recognition

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.

— Maurice Maeterlinck, Le Trésor des Humbles (1896), trans. Shaun Whiteside (2001)

in somewhat worse translation, at least to my modern ears,

How strangely do we diminish a thing as soon as we try to express it in words! We believe we have dived down to the most unfathomable depths, and when we reappear on the surface, the drop of water that glistens on our trembling finger-tips no longer resembles the sea from which it came. We believe we have discovered a grotto that is stored with bewildering treasure; we come back to the light of day, and the gems we have brought are false–mere pieces of glass–and yet does the treasure shine on, unceasingly, in the darkness!

— Maurice Maeterlinck, The Treasure of the Humble, trans. Alfred Sutro (1899)

To each reader her time.


4 responses to “recognition

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