Translations by Fredrik Hertzberg and Leevi Lehto

I den värld
värld och
i dig
i ditt rums värld

och på gatan
en rådvill
En jord och skall skänka
sitt anlet

In that world
world and
in you
in your room’s world

on the street
at a loss
An earth and shall lower
down its face

Siinä maailmassa
maailma ja
huoneesi maailmassa

ja kadulla
neuvotonna on
On maa ja laskeva

From Att i sitt öga, 1954

Att i ögon
doft och svalka
och att som –
och som du
att – är

That in eyes
scent and coolness
and that like –
and like you
that – is

Että silmissä
tuoksu ja viileys
ja että kuin –
ja kuin sinä
että – on

From Ett blyertsstreck, 1951

Där vinkar en blomma, där vinkar och lockar ett doft mot mit öga. Där blinkar ett doft.
Jag vill stiga till himlarnas bärg, jag vill sjunka i vågen: en dal. Jag är sjungande ton, och i gåta ler dagen.

There waves a flower, there waves and lures an scent at my eye. There twinkles a hope.
I will rise to the mountains of heaven, I will sink in the wave: a dale. I am singing tone, and in riddle smiles the day.

Ja kutsuva kukka, ja kutsuva houkutus tuoksu silmääni vasten. Ja vilkkuva tuoksu.
Ja nouseva taivaiden vuorille, olen, vaipuva aallossa: laakso. Olen laulava sävel. Ja arvoitus hymyillä päivän.

From Vilande dag, 1922

Note to the Finnish Translations

Finnish not having articles, there seems to be no easy way to render the slightly deviant “en rådvill” and “En jord” in the first poem. I’ve chosen to use the third person singular of the Finnish verb for “to be”, “olla”: “on”. After all, it’s quite near, “materially”, to the original (en/on), and, semantically, seems to convey the same sense of “(something) being there”.

The second poem doesn’t seem to pose any specific problems – the only twist in my version is the archaic/poetic “vainen” for the third line, “endast”, “only”; it seemed rhythmically better than either the monosyllabic, colloquial “vain”, or the slightly more poetic “ainoastaan” (ai-no-as-taan). “Vainen” also contains “vain en”, (“Still, I don’t…”), thus serving as an example of “found in translation”. To me, it also easily reads as a slightly absurd, meaningless adjective.

In the third poem, the original’s strong trochaic beat would be lost with “siellä” for “där”, “there”. I’ve chosen “ja”, Finnish for “and”, in stead. In this context, it functions paratactically as a kind of pointing: “there… and there…” Changing into the passive-adverbial verb forms (“kutsuva”, “waving”; “vilkkuva”, “blinking”) also helps to retain the rhythm. The toughest part in this one proved to be “i gåta”, “in riddle”, in the final sentence. All uses of the obvious “arvoituksessa” I could think of would have totally ruined the rhythm pattern. My solution, “Arvoitus hymyillä päivän”, reads literally “A riddle for the day to smile (in? to?)” (or, even, “A riddle to smile (to?) for a day”). At least, it’s a riddle. I trust Björling wouldn’t have minded.

I am grateful to Fredrik Hertzberg for his analyses in Moving Materialities. On Poetic Materiality and Translation, with Special Reference to Gunnar Björling’s Poery (Åbo Akademi University, Saarijärvi 2002). Fred’s translations are from that book.

Leevi Lehto