Free Will?

On the eve of exams my mind remains, per usual, in a state of constant agitation. Always making the best of all situations, I decided to use some of my restlessness to scour the internet for more proper translations of Eminescu’s poetry. As it turns out, the same man who has translate the previous two poems of his I posted, also did others. It is just a matter of finding them. Actually, it is a matter of finding the right version of them.
 
I found the most beautiful translation of Eminescu’s “Inger Si Demon.” Here is the original text, as written in 1873 (special characters omitted).
 
Noaptea ‘n Doma intristata, prin lumini ingalbenite
A facliilor de ceara, care ard langa altare –
Pe cand bolta ‘n fundul Domei sta intunecoasa, mare
Nepatrunsa de-ochii rosii de pe mucuri ostenite,
In biserica pustie, langa arcul in parete
Genunchiata sta pe trepte o copila, ca un inger,
Pe-a altarului icoana in de raze rosii frangeri
Palida si mohorata maica Domnului se vede.

O faclie e infipta intr’un stalp de peatra sura,
Lucii picaturi de smoala la pamant cad sfaraind
Si cununi de flori uscate fasaiesc amirosind,
S’a copilei rugaciune tainic un soptit murmura.

Cufundat in intuneric, lang’o cruce marmurita,
Intr’o umbra neagra, deasa, ca un demon El vegheaza,
Coatele pe bratul crucii le destinde si le-asaza,
Ochii cufundati in capu-i, fruntea trista si ‘ncretita.

Si barbia lui s’apasa pe al pietrei umar rece,
Parul sau negru ca noaptea peste-al marmurei brat alb;
Abia candela cea trista cu reflectul ei ros-alb
Bland o raza mai arunca ce peste-a lui fata trece.

Ea un inger, ce se roaga – El un demon, ce viseaza;
Ea o inima de aur – El un suflet aposat;
El in umbra lui fatala sta ‘ndaratnic razimat –
La picioarele Madonei trista, sfanta Ea vegheaza.

Pe un mur inalt si rece de o marmura curata
Alba ca zapada iernei, lucie ca apa lina,
Se resfrange ca ‘n oglinda a copilei umbra plina –
Umbra ei, ce ca si dansa sta in ruga ‘ngenunchiata.

Ce-ti lipseste oare tie, blond copil cu-a ta marire,
Cu de marmur’alba fata si cu mainile de ceara,
Val – o negura diafanta mestecata ‘n stele, clara
E privirea-ti inocenta sub a genelor umbrire –

Ce-ti lipseste sa fii inger? aripi lungi si constelate?
Dar ce vad? Pe-a umbrei tale umeri vii ce se intinde?
Doua umbre de aripe ce se misca tremurande,
Doua aripe de umbra catra ceruri ridicate.

O nu-i umbra ei aceea – este angeru-i de paza,
Langa marmura cea alba vad fiinta-i aeriana,
Peste viata-I inocenta viata lui cea sfanta plana,
Langa dansa el se roaga, langa ea ingenuchiaza

Dar de-i umbra ei aceea – atunci Ea un înger este,
Ansa aripele-I albe lume’a le vedea nu poate;
Muri sfintiti de-a omenirei rugaciuni indelungate
Vad aripele-I diafane si de dansele dau veste.

Te iubesc! Era sa strige demonul in a lui noapte,
Dara umbra ‘naripata a lui buze le inmoae;
Nu spre-amor – spre ‘nchinaciune el genunchi-si incovoae
Si asculta, dus din lume, a ei dulci si timizi soapte.

 
Ea? – O fiica e de rege blonda ‘n diadem de stele,
Trece ‘n lume fericita, înger, rege si femee, –
El – rascoala in popoare a distrugerei scantee
Si in inimi pustiite samana gandiri rebele.
Desparititi de-a vietii valuri, intre el si intre dinsa –
Veacuri sunt de cugetare, o istorie, un popor;
Une ori – de si arate – se ‘ntalnesc si ochii lor
Se privesc, par a se soarbe in dorinta lor aprinsa.

Ochii ei cei mari albastri, de blandete dulci si moi,
Cu adanc patrund in ochii lui cer negri furtunosi,
Si pe fata lui cea slaba trece-usor un nour ros –
Se iubesc – si ce departe sunt deolalta amandoi!

