Strange Arts & Visual Delights
Photo is in the public domain.
Creator:Jan Tomas - M. Manea, B. Teodorescu, Istoria românilor de la 1821 până în 1989, Ed. Didactică şi Pedagogică, Bucureşti, 1998, p. 188
Mihai Eminescu (1850 –1889) was a Romanian Romantic poet from Moldavia, and (according to Wikipedia) is generally regarded as the most influential Romanian poet. Several years ago, near the end of 2012, I worked on translating Eminescu’s Sonnet 1 from Romanian to English. Not knowing Romanian, I consulted an English translation, a French translation, Google Translate, and an on-line Romanian dictionary. To avoid a footnote, I added one line—the last line of the third stanza is an explanation of the story of Dochia (which I’ve spelled “Dokia” to clarify the pronunciation). I used Wikipedia to guess at the context of the tale of Dochia for the poem. I also had the help of a young woman from Romania who was excited about seeing the poem in English; she provided literal translations and comments on many words and lines.
Recently, I shared the poem with a friend with a background in Romanian folklore and literature. I was concerned about the switch from 2nd person to 1st person in the poem, but she assured me that it’s in the original, though the 2nd person has the sense of the French “on,” which in English can be quite awkwardly rendered as “one.” Using 1st person throughout would provide a more seamless reading experience, but for now I’m sticking with 2nd person in the octave.
My Linked-in connection says Dochia was not a fairy, but Eminescu thought otherwise, at least for the sake of the poem:
Outside, the leaves scatter. A fierce shower
beats its heavy drops against the pane,
while you pull out your frayed letters again
and relive a whole life in one short hour.
You hope no one knocks on your shut door
as you ponder things once said, the past’s refrain
of sweet nothings that soothe away cold rain.
You nod in pleasant daydreams by the fire.
Lost in that thought, as mist fills up my room,
I call to mind Dokia’s fairy sighs.
In dead winter she coveted spring’s bloom.
The rustling of a skirt is in my ear…
Footsteps lightly skip from stair to stair…
Those elegant cold fingers press my eyes.