George Cosbuc in English

The poet

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.

Three, mighty God, all three!

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 !”

Decebal to his people

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!

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