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cient output of work to enable us to judge of its quality, to note the direction in which his development has been tending, and to form hopes with regard to his future. It is one of his attractive characteristics that he does not stand still. He is not one of the writers who make a mark- in a single field of nutliorship, and continue to plough the same furrow for the rest of their literary career. His attitude towards the problems of life has changed, has progressed, in the comparatively few years during which he has been before the public; and while he has already said much which is instructive and suggestive, we are not without hope that he may have things yet wiser and more helpful still to say. He is a poet in temperament, and a thinker who looks beyond the borders of everyday life; and in an age of which the besetting danger is materialism such a writer deserves a welcome, even if we do not understand all that he says, nor agree with all that we understand.
To English readers it may be a further recommendation that M. Maeterlinck displays a considerable knowledge of and admiration for some of the leaders of English literature. Shakespeare he knows well, and draws examples of events and character from his plays more frequently than from those of any other dramatist or from the records of real life. He has translated one of the masterpieces of Shakespeare's contemporary! Ford. Carlyle he quotes frequently and with respect. Emerson is one of his- masters, and he has edited, with 'an interesting introduction, a translation of several of his essays. Un-English though he is in the cast of his mind, his speculations are often on subjects with which English thought is apt to concern itself, and his illustrations are not unfrequently drawn from English literature. Fully
intelligible in his main purposes, suggestive even when obscure, healthy in intention, if not always in effect, he is an author whom English readers of a thoughtful turn of mind may well read with profit and enjoyment, even if they do not feel called upon to go into ecstasies over his genius.
M. Maeterlinck, as we said above, is both poet (though he rarely writes in verse) and philosopher, but the two sides of his genius are so involved and interconnected that it is impossible to keep the consideration of them wholly apart. His dramas elucidate his philosophical conceptions; his essays help us to understand and estimate his dramas. In biographical order, his plays precede his prose publications; for La Princesse Maleine appeared in 1890, and six more dramas hadi been published before the appearance of Le Trtsor des Humbles in 1896. Nevertheless it will be more profitable to consider his prose writings first, both because they present a more concrete subject for discussion, and because a knowledge of them makes it easier to appreciate the aims and estimate the success of his dramas.
M. Maeterlinck is often described as a mystic; and unquestionably the great mystics of past generations—Plotinus, Ruysbroeck, Novalls, Swedenborg— have a strong attraction for him and have greatly influenced his development. His position is thus stated by himself in the essay prefixed to his translation of the works of the mediaeval mystic, Ruysbroeck:1
If I have translated this, it is solely because I believe that the writings of the mystics are the purest jewels in all the prodigious treasures of humanity. .... Mystical truths have this strange superiority over truths of the ordinary kind, that they know neither age nor death. There is not a truth which bas not descended on the world one morning marvellous in its youth and strength, and arrayed with the fresh and wonderful hue appropriate to those things which have never before been uttered; traverse now the infirmaries of the human soul, where all these truths come at length to die, and you will not find there a single mystical thought. They possess the immunity of Swedenborg's angels, which progresi^ continually towards the springtime of their youth, so that the eldest angels always appear the youngest.
'"Le Tresor des Humbles," pp. 121-123. This essay Is not included by Sir. Sntro in his trans
latlon. and be li consequently not responsible for the vernlon here given.
It is in M. Maeterlinck's first volume of essays, entitled Le Trteor des Humbles, that his mystical philosophy is most fully expressed. Like all mystical philosophy, it is difficult to reduce to precise terms, or to interpret satisfactorily to those who have not read the book itself. It is a volume of essays, each an independent whole in itself, but linked together by the common thought underlying them—the thought of the activity of the soul outside and transcending the ordinary methods of self-expression by means of the natural senses. Our relations with other souls are not confined to the communications which we hold with them by sight and speech. We may have conversed with a new-comer on no subject more profound than the weather and the garden; yet at the end of our conversation we have made a friend or discovered a barrier of mutual antipathy or suspicion. It is in this life, "la vie selon l'ftme," whch transcends our ordinary visible life of every day, that the essence of our real life lies. "It is only by 1the communications we have with the Infinite that we are to be distinguished from each other. If the hero is greater than the wretch who marches by his side, it is because at a certain moment of his existence there has come :to him a fuller consciousness of one of these communications. . . In the life of every man has there been a
i "The Treasure of the Humble," pp. 171, 172 (Eog. trans.).
