Odious and Peculiar

Philology and esoterica: scribblings, ravings and mutterings.

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Forging the Sampo

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004
And speaking of poetry and translation,here, my dear Jack, is the Finnish poem I told you about:
Kun mun kultani tulisi,
armahani asteleisi,
tuntisin ma tuon tulosta,
arvoaisin astunnasta,
jos ois vielä virstan päässä
tahikka kahen takana.
Utuna ulos menisin,
savuna pihalle saisin,
kipunoina kiiättäisin,
liekkinä lehauttaisin;
vierren vierehen menisin,
supostellen suun etehen.
Tok' mie kättä käppäjäisin,
vaikk' ois käärme kämmenellä;
tok' mie suuta suikkajaisin,
vaikk' ois surma suun edessä
tok' mie kaulahan kapuisin,
vaikk' ois kalma kaulaluilla;
tok' mie vierehen viruisin,
vaikk' ois vierus verta täynnä.
Vaanp' ei ole kullallani,
ei ole suu suen veressä,
käet käärmehen talissa,
kaula kalman tarttumissa;
suu on rasvasta sulasta,
huulet kuin hunajameestä,
käet kultaiset, koriat,
kaula kuin kanervan varsi.

Should my treasure come,
my darling step by,
I'd know him by his coming,
recognize him by his step,
though he were still a mile off
or two miles away.
As mist I'd go out;
as smoke I would reach the yard;
as sparks I would speed;
as flame I would fly;
I'd bowl along beside him,
pout before his face.
I would touch his hand
though a snake were in his palm;
I would kiss his mouth
though doom stared him in the face;
I'd climb on his neck
though death were on his neck bones;
I'd stretch beside him
though his side were all bloody.
And yet my treasure has not
his mouth bloody from a wolf,
his hands greasy from a snake,
nor his neck in death's clutches:
his mouth is of melted fat,
his lips are as of honey,
his hands golden, fair,
his neck like a heather stalk.

Goethe liked this poem too, and paraphrased it in a stanza of his Finnisches Lied:
Käm der liebe Wohlbekannte,
Völlig so wie er geschieden,
Kuß erkläng an seinen Lippen,
Hätt auch Wolfsblut sie gerötet;
Ihm den Handschlag gäb ich,
Seine Fingerspitzen Schlangen.

IF the loved one, the well-known one,
Should return as he departed,
On his lips would ring my kisses,
Though the wolf's blood might have dyed them;
And a hearty grasp I'd give him,
Though his finger-ends were serpents. [translation here]

As usual, I prefer the more literal translation, unskilled as it is; folk-poetry, in my opinion, only suffers dilution of its imagery and intesity by being rendered "accessible".

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