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misery. With fatal exaggeration, Octave Mirabeau wrote* of this play: "M. Maurice Maeterlinck nous a donné l'œuvre la plus géniale de ce temps, et la plus extraordinaire et la plus naive aussi, comparable et—oserai-je le dire ?—supérieure en beauté à ce qu'il y a de plus beau dans Shakespeare. plus tragique que Macbeth, plus extraordinaire en pensée que Hamlet." Plus, plus, and again plus. Bernard Shaw delightedly accused even the precise and careful Archer of conferring the Order of the Swan" (the Swan of Avon) upon Maeterlinck. There are many suggestions of Shakespearean characters in this little play-Hamlet, Ophelia, Juliet, Lear, the nurse in Romeo and Juliet, and Lady Macbeth; one rather feels, however, that M. Maeterlinck is not the 'Belgian Shakespeare," but a rather morbid and immature young man, reinterpreting and rehandling the plots and personages of the master-poet, in order to express himself and his faith in terms of the psychic chirography of to-day. Maleine is full of the unnamed terrors of the Poe of The House of Usher, of ghosthaunted regions, of dark, pestilential tarns the Poe of Ulalume and The Haunted Palace. It is not until M. Maeterlinck's second, or rather third, period, is reached that his theories find plausibly human concretizations.
In Pelléas and Mélisande we have a play of conventional plot-a modern revision of the Da Rimini story of Danteyet in Maeterlinck's play there is no such thing as couleur locale, no trace of Italy, for example, no suggestion of the thirteenth century. So distant is the milieu, so fanciful is the setting a pathetic lovestory projected against a gloomy background of old, forgotten castles-that we might almost think of it as taking place out of space and time. It is typical of the plays of this period, peopled with princes and princesses from No-Man's Land, named after the characters in the Morte d'Arthur, striking stained-glass *Paris Figaro, August 24, 1890.
attitudes of pre-Raphaelite grace; old men, symbolic of experience, wisdom, abstract justice; blind beggars, intoning the song of the world-malady; little wise children, whose instinctive divination gives new veracity to the words ex oris infantium. . . . There are castles in the depths of haunted forests, fountains playing softly in the misty moonshine of secret gardens, where errant princesses lose their golden crowns in magic pools, or their wedding-rings in caverns echoing with the murmur of the sea. These are pictures in which may faintly be traced the lineaments of humanity; but the figures are dim and confused, more abstract than vital. In Pelléas and Mélisande the accent is everywhere raised from off the human characters and the stress thrown upon forces of a supersensible dreamland, beyond the frontier of the natural. Throughout every scene, in almost every speech, there lurks a hidden meaning, so suggestive, so elusive, so profound, that the unembodied forces of another world seem to adumbrate and control the destinies of humanity. Mélisande is a childprincess, wedded through no will of her own to the gaunt, rugged, silent Golaud. As soon as Mélisande and the young and handsome Pelléas, Golaud's half-brother, meet, their mutual insight tells them that they are destined for each other. Struggle as they will against fate, its coils are too strong for them and they succumb to the inevitable call of soul to soul. Through the little Yniold, his son by a former marriage, Golaud learns of Mélisande's infidelity, surprises the lovers in each other's arms, strikes Pelléas dead, and gives Mélisande a mortal wound.
Throughout the whole play there breathes an atmosphere of the most profound symbolism. Even the simplest acts, the merest words of all the characters, are charged and freighted with symbolic meaning. The beautiful balcony episode, suggestive as it may be of Romeo and Juliet and Cyrano de Bergerac, is not only cast in exquisite poetic form, but is
animate with tragic significance. The incident of the flight of Mélisande's doves, the fluttering of her hair to her lover's lips, the loss of the wedding-ring, the cave scene, and the clandestine meetings beyond the walls of the castle loom large with hidden import. Nowhere is the novel dramatic method of M. Maeterlinck more manifest than in this play, in that he causes nature in its faintest movement to cooperate with the thoughts and deeds of the characters in suggesting the overshadowing dominance of the divinity which shapes our ends.
