Maurice Maeterlinck, symbolism and spirituality
Born in Ghent on 29 August 1862, Maurice Maeterlinck was the eldest of three children in a Flemish, middle-class, Catholic, conservative and French-speaking family. He was a prominent figure in Belgian symbolism and is still famous today for his melodrama Pelléas and Mélisande (1892), a pinnacle in symbolist theatre with musical adaptation by Debussy in 1902, for his children's play The Blue Bird (1908) and for his essays inspired by entomology and botany (‘The Life of the Bee’, ‘The Life of the Ant’, ‘The Intelligence of Flowers’).
Starting in 1885, Maeterlinck published poems inspired by Parnassianism in ‘La Jeune Belgique (Young Belgium)’. He left for Paris, where he met several writers who would influence his work, including Stéphane Mallarmé and Villiers de l’Isle-Adam. The latter would help him discover the richness of German idealism (Hegel, Schopenhauer). At the same time, Maeterlinck discovered Ruysbroeck the Admirable, a 14th century Flemish mystic whose writings he translated (‘The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage’). This led him to turn from French rationalism to the intuitive riches of the Germanic world.
To open Maurice Maeterlinck's ‘Hothouses’ is to dive completely into an end-of-the-century atmosphere: boredom, weariness and also dreams and desires reappear as recurring themes. A momentum towards God was an integral role: four of these poems were even entitled Prayer, and the lily and the lamb appear repeatedly. These internal landscapes open before our eyes: 'slow palms of my desires', 'red stems of my hatred', 'yellow dogs of my sins', 'white bucks of lies', 'mauve herb of absence' …
Poet, novelist and essayist Maurice Maeterlinck is the only Belgian to date to have received the Nobel Prize in literature (1911).
Himself influencing Apollinaire, Maeterlinck searched for pure creation. Suggestion, depersonalisation and repetition were creative acts for the poet to reach a spiritual resonance. His verses, free from conventions and without rhyme, created an allegoric poetry that called upon mediaeval iconography and the paintings of Pieter Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch.
When his income reached its peak, he bought a villa in an auction that was located in the Cape of Nice which he renovated with luxurious decor. Known today as Palais Maeterlinck, this building is a luxury residence. From the edge of the Cape of Nice, it looks majestically over the Baie des Anges. Check out this website to discover the palace's interior and one of the most beautiful views of the French Riviera.
In 1939, he moved to the United States for the duration of the Second World War. A year after his return to Nice in 1947, he published 'Bulles bleues (Blue Bubbles)’, a universe that rises from the forgotten, swathed in poetry yet precise as Mediaeval illumination, where he recalls the memories of his childhood. Maeterlinck died on 6 May 1949 in his home in Nice.