A poet of the bucolic, a provincial romantic, George Coșbuc was regarded as a folk genius even before he left his native village. He first made a name for himself when he published the poem “Zamfira’s Wedding” in the Tribuna newspaper, drawing the attention of influential literary critic Titu Maiorescu. With a vast knowledge of German literature and native ballads and legends, Coșbuc wrote in the same tradition as earlier nineteenth-century poets Dimitrie Bolintineanu and Vasile Alecsandri, but his work is also highly personal, an idyllic portrait of the rural world in which he lived and which he always loved.
Although uneven, Coșbuc’s work is often delightful, and a poem such as “Winter on a Country Lane” has entered the national consciousness, memorised and loved by generation after generation of readers. Despite its simplicity, the originality of his poetry always shines through. In “Summer Night”, however, we see a different Coșbuc, who shows that he can lift his eyes from the world of the countryside and, gazing at the moon, develop a sense of the cosmic sublime that connects him with earlier romantic poets.
His sketches of nature are picturesque, but reveal a working countryside shaped by human occupations throughout the year. The lyricism of Coșbuc’s sketches has a hard, objective edge, which contrasts with the subjectivism of a poet such as Vasile Alecsandri. In his poems, he does not interact with nature, but merely studies it from the outside, tracing its cyclical patterns.
The particularities of Coșbuc’s lyric poetry are especially evident in poems on rural subjects, many of which have an erotic shading, such as “Ballad” and “Women Empty as the Wind”. “In the Mirror” depicts a girl on the verge of puberty, who examines her body in the mirror with a certain naivety and is almost caught in the act by her mother returning from the village. Other poems focus on sexual love and the crises of youth, on loss of innocence, viewed from both the male and the female perspective.
Coșbuc’s lyric portraits are contemplative, timeless, cyclical, and have made an impression on the minds of every generation of reader over the last century, and his work shows that besides being a great poet, he was a genuine educator, able to write for and be understood by many different kinds of people.