They understood that the earnest and single- minded endeavour applied to the arts must have its counterpart in other branches of the national life. That this was the case, is now eibundantly proved. We, in the English-speaking countries, are asking ourselves how we could liave so misunderstood the French people.
But to be misunderstood has been the lot of Frenchmen when dealing with Anglo-Saxons from time immemorial. The bar of language has something to do with it, un- doubtedly. Another reason is the unfortunate attitude of our scliools and colleges, which always assume that everything worthy to be called literature, and therefore studied, ceased, in every country, a generation or two ago. This has prevented the mass of English-speaking VI Preface people from realizing that France has just been passing through one of the great poetical epochs of her career — one of the great poetical epochs of the world.
It may be argued that during this period she has pro- duced no poet of the first order. No poet to rank with Homer, or Shakespeare, or Dante. Beginning with Lamartine and Victor Hugo, France has been having a succession of remarkable poets for eighty years. The war will end this period, perforce. For whatever great poets may arise after the war will belong to a new era. So titanic an upheaval as the present war must snap the period which preceded it off short.
It seems a fitting moment, then, to stop and take our bearings ; and it seems a fitting moment to introduce to those English-speaking readers not already familiar with them the last poets of an era just closing. The poets I have chosen for this volume belong to the generation immediately succeeding that of Verlaine and Mallarme.
They are, with the exception of one, all alive to-day. But they arc in no sense to be ranked with les jeunes. They are men of middle age and undisputed fame, and, were French taught as it ought to be, their names would be household words with us as they are in their native land. So far, however, is this from Ixjing the case, that few libraries contain all their works, and of the mass of criti- cal writings which has sprung up about them, only a Preface Vll scattered volume here and there is obtainable.
These facts have been brought to my notice again and again, and it is because of them that the present volume has seemed to fill a need. I am farther emboldened by the very kind reception which the lectures received, and by the fact that, to my knowledge, there is no other English book which covers the same ground. In the following essays, I have pursued a slightly dif- ferent arrangement from the one usual in such cases.
Instead of first giving a biographical account of the man, and then a critical survey of his work, I have followed his career as he lived it, and taken the volumes in the order in which they were written. I have tried to give the reader the effect of having known the man and read his books as they were published, commenting upon them as they came along. I have made no attempt at an exhaustive critical analysis of the various works of these authors. Rather, I have tried to suggest certain things which appear to the trained poet while reading them.
The pages and pages of hair-splitting criticism turned out by erudite gentle- viii Preface men for their own amusement, has been no part of my scheme. But I think the student, the poet seeking new inspiration, the reader endeavouring to understand another poetic idiom, will find what they need to set them on their way. I have given many quotations — as the best way to study an author is to read him — and for the convenience of those readers, well versed in French prose but not yet fully at home in French poetry, translations of the poems will be found in an appendix.
The translations are in prose. Verse translations must always depart somewhat from the original, on account of the exigencies of rhyme and metre.
Aïe Aïe Aïe !
As my desire was not to make English poems about a French original, but to make the French poems in the text understandable, I have sacrificed the form to the content. By reading them, and then turning to the original and reading it aloud in French, those least versed in the tongue will get an idea of the music of the poem, while at the same time understanding it.
In order not to tease those readers perfectly ac- quainted with French, no figures nor asterisks appear in the text, but each translation is accompanied by the number of the page on which the original is to be found. Another appendix contains bibliographies of the works of each author and a bibliography of books upon the subject, for the use of those who wish to pursue it farther.
In preparing this volume thanks are due to M. Arthur Hutchinson Mile. Magdeleine Garret for invaluable assis- tance and infonnation, — to her intimate knowledge of her own language, unerring taste, and trained critical faculty, I owe all that I have been able to acquire of the French tongue; to Mile. Jeanne Charon, for valuable suggestions of technical detail ; and to Mr. June 24, It is with a profound sense of personal loss that I record the death of M. By his death France loses one of the greatest and most sincere artists of his generation. And I felt that I had a right to include him among French poets since he wrote in French.
Now, the name of Emile Verhaeren is not only the best known name of my group, but a very well known name indeed. Newspapers and magazines are full of his fame, various publishers are issuing translations of his poems, and a translation of a German biography of him appeared a year ago. But the most impor- tant thing which time has effected in his regard is to divorce him forever from the stream of French literature.
He ranks now, not only as the prophet of a new era, but as the authentic voice of a dead era. And even if in time the invaders are driven out, and Belgium is able to continue herself politically, it will be long before 3 4 Six French Poets she will have leisure to devote her energies again to the arts.
When that time does come, we may be very sure that it will be a different civilization with which the arts will have to deal. The pathetic splendour of circumstance, therefore, must always hang over Verhaeren's work, and enhance its natural greatness still farther. Future ages will not only study him as a great poet, but as an accurate por- trayer of life in Belgium before the war.
His artistic value, for many years at least, is bound to be overshadowed by his historic value. He stands out as the finest flower of a ruined country, and as such can never again be contemplated as merely walking step by step with the writers of any other country, no matter how great.
To-day, Verhaeren is a man sixty years old, with twenty-three volumes of poems, thnx. He has been writing for over thirty years, and has had a great influence upon young writers all over the world. It is in this connection which we shall con- sider him here. What future work he will do will belong to that after-the-war period which we can Emile Verhaeren 5 only dimly foresee.
