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urday Club.

Far more important than the Helsingfors Ly-
ceum, however, was the foundation in 1831 of the
Finnish Literature Society, "to propagate more
exact notions of the country and its history, to
work for the cultivation of the Finnish language
and to bring to birth in this language a literature
for both the educated classes and the people."
| "Language being the foundation of nationality, a
national literature is not possible without a na-
tional language. " Its programme included the
collection and publication of the ancient Finnish
songs, the issuing of works for the furtherance of
popular education and enlightenment, and the pub-



THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT 31

lication of a learned review. But what really gave
rise to the Society at this juncture was the desire
of the Saturday Club to enable one of its most dis-
tinguished members, Elias Lonnrot, to continue his
publication of Finnish folk-songs. A short notice
of this remarkable man cannot be omitted from any
account of modern Finland. For it was the "Kal-
evala," more than anything else, that gave its spir-
itual inspiration to the National movement and first
made Finland known to the outside world.

Elias Lonnrot was born of poor parents in 1802.
He was interested in poetry from his early child-
hood, and when he became a student at Abo Uni-
versity he found himself in the congenial society
of a number of young men, Porthan's disciples,
who were enthusiastically collecting Finnish folk-
poetry. Gottlund had recently uttered his famous
prophecy, "If the ancient popular songs [of Fin-
land] were collected and arranged as a whole, there
might emerge an epic, a drama or something, out
of which a new Homer, Ossian or Niebelungenlied
might arise." These words it was to be Lonnrot 's
lifework to fulfil.

After leaving the University, Lonnrot became a
country physician, and as soon as possible under-
took his first journey in search of Finnish runes.
It was the publication of the songs thus acquired
that induced his friends of the Saturday Club to
form the Finnish Literature Society. Not long
afterwards he became doctor at Kajana, a village
in the heart of Finland, of which it was said at
that time that it had two streets: "along one go



32 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

the pigs, when it's wet; along the other the inhab-
itants, when it's fine." This was Lonnrot 's head-
quarters for some twenty years, and from it he
made his great series of journeys, which, in 1835,
resulted in the publication of the first version of
the "Kalevala," and in 1849 of a fuller version.
These journeys extended to the White Sea and
Archangel, but it was among the Karelian Finns
on either side of the frontier between Eussian and
Finland that Lonnrot found his finest material.

Lonnrot was a man of great physical prowess-^
none but a strong man could have undertaken his
arduous and tremendous journeys. He excelled in
walking, ski-ing, swimming, rowing and sleighing.
He was more indifferent to his personal appear-
ance than R. L. Stevenson and had much of the lat-
ter 's Bohemian temperament and scorn for cere-
monies. His adventures were innumerable and are
delightful reading. It is recorded that on his first
journey he was dressed as a peasant with knap-
sack and gun slung over his back, a staff in his
hand, a flute attached to his buttonhole, and in his
mouth a short pipe. He was taken for a tramp,
and when one day he was footsore and ordered a
trap, the innkeeper refused to provide one. On a
later journey he disappeared from the dinner-table
of a Lutheran pastor and was discovered transcrib-
ing the songs which the old bath-woman of the
place was singing to him. At one place the peas-
ants took him for a wizard and refused him food,
upon which he was able to threaten them with an
eclipse of the sun, which was due about that time.



THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT 33

His method of working was to induce any one he
met to sing him the songs they knew, which he then
proceeded to write down. But he made a special
point of visiting the best runo-singers, and has left
an account of his intercourse with the greatest of
them, Arhippa Perttunnen, which deserves quota-
tion at some length for the light it throws on the
nature of his activity. "The old man," he writes,
"was at that time nearly eighty years old. Never-
theless he had to an extraordinary degree preserved
his memory. Two whole days and even part of a
third day he kept me busy annotating. He sang
his runos in good order, without leaving any great
gaps between them, and most of the songs were
such as I had not got from others ; I doubt, indeed,
whether they could now be got at all from any
other source. I was therefore extremely glad of
my resolve to visit him. Who knows if I should
have found him alive another time? But if he had
died a large part of our ancient runos would have
perished with him. The old man was greatly
moved when he began talking about his childhood
and his father, long since dead, from whom he had
inherited his runos. 'You ought to have been
there/ he said, 'when after sweeping the bottom
with our nets by the banks of the Lapukka we
rested by a log fire ! We had with us a man from
Lapukka to lend us a hand. He was a fine singer
too, but not my father's like. All through the
nights they sang by the fire, hand in hand, and
never the same song twice. I was a little boy and
sat listening, and thus I learned my best songs.



