The Psychology Of The Romanian People

Chapter X. The Influence of Physical Factors. The Climate and the Geographical Position

The crystalline atmosphere that envelops the Carpathian Mountains and the hills of Oltenia and Moldavia resembles perfectly the atmosphere from the mountains and hills of Florence. Wallachia's plain reminds one of Lombardy and Piedmont. The sunlight that caresses Romania's land is bright and beautiful as in all meridional countries on the Mediterranean shore. The droughty sunny days, with clear bright sky are very numerous here, especially during the summer. Starting from mid-May and up to mid-September, the dry, torrid atmosphere fills with a blaze of light in a splendor of colors and shades; the rainy and foggy days are very rare; the rains fall rapidly, stormily, the clouds do not cover the clear sky and do not hide the sun but for a very short period of time. On a rainy day, the sky is cloudy for only a few hours and the clarity and hue of light, the splendor of the atmospheric coloring that follow the rain are the more intense and lively. Such a climate, such an atmosphere, could only have a deep and decisive influence on the temperament, sensitivity, imagination and thought of our people. The way they influenced the latter is obvious. The traces of these influences are very strong. This dry and electrical atmosphere made the nervous fibers to contract, to compress, so that the impressions could more easily penetrate and traverse the nervous tubes and the spiritual responses to these external impressions could be vivid and spontaneous. That is why the Romanians' temperament, under the slowness of movements and of walk, most of the times hides an internal fire, which bursts out in the proper circumstances in rapid movements and passionate and energetic actions. The Romanian's sensitivity is lively and sharp, his nature is clever. The liveliness of sensations makes the Romanian's nature always alert. On the other hand, the splendor and beauty of the light that surrounds all things in nature, which permeates them and makes them transparent, which neatly discovers their contours, which makes their contours and hollows visible and which gives a vivid hue to the colors and shades, offers to the eyes and to the mind too splendid a view, a fairy-like celebration. This richness and splendor of the outside world, permanently draws the Romanians' mind to the outside things, pulls it out of its inner prison, makes it always open to this world that charms it. The spirit thus gets accustomed to taking pleasure in the fairy-like world of these external beautiful things; "having experienced so many different delicate impressions, he leaves them regretfully and he is always eager to return to the vivid landscape that nature provides for him at any time." Therefore, the Romanians' imagination, as can be seen from their folk literature, lives mostly in the world of concrete objects from outside; it is full of icons and creations taken and imitated from this external world. The green of vegetation, bathed in vivid lights, obsesses and overwhelms him and the green leaf is repeated in his poems in almost every line. This makes the Romanian incapable of an inner energetic and intense life. His soul, his mind, find their nourishment almost exclusively in the world of impressions coming from outside. He gives almost nothing from his own inner substance. His inner moods are a ring dance of icons in motion, picked from the objects noticed in the gleaming world of the atmosphere, their movements are automatic and his spiritual life is spent in contemplating the joining and disjoining of these accidental icons. The Romanian, thus absorbed and engrossed in the beauty of the external objects world, wasting time in contemplating and rejoicing the pleasures it offers, hardly parts with them in order to pass to the prosaic occupations of active life; and when necessity forces him to turn to these occupations, he soon leaves them to return to the contemplation of natural beauties. Hence, the banal prosaic activity of pragmatic life is something that attracts and captures the Romanian much less than the beautiful landscape of nature. It is not seldom that the thermometer goes above 35 degrees centigrade, in July and August, while in January it goes under -25 degrees. The highest temperature, experienced up to now, was of 42,8 degrees; the lowest temperature was –35,6. Thus, the temperature in Romania ranges from 42 to –35 degrees, in a 77-degree interval. The rainy springs, too rainy, pass and make room for the long summer months when the peasant's half shut eyes look on the sunny sky for clouds of rain that postpone their arrival. The complete drought, the arid drought, burns the land, hardens it, after it was hardened and battered by rains, for 3-4 months in the spring. The months of excessive work done in the spring are gone and bring July and August, in which the grass disappears, the verdure withers, the trees turn yellow, burnt by the drought and the land, iron-like hardened, doesn't receive either the hoe, or the plough's iron. The straining of energy for a short time, during the spring, ends in a complete relaxation, by a loosening of all physical and spiritual efforts under the