail on the waters of a canal,

Birds of the night perched among lilies,

And the knell of a passing-bell at the midday hour of Angelus.

And yonder – beneath those domes of glass –

A group of sick folk halted amid the meadows,

An odour of ether abroad on the sunny air!

My God, my God, when shall we feel the rain

And the snow, and the wind, in this close house of glass?


O pity me that wander hence

     To haunt the precincts of intent;

My soul is pale with impotence,

     Colorless and indolent.

A soul for action all too weak,

     Pallid with tears, it vainly heeds

The weary hands that idly seek

     To grapple with abortive deeds.

Forth from my slumbering heart exhale

     The purple bubbles of its dream;

My soul, with waxen hands and frail,

     Pours forth a drowsy lunar gleam,

A listless light that dimly shows

     The faded lilies of days unborn;

A languid light that only throws

     The shadows of those hands forlorn.


O blue monotony of my heart!

     Blue with languor are my dreams,

     When the mournful moonlight seems

Clearer vision to impart:

Blue as is the house of shade,

     Close within whose lofty green

     Casements whose pellucid screen

Seems of crystal moonlight made,

Mighty vegetations rise,

     Whose nocturnal shadow deep,

     Silent as a charmed sleep,

Over passion's roses lies;

Where slow-rising waters gleam,

     Mingling moon and heaven, and throb

     In one eternal glaucous sob,

Monotonously as in a dream.


Green as the sea, temptations creep

     Thro' the shadows of the mind,

     Where with flaming flowers entwined

Dark ejaculations leap –

Stems obscure that coil and thrust

     In the moon's unhallowed glow,

     And autumnal shadows throw

Of their auguries of lust.

And the moon may hardly shine

     Thro' their fevered fast embrace:

     Limb and slimy limb enlace,

Emerald and serpentine.

Sacrilegiously they grow,

     And their secret will reveal,

     Dismal as regrets that steal

O'er men dying in the snow;

And their mournful shadows hide

     Tangled wounds that mark the thrust

     Of the azure swords of lust

In the crimson flesh of pride.

When will the dreams of earth, alas,

     Find in my heart their final tomb?

     O let Thy glory, Lord, illume

This dark and evil house of glass,

And that oblivion nought may win!

     The dead leaves of their fevers fall,

     The stars amid their lips, and all

The viscerae of woe and sin!


O domes of crystal!

O curious plants forever sheltered,

While the wind stirs my senses here without!

A valley of the soul forever undisturbed!

O humid warmth at noon!

O shifting pictures glimpsed in the crystal walls!

Never lift one of these!

Some have been set on ancient pools of moonlight.

Peer through the prisoned foliage:

There you may see a beggar upon a throne,

Or maybe pirates, lurking upon a pond,

Or antediluvian beasts about to invade the cities!

Some have been set on ancient drifts of snow,

And some on pools of rain long fallen.

(O pity the imprisoned air!)

I hear them keeping

Carnival on a Sabbath in time of famine,

I see an ambulance in the midst of the fields of harvest,

And all the king's daughters, on a day of fast,

Are wandering through the meadows!

Mark more especially those on the horizon!

Carefully they cover the tempests of long ago.

Somewhere, I think, you will see a great armada, sailing across a swamp!

And there the brooding swans have hatched a nest of crows!

(It is hard to see through the veil of moisture.)

And a maiden is watering the heath with steaming water,

A troop of little girls is watching the hermit in his cell,

And I see my sisters asleep in the depth of a poisonous cavern!

Wait until the moonlight, wait until the winter

Shall cover these domes of crystal set amid ice and snow!


I bring my piteous work, in form

     Like the dreaming of a corse,

And the moon illumes the storm

     O'er the creatures of remorse.

There the purple snakes of dream

     Writhing twine till sleep be done;

Crowned with swords, my longings gleam;

     Lions whelmed in the sun,

Lilies in waters desolate,

     Clenched hands that may not move,

And the ruddy stems of hate,

     'Mid the emerald woes of love

Lord, pity our mortal speech!

     O that my prayers, morose and dim,

And the dishevelled moon may reach

     And reap the night to the world's rim!


'Neath the azure crystal bell

     Of my listless melancholy

     All my formless sorrows slowly

Sink to rest, and all is well;

Symbols all, the plants entwine:

     Water lilies, flowers of pleasure,

     Palms desirous, slow with leisure,

Frigid mosses, pliant vine.

'Mid them all a lily only,

     Pale and fragile and unbending,

     Imperceptibly ascending

In that place of leafage lonely

Like a moon the prisoned air

     Fills with glimmering light wherethro'

     Rises to the crystal blue,

White and mystical, its prayer.


The dark brings vision to mine eyes:

     Through my desires they seek their goal.

     O nights within my humid soul,

O heart to dreams that open lies!

With azure reveries I bedew

     The roses of attempts undone;

     My lashes close the gates upon

The longings that will ne'er come true.

My pallid indolent fingers plant

     Ever in vain, at close of day,

     The emerald bells of hope that lay

Over the purple leaves of want.

Helpless, my soul beholds with dread

     The bitter musings of my lips,

     Amid the crowding lily-tips:

O that this wavering heart were dead!


My soul!

O my soul, verily too closely sheltered!

And the flocks of my desires, imprisoned in a house of glass!

Waiting until the tempest shall break over the meadows!

Come first to these, so sick and fragile:

From these a strange effluvium rises,

And lo, it seems I am with my mother,

Crossing a field of battle.

They are burying a brother-in-arms at noon,

While the sentinels are snatching a meal.

Now let us go to the feeblest:

They are covered with a strange sweat.

Here is an ailing bride,

And a treacherous act, committed upon a Sabbath,

And little children in prison,

And yonder, yonder through the mist,

Do I see there a woman, dying at the door of a kitchen,

Or a Sister of Charity shelling peas at the bedside of a dying patient?

Last of all let us go to the saddest:

(Last of all, for these are venom'd.)

Oh, my lips are pressed by the kisses of a wounded man!

In the castles of my soul this summer all the chatelaines have died of hunger!

Now it is twilight on the morning of a day of festival!

I catch a glimpse of sheep along the quays,

And there is a sail by the windows of the hospital.

The road is long from my soul to my heart,

And all the sentinels have died at their post!

One day there was a poor little festival in the suburbs of my soul:

They were mowing the hemlock there, one Sunday morning.

And all the maiden women of the convent were watching the vessels passing,

On the canal, one sunny fast-day.

But the swans were ailing, in the shadow of the rotting bridge.

They were lopping the trees about the prison,

They were bringing remedies, on an afternoon of June,

And in every quarter there were sick folk feasting!

Alas, my soul,

And alas, the sadness of all these things!


These lips have long forgotten to bestow

Their kiss on blind eyes chiller than the snow,

Henceforth absorbed in their magnificent dream.

Drowsy as hounds deep in the grass they seem;

They watch the grey flocks on the sky-line pass,

Browsing on moonlight scattered o'er the grass,

By skies as vague as their own life caressed.

They see, unvexed by envy or unrest,

The roses of joy that open on every hand,

The long green peace they cannot understand.

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