Two Poems by Mihai Eminescu [Romanian poet, English audio, Romanian native speaker]

About a year ago, my students insisted on me saying something in my native tongue because they wanted to hear how the Romanian language sounded like. I was hesitant at first because I had no idea what to tell them. Then I thought that it would not really matter what I said because all they wanted was to hear someone speaking a few words in Romanian. I understood their curiosity and took their request seriously.

That was when I decided to make a fool out of myself and recited from memory the only four lines from a poem by George Cosbuc that I proudly still remembered in Romanian from the top of my head. I was so surprised to see how curious they suddenly became about my background and started asking all kind of questions. Their first impression was that Romanian sounded more like Spanish which was a very good observation since Romanian and Spanish belong to the same Romance languages category.

Furthermore, I found it interesting that for someone that only speaks English they were able to identify common sounds of these two languages. I chose poetry because it was a much better way of putting a lot of words together than creating make believe conversations with myself in front of a crowd. Who knows? They may not come across a teacher or another Romanian person very soon. I thought it was a good cultural lesson for them. It is too bad that only a few kids in some schools in the United States get exposed to foreign languages and different cultures.

When I hoped that my dramatic performance had ended they kept asking for more. I told them that I would bring them translated poems instead. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they also expressed interest in hearing how Romanian poetry sounded like in English.

This is my first attempt at reading anything in English publicly. I found translations of some neat Romanian poetry that I thought it might make sense in English and created a short video with my voice reciting the poems. Poetry had never been my forte in school. I am a bit self-conscious about the way my voice sounds as well.

Their translator did a pretty good job on keeping the poems’ meaning as close as possible to the original. However, the translations I chose were done 40 years ago when those that studied English as a profession were being taught how to speak Shakespeare’s language. The contact with and the need for the American language was very small or nonexistent at that time. That is why I had to tweak the poems in some places because I wanted to make it a bit easier for my students to understand my readings.

Mihai Eminescu’s poetic work is scattered with feelings of love and loss. A lot of his poems were made into songs that give that melancholic tone. I tried to keep up with this mood when I read them. I would love to hear your comments on what you thought about Romanian poetry being translated in English and how my reading sounded like.

The Waves of Time (Din Valurile Vremii…)

Arise again, my love beloved, out of the waves of time
With your long blonde hair golden tresses and marble arms sublime;
Your face that now transparent and pale as wax is pale
Is shaded by the shadow of sorrow’s clinging veil!
Your sweet timid smile caressing does rest within my eyes,
O star amongst amidst fair women, o queen of starry skies;
Your head upon your shoulder its wealth of beauty lays
And in your eyes of wonder I’m lost and weeping gaze.

Out of the void’s dark vapors may you once more uprear,
That to my heart I clasp you, beloved angel dear,
That I in nameless weeping above your face may bend
And on your lips forever my burning kisses spend.
While your cold hand unheeding I warm next to my chest clasp against my breast,
Closer, yet still closer, I press it against my breast against my bosom pressed.

Oh, dear! Alas, not thus the darkness gives back its own again;
Now through its icy vapors vapours I see your shadow wane.
With hanging arms and helpless once more I am alone
Before a dream unending of hours that have gone;
In vain with arms outstretching my soul your shadow craves,
Dear one, I cannot reach you amidst time’s rolling waves.

To Where the Lonely Poplars Grow (Pe linga plopii fara sot…)

To Down where the lonely poplars grow grow
How often have I strolled erred;
My steps that all the neighbors know know
You only have ignored not heard.

Towards your window lighted through
How oft my gaze has flown;
A world entire my secret knew
You only have not known.

A word, a murmur of reply
How often did I pray!
What matters then if I should die,
Enough to live that day;

To know one hour of tenderness,
One hour of lover’s night;
To hear your whisper’s soft caress
One hour, then come what might!

Had you but granted me a glance
That was not filled with scorn,
Out of its shining radiance
A new star had been born.

You would have lived through lives untold
Beyond the ends of time;
O godess with arms so cold,
O marble form sublime!

An idol of some pagan lore
As now no more is seen,
Come down to us from times of yore,
From times that long have been.

My worship was of ages gone,
Sad eyes by faith beguiled,
Each generation handed on
From father unto child.

But now I very little care
To walk along that lane,
Nor heed the face I found so fair
Looks out for me in vain;

For you are like them all today
In bearing and in guise,
And I but look on your display
With cold and lifeless eyes.

You should have known to value right
With wondering intent,
And lighted lit your candle “candela” in the night at night
To Love what that God had sent.

Source: (original translations by Corneliu M. Popescu)

Featured Image:

Video# 1:, song: Ends of the Earth by Daniel Ho

Video# 2:, song: Love Theme Strings and Piano by Larry Folk


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