34 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

But I have already forgotten much. None of my
sons will be a singer after me, as I was after my
father. The old songs are no longer loved as in
my childhood, when they were heard at work and
in idle hours in the village. Instead, the young
people sing their own flippant songs, with which I
wouldn't soil my lips. If at that time any one
like you had looked for runos, he couldn't have
written down in two weeks even those my father
knew. ' '

A brief description of the contents of the "Kale-
vala" will be given in a later chapter. 1 But it may
be well here to indicate Lonnrot's share in the great
epic. He collected the songs from the people, but,
having done this, he altered them so as to form out
of a somewhat chaotic mass a complete whole. In
some places he cut down the original song, in others
he added to it ; in others, again, two different songs
would be combined. Then the separate songs had
to be fused into a single great epic story, with a
unity underlying its infinite variety. The "Kale-
vala" is the vision of unity that arose in Lonn-
rot's mind from the vast mass of suggestive data
furnished by the runic songs. He believed that he
was only doing on a larger scale what the old min-
strels had already done on a small one. "I
thought," he wrote, "that, as no individual singer
could surpass me in a knowledge of runos, I had
the same right that, in my opinion, most of the
runo-singers had claimed namely, the right to ar-

1 Messrs. Dent have published an English translation by
W. Kirby in Everyman's Library, 2 vols.



THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT 35

range the runes as they sorted best, or, in the
words of the folk-song

I myself began to conjure,
I myself commenced to sing;

i.e. I considered myself to be as good a runo-singer
as they were." Thus the "Kalevala," while orig-
inally true folk-poetry, owes much of its artistic
form to the genius of its compiler.

Lonnrot also made a collection of some seven
hundred ancient songs and ballads, which were
published under the title of "Kanteletaar" (The
Daughter of the Kantele). Many of them are of
great beauty and intimacy of feeling, and throw
much light on the inner nature of the nation from
which they sprang. There are songs for almost
every event in life, whether gay or sorrowful,
whether associated with childhood, adolescence, the
prime of life, old age or death.

In 1854 Lonnrot was induced, much against his
will, to accept the Chair in Finnish which had re-
cently been established at the University. As Pro-
fessor, his chief energy was devoted to the fashion-
ing of Finnish into a written language. When Pres-
ident of the Finnish Literature Society he intro-
duced Finnish as its official language. Party poli-
tics he eschewed. His views on the language ques-
tion were that Finnish ought to enjoy equal rights
with Swedish, but he had no desire to oppress Swe-
dish, holding that there was room for the two lan-
guages side by side. His object was a united Fin-



36 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

land, and he said characteristically, at the unveiling
of Porthan's statue in 1864: "It appears, to me at
least, vain to speak of a common Finnish national
spirit so long as by far the greater part of our coun-
try's inhabitants lack, with regard to their lan-
guage, the advantage and rights possessed by the
minority, and as long as this minority is still
ashamed of the name Finn, which it consequently
often uses as a term of insult, thereby showing that
it does not wish to be counted among the number
of the Finns."

Lonnrot lived to a ripe old age, full of energy and
love of work. Old minstrel that he was, he retired
to the country after eight years at the University,
rejoicing in his freedom. People constantly wanted
to do him honour; he as constantly tried to escape
it. He had to come to Helsingf ors to celebrate his
eightieth birthday in 1882. On being wished many
happy returns, he replied that he really would like
to live a few more years in order that he might see
among the students the same spirit of unity that had
existed among them sixty years earlier. Two years
later he died.

Altogether he must have been an extraordinarily
lovable character. He was full of tenderness to all
creatures, and it is said that he would not even kill
flies, but would carry them out of his room alive,
for they too needed the joy of living. He had the
astounding simplicity of a really great man and a
deeply rooted modesty. One of his latest utterances
was characteristic of him: "I think I have not a
single enemy in the world."



THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT 37

The other great literary force which sprang from
the Saturday Club was Johan Ludvig Euneberg.
He was born in 1804 at Jakobstad in Osterbotten,
the district from which so many of Finland's great
men have come, including the poets Franzen, Sten-
back, and Topelius. "The Athenians of Finland"
is the proud title claimed for the Osterbottnians by
one of them and the poems of Euneberg in certain
aspects undoubtedly suggest the Greek view of life.
Euneberg 's father was a sea-captain, and both
father and mother were of Swedish descent. Johan
was the eldest of a family of six, three of whom
were girls. He went to the University of Abo in
1822, but owing to poverty was compelled to break
off his studies and take the post of tutor to a fam-
ily living in the heart of Finland. Here he learned
Finnish and came to understand and love the peas-
antry. He returned to the University in 1826, and
after the great fire at Abo the following year re-
tired to Pargas, in the beautiful archipelago outside
the town, where he became engaged to Fredrika
Tengstrom, one of a family honourable in Finnish
history. His poetry ripened under a happy love and
he issued his first volume of lyrical poems.

The following song in praise of the North is a
characteristic example, and happily reflects the pe-
culiar beauty of Finnish landscape: -

From the cloudland's purple-tinted edge

The swan sank, calm and boon,
And settled by the river's bank

And sang one eve of June.



38 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

Of northern beauty was his song,

How happy is its air,
How day forgets the whole night through

To turn to slumber there.

How shadows there are deep and rich

Neath birch and alder tree,
How gold-illumined shines each creek,

Each cool wave of the sea.

How infinitely sweet it is

A loved one there to own,
How faithfulness is native there,

Yearns to it as to home.

So rang from wave to wave his voice,

His simple song of bliss,
And soon he sought his loved one's breast

And seemed to warble this:

"Ah, what, love, if thy dream of life

Be but a short-lived thing!
Loved hast thou by our northern stream,

Sung in our northern spring."

Runeberg followed the University to Helsingfors
in 1828 and married three years later on the
strength of a minor academic post. During the
years in Helsingfors both he and his gifted wife
were regular attendants at the Saturday Club meet-
ings. In 1832 "The Elk Hunters " appeared, a long
poem in hexameters describing Finnish peasant life
in the remote parts of the country. A second vol-
ume of lyrical poems appeared in 1833, but his first
popular success came three years later with the pub-
lication of "Hanna," which, like "The Elk Hunt-
ers, " is written in hexameters. It is an idyll of
Finnish country life in midsummer, the scene being
a remote country parsonage.



THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT 39

"The Elk Hunters" is the most important of the
early poems. Runeberg's patriotism was fired by
the subject, as the following passage concerning the
poem's origin shows: "Myself a descendant of the
colonizing Swedes, I had imagined the Finn as being
inwardly as he had seemed to me outwardly when
he had come from time to time with his wares to my
native town. How different I found him in his own
home and on a nearer view ! A patriarchal simplic-
ity, a profound manly endurance, an inborn clear
comprehension of life's most intimate aspects were
characteristics which I discovered in him, and
which, alas! I have been able to render but poorly
in the descriptions I have attempted."

Runeberg's view of the Finnish peasant is admit-
tedly idealistic, and contrasts greatly with the pic-
ture we get in such books as Kivi's "Seven Broth-
ers." Yet it is true to one side of Finnish char-
acter, as Kivi's description is true to another side.

Although the public was slow to recognize its
worth, the Saturday Club circle acclaimed ' i The Elk
Hunters ? ' as the first great national poem produced
in modern Finland, and a few years later Fredrik
Cygnaeus declared that, if the Finnish people were
to be destroyed, this poem and the "Kalevala"
would be its Herculaneum and Pompeii, from which
the perished nation might be known.

Runeberg was always in financial difficulties in
Helsingfors. He edited the Morgonblad for some
time, but its circulation fell, owing to his criticisms
of the Swedish poet Tegner. He was unable to get
a good post at the University, as he was considered



40 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

rather an advanced young man. His poems did not
sell. Finally, in 1837, he applied for the post of
teacher of Latin at Borga, a beautiful little town
on the coast a few hours east of Helsingfors. The
University then made a late effort to retain him, but
in vain. Henceforth the events in his life were al-
most entirely internal. Borga was his home until
his death, in 1877, and for thirty-one years he spent
his summers on the same island in the archipelago
outside. He gave up his school work in 1857, and
for the last thirteen years of his life was bedridden
owing to the effects of a stroke.

