My Country by Marie Queen of Rumania

I must talk a little about these strange old crosses that on all roads I have come upon, that I have met with in every part of the country.

Strange old crosses that on all roads I have come upon.

As yet I have not quite fathomed their meaningóbut I love them, they seem so well in keeping with the somewhat melancholy character of the land.

Generally they stand by the way-side, sometimes in stately solitude, sometimes in groups; sometimes they are of quaintly carved stone, sometimes they are of wood, crudely painted with figures of archaic saints.

These strange old crosses they stand by the wayside.

Sometimes they are of quaintly carved stone.

No doubt these pious monuments have been raised to mark the places of some event; perhaps the death of some hero, or only the murder of a lonely traveller who was not destined to reach the end of his road. . . .

Mostly they stand beside wells, bearing the names of those who, having thought of the thirsty, erected these watering-places in far-away spots.

Mostly they stand beside wells.

Quaint of shape, they attract the eye from far; the peasant uncovers his head before them, murmuring a prayer for the dead.

Quaint of shape, they attract the eye from far.

At cross-roads I have sometimes come upon them ten in a row; when found in such numbers they are mostly hewn out of wood. Their forms and sizes are varied: some are immensely high and solid, covered by queer shingle roofs; often their design is intricate, several crosses, growing one out of another, forming a curious pattern, the whole painted in the crudest colours that sun and rain soon tone down to pleasant harmony.

When found in such numbers they are mostly hewn out of wood.

Their forms and sizes are varied.

Protected by their greater companions, many little crosses crowd alongside: round crosses and square crosses, crosses that are slim and upright, crosses that seem humbly to bend towards the ground. . . .

On lonely roads these rustic testimonies of Faith are curiously fascinating. One wonders what vows were made when they were placed there by pious hands and believing hearts.

But, above all, the carved crosses of stone attract me. I have discovered them in all sorts of places; some are of rare beauty, covered with inscriptions entangled in wonderful designs.

I have come upon them on bare fields, on the edges of dusty roads, on the borders of dark forests, on lonely mountain-sides. I have found them on forsaken waters by the sea, where the gulls circled around them caressing them gently with the tips of their wings.

On lonely mountain-sides.

Many a mile have I ridden so as to have another look at these mysterious symbols, for always anew they fill my soul with an intense desire for tranquillity; they are so solemnly impressive, so silent, so still. . . .

One especially was dear to my heart. It stood all alone in dignified solitude upon a barren field, frowning down upon a tangle of thistles that twisted their thorny stems beneath the shade of its arms.

I know not its history, nor why it was watching over so lonely a place; it appeared to have been there from the beginning of time. Tired of its useless vigil, it was leaning slightly on one side, and at dusk its shadow strangely resembled the shadow of a man.