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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 Stock Exchange
By Emile Verhaeren (1855–1916)
 
From ‘Six French Poets’: Translation of Amy Lowell

THE ENORMOUS street and its quadrangular houses border the crowd and dike it with their granite, eyed with windows and porches, in whose panes aureoled evenings shine farewell.  1
 
  Like an upright torso of stone and metal, containing in its unclean mystery the beating and panting heart of the world, the monument of gold stands in the darkness.  2
 
  About it, black banks lift their pediments supported by the arms of bronze Hercules, whose great weary muscles seem to be holding strong-boxes up to victory.  3
 
  The square, from which it erects its battleground, sucks in the fever and the tumult of each wave of passion towards its occult lover—the square and its open spaces, and its walls, and its numberless gas-jets, which make the clusters of shadows and lights upon the sidewalks stir.  4
 
  How many dreams, like red fires, intermingle their flames and their eddies from the top to the bottom of the mad palace! Monstrous and culpable gain tightens itself into knots, and its desire sows and propagates itself, going out to inflame neighboring vanities from door to door, through the town. Heavy counters grumble like a storm, gross profusions become jealous and rage, and tempests of failures, suddenly, with brutal blows, beat and overturn the great monumental men of the town.  5
 
  At a given moment of the afternoon, the fever increases still more, and penetrates the building, and ferments in the walls. One almost believes one sees it quickening itself at the motionless flame-flowered lamps, running from banister to banister, assembling itself, and bursting out and crackling, upon the landings and the marble of the stairways.  6
 
  At the mirage of a pale hope, a rekindled fury mounts through the funnel of noise and smoke from those fighting by theft below. Dry tongues, piercing looks, contradictory gestures, and brains crossed by whirlwinds of millions, exchange their fear and their terror there. Haste simulates audacity, and audacities surpass themselves; fingers scratch the insanity of their anguish upon slates; cynically, a discount which breaks a people at the other end of the world, illuminates it; chimeras are winged with light; luck flees or over-abounds; deals concluded, deals broken off, struggle and clash together in disputes; the air burns—and paradoxical figures, in flat packages, in heavy bundles, are thrown back, and jolted, and shaken, and worried in these tumults until their weary sums, masses against masses, are broken.  7
 
  On those days when catastrophes happen, Death scrolls them over with suicides, and failures crumble to ruins which flame in exalted obsequies. But the same evening, in the pale hours, wills revive in fever, and the sly fury takes hold again as before.  8
 
  People betray, smile, gnaw, and encompass other deaths. Hate hums like a machine about those whom it assassinates. Men of needy fortune are robbed with authority. Honor is mixed with swindling to lure even nations into the universal madness, the hunt for the burning and infamous gold.  9
 
  Oh, gold! In the distance, like towers in the clouds, like towers upon the steps of illusion! Enormous gold! Like towers in the distance, with millions of arms stretched towards it, with gestures and calls in the night, and the muttering of the universal prayer, from end to end of the horizons of the world!  10
 
  In the distance, cubes of gold upon triangles of gold, and all about, celebrated fortunes mounting upon the scaffoldings of algebras.  11
 
  Gold!—to eat and drink gold!—and, even more ferocious than the rage for gold, the faith in the mysterious gamble and its dark and hazardous chances, and the certainty of its arbitrary designs to restore the old destiny. Play, terrible axis, where future passion will turn desperately about adventure for the sole pleasure of anomaly, for the sole need of bestiality and frenzy, over there, where laws of terror cross with supreme disorders!  12
 
  Like an upright torso of stone and metal, containing in its unclean mystery the beating and panting heart of the world, the monument of gold stands in the darkness.  13
 
 
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