The buried temple, tr. by A. Sutro

Dodd, Mead



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Dodd, Mead
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Dec 31, 1920
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Book 8


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.
Book 1


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 5


WITH M. Maeterlinck as a dramatist the world is pretty well acquainted. This little volume presents him in the new character of a philosopher and an æsthetician. And it is in some sort an ‘apology’ for his theatre, the one being to the other as theory to practice. Reversing the course prescribed by Mr. Squeers for his pupils, M. Maeterlinck, having cleaned w-i-n-d-e-r, winder, now goes and spells it. He began by visualising and synthetising his ideas of life; here you shall find him trying to analyse these ideas and consumed with anxiety to tell us the truth that is in him. It is not a truth for all markets; he is at no pains to conceal that. He appeals, as every mystic must, to the elect; M. Anatole France would say, to the âmes bien nées. If we are not sealed of the tribe of Plotinus, he warns us to go elsewhere. ‘If, plunging thine eyes into thyself—it is this same Plotinus that he is quoting—‘thou dost not feel the charm of beauty, it is in vain that, thy disposition being such, thou shouldst seek the charm of beauty; for thou wouldst seek it only with that which is ugly and impure. Therefore it is that the discourse we hold here is not addressed to all men.’ If we are to follow him in his expedition to a philosophic Ultima Thule, we must have the mind for that adventure. ‘We are here,’ as he tells us elsewhere of the ‘stiff’ but, it seems, ‘admirable’ Ruysbroeck, ‘all of a sudden on the borderland of human thought and far across the Arctic circle of the spirit. There is no ordinary cold, no ordinary dark there, and yet you shall find there naught but flames and light. But to those who arrive without having trained their minds to these new perceptions, the light and the flames are as dark and as cold as though they were painted.’ This means that the intelligence, the reason, will not suffice of themselves; we must have faith. There are passages in the book which may provoke a sniff from Mr. Worldly Wiseman; but we must beware of the Voltairean spirit, or this will be a closed book to us. ‘We live by admiration, hope, and love,’ said Wordsworth. And we understand by them, M. Maeterlinck would add. I fear we are not all of us found worthy of the mystical frame of mind. But it is a psychological fact, like another; and if we can only examine it from the outside, we can at least bring patience and placidity to the task. The point is: has M. Maeterlinck anything to say? It will be found, I think, that he has.

All men, the world has long been assured, are born Aristotelians or Platonists. There cannot be a doubt about M. Maeterlinck’s philosophic birthright. He may say, as Paul Verlaine sang:

Moi, j’allais rêvant du divin Platon,

Sous l’œil clignotant des bleus becs de gaz.
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