Category Archives: poem

St. Agnes

I have decided to teach some Keats as well. I added a selection of his poems to one of my syllabuses. I am not sure why Keats. I mean, I like him, and surely enough his poems fit into the theme I built for the class, but so do many others. I was sitting at my desk today, reworking my lesson plan, and I thought of Keats’ poem, “The Eve of St. Agnes.” If you care to read it, you can find it on Bartleby here. It is not the only poem of his I will be using. Of course I will go over most of the Odes, and a couple of others (“To Autumn” is one of my favorites), but this one attracted me. I haven’t read it in many years, but from the pieces I did remember it vaguely reminded me of a poem I looked at several months ago from my childhood by M. Eminescu, who happened to be Keats’ contemporary. Rereading Keats’ poem I can see why I had that thought.

The poem works well with the supernatural theme of the course, and in many ways it is concerned with defining truth from different perspectives (which should really tell you something about the concept of truth).
The poem itself is simple enough, drawing on several previous works and myths. The story progresses slowly, and all 42 stanzas are dedicated to a plot that could not have lasted more than a few hours at most.
Yet the way it is written is what makes it so beautiful. The languid movement of plot is essential for taking in every detail. The poem, with its sensual undertones extends into every word. Keats is known for relying on the senses in his descriptions, and here, he relies on sight. Overtly the poem is eroticized through Porphyro’s actions; he sneaks into Madeline’s room, hides in her closet, and watches her undress for bed. Nevertheless, this scene is actually only moderately visual (Keats was asked to censure his original version for publication), and the truly magnificent details are saved for all of the minutia that surrounds Porphyro as he makes his way to the bed chamber, exits the closet, and even as he makes his way around the room while Madeline sleeps. The exotic fruit he sets out on tables around her sleeping frame are far more detailed and colorful than the pale sleeping form (the fruit sounds absolutely delicious in its prime of ripeness, candied and probably fantastic). The chandelier, cobwebs, and even window sill are described in meticulous detail. The poem is transformed into a painting, and the reader sees Porphyro stand still, setting the table for fruit, the unmoving Madeline in “azure-lidded sleep,” and the central piece to this tableau, the stained glass window above Madeline, in colors almost indescribable, yet Keats paints it in words nonetheless.
There are also the parts of the poem the reader doesn’t see. These don’t rely on the senses, and aren’t overtly explained. Yes, this is a very pretty poem, but it also has meaning, interrogating the difference between what is right and wrong. Porphyro is able to make his way into the castle and stealthily hide in Madeline’s closet with the assistance of her maid, Angela. Does Angela not realize what she is doing, or does she not think it is wrong. And is it wrong? Yes, he is sneaking around in her closet while she is getting undressed, but wasn’t the whole point of her doing this so that she may dream of him on St. Agnes’s Eve? Yes, she was expecting a dream as opposed to his real presence, and that contrast is bolded through her reaction in finding him – his real self appears dead in stark comparison to the fantastical dream she is having – but she does not protest or object to his appearance.
If anything is questionable in this poem it is not anyone’s morality. Frankly I am more puzzled by the fruit than anything else. I am unable to discern the reason for the fruit, or why Keats choses to dedicate entire stanzas to their decadent description (aside from bringing me a maddening craving for plums and candied apples all day). Of course I understand the sensuousness and eroticism in the way which the foods are presented, but it still makes little sense. Is he planning a picnic? He even brought his own tablecloth.
The poem ends as it begins, in the cold, but with a difference. While the start is cold and brooding, contrasting the revelers inside the warm castle with the Beadsman and Angela, who for one reason or another refuse to partake in the affair, the cold that ends the poem is merely a shadow of what was; Madeline and Porphyro leave to be wed in the moors, and as the Beadsmand and Angela lay dead and the party ends, it seems irrelevant.
Plenty of critics believe the poem is laden with betrayal. Madeline betrays her parents’ wishes and runs off with Porphyro (who they despise for reasons untold), Angela and Porphyro betray Madeline’s trust by sneaking into her room, and Angela betrays the household. I feel only the last of these is true. Angela betrays her employers by leading their enemy inside. Yet, the myth of St. Agnes’ Eve must be taken into account. The maiden, Madeline, fasts through dinner and goes to bed undressed, with her hands behind her pillow, for the sole purpose of hoping to dream of her future husband, and to see him appear before her. She confides in Angela how she dearly hopes it is Porphyro. She follows the instructions, and sure enough he is there. So what is the problem?
No one argues that they do run off together. Where is the betrayal? Frankly I think this is a matter of logistics. So she got him in the flesh as opposed to merely a dream, but the dream was supposed to profess the future. She had the dream, dreamt of him, woke up, he was there, and they got married. Sounds like a prophecy to me.
Moral of the poem? Morals are subject to interpretation.

