Émile Verhaeren

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Verhaeren, Émile

 

Born May 21, 1855, in Saint-Amand, near Antwerp; died Nov. 27, 1916, in Rouen. Belgian poet, dramatist, and critic who wrote in French.

Verhaeren graduated from the faculty of law at Louvain and worked as a lawyer. His first book of poems, The Flemish, which was devoted to the subject of rural Flanders, was published in 1883. The optimistic mood of the book was mingled with the motif of the artist humanist’s anxiety at the ugliness in human relationships, even in the rural world. In the collection of verses The Monks (1886) he created stylized portraits of medieval monks.

The years 1887-90 were a period of spiritual crisis for Verhaeren. The collections Evenings (1887), Disasters (1888), The Black Torches (1890), which are close to decadent poetry, reflect a tragic view of life. In the collection Delusive Fields (1893), Verhaeren described social developments, striving to comprehend the absorption of the patriarchal village by the capitalist town. The anthology Tentacled Towns (1895) uses the image of a town as the focal point of social contrasts. Verhaeren wrote of national insurrection and revolutionary anger as constructive forces. The play Dawns (1898; Russian translation, 1907) is his most brilliant creation as a playwright, expressing the dream of the brotherhood of the workers of all countries and the dream of social revolution.

In the collections Faces of Life (1899), Tumultuous Forces (1902), Manifold Splendor (1906), and Ruling Rhythms (1910), Verhaeren tried to embody in his poetry all the diversity of human creativity, and he glorified art, love, and daring. During World War I he wrote patriotic verse with nationalistic elements (the collection The Red Wings of War, 1916).

Verhaeren also wrote critical works on great painters (Rembrandt, 1904, and Rubens, 1910), writers (Shakespeare, Racine, and Hugo), and the French and Belgian symbolists. Collections of his poems were published in Russia from 1906 (Contemporary Poems) in translations by A. A. Blok, V. Ia. Briusov, M. A. Voloshin, G. A. Shengeli, and others.

WORKS

Oeuvres, vols. 1-11. Paris, 1912-33.
In Russian translation:
Dramy i Proza. Moscow, 1936.
Izbrannoe. Introductory article by N. Rykova. Moscow, 1955.

REFERENCES

Lunacharskii, A. V. O teatre i dramaturgii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1958. Pages 227-28, 765.
Centenaire de Verhaeren. Brussels, 1955.
“Émile Verhaeren: Poète et prophète du monde moderne.” Rencontres (La Louvière), 1966, no. 4 (special number).
Culot, J.-M. Bibliographie de É. Verhaeren. Brussels, 1954.

M. N. VAKSMAKHER