A venit un rege palid, si coroana sa antica,
Grea de glorii si putere, l’a ei poale-ar fi depus,
Pe-ale tronului covoare ea piciorul de-ar fi pus
Si in mana-i insceptrata, mana ei angusta mica.

Dar nu – muta ramas-au buzele-I abia deschise,
Muta inima-i in pieptu-I, mana ei trase ‘ndarat.
In a sufletului taina ea iubea. Clar si incet
Se ivea fata de demon feciorestilor ei vise.

Ea-l vedea miscand poporul cu idei reci, indraznete.
Ce puternic e! gandi ea cu-amoroasa dulce spaima,
El presentul el rascoala cu-a gandirilor lui faima
Contra tot ce gramadira veacuri lungi si frunti marete.

El ades suit pe-o piatra cu turbare se ‘nfasoara
In stindardul ros si furntea-i aspra-adanca, incretita,
Parea ca o noapte neagra de furtune-acoperita,
Ochii fulgerau si vorba-i trezea furia vulgara.

 
Pe un pat sarac asuda intr’o lunga agonie
Tanarul. O lampa ‘ntinde limb’avara si subtire,
Sferaind in aer bolnav – nimeni nu-i stie de stire,
Nimeni soarta-i n’o ‘mblanzaste, nimeni fruntea nu-i mangae.
Ah! acele ganduri toate indreptate contra lumei,
Contra legilor ce-s scrise, contra odihnii ‘mbracate
Cu-a lui Dumnezeu numire – astazi toate-s indreptate
Contra inimei murinde – sufletul vor sa-i sugrume!

A muri fara speranta! Cine stie-amaraciunea
Ce-I ascunsa ‘n aste vorbe? – Sa te simti neliber, mic,
Sa vezi marele-aspiratii ca-s reduse la nimic,
Ca domnesc in lume rele, caror nu te poti opune,

Ca-opunandu-te la ele tu viata-ti risipesti –
Si cand mori, sa vezi ca ‘n lume vietuit-ai in zadar:
O astfel de moarte-i iadul. Alte lacrimi, alt amar
Mai crud, nici e cu putinta. Simti ca nimica nu esti.

Si acele ganduri negre mai nici a muri nu-l lasa:
Cum a intrat el in viata! Cat amor de drept si bine,
Cata sincera fratie adusese el cu sine!
Si rasplata? – Amarirea, care sufletu-i apasa.

Dar prin negurile negre, care ochii ai acopar,
Se apropie-argintoasa umbra nalt’a unui inger,
Se asaza lin pe patu-I; ochii lui orbiti de plangeri
Ea-i saruta; de pe dansii negurile se descopar –

Este Ea – Cu-o multumire adanca, ne mai simtita,
El in ochii ei se uita. Mandra-i de induiosere,
Ceasul ultim ai impaca toata viata-I de durere.
Ah! sopteste el pe moarte, cine esti gacesc, iubita.

Am voit viata ‘ntreaga sa-pot rascula poporul
Cu gandirile-mi rebele contra cerului deschis –
El n’a vrut ca sa condamne pe demon, ci a trimis
Pe un inger, sa ma ‘mpace, si ‘mpacarea – e amorul.

 
And here is the translated version by C. Popescu.
 
Blackness of the cathedral dome, saddened by the yellow light
Of waxen candles shimmering, which burn before the altars’ face;
While in the dark and spacious vault, unpenetrated realms of space
Defy the tapers’ tired eyes that strain to probe unconquered night.
And empty is the twilight church, save where, upon the marble stair,
A child who like an angel kneels with deeply bowed and fervent head.
Upon the altar stands, amidst the rosy light the tapers shed,
With calm, pale face and gentle mean an image of the virgin fair.

Within a sconce upon the wall a guttering candle burns and drips
And gleaming drops of molten pitch hiss as they fall upon the ground.
While wreaths of dry and withered flowers emit a gentle rustling sound.
And the maiden’s secret prayer rests silently upon her lips.

Sunk in the outer ring of dark, a marble cross his form concealing,
Wrapped in the shadow’s heavy cloak, He like a demon silent stands,
His elbows resting on the cross and hanging down his tapered han
His eyes deep sunken in his head, his furrowed brow strange grief revealing.

Against the cross’s chilly neck his burning cheek he thoughtfully lays;
About its snowy arms is looped his long and raven hair.
The sad light of the candle glow scarce reaches to the corner where
Upon his drawn and pallid face fall feebly its yellow rays.