Another One…

I have been revisiting Eminescu’s poetry all week, looking at pieces I never even knew existed. They are not some of his most famous works, but one poem in particular almost made me cry. The original is so breathtakingly beautiful, and I found a translation that brings out many of the same sentiments Eminescu originally intended.
Ce E Amorul? (As originally written by M. Eminescu in 1883 – special characters omitted).
Ce e amorul? E un lung
Prilej pentru durere,
Caci mii de lacrimi nu-i ajung
Si tot mai multe cere.
De-un semn in treacat de la ea
El sufletul ti-l leaga,
Incit sa n-o mai poti uita
Viata ta intreaga.

Dar inca de te-asteapta-n prag
In umbra de unghere,
De se-ntilneste drag cu drag
Cum inima ta cere:

Dispar si cerul si pamant
Si pieptul tau se bate,
Si totu-atirna de-un cuvint
Soptit pe jumatate.

Te urmareste saptamini
Un pas facut alene,
O dulce stringere de mini,
Un tremurat de gene.

Te urmaresc luminatori
Ca soarele si luna,
Si peste zi de-atitea ori
Si noaptea totdeauna.

Caci scris a fost ca viata ta
De doru-i sa nu-ncapa,
Caci te-a cuprins asemenea
Lianelor din apa.

This one was a little easier to find translations for, and it so happens that the same man worked on it that translated Luceafarul. Which obviously makes me wonder what else he has translated. Especially considering there is another poem, Mai Am Un Singur Dor, which I would love to see translated properly. So far I have found a series of mot-a-mot translations that hardly make any sense. But that hasn’t stopped me yet.
What is Love (Translated by M. Popescu)
What is love? A lifetime spent
Of days that pain does fill,
That thousand tears can’t content,
But asks for tears still.
With but a little glance coquet
Your soul it knows to tie,
That of it’s spell you can’t forget
Until the day you die.

Upon your threshold does it stand,
In every nook conspire,
That you may whisper hand in hand
Your tale of heart’s aspire.

Till fades the very earth and sky,
Your heart completely broken,
And all the world hangs on a sigh,
A word but partly spoken.

It follows you for weeks and weeks
And in your soul assembles
The memory of blushing cheeks
And eyelash fair that trembles.

It comes to you a sudden ray
As though of starlight’s spending,
How many and many a time each day
And every night unending.

For of your life has fate decreed
That pain shall it enfold,
As does the clinging water-weed
About a swimmer hold.

Unfortunately, once again I have to say Popescu does not carry the last lines very well. Eminescu has a penchant for ending on a strong point, with heightened emotion lurking within the last lines, making you feel the weight of the entire poem in a few words. Popescu is wonderful in his beginnings continues strong, but it feels as though he drops off before the end, not fully allowing the poem to sink in. The build up is wonderful, but then… nothing. And when I say nothing, please keep in mind this is solely in comparison to the original. For anyone not familiar with the way Eminescu worded it, Popescu’s version is quite good. As having read both, however, I have to say, Popescu did not make me want to cry. He did not extract suppressed feelings in that last line. Not like the rest of the poem. I guess if a poem doesn’t make me want to crawl in the fetal position and tare myself to shreds it is no good. Well, W. Wordsworth did once state “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling.” Perhaps this is what he had in mind.
However, Wordsworth also said such powerful feelings came from “recollections in tranquility.” Yet this poem did not inspire tranquility, nor was my desire for it bred from tranquility. Further, it describes an emotion that is not very tranquil by nature. When has love ever been tranquil? At least for me, love is turmoil. I have never been at peace with love, nor have I had peaceful love. Eminescu understands this as he speaks of the “durere” (pain) which is the very first adjective he uses to describe the emotion, as none other will do. The life of love described in this poem is not tranquil, peaceful, (or any other synonym you may wish to insert). It is painful, sad, and lonely. Love lurks and stalks, unbending, and never ending.
Of course as soon as I finished writing the last line I thought of a never ending cycle, a circle that must painfully repeat. And, oddly, it also reminded me of this paper I wrote about a year ago, in which I described love as a rupture of pleasure so great it could only be felt as pain. A lot of people like that paper. Maybe I had it right. Maybe love is a form of elevated ecstasy in which only pain can be felt, and tears are the sole means of releasing this mix of emotions.

