Saturday, July 09, 2011

Why I live in Estonia...


The XI Young Song festival, held last weekend. A choir of 30,000 schoolkids and students watched by over 120,000 of the rest of the country. Magnificent and of course not one instance of bad behaviour recorded in the whole three day event.

What land is this? No mountains vastly tower

Just woodlands without end and mires in throngs

but the people here are filled with wonderous power

and strange the tales in their songs...

What land is this? At times the day is eaten

At times it lasts so long, it swallows the night

The two pass us by regardless of season

When outsiders rest, the local has to fight


What land is this? Is here a Man's stature

fit only for when a slave he became?

All this hurt, who would gather

so that love would come and bring an end to pain

What land is this, where mercy is defenseless

(what land is this) where freedom's buried deep underground

Where's the justice, where's the justness

where is justice for the jaded when they're bound?


What land is this? Compassion here's corroded

Corroded is the heartless breast with shame.

I could run away from here overloaded

Still I'm held back by something just the same

What land is this, that takes such hold of me

and how it does it I've not known for long

It doesn't cover me, it doesn't feed me

yet somehow still it carries me along


What land is this? Could I it conceive?

What land is this? Could I be without its caress?

What land is this? How could it leave

all its children motherless...

What land is this? No mountains vastly tower

Just woodlands without end and mires in throngs

but the people here are filled with wonderous power

and strange the tales in their songs...


4 comments:

George said...

Elegant translation of lyrics that say it all. Thanks for posting it.

Reminds me of your own kinsman Edmund Muir's poem "The Difficult Land":


The poem (from the collection "One Foot in Eden") starts:

"This is a difficult land. Here things miscarry
Whether we care or do not care enough..."

and goes on to evoke large and small problems of life, then continuing :..

"These things we know and by good luck or guidance
Either frustrate, or, if we must, endure.
We are a people; race and speech support us,
Ancestral rite and custom, roof and tree,
Our songs that tell of our triumphs and disasters
(fleeting alike) continuance of fold and hearth,
Our names and callings, work and rest and sleep,
And something that defeated still endures -
These things sustain us..."

He goes on to say that sometimes all this effort just seems too much, and the temptation is to drop the tools and move on, but:

"we have such hours, but are drawn back again
By faces of goodness, faithful masks of sorrow,
Honesty, kindness, courage , fidelity,
The love that lasts a life's time. And the fields,
Homestead and stall and barn, springtime and autumn
(for we can love even the wandering seasons
In their inhuman circuit.) And the dead
Who lodge in us so strangely unremembered,
Yet in their place. For how can we reject
The long last look on the ever-dying face
Turned back from the other side of time?
and how offend the dead and shame the living
By these despairs? And how refrain from love?
This is a difficult country, and our home."

Anonymous said...

Czeslaw Milosz has described the Baltic as "home to ghosts of longing and sorrow for eyes long removed".

Cicero said...

I did not know the Muir piece, pretty apposite for Scotland I think. Thanks for posting.

The Valley of the Issa- Milosz's Roman-a-clef of his childhood says much else in similar vein- after all he was as much a Lithuanian as a Pole.

Cicero said...

Not my translation- but a very beautiful one I thought.