At the actual time of writing, Verhaeren has fled to England, where he has found an asylum and sympathetic friends. Vigorous as he is, the poems which he may write there will belong to a new epoch in his career, and with them future students of his work will have to deal. Our con- sideration of him ends with the war. In understanding Verhaeren, one must first under- stand the conditions into which he was born. One of the great interests in his poetry is the effect it has had in changing and modifying those conditions. Such fecundity is astonishing, and has called out a large number of N'olumes devoted to the study of so remarkable a phenomenon.
Albert Heumann points out that "a fecund and independent literature commonly exists in a country of perfect material prosperity, and of an absolute political autonomy. Since , when Belgium forced herself upon the Powers as a separate nation and elected a king to suit herself, she has enjoyed extraordinary prosperity. The enormous energy of the people has developed their unusual natural facilities to the fullest extent.
There are the coal fields in the Boisinage district near Mons, and in the neighbourhood of Liege. There are iron mines, and iron and steel works, at Charleroi and Liege. There are quarries of marble, granite, and slate. Ghent is the capital of a vast textile industry ; and lace is manufactured all over the country, Brussels point being famous throughout the world. But this is not all, Belgium carries on or, alas! Antwerp is one of the largest and most important ports in the world. In fact, it has about six and one-half millions of acres under cul- tivation. In this little bit of a country, less than half as big as the state of Maine, such an acreage is enormous.
But side by side with this booming modernism lives the other Belgium — mystic, superstitious — where moss-grown monasteries stand beside sluggish canals, and the angelus rings across flat, wind-blown Emile V erhaeren 7 fields. Belgium is a strange mixture of activities, races, and opinions. Roman Catholics and Socialists dispute for control of the government, and authors write and publish in German and French, some fanatics even insist on doing so in Flemish, and agitate to have Flemish taught in the schools, a desire Avith which the Celtic movement in Ireland has made us familiar.
His father, Gustave Verhaeren, was the son of a cloth merchant of Brussels. His mother was a Mile. Debock, a na- tive of Saint-Amand, where her brother was pro- prietor of an oil plant. And presumably Gustave Verhaeren chose to live in Saint-Amand on account of his wife's connection in the country. The Ver- haerens were probably of Dutch extraction, but the Debocks were certainly French some centuries before, it is needless to say, as both families can be traced to different parts of Belgium in the eighteenth century.
Curiously enough, only PVench was spoken in lustave Verhaeren's household, and the servants all came from Liege. Emile Verhaeren has never known Flemish, although he took some lessons in it from the schoolmaster in the village, when he was seven years old. Saint-Amand stands in a country of wide hori- 8 Six French Poets zons, where windmills stretch out their arms to the sky, and broad clouds sweep over it, trailing their shadows on the flat plain below. It is a grey, northern country, of fogs and strong winds. His poems are full of weather. Gustave Verhaeren, his wife and little son, lived in a cottage of their own, with a garden blazing full of flowers.
Behind it stretched the fields of yellow wheat, and close beside it ran the slow river. In one of his last books, Verhaeren has described his childhood. He tells us how he played in the great barns, and climbed steeples, and listened to the maids singing old Flemish songs at their washing. He describes himself sitting with the watchmaker and marvelling at the little wheels of the watches, lO Six French Poets and standing on the bank of the river and looking at the heavy cargo boats sail by. Le soir en cortege sous les 6toiles. By and by, he was sent to school in Brussels for two years, at the Institute Saint Louis ; and when he was thirteen or fourteen, he entered the Jesuit College of Sainte-Barbe in Ghent.
Here, a few years later, came Maeterlinck also, but whether the boys met there I have not been able to find out. At twenty, the boy had finished his college course, and he did come back to Saint-Amand and go into the oil works for a year. But the life was most distasteful to him ; he needed to see the world, to measure himself intellectually with other young men, and there is no reason to suppose that he showed the slightest taste or ability for business.
In order, however, to find some plausible reason for his dislike of the work, he pleaded to be allowed to study law. Whether he had tried writing at this Emile Verhaeren II period and felt any desire to become a poet, I do not know. But to persuade a practical father and uncle to consent to his giving up a lucrative business in order to become a poet, would not be a simple task. And certainly in asking to become a lawyer, Emile stood more chance of having his wish granted. It was granted. And young Verhaeren left home again to study law at the University of Louvain.
At Louvain, Verhaeren really did study law, strangely enough, and was graduated in i88i. But he did many other things also. He danced at Kermesses, drank beer, got drunk, and generally overdid things with the true Flemish ardour, whether for work or play. Among his fellow students there were various other tentative poets. Here was Verhaeren, a full-fledged barrister, enter- ing the office of Ekimond Picard in Brussels. But his heart was not in the work, and he conducted the one or two quite unimportant cases he had to plead so half-heartedly, that Maitre Picard, himself, advised him to give up the law.
Brought up as a Roman Catholic, educated in a Jesuit college, he had been ardent and devout. Yet, even then, the Jesuits had failed to persuade him to become a priest. Now, with every year, his zest for living grew, his mind expanded and dared, and Catholicism dropped away from him forever. The mystic side of the Flemish character was to show itself in quite a different form, and only much later. In Brussels, Verhaeren found a set of young men, eager like himself, anxious to stamp themselves into literature. In order to flaunt the banner of free, realistic art, with no taboos as the current slang of the reviews calls it , a remarkable and intelligent young man, Max Waller, poet and writer of short stories, got up a review entitled La Jeune Belgique.
In its effect on Belgian letters, this review has been com- pared to the Mercure de France and its place in Emile Verhaeren 13 French literature. The early death of the founder of La Jeune Belgique kept it from becoming the world-famous periodical it might have been. While it existed, it gave an opening for many remarkable young men, eunong others, Verhaeren. Lemonnier encouraged him, criticised him, and, shortly after, the book was published. Then the storm broke, and howled about Verhaeren. The book was strong, vivid, brutal.
