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Maurice Maeterlinck (Belgian, 1862-1949)

Maurice Maeterlinck (Belgian, 1862-1949)

Here is an excerpt from his book The Treasure of the Humble, published in 1896:

“’Silence and Secrecy !’” cries Carlyle. Altars might still be raised to them (were this an altar-building time) for universal worship. Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together, that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are henceforth to rule….‘Bees will not work except in darkness; Thought will not work except in Silence; neither will Virtue work except in secrecy. . . .’

It is only when life is sluggish within us that we speak: only at moments when reality lies far away, and we do not wish to be conscious of our brethren. And no sooner do we speak than something warns us that the divine gates are closing. Thus it comes about that we hug silence to us, and are very misers of it; and even the most reckless will not squander it on the first comer. There is an instinct of the superhuman truths within us which warns us that it is dangerous to be silent with one whom we do not wish to know, or do not love: for words may pass between men, but let silence have had its instant of activity, and it will never efface itself; and indeed the true life, the only life that leaves a trace behind, is made up of silence alone. Bethink it well, in that silence to which you must again have recourse, so that it may explain itself, by itself; and if it be granted to you to descend for one moment into your soul, into the depths where the angels dwell, it is not the words spoken by the creature you loved so dearly that you will recall, or the gestures that he made, but it is, above all, the silences that you have lived together that will come back to you.”
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Translated by Alfred Sutro

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