1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Eminescu, Michail

EMINESCU, MICHAIL (1849–1889), the greatest Rumanian poet of the 19th century, was born on the 20th of December in Ipateshti near Botoshani, in the north of Moldavia. He was of Turco-Tatar origin, and his surname was originally Emin; this was changed to Eminovich and finally to the Rumanian form Eminescu. He was educated for a time in Czernowitz, and then entered the civil service. In 1864 he resumed his studies in Transylvania, but soon joined a roving theatrical company where he played in turn the rôles of actor, prompter and stage-manager. After a few years he went to Vienna, Jena and Berlin, where he attended lectures, especially on philosophy. In 1874 he was appointed school inspector and librarian at the university of Jassy, but was soon turned out through the change of government, and took charge, as editor in chief, of the Conservative paper Timpul (Times). In 1883 he had the first attack of the insanity hereditary in his family, and in 1889 he died in a private institution in Bucharest. In 1870 his great poetical talent was revealed by two contributions to the Convorbiri literare, the organ of the Junimist party in Jassy; these were the poems “Venera şi Madona” and “Epigonii.” Other poems followed and soon established his claim to be the first among the modern poets of his country. He was thoroughly acquainted with the chronicles of the past, had a complete mastery of the Rumanian language, and was a lover and admirer of Rumanian popular poetry. Influenced by these studies and by the philosophy of Schopenhauer, he introduced a new spirit into Rumanian poetry. Mystically inclined and himself of a melancholy disposition, he lived in the glory of the medieval Rumanian past; stifled by the artificiality of the world around him, he rebelled against the conventionality of society and his surroundings. In inimitable language he denounced the vileness of the present and painted in glowing pictures the heroism of the past; he also surprised nature in its primitive beauty, and he gave expression to stirring emotions in lyrics couched in the language and metre of popular poetry. He further proved himself an unsurpassed master in satire. Over all his poetry hangs a cloud of sadness, the sense of coming doom. Simplicity of language, masterly handling of rhyme and verse, deep thought and plastic expression made Eminescu the creator of a school of poetry which dominated the thought of Rumania and the expression of Rumanian writers and poets at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.

Five editions of his collected poems appeared after 1890. Some of them were translated into German by “Carmen Sylva” and Mite Kremnitz, and others have also been translated into several other languages. Eminescu also wrote two short novels, real poems in prose (Jassy, 1890).  (M. G.)