It was as violent, as coarse, as full of animal spirits, as the pictures of Breugel the Elder, Teniers, or Jan Steen. Verhaeren pierced like an abscess. The battle waged furiously. All those adherents of the old order of sentimental idealization fell upon the book, and in the columns of L' Europe Lemonnier strongly defended it. And really it is a startling book, written with a sort of fury of colour. The red, fat flesh tints of Rubens have got into it, and the pages seem hot and smoky with perspiration.
The desire to paint seems engrained in the Flemish character; M. Heu- 14 Six French Poets man declares that all Belgian writers, whether of poetry or prose, are painters. But, also, it must not be forgotten that they are Flemish painters, and their palettes are hot and highly coloured. They are marvellously done, blazing with colour and bla- tant with energy. Metrically, Les Flamandes is not particularly in- teresting, being written in the ordinary French alexandrine.
The interest of the book lies in its treatment of subjects.
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Many of the most remark- able poems must be read in their context, but there is a series of interiors, little Flemish genre pictures, which show the vivid style in which the whole is written. Le foyer y briUait comme une rouge flaque, Et ses flammes, mordant incessamment la plaque, Y rongeaient un sujet obscene en fer fondu. Why Verhaeren changed his publisher, we do not know. Why he changed his whole manner of writing can be guessed. I have said that the Flemish character is made up of two parts, one composed of violent and brutal animal spirits, the other of strange, unreasoning mysticism.
This is shown by the fact that along the line of material prosperity the Belgians have advanced with leaps and bounds, while on the line of abstract ideas, of philosophical or scientific en- lightenment, they have contributed almost nothing to the world. Their aspirations toward a broader point of view led them only to the Utopia of the Ib Six French Poets materialistic socialist. Verhaeren himself, with all his effort and achievement, can never quite free himself from the trammels of the material. Because the idealistic side of the Belgian mind is feeble and poor, and cannot get along without the swaddling clothes of superstition, Belgian mysticism is charm- ing, poetic, but — gets us nowhere.
None of his biographers has suggested the last reason. Presumably they would consider it beneath him, but I see no cause to sup- pose so great a man as Verhaeren to be in any way inhuman. And certainly to show the world that he has more than one string to his lute is a very natural desire in a young poet. Les Moines is a sad book, a faded book. The monasteries are here, but bathed in the light of a pale sunset. As a boy, Verhaeren used often to go to the Bernhardine Monastery at Bornhem with his father.
In order to renew his impressions of cloister life before writing this book, he passed three weeks at the monastery of Forges, near Chimay, and much of the book was written there. There is nothing in Les Moines to detain us here. Emile Verhaeren 17 It is a book of delicate etchings, pensive and melan- choly, and again written in French alexandrines. Then Verhaeren broke down. He had travelled a great deal, had been to France, Germany, Spain, and England. That he had been overdoing, over- thinking, is obvious.
At any rate, he succumbed to what seems to have been a bad attack of nervous prostration, with gastric complications. Herr Zweig, in his exhaustive biography, spends a great deal of time in telling us how he had to have the door-bell taken off because he could not bear its ringing, and how the people in the house had to go about in felt slippers. Herr Zweig is delighted with Les Soirs, Les DebAcles, and Les Flambeaux Noirs, published respectively in , , and , because he considers them so remarkable a portrayal of an unusual state of mind, and says they must be priceless to pathologists and psychologists.
I do not suppose there is a person who will read these lines, who has not either been there himself or had a friend who has. That Verhaeren should have written three books during his illness is not surprising. Writers always write, no matter how ill they are. With them it is so natural a function that it tires them less than to i8 Six French Poets do anything else. I could adduce a host of examples to prove this point, but two will do : Francis Park- man and Robert Louis Stevenson.
I will quote two poems from Les Soirs, not be- cause of their interest to the pathologist and psy- chologist, but because they are such remarkable pictures, and because they show that wedding of sound to sense which is to become one of Verhaeren's most characteristic powers. Et ces quais infinis de lantemes fatales, Parques dont les fuseaux plongent aux profondeurs, Et ces marins noyes, sous les p6tales Des fleurs de boue ou la flamme met des lueurs.
It almost seems as though Big Ben must have been striking when he wrote the poem. Any one reading the first stanza aloud cannot fail to be conscious of it. Before we leave these three books, I want to give one more poem, La Morte, which is a sort of end dedication to Les Flambeaux Noirs, Here, at last, Verhaeren begins to use that extraordinary vers libre for which he is afterwards to be so noted.
Some poets seem capable of expressing themselves per- fectly in the classic alexandrine, some can use both old and new forms according to the content of the poem. But the alexandrine has never seemed to fit Verhaeren. His tumultuous nature seems cramped by its limitations. And in a language so abounding in rhyme as the French, that is no handicap to the free poet. Not only does Verhaeren use end rhymes, he cannot resist the joy of internal rhymes. But I am anticipating, for in La Mortey as you will see, there are very few internal rhymes, although his fondness for alliteration and assonance begins to be noticeable.
For the rest, La Morte is a beautiful, foggy picture, sad, but with a kind of sadness which is already beginning to enjoy itself in a sombre sort of way. In other words, Verhaeren is beginning to get well, but he is not quite willing to admit it yet. Elle s'en va vers les hasards Au fond de Tombre et des brouillards, Au long bruit sourd des tocsins lourds, Cassant leur aile, au coin des tours. In one line of this poem Verhaeren has given us the real cause of his illness. The mystic and the modern man have been struggling within him. It is this struggle which has forced so many French poets back to the Catholic Church.
