Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Maurice Maeterlinck, fully Count Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard Maeterlinck

Belgian Poet, Playwright, Dramatist, Essayist, Nobel Prize in Literature

"Above all, let us never forget that an act of goodness is in itself an act of happiness. It is the flower of a long inner life of joy and contentment; it tells of peaceful hours and days on the sunniest heights of our soul... No reward coming after the event can compare with the sweet reward that went with it."

"But it is not enough to possess a truth; it is essential that the truth should possess us."

"It is the evil that lives in ourselves that is ever least tolerant of the evil that dwells within others."

"The thoughts you think will irradiate you as though you are a transparent vase."

"An act of goodness is of itself an act of happiness. No reward coming after the event can compare with the sweet reward that went with it."

"The souls of all our brethren are ever hovering about us, craving for a caress, and only waiting for the signal."

"The true sage is not he who sees, but he who, seeing the furthest, has the deepest love for mankind."

"To disdain to-day is to prove that yesterday has been misunderstood."

"To look fearlessly upon life; to accept the laws of nature, not with meek resignation, but as her sons, who dare to search and question; to have peace and confidence within our souls - these are the beliefs that make for happiness."

"We are never the same with others as when we are alone; we are different, even, when we are in the dark with them."

"We possess only the happiness we are able to understand."

"Physical suffering apart, not a single sorrow exists that can touch us except through our thoughts."

"It is from reason that justice springs, but goodness is born of wisdom."

"What man is there that does not laboriously, though all unconsciously, himself fashion the sorrow that is to be the pivot of his life!"

"When we lose one we love, our bitterest tears are called forth by the memory of hours when we loved not enough."

"You do well to have visions of a better life than of every day, but it is the life of every day from which the elements of a better life must come."

"A truth that disheartens because it is true is of more value than the most stimulating of falsehoods."

"All our knowledge merely helps us to die a more painful death than the animals that know nothing. A day will come when science will turn upon its error and no longer hesitate to shorten our woes. A day will come when it will dare and act with certainty; when life, grown wiser, will depart silently at its hour, knowing that it has reached its term."

"An act of goodness is of itself an act of happiness. No reward coming after the event can compare with the sweet reward that went with it."

"At every crossroad on the way that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past."

"At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past."

"Besides, I myself have now for a long time ceased to look for anything more beautiful in this world, or more interesting, than the truth; or at least than the effort one is able to make towards the truth."

"Can we conceive what humanity would be if it did not know the flowers?"

"Do we not all spend the greater part of our lives under the shadow of an event that has not yet come to pass?"

"And, should they stand still one day, become fixed and remain motionless, it will not be that they have encountered calamity, nullity or death; but they will have entered into a thing so fair, so great, so happy and bathed in such certainties that they will for ever prefer it to all the prodigious chances of an infinity which nothing can impoverish."

"As soon as we put something into words, we devalue it in a strange way. We think we have plunged into the depths of the abyss, and when we return to the surface the drop of water on our pale fingertips no longer resembles the sea from which it comes. We delude ourselves that we have discovered a wonderful treasure trove, and when we return to the light of day we find that we have brought back only false stones and shards of glass; and yet the treasure goes on glimmering in the dark, unaltered."

"Don't be alarmed ? They are a little annoyed because Spring is late... Leave it to me; I will settle it all."

"Each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand mediocre minds appointed to guard the past."

"Happiness is rarely absent; it is we that know not of its presence."

"Happiness will never be any greater than the idea we have of it."

"He's not quite blue yet, but that will come, you shall see! ? Take him off quick to your little girl..."

"How strangely do we diminish a thing as soon as we try to express it in words."

"I have done what I could do in life, and if I could not do better, I did not deserve it. In vain I have tried to step beyond what bound me."

"I knew that if I was captured by the Germans I would be shot at once, since I have always been counted as an enemy of Germany because of my play, Le Bourgmestre de Stillemonde, which dealt with the conditions in Belgium during the German Occupation of 1918."