In all the love-dramas-" Alladine and Palomides," "Pelléas and Mélisande," and "Aglavaine and Sélysette"-the mood is ever individualistic, symptomatic of the modern thinker. The action, simple to the verge of bareness, is but a frail framework through and beyond which we gaze into the depths of the human soul. Maeterlinck seems to throw some faint gleams of light into the dark pool where humanity has lost its golden crown. The march of events is but a passing show, life is a tiny oasis in an illimitable desert, a narrow vale between two eternities. The characters do not bring things to pass; they are set in a magic maze of tragic destinies: through them are ever sweeping the impelling forces of the universe. Action is but the simulacrum, emotion is eternal Deeds are but the evanescent expression of the temporary, feelings are the vital concretization of immortal truth. The realities, the crises of life, are found in silence and in sadness: "sunt lacrimae rerum." Across the stage with dominant step strides no vital, tremendous, selfcaptained soul, incarnate with the deepseated elements of religion and Christian morality. Love is ever the fleeting victim, wantonly broken upon the wheel of fate. The characters, one and all, solemnly acknowledge the supremacy of destiny and morally acquiesce in its decrees. The call of soul to soul cannot be disregarded: the forces of Love and Chance conspire in the tragic dénouement.
To M. Maeterlinck, as both his plays and essays affirm, tragedy to-day is of necessity of a different cast from the tragedy of the past. Speaking of his art, Ibsen once significantly said: "We are no longer living in the time of Shakespeare.' However he may have carried his theory out, at least Gerhart Hauptmann has said: "Action upon the stage will, I think, give way to the analysis of character and to the exhaustive consideration of the motives which prompt men to act. Passion does not move at such headlong speed as in Shakespeare's day, so that we present not the actions themselves, but the psychological states which cause them." Maeterlinck believes that the bold bloodshed and gaudy theatricism of the conventional drama of the past must be replaced by psychic suggestion and the silent conflicts of the soul in this modern day of analysis and introspection. The "character in action" of a Shakespeare will be superseded by the inverted "action in character" of a Maeterlinck. Or, to be more precise, life reveals its meaning to us only in static moments, in the passive intervals of our life. “It is no longer a violent, exceptional moment of life that passes before our eyes—it is life itself. Thousands and thousands of laws there are, mightier and more venerable than those of passion. . . . It is only in the twilight that they can be seen and heard, in the meditation that comes to us at the tranquil moments of life."
Maeterlinck's ideal mood is static: he would relegate the dynamic, the violent, to the ages of whose life it was the counterpart. He protests against this false anachronism which dominates the stage to such an extent that dramatic art dates back as many years as the art of sculpture. He cites modern examples of the art of painting to prove that Marius triumphing over the Cimbrians, or the assassination of the Duke of Guise is no longer the type. The drama is no longer dependent upon the exhibition of violent
convulsions of life: "Does the soul flower only on nights of storm?" It is only when man is at rest that we have time to observe him. "To me, Othello does not appear to live the august daily life of Hamlet, who has time to live, inasmuch as he does not act. Othello is admirably jealous. But is it not perhaps an ancient error to imagine that it is at the moments when this passion, or others of equal violence, possess us, that we live our true lives? I have grown to believe that an old man, seated in his arm-chair, waiting patiently, with his lamp beside him, giving unconscious ear to all the eternal laws that reign about his house, interpreting, without comprehending, the silence of doors and windows and the quivering voice of the light, submitting with bent head to the presence of his soul and his destiny-an old man who is conscious not that all the powers of this world, like so many heedful servants, are mingling and keeping vigil in his room, who suspects not that the very sun itself is supporting in space the little table against which he leans, or that every star in heaven and every fiber of the soul are directly concerned in the movement of an eyelid that closes or a thought that springs to birth, -I have grown to believe that he, motionless as he is, does yet live in reality a deeper, more human, and more universal life than the lover who strangles his mistress, the captain who conquers in battle, or 'the husband who avenges his honor.'
M. Maeterlinck's hope for the drama lies in the paralysis of material action and insistence upon the methods of the static theater he proposes: only thus will it be possible to penetrate deeply into human consciousness. His first little plays strange reflections of unusual états d'ameare couched in the language of children and octogenarians; the dialogue spoken is symptomatic of the simplicity of infancy or senescence. If his characters have no dominant will or great purpose prompting their actions, but are quiescent, absent-minded, non-resistant,-all the more for this reason do they seem in close
touch, almost in communion, with another world. Such stuff as dreams are made of, they stand with arms outstretched towards the ambient immensities, the infinite mysteries of life and time. In permeating these dramas with mysticism, Maeterlinck has made an original contribution to our time. A mystic may be imperfectly defined as one who seeks to realize the hidden, unspoken mysteries of life, to tear aside the veil between the seen and the unseen, to bring mankind into close communion with the supernatural, to cross the frontiers of the unknowable. He would realize in his own person the inscrutable workings of Deity, he would lay strong hands upon the very passport of the soul. M. Maeterlinck has sought to embody and vitalize his philosophy of mysticism in dramatic form. It is not so much what his characters do as what they feel; he is not dealing with the glorious freedom of the individual to fashion his own life, but with the undercurrent of fate that penetrates the regions of his inner consciousness, directing and controlling the frail bark of human life. Delicate studies of psychic states, of atmospheric, impalpable yet decisively active agencies impressing themselves upon the human soul, of death as an almost personal influence in its collision with humanity-all these things are the revelation of Maeterlinck, the mystic.