But Verhaeren was made of more resisting stuff. The struggle downed 24 Six French Poets him, but did not betray him. He fell back into no open arms; by sheer effort he pushed himself up on his feet. I should have said that for some reason or other, Verhaeren spent most of these years of illness in London. Perhaps this is true, and if so I think we are right in believing that his state of mind had more to do with his illness than the poor digestion to which it is usually attributed. However that may be, Verhaeren got better. He came out of his illness, as is usually the case with strong people, a sane, more self-reliant man.
He left the obscurity of London side streets to plunge into the stream of active life in the cities of his native Belgium. In , Verhaeren published two volumes of poems, with two different publishers. Verhaeren is feeling the zest of life again, but it is a more spiritual zest than before, if one can use the term for such a very materialistic spirituality.
Verhaeren is waking up, as it were, like a man stretching his arms, not yet fully awake. Here are the towns, with their smoking factories, crowded streets, noisy theatres, and busy wharves ; here are the broad, level plains of Flanders starred with windmills, the little villages and farms, and the slow river where fishermen come.
And here are painted a whole gallery of trades : cabinet-makers, blacksmiths, millers, rope-walkers. We see the 26 Six French Poets peasants selling everything they possess to follow the long, white roads to the city — white tentacles for the swallowing city.
And weather! In these volumes, Verhaeren first shows that remarkable series of weather pieces to which I referred in the beginning of this essay. Verhaeren had found him- self. At a time when France was in the midst of Symbolisme; when nature, divorced from the pa- thetic fallacy, made little general appeal ; when every-day life was considered dull, and not to be thought about if possible; — Verhaeren wrote of nature, of daily happenings, and of modern inven- tions. He not only wrote, he not only sang ; he shrieked, and cut capers, and pounded on a drum.
Writing in French, Verhaeren has never been able to restrain himself within the canons of French taste.
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His effervescing nature found the French clarity and precision, that happy medium so cherished by the Gallic mind, as hampering as he would have found Greek artistic ideals had he lived several centuries earlier. He must put three rhymes one after the other if he felt like it ; he must have a couple of assonances in a line, or go on alliterating down half a page. There was nothing in his nature to make the ideas of the Symbolistes attractive to him ; he would none of them.
The mysticism of which I have spoken modified itself into a great humanitarian realization. He believed in mankind, in the future. Not precisely nothing is precise Emile Verhaeren 27 with Verhaeren , but vaguely, magnificently, with all the faith his ancestors had placed in the Church. A Frenchman would have felt constrained to put some definiteness into these hopes.
To give some form to what certainly amounted to a religion. Verhaeren was troubled by no such teasing diffi- culty. He simply burned with a nebulous ardour, and was happy and fecund. There is a certain Teutonic grandeur of mind in Verhaeren which is extremely sympathetic to all Anglo-Saxons and Germans. Where the French intellect seems coldly analytic and calm, Verhaeren charms by his fiery activity. One of the devices which Verhaeren employs with consummate skill, is onomatopceia, or using words which sound like the things described.
This is at once wedded to, and apart from, the sort of sound I have mentioned above. He carries this effect through whole poems, and it is one of the reasons for the vividness of his poems on nature. Au long des lieues, Qui vont des champs, vers les banlieues. The long sweeping Vs of the first stanza give the effect of the interminable lines of rain in an extraor- dinary manner, and the repetition of La pluie.
I only wish I had space to give them all. Two other poems in this book I cannot pass by. They are pictures of village life, full of feeling and understanding, and rich in that pictorial sense which never deserts Verhaeren. Verhaeren is no mere descriptive poet. Neither is he a surface realist.
His realism contains the psy- chologic as well as the physiologic. After that, "total silence comes. On renterra, Thiver, im soir De froid rugueux, de bise aigue En un terrain de cendre et de cigues. Le soleil chut sotis les ombres suspectes. Le fossoyeur se sentit seul Devant ce defunt sans linceul Dont tous avaient garde la haine Et la crainte, dans les veines.
A splendid impressionist picture, with the burning hay-ricks starting up, one after the other, out of the blackness. One strange thing about Verhaeren is his true greatness. No matter how onomatopceic he be- comes, no matter how much he alliterates, or what- ever other devices he makes use of, he never becomes 38 Six French Poets claptrap.
Every young poet knows how dangerous the methods I am speaking of are, with what terrible ease they give a poem a meretricious turn, and immediately a certain vaudevillian flavour has crept in. A great genius will disobey all rules and yet produce works of art, perforce. Jules Romain in La Vie Unanime has gone Ver- haeren one better, but would he have been there at all if Verhaeren had not preceded him? Remy de Gourmont, over-subtilized French intellect that he is, thinks that Verhaeren hates the groaning towns, the lonely villages.
Which only proves that even remarkable minds have their limitations. A brood- ing Northerner, Verhaeren sees the sorrow, the travail, the sordidness, going on all about him, and loves the world just the same, and wildly believes in a future in which it shall somehow grind itself back to beauty. Les Villes Tentaculaires is full of this sordidness, a sordidness overlaid with grandeur, as iridescent colour plays over the skin of a dying fish. But it is also full of the constant, inevitable pushing on, the movement, one might call it, of change.
