Sunday, 2 August 2009

i die alone, my dream


- Und' vă duce, domnule ?
- În grădină, somnule.
- Ce să faceţi, domnule ?
- Să mă-mpuşte, somnule.
- Că au gloanţe, domnule ?
- Că au vreme, somnule.
- Und vă-ngroapă, domnule ?
- Sub zăpadă, somnule.
- Vă e frică, domnule ?
- Îmi e scîrbă, somnule.
- Cui să spunem, domnule ?
- Iadurilor, somnule.
- Va fi bine, domnule ?
- Va fi seară, somnule.
- Aveţi rude, domnule ?
- Am pe nimeni, somnule.
- Vreţi o cupă, domnule ?
- Cît mă costă, somnule ?
- N-are-a face, domnule.
- De otrăvuri, somnule...
- Nu vreţi cupa, domnule ?
- Sparge-o-n ţăndări, somnule !
- Să vă plîngem, domnule ?
- N-are-a face, somnule.
- Noapte bună, domnule !
- Dormi cu mine, somnule !
- Eu dorm singur, domnule.
- Eu mor singur, somnule.
- Moarte bună, domnule.
- Noapte bună, somnule !

Ion Caraion
(Am pe nimeni)




Where are they taking you, sir?
To the garden, my dream.
Why do they take you there, sir?
To shoot me, my dream.
Because they have bullets, sir?
Because they have time to, my dream.
Where shall they bury you, sir?
Under the snow, my dream.
Are you afraid, sir?
I find it revolting, my dream.
Whom shall we tell all this, sir?
Tell the fires of hell, my dream.
Will you be alright, sir?
Night will have come, my dream.
Who is your next of kin, sir?
I am alone in the world, my dream.
Would you care for a drink, sir?
What will it cost me, my dream?
The cost does not matter, sir.
Is the chalice poisoned, my dream?
You seem not want it, sir?
Smash it to pieces, my dream!
Should we mourn you, sir?
That would change nothing, my dream.
Good night to you, sir.
Let us sleep together, my dream.
Sir, I sleep alone.
I die alone, my dream.
Good death to you, sir!
Good night to you, my dream!

Alone in the World, by Ion Caraion

(tr. Constantin Roman)

dedicated to S.M., who loves Romanian Dracula-style castles :-) This pictures were taken at the Râşnov fortress in Transylvania, on a particular foggy (for tourists, read: Dracula-style) day :-)

Note: the English translation didn't include the last three lines of the poem, I don't know why. I added them in my own translation.
Also, in Romanian the dialogue takes place between the 'I' and 'my sleep', not 'my dream', as C. Roman chose to translate. Thus the word play is more striking: 'Let us sleep together, my sleep! Sir, I sleep alone!'. Here is a French version of the poem, translated by the same C. Roman:

Seul au monde

- Où vous emmènnent-ils, Monsieur?
- Dans le jardin, mon rêve.
- Pour quoi faire, Monsieur?
- Pour me fusiller, mon rêve.
- Parce qu’ils ont des balles, Monsieur?
- Parce qu’ils ont le temps, mon rêve.
- Où vous enterreront-ils, Monsieur?
- Sous la neige, mon rêve.
- Avez-vous peur, Monsieur?
- Je trouve ça révoltant, mon rêve.
- Qui doit-on prévenir, Monsieur?
- Les feux de l’enfer, mon rêve.
- Ça va aller quand même, Monsieur?
- Il fera nuit, mon rêve.
- Qui est votre plus proche parent, Monsieur?
- Je suis seul au monde, mon rêve.
- Voulez-vous boire un verre, Monsieur?
- Qu’est-ce que ça va me coûter, mon rêve?
- Peu importe le prix, Monsieur.
- Le calice est-il empoisonné, mon rêve?
- Vous n’en voulez pas, Monsieur?
- Casse-le en mille morceaux, mon rêve!
- Doit-on vous pleurer, Monsieur?
- Inutile, mon rêve.
- Bonne nuit, Monsieur.
- Dormons ensemble, mon rêve!
- Je dors seul, Monsieur.


  1. Not being able to read Romanian, I may be reading this all wrong so please correct me R., but as "somnule" would obviously be "sleep" to change this to "dream" radically changes the meaning of the lines to practically their polar opposite. As i read it, he is denying his ignorance (sleep) not his fantasy (dream). he goes to his death clear-eyed and awake, so that his final moments might be lived not in false hope or regret, but with an intense clarity.

    the translation infuses the poem with a romanticism that the original clearly not only lacks but outright rejects.