The plays of M. Maeterlinck intervening between "Aglavaine and Sélysette and "Monna Vanna" possess no marked significance either in the development of his art or the evolutional trend of his philosophy. "Ardiane et Barbe Bleu" derives its significance from its subjectively explanatory nature: Mr. Hale correctly describes it as a sort of commentary. Marchbanks in "Candida" subtly insists that nothing that 's worth saying is proper. Ardiane, in Maeterlinck's play, insists that of all the keys which Bluebeard has given her, the one forbidden is the only one of value. Truth
lies not on the beaten path of humanity, but in the secret recesses of the soul, fast locked by the force of worldly authority, convention, tradition, and prudery. This is the lesson, the doctrine, so magnificently exemplified in “Monna Vanna." This play seemed to mark a turning point in M. Maeterlinck's career. Was it, the critics asked, a typical Maeterlinck play which approximated nearer than usual to the modern drama, or the index of a permanent revolution in literary methods? Discussion of the sort must be quieted by M. Maeterlinck's own statement that he wrote this play for his wife. His marriage, as Mr. Huneker says, accelerated his evolution from mystic to philosopher of reality: the necessity or pleasure of writing a rôle suitable to his wife, a gifted actress, doubtless caused him to create that magnificent specimen of dauntless womanhood, Giovanna, wife of Colonna, and called by him Monna Vanna. The import of all great modern philosophy, of much modern drama, is the same. There is a secret and abstract justice, a sphere of ethical equity outside of and above the domain of law, convention and authority. The arbiter of human conduct should be, not the merciless on dit of the world, but the mystical sense of justice deep-rooted in the consciousness of the race. To the question: Which of two forces which work within us, the one natural, the other ethical, is the more natural and necessary? M. Maeterlinck would answer, according to Signor Lorenzo Ratto: "The great ideas of humanity belong to the species, not to the individual. Justice is perhaps an instinct whose tendency is the defence and conservation of humanity. Ideal justice is innate and is transformed by reason and will into moral force. Justice is within ourselves; outside of us is infinite injustice, which may rather be called justice incomplete, because exposed to all the errors and modifications which result from clashing interests. While we are benefited by following the dictates of this inner voice, its influence cannot extend to our surroundings and modify the
laws of nature. Its sole result is an internal equilibrium, the balance of the conscience, which furnishes the best condition in which we may enjoy material well-being." It is this sense of innate and eternal justice which leads the poet in D'Annunzio's "Gioconda" to desert his wife and cleave only to his spiritual affinity. Marchbanks defiantly asserts his spiritual possession of "Candida." Max Stirner rhapsodically declared: "My truth is the truth." Nietzsche transvaluated all moral values beyond good and evil. Justice, like truth, is in ourselves; each one can see and worship it within himself. As Mr. Hale, says: “Real justice appears beautiful in Marco; real morality in Vanna; real love in Prinzivalle. Such people will understand each other even if everybody else holds them worse than fools or knaves. Those who want to live at a higher level must be satisfied with very few companions." the end we must revert to Ibsen: the minority is always right; the strongest man is he who is most alone.
If "Monna Vanna" enforces the lesson of abstract justice, "Joyzelle" celebrates the final authority of love-perfect, eternal, true. In the words of M. Maeterlinck: "It represents the triumph of will and love over destiny or fatality, as against the converse lesson of ‘Monna Vanna.' Through Arielle, his subliminal self, Merlin has learned to realize "his interior force, the forgotten power that slumbers in every soul." It is thus that, like Marco in "Monna Vanna," he is enabled to "see into the life of things": for the sake of those he loves, "he would be cruel only to be kind." In enlarging, in developing our activities, as Novalis has it, we are transformed into fatality. M. Maeterlinck has only sought to do a little sooner what others will do later, when the soul, in obedience to unknown laws, will rise to the very surface of humanity. "Let us wait in silence; perhaps ere long we shall be conscious of 'the murmur of the gods."