Friday, January 19, 2007

Nichita Stanescu

On horseback at dawn

Silence strikes the tree trunks, upon itself retracing,
turns to distance, turns to sand.
I have turned my only face toward the sun,
my shoulders scatter leaves in this racing.
Cutting through the field - up on two shoes
my horse leaps, steaming, from the clay.
Ave, I am turning to you, I, Ave!
The sun has burst across the heavens, crying.

Stone drums are sounding, the sun grows,
the vault of heaven, alive with eagles, before him,
collapses into steps of air, and glows.
Silence turns to blue wind,
the spur of my shadow grows
in the ribs of the field.

The sun snaps the horizon in two.
The vault of heaven pulls down its dying prison cells.
Blue spears, with no returning,
I discard my visions, both of them
they meet him, sweet and grave.
My horse rises on two shoes.
Ave, tide of light, ave!

The sun ascends from objects, crying,
shakes the borders, voiceless and grave.
My soul meets Him, Ave!
My horse rises on two shoes.
My pale mane burns on the wind.

George Cosbuc

Three, mighty God, all three!

He had three sons and they, all three,
When called, for the encampment left;
So the poor father was bereft
Of rest and peace, for war, thought he.
Is hard - one has no time to feel
That one has ceased to be.

And many months went in and out,
And rife with tidings was the world:
No more were Turkish flags unfurled,
The Moslems had been put to rout,
For the unscarred Romanian lads
Full well had fought throughout.

The papers wrote that all the men
That had been called the spring before
Were due to quit the site of war;
So to the village came again
Now one, and now another yet
Of those who had left then.

But they were long in coming, they.
He wept - he thought how they would meet,
So at the gate or in the street
He scrutinized the roads all day,
And they came not. And fear was born
And lengthened the delay.

His ardent hope waned more and more
And ever bleaker grew his fear;
And though he questioned far and near,
All shrugged their shoulders as before;
At last, then, he went to the barracks
To learn what was in store.

The corporal met him. "Sir, my son.
My Radu, well - how does he fare ?"
He did for all his children care,
But Radu was the dearest one.
"He's dead. In the first ranks, at Plevna
He fell. And well he's done !"

Poor man... That Radu was in dust
He had long felt, and felt past cure;
But now, when he did know for sure,
He stood bewildered and nonplussed.
Dead Radu ? What ? The news exceeded
All human sense and trust.

Be curst, o, fiendish arm and man !
"And how is George ?" "Sir, I'm afraid
Under a cross he has been laid,
Breast-smitten by a yataghan."
"And my poor Mircea ?" "Mircea, too,
Died somewhere near Smirdan."

He said no word - dumb with the doom,
With forehead bent, like, on the cross,
A Christ, he looked, all at a loss
At the mute flooring of the room.
He seemed he saw in front of him
Three corpses in a tomb.

With feeble gait and dizzy eyes
He walks into the open air;
While groaning, stumbling on the stair,
He calls his boys by name and cries
And fumbling for some wall around
To stand upright he tries.

The blow he hardly can withstand;
He does not know if he is dead
Or still alive; he rests his head
Upon a bank of burning sand;
His long, emaciated face
He buries in his hand.

And so the man sat woe-begone.
It was midsummer and mid-day;
Yet soon the sun faded away
And lastly it was set and gone;
The human wreck would never budge;
He just stood on and on.

Past him, men, women walked care-free,
Cabs on the highroad rumbled by,
Past marched the soldiers with steps high,
And then, the moment he could see,
He pressed his temples with his fists:
"Three, mighty God, all three !";

Sunday, December 17, 2006

George Cosbuc

We want land

I'm hungry, naked, homeless, through,
Because of loads I had to carry;
You've spat on me, and hit me - marry,
A dog I've been to you !
Vile lord, whom winds brought to this land,
If hell itself gives you free hand
To tread us down and make us bleed,
We will endure both load and need,
The plough and harness yet take heed,
We ask for land!

Whene'er you see a crust of bread,
Though brown and stale, we see's no more;
You drag our sons to ruthless war,
Our daughters to your bed.
You curse what we hold dear and grand,
Faith and compassion you have banned;
Our children starve with want and chill
And we go mad with pity, still
We'd bear the grinding of your mill,
Had we but land !

You've turned into a field of corn
The village graveyard, and we plough
And dig out bones and weep and mourn
Oh, had we ne'er been born !
For those are bones of our own bone,
But you don't care, o hearts of stone !
Out of our house you drive us now,
And dig our dead out of their grave;
A silent corner of their own
The land we crave !

