My Country by Marie Queen of Rumania
SECTION 13


One art above all others belongs to the gipsies. They are born musicians, and the violin is their instrument; even the smallest boy will be able to make it sing. Some are musicians by profession. In groups of three and four they will wander from village to village, always where music is needed, patiently, tirelessly playing for hours and hours, in sun or rain, night or day, at marriages, funerals, or on feast-days.

When in bands these wandering minstrels have other instruments besides violins. Strange-shaped lutes, well known in Rumanian literature as the "cobsa," and a flute composed of several reeds, the classical flute used in ages past by old father Pan.

Mostly they are bronze-coloured old vagrants with melancholy eyes and bent backs, who are accustomed to cringe, and whose lean brown hands are accustomed to beg. Discarding their picturesque rags, these wandering minstrels have adopted hideous old clothes that others have cast off. Infinitely more mean-looking are they in this accoutrement; they have lost that indefinite charm that generally surrounds them; they are naught but sad old men clothed in ugly tatters, and are no more a delight to the eyes. Welcome they are, nevertheless, for their music is both sweet and melancholy, strident and weird ; there is a strange longing in every note, and the gayer the tunes become the more is one inclined to weep!

An inexplicable cry of yearning lies in their every melody—is it a remembrance of far-off lands that once were theirs, and that they have never seen? Or is it only an expression of the eternal nostalgia that drives them restlessly from place to place?


One summer's evening I met a gipsy youth, coming towards me from out of the dust of the road. Seated with bare, dangling legs on the back of a donkey, his violin under his chin, regardless of all else, he was playing . . . playing to the sky above, to the stars that were coming out one by one, peeping down with pale wonder upon this lonely vagabond to whom all the road belonged. . . . Playing because it was his nature to play . . . playing to his heart that had not yet awakened . . . playing to his soul that he could not fathom.