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Mihai Eminescu: A Romanian Literary Icon
Exceptional is a word often used when describing Mihai Eminescu. To the people of Romania, he remains a cultural and literary icon, a poet, novelist, and journalist celebrated for his prolific legacy.
Born on January 15th, 1850, Mihai spent his childhood years growing up in Western Moldavia until he finished high school in 1866. After graduating, he published his very first poem in the Familia literary magazine: “If I Were to Have,” which helped give his nom de plume a sudden rise to fame.
As an active member of the Romanian literary society, he also worked as an editor and journalist for the Time newspaper, a director of the Central University Library of Lași, a substitute teacher, and a school inspector. In that time, he juggled these positions along with his writing career until he fell ill in 1883.
Eminescu's Literary Achievements
Romanian historian Nicolae Lorga considered Eminescu as one of the most significant literary figures of Romania, dubbing him ‘the Godfather of the Romanian language.' Given this, one can see the revered homage fits considering his long list of literary feats in Romanticism.
Much of Eminescu’s work is available in the Romanian language. However, you might consider Cristian Butnariu's Eternal Moments, which covers a collection of 28 poems translated to English.
- "I Have Yet One Desire" 1883
- "Ode (in Ancient Meter)" 1883
- "And if…" 1883
- "Doina" 1884
- "Desire" 1884
- "Epigones" 1884
- "Blue Flower" 1884
- "Oh, Linger On" 1884
- "Evening on the Hill" 1885
- "The Lake" 1876
- "At Star" 1886
- "Letters" or "Epistles-Satires" 1886
- The Teardrop Prince
- Empty Genius
- Wretched Dionis
Eminescu's Internal Struggles
In his later years, Mihai suffered from a mental ailment. When considering the words of literary critic Titu Maiorescu, his description of erratic mood swings seems to confirm a medical diagnosis of bipolar disorder, not uncommon among famous artists, musicians, poets and writers throughout history. Though living with mental chaos had crippled his personal life, as with any inspired artist, his emotional senses seemed to have helped his writing career.
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Romanian writer Ion Luca Caragiale described Eminescu's mood swings as cycles that lasted for hours, days, weeks, and even months, and often triggered anxiety because of 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
As Fate Would Have It
Aside from his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, the poet also suffered from an ever-prevalent illness of the day, venereal disease. The condition overtook him in 1883 and thereafter he was interned at a hospital. The condition took an eventual toll and six years later, Eminescu died in a sanitorium.
A group of physicians who inspected his body suggested that he died from the long-term use of mercury, not at all uncommon for those who tried to cure themselves of the effects of syphilis at 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. The tragedy would forever mark the two artist lovers as tortured souls.
A Writer’s Reflection
After reading Eminescu’s translated poems, I found his poetic verses rich with melancholy. Though perhaps some might see his writing as flawed given his emotional delicacy, despite his mental disability, it does not surprise me in the least that the people of Romania haled Eminescu a literary genius. 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 culture and history.
Cited Sources & Works
- 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)
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 ziyena
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 11, 2021:
You wrote an interesting and well-informed hub about Mihai Eminescu . This is new to me and thank you for enlightening me on a great achiever.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 11, 2021:
This is an interesting article about Mihai Eminescu. He had a sad ending to his life. Bipolar is tough, but he obviously was a very talented writer.