Verhaeren, Émile

Verhaeren, Émile

(āmēl` vārärĕn`, vərhä`rən), 1855–1916, Belgian poet and critic, a Fleming who wrote in French. His dominant passion for social reform found expression successively in a disgust with mankind, as in the naturalistic verse of Les Flamandes (1883); in pessimism over the growth of urban industrialization, as in Les Villages illusoires and Les Villes tentaculaires (both 1895); and finally in optimistic glorification of the energy of man, as in the lyrical Les Forces tumultueuses (1902) and La Multiple Splendeur (1906). A period of gloom and melancholic unrest in which he traveled over Western Europe and spent much time in London is reflected in a trilogy of poetic works—Les Soirs and Les Débâcles (both 1888), and Les Flambeaux noirs (1891). He also wrote for his wife, Marthe Massin, a trilogy of love poems—Les Heures claires (1896, tr. The Sunlit Hours, 1916), Les Heures de l'après-midi (1905, tr. Afternoon, 1917), and Les Heures du soir (1911, tr. The Evening Hours, 1918). Outstanding among his dramas, which combine verse and prose, is Hélène de Sparte (1912, tr. 1916). The poems in Les Ailes rouges de la guerre [the red wings of war] (1917) are his bitter protest against war.


See A. Lowell, Six French Poets (1915, repr. 1967).

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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.


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


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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.