Tant de rdves, tels des feux roux, Entremdlent leur flamme et leurs remous, De haut en bas, du palais fou! On se trahit, on sc sourit et Ton se mord Et Ton travaille k d'autres morts. Oh VoT! De Tor! The dramatic intensity of this poem equals that of Le Meunier. I have already spoken of his visualizing gift, of his power of reproducing sound in words ; the third side of his greatness is the sense of drama. In spite of the decoration in La Bourse, in spite of such lines, beautiful in themselves, as Lk-bas!
Verhaeren is not a didactic poet. He does not suggest a way out. He states, and hopes, and firmly believes ; that is all. For those people who prefer a more clear, more classic style of poetry, Verhaeren has no charm. His colours are bright and vague like flash-lights thrown on a fog. But his force is incontestable, and he hurls along upon it in a whirlwind of extraordinary poetry. On his return to Belgium, he threw himself into active life and was immediately seduced by the Socialist doctrines then just being felt in Belgium.
He seconded M. Of course, I mean that was what he did before the war. That Verhaeren must have married sometime before is clear, because Les Heures Claires, published in that year, is the first of a series of love poems, of which Les Heures de V Aprls-midi, published in , and Les Heures du Soir, published in , are the other volumes. The poems are very sweet and graceful, but it must be confessed not of extreme importance. They are all written in regular metre, which seems almost typical of their calm and un- original flow. Verhaeren does not belong to the Emile Verhaeren 45 type of man to whom love is a divine adventure.
He has regarded it as a beneficent haven in which to repair himself for new departures. No biographer mentions who Madame Verhaeren was, or anything about her, except to pay her the tribute of under- standing and cherishing a great man. That she has been a helpmeet to him in every way these poems prove. The stage of p owers ripening, growing, solidifying. His part is taken ; he has learnt his peculiar medium, and formulated his ideas.
His final volumes, many though they are, merely show him writing still remarkable poems along the lines he has chosen. There is no diminution of his genius, and his fecundity is extraordinary. Four volumes of poems entitled Toute la Flandre, appeared at intervals from to And there are one or two other small volumes. Remember, Verhaeren has written twenty-three volumes of poems, and to speak of them all in detail would require an entire volume. I only wish it were possible to give something from each of these books.
It will show that Verhaeren has 46 Six French Poets lost nothing of his great vigour, and that the rage for justice which made him a socialist still burns in him. What Verhaeren has done for poetry is this. He has made it realize the modern world. He has shown the grandeur of everyday life, and made us understand that science and art are never at variance.
He has shown that civic consciousness is not neces- sarily dry and sterile, but can be as romantic as an individual. And he has done all this without once saying it directly, by force of the greatest and most complete art. Then we were engaged with a great poet. A man of large and exuberant nature, whose work was remarkable for its originality, force, dramatic power, and fecundity.
Now we are going to con- sider a minor poet of delicate and graceful talent, whose entire poetical output is contained in three volumes. It is chamber-music, as tenuous and plaintive as that played by old eighteenth century orchestras, with their viole da gatnba and haut- bois d' amour. Albert Samain would seem to lack his century, were it not that one cannot help feeling that in no century would the shy, solitary, diffident man have been at home. Centuries are strangely alike for those living them, they only change their values when their outlines are blurred by distance.
The qualities which make a man great are the same in all ages. Samain would have been a minor poet in the ninth century as he was in the nineteenth. In the biography of the poet by L4on Bocquet, there is a preface by Francis Jammes. His arm had the elegant ges- ture of a stork which moves its foot backward. His face and body were slender. At times his blue eyes, behind his glasses, became heavenly, that is to say they looked up and whitened. Albert Samain was a swan. I am hardly expressing myself figuratively here. He had the harmonious stiffness and the gaze of a swan.
Not the sharp, furious, wounded gaze of the bird of prey, but the impassive gaze of the sacred bird which flies, in high relief, on the frieze of some temple, the gaze which only re- flects the appearcuice of things floating away beneath it in the water of the stream. He had the cold and sad attitude of the swan too. Swan, the friend of shade. I see him, sailing, spread out, over the lake in Le Jardin de V Infante.
He does not listen to the whispers of this splendour which he himself has created, nor to the rising sea of his fame. He only listens to the bells of a church which ring in the distance — I do not know where, in a country which is not mine, in a country where the things are which one does not see. He only hears the chimes of this Flemish church, of this church in which an old woman is praying. But the whole description, fanciful though it is, gives a Albert Samain 53 better picture of the man than pages of biography and straightforward analysis could do.
Samain is said to have looked like a Spaniard, and certainly his photographs might be those of some Spanish grandee ; there is the haughty, spare figure of the Spaniard, and the sad, proud face of slender lines. We must not forget that Flanders was for some time owned by Spain, and that Lille only became a part of France in , when Louis XIV besieged it and forced it to surrender. His family belonged to the large class of the minor bourgeoisie.
Noblesse oblige, whether another trait of his Spanish ancestor or merely derived from the fine thriftiness of the French bourgeoisie, was always strong in Samain. He left school and entered the office of a banker, where he seems to have held the position of errand-boy. From there he went into the business of sugar-broking, in what capacity is not stated, but it would seem to have been at the bottom of the ladder, as was natural at his age.
In spite of his twelve hours of work there were off times — the twelve other hours, only some of which could be spent in sleep ; and the Sunday afternoons. A provincial town offers very little in the way of amusement to an intelligent young man. Samain was hardly the sort of fellow to enjoy cock-fights, or find pleasure in lounging in Albert Samain 55 caf4s ogling the passers-by. There was the Museum, but museums do not last forever as an inspiring relaxation, and for a young fellow of eighteen or thereabouts wandering round a museum is usually a lonely joy.
