NOTE: Puiu was firstly presented by Carmen
Sylva in 1884 in front of the Roumanian Academy, when she was
received as a honorary member of this academic society. Thanks to
Gabriel Badea-Päun for bringing this to my attention.
PUIU*; OR, THE YOUNGEST BORN
BY HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF ROUMANIA
MOTHER EARTH was a splendid woman, and the parent of many sons and daughters. Her chief thought was to know in what way she could best promote their happiness and welfare. To each child she gave a separate garden, to each a different language. The eldest was the possessor of the warmest and most fertile garden, shaded by tall palm-trees, and ever gladdened by the sun's rays. As she brought forth many children, the land allotted to them gradually extended farther towards the West and towards the North, where the sun's power was less ardent, so that the ground required cultivating with greater care and assiduity.
Some of these gardens were situated among the mountains, others in the regions of perpetual snow, while others stood on islands, in the midst of the mighty sea. But, alas! these children were not all so contented as they should have been with their lot, and as their Mother had endowed each with a different language, misunderstandings speedily arose amongst them.
Quarrels and strife grew rife, and the Mother's lap was often sprinkled with the blood of her own offspring.
After a lapse of time, Mother Earth gave birth to a lovely babe, with large, dark eyes, shaded by long curling lashes, and crowned by finely penciled eyebrows, with rings of wavy black hair clustering on its tiny head.
For this daughter, the youngest and dearest of all her children, she reserved the most charming lot. In the midst of the lands of the strong brothers, and under their protecting wing, she found an enchanting garden, surrounded by mountains, watered by a vast river, warmed by the genial rays of the sun, fertilised by rain, refreshed by snow, verdant plains, and smiling vineyards.
In addition to all these good gifts, the kindly Mother endowed her youngest born with a language so sweet and musical that when Puiu was seen dancing and singing, a garland of purple flowers restraining her rebellious locks, sky and earth, sun and fields, rejoiced at the sight of her, and the fruits of the earth blossomed spontaneously under the steps of the smiling maiden, who had no need to spoil her pretty hands with toiling and delving.
But the elder children looked with envious eyes on the beautiful Puiu, for whom Earth—their common mother—evinced so great a preference, and on whom she lavished all her care.
The thought that her elder children, who lived in an atmosphere of perpetual discontent, would not be suitable protectors for her delicate Puiu, had never presented itself to her mind.
Yet the mighty brothers became so envious and intractable that each time their young sister planted her garden they came down with a fell swoop upon it and carried off her flowers and fruit, or they quarreled amongst themselves, and made Puiu's garden—which was in the centre of their own—the theatre of their conflicts, and destroyed or spoiled everything which it contained.
Puiu made great efforts to repulse these aggressors, but she always came to grief.
Then other brothers would come ostensibly to her aid, though without her having demanded their help; they did but prolong the combat, and despoiled their sister of the best portions of her garden, under the pretext that she had not the strength requisite to cultivate so large a portion of ground. At length one of these brothers entirely overwhelmed her, and forced her into chains, and ordered her to give into his hands the remnant of her garden.
The beautiful Puiu, in captivity, sang such plaintive songs hat the heart of her mother was well-nigh breaking when she listened to them.
Puiu had now no heart for work, and she performed her tasks so negligently that her brother who had made her his slave threatened her with severe punishment. She looked on with indifference at the battles which took place, when her garden was invariably chosen as the scene of conflict, but none thought of delivering their young sister from the hands of the oppressor.
One day Puiu fell asleep amongst her flowers; her head rested on the irons which attached her shapely arms, her eyelashes were heavy with unshed tears, and deep-drawn sighs escaped from betwixt her rosy lips, and ascended to the distant blue Heaven, intermingled with the perfume of fragrant flowers.
The noise of rolling thunder aroused her, and as if from the depths of space she heard the voice of her Mother Earth. "Puiu," said that voice, "why dost thou despair? Hearken, and in silence obey my behests. In the dead of night gently file off thy chains, so that no one may suspect what thou art about. Thy task accomplished, await my signal before casting off thy fetters."
Puiu passed the long night in endeavouring to file the irons, which were strongly forged. Dexterously and silently she effected her difficult task without detection. Had her brother but known of her efforts for freedom he would immediately have doubled the strength of her chains!
At last! at last! She was free! She stood on the edge of the mountain, awaiting anxiously the mother's signal. The young maiden smote the ground impatiently with her tiny feet, and bit her rosy lips with her pearly teeth. She remembered the sweets of liberty, and was eager to taste of them.
Precisely at this critical moment a fresh quarrel arose amongst the brothers, one trespassed on her garden, bent on the other's overthrow.
He who had reduced Puiu to slavery awaited the shock with a bold front, and a formidable struggle ensued, in which his assailant was on the point of being vanquished. Puiu, a silent spectator of the combat, all at once heard a voice, as it were, from the earth:
"Thy time has come!"
The chains fell at her feet, and with her liberated hands she raised an immense block of stone, with strength which she had never been suspected of possessing, and hurled it on the head of the brother who had been the chief cause of her misfortunes, and shattered his traitorous limbs. She now stood in all the glory of her youth and beauty, in the full light of the midday sun; she saw the chains al her feet, the mutilated form of her wicked brother, and her own beautiful garden, which for the first time was her undisputed property, and a bright smile of happiness irradiated her countenance.
The Earth trembled with joy at the sight of her magnificent child, and the mighty sea and the soft breeze wafted caresses, which played with her hair, and seemed to raise a song of victory throughout the rustling forest. Then came from the depths the voice of the common mother:
"Have I not protected thee? Didst thou believe that I endowed thee with great beauty and elevated thought in vain? Thou shalt live and prosper in dignity and force. The whole universe shall rejoice and profit by the abundance of thy fruits."
Puiu rose and gazed far away—far away into space, and
in her dreamy eyes lay the foreshadowing of a great future.
* Puiu (literally "little chicken") a term of endearment. Puiu in this case means Roumania.