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have better luck. But he will have a lighter task to
begin with, for before him no longer stands the sav-
age forest quite untouched by man. He can settle
down into a ready-made hut, and sow in the plot of
land which another has ploughed up before him.
That cottage plot will, no doubt, become a large and
wealthy farm, and in course of time a village will
grow up around it. Nobody thinks of those who
first dug up the earth with all their capital, the only
capital they possessed their youthful energies.
They were merely a simple lad and lass, and both of
them came there with empty hands.

"But it is just with such pople's capital that Fin-
land's wildernesses have been rooted up and con-
verted into broad acres. Had these two only re-
mained at the parsonage, he as a coachman and she
as a housemaid, then perhaps the course of their own


lives would have been free enough of care. But the
wilderness would not have been cultivated, and the
f oreposts of civilization would not have been planted
in the midst of the forest.

"When the rye blooms and the ears of the corn
ripen in our field, let us call to mind these first mar-
tyrs of colonization. We cannot raise monuments
upon their graves, for the tale of them is by thou-
sands, and their names we know not." a

Aho's gaiety and humour find expression in an-
other of these "Chips," entitled "Sasu Punanen."
Sasu was "fat, lazy, sleepy, taciturn, with no inter-
ests, no enthusiasm," the dullest fellow on earth.
But beware of passing judgment. You have to see
a man in his own sphere to know what he is worth.
Sasu's sphere is the Finnish bath. He prepares for
it as other people might prepare for confirmation.
One day he persuades a friend to go with him and
we see Sasu in all his glory. He undresses with
religious care ' ' at the bath one must undress slowly
and not as if one would rush headforemost into the
water" and arranges his discarded garments with
the exactitude of a philosophic system. When he
has finished this he admires himself long and lov-
ingly in front of a looking-glass before proceeding
into the bath-hut. The birch twigs must not be
warmed before he is there, for fear of losing the
smell of them, which is the "best thing in the whole
bath." Finally he gives the order for the water to

1 1 have availed myself of the excellent translation by Mr. R.
Nisbet Bain in "Squire Hellman and Other Stories-" (Fisher


be thrown on the hot stones, and the steam and heat
become so intolerable that both his friends and the
old bath-woman cry him mercy. "The stones hiss
like a hundred spitting cats; it seems to me as if
they would suddenly rush at me, strike their sharp
claws into my body and tear me to pieces." But
Sasu just revels in it, and when the bath-woman
says, "You 11 burn yourself and me too," he an-
swers, "Why, it's simply nothing as yet . . . how
will you stand it in hell!" And so he proceeds
through the mighty ceremony, now taking an active
part, now passive in the bath-woman's hands, now
calling for beer to increase his sublime perspiration.
"What he thinks of I don't know, but he seems to
me a genius in comparison with myself, a giant
genius among all bath geniuses. If the Finns in
past days had a bath-god, a bath-hero, whom they
worshipped, he must have looked like this."

Aho's tragic power and the concentration of his
writing are nowhere seen better than in his novel
* ' Outlawed. ' ' The hero is a strong and silent young
peasant for whom, like his prototype Kullervo, all
things in life go wrong. The first words of the
story strike its key-note "Leave him in peace."

Junnu is the son of a prostitute, and in his youth
was imprisoned for stealing a dish of sour milk an
escapade to which he was egged on by other boys.
Those at the farm where he now works readily take
advantage of his good-nature, but in spite of his
great physical strength and occasional outbursts of
terrible exasperation they all despise him and make


his life a burden to him. He longs to be alone, away
from them all, where he can be in peace. He obtains
permission from the farmer who employs him to
settle as a torpare in a remote part of the forest, far
from human habitation. There he builds himself a
hut and lives alone with his horse and cow, and be-
gins to taste of happiness, though never without the
suspicion that it cannot last, that evil is impending.
He does everything he can think of to exclude the
possibility of his being interfered with on any pre-
text by the outside world, and to propitiate the
Fates, which have always been so hard on him, and
gradually his bitterness melts away and his fore-
bodings vanish. But now when he has at last at-
tained a measure of serenity, a blow, stunning and
incredible, falls. He hears the sound of axes in the
forest and from a hill-top sees a straight line being
cut through the trees. It advances day by day and
comes nearer and nearer his own hut. Finally hu-
man beings appear engineers who are superintend-
ing the new railway. They actually enter his hut
and make themselves at home there. Soon after, the
navvies arrive and he sees the fields he had cleared
and ploughed and sown with such energetic love
trampled under foot and made hideous with the ap-
pliances of modern building. He is informed that he
must go, for the railway is to pass right over the
spot where his hut stands. He cannot even get com-
pensation, for the land is not his, and it is only the
crafty and farseeing farmer who stands to gain by
Junnu's improvements. The navvies mock him and
regard him as half mad, and presently he dare not


