ODE TO ROMANIA
by H. M. Queen Marie of Roumania
from Roumania - The Royal Edition
Marie Jonnesco, Paris, 1922



ODE TO ROUMANIA
BY
H. M. QUEEN
MARIE OF ROUMANIA

O Roumania, country of my adoption and scene of my struggles and my joys!

The echo of thy name, which for me fills the spheres, must, I feel, resound in all hearts as it does in mine.

I have given myself to thee; thou art the be-all and the end-all of my life; thy joys are mine and thy sorrows. Thy great dream I have made my dream; thy honour is my honour; thy ambitions are my ambitions; I am confident of thy greatness, and hand in hand with thee I wish to approach the hour of its fulfilment.

I have come from afar—there was a time when I was but a stranger on thy territory. Now I am thine so utterly that it would seem that my feet have never trod other roads than thine.

Perhaps my Saxon eyes see the more clearly for having once gazed at other horizons in another land? Suffering links hearts together more than joy; is it because I have suffered through thee and with thee that I so love thee?

The days that I have lived with then within thy frontiers have not all been days of bliss.

I have known solitude in the midst of crowds.

I have known the pain of a stranger in a foreign land and I have longed to flee from thee—but with a force each day increasing thou hast bound me closer to thee.

Thy charm is great and inexplicable, O Roumania. Who comes once to thee returns again and yet again. Oft have I heard sung the praises of thy fertile plains, thy mountains and thy skies, thy sunsets and thy riches full of promise and the treasures hidden in thy soil.

And in my turn I wish to raise my voice to speak of thee, of thee as I have known thee, as I have felt thee, as thou wert while I was blending my life with thine, giving thee my heart, my soul, my tears.

At first thy roads appeared to me too long and dusty, thy light too blinding. I was weary of thy limitless spaces, I who came from a land of mists. I dreamt of grateful shade, of lanes leading to green pastures, and of cloudy skies.

Then by slow degrees I was captured by thy charm. I began to understand and to love thy vast horizons, thy roads which cut the surface of the earth and go straight to the setting sun, as if, for them, there is no other limit.

I grew to love the labour of thy peasants, to appreciate their patience, their perseverance, their fidelity, and from them I learned to love the odour of the wheat, which like incense arises from the sun-warmed soil.

I have scaled thy heights, traversed thy forests which the axe has never touched, I have followed the course of thy rivers, I have gazed at thy torrents, I have wandered through thy villages and dreamed dreams on the shores of thy sea.

I have gathered thy grapes and thy flowers; I have sung thy songs and hearkened to thy music, I have drowned myself in thy colour and thy light, and in the perfume of thy soil—and thy church bells have called me to their sanctuaries.

I have tried to penetrate thy souls mystery, to understand thy pride and thy reticence, thy past and the history of those who were dear to thee—those who before me had guided thee.

At times thou hast wounded me; all my rancour has gone out against thee, I have felt a prisoner in thy hands—but it was once more to pardon thee as thou thyself hast pardoned the foreigner who was no longer a stranger for thee.

Little by little I understood that always thy griefs had been greater than thy joys, that thou hadst been the unhappy victim of constant invasions, that fire and sword had wounded thee in turn, that the hand of more than one conqueror had made thee bleed. But though thou wert torn asunder, tormented, persecuted thy children remained ever faithful to their customs and traditions, to their language, to their religion, to the dress which from generation to generation they had worn.

In vain the hordes who raided thee, murdered thee and devastated thy soil, the vigour of thy race defied all adversity and no cruel tyrant, no foreign invasion succeeded ever reducing thy strength and wearing down the tenacity of thy will to live.

Unconquered, thy sons rebuilt that which had been destroyed, replanted that which had been devastated, more patient than time itself, and stronger than fatality.

Under their apparent resignation, under their fatalistic acceptance of the suffering and trouble of this world there lay hid the strength which no suffering can conquer.

During my youthful years I saw thee progressing in peace and plenty. Thy rulers of that time guided thee with wisdom and with a strong hand in thy development.

Thine independence established, thy name respected among the nations, thy frontiers fixed, thou livedst in friendly relations with other countries enjoying in security the riches which none seemed about to threaten. This was indeed a time of peace.

