Page images
PDF
EPUB

Individualism is the most resonant note not a subject for Bertillon or Lombroso, in the symphony of modern thought; and but the “roaming, blond animal,” created individualism and reaction in philosophy through the felicitous conjunction of rang out the dying years of the last cent- man's cunning and Nature's process. ury. To-day the three names that are The physical development of the individemblazoned on the oriflamme of Revolt ual, his supreme exaltation, the cultivaare Friedrich Nietzsche, Henrik Ibsen tion of the most strenuous physical type and Maurice Maeterlinck. Their su- -thus spake Zarathustra. preme distinction is modernity-in art, With dauntless front, Henrik Ibsen in vitality of thought, in form of expres- flung his bold defiance in the teeth of sion. Each in his particular sphere, they modern society in his dramas of revolt. represent what Nietzsche has called the That trenchant sentence, “The Majority link between Man and Superman, be- is always wrong," seems to sum up his tween Man as he is and Man as they message to humanity. He has taught would have him to be. Under their di- the final efficacy and supremacy of Will; verse guidance man may be enabled to but with marvelous sanity, his doctrine “rise above himself to himself and cloud- involves the salutary concession that lessly to smile.” They represent the “submission is the base of perfection.” restless, throbbing, unquiet spirit of the He stands out, in grim aloofness, as the age. If they stand forth for anything, it soul's captain, the apostle of individual is as apostles of regeneration—the phys- freedom-freedom of choice, freedom to ical, mental and spiritual regeneration of live one's own life, freedom from the false the individual. Individualism, enfran- conventions and trammels of society. He chisement, freedom, is the message they has etched his own personality into the are bringing to the world to aid the in- century's page with the corrosive acid of dividual in his struggle towards a more his mordant irony. perfect and ideal type. Each one soars Maurice Maeterlinck-poet, mystic, over the most novel spheres of thought, transcendentalist-comes with

gentle truth's red torch aflame within his brain. words of wise and aspiring sincerity to It is by that ruddy and clarifying light impress upon the world the belief that the that we shall see our way clearly. Hein- development and disclosure of the human rich the Bell Founder, Stockmann, Monna soul is the ultimate aim and goal of exVanna, and Zarathustra mutely attest istence. Marking the spiritual reaction humanity's struggle towards the light. from Zolaism, with all its blatant bestial

Advancing along strikingly distinctity, he seeks to realize the infinite, to know paths and unique each in his view of life, the unknowable, to express the inexpressnevertheless these three men-Nietzsche, ible. "Oh, that this too, too solid flesh Ibsen, Maeterlinck-in reality are fol- would melt!” is his eternal prayer. He lowing radiating lines which converge is individualistic in the sense that he is towards some far distant point. They unique and essentially modern, not exfollow the so-called parallel lines of human plainable as a product of the age, but endeavor which are said to meet at some rather as a reactionary, hostile to all its Utopian infinity. In his millennial phil- materialistic tendencies. He heralds the osophy of the Uebermensch, the late Fried- dawn of a spiritual renascence. rich Nietzsche-poet, philosopher and prophet-symbolizes the reaction of dynamism from the mechanism of Darwin, of Maeterlinck's first little volume of radiant individualism from the self-effac- lyrics, Serres Chaudes, expressive of his ing altruism of Tolstoi, of aristrocratic initial manner, most completely identifies anarchy against the levelism of the age. him with that band of poets and mystics The divinity of Nietzsche's rhapsody is in France known as the Symbolists.

I.

There is no greater mistake than that of command inadequate clearly to express supposing that the wide hearing he has his emotions, and is therefore compelled gained is attributable to the peculiar ec- to employ words as symbols, deeply sugcentricities of his style, the novelties in gestive in their meaning. It is apparent literary form he has employed, or the that, with the symbolists, the simplest seeming inanities and solemn mystifica- words, the homeliest figures, may take on tions of his poetry. At first there was untold significance. The poetry of the about him a trace of the fumisterie, that symbolists is characterized by peculiar, air of solemn shamming which has helped haunting and elusive beauty and destined to make the Parisian “Cymbalists,” as for the profoundest suggestiveness; but Verlaine loved to call them, a jest and a quite too often, it must be confessed, conmockery. Perhaps he first caught the veying no meaning at all to anyone save most obvious tricks of his style, those very to the initiated devotee. idiosyncrasies his own fine instinct has To compare Maeterlinck's early poems since taught him to discard, from the with the “unrhymed, loose rhythmic school of Mallarmé, Viele-Griffin and prose" of Walt. Whitman is to make a De Regnier. Yet the Ollendorfian pue- perfectly obvious and yet at the same time rilities, the reiterant ejaculations, the perfectly irrelevant criticism. While both hyperethereal imaginings of the Symbol- are disjointed, formless, enumerative, ist manner, are the symptoms of a tenta- Maeterlinck's every line is charged with tive talent, not of an authoritative art. a certain vague significance, suggestive