Coming Back

It has recently dawned on me that I know very little of my own heritage, at least as far as literature is concerned. I have always loved literature, but took Romanian literature for granted. It was part of where I came from, it was within me, but I never had the same relationship with Romanian literary figures as I do with others. I was aware of their existence, and had read a lot of their works, but it was an almost tourist interest, detached and distant. When someone asked me who these famous people were, I drew a blank, then realizing that I never really got to know them. In fact, I know far more about other people, cultures, and literary traditions than I know about the ones I was raised with. Granted, I was never formally educated in Romanian literature, it is quite shocking how little I am familiar with it. I could hardly name more than two Romanian poets off the top of my head (you would think the entire nation was illiterate!), but I could name all ten children of Henrietta Maria of England (Charles, Charles, Mary, James, Elizabeth, Anne, Catherine, Henry, Henrietta, should anyone care). Yes, my interests are peculiar, but now I became curious.
The next day I went to my father, and asked him tell me about the writers I either have never known, or have forgotten. He reminded me how I used to love their poetry when I was little. And how I was fascinated with them when I was slightly older, even endeavoring to translate some of their works. I could not recall very much of this, except that it did happen. And since computers weren’t mainstream then, my translations were handwritten, and since lost. But I do recall a poem I used to love reciting as a little girl. I was about four, and Romania is not terribly known for their children’s literature. But there was a poem my aunt taught me, Luceafarul (Evening Star, with certain other connotations that were most certainly not explained to me as a child). That was my adult version of Goodnight Moon. I was too young to understand all of the words, and I could only recite the first five stanzas, but I knew to recite them, and had been told the general idea of the poem, although in much more censured words.
Luceafarul (original as written by M. Eminescu in 1833 – special characters omitted)
(Translation at the bottom)
A fost odata ca-n povesti
A fost ca niciodata,
Din rude mair impratesti,
O prea frumoasa fata.
Si era una la parini
Si mandra-n toate cele,
Cum e Fecioara intre sfinti
Si luna intre stele.
Din umbra falnicelor bolti
Ea pasul si-l indreapta
Langa fereastra, unde-n colt
Luceafarul asateapta.
Privea in zare cum pe mari
Rasare si straluce,
Pe miscatoarele carari
Corabil negre duce,
Il vede zai, il vede mani,
Astfel dorinta-i gata;
El iar, privind de saptamani,
Ii cade draga fata.
Cum ea pe coate-si razima
Visind ale ei tample,
De dorul lui si inima
si sufletu-i se imple.
Si cat de viu s-aprinde el
In orisicare sara,
Spre umbra negrului casatel
Cand ea o sa-i apara.
Si pas cu pas pe urma ei
Aluneca-n odaie,
Tesand cu recile-i scantei
O mreaja de vapaie.
Si cand in pat se-ntinde drept
Copila sa se culce,
I-atinge manile pe piept,
I-nchide geana dulce;
Si din oglina luminis
Pe trup-i se revarsa,
Pe ochii mari, batand inchisi
Pe fata ei intoarsa.
Ea il privea cu un suras,
El tremura-n oglinda,
Caci o urma adanc in vis
De suflet sa se prinda.
Iar ea vorbind cu el in somn,
Oftand din greu suspina:
O, dulce-al noptii mele Domn,
De ce nu vii tu? Vina!
Cobori in jos, luceafar bland,
Alunecand pe-o raza,
Patrunde-n casa si in gand
Si viata-mi lumineaza!
El asculta tremurator,
Se aprindea mai tare
Si s-arunca fulgerator,
Se cufunda in mare;
Si apa unde-au fost cazut
In ceruri se roteste,
Si din adanc necunoscut
Un mandru tanar creste.
Usor el trece ca pe prag
Pe marginea ferestei
Si tine-n mana un toiag
Incununat cu trestii.
Parea un tanar voievod
Cu par de aur moale,
Un vanat giulgi se-ncheie nod
Pe umerele goale.
Iar umbra fetei stravezii
E alba ca de ceara
Un mort frumos cu ochii vii
Ce scanteie-n afara.
Din sfera mea venii cu greu
Ca sa-ti urmez chemarea,
Iar cerul este tatal meu
Si muma-mea e marea.
Ca in camara ta sa vin,
Sa te privesc de-aproape,
Am coborât cu-al meu senin
Si m-am nascut din ape.
O, vin! odorul meu nespus,
Si lumea ta o lasa;
Eu sunt luceafarul de sus,
Iar tu sa-mi fii mireasa.
Colo-n palate de margean
Te-oi duce veacuri multe,
Si toata lumea-n ocean
De tine o s-asculte.
O, esti frumos, cum numa-n vis
Un inger se arata,
Dara pe calea ce-ai deschis
N-oi merge niciodata;
Strain la vorba si la port,
Lucesti fara de viata,
Caci eu sunt vie, tu esti mort,
Si ochiul tau ma-ngheata.