She… an angel praying heaven – He… a demon wrapped in woes;
She… the pure, the golden hearted – He. . . not heeding heaven’s loss.
He… in deathly shadow leaning on the cold arms of the cross –
While from the sad Madonna’s feet his simple prayer to heaven goes.

Upon the wall by which she kneels, the high coal wall of marble fine
That shines as does the mountain snow, that as calm water turns the light,
Clearly as on a mirror falls the shadow of that maiden white,
Her bending shadow, like herself, kneeling in prayer before the shrine.

O what can ail thee, maiden sweet, with thy so gentle noble mien?
Pale is thy face as is the snow, and pale as wax thy tapered hands.
As river mist shot through with stars that on the hills at evening stands,
So shine thy innocent, soft eyes, beneath their veiling lashes seen.

Angel thou art, yet something lacks; an angel’s tall, star-spattered wings.
But as I gaze I see take shape about your shoulders flying lines;
What are they, trembling in the air? Whence come these feathery designs?
An angel’s pinion in the dusk towards the gate of heaven springs.

O, but the shadow is not hers; her guardian angel hovers there;
Against the whiteness of the wall I see his radiant figure tower.
Over the maiden’s sinless life he watches with celestial power,
And as she bows her head to pray, he too is bowed in fervent prayer.

But if this be an angel’s wing, then She too angel is; for though
The airy brightness of her wings is not revealed to eyes of man,
These walls alone, where age long prayer has been poured out in worship, can
Proclaim to us her angelhood and of her wings existence show.

I love, I love thee fain would cry the demon from the twilight shade,
But the winged shadow guarding her the utterance of his spirit sealed.
The passion died upon his lips; in worship not in love he kneeled
And heard across the hollow nave her timid murmur as she prayed.

 
She? A princess fair as day, a crown of stars upon her head!
All angel in a woman’s guise, going her happy way through life.
He? A rebel of mankind, blowing to flame the sparks of strife
And sowing hate in hopeless breasts that to revolt by him are led.
Their ways of life are worlds apart, deep oceans lie between these twain,
Between them barricades of thought, the bitter bloodshed of a race.
And yet at times their journeys cross, they meet each other face to face,
Their eyes seek out each other’s soul and mingle with a curious pain.

With gentle yet absorbing gaze, her large and starlike deep blue eyes
Rest thoughtfully on his that do the tempest and the lightning show.
While on his pallid face there mount emotions warm and tender glow.
They love… and yet what worlds apart, what universe between them lies.

A monarch pale has come from far, a time old crown he humbly brings;
The victor in a hundred wars, his conquests would he make her own.
He begs to lead her as his bride along the carpet to his throne
And place within her tiny hand the sceptre of the king of kings.

But no, with parted lips she turns and does not speak the fatal word;
Her heart is silent in her breast and from the king she draws her hands,
Her virgin soul is filled with love, while in her dreams there ever stands
The demon’s image like a god, for every night his voice she heard.

She seems to see him leading men with words of fire, with winged ideas;
How brave, how powerful, how grand – she thought in lovers’ proud delight;
He leading on the rising age to conquer and to claim its right
Against the lifeless piled up weight of wisdom that experience rears.

She saw him standing on a rock, wrapt like a garment with his wrath
As with his banner’s scarlet folds, his beetling forehead deeply scoured
As though a black tempestuous night when all the host of hell’s aboard.
Out of his eyes the lightning gleamed, intoxicating words poured forth.

 
On a bed of boards the young man lies stretched in the agony of death,
Beside his couch a dim lamp burns, its poor thin wick and meagre flame
Struggle against the cold damp air. No mall has ever heard his name,
None comes to ease his bitter lot, or wet his lips that choke for breath.
O past are the days when in the world the thunder of his voice would roll
Against the written codes of law, against the laws that bound and maimed,
And slew men in the name of God… today the world’s revenge is aimed
Upon the dying heretic, and stifles out his stricken soul.

To die bereft of every hope, what man is there on earth who knows
The awful meaning of these words? To feel enslaved and weak and small,
To fight and hope and see your plans shrivelled to nothing after all,
To know that in the world is throned an evil force none may oppose.

Your years were spent in strife with wrong, and you a useless fight have fought,
And now you die and see your life was wrecked in work without avail,
Such death is Hell. More bitter tears than these ne’er coursed the visage pale
Of dying man. How cruel to know that you and all the world are naught.

