Hothouses: Poems, 1889

Overview

On May 31, 1889, a young Belgian lawyer from a wealthy bourgeois family in Ghent published a book of 33 poems in 155 copies. Maurice Maeterlinck's legal career was floundering but his road to literary greatness had begun. Long overshadowed by the plays that later won him the Nobel Prize, Serres chaudes (Hothouses) nonetheless came to be widely regarded as one of the cornerstones of literary Modernism after Baudelaire. While Max Nordau soon seized upon Maeterlinck's--tumult of images--as symptomatic of a pervasive...

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Overview

On May 31, 1889, a young Belgian lawyer from a wealthy bourgeois family in Ghent published a book of 33 poems in 155 copies. Maurice Maeterlinck's legal career was floundering but his road to literary greatness had begun. Long overshadowed by the plays that later won him the Nobel Prize, Serres chaudes (Hothouses) nonetheless came to be widely regarded as one of the cornerstones of literary Modernism after Baudelaire. While Max Nordau soon seized upon Maeterlinck's--tumult of images--as symptomatic of a pervasive social malaise, decades later Antonin Artaud pronounced, "Maeterlinck was the first to introduce the multiple riches of the subconscious into literature."

Richard Howard's translation of this quietly radical work is the first to be published in nearly a century, and the first to accurately convey Maeterlinck's elusive visionary force. The poems, some of them in free verse (new to Belgium at the time), combine the decadent symbolism and the language of dislocation that Maeterlinck later perfected in his dramas. Hothouses reflects the influence not only of French poets including Verlaine and Rimbaud, but also of Whitman. As for the title, the author said it was "a natural choice, Ghent . . . abounding in greenhouses."

The poems, whose English translations appear opposite the French originals, are accompanied by reproductions of seven woodcuts by Georges Minne that appeared in the original volume, and by an early prose text by Maeterlinck imaginatively describing a painting by the sixteenth-century Flemish artist Pieter Brueghel.

A feat of daring power extraordinarily immediate and inventive, Hothouses will appeal to all lovers of poetry, and in particular to those interested in Modernism. Maeterlinck's enormous fame may have faded, but twentieth-century writers such as Beckett are still our masters who testify to its undying influence.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Long overdue for reconsideration is Hothouses: Poems 1889, the book of poems published in French by Belgian lawyer Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949), who later went on the win a Nobel Prize. The facing-page translations by Richard Howard are the first complete set in more than 100 years, accompanied by seven Georges Minne woodcuts that show "those faraway nights/ so long dead to memory that their/ gradually focused return/ withers the green soul of hopes to come." Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691088389
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 3/10/2003
  • Series: Facing Pages Series
  • Pages: 120
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Hothouses

Poems, 1889
By Maurice Maeterlinck

Princeton

Copyright © 2003
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0691088373


Chapter One


Chapter 1

SERRE CHAUDE

Ô serre au milieu des forêts ! Et vos portes à jamais closes !
Et tout ce qu'il y a sous votre coupole !
Et sous mon âme en vos analogies !
 
Les pensées d'une princesse qui a faim,
L'ennui d'un matelot dans le désert,
Une musique de cuivre aux fenêtres des incurables.
 
Allez aux angles les plus tièdes !
On dirait une femme évanouie un jour de moisson ;
Il y a des postillons dans la cour de l'hospice ;
Au loin, passe un chasseur d'élans, devenu infirmier.
 
Examinez au clair de lune !
(Oh rien n'y est à sa place !)
On dirait une folle devant les juges,
Un navire de guerre à pleines voiles sur un canal,
Des oiseaux de nuit sur des lys,
Un glas vers midi,
(Là-bas sous ces cloches !)
Une étape de malades dans la prairie,
Une odeur d'éther un jour de soleil.
 
Mon Dieu ! mon Dieu ! quand aurons-nous la pluie,
Et la neige et le vent dans la serre !
 
 

HOTHOUSE

A hothouse deep in the woods,
doors forever sealed. Analogies:
everything under that glass dome,
everything under my soul.
 
Thoughts of a starving princess,
a sailor marooned in the desert,
fanfares at hospital windows.
 
Seek out the warmest corners!
Think of a woman fainting on harvest-day;
postillions ride into the hospital courtyard;
a soldier passes, he is a sick-nurse now.
 
Look at it all by moonlight
(nothing is where it belongs).
Think of a madwoman haled before judges,
a man-of-war in full sail on the canal,
nightbirds perched among the lilies,
a knell at noon
(out there under those glass bell-jars),
cripples halted in the fields
on a day of sunshine, the smell of ether.
 
My God, when will the rain come,
and the snow, and the wind, to this glass house!
 
 

ORAISON

Ayez pitié de mon absence
Au seuil de mes intentions !
Mon âme est pâle d'impuissance
Et de blanches inactions.
 
Mon âme aux œuvres délaissées,
Mon âme pâle de sanglots
Regarde en vain ses mains lassées
Trembler à fleur de l'inéclos.
 
Et tandis que mon cœur expire
Les bulles des songes lilas,
Mon âme, aux frêles mains de cire,
Arrose un clair de lune las ;
 
Un clair de lune où transparaissent
Les lys jaunis des lendemains ;
Un clair de lune où seules naissent
Les ombres tristes de mes mains.
 
 

PRAYER

Pity this hesitation of mine
    to speak 'the name of action',
for my soul lies waxen and inert,
    washed transparent
 
by her own tears, and such indolence
    leaves every task undone:
these helpless hands can only bother
    what they must abort.
 
And as I watch the lilac bubbles
    rise-O iridescent dreams!-
my soul douses the moon to dimness
    with weary gestures:
 
yet even that dim moonlight betrays
    tomorrow's yellowed lilies,
revealing no revels but the sad
    shadows of my hands.
 
 

SERRE D'ENNUI

Ô cet ennui bleu dans le cœur !
Avec la vision meilleure,
Dans le clair de lune qui pleure,
De mes rêves bleus de langueur !
 
Cet ennui bleu comme la serre,
Où l'on voit closes à travers
Les vitrages profonds et verts,
Couvertes de lune et de verre,
 
Les grandes végétations
Dont l'oubli nocturne s'allonge,
Immobilement comme un songe,
Sur les roses des passions ;
 
Où de l'eau très lente s'élève,
En mêlant la lune et le ciel
En un sanglot glauque éternel,
Monotonement comme un rêve.
 
 

HOTHOUSE ENNUI

O this heart, perpetually blue!
    even with the best vision,
lachrymose by moonlight, of
    my indolent blue dreams;
 
bored heart, blue as the hothouse
    showing everything blue
through blind glass, slick with moonlight
    and hoarfrost, or is it
 
only the glass? Suffocating fronds
    by night extend their shadows
motionlessly, as dreams do,
    over passion's roses,
 
and very slowly the water rises,
    compromising moon and sky
in one endless blue-green sob
    monotonous as dreams.





Excerpted from Hothouses by Maurice Maeterlinck Copyright © 2003 by
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Translator's Note vii
Chronology xi
HOTHOUSES 1
Appendix: The Massacre of the Innocents 95
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