Symbolism—the casting of the imma- of subtile and ever subtler possibilities of terial thought into the material mould of interest. There is something in it of the speech, to use the word in a broad con- dim and haunting fancies of Poe, of the notation-marks the correspondence be- puerile vaporings of Arthur Rimbaud. tween the outward visible sign and the Take a passage from Serres Chaudes like inward spiritual idea. One must dis- the following: tinguish with the greatest care between

“O hothouse in the midst of the forests! the Symbolism of the French school and And your doors shut forever! that of Ibsen, of Hauptmann, or of D'

And all that there is under your dome, Annunzio. The point of departure for

And under my soul in your likeness!

The thoughts of a princess an-hungered, the art of the French Symbolists was the The weariness of a sailor in the wilderness,

Brazen music at the windows of incurables.” effort, by tricks of sound and rhythm, of figure and image, by allusion and sug- Is this pompous mystification or progestion, to cast a langorous spell over the found poetry? Is it sense ? As Bernard reader, evoking rare and fleeting emotions, Shaw would say: "Is it right, is it proper, producing strange and indefinable im- is it decent ?” And yet the morbid mind pressions. As Henri de Regnier expresses of the isolated child of modernity sighs it:“It is the function of the poet to express and frets through it all: he is excluded his own emotions. He realizes that his by very reason of his supersensitive, exideas are beautiful. He would convey otic, orchidaceous soul from spontaneous them to the reader as they are. It is then and untrammeled communication with that the

power of common speech forces nature. Witness the poignant image of him to place known words in uncommon the princess, born in affluence and bred sequence or to resurrect an archaism that in the lap of luxury, suffering the unimhis idea may be better expressed. He is agined pangs of hunger. The isolation in no sense an analyst of the emotions but and hopeless sense of desertion are acan artist, pure and simple; his function centuated by the figure of the sailor, is not with life and nature, but with the longing for the cool waves and bracing imagination.” A symbolist in this sense salt breeze of health, as he wanders with is an artist who finds the words at his parched throat over the hot sand of the endless desert. What more eloquent, and a pensive appeal that charms one what more laconically modern symbol when the fulminations of the blatant than that of the military band passing rhetorician, the vaporings of the phantasunder the windows of a hospital for in- magoric imagination, tire the senses, or curables! Lonely souls, obsessed with the polished periods of the faultless proworld-weariness, harassed with morbid sateur leave one cold and unmoved. Such self-distrust and uncertain of a goal; these a book as Wisdom and Destiny-a book are sketchily bodied forth with the ruth- that may truly be called noble--marks a less, the mystifying laconism of the Flem- distinct epoch in spiritual and cosmic ish mystic.

evolution. The calm philosophy of MarAs an illustration of the beauty and cus Aurelius; the longings after the Infinish and simplicity of Maeterlinck's art finite, if haply they may find it, of the as a poet, at its highest and least symbol- fourteenth century mystics, Ruysbroeck ical pitch, may be cited Richard Hovey's the Admirable and the gentle Novalis; translation of Maeterlinck's unnamed the transcendentalism of the Greek spirit poem:

in our own literature, Emerson; the “sec“ And if some day he come back,

ond sphere,” the realm of unconscious What shall he be told ?

revelation of the Ibsen of The Lady from Tell him that I waited, Till my heart was cold.

the Sea and The Master-Builder; the

brooding mysticism of the Shakespeare And if he ask me yet again, Not recognizing me?

of Hamlet--these and other inspiring inSpeak him fair and sisterly,

fluences mingle with and color MaeterHis heart breaks maybe.

