Saturday, 18 July 2020

Emile Adolphe Gustave Verhaeren (1855 – 1916) - Belgian poet and art critic who wrote in French.

Portrait of Emile Verhaeren
by Theo van Rysselberghe (1862 - 1926)
Born in Sint-Amands, a rural commune in Belgium's Province of Antwerp, on 21st May 1855, Emile became one of the founders of the school of Symbolism. On 24th August 1891 he married Marthe Massin, a talented artist from Liège.

The outbreak of the First World War had a devastating effect on Emile’s deep pacifist feelings. He sought refuge in England, where he received honorary degrees from various universities. During his time in England, Emile published a collection of poems entitled "Les Ailes rouges de la Guerre".

Emile Verhaeren died on 27th November 1916 at Rouen station - he fell under a moving train while trying to board it.  Marthe Verhaeren was informed of the death of her husband by the artist Théo van Rysselberghe and his friend, the famous French writer (and later Nobel Prize winner) André Gide.

In 1920 Emile was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold.

A poem by Emile Verhaeren in the WW1 work edited by Edith Wharton and sold in aid of the Belgian refugees

Portrait of Emile Verhaeren by Theo van Ryselberghe
to accompany the poem in Edith's book


Tu me disais de ta voix douce,
Tu me disais en insistant:
—Y a-t-il e"ncore un Printemps
Et les feuilles repoussent-elles?
La guerre accapare le ciel
Les eaux, les monts, les bois, la terre:
Où sont les fleurs couleur de miel
Pour les abeilles volontaires?
Où sont les pousses des roncerois
Et les boutons des anémones?
Où sont les flûtes dans les bois
Des oiseaux sombres aux becs jaunes?
—Hélas! plus n’est de floraison
Que celle des feux dans l’espace:
Bouquet de rage et de menace
S’éparpillant sur l’horizon.
Plus n’est, hélas! de splendeur rouge
Que celle, hélas! des boulets fous
Éclaboussant de larges coups
Clochers, hameaux, fermes et bouges.
C’est le printemps de ce temps-ci:
Le vent répand de plaine en plaine,
Là-bas, ces feuillaisons de haine;
C’est la terreur de ce temps-ci.

Émile Verhaeren
Saint-Cloud, le 31 Juillet 1915


Sadly your dear voice said:
“Is the old spring-time dead,
And shall we never see
New leaves upon the tree?
“Shall the black wings of war
Blot out sun, moon and star,
And never a bud unfold
To the bee its secret gold?
“Where are the wind-flowers streaked,
And the wayward bramble shoots,
And the black-birds yellow-beaked
With a note like woodland flutes?”
No flower shall bloom this year
But the wild flame of fear
Wreathing the evil night
With burst of deadly light.
No splendour of petals red
But that which the cannon shed,
Raining their death-bloom down
On farm and tower and town.
This is the scarlet doom
By the wild sea-winds hurled
Over a land of gloom,
Over a grave-strewn world.

Émile Verhaeren
Saint-Cloud, 31st July 1915

Emile ‘s WW1 collections were: “Les ailes rouges de la guerre” (Tr. The Red Wings of War),1916 and
“Les flammes hautes” (Tr. High Flames), 1917 but written in 1914.