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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Burning Hayricks
By Emile Verhaeren (1855–1916)
From ‘Six French Poets’: Translation of Amy Lowell

THE PLAIN, in the dark evening distance, is all alight, and the alarm-bells break and jangle to the four walls of the horizon.  1
  —A hayrick burns!—  2
  By way of the roads, the crowd—by way of the villages, the crowd surges; and in the yards the watch-dogs howl.  3
  —A hayrick burns!—  4
  The flame roars, and breaks, and pounds, tears itself into tatters which it waves, or, sinuous and tailed, unrolls itself to streaming hair—eager, slow,—then suddenly calms and lets go, and dodges and disappears—or leaps up again: and now, bright, of mud and gold, it veers in a plume over the black sky.  5
  —When suddenly in the distance another hayrick catches fire!—  6
  It is enormous—like a red, shaken bundle of sulphurous serpents. The glare!—it passes over acres of land, and farms, and villages, where from window-pane to window-pane, a red clot moves.  7
  —A hayrick burns!—  8
  The fields? They become limitless with terrors; the foliage of the woods lifts itself up in light over the marshes and the ploughed lands; rearing stallions whinny at the terror; enormous flights of birds become dazed and fall into the flames—and stifled cries rise from the ground; and it is death, death brandished and flung up again by the lifted arms of the conflagration.  9
  And the silence after fear—when suddenly, over there, formidably, in the weary evening, a new fire fills the deeps of the twilight.  10
  —A hayrick burns!—  11
  At the cross-roads, haggard men make bewildered gestures, children cry, and old men lift their withered arms to the flames waving like banners. While farther off, obstinately silent, madmen, with stupor in their eyes—look on.  12
  —A hayrick burns!—  13
  The air is red, the sky seems to have died, ominously, under the shut eyes of the stars. The wind drives gold pebbles before it in a tearing of veils. The fire becomes a clamor howling in flames to the echoes, to the distance, to the other shore, where suddenly the far side of the river lights up like a dream. The whole plain? It is a live coal, an illusion, blood and gold—and the tempest sweeps on the passing death of the heavens so violently that at the confines of the terror the entire sky seems to have disappeared.  14

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