The Miracle of Saint Anthony

Dodd, Mead

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Publisher
Dodd, Mead
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Published on
Dec 31, 1918
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Pages
144
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Language
English
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Maurice Maeterlinck
Winner of the 2008 Prix de la Traduction Littéraire presented by French Community of Belgium

A new translation of one of Maeterlinck’s four great nature essays. 

“The republication of Maurice Maeterlinck’s ‘The Intelligence of Flowers,’ regrettably forgotten in our time, is long overdue. The introduction by Mosley is itself a gem, and contains one of the best overviews in print of writings about intelligence in Nature.” — Stephen Harrod Buhner, author of The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature 

The second of Maeterlinck’s four celebrated nature essays—along with those on the life of the bee, ant, and termite—“The Intelligence of Flowers” (1907) represents his impassioned attempt to popularize scientific knowledge for an international audience. Writing with characteristic eloquence, Maeterlinck asserts that flowers possess the power of thought without knowledge, a capacity that constitutes a form of intelligence. Appearing one hundred years after the first publication, Philip Mosley’s new translation of the original French essay, and the related essay “Scents,” maintains the verve of Maeterlinck’s prose and renders it accessible to the present-day reader. This is a book for those who are excited by creative encounters between literature and science as well as current debates on the relationship of humankind to the natural world. 

It would be superfluous to redraw the picture of the great systems of floral fertilization: the play of stamens and pistil, the seductiveness of scents, the appeal of harmonious and striking colors, the development of nectar, totally useless to the flower, and which it manufactures only to attract and hold the foreign liberator, the messenger of love, bee, bumblebee, fly, butterfly, moth, which must bring it the kiss of the distant, invisible, motionless lover… 

We could truly say that ideas come to flowers in the same way they come to us. Flowers grope in the same darkness, encounter the same obstacles and the same ill will, in the same unknown. They know the same laws, same disappointments, same slow and difficult triumphs. It seems they have our patience, our perseverance, our self-love; the same finely tuned and diversified intelligence, almost the same hopes and the same ideals. Like ourselves, they struggle against a vast indifferent force that ends by helping them. — from “The Intelligence of Flowers” 

“…a wonderfully enjoyable, insightful and worthwhile read … This work would be of interest to anyone excited by the remarkable process of the plant world and would expressly appeal to gardeners and flower growers.” — Huntia 

“A rare gem, written … in lyrical and accessible prose.” — The Times Literary Supplement 

“…Maeterlinck is a seductive essayist … [and] writes with the same intrinsic humility that will be familiar to admirers of John Muir, Aldo Leopold, or Mary Oliver.” — The Boston Globe 

“That the intelligence of flowers provides Maeterlinck with a theory riddled with contradictions—mostly as a result of his metaphoric reasoning—seems less important than the fundamental truths of the metaphors unto themselves. As a result, ‘The Intelligence of Flowers’ is happily welcome once more, in this centenary reissue.” — San Francisco Chronicle  

Book 1



THE WOODCUTTER'S COTTAGE

Once upon a time, a woodcutter and his wife lived in their cottage on the edge of a large and ancient forest. They had two dear little children who met with a most wonderful adventure.

But, before telling you all about it, I must describe the children to you and let you know something of their character; for, if they had not been so sweet and brave and plucky, the curious story which you are about to hear would never have happened at all.

Tyltyl—that was our hero's name—was ten years old; and Mytyl, his little sister, was only six.

Tyltyl was a fine, tall little fellow, stout and well-set-up, with curly black hair which was often in a tangle, for he was fond of a romp. He was a great favorite because of his smiling and good-tempered face and the bright look in his eyes; but, best of all, he had the ways of a bold and fearless little man, which showed the noble qualities of his heart. When, early in the morning, he trotted along the forest-road by the side of his daddy, Tyl the woodcutter, for all his shabby clothes he looked so proud and gallant that every beautiful thing on the earth and in the sky seemed to lie in wait for him to smile upon him as he passed.

