The Romanian Poet Mihail Eminovici Eminescu

Updated on December 5, 2018
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Mihail Eminovici Eminescu was born on January 15th, 1850, but more commonly known as Mihai, spent his childhood years, growing up in Botoșani and Ipotești, Moldavia. By the 4th grade, he attended Cernăuţi (gymnasium) in Romanian meaning 'high school' and graduated in 1866.

After graduating from gymnasium, Mihai published his very first poem in the Familia literary magazine: "If I were to have", the first of many in which gave rise to his nom de plume Mihai Eminescu, in an attempt to rid himself of his Slavic origin in preference to a Romanian facade.

As an active member of the Romanian literary society known as Junimea, he also worked as an editor and journalist for the Time newspaper, a director of Central University Library of Iași, a substitute teacher, and school inspector. In that time, he juggled these positions along with his writing career until he fell seriously ill in 1883.

Romanian Poet Mihai Eminescu:  Portrait by Jan Tomas circa 1869
Romanian Poet Mihai Eminescu: Portrait by Jan Tomas circa 1869 | Source

Romanticism

A late 18th century movement, which expressed intellectualism through means of literature, music, and the visual arts. Associated with liberalism and radicalism, many engrossed in the movement were considered noble for their free expression and elevation of society.

1864 Gymnasium Graduates of Cernăuţi.  The young boy encircled could be Mihai Eminescu.
1864 Gymnasium Graduates of Cernăuţi. The young boy encircled could be Mihai Eminescu. | Source

Eminescu's Most Famous Works

Romanian historian, Nicolae Lorga considered Mihai Eminescu as one of the greatest literary figures in Romanian history, dubbing him 'the Godfather of the Romanian language', given this one can easily see the revered homage fits considering his long list of literary feats.

Much of Eminescu's works are written in the Romanian language, however, there are translated collections of his best works that have been compiled and translated into English such as Cristian Butnariu's Eternal Moments.

Most Noted Poems

  • Mai am un singur dor (I Have Yet One Desire) 1883
  • Odă (în metru antic) (Ode (in Ancient Meter) 1883
  • Și dacă (And if...) 1883
  • Doina (Romanian song) 1884
  • Dorința (Desire) 1884
  • Epigonii (Epigones) 1884
  • Floare albastră (Blue Flower)
  • rămii (Oh, Linger On) 1884
  • Sara pe deal (Evening on the Hill) 1885
  • Lacul (The Lake) 1876
  • La Steaua (At Star) 1886
  • Scrisori (Letters or "Epistles-Satires")

Prose

  • Cezara (Caesara)
  • Făt-Frumos din lacrimă (The Teardrop Prince)
  • Geniu pustiu (Empty Genius)
  • Sărmanul Dionis (Wretched Dionis)


The Longing


Come to the forest spring where wavelets
Trembling o'er the pebbles glide
And the drooping willow branches
Its secluded threshold hide.

Eagerly your arms outstreching,
Hurry dear to my embrace, That the breeze your hair will gather And uplift it from your face.

On my knees you will be seated
Just we two alone, alone While upon your curls disordered Are the lime-tree's blossoms strown.

Forehead pale and tresses golden
On my shoulder you incline, And your lip's delicious plunder Raise up willingly to mine.

We will dream a dream of fairies
Rocked by secret lullaby, Which the lovely spring is chanting And the winds that wander by.

Midst that harmony thus sleeping
Woodland tales our thoughts enthrall,
And upon our bodies softly Do the lime-trees petal fall.

Jean Bielig - Portrait of Mihai Eminescu (1850 - 1889), Botoşani, 1887-1888
Jean Bielig - Portrait of Mihai Eminescu (1850 - 1889), Botoşani, 1887-1888 | Source

That's how I knew him back then, and that is how he remained until his last moments of well-being: cheerful and sad; sociable and crabbed; gentle and abrupt; he was thankful for everything and unhappy about some things; here he was as abstemious as a hermit, there he was ambitious to the pleasures of life; sometimes he ran away from people and then he looked for them; he was carefree as a Stoic and choleric as an edgy girl. Strange medley! – happy for an artist, unhappy for a man!

— Titu Maior

Later Years in Life

In his later years, Mihai suffered from a mental ailment. When considering the words of literary critic Titu Maiorescu, the description of erratic mood swings seems to confirm a medical diagnosis of a bipolar disorder, not uncommon among famous artists, musicians, poets and writers throughout history. Though his chaos crippled his personal life, as with any inspired artist, his emotional senses seem to have helped his writing career.

Romanian writer Ion Luca Caragiale described these mood swings as a string of cycles that lasted for hours, days, weeks, and even months, and often triggered anxiety due to political affiliation, or his obsession with fellow poet, Veronic Micle who remained trapped in an oppressed marriage.

A Love/Hate Relationship

"You must know, Veronica, that as much as I love you, I sometimes hate you; I hate you without a reason, without a word, only because I imagine you laughing with someone else, and your laughter doesn't mean to him what it means to me and I feel I grow mad at the thought of somebody else touching you, when your body is exclusively and without impartasion to anyone. I sometimes hate you because I know you own all these allures that you charmed me with, I hate you when I suspect you might give away my fortune, my only fortune. I could only be happy beside you if we were far away from all the other people, somewhere, so that I didn't have to show you to anybody and I could be relaxed only if I could keep you locked up in a bird house in which only I could enter."

~ Mihai Eminescu

Soul Mate

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Veronica MicleStatue of Veronica Micle, Iaşi, RomaniaSt. John the Baptist Church in Varatic
Veronica Micle
Veronica Micle | Source
Statue of Veronica Micle, Iaşi, Romania
Statue of Veronica Micle, Iaşi, Romania | Source
St. John the Baptist Church in Varatic
St. John the Baptist Church in Varatic | Source

As Fate Would Have It

Aside from his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, the poet also suffered from an ever-prevalent disease of the day, namely syphilis. The disease overtook him in 1883, and he was interned at a hospital. Syphilis slowly took its toll, and sadly, six years later, Eminescu died in a sanitorium.

Doctors who inspected his body suggested the famed poet died from the long-term use of mercury, and not at all uncommon for those who tried to cure themselves of the effects of syphilis in that time.

Upon the death of Mihai Eminescu in 1889, two months later, Veronica Micle took her own life by consuming a lethal dose of arsenic poisoning. The tragedy would forever mark the two artist lovers as tortured souls.

The grave of Mihai Eminescu, Romania's national poet. Belu Cemetery, Bucharest, Romania
The grave of Mihai Eminescu, Romania's national poet. Belu Cemetery, Bucharest, Romania | Source

A Writer's Reflection

After reading a few of Eminescu's translated poems, I found his verse amazingly poetic, rich with words of melancholy. Given his mental condition, perhaps at times his unbalance made him feel more of any given emotion in that moment of conception. Though he was flawed with human delicacy, it does not surprise me in the least that the Romanian people haled Eminescu as a genius in his day. His effort to embrace the Romantic movement without repentance made him immortal in their eyes, and to this day he remains a relevant piece of Romanian history.

Cited Work & Resources

  • Kurt W. Treptow "Poems & Prose of Mihai Eminescu" Center for Romanian Studies (May 1, 2000)
  • The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (Jul 20, 1998) Mihail Eminescu Romanian Poet
  • The Team of Students and Teachers from Secondary School No. 1 Luduş, Romania. (2009) Nicolae Lorga
  • Emelia Stere: Central Europe Review (09 October, 2000) The Nation's Poet

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© 2013 Ziyena Brazos

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