Aboa vetus et nova (Åbo [Turku] Ancient and Modern), Eino Leino

turun tuomiokirkko

Leino published this poem on December 6th, 1918 – the first anniversary of Finland’s independence. Leino’s childhood language was Swedish, so his appeal for a productive engagement between Finland’s linguistic and cultural identities is strongly felt. It was very tough to translate – the thudding trochees wore thin rather quickly, and I had to work hard to stick to the metre. My biggest liberty was to introduce “strumpet” to rhyme with “trumpet” – it felt justified at the time, but with further exposure I realised that Leino is not being dismissive of Swedish. But I don’t think I can be bothered to revisit it, I’m afraid. Leino often leaves me punch drunk. (Åbo is the Swedish name for Turku, which was Finland’s capital until the early nineteenth century.)

Sapling guest in wasteland were you grafted,
Mother Turku’s time-renowned beginning,
noble baron’s plan was gently drafted,
fated seed of folk’s new story spinning;
throbbing beat of Swedish drum and trumpet
mimicked Finnish marshy air, the strumpet,
Phoebus drove along the River Aura –
shield he carried, heralded new era.

Thence to Thule’s old regions drear and languid
muse and grace’s meetings he attended,
and the golden Orpheus’s language
Finnish bear and red deer has befriended,
rose from night the power of ancient Hellas
bringing nourishment to country beauteous,
to a joyous sage feast was he bidden –
Aristotle’s, Plato’s paths were trodden.

Sapling strange, as verdant now it flowers –
moment this of blessèd spirit’s wonder!
Though our nation poor and mean now suffers,
piercèd body issues blood and water,
yet, defiant, hungry frost it tarries,
accusation’s barbs it deftly parries,
roots may take, but are not power of nation:
power is built with rise of adoration.

Different hymn was sung by folk uprising
rattling shields resounding over drumlins,
fresh the way they took as sun was rising –
elder Väinö’s strength in from the margins,
strength that centuries’ course had long seen dormant
lit for all the path away from torment,
no surprise at lesson’s revelation –
taken road’s unforeign inspiration.

Freshly mining – spirit’s excavation –
Finland conjuror’s workshop is desiring,
brighter future’s refuge, new creation,
noble Turku’s legacy’s inspiring,
though own tongue and ideas air, however,
ages ended will forget we never:
when, eroded, people’s stout defences
touched the nations’ gift of art and sciences.

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

Vieras virpi, erämaahan tuotu,
niin ol’ Alma Mater Turun ajan,
kreivin jalon lempeydellä luotu,
pantu työlle kansan kasvattajan;
ja ne soivat Ruotsin rummut, torvet,
koska kumman kuuli Suomen korvet,
ajoi Phoibos kautta Auran rantain
aikaa uutta kilvellänsä kantain.

Tuosta maille Thulen kolkon, loiton
leijui Gratiain ja Musain seurat,
kuuli kultakieltä Orpheun soiton
kohta Suomen karhut, Pohjan peurat,9
nousi yöstä valta vanhan Hellaan
maata kaitsemahan kauneudellaan,
saapui viisaudenkin juhlasaatoin,
astui Aristotelein ja Platoin.

Kumma virpi, vihannoiva kukkaa
ihaninta ihmishengen kerta!
Vaikka vainot kaasi kansarukkaa,
vieri virrat kyynelvettä, verta,
sentään säilyit nälän, hallan uhmin,
etkä maata tuominnut sa tuhmin,
maan et voimaa, kunne juures johti:
voimaa nousta jumaloita kohti.

Nousi kansa, vaikka virsin toisin,
kumahtivat kilvet kummun alta,
kulki kuvin uusin, aurinkoisin
korven yöstä vanhan Väinön valta,
samos päästä pitkäin vuosisatain,
hehkui kautta kaikkein hengenratain,
eikä ollut oppi outo meille,
tie ei vieras ihmis-ihanteille.

Oman sielun onkaloista uuden
Suomi tahtoo luoda taikapajan,
suojaks valkenevan vastaisuuden,
jalon jatkajaksi Turun ajan,
kuulla kieltä, mieltä omaa, mutta
aikaa unhottaa ei kadonnutta,
jolloin kansalliset haihtui kaiteet,
missä haastoi kansain tieteet, taiteet.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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