Such black thoughts rising in his soul delay the death for which he yearns.
With what great gifts has he been born. What passionate love of right and truth,
What sympathy for human kind, and all the lofty flame of youth.
Behold his recompense at last, this agony with which he burns.

But into that narrow tawdry room, breaking the mist that veiled his eye,
A silver shadow softly creeps; behold, an angel shape comes near,
Sits lightly on the wretched bed, kisses away each blinding tear
From those dimmed eyes; and now the mist is torn away in ecstasy.

Aye, it is She. And with what joy, joy fathomless, before unknown,
He gazes in his angel’s face and reads love’s tender pity there.
With long glance he is repaid all his life’s anguish and despair.
He whispers with his dying breath “My love I know thee for my own.

I who have laboured all my life poor and helpless souls to move,
Warring against the open skies with all my burning discontent;
A demon, yet not cursed by God, for in my dying hour he sent
His angel here to give me peace, and of his peace the name is love.”

 
I know most here can only read the translation, and I have to say this is one of Popescu’s best, especially the ending. While a few times in previous poems I felt his ending paled in comparison to the original, here, beginning with the seventh stanza from the bottom he begins his crescendo towards a fantastic end, completely on par with Eminescu’s sentiments.
 
Yet, what may be lost in translation in this particular poem are some of Eminescu’s beliefs. I will in no way attempt to correct Popescu’s translation, as that is a task far above my own capacities. However, in being able to read the original I understand the differences, and what is not coming across is too clear to ignore.
 
Part of the understanding in the poem comes from understanding Eminescu. In Romania you go to school to become a writer (this practice has slowly been dying out over the past twenty years). More specifically, there was a dichotomy between literature and writing majors. The writers entered a program akin to a creative writing program here, except with a strong interdisciplinary component, where the writing became highly stylized. Eminescu went to school to become a poet, and further his interdisciplinary strength, much like his own personal interest, was within history. He favored the classics, and one of his first works covers the history of the Ottoman Empire (that at one point ruled all three regions of Romania). His main focus in the majority of his later works was centered around Romanian history, and the ways in which Romania came into contact with other nations (i.e. the Ottoman Empire). Some call Eminescu a xenophobe. Others call him a patriot. Make of it what you will.
 
What remains more debatable than his national zeal is his religious ideology. A large percentage of his poetry relies on religious imagery and ideas. His finest work to date is The Ruler and the Ruled, but ironically the debate has nothing to do with whether he was religious or not. Everyone was religious back then. But rather whether his religion is tied in with national pride, and to what extent.
 
In the poem above few read the last seven stanzas for what they are. A great example of this is G. Manolache’s article on religion and national identity. While I cannot agree with everything in this article, there are some interesting points outlining what I think are the main ideas of Eminescu’s poems, which are far removed from national identity, and even further from religion, but are simply based within history, and taking place within the present. (I remove history from national identity because the two, especially in the above poem, do not coincide).
 
The angel, demon, and king are interchangeable characters used to elucidate human interaction. Each can play each, and none are separated by a greater cosmic force, but simply a situation, and the particular one Eminescu chooses to portray aligns the characters as they are.
 
A better way to understanding the poem is the question what they are doing. Or specifically why. Here the translation fails as it does not provide the exact wording to arouse the sensations Eminescu intended. I almost want to say the translation is clinical, in that it emphasizes too much mot-a-mot while keeping the cadence, but does not focus enough on the deeper meaning. The poem, in its original form, is cold. The imagery is cold. It is not “marble fine” that surrounds them, but “rece” (cold) marble. The setting is cold. He is cold. The air is cold. Basically, the physical acts they are performing are unnatural. I know it is quite a jump from “cold” to “unnatural” but really the emphasis is on portraying something which is not right. The underlying feelings and thoughts of these characters does not come through in their actions, which is why is is so important to start by analyzing them. In doing so the “something is not right feeling” becomes immediately apparent, and leads to further investigation of what lies beneath. 
 
Without going too much further into this, as I am sure you can each draw your own conclusions, the ending is bittersweet. And as typical of Eminescu endings, evocative. Yet whatever sentiments it sparks, it relies on the characters since the ending is not created for them, but rather by them. Despite everything, and even their beliefs, it is their will to be where they are, and to react in the ways they do (stanza 16 and 17). 
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