leave his hut out of sight for fear the threat of pull-
ing it down should be carried out. He becomes as
much a prisoner as if he were locked up in a cell.
Finally the sheriff comes along, and Junnu, furious
at the destruction of his home, with its cargo of
hopes and dreams, and maddened at the way he has
been cheated both by man and by fate, insults him
and thus hastens the evil hour. The order to pull
down the hut is given forthwith. There is a wild
scene as Junnu rushes out, threatening to kill the
first man who touches it, and pulls down the ladder
on which a man has ascended nearly to the roof. The
man is not killed, but Junnu is seized and bound and
laid unconscious on his own sledge. When he comes
to, he sees the ladder again standing against the
wall of his hut, and as he is driven off to prison the
roof beams are already falling.

Junnu emerges from prison weak and miserable
and with a mind distraught by suffering and the
sense of injustice. He comes back to the neighbour-
hood of his old home and finds the railway line com-
pleted. His horse has been sold for a song to a man
he hates, but his cow at least is safe in the hands of
an old woman. He goes out eagerly to look for it.
There it is on the other side of the line, at the head of
some other cows. It recognizes its master, lows and
comes towards him. "But when it reaches the line
and is about to cross, the locomotive is already whis-
tling at the curve and, belching forth smoke on either
side, rushes forward at full speed.

' ' The cow stops in the middle of the line, is dumb-
founded, stares at the locomotive and can move


neither forwards nor backwards. The engine whis-
tles and toots, but cannot check its course.

"Junnu rushes forward, waves his hands and
shouts, seizes his cow by the horns; it backs the
more he pulls it forwards and advances when he
pushes it back . . . and he has already got it half
over the rails when the engine, its drivers cursing
and shaking their fists and the brakes creaking ter-
ribly, drives over his cow, cuts it in two before him
and trails along one half of its body while its fore-
quarters remain in Junnu 's hands.

"It still lives some moments while he holds it by
the horns ; it throws up its neck, moves its legs as if
to extricate itself, but then falls unconscious on the
embankment at Junnu 's feet, its eyes staring at

After this, Junnu, with every hope shattered, dis-
appears. But from the forest he has watched men
working on the railway and, maddened by suffering,
he gets the idea of wrecking the festival train which
is to be run in celebration of the opening of a new
part of the line. Thus he will be revenged on the
whole pack of his enemies.

We see him dripping with sweat, as he struggles
feverishly to loosen a sleeper. Finally he gets one
nail out, but another still holds fast when he hears
the engine whistle as it leaves the neighbouring sta-
tion. "Shall he leave it to another time? No; he
cannot, he will not. It must be now, now, that all
his sufferings are to be avenged. He grasps his axe
and begins to hew at the sleeper. But the axe strikes
a stone, sparks fly. Its edge is spoiled. The train is


already in motion, its roar comes nearer and nearer.
Again he grasps the pole, presses it under the rail
and throws himself on it with all his might. The rail
is lifted, the sleeper smashes, the nail comes up.
. . . Now he has them ! But when he makes another
effort, and hears the noise of the train echoed by the
sides of the cutting, the pole breaks and he falls on
his back on the line. He springs up ferociously,
grasps the rail in his hands, tears it with his fingers,
bites it with his teeth, and he knows not what.
. . . The engine whistles behind him. It will escape
him ; they will be saved, they will drive over him. . . .
No, never. He jumps aside, perceives the engine with
its waving flags, its shining eyes, rush towards him,
whistling and clattering, and quick as lightning a
new thought darts through his brain. . . .

