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Maeterlinck Poems
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Lo, the diver, forever within his bell!

And a whole sea of glass, a sea eternally warm!

A whole motionless world, a world of slow green rhythms!

So many curious creatures beyond those walls of glass,

And any contact eternally prohibited!

And yet there is so much life in those bright waters yonder!

Look! The shadows of great sailing-ships – they glide over the flowers, the
     dahlias of the submarine forest!

And I stand for a moment in the shadow of whales that are voyaging to the Pole!

And at this very moment, I doubt not, my fellow-men in the harbour

Are discharging the vessels that sail hither laden with ice:

A glacier was there, in the midst of the July meadows!

And men are swimming and floating in the green waters of the creek,

And at noon they enter shadowy cav­erns . . .

And the breezes of ocean are fanning the roofs and balconies.

Lo, the flaming tongues of the Gulf­-Stream!

Take heed lest their kisses touch the walls of lassitude!

They have ceased to lay ice on the brows of the fevered

And the patients have lit a bonfire

And are casting great handfuls of green lilies into the flames!

Lean your brows upon the cooler panes,

While waiting for the moonlight to enter the bell from above.

And close your eyes tightly, to the forest of colour,

The pendulous blues and albuminous violets.

And close your ears to the suggestions of the tepid water.

Dry the brows of your desires; they are weak with sweat.

Go firstly to those on the point of swooning.

They have the air of people celebrating a wedding in a dungeon,

Or of people entering, at mid-day, a long lamp-lit avenue underground,

In festival procession they are passing

Thro' a landscape like an orphaned child­hood.

Go now to those about to die:

They move like virgins who have wandered far

In the sun, on a day of fast,

They are pale as patients who placidly listen to the rain in the gardens of the hospital;

They have the look of survivors, breaking their fast on a battle-field;

They are like prisoners who know that all their gaolers are bathing in the river,

And who hear men mowing the grass in the garden of the prison.


Now my desires no more, alas,

     Summon my soul to my eyelids' brink,

For with its prayers that ebb and pass

     It too must sink,

To lie in the depth of my closed eyes;

     Only the flowers of its weary breath

Like icy blooms to the surface rise,

     Lilies of death.

Its lips are sealed, in the depths of woe,

     And a world away, in the far-off gloom,

They sing of azure stems that grow

     A mystic bloom.

But, lo, its fingers – I have grown

     Pallid beholding them, I who perceive

Them trace the marks its poor unblown

     Lost lilies leave.

And I know it must die, for its hour is o'er;

     Folding its impotent hands at last,

Hands too weary to pluck any more

     The flowers of the past!


I watch the hours of long ago:

     Their blue and secret depths I set

     Under the burning-glass, Regret,

And watch a happier flora blow.

Hold up the glass o'er my desires!

     Behold them through my soul, a glass!

     At memory's touch the withered grass

Breaks forth into devouring fires.

Now above my thoughts I hold

     The azure crystal, in whose heart

     Suddenly unfolding start

The leaves of agonies borne of old,

Until those nights remote I see

     Even to memory dead so long

     That their sullen tears do wrong

To the green soul of hopes to be.


Under the brimming tide of dreams,

     O, my soul is full of fear!

     In my heart the moon is clear;

Deep it lies in the tide of dreams.

Under the listless reeds asleep,

     Only the deep reflection shows

     Of palm, of lily and of rose,

Weeping yet in the waters deep.

And the flowers, late and soon,

     Fall upon the mirrored sky,

     To sink and sink eternally

Thro' dreamy waters and the moon.


All the tears that I have shed,

     All my kisses, lo, they pass

     Thro' my mind as in a glass:

All my kisses whose joy is dead.

There are flowers without a hue,

     Lilies that under the moonlight fade,

     Moonlight over the meadows laid,

Fountains far on the sky-line blue.

Weary and heavy with slumber I

     See thro' the lids that slumber closes

     Crows that gather amid the roses,

Sick folk under a sunbright sky.

