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Gloomy Greenhouse Poets - Part One - Maurice Maeterlinck

It’s amazing how gloomy poems about greenhouses have been. Look at Maeterlinck (1862-1949). He was never especially cheery, but he wrote a whole sequence on Serres Chaudes - Hothouses - and they’re all miserable.


‘O blue monotony of my heart’ he begins one, then ‘O that this wavering heart were dead!’ he ends another. ‘When will the dreams of earth, alas, / Find in my heart their final tomb?’ ‘Alas, my soul, / And alas, the sadness of all these things!’ Poems with titles like ‘Listlessness’. Here’s how the collection ends:

 

Night

 

My soul is sick at the end of all,

Sick and sad, being weary too,

Eary of being so vain, so vain,

Weary and sad at the end of all,

And O I long for the touch of you!

 

I long for your hands upon my face;

Snow-cold as spirits they will be;

I wait until they bring the ring.

I wait for their coolness over my face

Like a treasure deep in the sea.

 

I wait to know they healing spell,

Lest in the desolate sun I die,

So that I die not out in the sun;

O bathe mine eyes and make them well,

Where things unhappy slumbering lie.

 

Where many swans upon the sea,

Swans that wander over the sea,

Stretch forth their mournful throats in vain;

In wintry gardens by the sea

Sick men pluck roses in their pain.

 

I long for your hands upon my face;

Snow-cold as spirits they will be,

And soothe my aching sight, alas!

My vision like the withered grass

Where listless lambs irresolute pass!


In a few days time I'm going to do another Gloomy Greenhouse Poets blog. Maybe two more! If anyone has more gloomy green/hothouse poems I'd love to see them. Maybe a cheery one, too...


(I’m using the 1915 translation by Bernard Miall, which enjoys the ‘Lo’, ‘O’ and ‘Alas’ and considers a poem incomplete if it does not include at least three. A more recent translation was done by Richard Howard and published by Princeton University Press in 2003.)

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