language · poetry · translation

Translations; Nocturne and Swan Song

For my project in Comparative Literature, I chose to study the differences and similarities between Symbolism in Finnish and British art, both in painting and literature (mostly poetry, obviously, because it’s shorter). On the course of my research I came across a bit of a problem; even though there’s a lot of material on the movement itself in Finland, even in English, only a handful of poems seems to be translated. So I had to do this for myself.

These two poems have been (sort of hastily, I admit) translated by myself, then, and read and approved by my mother. (Thank you!)

Swan Song

On the sea of dreams,
ahead a misty shore.
The waves them bore
like snow its gleams.

Away, away past the seas,
burning it calls.
Yet only that who falls
gets the melodies.

What tinkle as though
stole over the waving
sea? A weary wing,
only a nothing long-gone.

– Otto Manninen (trans. Viivi Parma)

In both of the poems, as far as possible, I’ve tried to keep the original words, only changing them where the rhythm of rhyme were impossible to match otherwise.


The song of corncrake in my mind,
above the ears of wheat full moon;
mine is the bliss of summer night,
smoke of swidden cloaks the view.
I am not happy, not sad, nor sighing;
still the dark of the forest me bring,
gleam of a cloud that drowns the day,
view of windy hills that dream away,
scent of linnaea and water’s shades,
the song of my heart from these I make.

I sing to you, miss, summer hay,
the greatest silence of my heart,
my religion, formed in melody,
a verdant, fresh, new, oak garland.
Will o’ the wisp no longer tempts me,
mine is the gold of the mount of Hiisi;
smaller around me the life’s realm;
time stand by, sleeps the weather wane;
ahead of me a gloomy road
takes me to a house unknown.

– Eino Leino (trans. Viivi Parma)

For the original poems:
Swan Song:,_Otto-1872/Joutsenlaulua/hu/32194-Hatty%C3%BAk

(featured image: Edvard Isto – Attack (1899), example of Finnish Symbolist painting)

NOTE: If you wish to use my translations for your own purposes, please just leave me a comment. I worked relatively hard on these, and would really enjoy knowing if you think them good enough to use. Thank you!


2 thoughts on “Translations; Nocturne and Swan Song

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