linck's own conception of la vie intérieure. And if he asks me where you are, If, in Maeterlinck's interpretation of the What shall I reply?

world-riddle, there is one charm more Give him my golden ring, And make no reply.

fascinating than another, it is his disin

terested search for truth. He is never And if he should ask me Why the hall is left deserted ? didactic, never even definitive in

any

ultiShow him the unlit lamp,

mate sense. Quite often he is actually And point to the open gate.

found contradicting himself, consciously And if he should ask me

doing so, in the hope of retracing his steps How you

fell asleep? Tell him that I smiled,

a little way, aided by the faint glimmer of For fear lest he should weep." some new light, until he enter once more

the straight path to his goal. His books

show that, in a sense rightly understood, M. Maeterlinck owes his great reputa- he is a scientific worker, difficult as this tion, not to faddism, to decadentism, or is to reconcile with the vagueness and to symbolism. He is admired because he groping insecurity of his mysticism. is the sincerest of literary artists, because From the evidence of his books, M. Maehe is ever striving for that Truth which is terlinck has studied the most modern Beauty—the beauty which Baudelaire theories of auto-suggestion, hypnotism, called “la grace suprême litteraire.His telepathy, psychology, and psychic phepoetry, even when vaguest and most mys

No reader of The Life of the terious in its strangely symbolic vesture, Bee can doubt that M. Maeterlinck is a leaves always upon the mind, or rather scientific worker, although this exquisite upon the senses, an ineffaceable impres- social history is the work of an artist and sion of peculiar and unusual beauty. He a littérateur as well as of a scientist. His cannot be said to have created any great, works-poetry, prose, drama-all evidistinctive or strikingly modern form of dence his close study and deep compreprose writing. Still his prose wears a hension of modern scientific theories, gentle simplicity, a quiet impressiveness, especially of a psychic or psychologic

II.

nomena.

character, and these works evidence it pleaded for a recognition of what he called concretely and suggestively, but more in his own speech the Eternities and the often by mere implication.

Immensities. M. Maeterlinck would It would be a serious mistake to im- bring the inner life of the soul closer to agine M. Maeterlinck to be the mere us; he would push the actors farther off. mouthpiece of the mystics of other years. Thus he regrets that he has ever seen It is not to be doubted that his mysticism Hamlet performed on the stage, since it is based upon a long and loving acquaint- robbed him of his own conception of its ance with the greatest mystics of the past. mystic significance. The actor, the specTo find standards of comparison for a ter of an actor, dethroned his own image phenomenon like the rare mind of this of the real Hamlet. From the printed new-century mystic, we have to seek, not page starts forth the old Hamlet of his in our own, but in another

age.

A com- dreams never again. parison of M. Maeterlinck's philosophy His great regret is for the loss of the with that of the mystics of the past shows “second sphere,” that subconscious realm similarity in fundamentals to exist be- where soul speaks to soul without the tween them. But to say that M. Maeter- intermediary of words. He hails the linck follows Ruysbroeck here or Novalis coming of the Renascence of Wonder, the there, is not an easy matter: with other mystic epoch when men shall penetrate mystics M. Maeterlinck has in common deep into the soil of their subliminal only mysticism. The point of vantage selves. That age which, as Phillips from which he views the world, the eyes Brooks once said, “stands off and looks with which he sees it, the transmuting at itself”--that age M. Maeterlinck hermind, are all his own. Nor has he studied alds and summons. Ibsen, too, has dreammodern science--that of the body, the ed of this dawning day: Julian perhaps organism, that of the mind, the intelli- in the end caught some faint prevision gence, that of the soul, the emotions of the “third kingdom.” only to be thrown back upon himself in Silence is the pall that hangs over the disappointment, disillusionment and de- earlier plays of M. Maeterlinck; the charspair. Rather, as someone has recently acters themselves are quiescent and imsaid:“ There is evidence that his mysticism mobile. It is only in silence that we can is not so much a refuge from the tyranny really know each other-in the fugitive of scientific naturalism as the deliberate look, the chance meeting, the sudden choice of a man who finds in it confirr .a- hand-clasp. Only in such moments do tions of countless hopes and suspicions we truly come to know anything that is science herself raised within him.” worth knowing. Half conscious of his