And yet, in spite of thy apparent well-being, in spite of thine evident prosperity a dream slumbered in the heart of each of thy children, the same golden dream of a cherished ambition.

For we had beyond our mountainous frontiers brothers who spoke the same language, who wore the same costumes, who prayed in churches similar to ours—and ought not these frontiers long ago to have been abolished and their hands joined with ours in brotherhood?

This dream of union, handed down from one generation to another, the echo of which resounded in every heart, and which had its roots deep down in the consciousness of all, filled my heart too, so did the strength of thy children’s dream embue me with its force.

They made me live in this hope, until it became mine as much as it was theirs, and sometimes I wondered who would be the blessed sovereign to whom it would be given to realise this ideal, too great, too luminous too wonderful to be any longer but a gleam of light far beyond the horizon of our days.

And yet! How much nearer was it than I thought. Suddenly there came the great day after all our tears and terror—dazzling us with its blinding light.

Then didst thou arise, my Roumania, out of thy peaceful security to the heights of thy traditional patriotism, to throw thyself into a struggle more terrible than an any that history had yet recorded.

Moved to the depths of my being, I looked on thee with anguish, for I knew that the solemn hour had struck, and that we were going with eyes blindfolded to confront the fatality, which, sword in hand, made sign to us.

I have seen thy sons rush from the four corners of thy territory—they came flocking in a body from every house, from every cottage, to answer the call of their King, who, in order to lead them and better to accomplish the destiny of this country to which he has consecrated his life, did not hesitate to crush the anguish in his heart.

And I saw them go, all these men, all these youths the pride of thy homes, O Roumania—sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, leaving their peaceful occupations, sacrificing their personal ambitions, their love, their families, united by this one thought, this one desire to fight the great fight to the finish.

Elsewhere throughout the whole world, young and brave men were offering up their red blood, giving every thing without demur, simply, bravely.

Our men departed, a flower in their helmet, a song on their lips; and we, the women, held out to our arms to them, swallowing our tears, our heads held high, as high as we could hold them for we had made of our anguish for our dear ones a heavy and magnificent crown.

However terrible the struggle may have been, did it not lead to a supreme end? Yonder, scarcely beyond our reach, it called to us, the dream for which we had lived, the dazzling and wonderful dream; fire, sword, and death rose between it and us, but what mattered that! our cause was a sacred cause, we were struggling on the side of Right and Justice, nothing could discourage us in our advance towards Victory.

In truth, O Roumania, more than ever was I thy mother at this hour, thy soul—thy pulse beat in me, thy blood was my blood. I lived thy hopes, I feared thy fears, I suffered thy woes, weeping thy tears, and bleeding at thy wounds.

I have seen thee torn, lacerated then alas! betrayed and abandoned to thy fate. I have seen thee sunk in black night—better to arise again in a glorious dawn. I have seen thy sons fall in thousands, mown down by the sword, wiped out by fire, hunger, and sickness. I have seen their thin and haggard faces; I have seen their decimated ranks, and our skeleton soldiers wander like hunted beasts from place to place. Thy peaceful dwellings were pillaged—I saw them reduced to ashes and ruin. Thy once fertile soil was devastated, thy harvests destroyed, fire set to thy riches underground, so that earth and sky mingled in one vast flame; thy roads, thy railways, thy bridges I saw destroyed and the work of an entire generation disappear as though it had never been.

Thy women I saw stand motionless like spectres before their ruined cottages looking with eyes of madness along the road on which would never again resound the footsteps of the loved ones they awaited. I have seen them gaze on the corpses of their children who had died of hunger, and their eyes were tearless; the horror of a grief too great had dried up all their tears.

In exile in our own land, we clung in desperation to the small tract of country which now remained to us. The whole world seemed to have abandoned us, we were like to a small isle the midst of flames; no friendly voice reached us, no cry of encouragement, and no helping hand stretched out to us. Destitute of everything, except our pride, we shivered bleeding before a future still unfathomable. Our disaster was so complete that it held more of nightmare than of reality—yet under the ashes of our lost illusions and of our ruined hopes there burned still the flame which adversity could not extinguish.

