February 5 – Happy Birthday, Johan Ludwig Runeberg

Posted on February 5, 2016

Today is the birthday of Finland's national poet!

Johan Ludwig Runeberg, born on this date in 1804, lived in the region we now know as Finland. When he was born, it was a part of the Kingdom of Sweden (and, indeed, he spoke and wrote in Swedish), and when he died, it was part of the Russian Empire – but he was always a Finn.

He wrote mostly about life in rural Finland, and he told the tales of people who sacrificed and worked hard to succeed – people who also gave generously to others. He also wrote an epic poem about the Finnish War, when Sweden lost Finland and the Russian Empire gained it.

Runeberg's epic points out the humanity of all sides in the war: the Swedes, the Russians, and the Finns. But the poem emphasizes the courage and heroism of the Finns.

Here is another of Runeberg's poems:

Ye fugitive guests on the far foreign strand.

When seek ye again your own dear native land?

When flowers coyly peep out,

In native dales growing,

And rivulets leap out

Past alders a-blowing.

On lifted wings hither

The tiny ones hie;

None tells the way whither

Through wildering sky,

Yet surely they fly.

They find it so safely, the long sighed-for north.

Where spring both their food and their shelter holds forth.

The fountain's breast swelleth,

Refreshing the weary;

The waving branch telleth

Of pleasures so cheery;

And where the heart dreameth

'Neath midnight sun's ray.

And love scarcely deemeth,

'Mid song and 'mid play.

How long was the way.
The fortunate blithe ones, they build amid rest,

'Mong moss-covered pine-trees, their peaceable nest.

And tempest and fray, too,

And care and its powers,

They find not the way to

The warderless towers.

There joy needs no charming,

But May-day's bright brand,

And night to sleep calming

With rose-tinted hand

The tiny wee band.

Thou fugitive soul on a far foreign strand,

When seek'st thou again thine own dear fatherland?

When each palm-tree beareth,

In fatherworld growing,

Thy calm faith prepareth

In joy to be going.

On lifted wings thither.

As little birds hie.

None shows the way whither

Through wildering sky,

Yet sure dost thou fly.

I enjoyed reading that poem, but a part of me was wondering how the translator managed to achieve such good rhythm and rhyme while translating from Swedish to English. The translator would have HAD to have changed the poem to do so, right?

So I googled, “How do translators keep rhyme in poems that they translate?” And I found out that translators have to make a ton of decisions when translating anything, but especially poetry or song lyrics. Here is an article that explains seven possible options for translating poetry.

Check out Finland...

In Finland (and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere) it is still winter. Winter in Finland looks like this: (Shiver!)

Depending on the day or year, there may be enough
snow to practically bury cars...

...or just enough to frost every twig on every branch
on every tree.

Cool sights include an amazing sculpture...

...and a hotel made up of glass igloos!

In Helsinki, you can skate...

...or take a wintery walk in the park.

What's better than a snow-covered forest?

The snow-covered forest topped with some
amazing Northern Lights!
Have a great day, Finland!

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