The Mioritza Space

excerpts We have wondered many times if it is possible to find or to hypothetically build a matrix-space, or an unconscious spatial horizon, as an underlying spiritual layer for the Romanian folk culture anonymous creations. The subject is worth the risk of any and all efforts. We would be delighted to find a golden key to open many Romanian entities. (…)The song, the art that renders best the depths of the unconscious, also reveals what we have called the “spatial horizon of the unconscious.” Here the doina is crucial, and its importance has never been emphasized enough. The doina song, with its resonance, is a perfectly translucent product: behind it we can guess the existence of a matrix-space, or of a very special spatial horizon. We made a first approximation and we tied the doina to the plai, (flat area high in the mountains), the way the Russian song was tied to the steppe. Let us take one step forward. Let us go deeper into this and into our perspectives, according to our theory on the horizons of the unconscious. The spatial horizon of the unconscious is endowed with feelings that do not exist in the actual space. Undoubtedly, in the doina we find the same horizon partaking of such feelings: it expresses the melancholy, not too heavy and not too light, of a soul that goes up and down, on an indefinitely waving land, farther and farther away, again and again, or the longing of a soul that wishes to go over the hill, which is an obstacle provided by fate (the soul will always have to cross other hills), a soul undertaking its journey under the signs of a destiny with ups and downs, climbing and descending, in a reiterated, monotonous, endless rhythm. Our unconscious soul feels organically and fully tied to this spatial horizon, to this matrix-space, for ever waving, endowed with its specific traits that make it the framework for a certain destiny. The deepest, ancestral Romanian soul is part of this spatial horizon, and somewhere, in a hidden place in our heart, which is full of tears, we hold on to this horizon, and, even if we left the plai a long time ago, we still have a lingering memory of paradise (Miorita [Ewe Lamb], translated from the Romanian by William D. Snodgrass and Ioan A. Popa; the translators used for plai the phrase “low foothill): Near a low foothillAt heaven's doorsill. Let us call this matrix-space, which is high, indefinitely waved, and endowed with the specific accents of a certain feeling of destiny, the “Miorita space.” This horizon, which is never mentioned in words, comes from the inner line of the doina, from its outward resonance and projections, but also from the atmosphere and spirit of our ballads. Even more importantly, this horizon, indefinite and waving, also comes from the feeling of destiny – that feeling that enjoys a certain supremacy over the individual, ethnic, or super-ethnic soul. Destiny is not felt here like an oppressive roof leading to despair, or like a circle out of which there can be no escape; but neither is destiny fought against with total confidence in man's own power and possibilities for expansion, which leads so easily to the hubris of tragedy. This soul allows itself to be led onward by a destiny with an infinite number of hills and valleys, a destiny whose symbolic source is the plai, reaches its climax on the plai, and ends on the plai. The feeling of destiny, deeply rooted in the Romanian soul, seems to be structured, by the high, waving spatial horizon, as well. In fact, we see the spatial horizon of the unconscious and the feeling of destiny as aspects of an organic complex of elements, which, as of the moment they are intertwined, form together an elastic, but unchangeable crystal.If we accept that the traditional Romanian soul possesses a fully crystallized matrix-space, we will have to suppose that the Romanian unconsciously lives on the plai, or, more accurately, in the Miorita space, even when consciously he has actually been living for centuries in the wide plains. The Romanian plains are full of nostalgia for the plai. And, since the man of the plains can never have the plai close to him, the soul finds a way to create the plai atmosphere: the song replaces the plai.The solidarity of the Romanian soul with the Miorita space is low-key, unconscious, like a buried fire, not emotionally effervescent or consciously fascinated. This is additional evidence that here we do not move on the “other realm” of the soul, or in a depth to be investigated. These spatial links belong to the subterranean layers of our psychic-spiritual existence, but they come out in song and dream. The heavy rains and the starry solitude of the plai often make our shepherd curse his lot on the mountain heights. The shepherd's feelings, let out in a curse, are often hostile to the plai, but unconsciously, the shepherd organically partakes of this plai, and he will never even as much as suggest a gesture of escape. The Miorita space is an integral part of him. He is part of that space, as he is true to himself, to his blood, and to his dead ancestors. When he sings, this link may come out the way it does in our supreme song, Miorita, which has been passed down from generation to generation over centuries: there, Death on the plai is, in its entire beauty, assimilated to a wedding: Sun and moon came downTo hold my bridal crown,Firs and maple treesWere my guests; my priestsWere the mountains high;Fiddlers, birds that fly,All birds of the sky;Torchlights, stars on high! The feeling of destiny, which is characteristic of the Romanian traditional mind, has been interwoven with the Miorita space, in a mutually visualizing and deepening of perspective. In this blend, with the feeling of destiny, the Miorita space has penetrated like a scent into the entire wisdom of the Romanian people. If we research this, we will find many of the typical attitudes of our traditional mind. But let us not forget for one moment that we are dealing with nuances, atmosphere, the ineffable, and the weightless. The only certain thing is that this soul, traveling under sweet-bitter signs, does not allow itself to be overwhelmed by ferocious fatalism, but it also does not assert itself with ferocious confidence before the powers of nature or fate, which it does not perceive as eternal enemies. This soul accommodates both a low-profile fatalism and a never-excessive confidence: it is what a soul should be, feeling its way going up and down, and up again, and down again, as if urged by and according to the rhythm of an eternal doina, which is felt as governing all journeys.The idea we have phrased only sketches a few suggestions. It remains to be seen to what extent the actual achievements of the Romanian soul, creation and form, are linked to the indefinitely waved structure of its space. This effect must be seen in several aspects. Let us point, for instance, to the way houses are laid out. Whoever has wandered on the plai, has certainly noticed shepherd lodgings stowed away on some mountain top, dominating everything, all the way down to the valley; from up there, you literally have to look around to be able to see other similar lodgings on another plai: something of the hill-valley rhythm has penetrated this lay-out of shepherd lodgings. Coming down to the plains, we will notice this hill-valley order and rhythm being somewhat preserved in villages, although here this order could look out of place and meaningless. The houses in the villages of the Romanian plains are not built to form a steady, compact chain, as parts of a collective unit (for comparison, see Saxon villages); rather, they are distanced from one another, either by empty spaces, or by the green aisles of yards and gardens, placed there like unstressed syllables between houses. This distance, which is still maintained, seems like the last leftover and memory of the valley that separates the hills with shepherd lodgings. So, even in the plains, the on-off trait of the valley is marked, as part of the indefinitely waved space. This is a transposition phenomenon, worth remembering, and which arises from a special soul structure.So far, no Romanian monumental architectural style has been created, but this is not necessary in order to be able to speak about the spirit of architecture, which fully reveals itself in a simple peasant house or in a little church buried under grass and stinging nettles. As far as the form and architecture of the peasant houses is concerned, we can point to at least one negative effect, but which is strongly rooted, of our specific spatial horizon. The effect becomes obvious especially when it is compared with architectures that involve different horizons. It is well-known for instance that the Russian house surrenders in its architecture to the tendency to expand on a flat surface. The Russian house, compared with the Romanian one, uses a much too large area. The flat horizon is an invitation for it to spread. The Russian churches, of several types, have only one certain dimension: the horizontal one; their vertical line has the uncertainty of a derived form; it is built step by step, through apses, arches, and domes, higher and higher. Equally, it is known that the western architecture, especially the Nordic one, shows – nobody knows upon what call from heaven – an obvious tendency to expand upward. In both cases, the specific spatial horizons of peoples and places have sealed those styles. Our indefinitely waved spatial horizon makes futile from the start any spreading or climbing, so we see our architectural genius in an intermediary position, preserving the two opposed tendencies in an alleviated form and striking the right balance. Our specific horizon makes impossible any dimensional hypertrophy in one direction only, and thus, it intervenes at least in a negative way in the development of architectural forms. The metrics of our folk poetry could be used as an argument, together with others, in support of the thesis on our specific horizon. Our folk poetry is consumed in massive sympathy for the verse made up of accented and unaccented syllables, one by one, namely for the hill-valley and valley-hill rhythm. These metrics exhibit an obvious phobia for the jumping dactyl at the same time. True, we sometimes find inserted dactyls and anapests, but they do not develop, they disappear, swallowed by the hill-valley rhythmical waving, which strongly penetrates our whole poetry like a rocking movement. (…)The Romanian language has created, perhaps at the same time with the rhythmic formation of our space, its own inner rhythm, which made it more adjustable to the metrics based on the trochee and the iamb, at the expense of the metrics based on the other foots. This inner rhythm has put its mark on our language for ever; under the pressure of that mark, our verses must necessarily adopt certain forms and reject others. (…)We said that the spatial horizon of the unconscious was made of essential structures, tension, rhythm, accents. A specific matrix-space can emerge and crystallize against almost any landscape. So the landscape seems to play a marginal role in the construction of the matrix-space. But we deal here with a theoretical fact that we said irrational things about. However, we feel something else is very easy to check: in the same landscape souls unconsciously fixated on totally different matrix-spaces can co-exist. One example: for about 800 years, the Saxons in Transylvania, coming from somewhere on the banks of the Rhine river, have erected in the Transylvanian landscape their own cultural and city systems, sober and looking like stone, in the unaltered spirit of the Gothic space, going way back in time. The ever-lasting seed of this spirit was brought by the Saxons from abroad, and they keep it sunken in the river of their blood, like the miraculous gold of the legendary river Rhine. The Romanian shepherd passes by the Saxons, in his rocking movement of the flocks, walking by the black towers and strongholds, which speak of a different destiny; going uphill and downhill, the shepherd pays homage with his flute to his space, which only belongs to him. These are two kinds of people who live within the same landscape, but in different spaces. Although extremely close to each other, they are so far apart in their matrix-spaces, that 800 years of neighborhood have not been enough to wipe out or overcome this distance between them, which resides in their unconscious. (…)The Romanian nation was born when the matrix-space was formed within its soul, the matrix-space or the specific unconscious horizon, which, together with other factors, has created the inner style of feelings. The Romanian language was able to endure and accommodate change; even the geographical landscape was changeable. What has been kept in crystal stability is the matrix-space, beyond language and landscape. Now we have taken an about turn and we are coming back to the plai. Because the unconscious spatial horizon provided Romanians, wherever they may be, with a nostalgia for the plai. This unabated nostalgia has accompanied the Romanian shepherd to all the Carpathian Mountains tops, from the Danube to the rivers of Maramures, and farther away to Moravia, or back; and to the Yugoslav plai, as far away as Pannonia, namely everywhere on a wide area where the landscape fulfilled the appetite of an unconscious horizon. In the twilight centuries, all during the long prelude to the existing ethnic entities, when Romanians had no country, the plai, the sacred plai, consecrated by a certain feeling of destiny, was their country. … ROMANIAN APRIORITY(…) We have spiritually developed a vision (perhaps meant for a pragmatic destiny) about this Romanianism, beyond the facts and the water-game of folklore and history. This is the vision of a living crystal, a complex of creative potentialities. What are those potentialities? First of all this spatial horizon is waved, it is the Miorita space; its time horizon is advancing by a rocking movement. They are the landmarks of a mind. These elements merge most of all with a feeling of destiny, also experienced as waving, as an alternation of ups and downs, like moving forward in a land of the stars, where there is the alternating rhythm of the hills of confidence and of the vales of resignation. Then, there is the long line of other determinants: preference for the organic elements of the world and a tendency to a sapient transfiguration of reality. This creative aspiration is contoured and active mainly as an orientation toward geometrical forms and toward the forms of the blind terrifying forces of nature, in an organically alleviated manner. We add to all this an invincible love for the picturesque and, equally, a very obvious sense of measure and of the whole. To round up this complex, let us point out that all determinants are actualized keeping a low profile; it is like their victory is slowed down by a powerful brake; everything is done with an amazing feeling for nuances and discretion.In building the abstract vision of Romanianism we stayed out of the certain or alleged contribution of historical elements. We have only used transcribed elements – in keeping with our stylistic theory – from facts of folklore and culture. We were not interested at all in the historical birth of these facts, only in the facts themselves, in their essence and deeper layer. We also steered clear of speculations about elements of historical determination such as the Dacian mind, the Slavic mind, or the Roman mind. For now, the question “what is Dacian, Roman, or old Slavic?” is not vital to us. Neither crucial, nor very attractive for those who want to read riddles. At the present level of our research, this kind of questions throw us into an enormous labyrinth, for which Ariadne has not yet spun the redeeming thread. (…) The arguments listed in this study (Orizont si Stil [Horizon and Style]) give us the right to launch the thesis of the existence of a Romanian apriority. Let us not be frightened by this concept. In fact this apriority means only a stronger philosophical confirmation of the assertion that active stylistic factors exist; they have undoubtedly put their mark on the products of our ethnic genius. So far, our “stylistic matrix” has been prevented by the vicissitudes of the centuries from fully and consistently manifesting itself, except in minor ways: the result was an extremely flourishing folklore culture (more so than with western people.) But this is not an element for a definitive balance-sheet. Considering some symptoms, we have enough reasons to hope that the unconscious spirit of our people will manifest itself in the future in a major way, too. We have said before that our “history” can no longer be a succession of pure forms, springing from itself alone, an unaltered parthenogenesis. But it is equally true that an existing stylistic matrix remains a powerful means to assimilate foreign influences. (…)If we look closely at the history of the western nations, we see that it unfolds rhythmically. The history of the French, the Germans, the Italians is like an alternation, like a cadence of “epochs.” Everything happens as if the western peoples had developed their formative and material possibilities successively. This type of history – dynamic, dialectic, absolutely temporal, and successive-rhythmical – is certainly characteristic of western nations. (…)When we look at the history of other people, especially Asian ones, we get the impression that in those places we may find a history where the formative and material possibilities of a nation are actualized in time but also simultaneously, on a parallel basis and in a straight line; namely, it is not successively-dialectic, with more or less unilateral stages, but, rather, it is a massive and continuous growth. The inborn potentialities of a stylistic matrix can therefore be actualized at a major level either in a successive-dialectic history or in a simultaneous, straight-growth one. It is hard to predict which way the Romanian stylistic matrix will go. But sometimes we notice something that can be as good as a prophecy: we are neither in the west, nor in the east. We are where we are, together with all our neighbors – on a land of balance.The promoters of the Romanian culture, burning with sacred elan, have handed a heritage of urges to one another for over a century. None was so vain or self-oblivious to bestow upon the Romanian people a Messianic mission in this world. They stayed away from such hybrid ecstasies, and they were right to do so. We have seen in our journeys throughout Europe some of our Messianic neighbors' ridiculous enlightenment and petty grimaces, lacking even a minimum amount of humor. The God of common sense has protected us from such a sterile inner fire so far. Let us hope we will be able to decently do our duty under our own sky, without putting on the Messianic robe. Nowadays this robe has ended up looking like a ready-made jacket, which does not even make the people that have the power to influence the world look very distinguished. No nation has ever achieved greatness by starting out from a Messianic program.The careful and persistent study of our folklore culture made us draw the encouraging conclusion that there is a Romanian stylistic matrix. Its latent traits, that we can surmise, justify our assertion that we have a high cultural potential. We only know this for sure: we are the rich bearers of exceptional potentialities. We can believe, without violating reason, that our lot is to light up one corner of this earth with our flower of tomorrow. All we can hope for, without allowing ourselves to be manipulated by illusions, is to pride ourselves with spiritual historical initiatives, which can let out sparks above the heads of other nations, too, from time to time. The rest is fate.

Translated by Monica Voiculescu

by Lucian Blaga (1895-1961)