Born Today: Mihai Eminescu

Mihai Eminescu (1850, Jan 15 – 1889, Jun 15) is considered the foremost Romanian poet of his century. His poems, lyrical, passionate, and revolutionary, were published in periodicals and had a significant impact on Romanian literature.

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He was born in Botoșani  on January 15, 1850, into a family of country gentry. He spent his first years like a peasant child in the midst of nature and under the influence of folklore. His adolescence was determined by conflicts with his family. As a result, he interrupted his studies several times, going on tours with theatrical troupes. He made his literary debut at the age of 16 with the poem At the Grave of Aron Pumnul (La mormântul lui Aron Pumnul ).

Eminescu studied philosophy in Vienna from 1869 to 1872 and in Berlin from 1872 to 1874. Returning to Romania in 1874, he held several minor jobs in laşi (custodian of the university library, inspector of schools, subeditor of an obscure newspaper). There, and after leaving laşi, he found himself under the influence of the political and literary society “Junimea” (The Youth). In 1877 Eminescu went to Bucharest to work on the staff of the newspaper “Timpul” (Time). Eminescu’s permanent journalistic activity filled the years from 1877 to 1883. Struck by insanity in 1883, he lived until 1889 in a dramatic alternation between lucidity and madness.

Eminescu concentrated in his work the entire evolution of Romanian national poetry. The most illustrative poems of his early years (1866-1873) are The Dissolute Youth, The Epigones, Mortua Est, Angel and Demon and Emperor and Proletarian. The overwhelming influences on his poetry of this period were from Shakespeare and Lord Byron.

The ever deeper influence of Romanian folklore, his close contact with German philosophy (Arthur Schopenhauer) and romanticism in the years 1872 to 1874 when he was preparing for a doctor’s degree in philosophy in Berlin, and the evolution of his own creative powers carried Eminescu toward a new vision of the world. His poetical universe shifted to the spheres of magical transparencies offered by folklore as ideal and possible grounds for a love that was both a dream and a transfiguration. His poetical expression became increasingly inward, simplified, and sweetened. His poetry began to show rare strength and beauty, involving a universe in which a demiurgical eye and hand seemed to have conferred a new order upon the elements and to have infused them with infinite freshness and power.

In The Blue Flower Eminescu offered a new interpretation of the aspiration in the fulfillment of love. The most important poem written during this period was Călin (Pages from the tale), a synthesis of the epic and the lyric, with a description of the Romanian landscape.

Linocut "Eminescu"

After 1876 the sphere of Eminescu’s inner experience deepened. The poetry of his maturity reached all human dimensions, from the sensitive, emotional ones to the intellectual, spiritual ones. Until 1883 his poetry was an uninterrupted meditation on the human condition in which the artist always stood on the summits of human thinking and feeling. The most important works of his last period are A Dacian’s Prayer, Ode in the Ancient Meter, and the Epistles. His masterpiece is The Evening Star (1883), a version of the Hyperion myth. Ideas and meaning, expressed in symbols, are manifold, profoundly ambiguous, and discernible in an aesthetic achievement of supreme simplicity and expressiveness. In  Wasted Genius, a posthumously published novel of romantic trend, and especially in Wretched Dionis, a fantastic, philosophical short story, Eminescu added some demiurgical features to his romantic hero.

eminescu_011Mihai Eminescu is often described as the essence of the Romanian soul and modern literary Romanian language is also much indebted to him. His work encompassed every genre of poetry (love, philosophical, cosmological, mythological, historical, socio-satiric, etc.) as well as prose and journalism.

Mihai Eminescu is considered Europe’s last great romantic writer, because he gave voice of such unmistakable music to the sadness of love.

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One Response to Born Today: Mihai Eminescu

  1. Pingback: Born Today: Grigore Vieru | TripMoldova

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