"He bends down, puts his arms round a mighty
stone, lifts it up, rushes back to the line, shuts his
eyes, flings the block at the hurtling monster, hears
a frightful crash and reels senseless from the em-
bankment into the ditch.

"When he comes to, he finds himself lying on his
back as if on a moving floor, surrounded by men who
shriek and gesticulate ; he recognizes the engineers,
the sheriff, the farmer and Tahvo . . . his head is
aching, the engine whistles spitefully, smoke eddies
before his eyes and he knows that he is on the gala
train, which carries him swiftly to the town for
ever. ' '

Such is the end of this tragic and vivid story, in
which Aho represents symbolically and in a charac-
teristic Finnish setting the struggle between a man's


desire to express himself and the forces of society
which often ruthlessly crush out both the desire and
the man.

Of late years Aho has gradually receded from
realism, and has written several historical novels
and several stories whose scene is laid in the past.
The idealistic and romantic side of his nature, al-
ways strong, has more and more gained the upper
hand. It is nowhere more beautifully apparent than
in his descriptions of Finnish scenery. Professor
Sb'derhjelm writes finely: "Finnish nature is mir-
rored in his writing as faithfully as in the most
perfect picture. No one has rendered as he has the
tranquillity of summer evenings with their clear
and silent atmosphere, where the stroke of an oar
or the sound of a cow-bell is heard for miles, over
quiet fjords and moors, or the light of the sunset
on cottage windows on distant heights. The gaiety
of the winter day and the desolation of the winter
night live in some strokes of his pen with the same
force as the light and peacefulness of June nights.
Over all his writing lies very much of the inmost
essence of Finnish landscape : the gentle harmony,
the sad intensity, the peaceful lines, the mildly vary-
ing colour. "


Swedish literature in Finland differs considerably
from Swedish literature proper, just as American
literature differs considerably from English. Even
in respect of language the distinction sometimes


makes itself felt, and still more in respect of feeling,
atmosphere and tradition.

The truth of this is seen when we glance at Rune-
berg's predecessor, Franzen (1772-1847). He was
the son of a merchant at Uleaborg, entered the Uni-
versity of Abo, became Porthan's favourite pupil,
and subsequently was made Professor of History.
He is best remembered for his poetry, however : he
had a fine lyrical gift and a great power of convey-
ing the beauty of northern scenery and the simpler
emotions of northern folk. But when Finland was
separated from Sweden he left both the country and
the best part of his poetic gift behind. He seemed
to lose inspiration when he was cut off from his
native soil, and his work seemed a little strange to
the people of Sweden. As a Finnish critic writes,
' l There was something genuinely Finnish in his tem-
perment and this perhaps prevented him from pene-
trating in Sweden as he did here."

In dealing with Runeberg in an earlier chapter,
we have already spoken of the most striking figure
in the Swedish literature of Finland, but we have by
no means exhausted its interest. During their years
in Helsingfors, Runeberg and his wife took into
their house a young Osterbotten student, Zacharias
Topelius, whose literary talents were greatly stimu-
lated by this association. Topelius was the son of a
distinguished father, who was in a sense the fore-
runner of Lonnrot, just as Franzen was in some re-
spects the forerunner of Runeberg. The elder To-
pelius, during his medical journeys, because ac-
quainted with some of the Finnish runos, immedi-


ately began collecting them, and published a collec-
tion under the title of " Ancient Songs of the Fin-
nish People'. " His son Zacharias was born in 1818,
took his degree in 1840, and the following year was
editing the Helslngfors Tidningar. He was very
young for such a post, but through his friendship
with the Runebergs he was in touch with literary cir-
cles. He knew personally the members of the Satur-
day Club, and though he was not old enough to be-
come a member himself, in the early days he was
sometimes present at their meetings as a silent audi-
tor. " During these Attic nights," he writes, "one
could become acquainted with Runeberg's quiet hu-
mour, Snellman's merciless logic, Nervander's sar-
casms, Nordstrom's sallies, sharp as needles," He
was thus brought up in the great traditions of the
National movement, and himself handed on the torch
received from his friends. He may indeed be re-
garded as the great popularizer of the movement.
With less original force than several of his prede-
cessors, he had more power than they to bring the
meaning of it into the homes of unlearned and sim-
ple men. And he did so through his genius for sym-
pathizing and getting on with children. He showed
the child what Finland meant, what it really was to
be a child, and later, a citizen of his beloved country.
This seed planted in the minds of children flowered
in them when they came to years of maturity-
flowered in a patriotism which aimed at being pre-
pared not merely to die well but to live well for their
country. He compiled a reader for the Elementary
Schools entitled "The Book of Our Land," which is


