For Lucian Blaga, poetry was in itself a form of knowledge. The poems of his first published collection are sooner intellectual exercises, and the lyric “I” seems to aim at reaching philosophical judgements rather than engaging in poetry for its own sake. The first and arguably best poem in the collection, “I do not crush the world’s corolla of wonders” (Poems of Light, 1919), is an ars poetica that has long since become a school set text, and is indicative of precisely this concept of attaining a higher knowledge through poetry.
Blaga’s first collection stands apart among his poetic works as a whole, and, indeed, there is nothing remotely like it in Romanian literature. Its sonority is unique, with the style being closer to the prose poem than the lyric per se, and the poems’ tendency to melancholy and meditation offers an unusual reading experience.
The Footsteps of the Prophet (1921) and In the Great Transition (1924) contain some of Blaga’s most beautiful poems. The texts here are highly personal, sometimes pantheistic, drawing on Greco-Latin Antiquity, and the elaborate rhetoric of the first collection takes a step back, although without exiting the stage. The Pan of mythology appears in Blaga’s poetry both as a living figure and as an idea, as an expression of the pagan, magical sentiment of becoming one with primordial nature.
In the collections At the Watershed (1933) and, in particular, In the Courtyards of Yearning (1938) and The Unsuspected Steps (1943) Blaga develops a classicising tendency previously latent in his poetry. His poems acquire a strong metrical rhythm and musicality, which are often strongly influenced by the forms of Romanian folk poetry. Here, Blaga’s poetry has a lightness of touch and seems to come down to earth, relinquishing its previous fixation on cosmic bodies and ancient wonders. Free verse is abandoned for regular forms, and the ethereal quality of the earlier poems gives way to a telluric explosion of fecund life, of the fruits and seeds of nature.