Trecu o zi, trecura trei
Si iarasi, noaptea, vine
Luceafarul deasupra ei
Cu razele senine.
Ea trebui de el in somn
Aminte sa-si aduca
Si dor de-al valurilor Domn
De inim-o apuca:
Cobori in jos, luceafar blând,
Alunecând pe-o raza,
Patrunde-n casa si in gand
Si viata-mi lumineaza!
Cum el din cer o auzi,
Se stinse cu durere,
Iar ceru-ncepe a roti
In locul unde piere;
In aer rumene vapai
Se-ntind pe lumea-ntreaga,
Si din a chaosului vai
Un mandru chip se-ncheaga;
Pe negre vitele-i de par
Coroana-i arde pare,
Venea plutind in adevar
Scaldat în foc de soare.
Din negru giulgi se desfasor
Marmoreele brata,
El vine trist si ganditor
Si palid e la fata;
Dar ochii mari si minunati
Lucesc adânc himeric,
Ca doua patimi fara sat
Si pline de-ntuneric.
Din sfera mea venii cu greu
Ca sa te-ascult s-acuma,
Si soarele e tatal meu,
Iar noaptea-mi este muma;
O, vin, odorul meu nespus,
Si lumea ta o lasa;
Eu sunt luceafarul de sus,
Iar tu sa-mi fii mireasa.
O, vin, in parul tau balai
S-anin cununi de stele,
Pe-a mele ceruri sa rasai
Mai mandra decat ele.
O, esti frumos, cum numa-n vis
Un demon se arata,
Dara pe calea ce-ai deschis
N-oi merge niciodata!
Ma dor de crudul tau amor
A pieptului meu coarde,
Si ochii mari si grei ma dor,
Privirea ta ma arde.
Dar cum ai vrea sa ma cobor?
Au nu-ntelegi tu oare,
Cum ca eu sunt nemuritor,
Si tu esti muritoare?
Nu caut vorbe pe ales,
Nici stiu cum as incepe
Desi vorbesti pe inteles,
Eu nu te pot pricepe;
Dar daca vrei cu crezamant
Sa te-ndragesc pe tine,
Tu te coboara pe pamant,
Fii muritor ca mine.
Tu-mi cei chiar nemurirea mea
In schimb pe-o sarutare,
Dar voi sa stii asemenea
Cat te iubesc de tare;
Da, ma voi naste din pacat,
Primind o alta lege;
Cu vecinicia sunt legat,
Ci voi sa ma dezlege.
Si se tot duce… S-a tot dus.
De dragu-unei copile,
S-a rupt din locul lui de sus,
Pierind mai multe zile.

In vremea asta Catalin,
Viclean copil de casa,
Ce imple cupele cu vin
Mesenilor la masa,
Un paj ce poarta pas cu pas
A-mparatesii rochii,
Baiat din flori si de pripas,
Dar indraznet cu ochii,
Cu obrajei ca doi bujori
De rumeni, bata-i vina,
Se furiseaza pânditor
Privind la Catalina.
Dar ce frumoasa se facu
Si mandra, arz-o focul;
Ei Catalin, acu-i acu
Ca sa-ti incerci norocul.
Si-n treacat o cuprinse lin
Intr-un ungher degraba.
Da ce vrei, mari Catalin?
Ia du-t de-ti vezi de treaba.
Ce voi? As vrea sa nu mai stai
Pe ganduri totdeauna,
Sa razi mai bine si sa-mi dai
O gura, numai una.
Dar nici nu stiu macar ce-mi ceri,
Da-mi pace, fugi departe
O, de luceafarul din cer
M-a prins un dor de moarte.
Daca nu stii, ti-as arata
Din bob in bob amorul,
Ci numai nu te mania,
Ci stai cu binisorul.
Cum vanatoru-ntinde-n crang
La pasarele latul,
Cand ti-oi intinde bratul stang
Sa ma cuprinzi cu bratul;
Si ochii tai nemiscatori
Sub ochii mei ramaie…
De te inalt de subsuori
Te-nalta din calcaie;
Cand fata mea se pleaca-n jos,
In sus ramai cu fata,
Sa ne privim nesatios
Si dulce toata viata;
Si ca sa-ti fie pe deplin
Iubirea cunoscuta,
Cand sarutandu-te ma-nclin,
Tu iarasi ma saruta.
Ea-l asculta pe copilas
Uimita si distrasa,
Si rusinos si dragalas,
Mai nu vrea, mai se lasa,
Si-i zise-ncet: Inca de mic
Te cunosteam pe tine,
Si guraliv si de nimic,
Te-ai potrivi cu mine…
Dar un luceafar, rasarit
Din linistea uitarii,
Da orizon nemarginit
Singuratatii marii;
Si tainic genele le plec,
Caci mi le imple plansul,
Cand ale apei valuri trec
Calatorind spre dansul;
Luceste cu-n amor nespus
Durerea sa-mi alunge,
Dar se inalta tot mai sus,
Ca sa nu-l pot ajunge.
Patrunde trist cu raze reci
Din lumea ce-l desparte…
In veci il voi iubi si-n veci
Va ramanea departe…
De-aceea zilele îmi sunt
Pustii ca niste stepe,
Dar noptile-s de-un farmec sfant
Ce nu-l mai pot pricepe.
Tu esti copila, asta e…
Hai s-om fugi în lume
Doar ni s-or pierde urmele
Si nu ne-or sti de nume,
Caci amandoi vom fi cuminti,
Vom fi voiosi si teferi,
Vei pierde dorul de parinti
Si visul de luceferi.

