Nocturne, Eino Leino

lingua fennica


Eino Leino (1878-1926) is one of the great figures of the Finnish National Romantic movement, and played a major role in the emergence of modern Finnish poetry.

This poem’s linking of the long days of the short Finnish summer with mortality is perhaps its most striking feature. I have taken a liberty with “kesäheinä” – “summer hay”, treating it as “kesäkuu-heinäkuu” (June-July, literally “summer month” and “hay month”). Somehow “Lady June-July” was more beguiling than “Lady Summer Hay”. Other translations are vague about the “ruislintu” – one. comically, opts for “moorhen”. But it’s clearly a corncrake, which I feel justifies rendering “laulu” as “clicking”. As is often the case, some padding is necessary to catch the metre – perhaps my greatest liberty in this respect is “merry music make, for faith is mounting”, for which I perhaps over-compensated with a torrent of alliteration…

Hark! My ears are catching corncrake’s…

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