deep-rooted faith in the meaning of pre

sentiments, the significance of sub-conIt is the fundamental faith of M. Maet- scious revelations, M. Maeterlinck wrote erlinck that the theater of to-day needs a number of plays surcharged with the reorganization and reformation in order impalpable and imponderable weight of to conform to the subtler demands of the pathos and groping nescience. “The higher and more complex life of our epoch. keynote of these little plays,” he once The theater, he affirms, has for its su- wrote, “is dread of the unknown that preme mission the revelation of infinity, surrounds us. I, or rather some obscure and of the grandeur as well as the secret poetical feeling within me (for with the beauty of life. He would have a theater sincerest of the poets a division must often in accordance with modern psychic de- be made between the instinctive feeling mands, giving a revelation of what the of their art and the thoughts of their real Parisian mystic Schuré calls the abimes life), seemed to believe in a species of and profondeurs of the soul. Carlyle also monstrous, invisible, fatal power that

III.

gave heed to our every action, and was There was no escape from the obsession hostile to our smile, to our life, to our of some dire, inexpressibly dreadful unpeace and our love. Its intentions could known presence. “This unknown,” M. not be divined, but the spirit of the drama Maeterlinck himself has said, “would assumed them to be malevolent always. most frequently appear in the shape of In its essence, perhaps, this power was death. The presence of death-infinite, just, but only in anger; and it exercised menacing, forever treacherously activejustice in a manner so crooked, so secret, filled every interstice of the poem. The so sluggish and remote, that its punish- problem of existence was answered only ments—for rewards there were never by the enigma of annihilation. And it took the semblance of inexplicable, arbi- was a callous, inexorable death; blind, trary acts of fate. We had then more or and groping its mysterious way with only less the idea of the God of the Christians, chance to guide it; laying its hands preblent with that of fatality of old, lurking ferentially on the youngest and the least in nature's impenetrable twilight, whence unhappy, for that those held themselves it eagerly watched, contested, and sad- less motionless than others, and that every dened the projects, the feelings, the too sudden movement in the night arthoughts, and the happiness of man.” rested its attention. And round it were

In those early plays the interest hangs only poor, little, trembling, elementary upon the passage rather than upon the creatures, who shivered for an instant victim of fatality; our grief is not excited and wept, on the brink of a gulf; and by the tragedy: we shudder with wide- their words and their tears had importeyed horror at the argument of the in- ance only from the fact that each word visible, the evidence of things not seen. they spoke and each tear they shed fell By the intuitive apprehensions of the into this gulf, and resounded therein so soul, its instinctive groping for elective strangely at times as to lead one to think affinities, and the incomprehensible, dis- that the gulf must be vast if tear or word, quieting movements in nature in sym- as it fell

, could send forth so confused pathetic attune with dark forebodings of and muffled a sound.” dumb, shadowy events—by these means A time came in M. Maeterlinck's career M. Maeterlinck made us aware of the when he recognized the morbidity and adumbration, the gradual approach, and unhealthiness of such a view of life, and ultimate presence of the mysterious forces realized that, in the transition, he had of Fate, Terror, and Death. He objecti- come out on the other side of good and fied and concretized for us those moments evil. This conception of life may be of life

truth, he grants, but it is “one of those “ When . .

profound but sterile truths which the in some nimble interchange of thought poet may salute as he passes on his way"; The silence enters and the talkers stare."

with it he should not abide. It is perhaps The unnamed presence was always Death this early conception which led him to -Death the Intruder. In "L'Intruse" avow that he had written these plays for we waited with tense expectancy and a theater of marionettes. The characters strained senses for his coming; in “Inté- all silently and unresistingly do the bidrieure” we accompanied him to the scene ding of some unseen, unknown power. of the eternal tragedy; in “Les Aveugles” Duse said of Maeterlinck: "He gives you we awaken with a start to find Death in only figures in a mist-children and spirour very midst. Terror lurks behind a its.” Even that “savage little legend” half-closed door, and all the poignant of the misfortunes of Maleine, M. Maetermystery of the universe seems embodied linck's first play, with all its violence, in the figures of seven princesses sleeping lust, bloodshed, tears and terror, is overin a dim castle beside the sounding sea. brooded by haunting and inexpressible

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »