from The Gypsiad

Ion Budai-Deleanu




MITRU PEREA and a great deal many others
in the year 1800

1The Gypsiad, hence “the work” or “the story” of the gypsies. Homer named their [his] song The Iliad euen from Ilion, the might of Troye. Vergil called their [his] song The Aeneid from Eneas, the hyro they [it] sang, etc. And the auctor of this historie of the gypsies calls [it] The Gypsiad. Mitru Perea.


The Argument

‘Fore Vlad Voivode armes the gypsies,                                             
The Fury goads Satan upon them,
Who wishes them evil.
In this waye, taking bread for their journey,
From Hungrie mirthfully leave
The Gypsy folk straighte towardes Full-Hearted.


Muse! who once to Homer                                                                 
Sange the Vatrachomyomachia,2
Be a bit kinde, sing to me, too,
Of all the things the gypsy kinde dide do,
When Vlad Voivode gaue theme libertie
Arms and a lengthe’a farmstead,

2Muse. This word is Hellenic, but is putte to use now in alemost alle languages, more heartily in poetry or when writing in veurces. Ase is showne in the mythologie of the Hellenes, muse meanes knowledge, or more heartily, the fairy knowere of knowledge. The Hellenes esteemed nyne muses, such as: Clio, Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomene, Erato, Polyhymnia, Urania, and Calliope, which all haue been saide to be faeries, or fairies, born of Iove (or Zevs), and [are] vergin maidens, knowers of music and poesy. For thise [reason], Hellene and Latine poiets wishing to begine a song called on them for helpe. And our poiet here calls on them. Aboue all, he calls on that muse who erstwhile sang to Homer the Vatrachomyomachia, meanyng The Battle of the Mice and Frogs. Mitru Perea.


[Singe] how the gypsies wished to choose                                         
A voivode in their countrie and a helme;
How, forgettinge the goode life,
They braverly tooke up arms.
Not onlie this, but at last dared euen to doe battle
With the pagan coltish rabble.


How then, bye meanse of a bitter squabble                                        
(Fore they wouldn’t haue picked up the bad habit all at once),
They alle tooke flight, each whereto,
Leaving behind country, voivode, and crowne.
But all these things were donne
By means of that deuillish stupore,


For, tho’ he without likeness,                                                            
The worst spirit of alle, Satan,
Has his dwellinge euerlastingly in hell
As sustenance for the unextinguished fire,
Yet, furtively, at times, stille
Overturning the world, he delects himself.


And thise particular time, he was goaded                                          
By the cursed Fury (as I saye),
Who seeing oure gypsy kinde
Armed with scythes and baro[a]se,
Decided to ruin them by all and any means,
Bringing emnity and strife amongst them.


Oh! You, much patient paper,3                                                          
That on your backe, with much good will,
All the wisdome found vnder the sun
And all the madness carry jointly,
Carry these mine veurces, too,
As I giue them to you, good and bad.

3The paper is patient, for you maye write on it whatsoever you wishe, good and bad. For this reason, our poyet, lackinge only patrons and benefactors [ital. mecenate], dedicates his weary labour to the paper! . . . [Mitru Perea?]


Then let those who knowe say what they will,                                 
I, along with proude Solomon will saye:
Euerything is vanity and madness!
For only he of that kinde is happie
Who begins to know himself
And the nature of things perceuives.


From the northmost bound further out,                                              
High up, in the darkening vault,                                                        
There is a place (as it is writtene)
That the philosophers call chaos,4
Where the perpetual battle
Makes elements out of the wild waste.

4Chaos, meanyinge, in the Hellene manner, darkness without end, where alle of the elements are chewed up togethere. [Mitru Perea?]


A wicked fairie rules that land,5                                                         
Whoe will stande no good thing,
But everything ruins and divides,
Everything shatters, pulverizes that
Which she comes upon, and Fury she is called,
Wicked offspring of father and mother.

5Fairy. This word meanyinge goddess, or as if you saide God-esse; however, for the understanding of eueryone, I thought it best to remind readers that the poet, wishing to giue our poesy a newe taste, bringing it in line with the poetrie of other folke, he employed [metahirisit [from the Neo-Greek métahirísomai]] the custome of the Hellenes and the Latins, who personifie the sins and vertues (excellences), for onlie by this means does the poet (singere) differ from the orator (advocatte). M. Perea.
a) [“Fairy”] meaninge as our gypsies doe, when they tell stories and speake of the Plague, and the Mum of the Forest, and of the Winds [the Russian Baba Yaga or the Bulgarian gorska maika], and so on. Trully Simpleton.
b) Meaninge, hogwash! emptie words, waste of paper. It would have been better if he sang like our gypsies doe, with veurces like those that are customarie. I coulde haue sangue in brief euerythinge saide up to nowe:
                Green, greeny leafe of rye,
                Behold the gypsies take to arms
                To give their country a ruler high
                A crow, just like themselves;
                But having argued with each other
                They quitte their kinge and their estate,
                They tooke to foreign countries rather
                And each of them did to his taste.
Behold alle, in brief, withoute ellaboration upon chaos and furies, or God knows what desolate countries! Master Idiotus.
c) Let be, brother, don’t critecise that which you doe notte understande. Do not make a mockery of yourself, for, judging as you do, we must defame all poets and sing forever green, greeny leaf. Master Simpleton.


