Wednesday, June 26, 2013

GEORGE COȘBUC (1866 - 1918) - Romanian Poet

File:George Cosbuc - Foto02.jpg

George Coșbuc 1866 - 1918

George Coşbuc (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈd͡ʒe̯ord͡ʒe koʃˈbuk]) (20 September 1866 — 9 May 1918) was a Romanian poet, translator, teacher, and journalist, best remembered for his verses describing, praising and eulogizing rural life, its many travails but also its occasions for joy.
Coşbuc was born in Hordou, since known as Coșbuc,  in Bistrița-Năsăud County  and died in Bucharest.   He is  widely regarded as a master of verse, accomplished translator and loving chronicler of the Romanian human and geographical topography.

Early life

His father Sebastian Coşbuc, a Greek Catholic priest looked up to by his parish, drew from a line reputed to have yielded fourteen consecutive generations of priests. George attended primary school and graduated to secondary classes in the neighboring village of  Telciu .He happily took to the scholarly bent encouraged by his father, earning the praise of instructors and being chosen among the few who were to sign up for advanced courses at Liceul Românesc (The Romanian  Lyceum ), a higher learning academy in the town of Năsăud. He soon found himself doubling as teacher.
He began tearing through the library of the institution, impressing colleagues with his encyclopedic inclinations, and joined a local literary club, the Virtus Romana Rediviva, an association his father frowned upon as a deviation for a prospective career as clergyman. In 1884, already a well-loved teacher at the age of 24, he published his very first poems in the yearly almanac of the literary club.

First works

Coşbuc began attending courses at the University of Cluj  in 1884, while collecting fairy tales and popular stories, which he rewrote and published to local success. He became so popular that three years later, he was asked to become editor in chief of the main Cluj  newspaper, Tribuna.
He soon published what widely became known as his first masterpiece, Nunta Zamfirei ("Zamfira's Wedding") to enthusiastic praise in Romanian literary circles. He moved to Bucharest, capital of Romania  and the center of cultural discourse. His contributes to the periodical Convorbiri Literare  to consistent acclaim. In collaboration with other former educators, he pieced together a praised Romanian language  textbook: Carte românească de citire (the "Romanian Book of Reading").


In 1893, he published Balade şi idile ("Ballads and Pastorals") a volume which cemented his reputation. He began dabbling in poetry with political subtext, penning the emphatic Noi vrem pământ ("We Demand Land"), Lupta vieţii ("Life's struggle"), and overviewes the debut of yet another literary magazine, Vatra. In 1895, he married Elena Sfetea.

He completed the first Romanian translation of Virgil's Aeneid in 1896, and also published a collection of various poems and short stories, Versuri şi proză ("Verses and Prose").

His output as a translator is astonishing: within the span of three years, he published large portions of Kalidassa's Sanskrit  Abhignānashākuntala (a part of them through German translations), and a new Romanian translation of Homer's Odyssey.
Coşbuc also undertook the translation of various works by Friedrich Schiller. The Romanian Academy deemed him an "outstanding member" in 1898. He further contributed to literature by completing, a decade later, the epic effort of translating Dante Aligheri's Divine Comedy  in its entirety.

Later life

In December 1901, he joined Alexandru Vlahuță in founding and, until 1905, editing the influential magazine Semănătorul a traditionalist publication appealing to those intellectuals who could claim peasant roots. After more than a decade of tremendous success as an author, he experienced personal tragedy in 1915, when his only son, Alexandru, died in a car accident. Heartbroken, Coşbuc ceased all work.

He is buried at Bellu  cemetery.




This life is a lost boon if you
Don't live it as you wanted to !
Much would a warlike, ruthless foe
Enslave us all ! Our birth, we know,
Was woe enough; would you get through
Another dreadful woe ?

Death, even for a godlike scion,
Is a hard law, as hard as iron !
It is all one to breathe one's last
A lad or an old man bypast,
But not the same to die a lion
Or a poor dog chained fast.

What if you fight in the first line,
What if by great exploits you shine ?
A grumbler cannot better be
Than those who fear to fight and flee !
To murmur is to have no spine
And make a bootless plea!

Like dead men, cowards will keep still !
The living - let them laugh at will !
The really good ones laugh and die.
Hold, therefore, heroes, your brows high
And let your lusty cheering fill
Both hell and earth and sky !

Blood may in floods and torrents flow,
The arm assail with spear and blow,
When the fierce enemies are dead !
Well, you may think yourself Godhead,
When you but laugh at what the foe
Does more than all else dread.

They're Romans, we know that. So what ?
Where they not Romans but our god,
Zamolxes, with his creatures, still
We would, sure, ask them what they will -
They won't get of our land a jot:
They have their skies to fill !

Now, men, to sword and shield and horn !
'Twas bad enough that we were born;
But he is free to go whose fright
Makes him too dastardly to fight,
And if there is someone foresworn,
Let him avoid our sight !

What I have told you is enow !
You swore on shields your oath of love
For Dacia ! Might resides in you
And in the gods! But, heroes, know
That they, the gods, are far above,
Our foes - at a stone's throw !


