Monday, August 16, 2010

Oldies But Goodies: Sixteenth

This is a Finnish poem by Eino Leino set to music. The poem is familiar to most every Finn. It's a beautiful use of summer as the metaphor for life. A translation of the words can be found below the song with a few impertinent comments by me.

Nocturne sung by Vesa-Matti Loiri

Nocturne - translated by Aina Swan Cutler

I hear the evening cornbird calling.

Moonlight floods the fields of tasseled grain.

Wood smoke, drifting veils the distant valleys.

Summer evening's joy is here for me.

I'm not happy yet no sorrow shakes me,

but the dark woods stillness I would welcome.

Rosy clouds through which the day is falling,

sleepy breezes from the blue gray mountains,

shadows on the water, meadow flowers...

out of these my heart's own song I'll make!

I will sing it, summer hay-sweet maiden,

sing to you my deep serenity,

my own faith that sounds a swelling music,

oak-leaf garland ever fresh and green.

I'll no longer chase the will-o-wisp.

Happiness is here in my own keeping.

Day by day, life's circle narrows, closes.

Time stands still now ... weather cocks all sleeping.

Here before me lies a shadowy way

leading to a strange, an unknown place.

Eino Leino

It's a good translation but misses something from the original. The last line is about a shadowy road leading to an unknown cottage in the Finnish. To call it an unknown place removes something of the original meaning: the idea that one arrives.

Likewise the reference to "my own faith" should be "my own religion." There is a difference between the two, and it is the latter that is needed.