From thence, looking askance at all,                                                 
The Fury saw [sees] the villainous
Mob of gypsies armed
With hatchets, hammers, and baroase.
Perceiuing then what was to happen,
Well-nigh she faints with anger!


There, from all of the countrie,                                                          
Had gathered the gypsies, big and small,
Abandoning their wandering life
And committing to newe circumstances:
No longere to walke from countrie to countrie,
Nor to be subject to others’ abasement.


For, with this covenant, Vlad Voivode                                              
Had giuen them land for domains,
So that from this daye forward they, too, may be
Like other men and liue in order;6
And they longe counseled amonge themselues
How these things best shoulde be settled.

6One findes in some Romanian chronicles that Vlad Voivode have [had] armed the gypsies against the Turks, and this is a true historical account; but I did not finde it writtene anywhere in any annals that he had giuen them lands. Howbeit, this can be seen to resemble the truth, for, had he not firste gathered the gypsies in one place, he could not have armed them; then, too, he needed to showe them some inducement, wanting to urge them to take arms against the Turks! M.P.


Thise tyme, as welle, it was a day of counsel,                                   
The sum of their moste learned boyars [ironic]
Had gathered alle togethere,
Speakinge muche wordes and noisily.
At last, Drăghici made plaine the cause
And addressed the gathering in this manner:


“Good men! Hauing lived in this here world,                                  
Much has befallen me, both bad and good,
Much I have seene [done], on purpose and as jokes,
But (I tell you truly) of all those there thinges,
A thinge like this, [done] either on purpose or for fun,
I haue neuer seene in my whole life.


To have a little country! Us, the gypsies . . .                                      
Where we would’a be only us with us!
To have villages, houses, gardens, and fields
And then to have plentie of euerihing, like others have?
Trulie! Beholding things as rare as this,
It’a though I dreamt while wakin’ . . .


Well, and what more do we reallie neede                                         
To haue us a happy life?
Trulie, nothing! Only how much it eats at me
Oh, the thought! Meaninge the notione
Of that little moment, the last in my life,
For it would’a woe to die now!


I fear olie that I’lle never come                                                         
To see the gypsies put to order.
Oh! The sweet and dear spring
Of my daies, how has it set!
Nowe would’a be the time to live in tha’ world
As you best please, as your nature invites you!7

7Up to his point, I kept listening, judging that the poete onlie mistook his orthography; but I see that, since the gypsy Drăghici has begun speaking, [there is] in use a completely different speakinge or manner of speech, such as: thatta, this here, bee, etc. Trully Simplicitus.
a) The poete does well, for as long as he shows how the gypsies speak, he must also show their manner of speech, meaning the dialect they employed then, which cannot be but the Wallachian. Thise dialect is stille spokene today in Ardeal [Translyvania], in the Hațegu Valley. But the gypsies spoke thusly among themselues, as the auctor says; and euen the auctor have [has] found it written thus. M.P.


You, youths, take heed                                                                       
What Old Man Drăghici tells you now:
Make yourself good settlements
And dwelle togethere here;
Be always of one mind and will,
More heartily in time of need.


For, iffe you do not joine up handes,                                                
Loving to cleave and come together,
A foreign tongue will soon oppress you,
And you will’a be aloste without deliverance.
Nore will you make a folke for yourselves in tha world,
But you will’a be withoute a country and name.


Not onlie this, but you’ll a be as you was,                                        
As are the cursed Jews, behold! . . . 
Who have no country, but live on th’road…
Bee the country as poor as it may,
It is sweet when someone can say:
This is my county, I’ma from ‘ere! . . .”8

8Meaninge, Drăghici wants to saye: be one and join hands, for be the folk even so few, iffe they are unified to themselues and doe notte come togethere [sic!] no unfriendly stranger can scattere or ruin theme! . . . He says, see the Jews whoe have no country and are strangers everywhere and always on the road. Lastly, be the country small and poor, stille happier are those folke that haue a country and dwell withine itte. Oh, if mye folke would understand how good it is to have its own country, they wouldn’t malign each other so, nor would they defame the folk, waiting upon strangers that oppress them and would wish to extinguishe from the lips of men even theire name. M.P.

[. . .]

translated from the Romanian by Carla Baricz

Editor’s Note: The hyperlinked footnotes offer commentary by the translator. All other notes belong to the text of the mock epic and were composed by “Mitru Perea and a great deal many others.”