In character there were several points of resem-
blance between Euneberg and Lonnrot. Both men
were profoundly simple. When Runeberg visited
Sweden and was being feted, he wrote characteris-
tically to his wife: "How I should like to be back
with you ! I am utterly weary of all the splendour
of the world, and long for porridge, fish, and the
peace of Kroksnas." Professor Grot, a Russian,
describes Runeberg 's "open countenance, express-
ing intelligence, uprightness, gentleness, and an un-
shakeable peace of soul." The last characteristic
had also specially struck him in Lonnrot. The love
of sport and outdoor life was also common to the
two. Runeberg was almost as enthusiastic a fish-
erman as a poet, while his hunting expeditions
sometimes lasted for days at a time. He was on
intimate terms with the island population, and
shared his glass of toddy with the hardy pilots. It
was during a hunting expedition with his youngest
son that his stroke disabled him. Runeberg also re-



THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT 41

sembled Loimrot in his dislike for party politics,
into which he steadily refused to be drawn. While
sympathizing with the raising of the Finnish lan-
guage, he disapproved of Snellman's theory that
Swedish must eventually disappear from Finland.
He held that nationality was ultimately based, not
on language but on the land and its historic tradi-
tion and the common interests of those living to-
gether.

It is a matter for surprise and regret that Rune-
berg's great poetical achievement is not more widely
known and appreciated. He wrote many other
works, including "Nadescha," the love-story of a
Russian serf -girl, and a drama entitled "The Kings
at Salamis," but his two finest poems are "Fanrik
Stals Sagner" (the Tales of Ensign Stal), and
"King Fialar." The former work consists of a
series of narrative poems describing incidents of the
great war of 1808-9, when the Finns offered their
stubborn resistance to the armies of Russia. They
are impregnated with the atmosphere of a desperate
war waged by patriots in the snow and darkness of
a Finnish winter. The poems have left an indel-
ible imprint on the people of Finland, who feel that
one side of their nature has received in them a defi-
nite and final expression. Even a foreigner can
hardly read them without being moved to tears by
their naive simplicity, by the sheer beauty they shed
on noble human striving and suffering, by the faith
and reverence with which the poet handles the great
issues of life and death as if he were at home
with them, by the fiery, self-sacrificing patriotism



42 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

through which human clay is transfigured into
something greater than itself, by the sublime hero-
ism of simple and stupid men, by the laughter amid
the tears, by the long suspense of inaction and
wasted marches, by the fierce joy of battle and slay-
ing, by the calm of nobly encountered death and by
the proud sorrow of mothers who have given their
sons for a great cause.

Euneberg was attracted to the subject for various
reasons. One of his earliest recollections was being
given a ride on the knee of Kulneff, the famous Eus-
sian cavalry officer, whose good-heartedness he cele-
brates in one of the poems. Another was the fa-
mous occasion when he saw the fiery General von
Dobeln curse God and shake his fist at heaven for
sending weather unsuitable for his operations. In
later life, especially at Borga, he was in touch with
many men who had taken part in the war, while in
his student years he had met and been inspired by
the old ensign whose tales he used as a framework
for his narratives. Perhaps " narratives " is not al-
together the right word. For in form these poems
in which the great memories of the war find expres-
sion are a series of portraits. Eepresentatives of
all classes of the Finnish nation are introduced not
engaged in their ordinary avocations, as in "The
Elk Hunters" and other poems, but seen in the light
of a national crisis. Military figures play the chief
role, as is natural, and there are fine portraits of
men of all ranks, from general to private. But the
peasant men and women are drawn with as skilled
a hand as any. It is difficult to select from such a



THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT 43

rich harvest, but among the most characteristic is
that of the girl whose lover played the coward.
When after the battle the troops go by and she can-
not see him, she first thinks he is dead, but when she
seeks his body on the battle-field and cannot find it
her heart is broken:

When past our door the troop inarched by, and I their ranks

had numbered,

I wept to think that like a man among the dead he slumbered ;
I sorrowed, but my grief was mild, it had no bitter weight,
I would have lived a thousand years to mourn his noble fate.
O mother, I have looked for him where'er the dead are lying ;
But none of all the stricken bear his features calm in dying;
Now will I live no more on earth in shame to sit and sigh,
He lies not there among the dead and therefore I will die.

