The Human Being (Ihminen), L. Onerva

L Onerva

L. Onerva (1882-1972, born Hilja Onerva Lehtinen) led a long and eventful life. Her first marriage failed; she had a passionate affair with Eino Leino; she married the composer Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947); and she battled with alcoholism to live into her ninetieth year. Her poetry caused considerable controversy – she was a defender of the right to personal autonomy, and she challenged conventional morality.

This poem expresses something of her rebellious spirit.

What am I? I am a comet
in Creator’s night infernal,
dusty grain of far-flung matter
of his labour’s task eternal.

Glow upon my moment’s fleeting –
that is all I want to furnish,
song of praise for my heart’s beating –
My desire to sing I’ll burnish.

Yes, I want to sing and shining
even end as I once started
in a blinking eyelid’s moment
when a flash across sky darted!

Flaming heart that once pulsated,
sun apart that once was burning,
boundless love was what I wanted –
beauty’s gift, my ardent yearning.

Space deserted, now surrender
to the light of my star’s beating!
my desire to sing I’ll burnish –
song of praise for life repeating.


Mikä olen? Tähdenlento
Luojan ikuisessa yössä,
tomujyvä aavan aineen
lakkaamattomassa työssä.

Mutta sentään! Tahdon antaa
hehkun hetkelleni tälle,
tahdon loistaa, tahdon laulaa
kiitoslaulun elämälle.

Tahdon laulaa: mitä siitä,
jos ma lopuin, kussa aloin,
mutta silmänräpäyksen
valokaarin yössä paloin!

Hetken sykin, liekkisydän,
aurinkona maailman oman:
tunsin kauneuden kaipuun,
rakkauden rajattoman.

Alistukaa, avaruudet,
pienen tähden välkynnälle!
Tahdon loistaa, tahdon laulaa
kiitoslaulun elämälle.

Translation by Rupert Moreton


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