A Radiant People (Heleä heimo), Eino Leino

I think I may have begun to get to grips with the challenges of Finnish metre. I have often struggled to see a consistent pattern at work in lines that sound entirely regular in Finnish, but which sound odd when reproduced faithfully in English. Having read up on the rules applying to the Kalevala metre in a slightly inadequate Wikipedia article, I think I have a basis for applying a regular metre consistently in English. My working hypothesis is that where a dactyl appears in the first foot of a line and does not do so regularly throughout the poem, it should become a trochee in the translation. One other point is that where a line has a stressed ending, as is the case – I think, though it’s a moot point – in the sixth line of the second stanza, then an extra unstressed syllable can – or perhaps should – appear at the start of the following line, as it does in the Finnish.
As I say, it’s a working hypothesis – please do shoot it down if you think it doesn’t stand up. But at least it gave me a framework to tackle this poem, which would have sounded even odder in English otherwise…
Heroes come as a radiant people
now that night is finished,
bearing hatchets come the fathers,
distaffs bring the mothers,
toil present the daughters,
children, who as night began in
summer’s battles perished.
Over power of death they trample,
Look! at this new nation,
from the frosty twilight coming
t’wards life’s destined ending,
gifts of love presenting,
once again they change their course,
abandon destination.
Oh, you children of sun’s declining!
Do not from us vanish,
do not leave us any longer,
cross not Tuoni’s hurdle
pushed by morrow’s burden.
Linger not, let people’s darkness
light pursue then banish.
There’s no blame to attach to forebears.
Smile or tear appearing
scintillating may be noticed,
Tuoni’s groves be brimming
in the evening’s dimming;
but a shaft of light may linger,
to its trace adhering.
Astuvat heleän heimon urhot
entis-yöstä esiin,
tulevat taatot tapparoineen,
maammot värttinöineen,
tyttäretkin töineen,
lapset päivänlaskun, jotka
sortui sotakesiin.
Kulkee ylitse kuolon virran
kansaa uutta, kummaa,
hämäräistä, himmeäistä
kohti kuolon rantaa,
antimensa antaa,
kääntyy taasen takaisin
pois porraspuuta tummaa.
Ah, te laskevan päivän lapset!
Ettehän enää haihdu,
ettehän enää menne meiltä
Tuonen tuollepuolen,
taakse huomishuolen?
Eikö jo kerran kansan yökin
valkeudeksi vaihdu?
Eivät vainajat vastaa mitään.
On kuin kimmeltäisi
hymy siellä, kyynel täällä,
peittyy Tuonen lehtoon,
himmetessä ehtoon;
mutta on kuin valojuova
jälkehensä jäisi.
Translation by Rupert Moreton

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