(Edmund Gosse's translation.)

Sven Dufva is another characteristic peasant
hero. He is a good-natured but thick-headed young
giant, who is willing to do anything but does it all
wrong. He becomes a soldier and cannot learn his
drill, and when the war breaks out the regiment dis-
cuss whether he can go with them. He settles it
by saying that if he cannot go with the others he
will go alone. One day a bridge has to be held at
all costs by a small troop of which Sven Dufva is
one. All but five are killed and the order to retreat
is given, but Sven is too stupid to understand it
' ' he had a bad head but a good heart. ' ' Alone, calm
and huge, with fixed bayonet he holds the bridge
until help comes, falling in the hour of triumph with
a bullet through his breast. A wise bullet, says the
general sadly ; it left his head in peace, for that was



44 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

weak and poor, and went to a better place, his brave
and noble heart.

Noble patriotism has never been more finely ex-
pressed than in these poems, which did for Finland
what certain of Wordsworth's sonnets did for Eng-
land. Though more fiery in his temperament, Bune-
berg recalls Wordsworth in other respects also, not-
ably in the simplicity of his thought and language,
which, like Wordsworth's, sometimes seems a little
exaggerated, and in his love for and faithful de-
scription of Nature. He also recalls the Greeks,
which is perhaps the last thing one would expect
of a Finnish poet. He does so most, perhaps, when
his poems treat of Finland in summer, when the long
days and the clear, cloudless skies make the waters
of the Baltic seem the sisters of the blue Mediter-
ranean waters. He adds light and brightness to
Nature in a spirit akin to Greek poetry. His mind,
too, seems often to grasp human issues in a Greek
way. There is something nobly Hellenic in the
simple way his Finnish soldiers meet death, and his
people are as responsive to the call of patriotism as
were the inhabitants of the Greek City-State. His
great poem "King Fialar," apart from the differ-
ences of scene and civilization, might almost have
issued from a Greek mind, and for all the romantic
beauty of its Ossianic parts it bears the Greek im-
press of light and brightness. The story describes
the Nemesis which falls on the lonely and unloving
king, who, despising the gods, sacrifices all things
to the idea of his own greatness. He is warned that
his son and daughter will make an incestuous mar-



THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT 45

riage, and seeks to prevent this by having his daugh-
ter drowned. She is rescued, however, and lives at
Morven with King Morannal, whose three sons woo
her in vain. Then her brother comes on a Viking
expedition, falls in love with her and marries her.
Only after they have lived together for some time
does he discover that Oihonna is his sister. The
poem ends with the deaths of Oihonna, King Fialar
and his son. Nevertheless, before the end, the king
has realized the wisdom of the gods and made his
submission to the laws of human life. Euneberg de-
scribed the poem as "a little epos, the subject of
which is the greatness and grace of the gods," and
Professor Walfred Wasenius well observes that its
fundamental thought is really, "If a man does not
love his brother whom he sees, how can he love God
whom he does not see? "

The form of the poem is very fine, and the skill
with which the complicated story is worked out by
the aid of purely natural agencies compels admira-
tion. What should make it of peculiar interest to
British readers is the fact that for his description
of Oihonna at Morven Euneberg has borrowed from
Celtic sources. It was necessary for the story that
Oihonna should grow up among some distant folk,
and it so happened that a Swedish translation of
Ossian appeared in 1842 just in time to suggest to
Euneberg a Celtic setting for that part of his poem.
The milder manners and humaner feelings of the
Celts afforded an excellent contrast to the harder
and harsher early Scandinavian world; and Celtic
legend and poem have contributed considerably to



46 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

increase the loveliness and tragic grandeur of Bune-
berg's work, and to cast their romantic beauty on
the exquisite figure of Oihonna.

Runeberg is certainly the greatest dynamic force
produced by modern Finland and has inevitably be-
come a national institution. Nor could Finland have
a better source of inspiration. Splendid patriotism,


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