His little sister was very different, but looked ever so sweet and pretty in her long frock, which Mummy Tyl kept neatly patched for her. She was as fair as her brother was dark; and her large timid eyes were blue as the forget-me-nots in the fields. Anything was enough to frighten her and she would cry at the least thing; but her little child soul already held the highest womanly qualities: she was loving and gentle and so fondly devoted to her brother that, rather than abandon him, she did not hesitate to undertake a long and dangerous journey in his company.

What happened and how our little hero and heroine went off into the world one night in search of happiness: that is the subject of my story.
Book 8



INTRODUCTION

This essay on Wisdom and Destiny was to have been a thing of some twenty pages, the work of a fortnight; but the idea took root, others flocked to it, and the volume has occupied M. Maeterlinck continuously for more than two years. It has much essential kinship with the "Treasure of the Humble," though it differs therefrom in treatment; for whereas the earlier work might perhaps be described as the eager speculation of a poet athirst for beauty, we have here rather the endeavour of an earnest thinker to discover the abode of truth. And if the result of his thought be that truth and happiness are one, this was by no means the object wherewith he set forth. Here he is no longer content with exquisite visions, alluring or haunting images; he probes into the soul of man and lays bare all his joys and his sorrows. It is as though he had forsaken the canals he loves so well—the green, calm, motionless canals that faithfully mirror the silent trees and moss-covered roofs—and had adventured boldly, unhesitatingly, on the broad river of life.

He describes this book himself, in a kind of introduction that is almost an apology, as "a few interrupted thoughts that entwine themselves, with more or less system, around two or three subjects." He declares that there is nothing it undertakes to prove; that there are none whose mission it is to convince. And so true is this, so absolutely honest and sincere is the writer, that he does not shrink from attacking, qualifying, modifying, his own propositions; from advancing, and insisting on, every objection that flits across his brain; and if such proposition survive the onslaught of its adversaries, it is only because, in the deepest of him, he holds it for absolute truth. For this book is indeed a confession, a naive, outspoken, unflinching description of all that passes in his mind; and even those who like not his theories still must admit that this mind is strangely beautiful.

There have been many columns filled—and doubtless will be again—with ingenious and scholarly attempts to place a definitive label on M. Maeterlinck, and his talent; to trace his thoughts to their origin, clearly denoting the authors by whom he has been influenced; in a measure to predict his future, and accurately to establish the place that he fills in the hierarchy of genius. With all this I feel that I have no concern. Such speculations doubtless have their use and serve their purpose. I shall be content if I can impress upon those who may read these lines, that in this book the man is himself, of untrammelled thought; a man possessed of the rare faculty of seeing beauty in all things, and, above all, in truth; of the still rarer faculty of loving all things, and, above all, life.
Maurice Maeterlinck
Example in this ebook


ACT I

A Gallery in Merlin's Palace

[Merlin is seated near Arielle, who is sleeping on the steps of a marble staircase. It is night.


Merlin.


You sleep, my Arielle, you my inner force, the neglected power which slumbers in every soul and which I alone, till now, awaken at will.... You sleep, my docile and familiar little fairy, and your hair, straying like a blue mist, invisible to men, mingles with the moon, the perfumes of the night, the rays of the stars, the roses that shed their petals, the spreading sky, to remind us thus that nothing separates us from any existing thing and that our thought does not know where the light begins for which it hopes, nor where the shadow ends which it escapes.... You are sleeping soundly and, while you sleep, I lose all my knowledge and become like my blind brethren, who do not yet know that on this earth there are as many hidden gods as there are hearts that throb.... Alas, I am to them the genius to be avoided, the wicked sorcerer in league with their enemies!... They have no enemies, but only subjects who know not where to find their king.... They are persuaded that my secret virtue, which is obeyed by the plants and the stars, by water, stone and fire and to which the future at times reveals some of its features: they are persuaded that this new and yet so human virtue is hidden in philtres, in horrible charms, in hellish herbs and awful signs.... No, it is in myself, even as it resides in them; it is in you, my frail Arielle, in you who were once in me.... I have taken two or three bolder steps in the dark.... I have done a little earlier what they will do later.... All things will be subject to them when they have learnt at last to revive your goodwill, even as I have revived it.... But it were vain for me to tell them that you are sleeping here and to point to your dazzling grace: they would not see you.... Each one of them must find you within himself; each one of them must open as I do the tomb of his life and come to awake you as I awake you now....


