by Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889)
A sultan, one who reigns supreme over a certain tongue,
That with its grazing herds, moves its homeland under the sun…
He sleeps lying on the ground and has as a pillow his right hand.
While his eyelids are shut, his eyes open from the inside.
He sees how the Moon glides, and it comes down from the sky.
And changed into a young maiden, she comes to him close by.
Her path blossoms like the mild step of spring.
Of gloom and hidden grief, her eye has a full ring.
The forests are tickled of such magnificence.
The waters swell up, surging their clear appearance.
Like rain’ spit, fine diamond-dust falls to the ground,
And it drifts sparking through the air all around.
And through the rare magic, sounds a song with a sigh
And the night rainbows rise on the sky …
She stretches towards him her fine hand.
Her black hair comes loose in silky curls, as she sits alongside.
“Let me join my life to yours. Come into my arms
And soothe my sweet pain with your sorrows.
In the book of life written is, by hundreds of years and by stars,
That I shall be your lady, and you the master of my days.”
And while the sultan is looking at her, she grows dim. She ceases to be.
And he feels how from his heart, it starts to grow a tree.
In one minute it grows so tall like it would in one century,
It grows bigger all the time. Its branches unfold over the land and sea.
It includes the horizon in its giant shadow.
And the world expands in its shade below.
He sees to the four cardinal points, high-mountain ranges:
Atlas, Caucasus, Taurus and the Balkans (old of centuries) .
He sees Euphrates, Tigris, Nile and the old Danube flow to the sea.
And on top of all is the shadow of the amazing tree.
And so Africa with its deserts, Europe, and the Middle East
And dark vessels that swing on rivers, in the watery mist…
Green waves that seem to swell on wheat-fields, in the countryside,
Seashores with wharfs near towns that are fortified…
While he watches everything widens in huge surroundings
Land next to land, and country next to country he sees.
Like through fading fog it appears, and he could clearly see,
How, all these change into a wide-empire in the shade of that tree.
Eagles could not reach these branches while soaring into the sky.
But, a wind of victory, storms and bangs into it suddenly.
It hits into the echoing leaves more and more.
He hears in the clouds shouts like: Allahu Ahkbar.
The tumult intensifies like on a gusty high sea.
The war cries follow continuously.
And the pointy leaves bend in the strong wind.
And on top of New Rome these sag to the ground.
The sultan is shaking... he wakes up... and on the skies…
He sees the moon go down over the Eskisher plains.
He watches with a sad face at sheik Edebali’s quarters.
He sees a maiden at the back of grilled windows.
She has an open smile, like a tree-branch of hazelnut,
She is the sheik’s daughter. She is Malcatun, the cute.
Then he understands that the dream, by the Prophet is sent.
That in a flash, he went to heaven to Mohammed.
And that an empire shall be born from his worldly love-craze
And that only heaven knows its length in time and in size.
His dream comes true. It stretches its wings like a bird of prey.
Year after year, his empire becomes bigger and bigger every day.
And the green flag rises every year. He’d conquered country after country.
And sultan after sultan followed in his footsteps in the same way.
So, land after land, opened his way to fame.
And the quarrelsome Baiazed, to Danube he came.
At a signal, joining vessel with vessel, one riverbank connects to the other.
And with fanfare sound his whole armies, across the river gather.
Janissaries, Allah’s adopted children, and spahis,
At Marshlands, they come to darken the lands.
They spread in groups and unload big tents,
Only in the far field, resound the oak woods.
Look! A peace herald comes with a white kerchief on a stick.
Baiazed looks at him, and he asks with extreme dislike:
“What do you want? ”
“We? Good peace! And if it’s not impolite,
Our sovereign would like to see His Majesty the Emperor.”
His way was open at a gesture.
And closer to the tent
Came a simple old man, by speech and by conduct.
“Are you Mercheah—Walachia’s leader? ”
“I came, so you can lay down your arms to me.
If not, I shall replace your crown with a tiara of thorns, you’ll see.”
“Sire, no matter how you arrived here, or what is your point of view,
While we are still at peace, I say: welcome to you.
As for the surrender, forgive us Sire,
But, you want to reprimand us with army and war?
Or you’d like to turn back your way?
What is written for us, whatever the case it may be,
Either peace or war, we shall endure all dutifully.”
'What? When the world is a sitting duck to me
You think I can let my large holy armies trip over the stump-of-a-tree?
Oh, you don’t even dream, old man, how many had stood in my way:
The entire well-known elite of the whole Western World went astray.
All that stands in the shade of the Cross went,
Emperors and kings had gathered to fight the storm raged by the Crescent.
The knights of Malta put on shiny armour, and they came together
With the Pope’s three tiaras—one on top of the other;
The lightning bolts had gathered against the lightning flash
That in its wild rage has surrounded land and sea in a rush.