Porni luceafarul. Cresteau
In cer a lui aripe,
Si cai de mii de ani treceau
In tot atatea clipe.
Un cer de stele dedesupt,
Deasupra-i cer de stele
Parea un fulger nentrerupt
Ratacitor prin ele.
Si din a chaosului vai,
Jur-imprejur de sine,
Vedea, ca-n ziua cea de-ntai,
Cum izvorau lumine;
Cum izvorand il inconjur
Ca niste mari, de-a-notul…
El zboara, gand purtat de dor,
Pan piere totul, totul;
Caci unde-ajunge nu-i hotar,
Nici ochi spre a cunoaste,
Si vremea-ncearca in zadar
Din goluri a se naste.
Nu e nimic si totusi e
O sete care-l soarbe,
E un adanc asemenea
Uitarii celei oarbe.
De greul negrei vecinicii,
Parinte, ma dezleaga
Si laudat pe veci sa fii
Pe-a lumii scara-ntreaga;
O, cere-mi, Doamne, orice pret,
Dar da-mi o alta soarte,
Caci tu izvor esti de vieti
Si datator de moarte;
Reia-mi al nemuririi nimb
Si focul din privire,
Si pentru toate da-mi, in schimb
O ora de iubire…
Din chaos, Doamne,-am aparut
Si m-as intoarce-n chaos…
Si din repaos m-am nascut,
Mi-e sete de repaos.
Hyperion, ce din genuni
Rasai c-o-ntreaga lume,
Nu cere semne si minuni
Care n-au chip si nume
Tu vrei un om sa te socoti,
Cu ei sa te asameni?
Dar piara oamenii cu totii,
S-ar naste iarasi oameni.
Ei numai doar dureaza-n vant
Deserte idealuri
Cand valuri afla un mormant,
Rasar din urma valuri;
Ei doar au stele cu noroc
Si prigoniri de soarte,
Noi nu avem nici timp, nici loc,
Si nu cunoastem moarte.
Din sanul vecinicului ieri
Traieste azi ce moare,
Un soare de s-ar stinge-n cer
S-aprinde iarasi soare;
Parand pe veci a rasari,
Din urma moartea-l paste,
Caci toti se nasc spre a muri
Si mor spre a se naste.
Iar tu, Hyperion, ramai
Oriunde ai apune…
Cere-mi cuvantul meu dentai
Sa-ti dau intelepciune?
Vrei sa dau glas acelei guri,
Ca dup-a ei cantare
Sa se ia muntii cu paduri
Si insulele-n mare?
Vrei poate-n fapta sa arati
Dreptate si tarie?
Ti-as da pamântul în bucati
Sa-l faci imparatie.
Iti dau catarg langa catarg,
Ostiri spre a strabate
Pamantu-n lung si marea-n larg,
Dar moartea nu se poate…
Si pentru cine vrei sa mori?
Intoarce-te, te-ndreapta
Spre-acel pamant ratacitor
Si vezi ce te asteapta.

In locul lui menit din cer
Hyperion se-ntoarse
Si, ca si-n ziua cea de ieri,
Lumina si-o revarsa.
Caci este sara-n asfintit
Si noaptea o sa-nceapa
Rasare luna linistit
Si tremurând din apa
Si imple cu-ale ei scantei
Cararile din crânguri.
Sub sirul lung de mandri tei
Sedeau doi tineri singuri:
O, lasa-mi capul meu pe san,
Iubito, sa se culce
Sub raza ochiului senin
Si negrait de dulce;
Cu farmecul luminii reci
Gândirile strabate-mi,
Revarsa liniste de veci
Pe noaptea mea de patimi.
Si de asupra mea ramai
Durerea mea de-o curma,
Caci esti iubirea mea de-ntai
Si visul meu din urma.
Hyperion vedea de sus
Uimirea-n a lor fata;
Abia un brat pe gât i-a pus
Si ea l-a prins in brata…
Miroase florile-argintii
Si cad, o dulce ploaie,
Pe crestele-a doi copii
Cu plete lungi, balaie.
Ea, imbatata de amor,
Ridica ochii. Vede
Luceafarul. Si-ncetisor
Dorintele-i increde:
Cobori in jos, luceafar bland,
Alunecand pe-o raza,
Patrunde-n codru si in gand,
Norocu-mi lumineaza!
El tremura ca alte dati
In codri si pe dealuri,
Calauzind singuratati
De miscatoare valuri:
Dar nu mai cade ca-n trecut
In mari din tot inaltul:
Ce-ti pasa tie, chip de lut,
Dac-oi fi eu sau altul?
Traind in cercul vostru stramt
Norocul va petrece,
Ci eu in lumea mea ma simt
Nemuritor si rece.
I have read almost two dozen translations of this poem, and I think I found one that most closely keeps the original meaning, while also providing a rhyme. It omits a few stanzas, but it is the most beautifully crafted.
Lucifer, translated by C. Popescu
Once on a time, as poets sing
High tales with fancy laden,
Born of a very noble king
There lived a wondrous maiden.