[He bends over Arielle and kisses her.


Arielle.


(Waking.) Master!...


Merlin.


This is the hour, Arielle, when love must watch.... I shall often trouble your sleep in these coming days....


Arielle.


My sleep was so long that I am always relapsing into it; but I feel stronger and become happier at each new awakening that your thought imposes on me....


To be continue in this ebook

Maurice Maeterlinck
Winner of the 2008 Prix de la Traduction Littéraire presented by French Community of Belgium

A new translation of one of Maeterlinck’s four great nature essays. 

“The republication of Maurice Maeterlinck’s ‘The Intelligence of Flowers,’ regrettably forgotten in our time, is long overdue. The introduction by Mosley is itself a gem, and contains one of the best overviews in print of writings about intelligence in Nature.” — Stephen Harrod Buhner, author of The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature 

The second of Maeterlinck’s four celebrated nature essays—along with those on the life of the bee, ant, and termite—“The Intelligence of Flowers” (1907) represents his impassioned attempt to popularize scientific knowledge for an international audience. Writing with characteristic eloquence, Maeterlinck asserts that flowers possess the power of thought without knowledge, a capacity that constitutes a form of intelligence. Appearing one hundred years after the first publication, Philip Mosley’s new translation of the original French essay, and the related essay “Scents,” maintains the verve of Maeterlinck’s prose and renders it accessible to the present-day reader. This is a book for those who are excited by creative encounters between literature and science as well as current debates on the relationship of humankind to the natural world. 

It would be superfluous to redraw the picture of the great systems of floral fertilization: the play of stamens and pistil, the seductiveness of scents, the appeal of harmonious and striking colors, the development of nectar, totally useless to the flower, and which it manufactures only to attract and hold the foreign liberator, the messenger of love, bee, bumblebee, fly, butterfly, moth, which must bring it the kiss of the distant, invisible, motionless lover… 

We could truly say that ideas come to flowers in the same way they come to us. Flowers grope in the same darkness, encounter the same obstacles and the same ill will, in the same unknown. They know the same laws, same disappointments, same slow and difficult triumphs. It seems they have our patience, our perseverance, our self-love; the same finely tuned and diversified intelligence, almost the same hopes and the same ideals. Like ourselves, they struggle against a vast indifferent force that ends by helping them. — from “The Intelligence of Flowers” 

“…a wonderfully enjoyable, insightful and worthwhile read … This work would be of interest to anyone excited by the remarkable process of the plant world and would expressly appeal to gardeners and flower growers.” — Huntia 

“A rare gem, written … in lyrical and accessible prose.” — The Times Literary Supplement 

“…Maeterlinck is a seductive essayist … [and] writes with the same intrinsic humility that will be familiar to admirers of John Muir, Aldo Leopold, or Mary Oliver.” — The Boston Globe 

“That the intelligence of flowers provides Maeterlinck with a theory riddled with contradictions—mostly as a result of his metaphoric reasoning—seems less important than the fundamental truths of the metaphors unto themselves. As a result, ‘The Intelligence of Flowers’ is happily welcome once more, in this centenary reissue.” — San Francisco Chronicle  

Book 3



OUR FRIEND, THE DOG
I

I have lost, within these last few days, a little bull-dog. He had just completed the sixth month of his brief existence. He had no history. His intelligent eyes opened to look out upon the world, to love mankind, then closed again on the cruel secrets of death.