    (speaking of romantic, i should compliment you on those rather sumptuous and apocalyptic images)

  2. My daughter, this weekend, revealed to me a series of dreams she's been having lately. The dreams are actually childhood memories pushed back into her subconscious, except for now, as they've chosen to reveal themselves.

    This series reminds me, of her revelations - the photographs, a residual haunting...

    Thank you, for you...

  3. imi plac mult (a doua +++ si a treia)

    o schimbare de registru?

    textul elocvent!
    (interesant autorul)

  4. Beautiful pictures --- but then I love this kind of foggy day when everything fades in and out if there is a breeze, and the day and the sleep are hard to distinguish. The second photo, with the empty cage, is eerie and melancholy.

    I have to agree with pensum about the sleep/dream thing. The translation abandons the original....

  5. Oh Roxana, am ramas fara cuvinte din nou, ma innebuneste atmosfera asta, si culorile, e un vis in care contururile se pierd.Acolo e o colivie?arata excelent!:)

  6. You alone force me to read other poets and for this a I eternally grateful.
    And the images...are visual poems. That hanging cage will haunt me now along with the small windows.

  7. Fantastice...esenta in atat de putina informatie vizuala, felicitari, Roxana!

  8. Onward through the fog... of sleep, or dreams. It is the mood that mesmerizes the poor illiterate immigrant here...

  9. Good morning Roxana,
    half past four in the morning...
    what a read you provide...
    allow me to enjoy it at this time of the night and return later...

  10. for a moment i honestly thought the second photo was under water, the sunken hulk of a building, the open prisoner cage - half expecting to see some white washed bones in it... like being transported into a dream world

  11. The "I" seems to consistently partake in one-upmanship.

    my sleep: Because they have bullets?
    I: Because they have spare time.

    my sleep:Are you scared?
    I: I am revolted.

    my sleep: shall we tell someone?
    I: the flames of hell

    my sleep: Do you want something to drink?
    I: Is it poisoned?

    my sleep: Should we cry?
    I: It would be useless.

    Then it strikes me, a reversal occurs. "I" expresses a certain vulnerability.
    I: Let's lie down together.
    my sleep: No, I sleep alone.

    I find the cage searingly beautiful and syllogistically charged.

    The cage is empty because the bird is dead.

    The cage is empty because the bird is free.

    The bird is dead and therefore free.

    If you prefer this syllogism -
    All birds have feathers, penguins are birds, therefore penguins have feathers.
    - you may take it.

    Roxana, i prefer yours.

  12. once in my life (so far) was a moment when I gladly would have taken that bullet to stay in that dream...for now,it seems as if it went out of the cage only to be searched by me, keeping me alife throughout the night (and the day).
    Thank you very much for reminding.
    Maybe time to learn a bit of your language as well.

  13. Am recunoscut imediat cetatea. Am fost acolo saptamana trecuta. Foarte frumos si pline de mister fotografiile.

  14. in san francisco, the fog was my lover. she wrapped me in her sweet
    kisses with the taste of eucalyptus, the light of gingko. streets swallowed every after-noon in her whiteness, the ineffable gown of dreams, as i drank wine and sank into yet another dream: poetry. your images bring back all these haunts, childhood, foglight, mountains, death.......

  15. Michael, i think you are right. your interpretation, and the way the poem sounds in Romanian - not at all Romantic, no, in fact the language used reiterates speech patterns from popular poetry and songs, rejecting any sentimentalism.
    "he goes to his death clear-eyed and awake, so that his final moments might be lived not in false hope or regret, but with an intense clarity" - thank you for these words, if only every one were able to do this. still thinking about the Dogen-film, you know...
    (and you like the pictures!!! :-)

    oh S., these moments can be so terribly intense and beautiful, when this kind of 'revealing' takes place. i am sure it has been an enriching experience for your daughter. and you. and photographs as 'residual hauntings' is equally powerful, i will have to think more about it...

    salut, I.B., ma bucur ca aprobi. eh, stiu eu ce sa zic, schimbare sau nu, mie imi place oricum sa experimentez diferite chestii asa ca se incadreaza in profilul meu, as zice. oricum el e destul de cetos si neclar de la natura :-), ca nu prea-mi plac mie imaginile ca de cristal.

  16. James, hi, i am glad to hear from you again... i am not surprised you like foggy landscapes, it is hard not to love them, i think - especially the poets, i would assume :-)
    as far as the translation goes, what could i do, you had disappeared and you are the only one who reads Romanian well enough to help me out with translations, alone i wouldn't dare :-)

    Edith, ah, e bine ca inca mai reusesc sa te innebunesc din cand in cand :-) pare o colivie, dar nu stiu ce scop are.

    merc, i think i understand why, the cage and the windows, such intertwined lines are a recurrent pattern in your paintings and drawings that i love so much... thank you, dear friend...

