Other Literary Forms
Maurice Maeterlinck, in his first published work, Serres chaudes, poèmes (1889; Hot Houses, 1915), demonstrated his substantial abilities as a poet. Throughout his life, he continued to write chansons (lyrics in a folksong style) for collections and for inclusion in his plays. Maeterlinck’s prose, both in his plays and in his essays, always perches on the edge of verse in its rhythmic fluidity and rich imagery. Although he proved himself a lucid writer of expository prose with three scientific studies on bees, ants, and termites, it was in the realm of self-expression that he made his mark. Not since Ralph Waldo Emerson (whose works profoundly influenced Maeterlinck) has anyone been as able as Maeterlinck to combine the lyric with the metaphysical in essay form. The Belgian poet’s essays constitute a major contribution to the genre.
The link between Maeterlinck’s essays and his dramas is significant, especially in the essays in Le Trésor des humbles (1896; The Treasure of the Humble, 1897). For example, in the essays “Le Silence” (“The Silence”), “Emerson,” and “L’Étoile” (“The Star”), he outlines an important aspect of his dramatic aesthetics—his belief in the insufficiency of words: “words fail in great part to express what they really should.” Although various analyses have been written explicating the plays of Maeterlinck, none succeeds more revealingly than his own essays.