Of these vague loves the weary smart

     Shines unchanging, late and soon,

     Like a pale slow-moving moon

Sadly into my indolent heart.


Thou know'st, O Lord, my spirit's dearth:

     Thou see'st the worth of what I bring:

The evil blossoms of the earth,

     The light upon a perished thing.

Thou see'st my sick and weary mood:

     The moon is dark, the dawn is slain.

Thy glory on my solitude

     Shed Thou like fructifying rain.

Light Thou, O Lord, beneath my feet

     The way my weary soul should pass,

For now the pain of all things sweet

     Is piteous as the ice-bound grass.


O, all these poor weary glances!

And yours, and mine!

And those that are no more, and those to be!

And those that will never be, and yet exist!

There are those that seem to visit the poor on a Sabbath;

There are some like sick folk who are houseless,

There are some like lambs in a meadow full of bleaching linen,

And O, these strange unwonted glances!

Under the vaults of some we behold

A maiden being put to death in a chamber with closed doors.

And some make us dream of unknown sorrows,

Of peasants at the windows of a factory,

Of a gardener turned weaver,

Of a summer afternoon in a wax-work show,

Of the thoughts of a queen on beholding a sick man in a garden,

Of an odour of camphor in the forest,

Of a princess locked in a tower on a day of rejoicing,

Of men sailing all the week on the stagnant waters of a canal.

Have pity on those that come creeping forth like convalescents at harvest-­tide!

Have pity on those that have the air of children who have lost their way at

Have pity on the glances of the wounded man at the surgeon,

Like tents stricken by a hurricane!

Have pity on the glances of the virgin tempted!

(Rivers of milk are flowing away in the darkness,

And the swans have died in the midst of serpents!)

And the gaze of the virgin who surrenders!

Princesses deserted in swamps that have no issue,

And those eyes in which you may see ships in full sail, lit up by flashes of the

And how pitiful are all those glances which suffer because they are not elsewhere!

And so much suffering, so indistinguishable and yet so various!

And those glances that no one will ever un­derstand!

And those poor glances which are all but dumb!

And those poor whispering glances!

And those poor stifled glances!

Amid some of these you might think your­self in a mansion serving as hospital,

And many others have the air of tents, lilies of war, on the little lawn of the

And many others have the air of wounded men tended in a hot-house!

Or Sisters of Charity on an ocean devoid of patients.

Oh, to have encountered all these glances,

To have admitted them all,

And to have exhausted mine thereby!

And henceforth to be unable to close mine eyes!


My soul her unused hands to pray

Folds, that hide the world away:

Lord, my broken dreams complete,

That Thine angels' lips repeat.

While beneath my wearied eyes

She breathes the prayers that in her rise –

Prayers that find my lids a tomb,

And whose lilies may not bloom:

While in dreams her barren breast

Hushes 'neath my gaze to rest –

Still her eyes from perils cower,

Such as wake by falsehood's power.


Mine eyes have snared my soul. But O,

     Grant me, O Lord, my one desire:

Let fall Thy leaves upon the snow,

     Let fall Thy rain upon the fire.

The sun upon my pillow plays,

     The self-same hours they sound again,

And always falls my questing gaze

     On dying men that harvest grain.

My hands they pluck the withered grass,

     Mine eyes with sleep are all undone,

Are sick folk in a springless pass,

     Or flowers of darkness in the sun.

When will my dreams unchanging know

     The rain, and when the meadows brown?

Along the far horizon, lo,

     The lambs are herded toward the town.


Dreams within mine eyes remain,

     And beneath its crystal dome

     Lights my soul its somewhile home,

Taps upon the azure pane.

Houses of the listless soul!

     Up the panes the lilies creep;

     Reeds unfold in waters deep,

Longings nought shall e'er make whole!