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 !";


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 !


Home walked she from the mill
Her sack was down and she
Could not lift it again.
"May I help?" "What?" "For pay!"
And in the narrow lane
Good girls shouldn't wave away
Such offers and say "nay".
That she agreed was plain.

With her sack on my back
I start, but half-way, feeling slack,
I want my pay - three kisses.
She stops - just like her, see?
Obstructs the way and thinks
And tells no end of things,
Too much, she can't agree:
Out of the question - three!

On two she does agree,
So, she pays half the fee;
The rest is due tonight
(Our meeting she can't miss),
Though she'll forget I judge!
So here I am, poor drudge,
To bear her sack and trudge -
All this for just one kiss!


From sunny countries and skies blue
From which last automn-tide you flew,
Return, dear birds, where you belong,
Most welcome, you!
The woods, bereft of leaf and song,
Weep for they have missed you too long.

In the eternal dome of azure
Did you not dream with longside pleasure
Of what you left? Did you not sigh
For dear Home's leisure?
Or cry when seeing in the sky
The clouds that northwardly did hie?

You sang to Nature paeans fraught
With holiness, strangers you taught
Our soulful doinas when, at times,
Of us you thought.
But did you tell them that their rhymes
Excle all those of other climes?

Now you come home - and you will see,
Again, the wood, the field, the lea,
Your nests in groves, so warm and deep;
'Tis summer, verily.
I feel I have a mind to leap,
To laugh for joy, for joy to weep !

You come accompanied by flowers,
By gentle winds and sun-warmed showers,
And nights so rife with honey-dew,
And cheerful hours.
You thus take everything with you,
And bring back everything anew.


Her shoulders with fair braids are graced,
Lithe as the wheat-stem is her waist,
Her sable apron laced with taste --
She's all in all for me.
When she is near, I take alarm;
When she is off, I come to harm;
When others take her by the arm,
Priests pray to set me free !

A three hours' talk and she's away,
While I pretend to go, yet stay
And watch her plodding on her way
Till I see her no more.
She is quite poor, yet on my life
I'll take her for my wedded wife,
Though wicked men, with love at strife,
About our love feel sore !

The gossips chat and disagree;
My brothers all speak ill of me,
And Father mighty cross is he,
While, genuflecting, Mother
Entreats the icons, fasts, forlorn
And cries, "you's better ne'er been born !
You work your will, you thing of scorn !
You work your will, oh brother !"

I work my will ? What if I do ?
I'll somehow manage to pull through!
And if I don't, I shall live too,
A poor man in my cot.
To seek my brothers' help ? Not I !
I'll never share with them their pie !
I'll work my will and shall not die
With brooding o'er my lot !

My kin would bury me alive !
The fright they're asking me to wive
May love me, but how could we thrive
When I don't love her any ?
Could I enjoy her land ? sow ? reap ?
And what's the good of cows and sheep ?
When your own wife you hold so cheap,
Then nothing's worth a penny !

Or are there such as can decree
That what they like is law to me ?
Even you, bishop, cannot be
That sort, nor can you, sire !
Let people gossip and make fun,
My sweetheart second is to none,
And ere I part with what I've won,
I'll set the thorp afire !


Your burnt offspring's smoke will wind
Peacefully towards the skies
Only if you bear in mind
That when you go to the sun,
Your dark shadow is behind.

Silent slave whom the grim lord
Summons by a silent gesture,
He takes heed, humble and awed,
Of the slightest beckoning,
And keeps everything well scored.

He's your bondman when your flight
Is directed to the sun;
He hurts not, he's out of sight;
Holy rays surround your forehead,
And you do advance in light.

But your shadow councils ill
When you leave the sun behind;
He will cloud your face until
Your keen eyes become purblind
He is nothing but ill-will !

Shadow, sun, shrine, smoke, and glow!
Useless is my tale, unless
You have understood it. So
You may choose ! You are just starting;
I have long been on the go.


A soul in the soul of my people am I
And sing of its sorrows and joys,
For mine are your wounds and I cry
Whenever you do, drinking dry
That chalice of poison that's meant for Fate's toys.
Whatever your pathway, together we'll ail,
We'll bear the same cross and we'll feel the same nail;
Your banner and creed will be mine;
The shrine of my hopes I shan't fail
To set by the side your shrine.

A heart of my people's great heart;
I sing of its love and its hate;
The part that you play is the fire's; my part
Is that of the wind; you're mate
In all that's decided by Fate.
You're the source and the aim of whatever I sing
And if at times say a thing
That's not in your Scriptures, you can,
Most holy celestial King,
Lock up with a lightning the mouth of a man.

Some people hold dear and supreme
What's vain in the other men's eye;
But he who can scan both the earth and the sky
And set up a bridge 'tween the low and the high,
Will always distinguish "to be" from "to seem".
My heart is all yours and your heart is in me
Whatever your place on the chart
Of forth-coming ages, whatever they decree,
For you, mine own people, of your soul I will be
For ever and ever a part.