An only child, her kinsfolk boon,
So fair, imagination faints;
As though amidst the stars the moon,
Or Mary amidst the saints.

From ‘neath the castle’s dark retreat,
Her silent way she wended
Each evening to the window-seat
Where Lucifer attended.

And secretly, with never fail,
She watched his double race,
Where vessels drew their pathless trail
Across the ocean’s face.

And as intent she drank his light,
Desire was quickly there;
While he who saw her every night
Soon fell in love with her.

And sitting thus with rested head,
Her elbows on the sill,
Her heart by youthful fancy led
Did with deep longing fill.

While he, a brilliant shining spark,
Glowed always yet more clear
Towards the castle tall and dark
Where she would soon appear.


Until one night with shower of rays
He slips into her room,
As though a strange and silver haze
Did round about her loom.

And when at last the child to rest
Upon her sofa lies,
He lays her arms across her breast
And closes her soft eyes.

While where his ray on mirror lands
And is upon her couch red rifted,
It falls upon her throat and hands
And on her face uplifted.

A smile is on her lips it seems;
He in the mirror trembles,
For smooth his ray glides midst her dreams
And round her soul assembles.

And while she is in slumber gone
She murmurs through her sighs:
“Come down to me beloved one,
Fair prince of the clear skies.

Come down, good Lucifer and kind,
O lord of my aspire,
And flood my chamber and my mind
With your sweetest fire!”

And Lucifer beams still more bright
To hear her word’s emotion;
Then like a comet in its flight
Dives down into the ocean.

And where his bolt is lost to view
The sea in whirlpool surges,
Till out of the unfathomed blue
A handsome youth emerges,

Who, leaping off the fretful wave,
Lightly through her casement passes;
And in his hand he holds a stave
Crowned with a wreath of grasses.

A prince indeed of royal stock,
With heavy hanging golden hair;
A purple winding-sheet his smock,
Hung round his shoulders bare.

A starry glow shines from his eyes,
His cheeks are deathly white;
A lifeless thing in living guise,
A youth born of the night.

“Down from the spheres do I come
Though dreadful the commotion,
My father is the vaulted dome,
My mother is the ocean.

For I have left my realm to keep
Obedience to your command;
Born of the zenith and the deep
Here I before you stand.

O come, fair child of royal birth,
Cast this your world aside,
For Lucifer has flown to earth
To claim you as his bride.

And you will live till time is done
In castles built of sky,
And all the fish will be your own,
And all the birds that fly”.

“O, beautiful you are, good Sire,
As but an angel prince could be,
But to the course that you desire
I never shall agree.

Strange, as your voice and vesture show,
I live while you are dead;
Your eyes gleam with an icy glow
Which fills my soul with dread.”

One day went past, and went past-two,
Then o’er the castle dark,
Fair Lucifer again to view
Shone forth his lustrous spark.

And scarce his beam waved bright above,
Her dreams to him were borne,
Her heart again by aching love
And cruel longing torn.

“Come down, good Lucifer and kind,
O lord of my aspire,
And flood my chamber and my mind
With your sweetest fire!”

Now, as he heard her tender cry
With pain he faded out,
And lightning flew about the sky,
Which wheeled and rocked about;

Around the earth a lurid glow
Poured like a torrent race,
Till out of its chaotic flow
There grew a human face;

About the head dark wisps of hair
Girt with a crown of flame,
And through the sun-illumined air
Borne up by truth he came.

His arms of rounded marble sheen
Did ‘neath a cloak of raven show,
And sad and thoughtful was his mien
And pallid was his brow.

Bright eyes he had that seemed to tell
Of strange chimerical bonds;
And deep they were as passion’s spell,
And dark as moonlit ponds.

“Down from the spheres have I flown,
Though terrible my flight;
My father wears Apollo’s crown,
My mother is the night.