day when the heavens opened of their own accord, and it is almost always from that very instant that dates his true spiritual personality."' And this interior life, besides being far more real and essential than all that which we ordinarily call our life, more even than our reason and our practical will, also affects infinitely the ordinary manifestations of our character. It is by cultivating our spiritual nature that we rise to highcD things; and we cannot raise ourselves without raising our neighbor at the same time. The effort to live up to a higher standard of truth and beauty will bring its own fruition. "No tongue can tell the power of a soul that strives to live in an atmosphere of beauty, and is actively beautiful in itself."' Or, to quote a longer passageBe good at the depths of you, and you will discover that those who surround you will be good even to the same depths. Nothing responds more infallibly to- the secret cry of goodness than the secret cry of goodness that is near. While you are actively good in the invisible, all those who approach you will unconsciously do things that they could not do by the side of any other man. Therein lies a force that has no name; a spiritual rivalry that knows no resistance. It is as though this were the actual place where is the sensitive spot of our soul: for there are souls that seem to have forgotten their existence and to have renounced everything that enables the being to rise; but, once touched here, they all draw themselves erect; and in the divine plains of the secret goodness the most humble of souls cannot endure defeat. And yet it is possible that nothing is changing in the, life one sees; but is it only that which matters, and is our existence indeed confined to actions we can take in our hand like stones on the high road? If you ask yourself, as we are told we should ask every evening, "Whatof immortal havel done to-day?" is it always on the material side that
« "The Treasure of the Humble," p. 212.
you must begin your search? It is possible for you to cause extraordinary tears to flow; it is possible that you may fill a heart with unheard-of certitudes, and give eternal life unto a soul and no one shall know of it, nor shall you even know yourself. It may be that nothing is changing; it may be that were it put to the test all would crumble, and that this goodness we speak of would yield to the smallest fear. It matters not. Something divine has happened; and somewhere must our God have smiled. ° •
It is this inner life, this cultivation of spiritual beauty, which constitutes "the treasure of the humble." No being need be without it: none, indeed, can be wholly destitute of the capacity for it, since it is a part of the common heritage of human nature. The life of the soul is as invisible as the ether, but is as essential to spiritual light as that is to natural light; and the spiritual life ranks as far in advance of the intellectual life as the intellectual life is in advance of the material. The capacity can be crushed by neglect, by that absorption in material considerations and interests which fills so large a part of the life of the majority of us; or, on the other hand, it can be developed by cultivation, by the constant effort to live beautifully and think nobly.
We all live in the sublime. Where else can we live? That is the only place of life. And if aught be lacking, it is not the chance of living in heaven, rather is it watchfuiness and meditation, also perhaps a little ecstasy of soul. Though you have but a little rcMun, do you fancy that God is not there too, and that it is impossible to live therein a life that shall be somewhat lofty? If you complain of being alone, of the absence of events, of loving no one and being unloved, do you think that the words are true? Do you imagine that one can possibly be alone,
that love can be a thing one knows, a thing one sees; that events can be weighed like the gold and silver of ransom? Cannot a living thought—proud or humble it matters not; so it come but from your soul, it is great for you —cannot a lofty desire, or simply a moment of solemn watchfuiness to life, enter a little room? And if you love not, or are unloved, and can yet see with some depth of insight that thousands of things are beautiful, that the soul is great and life almost unspeakably earnest, is not that as beautiful as though you loved or were loved? •
In all this, it may be said, there is nothing new, nothing which has not often formed the theme of poet and preacher; and of this expression of M. Maeterlinck's meaning, involving the concentration of many pages'into a few sentences with a total loss of the atmosphere created by M. Maeterlinck's literary skill, this is true enough. We should be the last to contend that there is anything true and noble in M. Maeterlinck's philosophy which is not given in equal or fuller measure by Christianity. Nevertheless, we welcome M. Maeterlinck's essays as embodying a true thought in -new and beautiful language, and in a form which will appeal to many whom the utterances of the professed divine would not reach. To many a man,1 unfortunately, as to M. Maeterlinck himself, orthodox Christianity appears in the guise of a system of dead and deadening formulas, devoid of truly spiritual impetus; and until this hostility, grounded upon ignorance, is dissipated, one must be content that such persons should approach the truth by other avenues. "He that is not against us is for us"; and in these days of materialism, when the pressure and interests of the world around us, in which our lives have to be passed, threaten often to overwhelm all thoughts of a more spiritual nature, it is pleasant to welcome a writer whose outlook on life is spiritual, not material, and whose influence, by the literary art in which it is embodied, is likely to touch many whom religion does not yet touch.
8 "The Treasure of the Humble," pp. 166, 167.
• "The Treasure of the Humble," pp. 179, 180.
The whole of this essay, "La Vie Proromle," is
well worth study, and contains the kernel of M. Maeterlinck's philosophy.
Other topics are touched on in this volume, other aspects of the supra-sensual life which is the special theme of the mystics. Sometimes it is difficult to follow M. Maeterlinck's thought, or to put oneself into the frame of:mind which he is trying to evoke. The mystic is necessarily dealing with spheres beyond our ken, and is striving to describe in words that which is strictly indescribable. He is expressing thoughts which even in himself are rather vague aspirations -and half-formed images than clear and definite beliefs, and he has to create in his readers the same sort of mental atmosphere as that in Which he himself moves. M. Maeterlinck's literary skill aids him greatly in thus creating an atmosphere, whether it is the atmosphere of tragic and mysterious destiny which hangs over many of his plays, or the atmosphere of spiritual environment which surrounds-the essays of which we have been speaking; but their effect must vary according to the idiosyncrasy of the reader, or even according to the mood in which he finds himself when reading them. Subjected to hard matter-of-fact criticism, they may seem to contain little that is definite and less that is true; nevertheless, the sympathetic reader will find in them much that is suggestive and even helpful. The English author with whom he may best be compared is Emerson in his more transcendental moods. There is the same sense of truth being illuminated by successive flashes, which severally show up only a part of the truth, yet show it up very vividly, and collectively leave behind an impression which, if not the whole truth, is at least an important approximation to it.
