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A Beacon for Europe Emile Verhaeren 1855-1916 (with Four Poems by Emile Verhaeren)
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A Beacon for Europe Emile Verhaeren 1855-1916 (with Four Poems by Emile Verhaeren)

(Vic Nachtergaele) The Low Countries - 2006, № 14, pp. 197-205

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‘Tolerant but indifferent to so many of her distinguished visitors, England made no exception in the case of Emile Verhaeren, the fair-haired young Belgian poet', wrote Beatrice Worthing.Though the poet came to Britain almost annually from the 1880s onwards, appreciation of his work did not extend beyond a small band of enthusiastic translators: Michael Sadleir, Arthur Symons, Osman Edwards, Jethro Bithell, F.S. Flint, and Alma Strettel… Consequently one will look in vain for any influence on English fin-de-siècle poetry. Only after 1900, when all Europe acclaimed Verhaeren as a leading poet and thinker, did the English public at large pay any attention to the author. Verhaeren was certainly an exceptional figure: first, as a French-speaking Belgian of Flemish origin, he had taken the literary world of late-nineteenth-century Paris by storm. Later, in the years 1900 to 1914, he became a guiding light for the European intelligentsia, fêted as far afield as St Petersburg and Moscow! Yet after World War I he disappeared virtually without trace from the literary firmament. What caused the meteoric rise of this Flemish poet who wrote in French? And what caused him subsequently to disappear into the mists of history?

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