A Finnish art song, but what does it mean? Updated!

The name of this song is “Tuijotin tulehen kauvan.” According to Youtube and a couple of classical music resources, that translates as “I was staring at the fire for a long time.” It was composed by Toivo Kuula in 1907 and the words are from a poem written by Eino Leino.

My girlfriend played it for me last night and I thought it was absolutely beautiful, and worth sharing. I’d love to know what the lyrics are all about, but unfortunately I don’t speak Finnish and there isn’t a single dependable translation on the Internet anywhere.

So if you read this blog and happen to speak Finnish, or know somewhere I can find the translation, please leave a comment or send me an email.

Here’s the lyrics in Finnish, as best as I can tell:

Tuijotin tulehen kauvan,
liikuttelin lieden puita,
ajattelin armastani,
muistin mustakulmaistani.

Hiilet hehkui, kuvat kulki,
ajat armahat samosi,
telilii suviset linnut,
keikkuivat kesäiset päivät,–
poski hehkui, suu hymysi,
silmät muita muistutteli.

Vierin maita, vierin soita,
vierin suuria saloja,
salossa savu sininen,
savun alla armas mökki,
mökissä ihana impi,
kultakangasta kutovi,
helmellistä helskyttävi.

Kelle kangas kultaloimi?
Häiksi metsän morsiolle.
Kelle neiti näätärinta?
Hiihtäjälle Niiden korven.

Ei hyvä hylätyn kauvan
liikutella lieden puita,
vesi silmihin tulevi,
pää käsihin tuiskahtavi,
kurkussa korina käypi,
sylkytys sydänalassa.

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2 comments

  1. I love this song, too.

    Following is quick, non-poetic translation. A few places I wasn’t able to translate since I don’t have access to a dictionary right now.

    Parts of the poem are based on an old Kalevala (epic poems) structure where the meaning of each line is repeated using different words in the 2nd line.

    I stared at the fire for a long time
    Moved around the logs in the stove
    Thought of my dearest one
    Remembered my dark-browed one.

    Coals glowed, images passed
    Beloved times wandered
    Summer birds soared
    Summer days bounced
    A cheek glowed, a mouth smiled,
    Eyes reminded of others.

    Wandered lands, wandered marshes,
    wandered large forests
    In the forest a blue smoke
    Under the smoke a beloved cottage,
    In the cottage a wonderful maiden
    Weaving a golden cloth
    [A old synonym for weave] a cloth of pearls.

    For whom the goldencloth?
    For the wedding of the forest bride.
    For whom miss martenbreast?
    For the skiier of the wilderness.

    Not good for long for an abandoned one
    to move around the logs in the stove,
    Water comes to the eyes
    Head falls into the hands
    —- in the throat.
    Palpitations in the heart.

    1. Jaana! Thank you so much!

      I had given up on finding a good translation of this. I’d even tried ordering a book through the Boston Public Library, but never heard back from them. Thanks for visiting, and thanks for doing that work.

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