By Inna Fikh, October 1999   



From Romania, a country so close to my native land, comes a poet whose name is known to every Romanian and Moldavian person- Mihai Eminescu. Perhaps he is not as well known in the English-speaking world because the Romanian language in not widely known. Eminescu would have been far better known long ago beyond Romania if more people knew Romanian language.
When I was a little girl living in Moldova, I studied Eminescu as part of the Romanian Literature Curriculum. I remember memorizing his poetry for recital in class. My teacher, a Moldavian, often called Eminescu "our national poet".


Mihai Eminescu was born on January 15, 1850 in Botosani, North Moldavia. He was the seventh child in the family. His father was a collector of taxes on alcoholic drinks and the family seemed to have lived well. At the time, tax collectors were not only wealthy but socially respectable as well. " There was never any pressure on the children to get on with their education, get out into the world and earn their living" (MacGregor-Hastie, 22).
Mihai was not born into poverty as many of the native Romanians were, yet most of his work brings up the ideas of heroes, freedom, equity and national spirit. At the age of 8, Mihai went to study at school in Cernauti.  .


As a child,Eminescu was greatly influenced by his teacher Aron Pumnul, who first gave him an advice for studying Romanian history and national culture. History fascinated him and he devoted himself to the study of the "ancient, glorious" days. "He fixed his whole interest on the bravest princes and the greatest voivodes of the Romanian people" (Dubneac, 13).
Later on he would create his famous "The Third Epistle", where he writes about the time when the Ottoman Empire dominated all three regions of Transilvania, Moldavia and Wallahia


In 1864, Mihai Eminescu joined a company of players and actors. While working in the theatre group which traveled through the landscapes of Transilvania, Moldavia and Wallahia, Eminescu enriched his knowledge of national folklore, popular songs, legends and Christian traditions. "He started to pay attention to the meaning of the historical rights of the Romanian people"( Dubneac, 13). Eminescu listened to the stories of the "common people" which he encountered at every step of his way. He memorized them with his mind and soul and later on they had a lasting impact on his poetry.


In 1866, Mihai Eminescu wrote his first poem, dedicated in the memory of his mentor Aron Pumnul. He was a man who participated in the 1848 Revolution for the unificatiion of the 2 great principalities: Moldavia and Wallahia. The question of the sovereign Romanian State and freedom preoccupied the minds of the Romanian patriots and thinkers.
After travelling around for 5 years, Eminescu decided to pursue a degree in philosophy. In 1869 he left for Vienna to continue his studies. While in Europe, he continued to write longer poems and sent them to the magazine "Literary Conversations".
He was soon recognized as the first among the modern poets of Romania and created a school of poetry and thought which "has influenced all the subsequent literary expression of his country" ( Pankhurst, 23).


In 1872 Eminescu moved to Berlin to finish his doctorate degree. Here he worked on his well-known work "The Ruler and the Ruled". The poem is a celebration of the reunion of the provinces of Moldavia and Wallahia as Romania, which occurred in 1859. This revolutionary poem clearly condemns the legal system, the organized religion and urges the oppressed working class to rebel.

"Break up this social system, crude, unjust,

Which divides the world into rich and poor".

("The Ruler and the Ruled")


In 1874 Eminescu returned to Romania. For some time he worked as a librarian and a teacher. In 1877 he joined the editorial staff of the Conservative Party newspaper Time. He didnít share the political views of the leaders of the Conservative Party. Instead, he shaped his own based on the ideas of the "historic nationalism". "However there was nothing in him of that narrow localism, that blind national prejudiceÖ" ( Iorga, 15).
Eminescu thought solutions to Romaniaís problems, which would be appropriate to its heroic past and would bring the hope for the future.
While working for the newspaper, Eminescu met and fell in love with a Moldavian poetess Veronica Micle. Other than his mother, she was the greatest female influence in his life. A lot of his literary work was dedicated to her, including one of his most famous poems "Luceafarul" ("The Evening Star"). "Luceafarul" is one of the great love poems of world literature" (Rosu, 29). It is known in every corner of Romania and Moldova and is recited on stage, schools and whenever the name of Mihai Eminescu is mentioned. Eminescu never married the woman he loved and for 8 years they had very unstable relationship. .


Eminescuís mental health began to deteriorate and in June of 1883 he was taken off to clinic in Vienna. In 1884 he returned home to Romania and worked for a while near Odessa as a librarian at the University. For one year he worked well, continued his writings but collapsed again in November 1886. At that time his poetry was more popular than at any other point of his life and he was granted a pension of 250 lei a month "in recognition of his unusual genius" (MacGregor-Hastie)
Mihai Eminescu died in the clinic on June 15, 1889. His life span lasted only thirty-nine years, but his legacy of glory of the Romanian poetry was carried through the time. He became a father and a model for all the following Romanian poets. In the hearts of his people whom he loved with great devotion, centuries later he still remains the greatest poet of Romania. He "knew best how to express the soul of his people to faithfully translate into poetry the dreams and aspirations of his fellow countrymen" (Guillermou, 1984).


He knew his Romania at a time when regionalism was a rule, invasions of ambitious empires plundered its wealth and enslaved its people. Yet he could see far beyond to the day when fragile union of the principalities wold grow into a really united Romania.
Mihai Eminescu was perhaps the last of the Romantic poets. His name is among those of Shakespeare, Byron, Shelley, Pushkin, and Lermontov. Yet he is unique and special, appreciated as such. Through his work, he showed the beauty of the Romanian language. The language, which was changed under the impact of other tongues such as Turkish, German, Greek, Russian and left behind in the old Dacia, was miraculously restored by Eminescu.
He gave coherence to the history and filled it with ideal national types, evoking specific characteristics of the Romanian people. "He is a man who encompassed in his single mind and soul, an entire nation, with all its long, painful journey through history" (Rosu, 30).



  1. Dubneac, Felix. Rosu, Dona. Eminescu. The Evening Star of Romanian Poetry. The Department of Romance Languages, University of Michigan, 1986.
  2. Guillermou, Allain. The Inside of Eminescuís Poetry. Romanian Review, Bucharest, 1984, No.1, pag.86.
  3. Iorga, N. Poems of Eminescu.( Introduction) London, Trubner & Co., Ltd, 1930.
  4. Mac-Gregor Hastie. The Last Romantic: Mihai Eminescu. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 1972.
  5. Pankhurst, Sylvia. Poems of Eminescu. London, Trubner & Co., Ltd, 1930





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