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|Eino Leino (1878-1926) - originally Eino Armas Leopold Lönnbohm|
Poet, novelist, playwright, and journalist, the most important developer of Finnish-language poetry at the turn of the 20th century. In his work, Leino combined the archaic and mythic tradition, symbolism, and influences from Friedrich Nietzsche with his romantic concept of the artist as a truth-seeking visionary. Leino's command of the language was outstanding, and he was the first Finnish translator of Dante. A bohemian from the beginning of his literary career, Leino become a well-known figure in the restaurants of the cultural elite of Helsinki. He is still probably the most cited poet in Finland.
"Short time's to us allotted till our urn.
Living, like furnace flames then let us burn,
Eino Leino was born Armas Einar Leopold Lönnbohm in Paltamo, Hövelö, the son of Anders Lönnbohm, a surveyor, and Anna Emilia (Kyrenius) Lönnbohm, who came from a priest and an officer's family. He was the seventh and youngest son; there were ten children in all in the family. Leino's father, who was originally callled Mustonen, died in 1890 and his mother five years later. These losses were a deep blow to him, which he expressed in his poems in feelings of loneliness and as an orphan. He was educated in Kajaani, Oulu, and Hämeenlinna, graduating from Hämeenlinna Grammar School in 1895. At the age of sixteen Leino published a translation of a poem by Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877), the great Swedish language Finnish poet.
In 1895 Leino started his studies at the Imperial Aleksander University of Helsinki. He joined literary and newspaper circles and became a member of the Young Finnish circle. Among Leino's friends were the artist Pekka Halonen and Otto Manninen, who gained fame as a poet and translator. By the end of the century, Leino left the university without taking a degree. He worked as a journalist and critic on the newspapers Päivälehti (1899-1905) and Helsingin Sanomat (1905-14). His pseudonyms, 'Mikko Vilkastus' and 'Teemu', were from Aleksis Kivi's play Nummisuutarit. Between the years 1898 and 1899 he edited with his brother Kasimir Leino the magazine Nykyaika, and was heavily in debt after its bankruptcy. Also both Russian censorship and self-censorship threatened free expression – Russification of Finlad had started under governor general Nicholas Bobrikov, who was shot to death by Eugen Schauman in 1904. Later Leino planned to include Schauman in his collection of poems about great Finns.
When his marriage with Freya Schoultz and dreams of bourgeois life style neared an end in 1908, Leino went abroad and travelled in Berlin, Dresden, Münich, and Rome. Leino's close friend and companion during the turning point of his life was the poet L. Onerva, with whom he lived in Rome in 1908-09; at that time they both were still legally married. Leino had rented an apartment at Lungo Tevere Prat, where he continued with his translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. A memorial tablet was later placed on the wall of house where he stayed: "In questa casa negli anni 1908-1909 il grande poeta finlandese Eino Leino tradusse La Divina Commedia con amore inspirato alla universalita di Roma."
Leino attempted to revive Finnish theatre, and boldly attacked Kaarlo Bergbom, the founder of the Finnish Theatre. His major plays from the beginning of the century include Simo Hurtta I-II (1904-19), telling of an eighteen-century nobleman, Simo Affleck, nicknamed Hurtta, Lalli (1907), about the half-legenady pagan peasant, who killed according to legends Bishop Henrik, the first Christian missionary in Finland, and Maunu Tavast (1908). From 1915 to 1918 Leino worked as an editor of the magazine Sunnuntai. Leino's liaison with the writer Aino Kallas from 1916 to 1919 created a new scandal – she was the wife of an Estonian diplomat.
At the outbreak of the Finnish Civil War (1917-18), Leino was in Helsinki, where he witnessed the battles with his small boozing circle. The reign of the Reds did not win Leino's sympathies; the women's battalion especially horrified the poet: "This was the first time I'd seen so many of them gathered together, and I have to confess, in the name of truth, I've never at any other time witnessed such human savagery, bestial frenzy, mental derangement and physical disfigurement." (transl. by Herbert Lomas, in Helsinki: a literary companion, 2000)
After the war Leino's idealistic faith for a national unity collapsed, and his influence as a journalist and polemic writer grew weaker. At the age of forty, he was granted a State writer's pension. Although publishing prolifically, he had financial problems and his health was giving way. Reportedly he lived during his last years alternately in a hotel, a hospital, and at friend's homes. "Life is always struggle with eternal forces," Leino wrote in a letter in 1925 to his friend Bertel Gripenberg: "Nous sommes pourtant nécessaires. Aussi malades. Mais c'est de la tristesse de la vie, qui pour nous est toujours un combat avec les forces étérnelles." Leino died at Riihiluhta in Nuppulinna, on January 10, 1926. "Well – Eino Leino – perhaps he was the only Finnish author who can really be called a genius," said Bertel Gripenberg. Leino was married three times, first to Thyra Freya Franzena Schoultz (1905-10), then to the harpist Aino Inez Kajanus (1913-1920), who was the daughter of the conductor Robert Kajanus, and for the third time to Hanna Laitinen (1921, died 1929). Freya Schoultz was a translator and commercial correspondent; Leino t enjoyed with her for a couple of years bourgeois life in a large seaside flat. Leino's only child, Eya Helka, came of this marriage.