double action of heat and drought. Consequently, both the too hot summer months and the too cold winter months, were and still are a hardly propitious circumstance for the development of Romanians' energy and will. These moral and structural attributes couldn't be practiced and developed but during the 4-5 long autumn and spring months, when the temperature, being more moderate, allows and even encourages an active life. This period of the year alone was propitious for developing Romanians' will and character; for the winter and the summer months, with their extreme temperatures, always destroyed the intensity of their will and the continuity of effort exerted in the propitious period. This contradiction between the influence of the climate in the too warm months of summer or the too cold ones of winter and that of the temperate autumn and spring climate is not the only one. Another contradiction, just as big, is to be found in the clarity and bright serenity of the summer atmosphere and in the fog and mist of autumn and winter. The consequences of this blurry atmosphere that, with a few exception days, envelops the land of the Romanian countries, in the winter and autumn months, are totally different from the influence that the warm and bright serenity of summer had on our soul. This winter atmosphere spoiled a part of the attributes that the summer atmosphere stirs in our soul. From this point of view, the panorama of our soul cannot be unitary, homogeneous. Romanians' character and temperament, due to these contradictions and contrasts from its physical environment, did not remain unilateral. Romanians' nature is revealed in many ways, according to the change of climate and environment, with the tendency, however, of being predominantly influenced by the summer climate and atmosphere. Therefore, the superficiality of the Romanian spirit, the imagination and its rich graphicalness, are often completed by reflection and meditation. The rich substance that his spirit picks up from the multitude of impressions that arise from the colored clarity of summer is resumed and relived in the innermost privacy of the soul, during the few months of fog and anemia of the winter sun. This material is processed and assimilated during this period and from it, the thread of a deeper and more intimate poetry is woven, which is seen now and then in our literature, both popular and cultured. These contrasts would be even more emphasized in the mountain and the plain regions if, between mountains and plains, the important region of hills would not stretch. What truly influenced our soul was neither the mountain, nor the plain. It was not the mountain because the mountains proper were inhabited only in times of migration; and it was not the plain because the areas, being too open, were not a good shelter for the invasions that the history of our country abounds in from beginning to end. All countries dominated by hills are distinguished by the poetical nature of their inhabitants. Florence, southern France, the Lake District in Britain are the countries of popular bards. In these parts, man is born poet. Romania, a country of hills, except for Wallachia and Southern Moldavia, had to be the country of poetry and Romanians had to be born poets. Actually, the Romanian poetry seems to have originated especially in Oltenia, Banat, Transylvania, Bucovina and Northern Moldavia. The collections of popular poetry, gathered from these areas are the richest. Both the lyrics and the melody of the doina (melancholy folk song) from Oltenia are well known. From the land of hills, the doina songs and the folk poetry, of all sorts, descended and spread on the Romanian plain the same way as the Jiu, Olt, Arges, Dambovita, Bistrita and Siret rivers. As for our geographical setting, the most influential factor of our countries is the Danube, which takes us away from the lazy and drowsy Orient and links us, draws us near the lively and diligent West. With its swinging body of waves, it protected us time and again from the southern wrath. It drowned outpouring enemies coming to invade us and in its maternal jealousy snatched us from their hands and preferred to drown us in its waves stained with our blood. Stately, by its immensity of waters it was and still is the guardian angel of our nation. In the moral darkness of the Orient, it opens windows for the Western light to reach us at Severin, Galati and Braila. The economic and commercial activity began with us through the Danube harbors, and by the path it created, the European civilization reached us. Joining by its floating waves the center of active Europe with the Black Sea and, through the Black Sea, with Central Asia, the Danube is soon meant to be the most popular path of the trade between Europe and Asia. Close and almost parallel to the Danube the Carpathian mountain chain splits in two the Romanians' country. In our grievous past, the Carpathians sheltered us in their folds, as a hatching hen would receive under her protective wings the chickens frightened by the approaching birds of prey. The Carpathians and the Danube are the two gods of Romanians. Around the Carpathians, under their rocky cloak, the Romanian nation takes shelter.

by Dumitru Drăghicescu (1875-1945)