During these days all masks fell, and all appearances vanished—each man showed his real face, only he who could resist remained, he who could not fell; many different expressions did I see on faces, and more than one truth did I learn, bitter sometimes, sometimes hideous, sometimes sublime—always unforgettable.

Tongues were still, for words no longer mattered, eyes became haggard and looks haunted, every nerve stretched to bear the unbearable, to confront that which could be confronted—but when hands met it was with a clasp so firm that nothing could sever it.

You were nothing now, O Roumania, but a great tortured and panting heart.

Thy woes as thy sky, thy rivers and thy forests and thy mountains all quivered equally with thy suffering. I felt it tremble in all my limbs, to the depths of my being, but through
it all, O my country, I knew that thou shouldst not perish. Under the ashes of disaster thy spirit flamed unconquered and it seemed that the keeping, alight of this sacred flame had been entrusted by God himself to me. I watched with confidence, with hope, with the love which little by little had grown in me for thee during the time when I had learnt to lose my self in thee.

And when the darkest hour came, when to all hope seemed gone, when the hearts of many failed, when the flame was no longer visible but by the light of faith, still I felt a superhuman force strengthen me as if my love and my confidence could have accomplished the miracles in which no one any longer believed. I was nevertheless humbly kneeling at this time—really the anxious mother with the torn heart. All my children called to me, implored me, living on the love which I was giving them—always more love and still more until I wondered in anguish whether my heart could be vast enough, multiple enough to bear the strain.

But yonder in the distance, beyond the blackness of our night, others were struggling, friends, allies—for their liberty at the same time as for ours—a heroic and desperate struggle on which our fate depended.

No news any longer penetrated to us—nothing but rumours, and these the enemy took great pains to make as discouraging as possible.

However, something in me felt fortune change and the supreme hour approach; through the darkness I foresaw a dawn so glorious that our eyes, dimmed by too many tears, would with difficulty support its brilliancy when it should dawn in all its splendour.

Faith, faith—above all things let us have faith, not to faint or be weary, never to admit defeat, to hold out clay by day, hour by hour till the sun shall rise anew.

And it was not in vain, O my country! The great day came, the marvellous hour of deliverance struck. I received it on my knees—but it found us still living, and the flame which had lighted us, though feeble and flickering had not been extinguished.

As when one passes too suddenly from darkness to a bright light, I felt dazzled, crushed; never in the days of adversity had I felt so near to succumbing as in this hour of victory when the golden dream the great dream of our ancestors, was being accomplished.

O Roumania, now are all thy children united, their chains broken, their captivity ended—and the mountains barriers no longer exist.

And God permitted us, thy King and Queen to be thy guides in this hour, to live this supreme day with thee. God had ordained that our names should for all time be inscribed on this the most glorious page of thy history.

The hour had come when we could only fall on our knees, all together letting escape from our lips the great cry of gratitude which our hearts sent up to God.

Yes, Victory and Deliverance, and achievement also.

But in the songs of praise which floated up to thee, my God, there resounded also the anguish of our sufferings, and the voices of all those who had given their lives for our cause and who were no longer there to rejoice with us.

If the history of a people is really written with the blood of its children, so it was with thee, O Roumania. Amongst those who perished, how many died most sadly of all when everything seemed lost.

That is why thou must meet this hour of terrible and solemn victory with bowed head and humble heart, as the believer receives the sacrament at the altar.

Tombs cover the world, the lands of those who were our allies as well as our own land—the tombs of those to whom owe our liberty. Do not forget them, O my country! Do not forget the young lives offered up, the empty places on so many hearths; do not forget the blood which reddened thy plains, thy forests, thy mountains and thy rivers, ah! do not forget them.

And now my people, it behoves us to reconstruct. The foundations are laid, the great work is begun. Build, build! All differences set aside, let us draw close together in this sacred unity which we have bought with our blood and which will constitute our strength. Stone by stone build up the future; with courage and with confidence advance; but so that the edifice which thou buildest may be indestructible forget not the hearts, the countless hearts on which thou hast placed its stones.

                                                                                                                               MARIE
                                                                                                                      Queen of Roumania