O come, fair child of royal birth,
Cast this your world aside,
For Lucifer has flown to earth
To claim you as his bride.

A starry halo from the skies
About your hair will fall,
And you among the spheres will rise
The proudest of them all.”

“O, beautiful you are, good Sire,
As but a demon prince could be,
But to the course of your desire
I never shall agree.

You wound me with your crude behest;
I dread what you extol;
Your heavy eyes, as though possessed,
Gleam down into my soul.”

“But why should I descend to thee?
Far better what I give;
My days are all eternity,
While you but one hour live.”

“I would not chosen phrases seek,
Nor carefully my words arrange,
But though with human mouth you speak,
Your speech to me is strange.

Yet if you wish to prove your worth,
That I betroth myself to you,
Well, then come down to me on earth
And be a mortal too.”

You ask my endless, life above
To barter for a kiss.
Aye, I will show how my love,
How deep my longing is.

My birthright I will fling aside
To be reborn of sin, and I
Who to all rolling time am tied,
Will that great knot untie.”

At which he turned and went away
Midst a cloud of sombre pearl,
To renounce his birthright from that day
For the love of a mortal girl.


About this time young Catalin
Was a page boy of that house,
Who filled the festive cups with wine
At feast and royal carouse.

And carried high the regal train;
A foundling, brought by chance,
Born of a humble unknown strain,
Though roguish in his glance,

Round-cheeked, like rose-apples red,
Mischievous, bright-eyed,
A slipped with quick yet stealthy tread
To Catalina’s side.

Upon my soul, Queen of romance !
Was such a darling ever?
Come Catalin, quick try your chance,
For now’s your time or never.

At which he round her waist did twine
His arm in sudden wooing.
“Behave, you rascal Catalin,
Whatever are you doing?”

“By sorrow brooding all the while
You would your heart assuage,
But better you would turn and smile
And kiss just once your page.”

“I know not what your wishes are,
Leave me alone, you knave.
Ah me ! The longing for that star
Will drive me to the grave.”

“If you don’t know, and you would learn
How love is set about,
Don’t recklessly my teaching spurn,
First fairly hear me out.

As trappers deftly birds pursue
With nets among the tree,
When I stretch out my arm to you,
Slip your arm thus round me.

Your eyes into my eyes must glow,
Nor turn away, nor close
And when I lift you softly, so,
Rise gently on your toes.

And when my face is downwards bent
Your face turned up will stay,
That we may gaze with sweet intent
For ever and a day.

While should you wish at last to learn
The measure of love’s bliss,
When hot my lips on yours do burn
Give back again my kiss.”

Amused, yet with a girl’s surprise
At what the youth acclaimed,
She blushed and turned away her eyes,
Half willing, half ashamed.

“A chatterbox you were since small
With overmuch to tell,
Yet I had felt, in spite of all,
We’d suit each other well”.

But Lucifer’s slow sailing spark
Crept up out of the sea
Over the horizon’s arc,
Prince of eternity.

And now my wretched heart does bleed,
With tears my eyes grow dim,
When e’er I watch the waves that speed
Across the sea to him.

While he looms with adoring ray
My grief to overthrow,
Yet ever climbs to heights away
Where mortals cannot go.

His silver beams that space defy
Sadly my watchers are
And I shall love him till I die,
Yet he be ever far.

And thus it is the days to me
Are drear as desert sand,
The nights filled with a mystery
I dare not understand…”

“How childish is the way you speak.
Come on ! Come, lets run away,
That all the world for us shall seek
Though no one finds the way.

And we shall nothing of this life regret
But joyous live and sprightly,
Till soon your parents you’ll forget,
Nor dream your longings nightly.”


Lucifer set out and o’er
The sky his wings extended,
And million years flew past before
As many moments ended.

A sky of stars above his way,
A sky of stars below;
As lightning flash midst them astray
In one continuous flow.

Till round his primal chaos hurled
When out of causeless night
The first, up flaming dawn unfurled
Its miracle of light.

Still further flew he ere the start
Of things of form devoid,
Spurred by the yearning of his heart,
Far back into the void.

Yet where he reach’s is not the bourn
Nor yet where eye can see;
Beyond where struggling time was torn
Out of eternity.

Around him there was naught. And still,
Strange yearning there was yet,
A yearning that all space did fill,
As when the blind forget.

“O, Father God, this knot untie
Of my celestial birth,
And praised you will be on high
And on the rolling earth.

The price you ask is little count,
Give fate another course,
For you are of fair life the fount
And of calm death the source.

Take back this halo from my head,
Take back my starry lower,
And give to me, o God, instead
Of human love one hour.

Out of the chaos was I wrought,
In chaos would I be dispersed,
Out of the empty darkness brought,
For darkness do I thirst…”

“Hyperion, o child divine,
Don’t thus your state disclaim,
Nor ask for miracle, nor sign
That has nor sense nor name.

