-text and photos by Andrei Dorian Gheorghe;
design by Florin Stancu-

Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889)
is the Romanian national poet and a poet of the Cosmos,
and every Romanian poet has something from Eminescu’s genius
in his spiritual blood.

Regarding his memory,
the city of Bucharest incidentally gives an amazing place.

on a central street destroyed in part and hidden behind new blocks of flats
made by the communist regime,
there is Mihai Eminescu College,
where teachers and students yearly celebrate the life and opera
of the great poet.

But without capable translators,
Eminescu’s opera would have remained only a national good.

Fortunately, Eminescu had an excellent translator into the English language,
Corneliu M. Popescu,
who translated many of his poems, including the famous astronomical poems
Lucifer and To The Star (Popescu’s titles).

Unfortunately, this translator lived only less than 19 years (1958-1977)
before dying during a terrible earthquake.

And across from the Eminescu College,
there is an isolated building which survived after the communist era.
On this building there is a tablet dedicated to Corneliu M. Popescu,
who lived right over there for a while,
and for whose memory
prestigious institutions created
an international poetry translation prize.

And near that building there is a beautiful church created in the 1830,
Saint Elias Church of Rahova (Biserica Sfantul Ilie - Rahova),
dedicated to the Thunderer responsible for the atmospheric phenomena
(who, in Romanian beliefs, used to walk in the sky
on a chariot of fire with flying horses),
which is adorned by admirable cosmic symbols.
To be saved by the communist demolitions,
this church was moved about 50 meters
by the heroic work of a self-educated engineer,
Eugeniu Iordachescu!

This complex association in a small square
(Eminescu College, Popescu’s building, and a church for a saint of the sky),
protected as by a superior force in the hard times of the communist frenzy
to destroy historical monuments in the name of the “New Man”,
made me remind Popescu’s translation of an excerpt
from Eminescu’s Satire I:

“Then something small in chaos stirred... the very first and primal cause.
And God the Father married space and placed upon confusion laws.
That moving something, small and light, less than a bubble of sea spray,
Established through the universe eternal and unquestionable sway...
And from that hour the timeless mists draw back their dark and hanging folds.
And law in earth and sun and moon essential form and order moulds.”

Obviously, Popescu’s rhymed and rhythmical translations are not perfect,
but they certainly helped Eminescu’s opera to become a universal good.

Recalling the famous expression “Traduttore, Traditore!”,
I would have had a conclusion for the Eminescu-Popescu case:

He who’s a translator
Is really a traitor,
But a good translator
Is also a saver!

But I preferred to come back to that place during the night time,
where I had the illusion that I saw Corneliu M. Popescu on the Moon,
reciting his own English version after Mihai Eminescu:

“Moon, fair ruler of the sea, over the sky’s round vault you glide,
The sight of you recalls the grief's that locked within man’s bosom bide…”


© 2012 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)