"I know that you are looking for the Blue Bird, that is to say, the great secret of things and of happiness, so that Man may make our servitude still harder... I do not hear the Animals... Where are they?... All this concerns them as much as us... We, the Trees, must not assume the responsibility alone for the grave measures that have become necessary... On the day when Man hears that we have done what we are about to do, there will be terrible reprisals... It is right, therefore, that our agreement should be unanimous, so that our silence may be the same."

"If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live."

"Isolate her, and however abundant the food or favorable the temperature, she will expire in a few days not of hunger or cold, but of loneliness."

"It is childish to talk of happiness and unhappiness where infinity is in question. The idea which we entertain of happiness and unhappiness is something so special, so human, so fragile that it does not exceed our stature and falls to dust as soon as we go beyond its little sphere. It proceeds entirely from a few accidents of our nerves, which are made to appreciate very slight happenings, but which could as easily have felt everything the reverse way and taken pleasure in that which is now pain. We believe that we see nothing hanging over us but catastrophes, deaths, torments and disasters; we shiver at the mere thought of the great interplanetary spaces, with their cold and formidable and gloomy solitudes; and we imagine that the revolving worlds are as unhappy as ourselves because they freeze, or clash together, or are consumed in unutterable flames. We infer from this that the genius of the universe is an outrageous tyrant, seized with a monstrous madness, and that it delights only in the torture of itself and all that it contains. To millions of stars, each many thousand times larger than our sun, to nebulee whose nature and dimensions no figure, no word in our languages is able to express, we attribute our momentary sensibility, the little ephemeral and chance working of our nerves; and we are convinced that life there must be impossible or appalling, because we should feel too hot or too cold. It were much wiser to say to ourselves that it would need but a trifle, a few papilla more or less to our skin, the slightest modification of our eyes and ears, to turn the temperature, the silence and the darkness of space into a delicious spring-time, an unequalled music, a divine light. It were much more reasonable to persuade ourselves that the catastrophes which we think that we behold are life itself, the joy and one or other of those immense festivals of mind and matter in which death, thrusting aside at last our two enemies, time and space, will soon permit us to take part. Each world dissolving, extinguished, crumbling, burnt or colliding with another world and pulverized means the commencement of a magnificent experiment, the dawn of a marvelous hope and perhaps an unexpected happiness drawn direct from the inexhaustible unknown. What though they freeze or flame, collect or disperse, pursue or flee one another: mind and matter, no longer united by the same pitiful hazard that joined them in us, must rejoice at all that happens; for all is but birth and re-birth, a departure into an unknown filled with wonderful promises and maybe an anticipation of some unutterable event ..."

"It is not from reason that justice springs, but goodness is born of wisdom."

"Many a happiness in life, as many a disaster, can be due to chance, but the peace within us can never be governed by chance."

"Men's weaknesses are often necessary to the purposes of life."

"Never mind... Don't cry... I will catch him again... [Stepping to the front of the stage and addressing the audience.] If any of you should find him, would you be so very kind as to give him back to us?... We need him for our happiness, later on..."

"No great inner event befalls those who summon it not."

"Nothing befalls us that is not of the nature of ourselves. There comes no adventure but wears to our soul the shape of our everyday thoughts."

"Our reason may prove what it will: our reason is only a feeble ray that has issued from Nature."

"Remember that happiness is as contagious as gloom. It should be the first duty of those who are happy to let others know of their gladness."

"Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together... Speech is too often... the act of quite stifling and suspending thought, so that there is none to conceal... Speech is of Time, silence is of Eternity... It is idle to think that, by means of words, any real communication can ever pass from one man to another."

"The future is a world limited by ourselves; in it we discover only what concerns us and, sometimes, by chance, what interests those whom we love the most."

"The natural and primitive relationship of soul to soul is a relationship of beauty. For beauty is the only language of the soul... It has no other life, it can produce nothing else."

"The truth that seems discouraging does in reality only transform the courage of those strong enough to accept it; and, in any event, a truth that disheartens, because it is true, is still of far more value than the most stimulating of falsehoods."