Verhaeren, Émile

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Émile Verhaeren (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).