The Country That I Love by Marie Queen of Rumania

CHAPTER 1


WHAT can I, your Queen, do to uphold your spirits at this awful hour when we have all been torn from what was ours? I have seen your agony, and with it I have felt that soul-sapping depression which comes after defeat and retreat; I have lived through it with you, I know the effort it needs to lift up one's head again and to look the future in the face.

In what way can I reach your ears, your hearts; how can I talk to you, what shall I talk to you about? My pen hesitates—there is too much to say, and the pain is too great—fear hangs over our heads like a cloud, but someone must lift his voice, someone must have the courage to break through that dreadful silence which smothers us, which makes us feel as though we were already dead, forgotten, struck out from the ranks of the living.

With the awakening of Spring an immense, uncontrollable nostalgia fills my soul. Like a captive looking through the bars of his prison-window, searching for a corner of the sky, I try to recall visions of the regions which we left so suddenly and so tragically.

Having been torn from us in an hour of darkness, all the brighter do they appear to our tear-filled eyes—all the more precious—we did not even know how dearly we loved them. They have suddenly become our Lost Paradise, to which we all yearn back. So I thought that during these days of trial my pen at least could lead some of us again to homes for which we long.

Both bitter and sweet is the task I have taken upon myself, and if, perchance, my words should reach the souls of some of my readers, I ask them, if at times my accents are over-tragic, to remember that I seem to be writing them with my very life-blood.

If I am more inclined to talk about mountain, field and plain, than about towns and streets; to describe villages, churches and lonely places, it is because it was the artist within me that first taught me to love this land. It was always towards the humble, towards the peasants, that I felt myself most deeply drawn; their customs and habits, their joys and pains, moved me strangely—I felt a desire to know them, to understand them, to be accepted without distrust in their midst. I loved the vast spaces where they dwelt, the smell of the good earth they ploughed; I understood the poetry of the dust that lay over their labour, that never-ceasing effort towards some shadowy ideal not yet completely conceived.

There is nothing of the Roumanian land that I have not loved. More intimately than most children born on its soil have I communed with its wide-stretching plains, with its endless roads, with its sunsets, with its early dew-covered dawns, with its dark forests and its ripe golden cornfields. I have loved even the giant thistles that in arid stone-strewn places have stretched towards the skies the useless beauty of their thorny arms. I have, during my wanderings, come to spots so lonely that they have seemed to be the end of the world, and there have I stood contemplating the sun's last glory before it sank to its rest. And I have loved the solitude around me; I have loved the sky's glowing colours; the strange melancholy of coming night; the smell of the dew rising out of the ground, the veil of dust that hung over the world… I have loved it all, loved it deeply… loved it well!

I did not need to have it torn from me to realize how close this land had grown to my heart; nevertheless, looking through my captive's window, every picture that lies dormant in my soul rises before me, clearly, wonderfully; but so many there are that hardly do I know which I should paint first…