You wish to be a man of son,
To be a star you scorn;
But men quick perish every one,
And men each day are born.

Yet stars burn on with even glow,
And it is fate’s intending
That they nor time, nor place shall know,
Unfettered and unending.

Out of eternal yesterday
Into tomorrow’s grave,
Even the sun will pass way
That other sun’s shall lave;

The sun that every morn does rise
At last it’s spirit gives,
For each thing lives because it dies,
And dies because it lives.

But you, Hyperion, never wane,
Night’s miracle sublime,
But in the sky your place retain,
The wonder of all time.

So what strange fancy holds your mind
What dreaming thus berates you?
Return to earth and there you’ll find
The awakening that awaits you.”


Hyperion did straightway go
To where through ages gone
His gleam upon the earth below
Nightly he had shone.

And it was evening when he came,
Night’s darkness slow assembled,
And rose the moon a frozen flame
That in the water trembled,

And filled the forest’s twilight clime
With a silver starry mist,
Where ‘neath a tall and spreading lime
Two fair-haired children kissed.

“O, let me lay in lover’s wise
My head upon your breast,
Beneath the wonder of your eyes,
In soft and fragrant rest.

In mystery’s enchanted light
Pervade me with your charm,
And flood my soul through passion’s night
With time’s eternal calm.

O, quench my longing’s eager thirst,
My aching doubts overcast,
For you to me are love the first,
And of my dreams the last.”

Hyperion gazed down and knew
The fire their souls possessed;
For scarce the boy her nearer drew,
She clasped him to her breast.

A rain of petals in the air
That softly did enfold
Two fervent children strangely fair,
With locks of plated gold.

She, lost in love’s enraptured flight,
To heaven turned her eyes,
Saw Lucifer’s down shining light
And whispered through her sighs:

“Come down, good Lucifer and kind,
O lord of my aspire.
And fill the forest and my mind
With your sweetest fire !”

And Lucifer, alone in space,
Her tender summons heard,
A planet o’er the ocean’s face
That trembled at her word,

But did not plunge as in former day,
And in his heart did cry:
“O, what care you, fair face of clay,
If it be he or I?

Still earth shall only earth remain,
Let luck its course unfold,
And I in my own kingdom reign
Immutable and cold.”

I do have to admit the translation loses something. I cannot quite describe it, but it does not have the same trembling reverberation or cadence of the original. The ending lacks the piercing loss, the devastation. I do not feel the same gasp of breath escape me in the last two lines of complete loss and ultimate finality that I felt Eminescu so painfully achieved.
But this poem brings back so many memories of childhood, and even more from later years. I have known it my whole conscious life, and in revisiting it I came to realize how it has inadvertently affected me. Maybe it wasn’t the poem itself, but the idea behind it, an idea I have played around with for many years, constantly coming back to it, never fully knowing why.
Time has always been of interest for me, performing it, playing with the concept of it. For a while I have been interested in how time works. Not the actual, physical aspect of it. That is easy enough. It moves forward, like a clock. But time, in other ways, does not move forward. It is always in motion, but in the most chaotic sense. It is circular, elliptical, always returning. Life flows through time, but always returns. History, thought to be linear, also always returns. So how can we say history only moves in one direction? And by extension, how can we then say time moves in this way? Doesn’t the clock always come back to zero?
Two years ago I read M. Eliade’s (who also happens to be Romanian) The Myth of the Eternal Return, while I was wrapped up in Kirkegaard and his repetition theories. I have interwoven their theories, reread their works, looked up their sources, and attempted to contextualize their ideas. But the only context is real time, and it cannot be contextualized as anything other than circular and constantly repeating.
Even the most simple of things return to their origin. Which is why Eminescu’s ending is so shocking. The poem repeats, the story comes full circle. Almost. The last stanza, and specifically the last two lines, violently rupture the circle. It bothered me, until I realized why. The circle does not break, but is only slightly deformed. In the original “nemuritor” (immortal) implies the continuity of the status quo as Lucifer returns to what he was. And more importantly, what he will once again be. The poem does not end, but only gathers momentum to start all over again, repeating the pattern of the maiden calling for Lucifer to come down from the skies (ironically), just as he had done several times before.
If any of you read S. King’s The Dark Tower Trilogy (which is actually eight books), then you will understand this ending as being the same. Oddly the anger I felt at reading the ending of that “trilogy” was in the same realm of pain I felt in reading this poem (sans the inundation of loss). I can’t believe I had not seen it sooner.
It is all just a game of returns. A repetition of events, only slightly altered each time, but nevertheless following a familiar pattern, that with time we perfect. Through small deviations I always return, just as I returned to the poem from my childhood.