To the star

Mihai Eminescu is the all-time star of Romanian poetry. After a short and intense life (died aged 38), he who is known as “the last Romantic” as per the statue in Vevey, Switzerland, has revolutionized Romanian poetry in the 19th century pushing musicality of the language to new limits. He was born on January 15th, so on this day Romanians sort of celebrate him. I used to find it pathetic as I disliked him as a matter of principle when I was in school – there was just too much Eminescu in the program. However, later on I had to admit that he makes my native language sound more harmonious and enchanting than any other managed to do before or after him.

Unfortunately, translations are quite difficult, it’s tough to match words, rhythm, rime and feel altogether in another language, especially an anglo-saxon one. Still, it’s worth a shot – below is a translation of one of my favorite poems. The year was 188something, and he’s talking about how light travels in space for many years from a star to reach us, and that it might be already gone by the time we get to see it. And then he brings all this Einsteinian “it was there when we couldnt see it and now we see it but it may already not be there any more” stuff into to discussing… feelings. Not bad for his time, I think:

LA STEAUA                             UNTO THE STAR

La steaua care-a rasarit            Unto the star that just arose
E o cale-atit de lunga                There’s such an endless way,
Ca mii de ani i-au trebuit           That many a thousand years goes
Luminii sa ne-ajunga                 For light to reach our eye

Poate de mult s-a stins in drum  Perhaps it vanished long ago
In departari albastre                  Within the distant blue
Dar raza ei abia acum                 But only now her lonely glow
Luci vederii noastre                   To our sight came through

Icoana stelei ce-a murit            The icon of the star that died
Incet pe cer se suie                  Slowly the vault ascended
Era pe cind nu s-a zarit             It was when to our sight denied
Azi o vedem si nu e                   Now what we see is ended

Tot astfel cind al nostru dor,      Likewise when our life’s desire,
Pieri in noapte-adanca,              Vanished in the deep night,
Lumina stinsului amor,               The glow of love’s quenched fire
Ne urmareste inca.                    Pursues us in our plight.

Mihai Eminescu                         Translation by Stefan Ichim, M.D.
1886, 1 Decembrie                    February 10, 2008

More Eminescu poems in English, as well as More Romanian poetry in various languages, here. His most famous poem is The Evening Star. Too long for this post, but worth it if you have the time.

One response to “To the star

  1. mo January 15, 2010 at 22:09

    La Steaua – Mihai Eminescu Doina Badea si Florin Bogardo

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