Nocturne, Eino Leino

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Eino Leino (1878-1926) is one of the great figures of the Finnish National Romantic movement, and played a major role in the emergence of modern Finnish poetry.

This poem’s linking of the long days of the short Finnish summer with mortality is perhaps its most striking feature. I have taken a liberty with “kesäheinä” – “summer hay”, treating it as “kesäkuu-heinäkuu” (June-July, literally “summer month” and “hay month”). Somehow “Lady June-July” was more beguiling than “Lady Summer Hay”. Other translations are vague about the “ruislintu” – one. comically, opts for “moorhen”. But it’s clearly a corncrake, which I feel justifies rendering “laulu” as “clicking”. As is often the case, some padding is necessary to catch the metre – perhaps my greatest liberty in this respect is “merry music make, for faith is mounting”, for which I perhaps over-compensated with a torrent of alliteration…

Hark! My ears are catching corncrake’s clicking,
Silver moonlight shines on cobhead corn;
Summer evening’s blessing me, enriching,
Valley’s wreaths of smoky slash and burn.
Neither joying I, nor grieve I, mournful;
But for forest’s darkness am I yearnful,
Rose-gilt clouds the day’s protracted ending,
Windy sleeping hill o’er all extending,
Fragrant twinflower, shortening, lingering shade;
These the things from which my heart-song’s made.

Lady June-July, for you I’m singing,
Great the silence of my ardent heart,
Merry music make, for faith is mounting,
Verdant wreath of oak eternal start.
Foolish errands now I’ll make no longer,
Fortune blessèd hands will grasp the stronger;
Rippled pool of circles now decreasing;
Time has ceased and weathervane is sleeping;
Stretches road at twilit end of day,
Bound for home unknown, I take its way.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Ruislinnun laulu korvissani,
tähkäpäiden päällä täysi kuu;
kesä-yön on onni omanani,
kaskisavuun laaksot verhouu.
En ma iloitse, en sure, huokaa;
mutta metsän tummuus mulle tuokaa,
puunto pilven, johon päivä hukkuu,
siinto vaaran tuulisen, mi nukkuu,
tuoksut vanamon ja varjot veen;
niistä sydämeni laulun teen.

Sulle laulan neiti, kesäheinä,
sydämeni suuri hiljaisuus,
uskontoni, soipa säveleinä,
tammenlehvä-seppel vehryt, uus.
En ma enää aja virvatulta,
onpa kädessäni onnen kulta;
pienentyy mun ympär’ elon piiri;
aika seisoo, nukkuu tuuliviiri;
edessäni hämäräinen tie
tuntemattomahan tupaan vie.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

3 thoughts on “Nocturne, Eino Leino

  1. I think Lady June-July is a justified and playful liberty. After all, anyone who’s worked with Finnish calendars knows that that is a common abbreviation when two or more months are mentioned: tammi-huhti 2015 is Jan-Apr 2015.

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