2021

A Hand for the Poet • Mihai Eminescu

Poems: “And if …”, “What is love…”, “The Forest Pool”, “Blue Flower”, “Drowsy Birds”, “To the Star”, “Of the Masts”, “Sonnet (The Years Have Passed)”, “Gloss”, “Ode (in ancient metre)”, “So Delicate”, “On That Same Little Lane”, “With tomorrow you add to your days”, “With Yearning last I Sigh”, “Beats the Moon Upon my Window”
Read by Michael Pennington
Translated by Corneliu M. Popescu
Filmed at the Romanian Cultural Institute, London, in August 2021

Mihai Eminescu

b. 15 January 1850, Botoșani – d. 15 June 1889, Bucharest

poet, prose writer, journalist

Regarded as one of the few Romanian “high romantics”, Mihai Eminescu was a towering figure of nineteenth-century Romanian poetry. Today, he is rightly regarded as one of Romanian literature’s greatest classics.

An entire mythology has grown up around Eminescu, who is variously named “the peerless poet”, “the Morning Star of Romanian poetry”, and “the absolute man of Romanian culture”, phrases that are trotted out every year on the occasion of the poet’s birthday. The “integral expression of the Romanian soul”, as historian Nicolae Iorga called him in the interbellum, Eminescu is seen as transcending history, and the title of “national poet”, which critic George Călinescu put forward in the same period, has long been established in every school curriculum.

The only volume of poems that appeared in Eminescu’s lifetime, edited and published by critic and leading Romanian cultural figure Titu Maiorescu in 1883, encapsulates a large part of his poetic thought, exploring romantic settings such as lakes and woods, as well as cosmic expanses and the music of the spheres, thereby introducing from the very start these two important facets of the poet, although they are only two among very many.

Eminescu’s earliest poems, published in Familia magazine, are no longer of any great poetic interest. Occasional in their subject matter, they hark back to the tradition of the 1848 Revolution, which was already outdated when they were published.

Eminescu’s love lyrics, which include “Blue Flower”, depict woman as a temptress whose allure can drive man to madness. These are among Eminescu’s most human and sensual poems.

“I Have but a Single Wish”, a number of versions of which Titu Maiorescu published in his 1883 edition of the poet’s work, is one of Eminescu’s masterpieces, in which the image of the lyric “I” merging with nature (a theme Blaga was later also to tackle) attains unmatched melodiousness.

Eminescu’s posthumously published poems are a journey into the deepest wellsprings of the poet’s inspiration, revealing to the reader great intellectual and imaginative wealth, and serving only to reinforce the myth of the “peerless poet”.