They didn’t have to do, but a signal by hand, or a wink of an eye,
And the West pushed all its armies this way.
For the win of the cross, from onslaught to onslaught they went.
Either, from the woods they were awaken, or out of the wilds were sent.
They shook the deep peace of the world’s early days.
With tens of thousands of shields they’ve darkened the skies.
Much like forests of spears and swords, they were in motion.
And their ships moved up and down the ocean...
Did you see how many troops have gathered at Nicopol?
They wanted to be in my way, like a thick wall.
When I noticed their huge number, like leaves, like grass,
With hate beyond belief I whispered in my beard, without fuss.
I vowed that I’d tread on them with glory, and without care.
From the altar of Rome, I shall feed oats to my mare...
And of my wild storm, you defend yourself with a stick?
And as victor, shall I bump into an old man with cheek? '
'An old man, yes Sire, but the old man Your Majesty sees
He isn’t just an average man, but the head of Wallachia he is.
I would not wish that you’d end up knowing us ever.
Not even the swelling Danube to drown with a swish your armies altogether.
Starting with that caller, with Darius son of Vishtapa that olden times remind,
Many have arrived here, since times no one could call to mind.
At times, on the Danube, many hooked up a bridge
And they crossed with scare world and much folks, and laid siege.
Emperors, for whom the world wasn’t big enough, with demand…
They came to our kingdom too; and they asked for water and land.
And I don’t want to boast, or to get you annoyed,
As soon as they came, they were destroyed.
You claim that armies with kings and in shiny armour, many a knight,
Head over heals were crushed in plain sight?
You allege that the West was angry against you.
What has driven them to fight? What had the West wanted too?
They wanted to take the laurels off your strong-minded head,
A win for the faith, any knight had desired.
I watch over my land, my lineage and my custom,
And because of that, everything that moves in this kingdom:
The stream, the bushes are my friends. To you these are foe.
All at once shall be against you, and you won’t even know.
We don’t have big armies. Yet, our love of the land is a wall—he said—
And it is not scared of your fame, Baiazed.”
And the old man barely left. What blow. What a mess.
The woods rage with noise of alarm signals and weapons.
And at the green perimeter, thousands of heads with long hair,
Thousands of shiny helmets, from the dark shade appear.
The cavalrymen fill the field, follow a signal and join forces.
And with wooden saddles they dash on wild horses.
In a mad chase, horses take on hoofs the top of the mud.
Long spears shine in the sun, bows stretch in the wind.
And like hailstorm’s patter, and clouds coloured copper-hue,
Arrows, come at soldiers, hit or miss, darkening the view.
Whizzing like blustery weather, and like the rain tapping,
The field howls, due to the war cries and trotting.
In vain, the Emperor, yelled like a lion, hopping mad,
Larger and larger widens the shadows of the dead.
In vain he raises the green flag towards his soldiers,
As the slaughter closes in, at the front and on flanks;
Since much weaker long lines of battle are thrown into disarray.
The soldiers fall down. Others spread in groups on the battlefield’s way.
The foot soldiers fall on their knees. Lots of horses fall close by,
When arrows that whiz and whirl, dart in waves this way.
And at the front, and at the rear, they hit the foe
Like the north wind and frost, could only do so.
The enemy sees that the whole sky falls to the ground.
Mercheah himself sends this dreadful gale to fight.
It goes on, and on, and on, and with its hoofs steps on all.
The cavalry rushes and gets there, like a spears’ high wall.
They cross the hordes of non-believers, and cut a large border.
The enemy lines fall apart in disorder.
And making the most of it, native flags come out chasing wildly.
It drives south, like a deluge that lay waste, resembling a stormy sea.
In one more hour, the non-believers’ armies are broken like chaff.
That steeled hailstorm, he drives it to the Danube like a wind huff.
While the troops settle down, look, the sun sets,
Wanting to crown the country’s peaks and inlets
With an aura of victory, still like a stone, a lightning flash,
It borders the dark mountains, to the west of the marsh,
Until on the sky, the stars rise one by one from the night.
The moon flickers rising on the sky, in the middle of the forest.
The lady of the sea and of the night gives off sleep, peace and quiet.
One of the sons of the glorious monarch is next to his tent.
He remembers about something and he smiles. He sits and he writes a note
On his lap, so he can mail it to his dearest to Argesh that is so remote.
'From the Lower Marshlands, Lady to you I chat today,
Not by word of mouth, but by letter, since you are far away.
I shall appeal to Your Highness. You, I shall implore.
Send to me through courier what’s most wonderful over there:
The woodland with the meadows,
Your eyes and your eyebrows;
And what’s most glorious at this place I shall send to you
The forest with its tree branches, my army with its flags too,
My eyes with my eyebrows,
My high helmet with its feathers,
And you should know that I’m healthy.
