Sonnet to Leila (Sonetti Leilalle), Eino Leino

Eino Leino lausuu Rantapuistossa

The rare iambic pentameter enticed me; and translating this was a stunning experience. I love Leino’s playful hint at the start that he may have had enough of Leila, and the surprise that follows with the masterful explanation that her blinding light permits him only to describe the one she transforms. And I wonder if it is his intention that one ends up wondering if he hasn’t deliberately over-egged it, and is in fact being cruel?

I am in awe of him. No translation can match the original.

My silent voice you, Leila, somehow bothers,
you say that others maidens serenade,
but once I sang with endless accolade
and eyes and lips and neck, you know, have others.

You claim that now I’m not your special darling –
my feelings transform tinder into ash
and cords of love no longer may us lash,
and that I find myself a little charming!

The heaven’s art the sun has never captured,
for all it fashions stars. And so it paints
the sun’s reflection on the land enraptured.

I once to maidens lovely used to sing
but in your presence all my singing’s ruptured
disclosing self is all I have to bring.


Mua syytät Leila siitä, ett’en laula
kuin muutkin lempiväiset immestään,
vaikk’ ennen niistä lauloin yhtenään
ja sullai silmät on ja suu ja kaula.

Ja väität, etten sua lemmikkään
ja tuhkana on tunteheni taula
ja että löyhä lie sen lemmen paula,
mi aina ihannoi vain itseään! –

Ei taide taivon päivää luoda saata,
vaikk’ kyllä tähden. Siks se kuvaa ain
vaan päivän heijastuksia ja maata.

Ma ennen kyllä lauloin neitojain,
mut sinun eessäs täytyi laulun laata
ja itseäni ilmi tuoda vain.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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