Besides, we want to know for sure
That we, too, shall together lie,
That on the day on which we die,
You will not mock the poor.
The orphans, those to us so dear,
Who o'er a grave would shed a tear,
Won't know the ditches where we rot;
We've been denied a burial plot
Though we are Christians, are we not ?
We ask for land, d'you hear ?

Nor have we time to say a prayer,
For time is in your power too;
A soul is all we have, and you
Much you do care !
You've sworn to rob us of the right
To tell our grievances outright;
You give us torture when we shout,
Unheard-of torture, chain and clout
And lead when, dead tired, we cry out:
For land we'll fight !

What is it you've here buried ? say !
Corn ? maize ? We have forbears and mothers,
We, fathers, sisters dear and brothers !
Unwished - for guests, away !
Our land is holy, rich and brave,
It is our cradle and our grave;
We have defended it with sweat
And blood, and bitter tears have wet
Each palm of it - so, don't forget:
'Tis land we crave !

We can no more endure the goads,
No more the hunger, the disasters
That follow on the heels of masters
Picked from the roads !
God grant that we shall not demand
Your hated blood instead of land !
When hunger will untie our ties
And poverty will make us rise.
E'en in your grave we will chastise
You and your band!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Mihai Eminescu

Sonnet III

When e'en the inner voice of thought is still,
And does some sacred chant my soul endear,
This then I call to thee; but will you hear?
Will from the floating mists your form distil?

Will night its tender power of wonder rear
And your great, peaceful eyes their light fulfil,
That of the rays that bygone hours spill
To me as in a dream you do appear?

But come to me... come near, come still more near...
Smiling you bend to gaze into my face
While does your sigh gentle love make clear.

Upon my eyes I feel you lashes' trace,
O love, for ever lost, for ever dear,
To know the aching thrill of your embrace!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mihai Eminescu

Sonnet II

The years have sped, and time still swiftly flies
Since that first sacred hour in which we met;
But how we loved I can no more forget,
Sweet wonder with cold hands and such big eyes.

O, come again! Your words inspire me yet,
While your soft gaze upon me gently lies,
That'neath its ray new life in shall rise,
And you new songs upon my lyre beget.

When you come near to me you little know
How soothed my heart is then, as though with balm,
As when some star does in the heavens show;

Your childish smile so full of tender charm
Has power to quench this life drawn out in woe
And fill my eyes with fire, my soul with calm.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Mihai Eminescu

Sonnet I

Without this autumn, the wind beats on the pane
With heavy drops, the leaves high upwards sweep.
You take old letters from a crumpled heap,
And in one hour have lived your life again.

Musing, in this sweet wise the moments creep:
You pray no caller will your door attain;
Better it is when dreary falls the rain
To dream before the fire, awaiting sleep.

And thus alone, reclining in my chair,
The fairy Dochia's tale comes to my mind
While round me haze is gath'ring in the air.

Then softly down the passage footsteps wind,
Faint, sound of rustling silk upon the stair...
And now my eyes cold, tapering fingers bind.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nichita Stanescu

Burned Forest

Black snow was falling.
The tree lineshone when I turned to see -
I had wondered long and silent,
Alone, trailing memory behind me.

And it seemed the stars, fixed as they were,
Ground their teeth, a stiffened nexus,
An infernal machine, tolling
The halted hours of conciousness.

Then, a thick silence descends,
And my every gesture
Leaves a comet tail in the heavens.

And I hear evey glance I cast
As it echoes against
Some tree.

Child, what were you seeking there,
With your gangly arms and pointed shoulders
On which the wings were barely dry
Black snow drifting in the evening sky.

A horizon howling, far from view,
Darting its tongues and anthracite,
Dragged me forever down the mute row,
My body, half naked, sliding from sight.

In distances of smoke the town afire,
Blazing beneath the planes, a frigid pyre.
We two, forest, what did we do?
Why did they burn you, forest, in a toga of ash
And the moon no longer passes over you?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Nichita Stanescu

Season's end

I was so very aware
that the afternoon was dying in the domes,
and all around me sounds froze,
turned to winding pillars.

I was so very aware
that the undulant drift of scents
was collapsing into darkness,
and it seemed I had never tasted
the cold.

I awoke so far away
and strange,
wandering behind my face
as though I had hidden my feelings
in the sensless relief of the moon.

I was so very aware
I did not recognize you, and perhaps
you come, always,
every hour, every second,
moving through my vigil
as through the spectre of a triumphal arch.

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