Eminescu’s starry-eyed epic poem

by Bernard O'Shea

My Romanian – An Essential Grammar book has this to say somewhere: Un Eminescu nu se naşte în fiecare zi (an Eminescu is not born every day). It’s referring to the great poet Mihai Eminescu, who was born on this day, January 15, way back in 1850, so if another Eminescu is to emerge, today might be the day to do it.

According to the World Record Academy, Eminescu once held the record for writing the world’s longest love poem, Luceafărul (“The Evening Star“), which many consider his masterpiece.

Now I know what you are thinking: bloody Bernardo is going to make you read the world’s longest love poem! Well, you can if you want, but first let’s give you a little taste – 16 lines from an English translation, all about the meaning of life, love, mortality and immortality etc etc.  A princess falls in love with a star, and urges him to come down to her. He is tempted!

You wish to be a man of son,
To be a star you scorn;
But men quick perish every one,
And men each day are born.

Yet stars burn on with even glow,
And it is fate’s intending
That they nor time, nor place shall know,
Unfettered and unending.

Out of eternal yesterday
Into tomorrow’s grave,
Even the sun will pass way
That other suns shall lave;

The sun that every morn does rise
At last its spirit gives,
For each thing lives because it dies,
And dies because it lives.

NOW GO THE WHOLE HOG

The poem has 98 verses of four lines each, so that is 392 lines, which you can read here, alongside a version in English by the gifted translator Corneliu M. Popescu, who died aged only 19 in the earthquake in Bucharest in 1977 – before, it seems, he had yet to arrive at the translation of four verses, so there are only 376 lines for you to read in English. That’s 768 lines in two languages. If you start familiarising yourself with them now, you should be be able to recite them beautifully on a bended knee to your loved one on Valentine’s Day. Just be thankful that I’m not asking you to tackle the new record holder of the world’s longest love poem, which is 2900 lines in Slovak.

ALSO on My5R: Meet his Eminence, Eminescu

One of Eminescu’s cleverest works is a poem in which the last stanza is the first stanza written with the lines in reverse order. And they still make sense! Here it is with translations in both English and French.

You may also like

0 comment

Avatar
raveca January 17, 2014 - 7:23 pm

So kind of you to have a post about Eminescu! Thank you.
And here’s another beautiful poem by him, and what greater way to enjoy poetry than to combine it with music? The singer is another famous Romanian artist (musician, actor, poet) worth knowing, Tudor Gheorghe:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwMqvnzT8yY

Reply
Avatar
Bernard O'Shea January 19, 2014 - 8:49 am

Hi Raveca, nice to hear from you! Thanks for the info and that link, a lovely tune, I shall definitely investigate Tudor Gheorghe. I bought a slim volume of Eminescu’s poems (in Romanian and also with a French translation) in Brasov last year. I was also very impressed with the artworks in Muzeul Naţional de Artă al României in Bucharest, which I hope to write about at some stage.

Reply

Leave a Comment