The boys with whom he had gone to school had passed on to the University; and besides, what could they have to do with an under- clerk in a business house! Samain was too proud to push against cold shoulders. He simply with- drew more and more into himself, and laid the foundation for that sadness from which he could never afterwards entirely free himself. If circumstances separated him from his old schoolfellows, his tastes and also his taste re- moved him from his fellow clerks. A single friend he made, however — a M.
Victor Lemoigne. This man not only was his friend, he believed in him, a precious necessity to a young writer. For Samain at last confided to him that he wrote verses. It must have been the greatest comfort to tell some- body, for Samain had been writing in silence and solitude for some time. But he had not only been writing, he had been training himself for a writer, and in that best of all methods, studying foreign tongues. If there were no amusements in Lille, there was at least a library.
And in the absence of any other distractions Samain spent long hours there. Per- haps it was lucky that nothing else exerted a strong 56 Six French Poets enough pull to make his going there in the least difficult. He studied, and endeavoured to complete his arrested education. Of course, he read rather vaguely, as people do without a teacher, but he succeeded in perfecting himself in Greek and Eng- lish so that he could read them both fluently. He delighted in English, and afterwards liked to give his poems English titles, and put English words into the middle of them.
Edgar Allan Poe was one of his greatest admirations and inspirations. Years after he wrote: "I have been reading Poe this week. Decidedly, he must be classed among the greatest. The power of his conceptions, the mag- nificence of his hypotheses, the marvellous force of his imagination, always contained and held in check by an extraordinary will, make him an almost unique figure in art.
If the word perfection can ever be used, it is in such a case. He liked the poems which Samain showed him, and at once de- cided that the young man was sure of a glorious future. There is no doubt that these over-confident and admiring friends do a young writer eis much good as harm. Adverse or carping criticism often dis- courages to the point of sterilization, while even ill-judged praise gives confidence and the strength to go on. But, as the desire to learn, to talk, to mix in an intellectual life, grew upon him, more and more did Samain find the life of a little clerk in the provinces insupportable.
It is truer of France than of any other country that its capital is the centre of its entire intellectual life. Samain had paid a flying visit to Paris in , to see the Exposition. Even more than at ordinary times, the Paris of an Exposition year dazzles, emd snaps, and glows. After his return to the wearisome dulness of Lille, Samciin thought of it cis the Mecca of all his dreams. It lured like the Pot of Gold at the end of the Rainbow.
As luck would have it, in July, , his firm decided to send him to its Paris house. He was to be only a transient addition, but he intended to stay if he could, and on express- ing this wish to his superiors it was acceded to, and his salary raised to francs a year. Here he was, transplanted to Paris, and with the exciting possibility of having some famous literary celebrity living just round the comer. Albert Samain was living in Paris, which, as a thought, must have given him considerable satisfaction; but the satisfaction began and ended in the realms of the idea.
Now, he was at his office from nine in the morning until after midnight. Only once or twice a week did he even have some hours of freedom in the evening. And then there was no energy left to do any good work. So Samain lived in Paris more solitarily than he had done in Lille, for there was no M. Lemoigne there. And he could not work so well because he had less time. They were not cheerful letters which he sent back to M. They were bitter, discouraged letters. He must change his business, there was no other way ; but to what?
The faithful Lemoigne was instant in suggestion. His friend must try journalism ; and, succeeding in that, have leisure for greater literary effort. It must have been a constant strain for Lemoigne to push his friend along, and his patience and effort were remarkable. Samain always held back, and was discouraged before he began.
But Lemoigne firmly insisted. Poor Samain hastily wrote a paper on Offenbach and took it to the Figaro. It was not liked. Then he wrote to the editors of Gil Bias, and the Beaumarchais. His letters were not an- swered. So that seemed to be an end to journalism in Paris.
Samain was willing to give it up. Lemoigne was not. There was at this time in Lille a weekly called Le Bonhomme Flamand. It amounted to very little, as, of course, Lemoigne knew, but Samain must be printed. The quasi-English flavour of the pseudonym is interesting. Shortly afterwards, Le Bonhomme Flamand died a natural death. Lemoigne to approve. Samain slipped back to his old solitary life, writing for himself alone.
In July, , Mme. Samain joined her son in Paris. And from this time on they were never separated. For her sake he never married ; his salary was not enough to support two women. Later, his youngest brother Paul joined them; Alice, his sister, remaining behind in Lille where she had married. It was a quiet, family life they 6o Six French Poets lived in the little apartment, rue des Petits-Champs.
It was a safe, excellent life for a rising young clerk, sure of stepping up in his business from position to higher position, and finally attaining to a business of his own. But for a poet, how petty, how exacting! How painful to weary the brain all day with figures so that at night it cannot find words! Weak in many ways though Samain was, he never wavered in his firm resolution to write. If he could only gain enough to keep his mother he would be satisfied ; for himself he only demanded a less fatiguing work, with more leisure.
He watched, and watched, until he found something. And what he found wtis a small clerkship in the third bureau of the Depart- ment of Instruction, with a salary of francs a year. And it speaks excellently for Mme. Samain that she apparently bore him no ill-will for so materially cutting down their income. The change was undoubtedly a good thing for Samain. He was only obliged to be at his desk for seven hours a day, his colleagues were men of better education than those in the sugar house, and finding a copy of Boileau open upon the table of his chief gave him the feeling of being in a sympathetic atmosphere.