  17. swiss, thank you! :-)

    Simona, ce bucurie si onoare imi faci :-)

    Owen, i didn't quite get 'the poor illiterate immigrant' part here, but i can see you clearly marching through that fog, yes (i have even created a paradox, despite my being so tired now :-), well a tiny one)

  18. ah Robert, i have to thank you for this touching and most intriguing confession. if my pictures made you remember such a precious moment, then they are good for something and i stop doubting them (which is a hard thing to achieve for my ever doubting nature :-)
    speaking of languages, i am currently teaching Romanian to a German working here, and it is great fun!

    Manuela, oh, you see even the white washed bones, i should have found an excerpt from some gothic novel (of course i mean that you see them through the watery veil of your imagination, not that they are really there, hidden by the fog :-)

    Prospero, dear Prospero, i also think so, that moment is crucial, when he asks his sleep to stay with him, it is indeed the moment when his vulnerability is clearly revealed. he does that despite knowing his sleep cannot be trusted, it can be falsly soothing or directly poisonous. but he can't stand to be alone anymore, not that moment.

    this being said, i am totally mesmerized by your syllogism :-) as much as i'd like to take the credit for it, i merely pushed the button, you invented the meaning! :-) as it should be, indeed!
    my question is: what shall we do about those 'half-dead half-alive birds', what are they? and the deadly birds? can they open for us a path to the spiritual realm?
    remembering Rilke:
    "Every angel's terrifying. Almost deadly birds
    of my soul, I know what you are, but, oh,
    I still sing to you!"

  19. Multumesc, Gabi, astept si eu pozele, atunci :-)

    Sutton, "kisses with the taste of eucalyptus, the light of gingko" - ah, my wandering soul wants to know such kisses as well! and your telling me you get lost in my fog as in the fog of a poem, and of the lost time - how could i not be happy?
    you are so kind to me.

  20. thank you for these pictures. though before seeing the dedication I thought they were war ruins - like the grainy footage from WWII! I love the poem, especially the way interchanging 'sleep' and 'dream' changes the meaning to polar opposites. I know in spannish 'sueño' means both "sleep" and "dream"; but I don't know if it is the same for the Romanian 'somnule' as well (but if it is - think how much more delicious).
    no..but these pictures are truly haunting. I can almost hear the wolves of the carpathians in the distance ("such sweet music they make" as dracula would say....).

  21. and thanks to sutton for reminding me of the bay mist (to think its not even been a year...)

  22. admiring dialogue.. how could you take photos like those.. magical roxana.. ^,~

  23. What beautiful images.
    And yes, the poem is so different read with 'sleep.' Harder, more tragic.

  24. Fotografiile sunt superbe. Tot post-ul. Mulțumesc pentru sentimentele pe care le-ai lăsat să transpară prin ele.

  25. Roxana ! quand souvent tu te trouve seul au monde en faite dans sa tête, que tu besoin et de parler, avec un ami ou amie, avec ton frére,tes parents ou bien l'être que tu aime, mais ils sont tous loin des yeux, mais pas loin du coeur et pas loin des pensées.
    qu'est ce que tu faites quand tu tombe malade, et personne n'est prés de toi?
    qu'es ce que tu faite quand tu as besoin de pleurer, de parler, de discuter, et de partager quelque chose avec quelqu'un qui est proche de toi mais qui es loin?

  26. Zuma, the spanish comparison is so interesting, thank you! but no, in Romanian they are very different, 'somn' is 'sleep' and 'vis' is 'dream'(both latin roots). and of course, always a pleasure to feed your Carpathian mythology :-)(especially if it can get mixed with that of bay mist, which i can only imagine, while sipping some bitter strong tea at night :-)

  27. hi, Peter, 'magical Roxana' - whatever this means - is smiling and thanking you :-)

  28. ma bucur, Marius, si multumesc de trecere!

    Susan, hi, it's always a joy to hear from you, i am glad you liked it.

    multumesc pentru ca ai venit si te-ai oprit sa-mi spui ce ai simtit, Vladimir... sper sa ne mai vedem...

    Allan, je suis completement d'accord avec toi, mais dans ce poeme je pense que le probleme est justement celui-ci: le poete n'a pas choisi cette solitude, il a ete quitte (peut-etre trahi) par ces semblables, mais il choisit d'accepter son sort avec dignite.
    (je vais t'ecrire davantage bientot!)