I thank Christ, and I kiss you well, my Lady.”
Chroniclers and bards had the good fortune of such times,
Our century it’s packed by cheats and fools.
I can still try to find heroes from the old sources
With my dreamy lyre beside me, or with sounds of flute;
Can one find the patriots that came ever since?
Oh Apollo, in front of those ones you should cover your face.
Oh, heroes, who in the past, you sat in shade of glories,
As you came out of vogue, they take you out of chronicles.
And to cover their lack of knowledge all fools quote you, and guess…
The beloved century, in the heavy mud of the prose they mess.
Basrabs and Mushats you, dwell in the sacred twilight of commemoration,
You, who were founders of this country, givers of laws and tradition;
You, who from the mountains to the blue Danube, and the sea,
With sword and plough have lengthened your property.
What? The present is not great? Won’t I get what I want?
Some fine gem amongst our people won’t I find?
Aren’t we next to the Temple Of Gloss, at the trendy café on a seat?
Aren’t glories being attained at the café’s door, or on the street?
In the heavy applause of the rascal of a street in sight,
Don’t we have those that with the rhetoric’ spear, fight?
Masks with everything of notoriety in the tall tale’s farce,
Many a fibster in political affairs, who, like on ropes might dance.
The Liberal, doesn’t he talk of motherland and virtue
That you’d think his life is see-through.
You don’t even see that in front of you, a café client is.
He mimics these words. And he laughs at all these.
The ugly one with his hairy looks, swollen belly and jaws,
You catch sight of him there. Heartless and unscrupulous,
Sun-tanned, hunch-backed and greedy, a source of tricks he is.
He tells his wicked nothings to his cronies.
He is the personification of trouble from head to feet,
All have virtue on lips, but deep down everyone is a cheat.
And on top of everyone, so his lot he can identify,
The monster aims a look at his chums, with a frog’s bulging eye…
From these guys, the nation chooses its envoys these days—
Those, that aren’t skilled to build nothing under the skies—
With long sleeved shirts, and with covered heads, for us they pass laws.
They tell us about morals, levies they impose.
The jingoists, the honourables, the founders of establishments,
Where sin bubble in actions and words.
They rest on chairs like in pews, with foxy piety.
They get things done and shed tears... And clap at bills like crazy.
And after that, in Parliament, stocky Bulgarians with round cheeks,
They meet to be in awe of each other with the thin nosed Greeks.
As if they are of Roman birth, all these faces pretend,
All Greek and Bulgarian ethnic groups as if they from Trajan descend.
This venomous shallowness, these lower order, these cast-offs
They got to be in charge over our land and over us.
Everyone that is crazy and twisted in a neighbouring nation,
Everyone that is stained by sheer corruption,
Everyone that is perfidious: every helot every Phanariot,
Everyone gather here and he becomes a patriot.
So a guy that snuffle and prattle, an empty-headed or a goitrous guy,
Stammering, with crooked mouth, is giving orders to this country.
Are you all Rome’s offspring? Wicked and cunning you,
The world loathes calling you human beings too.
And this pestilence in the world, and these creatures with no shame,
For their crazy speeches they don’t give a damn,
They bring shame to our land’s glory.
And dare to say even your name: mother country.
At Paris, in brothels of shamelessness and in lethargy,
With its lost women and in an obscene orgy,
There you’ve spent you wealth. At playing cards your youth is depleted...
What did the West find in you when there is nothing to find?
Then, didn’t you come back with real expertise: a bit of face-cream in a pan?
With a monocle on your eye, and with a walking stick as your true weapon,
Grey before your time, but with a child’s mind-set,
You have accurate knowledge: a dance from a famous dancing spot.
And in exchange for all your wealth, you have a courtier’s shoe...
Oh brood of the Romans… I think highly of you.
And now you look worryingly at our cold and sceptic faces.
You wonder why no one believes your lie these days.
When we see that all those who use fancy-talk,
They chase money, and profits without work.
My kind men, now it is other guy’s fault. Isn’t it?
Now, when your stylish phrase can’t dupe us a bit.
You showed your true face too much. This country you’ve torn apart.
You abused this nation too much. And you have shamed it.
Too much, you ridiculed language, ancestors and tradition
As sometimes not to be seen for who you are: crooks with ambition.
Yes, to make a buck without sweat. Look, it’s the only drive there.
Virtue? It’s lack of good sense. Gift? It’s bad luck and it’s rare.
But at least allow your forebears to sleep in the past, covered in dust.
Beyond the admired times of yore, they would look at you with scorn, at least.
Your Majesty Impaler, why don’t you come and round them up?
And split them in two groups, mad and crooks. In two large lockups
Gather them all by force. And for no other reason,
Burn down the madhouse and the prison.
(1881 May 1)
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