Most of Emerson's writings, however, have a closer relation to actual life and character than the essays we have hitherto been considering; otherwise they would not be so full of helpfuiness and interest as they are, especially to those whose intellectual life is just beginning to develop. M. Maeterlinck's next volume. La Sagesse et la Deatinte, enters this sphere of character and conduct, and is therefore likely to be more generally popular, and also more generally useful, than its predecessor. Up to the present, indeed, it is the most notable of its author's non-dramatic productions; and if the philosophy which it contains differs very noticeably from that which underlies nearly all the dramas, it differs very distinctly for the better. Its main theme is the relation of man to "Destiny," and the upshot of its teaching is the superiority of man to that mysterious power outside him. It is, no doubt, true that many men are overpowered by their destiny, or abandon themselves to it without a struggle; but that is their own fault, their own culpable weakness.
The wise man (and by the wise man M. Maeterlinck, like Plato, means the man who unites the higher qualities alike of mind and character) is superior to the buffets of fate, and either blunts its arrows by the spirit with which he confronts them, or, even if physically overcome by misfortune, la morally the victor by reason of the nobility of mind with which he meets it. The -great tragedies of life and literature could not be conceived as happening if their victims had risen to the standard which we find in the noblest of mankind. Place Marcus Aurelius in the position of CEdipus, and his soul would have risen superior to the calamity instead of being crushed by it. Nay, more, it would seem as if wisdom in itself created a refuge in which the powers of fate lose their force.
Had Socrates dwelt in Agamemnon's palace among the Atrides, then had there been no Oresteia, nor would CEdipus ever have dreamed of destroying his sight if he had been tranquilly seated on the threshold of Jocasta's abode. Fatality shrinks back abashed from the soul that has more than once conquered her; there are certain disasters she dare not send forth when this soul is near, and the sage, as he passes by, intervenes in numberless tragedies. *
"Man is the master of his fate;" that is, in fact, the motto of this book. All depends on the way in which we meet the events of life. Even happiness and unhappiness arise, not so much from the actual occurrences which we experience as from the spirit in which we receive them.
Those who are sad are ever inclined to regard happiness as something beyond them, extraordinary, out of their reach. But if all who may count themselves happy were to tell, very simply, what it was that brought happiness to them, the others would see that between sorrow and joy the difference is but as between a gladsome, enlightened acceptance of life and a hostile, gloomy submission, between a large and harmonious conception of life and one that is stubborn and narrow. •
Our experiences, indeed, are largely determined by our characters. "Deeds of heroism are but offered to those who for many long years have been heroes in obscurity and silence." Go where you will, "none but yourself shall you meet on the highway of fate. If Judas go forth to-night it is towards Judas his steps will tend, nor will chance for betrayal be lacking; but let Socrates open his door, he shall find Socrates asleep on the threshold before him, and there will be occasion for wisdom." •
"To those round about us there hap
pen incessant and countless adventures, whereof every one, it would seem, contains a germ of heroism; but the adventure passes away and heroic deed is there none. But when Jesus Christ met the Samaritan, met a few children, an adulterous woman, then did humanity rise three times in succession to the level of God.""
If we ask, in what does this "wisdom" consist which thus conquers "destiny," we shall find that, on the one hand, it is something more than the intellectual virtue to which we commonly give the name; while, on the other, it falls short in certain respects of the Christian ideal of character. Wisdom is a higher and wider virtue than intellect, covering the whole sphere of our moral nature, with which indeed our reason has but little to do.
"Strangely enough," says M. Maeterlinck, "it is not in our reason that moral life has its being; and he who would let reason govern his life would be the most wretched of men. There is not a virtue, a beautiful thought, or a generous deed, but has most of its roots hidden far away from that which can be understood or explained." u
t Or again:
Happiness is a plant that thrives far more readily in moral than in intellectual life. Consciousness—the consciousness of happiness, above all —will not choose the intellect as a hiding-place for the treasure it holds most dear. At times it would almost seem as if all that is loftiest in intellect, fraught with most comfort, is transformed into consciousness only when passed through an act of virtue. a
Wisdom, then, lies not in a successful intellectual appreciation of our surroundings, but in the noble attitude of
1 "Wisdom and Destiny," p. 35 (Eng. tram.).
• "Wisdom and Destiny," p. 8.
• "Wisdom and DestIny," p. 31.
10 "Wlidom and Destiny," p. 20.
11 "Wisdom and Destiny," p. 110. 11 "Wladom and Destiny," p. 136.