But still, taking everything by and large, Samain could not feel very successful. He had left Lille, true ; he had got rid of the detested Albert Satnain 6i sugar-broking ; he was definitely settled in Paris. And there was an end to his achievements. My only relations were with young men belonging to the business world. The momentary, hazarding exploits of a very young man.
From his boyhood he had fed upon the Romantics ; Lamartine, Hugo, and Musset had been his gods. Two of these giants being un- happily dead and the third a very old man, he wor- shipped their belated shadows : Theodore de Banville and Jean Richepin. He sent a letter with an en- thusiastic ode to Banville, but the visit which Banville invited him to make in return was unfortunate in the extreme.
Banville carped and criticised, and Samain took flight never to go back again. Twice more, Samain was so ill-judged as to tempt Fate in this way. He sent letters to both Jean Richepin and Octave Feuillet. Both asked him to call, possibly the visits were repeated more than once, but they had no result. Samain was tasting the bitter lesson, that fecund intimacies fall from the lap of the gods, and are never the result of painstaking endeavour. Scunain gave up seeking access to celebrities and went back to his writing, still worshipping the dead authors who had not snubbed him, and writing dans 62 Six French Poets le goM d'avant-hier.
But, though Samain, alone in the quiet lamplit evenings, still bowed before the old shrines, other young men were more adventurous. Various hot bloods got up a society, or rather they organized a group, and called it Nous Autres. They met at a cabaret in Montmartre, and drank bocks, and disputed theories of art and letters, and undoubtedly damned every one who was not themselves, after the manner of young artists.
By and by, they changed cabarets, going to Le Chat Noir, and made it famous by their presence. A kind of vaudeville show was given there, and a series of silhouette plays, in a little puppet theatre, by Henri Riviere had a great vogue. A friend took Samain to one of these gatherings, and he soon became an habituA. He read a part of his poem, Les Monts, there. Le Chat Noir had a little paper, and in the copy of it for December, , Tsilla appeared on the front page. Tsilla was apparently liked and praised by the frequenters of Le Chat Noir, and Samain wrote a satisfied and happy letter to M.
Lemoigne on the strength of it. Rather pathetically he tells how he has been praised for the healthy quality of his verses, and hopes that he will be able to avoid the tnaladive contagion of the period.
Comment Bruler Des Graisses Du Ventre Jaune
Albert Samain 63 To my mind, TsUla is one of the dullest poems that ever was written, and gives no hint of the charm of some of his later work. It is the story of a young girl of antiquity that charming and con- venient antiquity so beloved of poets, which never existed anywhere, at any time , who loves an Angel.
In a crisis of adventurousness, she urges the Angel to fly up in the sky, taking her with him, which he does, and they go so near to the rising sun that her black hair is turned to gold. Owing to which acci- dent, she is the first woman in the world who ever had blond hair. The verses are no more interesting nor original than the story. If praise of such eui insignificant poem had been all that Samain got out of his cinacle of young poets, his frequenting it would have been a mere waste of time. But it was not all.
He got a com- plete upheaval of ideas. He learnt that Lamartine emd Victor Hugo were vieux jeu, that Frangois Copp6e was not the last word in poetry to these young iconoclasts. He learnt that Verlaine and Mallarm6 were the proper objects of worship for an up-to-date poet. Any one who has listened to a set of young writers teciring down the generation which has preceded them, showing up all the faults it never knew it had, and sneering at the good points it undoubtedly has, can reproduce these evenings perfectly.
But Samain was a young provincial. All this talk disturbed him. This familiar scoffing 64 Six French Poets at names he considered the greatest in the world unsettled him. What should he do? Whom should he follow? For Samain must follow, he was as incapable of leadership as a man could well be.
It is easy to be an iconoclast in French poetry. The classic metres are so exceedingly prescribed and confined that the least little change lands one in nonconformity. We can find them if we hunt, but to the naked perception they are lost in the general effect of conformity to metrical rules. Yet, to Samain, his not always putting the caesura in the middle of the line, or failing to alternate mas- culine and feminine endings, or occasionally rhyming plurals with singulars all unalterable rules of French classic metre , must have seemed violent innovations indeed. Brought up a Catholic, he had hitherto never doubted his faith ; now it tumbled off him like a shrivelled leaf.
Scepticism, a state of mind pecul- Albert Samain 65 iarly unsuited to his temperament, swept over him. The realization that he had lost the support of religion, that its consolations could no longer com- fort him, was agony. The idea, the resultant void, preoccupied him. He could no longer write, he could only worry and mourn. This was particularly unfortunate as he was at the moment composing the poems which afterwards made up Au Jar din de V Infante, his first volume, which was not published until six years later. In his state of mind, the hilarious and not over- refined pleasures of the literary cabarets were most distasteful.
He was too straightforward and simple himself not to see through the poses cuid childish debauches of his coterie. He withdrew from it, and retired once more within himself. But he was lonely, bitterly lonely. His brother Paul had been called to his military service, and once more he and his mother lived alone. His modest income of francs was not sufficient to enable him to think of marriage while he still had his mother to support.
Whether Samain ever had a definite love story is not known. It seems hardly possible for him to have escaped such a usual happening ; but, at any rate, whether it weis a particular woman whom he gave up, or whether he merely resigned himself to bachelorhood in the ab- 66 Six French Poets stract, certain it is that Samain felt his life bor- dered and arranged, and that he looked forward to no bright happening to change it.
