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An essay by Maurice Maeterlinck

Belgium's Flag Day

Title:     Belgium's Flag Day
Author: Maurice Maeterlinck [More Titles by Maeterlinck]

To-day our flag will quiver in every French hand as a symbol of love and gratitude. This day should be a day of hope and glory for all Belgium.

Let us forget for a moment our terrible distress; let us forget our plains and meadows, the fairest and most fertile in Europe, now ravaged to such a degree that the utmost that one can say is powerless to give any idea of a desolation which seems irremediable. Let us forget--if to forget them be possible--the women, the children, the old men, peaceable and innocent, who have been massacred in their thousands, the tale of whom will amaze the world when once the grim barrier is broken behind which so many secret horrors are being committed. Let us forget those who are dying of hunger in our country, a land without harvests and without homes, a land methodically taxed, pillaged and crushed until it is drained of the last drop of its life-blood. Let us forget those remnants of our people who are scattered hither and thither, who have trodden the path of exile, who are living on public charity, which, though it show itself full of brotherhood and affection, is yet so oppressive to those supremely industrious hands, which had never known the grievous burden of alms. Let us forget even those last of our cities to be menaced, the fairest, the proudest, the most beloved of our cities, which constitute the very face of our country and which only a miracle could now save. Let us forget, in a word, the greatest calamity and the most crying injustice of history and think to-day only of our approaching deliverance. It is not too early to hail it. It is already in all our thoughts, as it is in all our hearts. It is already in the air which we breathe, in all the eyes that smile at us, in all the voices that welcome us, in all the hands outstretched to us, waving the laurels which they hold; for what is bringing us deliverance is the wonder, the admiration of the whole world!

To-morrow we shall go back to our homes. We shall not mourn though we find them in ruins. They will rise again more beautiful than of old from the ashes and the shards. We shall know days of heroic poverty; but we have learnt that poverty is powerless to sadden souls upheld by a great love and nourished by a noble ideal. We shall return with heads erect, regenerated in a regenerated Europe, rejuvenated by our magnificent misfortune, purified by victory and cleansed of the littleness that obscured the virtues which slumbered within us and of which we are not aware. We shall have lost all the goods that perish but as readily come to live again. And in their place we shall have acquired those riches which shall not again perish within our hearts. Our eyes were closed to many things; now they have opened upon wider horizons. Of old we dared not avert our gaze from our wealth, our petty comforts, our little rooted habits. But now our eyes have been wrested from the soil; now they have achieved the sight of heights that were hitherto unnoticed. We did not know ourselves; we used not to love one another sufficiently; but we have learnt to know ourselves in the amazement of glory and to love one another in the grievous ardour of the most stupendous sacrifice that any people has ever accomplished. We were on the point of forgetting the heroic virtues, the unfettered thoughts, the eternal ideas that lead humanity. To-day, not only do we know that they exist: we have taught the world that they are always triumphant, that nothing is lost while faith is left, while honour is intact, while love continues, while the soul does not surrender and that the most monstrous of powers will never prevail against those ideal forces which are the happiness and the glory of man and the sole reason for his existence.

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Maurice Maeterlinck's essay: Belgium's Flag Day