copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)                                             
Click Here to return to
Maeterlinck Poems
Content Page

Click Here to Return to
Previous Page




My soul is sick, in evil mood;

     Stricken with many a lack it lies,

     Stricken with silence, and mine eyes

Illume it with their lassitude.

Arrested visions of the chase

     Obsess me; memory whips them on;

     The sleuth-hounds of Desire are gone

On fading scents-a weary race.

In misty woods the hunt is met;

     The questing packs of dreams depart;

     Toward the white stags of falsehood dart

The jaundiced arrows of regret.

Ah, my desires! For breath they swoon!

     The weary longings of mine eyes

     Have clouded with their azure sighs,

Within my soul, the flooding moon!


Narrow paths my passions tread:

     Laughter rings there, sorrow cries;

     Sick and sad, with half-shut eyes,

Thro' the leaves the woods have shed,

My sins like yellow mongrels slink;

     Uncouth hyaenas, my hates complain,

     And on the pale and listless plain

Couching low, love's lions blink.

Powerless, deep in a dream of peace,

     Sunk in a languid spell they lie,

     Under a colourless, desolate sky,

There they gaze and never cease,

Where like sheep temptations graze,

     One by one departing slow:

     In the moon's unchanging glow

My unchanging passions gaze.


A woman's fears my heart control:

     What have I done with these, my part,

My hands, the lilies of my soul,

     Mine eyes, the heavens of my heart?

O Lord, have pity on my grief:

     I have lost the palm and ring, alas!

Pity my prayers, my poor relief,

     Cut flowers and fragile in a glass.

Pity the trespass of my mouth,

     And things undone, and words unsaid,

Shed lilies on my fever's drouth,

     And roses on the marshes shed!

O God! The doves whose flights are gold

     On heavens remembered! Pity too

These garments that my loins enfold,

     That rustle round me, dimly blue!


Here are the old desires that pass,

     The dreams of weary men, that die,

The dreams that faint and fail, alas!

     And there the days of hope gone by!

Where to fly shall we find a place?

     Never a star shines late or soon:

Weariness only with frozen face,

     And sheets of blue in the icy moon.

Behold the fireless sick, and lo!

     The sobbing victims of the snare!

Lambs whose pasture is only snow!

     Pity them all, O Lord, my prayer!

For me, I wait the awakening call:

     I pray that slumber leave me soon.

I wait until the sunlight fall

     On hands yet frozen by the moon.


Proud, indifferent, slow, they have fled, they have flown away,

     The peacocks white as snow, lest weariness awake;

I see the birds of snow, the white birds of To-day,

     The birds that fly away before my slumber break;

Proud, indifferent, slow, the white birds of To-day,

     Winning with indolent flight the shores of the sunless lake;

The birds of listless thought, I hear them on their way,

     Indolently waiting for the sunless day to break.


The hospital!

The hospital on the banks of the canal,

The hospital, and the month July!

They are lighting a fire in the ward,

While the Atlantic steamers are whistling on the canal!

(Do not go near the windows!)

Here are emigrants loitering through a palace,

And I see a yacht in a tempest!

And herds of cattle on all the ships!

(It is better to keep the windows fastened,

Then we are all but safe from the outside world!)

One thinks of a forcing-frame placed upon a snow-drift,

Or a woman being churched on a day of thunder;

One catches a glimpse of plants scattered upon a blanket;

And a conflagration on a sunny day,

And I pass through a forest full of wounded men. . . .

O, here at last is the moonlight!

A fountain is playing in the middle of the ward!

And a troop of little girls has opened the door!

And lo, a glimpse of lambs in an isle of meadows!

And beautiful plants on a glacier!

And lilies in a hall of marble!

There is a banquet in a virgin forest,

And the vegetation of the tropics in a cav­ern of ice!

Listen! They are opening the locks,

And the ocean steamers are churning the waters of the canal!

But see, the Sister of Charity is making up the fire!

All the lovely green rushes of the banks are in flames

And a boat full of wounded men is tossing in the moonlight!

All the king's daughters are out in a boat in the storm!

And the princesses are dying in a field of hemlock!

Oh, do not unfasten the windows!

Listen – the ocean steamers are still hoot­ing on the horizon!

They are poisoning some one in a garden!

They are holding a splendid festival in the houses of the enemy!

There are deer in a beleaguered city!

And a menagerie in a garden of lilies!

And the jungle of the tropics in the depths of a coal-mine!

A flock of sheep is crossing an iron bridge!

And the lambs have come from the mead­ows and are mournfully entering the ward!

Now the Sister of Charity is lighting the lamps;

Now she is bringing the patients their supper,

She has closed the windows upon the canal,

And all the doors to the light of the moon!


Below the somnolence of prayer,

     Under languid visions I

     Hear the passions surge and cry:

Lust with lust is warring there.

Thro' the lassitude of dreams

     Shines the moon as thro' a mesh;

     And the wandering joy of flesh

Still on pestilent beaches gleams.

Under ever-shrouded skies,

     Thirsting for their starry fires,

     Thro' my veins I hear desires

Toward the green horizon rise.

Evil fondnesses I hear

     Blackly surging through my mind.

     Phantom marshes vanish blind

Sudden on the sky-line drear.

O Lord, thy wrath will slay me soon:

     Have pity on me, Lord, I pray!

     Sweating and sick, O let me stray

Thro' pastures glimmering in the moon.

For now, O Lord, the time is nigh

     To rase the hemlock with the steel,

     Whose moon my secret hopes reveal

Green as a serpent in the sky;

And the plague of dreams mine eyes

     Smites, and all its sins subdue,

     And the rustling fountains blue

Toward the sovereign moon arise.


I mourn the lips of yesterday,

     Lips whose kisses are yet unborn,

     And the old desires outworn,

Under sorrows hid away.

Always rain on the far sky-line;

     Always snow on the beaches gleams,

     While by the bolted gate of dreams

Crouching wolves in the grasses whine;

Into my listless soul I gaze:

     With clouded eyes I search the past,

     At all the long-spilt blood aghast

Of lambs that died in wintry ways.

Only the moon her mournful fires

     Enkindles, and a desolate light

     Falls where the autumn frosts are white

Over my famishing desires.


I sing the pale ballades of eld,

     Of kisses lost without reward,

     And lo, on love's luxurious sward,

The nuptials of the sick are held.

Voices thro' my slumber sound:

     Listlessly they gather near.

     Lilies bloom in closes where

Star nor sun hath blessed the ground.

And lo, these ghosts of old desire,

     These lagging throbs of impulse crost,

     Are paupers in a palace lost,

Sick tapers in the auroral fire.

When shall the moon my vision bathe,

     That seeks to plumb the eternal streams

     Of darkness, and about my dreams

Her slow cerulean raiment swathe?


At length the consecrating hour is here

     That sains the slave's extenuated sleep.

And I who wait shall see its hands appear,

     Full of white roses in these caverns deep.

I wait – at length to feel its cooling wind

     Strike on my heart, impregnable to lies,

A paschal lamb lost amid marshes blind,

     A wound o'er which the surging waters rise.

I wait – for nights no morrow shall defy,

     I wait – for weakness nothing shall avail;

To feel upon my hands its shadow lie,

     To see in peaceful tides its image pale.

I wait until those nights of thine shall show

     All my desires with cleansed eyes go by;

For then my dreams shall bathe in evening's glow,

     And then within their crystal castle die.

Click the book image to continue to the next chapter