Samain adored him and was proud of him, but from his reticence about his work at home, she does not appear to have been fitted, either by edu- cation or natural ability, to be much of a help to him in it. Only seven hours a day at the H6tel de Ville, and the rest of the time his own! It hung heavy on his hands, and to distract himself he took to taking long walks about Paris. He would stroll along the Seine, turn- ing over the leaves of the books in the bouquiniste' s boxes on the parapets of the quais, amusing himself with the old engravings in the ten centimes boxes, breathing in the sharp scent of the river and the perfume of old, passed centuries ; he would wander in the once fashionable quarters of the town, now fallen from grace, and imagine the days when they were full of sedan chairs and elegant ladies.
His love for the faded, the graceful, vanished past, grew and solaced him. How many of his poems seem to be merely efforts to reproduce it, and so dwell in it for a few minutes! Side by side with these imaginative pleasures were others. He began to see nature, real nature, as it is even to-day. His walks in the suburbs gave him Albert Satnain 67 many a picture which he turned to account later in Aux Flancs du Vase. The splendid, differing sun- sets gave him infinite pleasure ; sometimes he would get into one of the bateaux mouches which go up and down the river, and watch the yellows and reds of the sunset repeat themselves in the water.
He had none of that modern spirit which enables one to see beauties in tram-cars and smoking chimneys, so he eliminated them from his thought. In love with beauty as he conceived it, he took the changing colours which all sorts of weather threw over Paris, and, eternal as they are, lit his pictures of other centuries with them.
Flowers were the only luxury he permitted 68 Six French Poets himself. His room was as bare as a cell in a monastery, neither painting nor engraving hung on the walls. Hung with velvet of steel- coloured grey, with blue lights in it. The rose- tinted ceiling fades off into mauve and has a large decorative design — Renaissance — in old silver, embossed at the comers. Hangings hide the door. No windows ; the room only being used by artificial light. Near the floor, forming a base-board, a band of old silver openwork appUqued on the same velvet as the hangings, a flower design, with knots of pink pearl tassels at intervals.
A carpet with a silver nap ; against one side of the wall, a divan of steel-grey velvet. No movable furniture. An Etruscan armchair, made entirely of ebony, with silver nails. Negli- gently thrown over the armchair to soften the sharpness of the angles and the hardness of the wood, a grey bear skin.
A lamp of old silver, mas- sive and slender, with a long neck of a clear shape, and without ornament. Shade of faded moss-rose Albert Samain 69 colour. Blotting pad of steel-grey morocco, with a heraldic device ; a penholder of old gold. A fireplace with a historical plaque over it — Renaissance, and andirons of wrought steel termi- nating in couched chimeras. Three sides of the room are empty. In the comer opposite the table, on the wall, two metres from the ground, a console covered with steel-grey velvet supported by a Renais- sance chimera in iron. Upon the console, a great horn of crystal, very tapering, in which are two roses, one rose a sulphur yellow, one wine- coloured.
In an alcove hidden by a curtain is a deep niche, bathed in the half-light of a gold altar lamp hanging by a little chain. The globe of the lamp is made of pieces of many-coloured glass cut in facets so that they shine like great stones : ruby, sapphire, emerald. In the niche, which is hung with crimson velvet, on a column with a Doric capital, stands the Young Faun of Praxiteles. Lacking this room, why bother with engravings! Yet Samain never complained of the ugliness and meagreness of actual life. He only played his games on windy nights in his bare room. It would be unjust to Samain to represent him as passing all his evenings wrapped in sugary 70 Six French Poets dreams.
He studied science, history, philosophy. It is a curious fact, that he was one of the first men in France to recognize the genius of Nietzsche. In compensation for the many bitternesses of his life, beginning in came the happiness of two friendships. Samain made the acquaintance, and quickly became the intimate friend, of Paul Morisse and Raymond Bonheur. Paul Morisse was a con- stant traveller, and with him Samain made his first considerable journey.
The two friends went to Germany. They saw the Rhine, Bingen, Mayence, etc. Samain was charmed with all he saw. He possessed the gift of wonder ; an inestimable pos- session, by the way.
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Unfortunately it was hard to find money for these excursions. When the French Academy crowned his first book, he gave himself the present of a month at Lake Annecy. So at last we reach his first book, privately printed in , when the poet had passed his thirty- fifth birthday. At this time the Mercure de France had just come into existence, and Samain was one of its founders. It was in the pages of the Mercure that most of his poems appeared. Samain never seems to have seriously considered collecting them into a book.
Over-diffident and self-critical, he worked at them. Albert Samain 71 changed them, polished them. Du sexe? In this mechanical world made of mechanical feelings Where mechanical brains are living mechanical lives Are your hearts beating in this dirty paradise? A vous de le constater en lisant le bouquin. Tout un symbole. You named me for the divine mistress of the hunt! Spider-Gwen tome 1, disponible depuis le 6 janvier en France chez Panini Comics. Cette balade a pour but de trouver un moyen de soigner Johnny , la tante de Rachel, de son empoisonnement. Je vous aime. We soldier on.
Ainsi, comment ne pas tomber amoureuse de Teddy et Ano? In the begenning there was only chaos. Then out of the void came the unknowable place where death dwells, and night. Then somehow love was born, bringing the start of order and light. And from this, on one planet, She came. Enfin bref, parlons du bouquin.
Rien ne va plus pour Jon et Suzie. Des hommes? Des femmes? Des chats? Des Chiens? Vaughan et Cliff Chiang. Ginny chevauche le vent pour toi, mon enfant… Le vent souffle pour la Mort! Avec cette nouvelle Ms. Point One. Une claque graphique, tout simplement. Victoria Robado. Mais revenons au sujet principal. Jonah Jameson.