Fulfilment (Täyttymys), Kaarlo Sarkia


Kaarlo Sarkia (1902-1945) has been described as “the Finnish Apollo”. He was the illegitimate son of a maid and a carpenter. In spite of his humble background, he did well at school and attended Turku University. He did not complete his degree, deciding to devote himself to his writing. He was a noted translator of French poetry. Like so many at the time he was afflicted with tuberculosis, and spent several periods in sanatoriums – whose peace and pampering he is said to have enjoyed.

“My greatest happiness” he said, “is that I get to write in Finnish.” The sonnet below exploits to the full the density and precision afforded by inflection. I have taken some liberties in attempting to render it in English… (I should acknowledge Ian Mac Eochagáin’s assistance with the second stanza.)

Your joy is only moment’s exhalation,
at most a blink of eye is your dejection.
As sweetly falls your silent sleep’s protection
you sink in soft earth’s breast, like wheat’s oblation.

Thus Beauty, whose completed germination
was hindered by unfinished life’s perfection,
will in your dying see a resurrection –
a thousand-fold its great reanimation.

For when you’re in your grave you’re handed over
to probing roots of lilac and of lime tree,
to buds the sap is drawn above the clover

aflame to burst in summer’s honeyed finery
of blossomed trees, and so your radiant dreaming
will sweet fulfilment find in springtime’s teeming.


Vain henkäyksen verran riemus kesti,
vain silmänräpäyksen tuskas syvä.
Maan helmaan lempeään kuin peltoon jyvä
nukahdat hiljaa, uinut suloisesti.

Niin Kauneus, min täyden kasvun esti
tään elos vajavuus, nyt täydentyvä
on kuolemassas, muotoon ylentyvä
kukoistavaan ja uuteen tuhannesti.

Maa sinut sireenien, niinipuiden
suo hautaas haparoiviin valkojuuriin,
vie suonet umpuihin, ja suvikuiden

tulessa kukkiin hunajaisiin, suuriin
puut puhkeaa – näin untes säteileväin
suloista täyttymystä kantaa keväin.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s