Aboa vetus et nova (Åbo [Turku] Ancient and Modern), Eino Leino

lingua fennica

turun tuomiokirkko

Leino published this poem on December 6th, 1918 – the first anniversary of Finland’s independence. Leino’s childhood language was Swedish, so his appeal for a productive engagement between Finland’s linguistic and cultural identities is strongly felt. It was very tough to translate – the thudding trochees wore thin rather quickly, and I had to work hard to stick to the metre. My biggest liberty was to introduce “strumpet” to rhyme with “trumpet” – it felt justified at the time, but with further exposure I realised that Leino is not being dismissive of Swedish. But I don’t think I can be bothered to revisit it, I’m afraid. Leino often leaves me punch drunk.

Sapling guest in wasteland were you grafted,
Mother Turku’s time-renowned beginning,
noble baron’s plan was gently drafted,
fated seed of folk’s new story spinning;
throbbing beat of Swedish drum and trumpet
mimicked Finnish marshy air, the strumpet,
Phoebus…

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