Closing eyes it all but seems

     Past oblivion I could hold

     All the rosy flowers of old

Of my half-remembered dreams:

Their leaves are dead and scattered far;

     Shall I not see them verdant soon

     When with her azure hands the moon

In silence sets the gates ajar?


Have pity on the eyes morose

     Wherein the soul its hope reveals;

On fated things that ne'er unclose,

     And all who wait what night conceals.

Ripples that rock the spirit's lake!

     Lilies that sway beneath the tide

To threads the eternal rhythms shake!

     O powers that close to vision hide!

Behold, O Lord, unwonted flowers

     Among the water-lilies white!

Dim hands of Thine angelic powers

     Trouble the waters of my sight:

At mystic signs the buds unroll,

     Shed on the waters from the skies,

And as the swans take flight my soul

     Spreads the white pinions of its eyes.


The sense of contact!

Darkness lies between your fingers!

The cries of brazen instruments in a tem­pest!

The music of organs in the sunlight!

All the flocks of the soul in the depths of a night of eclipse!

All the salt of the sea on the grass of the meadows!

And the blaze of blue lightning on every horizon!

(Have pity on this human sense!)

But O these sadder, wearier contacts!

O the touch of your poor moist hands!

I hear your pure fingers as they glide be­tween mine,

And flocks of lambs are departing by moon­light

Along the banks of a misty river.

I can remember all the hands that have touched my hands,

And again I see all that was protected by those hands,

And I see to-day what I was, protected by those cool hands.

I was often the beggar who gnaws his crust on the steps of a throne.

I was sometimes the diver, who no longer can evade the surging waters!

I was often a whole people no longer able to escape from the town!

And some hands were like a convent with­out a garden!

And some confined me like a group of in­valids in a glass-house on a rainy day!

Until other cooler hands should come to set the doors ajar,

And sprinkle a little water upon the threshold!

O, I have known strange contacts,

And here they surround me forever!

Some were wont to give alms on a day of sunshine,

Some gathered a harvest in the depths of a cavern,

And the music of mountebanks was heard outside the prison.

There were wax-work figures in the summer woods,

And elsewhere the moon had swept the whole oasis,

And at times I found a virgin, flushed and sweating, in a grotto of ice!

Pity these strange hands!

These hands contain the secrets of all the kings!

Pity these hands too pale!

They seem to have emerged from the cav­erns of the moon!

They are worn with spinning threads from the distaffs of fountains!

Pity these hands, too white, too moist!

They are like princesses that slumber at noon all the summer through.

Avoid these hard, harsh hands!

They seem to have issued from the rocks!

But pity these cold hands!

I see a heart bleeding under ribs of ice!

And O, have pity on these evil hands,

For these have poisoned the springs!

They have set young cygnets in a nest of hemlock!

I have seen the angels of evil open the gates at noon!

Here are only madmen on a pestilent river!

Here are black sheep only in starless pas­tures!

And lambs hasting away to graze in dark­ness!

But O these cool faithful hands!

They come to offer ripe fruits to the dying!

They bring clear cold water in their palms!

They water the battlefields with milk!

They have surely come from wonderful and eternally virgin forests!


My soul is sick at the end of all,

Sick and sad, being weary too,

Weary of being so vain, so vain,

Weary and sad at the end of all,

And O I long for the touch of you!

I long for your hands upon my face;

Snow-cold as spirits they will be;

I wait until they bring the ring.

I wait for their coolness over my face

Like a treasure deep in the sea.

I wait to know their healing spell,

Lest in the desolate sun I die,

So that I die not out in the sun;

O bathe mine eyes and make them well,

Where things unhappy slumbering lie.

Where many swans upon the sea,

Swans that wander over the sea,

Stretch forth their mournful throats in vain;

In wintry gardens by the sea

Sick men pluck roses in their pain.

I long for your hands upon my face;

Snow-cold as spirits they will be,

And soothe my aching sight, alas!

My vision like the withered grass

Where listless lambs irresolute pass!

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