a model of what such a book should be, and both in-
spires and instructs every child. It consists of two
hundred readings, divided into six sections the
land, the people, the legends, and three more dealing
with the history. Much more important, however,
from the point of view of literature, was his "Read-
ings for Children/' a collection of fairy stories and
tales of adventure, which has been much translated.
Children were passionately devoted to this man
with the heart of a child, and in his old age Uncle
Topelius received many letters from young admir-
ers. Here is a specimen :


I do so long for my dear Toppelius. You
must come some day and see us we live in west
church street we will come to the station to meet you,
you must look for two boys with stars in their caps,
you ought to write a story-book for me . . . greet-
ings from my mama and my papa and my brother
and greetings from my sister and from Karl-Johan
Sandelin. j A g

6 years the 7th of March.

Topelius had indeed a rare gift of inspiring affec-
tion. Professor Werner Soderhjelm, describing the
poet's visits to Helsingfors in his old age, writes:
"Old and young are personally acquainted with
him; the latter have always been present at some
school fastival he has visited, or been members of
some deputation that has waited upon him, or of
some choir that has sung in his honour on a sum-


mer's day at Bjorkudden or they may be simply
the children of his older friends, who merely on this
account call him ' Uncle' and regard themselves as
quite intimate with him."

The same writer records an incident that is typi-
cal. One evening a group of young artists and au-
thors were discussing some question or other at the
principal hotel, when Topelius happened to come in
and was persuaded to join them. Warmed by his
enthusiastic reception, he rose and made a speech
that they never forgot, 1 1 about the old that goes and
the new that comes in its place, about the heritage
left by those who depart and which the young must
preserve, about the high mission of art in our land,
where it has to walk along untrodden ways."

It must not be supposed, however, that Topelius
was without original talent or was only appreciated
by young people. Both as a poet and writer of his-
torical romance he ranks high. "The Tales of a
Surgeon" has been much translated arid is de-
servedly popular. It tells in a rather discursive way
and with great variety of incident the history of Fin-
land, beginning from the time of the Thirty Years'
War. It is as if an old man spent his winter even-
ings chatting to you over the fire and telling you of
his past life. Topelius became Professor of His-
tory, but there is little of the professor about these
tales. He just talks in an intimate way about things
he loves. Most of all he loves his country, and espe-
cially his native Osterbotten. You see the people
there, understand just how they are planted on the
soil, and how their lives are affected by the great do-


ings in the outside world. Then you see how they
were called on to take a share in them. He loves to
show you their great deeds abroad, and to describe
their fighting qualities in the campaigns of Gustavus
Adolphus. Most of the great characters of that time
are introduced into the story, and there are vivid
pictures of popular life in different countries. The
threads connecting the different periods covered
are furnished by two families, whose history is
traced through several generations with something
of the comprehensiveness which Tolstoi devotes to
the principal families in "War and Peace."

Perhaps Topelius will be remembered best, how-
ever, by his lyrical poetry.

The following stanzas, which are the opening of an
ode of thanksgiving to those nations of Europe (in-
cluding Great Britain 1 ) which subscribed gener-
ously to relieve the distress occasioned by the Finn-
ish famine of 1857, may be quoted as an example of
his work. They are not without their applicability
to Finland in her present struggle against an even
worse enemy than famine.

On the world's furthest peopled strand
Fate gave to us a fatherland,
The last where man his foot has set,
Daring the North Pole's threat;
The last and wildest stretch of earth
Where Europe's genius built a hearth;
Her last and furthest-flung outpost
'Gainst night and death and frost.

