July 13, 2011

Eino Leino

Eino Leino [Armas Einar Leopold Lönnbohm] [Finland]

Eino Leino was born Armas Einar Leopold Lönnbohm on Jyly 6, 1878 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 of ten children in the family.
Leino's father, 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.

The boy 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 where 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 taken 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.

Russian censorship and self-censorship threatened free expression – Russification of Finland 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 rented an apartment at Lungo Tevere Prat, where he continued with his translation of Dante's Divine Comedy.

During these same years Leino turned his attention to theater, attempting to revive Finnish theatre, while boldly attacked Kaarlo Bergbom, the founder of the Finnish Theatre. His major plays from the beginning of the century include Simo Hurita I-II (1904-19), telling of an eighteen-century nobleman, Simo Affleck, nicknamed Hurtta; Lalli (1907), about the half-legendary pagan peasant who killed the first Christian missionary in Finland; and Mannu 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, since 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 surrounded by his heavily-drinking circle of freinds. 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."

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.

Leino's first collection of poems, the light-hearted Maaliskuun Lauluja appeared 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). 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 Tuulikann (1919), making small changes. For decades, the poem was heard on New Year's Eve radio broadcasts.

Another popular poem, 'Nocture', was first published in Talvi-yoö (1905).

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, as he focused instead on cosmic visions and legends. 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 legend, in one night, without him ever having 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 Leirivalkeat (1917), Juhana Herttuan ja Catharina Jagellonican Lauluja (1919), Ajatar (1920), Syreenien Kukkiessa (1920), and Shemekian Murhe (1924) were published.

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.

Of Leino's several volumes of poetry, perhaps his major work is Helkavirsiä (1903-1916, Whit songs), a collection of narrative poetry composed in the trochaic meter, a work based on the Kalevala and folk poetry, which 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.

Leino also wrote numerous autobiographical works and several volumes of fiction.
Leino might be described as the father of modern Finnish poetry, and his impact is enormous still today.

For a translation of Leino's poem, "Peace," click here:

For a sung version of Leino's "Nocturne" in Finnish, click here:

For a sung version of Leino's "Summer in Finland," with an English translation, click below:

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