Mihai Eminescu, 1850-1889, was a writer, journalist, and romantic poet, often celebrated as Romania’s greatest and most famous poet. For many years he was considered Romania’s national poet and was called “the most important figure in Romanian culture.”
Even now, his fame pervades modern day Romania. For example, his face has been engraved on a couple of Romania’s paper currencies. Also, numerous statues and busts of Eminescu can be found throughout the country. There are several schools and libraries and other buildings named after Eminescu. And the anniversaries of his birth and death are observed with national celebrations.
Eminescu was born and raised in Moldova, the northeast region of Romania. He attended school until age 16 and began publishing some of his poems at that age in a Budapest, Hungary, literary journal. For several years Eminescu worked as a clerk for a theater troupe in the newly named capital city of Bucharest. Throughout this period he continued to write and publish his poetry.
Eminescu left the troupe after three years and traveled to Vienna where he studied philosophy for three years. During this period he contributed political articles and poems to a local literary journal. He also became a contributing journalist to a newspaper in Budapest.
Eminescu then went to Berlin for two years where he continued his studies. After Berlin, he moved to Iasi, the cultural and economic center of Moldova, Romania, where he worked as the director of the Central Library. The impressive library is now named after him in his honor. Eminescu also became the editor of one of the local newspapers in Iasi.
After three years in Iasi, he moved back to Bucharest where he spent most of the rest of his life. He became chief editor of an important Bucharest newspaper for which he wrote his most famous political articles, including those supporting the drive toward international recognition of Romanian independence. Also during this period he wrote and published his most famous poems, including “The Evening Star.”
In 1883 Eminescu was hospitalized due to his deteriorating health. He was diagnosed with syphilis and manic-depression. A few years later his health deteriorated further and he was treated with mercury injections, the standard treatment for syphilis. During the final six years of his life he wrote nothing of importance and was in and out of hospitals and sanatoriums. He died at age 39 in 1889.
In 1883, while Eminescu was away at a sanatorium in Vienna, Titu Maiorescu published a collected volume of his poems entitled, “Poesii.” Maiorescu commented in his foreword to the volume that Eminescu was always “too unconcerned and unambitious about the future fate of his work” to create a collected publication himself.
Eminescu’s poems feature a wide range of themes, including nature, love, history, politics, and social issues. His study of philosophy, especially of Schopenhauer, also influenced his poetical works. His poems’ influence on Romanian culture is so strong that in Romanian schools the study of his poems is a requirement. Often, an analysis of his “The Evening Star” is part of the graduation exam.
“Why Don’t You Come?” is a touching and romantic love poem about the longing of a man for his beloved. The poem is easily read and recited due to its simple and easily recognized form.
The poem’s form includes 6 quatrains, stanzas of four lines each. This is the most common of all the stanza forms in European poetry. The quatrains have a rhyme scheme of aabb, which creates two short couplets per stanza, one of the simplest rhyme schemes in poetry. The rhythm of the poem is the easily recognizable iambic tetrameter. All of the lines, except the first, are regular, consisting of four two-syllable iambic feet, the second syllable of each foot being accented.
The person that Eminescu’s poem addresses is probably Veronica Micle, the love of his life and the woman he had hoped to marry, though circumstances kept them apart. They met while Eminescu was studying in Vienna. Despite the fact that Micle was married to a university professor thirty years her senior, she developed a close relationship with the attractive and romantic Eminescu.
Micle became a short story writer and a romantic poet, her style, not surprisingly influenced by Eminescu’s. She published numerous poems, several of which were devoted to her relationship with Eminescu.
After her husband died, Micle and Eminescu were nearly married, but numerous stresses, including his developing illnesses, kept them from doing so. When he became more seriously ill, Micle moved to Bucharest and cared for Eminescu during the last two years of his life. Stricken with grief following his death, Micle died of self induced arsenic poisoning two months later.
It was in 1887, just prior to Micle’s arrival in Bucharest, that Eminescu wrote “Why Don’t You Come?”
Why Don’t You Come?
By Mihai Eminescu
Translated by Corneliu M. Popescu
See the swallows quit the eaves
And fall the yellow walnut leaves,
The vines with autumn frost are numb,
Why don’t you come, why don’t you come?
Oh, come into my arms’ embrace
That I may gaze upon your face,
And lay my head in grateful rest
Against your breast, against your breast!
Do you remember when we strayed
The meadows and the secret glade,
I kissed you midst flowering thyme
How many a time, how many a time?
Some women on the earth there are
Whose eyes shine as the evening star,
But be their charm no matter what,
Like you they’re not, like you they’re not!
For you shine in my soul always
More softly than the starlight blaze,
More splendid than the risen sun,
Beloved one, beloved one!
But it is late in autumn now,
The leaves have fallen from the bough,
The fields are bare, the birds are dumb.
Why don’t you come, why don’t you come?