Tho' we are few, this fight of ours
'Gainst darkness and wild nature's powers,

1 Tha British fleet had attached part of Finland during the
Crimean War.


Is yet Humanity's own fight
For constant life and light.
Our conquest is its conquest too,
And if we fall, then 'tis most true,
There falls with us a bulwark strong
Life's forward path along.

Faithfully we've obeyed our call,
Bought with starvation, death, downfall,
Each yard of soil we've fenced with strife,
And rescued thus for life.
Life's house up here we've builded stout
Where once lay desert all about
This is our thousand-year-old deed,
For this we claim Fame's meed.

It is chiefly through lyrical poetry that the Swed-
ish-speaking Finns have expressed themselves. It
is impossible here to give an account of the many fine
poets they have produced, such as Stenback, a con-
temporary of Runeberg, Wechsell, who wrote in the
'sixties, Tavaststjerna, the first of the modern real-
ists in Swedish Finland and a fine lyrical poet, Ly-
beck and others. It must suffice to say that in these
troublous days for Finland the fountain of song has
not run dry. I have attempted to translate poems by
two of the younger men. The first is a song in praise
of Finland by Bertel Gripenberg, the second, by
Hjalmar Procope, is a song of liberty in the face of
Eussian oppression.


The fairest land is the northern land,

Where the forest usurps the meadow,
Where the ground is rocky, barren, and dry,

And no plough has driven a furrow,


Where towering pines, with mossy bark,

Defiant strain to the sky,
And high o'er the silent wilderness

'Mid the cloudpack the eagles fly.

The fairest land is the forest land

Which dreams in the silence ever,
It binds our hearts with bonds of love

That none may forget nor sever.
It lures, it silently draws us on

With urgent and secret wooing,
It whispers on wild untrodden ways

Trollsongs in the forest's soughing.

Thou haven to restless and homeless thoughts,

Thou kingdom of lonely dreams,
Thou northland's endless pine-clad heath,

Peerless thy beauty streams;
The fairest, dearest land I know

Is the land of forests, the wide,
With its harsh and heroic solitude

Where unborn poems abide.


Let the blow descend ! We have made our choice,

And we are resolved to live,
Though Asia and 1 all her Ural hosts

Strive our death-stroke to give.

We do not await a golden spring,

NOT overflowing barns and tuns,
We await but years of ruin and stress

And ravages of the Huns.

Yet, ye tyrants, remember in time your guilt,

Lest the day of revenge come down
Not for ever shall Finland only shine

As a gem in a foreigner's crown.



FENNISH painting is of very recent develop-
ment, and its early stages are of little interest
to any but a native of the country. It drew in-
spiration in turn from Sweden, Italy and Germany,
but it was not until after 1880, when Finnish artists
turned to France, and more especially to the school
of Bastien Lepage, that a national school began to
develop. Many good critics, indeed, would object
to one speaking of a national school in Finland,
maintaining that the Finnish painters have not
evolved a new and distinctive vision or technique,
but have merely painted Finnish subjects in a
French way. This is a matter on which the writer
is not competent to express an opinion. It is at least
certain that even if she has not yet succeeded in pro-
ducing work that is original in the very highest
sense of the word, Finland can point to artists who
in any country would be distinguished.

The first of these was Albert Edelfelt, who occu-
pies in the sphere of painting a position similar to
that held by Runeberg in the sphere of poetry. The
objection is sometimes raised that he is too Swedish



to be representative of Finland, and it is indeed true
that he has never portrayed, like Gallen, the wildest
and most barbaric side of the Finnish soul. But,
taking his work all round, he stands for Finland
more completely than any other painter, and, in spite
of strong French influences, his devotion to his moth-
erland makes him a true Finn. His picture of father,
mother and daughter going down to the seashore
carrying masts and oars and fishing-nets is a symbol
of Finnish life. The faces and hands of father and
mother are worn and weather-beaten from their long
struggle to wrest a living from the sea, which, with
its rocks and islands, is a characteristic piece of
Finnish landscape. The daughter, who walks be-
tween them with a kerchief over her head and the
nets over her shoulder, is gravely sweet, dreamy, yet

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Online LibraryArthur ReadeFinland and the Finns → online text (page 11 of 22)