The friend who presented me with him had given him, perhaps by antiphrasis, the startling name of Pelléas. Why rechristen him? For how can a poor dog, loving, devoted, faithful, disgrace the name of a man or an imaginary hero?

Pelléas had a great bulging, powerful forehead, like that of Socrates or Verlaine; and, under a little black nose, blunt as a churlish assent, a pair of large hanging and symmetrical chops, which made his head a sort of massive, obstinate, pensive and three-cornered menace. He was beautiful after the manner of a beautiful, natural monster that has complied strictly with the laws of its species. And what a smile of attentive obligingness, of incorruptible innocence, of affectionate submission, of boundless gratitude and total self-abandonment lit up, at the least caress, that adorable mask of ugliness! Whence exactly did that smile emanate? From the ingenuous and melting eyes? From the ears pricked up to catch the words of man? From the forehead that unwrinkled to appreciate and love, or from the stump of a tail that wriggled at the other end to testify to the intimate and impassioned joy that filled his small being, happy once more to encounter the hand or the glance of the god to whom he surrendered himself?

Pelléas was born in Paris, and I had taken him to the country. His bonny fat paws, shapeless and not yet stiffened, carried slackly through the unexplored pathways of his new existence his huge and serious head, flat-nosed and, as it were, rendered heavy with thought.

For this thankless and rather sad head, like that of an overworked child, was beginning the overwhelming work that oppresses every brain at the start of life. He had, in less than five or six weeks, to get into his mind, taking shape within it, an image and a satisfactory conception of the universe. Man, aided by all the knowledge of his own elders and his brothers, takes thirty or forty years to outline that conception, but the humble dog has to unravel it for himself in a few days: and yet, in the eyes of a god, who should know all things, would it not have the same weight and the same value as our own?
Book 7



1

At these moments of tragedy, none should be allowed to speak who cannot shoulder a rifle, for the written word seems so monstrously useless, so overwhelmingly trivial, in front of this mighty drama which shall for a long time, it may be for ever, free mankind from the scourge of war: the one scourge among all that cannot be excused, that cannot be explained, since alone among all it issues entire from the hands of man.
2

But it is while this scourge is upon us, while we have our being in its very centre, that we shall do well to balance the guilt of those who have committed this inexpiable crime. It is now, while we are in the thick of the horror, undergoing it, feeling it, that we have the energy, the clear-sightedness needed to judge it; from the depths of the most fearful injustice justice is best perceived. When the hour shall have come for settling accounts—and it will not long delay—we shall have forgotten much of what we have suffered and a blameworthy pity will creep over us and cloud our eyes. This is the moment, therefore, for us to frame our inexorable resolution. After the final victory, when the enemy is crushed—as crushed he will be—efforts will be made to enlist our sympathy, to move us to pity. We shall be told that the unfortunate German people were merely the victims of their monarch and their feudal caste; that no blame attaches to the Germany we know, which is so sympathetic and so cordial—the Germany of quaint old houses and open-hearted greeting, the Germany that sits under its lime-trees beneath the clear light of the moon—but only to Prussia, hateful, arrogant Prussia; that the homely, peace-loving, Bavarian, the genial and hospitable dwellers on the banks of the Rhine, the Silesian and Saxon and I know not who besides—for all these will suddenly have become whiter than snow and more inoffensive than the sheep in an English fold—that they all have merely obeyed, have been compelled to obey orders which they detested but were unable to resist. We are face to face with reality now; let us look at it well and pronounce our sentence; for this is the moment when we hold the proofs in our hands, when the elements of crime are hot before us and shout out the truth that soon will fade from our memory. Let us tell ourselves now, therefore, now, that all that we shall be told hereafter will be false; and let us unflinchingly adhere to what we decide at this moment, when the glare of the horror is on us.
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