Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


Antoni Grabowski: conclusion

Author: David Poulson
Published on:October 16, 1998

In this week's article I will continue with my introduction to Antoni Grabowski, the Polish engineer with whom Dr Zamenhof had the first conversation in Esperanto. Although not among the first rank of Esperanto poets (we will meet these outstanding individuals later), Grabowski became known as the "Father of Esperanto Poetry" because of the influence he had on the language.

We need to remember that in 1887, when he first learned the language, Esperanto only had 900 "roots," (radikoj). While those roots could be combined to provide a vocabulary of about 10,000 words, many of those words would seldom or never be used in a normal context. For example, the suffix "ind" means "worth" or "deserving of" and while that can be used to produce some very useful words, such as "prez-inda," which means "well worth the price" and "sen-ind-ulo," a perfect translation of "a worthless individual," it's hard to see where we could use a word formed with this suffix and roots such as "sidi" and "saturi," which mean "to sit" and "to saturate."

The number of really practical words, therefore, was less than 10,000 and, of course, there was an absence of technical and specialised terms. This vocabulary was developed and extended principally by the great prose writers, such as Kabe, during Esperanto's first decade of existence, but Grabowski also met the challenge of translating works from major poets, and revealing the potential of Esperanto as a poetic medium of great subtlety and eloquence.

I am sure that Grabowski the engineer would have been very pleased if he could have known that 110 years after he published his first translation (a short story by Pushkin, called in English The Snow Storm ), 21 examples of his work in Esperanto are now available on the World Wide Web.

Fifteen of these are accessible through the excellent site created by Don Harlow. This is one of the best Esperanto resources I know and you can find it at Esperanto Literature.

You will need to navigate around a bit because as well as translations from the poetry of Goethe, Longfellow, Horace, Tennyson and others, you will also find there the speech which Grabowski gave to the Krakov Conference in 1912.

About 10 years ago a Polish businessman, Adam Goralski, living in the Canary Islands, donated a large sum of money, which he and other members of his family have since added to, to establish the Grabowski Foundation. This encourages the continuing development of Esperanto poetry with cash prizes. And in 1992, another Foundation (La Fondaj^o Pro Esperanto) sponsored the publication of a small booklet by Julius Gluck titled El La Klasika Periodo de Esperanto, which is a study of the work of Antoni Grabowski and Kazimierz Bein.

K. Bein, who wrote under the pseudonym "Kabe," and who I mentioned briefly above, is the only person that I know of whose name has added a word - well more than a word, a root - to the Esperanto language. And a most peculiar word it is!

I look forward to introducing you to this enigmatic personality in my next article.

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