Leino's first collection of poems, the light-hearted Maaliskuun lauluja, came out in 1896, when he was eighteen-years old. Later he turned from the free style to the meter and style of folklore. Tuonelan joutsen (1896), a Neo-romantic verse play, combined symbolism and folk poetry. After a journey to Russia Karelia and falling in love with a "nature child", Anni Tiihonen, Leino wrote Sata ja yksi laulua(1898). He started the work in Berlin. It included one of his most beloved poems, 'Hymyilevä Apollo', originally part three of the larger poetic work entitled 'Hymni'. Reinhold Roine's (pseudonym R.R.) review of the book in the newspaper Uusi Suometar was hostile. Later Leino published his 'Hymn' in Tuulikannel (1919), but to this version he had made small changes. For decades, the poem was heard on New Year's Eve radio broadcasts. Another popular poem, the resignated 'Nocture', was first published in Talvi-yö (1905). "I have stopped chasing Jack-o'-Lantern, / I hold gold from the Demon's mountain; / around me life tightens its ring, / time stops, the vane has ceased to swing; / the road before me through the gloom / is leading to the unknown room."
Simo Hurtta, an epic poem, took its subject from the long war in the early 18th century between Russia and Sweden-Finland. Talvi-yö and Halla (1908), born in the years of political dissatisfaction, returned to the images of darkness, frost, and cold. Leino's personal crisis led the poet to abandon individual heroes and the theme of death – he focused on cosmic visions and legends. Leino's works, such as Painuva päivä (1914) and Elämän koreus(1916), still had high artistic values. His first and only screenplay, Kesä (1913), was written according to stories in one night – allegedly Leino had not seen any feature films.
After the Finnish Civil war Leino worked productively but on several occasions his efforts led to pathos and empty preaching. During this period there appeared Leirivalkeat (1917), Juhana Herttuan ja Catharina Jagellonican lauluja (1919), Ajatar (1920), Syreenien kukkiessa (1920), and Shemeikan murhe (1924). Leino also wrote plays, essays, contemporary novels, animal fables, and translated into Finnish works from such authors as Racine, Runeberg, Schiller, Anatole France, J.W. von Goethe, Dante, Rabindranath Tagore, Dante (Divine Comedy, 1912-14), and Corneille. His oeuvre includes 32 books of poetry, 25 plays, 25 novels, and 16 translations.
Tell me, O Sun, what is that
Having published several books of verse, Leino produced his major work, Helkavirsiä (1903-1916, Whit songs), a collection of narrative poetry composed in the trochaic meter. It was based on the Kalevala and folk poetry, and appeared in two collections. Several of the ballads present the past in heroic light, its characters are great visionaries, who challenge their fate or willingly yield to greater forces. "Täss' on mies tämän sukuinen, / kadu ei tehtyä tekoa / eikä taivasta tavota." (from 'Ylermi') The second volume of Whitsuntide songs is more resigned and more mystical than the first, and the symbolism is more obscure. "Uskoin ennen ihmisihin, / en nyt itke, en iloitse, / ohi käyvät onnet heidän, / onnettomuudetkin ohitse, / tiedän kyllä kylmyyteni, / en sitä sure, en kadu, / se on voitto taisteloiden, / tulos tappion tuhannen." (from 'Äijön virsi') Obsession with death marks some later pieces. Leino never wrote a third volume of Helkavirsiä, although the noted short story writer Aino Kallas in vain tried to persuade him to do so.
Leino's autobiographical books include Alla kasvon Kaikkivallan (1917), and Elämäni kuvakirja (1925). As an essayist Leino was one of the best of his time. In the unfinished series, Suomalaisia kirjailijoita (1909), he drew well-characterized portraits of Finnish authors. Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden historia (1910) was a short but insightful history of Finnish literature. Leino also wrote about himself in the book and admits the influence of Goethe on his poetry. He praises Aleksis Kivi's novel The Seven Brothers, "Yhtä rohkea kuin kirjan sisällys on sen muoto, joka on sekoitus draamallisista, eepillisistä ja lyyrillisistä aineksista, kaikki kuitenkin yhtyneinä klassilliseksi kokonaisuudeksi." Although his general attitude is positive, one exception is Irmari Rantamala's (Maiju Lassila) large and shapeless novel Harhama (1909), which he dismisses as "tasteless". In his own prose works Leino's interest varied from large contemporary social, political, and ideological questions to intimate and allegorical subjects, of which Musti (1916), about the life and wisdom of a dog, become hugely popular.
Between 1911 and 1913 Leino produced his "slave" novels, Työn orja (1911, Slave of work), Rahan orja (1912, Slave of money), Naisen orja (1913, slave of woman), and Onnen orja (1913, Slave of fortune). Although the protagonist's creativity is impressively displayed in the tetralogy in the areas of scholarly learning, business, literature, and love, which makes him an Nietzschean Übermensch, his idealism is eventually destroyed by the modern capitalist world, and he spends the rest of his life as a hermit in the mountains. Also Alkibiades, which Leino wrote in 1908, and Tarquinus Superbus, dealt with the theme of a "superman". However, Nietzsche's most faithfully follower at that time was Aarni Kouta, who translated Also sprach Zarathustra (1907), Der Antichrist (1908), and Dionysos (1909) into Finnish.
Haihtuvi nuoruus niinkuin vierivä virta.
Häipyvät taakse tahtoni ylpeät päivät.
Tiedän ma: rauha mulle on mullassa suotu.
Upposi mereen unteni kukkivat kunnaat.
Uupunut olen, ah, sydänjuurihin saakka!
Siis oli suotta kestetyt, vaikeat vaivat,
Toivoton taisto taivaan valtoja vastaan!