The rooftops all veiled in snow…

Except not, because there is no snow in Finland this Christmas. Stupid climate change.

Anyway! Hello! Bet you’re surprised to see me here. I am as well. I’m fully aware that I have let this blog and poetry in general kind of… drift to the background, while I’ve been buried under work commitments. I’m not happy about this so I’m going to try hard to make time for creativity and things-other-than-work in 2017. *pinky swear*

But let’s start with a seasonal post.

Here is one of my favourite Nordic/Finnish* Christmas songs, although it doesn’t mention Christmas once. It’s about a kotitonttu** doing his rounds and pondering on an important question. I may have spent quite some time translating the lyrics into English in a way that kept the meter (almost, there are a couple of lines that still sound awkward when I try to sing them) and the rhyme (pretty pleased with this) without compromising on the meaning too much (Finnish speakers, I’d be interested in what you think!). There is at least one another English translation out there but it is a literal one with, and I wanted one that actually fitted the song, so…

* The lyrics are a translation from a Swedish poem but the melody seems to vary from country to country
**Notes on the term ‘tonttu’: The word itself is a Swedish loan and
you can read about pan-Nordic mythology here. The Finnish word is haltija, and particularly here the song is talking about the kotitonttu or kotihaltija (house gnome, house elf, house guardian) rather than the Christmas version per se. I would also recommend reading the Haltija Wiki article. For the lyrics, I decided not to translate ‘tonttu’ because everything else (elf, gnome, brownie) just wasn’t quite right.

Anyway, here is the song…

With this I’d like to wish my dearest Flist:

Happy Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah…
However you celebrate, or don’t, have a lovely mid-winter time!

The lyrics translation is under the cut!

Composition © Lyyli Waltiovaara-Kallioniemi
Lyrics © Viktor Rydberg (Swedish original), Valter Juva (Finnish translation), Kat Soini (English translation)
Pakkasyö on, ja leiskuen ~*~*~ Frosty night, with glimmer and glow
pohja loimuja viskoo. ~*~*~ the north flings its flickering flame.
Kansa kartanon hiljaisen  ~*~*~ Folk in the manor so quiet though
yösydänuntaan kiskoo. ~*~*~ the nightheart sleep they claim.
Ääneti kuu käy kulkuaan, ~*~*~ Quietly swims by the moon,
puissa lunta on valkeanaan, ~*~*~ trees dressed in white as they swoon,
kattojen päällä on lunta. ~*~*~ the rooftops all veiled in snow.
Tonttu ei vaan saa unta. ~*~*~ But into dreams Tonttu can’t row.
Ladosta tulee, hankeen jää  ~*~*~ Leaves the barn, stands in place
harmaana uksen suuhun, ~*~*~ grey and still in the doorway,
vanhaan tapaansa tirkistää  ~*~*~ toward the sky he lifts his face
kohti taivasta kuuhun; ~*~*~ peers at the moon’s simple sway;
katsoo metsää, min hongat on  ~*~*~ checks the forest, where tall pines
tuulensuojana kartanon, ~*~*~ against the wind, guard in lines,
miettivi suuntaan sataan  ~*~*~ ponders in a hundred direction
ainaista ongelmataan. ~*~*~ at his endless question.
Partaa sivellen aprikoi, ~*~*~ Strokes his beard, is resigned,
puistaa päätä ja hasta ~*~*~ shakes his head and exclaims
“ei, tätä ymmärtää ei voi, “no, I simply can’t divine,
ei, tää pulma on vasta;” ~*~*~ I am still stumped the same;”
heittää tapaansa järkevään ~*~*~ he throws such troubles far away
taas jo pois nämä vaivat pään, ~*~*~ on his shoulders they no longer weigh,
lähtee toimiin ja työhön, ~*~*~ off to his tasks he heads out,
lähtee puuhiinsa yöhön. ~*~*~ starting his nightly route.
Aitat ja puodit tarkastain, ~*~*~ Inspects the granary and the shed,
lukkoja koittaa nytkyin, ~*~*~  tugging sharply he checks the locks,
lehmät ne lehdoista näkee vain  ~*~*~ the cows dreaming of green beds
unta kahleissa kytkyin; ~*~*~ in their chains and stocks;
suitset ja siimat ei selkään soi  ~*~*~ untouched by bridle and strap
ruunan, mi myöskin unelmoi: ~*~*~ dreams the gelding, that old chap:
torkkuen vasten seinää, ~*~*~ dozing against the wall,
haassa se puree heinää. ~*~*~ chewing on hay in his stall.
Lammasten luo käy karsinaan, ~*~*~ Tends to the sheep in their pens,
makuulla tapaa ne ukko; ~*~*~ he finds them asleep on the ground;
kanat jo katsoo, pienallaan  ~*~*~ peers into the coop, above the hens
istuu ylinnä kukko; ~*~*~ on his roost the cockrel crowned;
kopissa Vahti hyvin voi, ~*~*~ keeping his watch without a fail,
herää ja häntää liehakoi, ~*~*~ wakes the dog, wagging his tail,
tonttu harmajanuttu ~*~*~ wrapped in grey wool tonttu this
Vahdille kyllä on tuttu. ~*~*~ is a faithful friend of his.
Puikkii ukko jo tupahan, ~*~*~ Into the house with quiet feet,
siellä on isäntäväki, ~*~*~ slips tonttu by the faintest light,
tontulle arvoa antavan  ~*~*~ sees the folk, gives his greet
näiden jo aikaa näki; ~*~*~ to those who revere him as is right;
varpain hiipivi lasten luo, ~*~*~ tiptoes around the children small,
nähdäkseen sulot pienet nuo, ~*~*~ to see those dear faces all,
ken sitä kummeksis juuri: ~*~*~ for others it may seem very odd:
hälle se riemu on suuri. ~*~*~ him it leaves joyful and awed.
Isän ja pojan on nähnyt hän ~*~*~ Seen many a father, many a son
puhki polvien monten ~*~*~ through time, through countless years,
nukkuvan lasna; mut mistähän ~*~*~ sleeping once the work is done;
tie oli avutonten? ~*~*~ finding safety from all fears.
Polvet polvien tietämiin ~*~*~ Each generation in its turn
nousi, vanheni, läks, – mihin niin? ~*~*~ arose, fell, left – to learn
Ongelma, josta halaa ~*~*~ where they went, a peerless task
selkoa, noin taas palaa! ~*~*~ burns within, this ceaseless ask!
Latoon, parvelle pyrkii vaan, ~*~*~ Back to the barn, up to the loft,
siellä hän pitää majaa: ~*~*~ there’s his house, there’s his hold:
pääskyn naapuri suovallaan ~*~*~ next to the swallow’s nest so soft
on liki räystään rajaa; ~*~*~ up in the eaves, away from the cold;
vaikka pääsky nyt poissa on, ~*~*~ gone the bird but back for the spring,
keväällä tuoksuun tuomiston ~*~*~ the scent of Mayday trees him bring
kyllä se saapuu varmaan ~*~*~ to safely return is his fate
seurassa puolison armaan. ~*~*~ back home with his darling mate.
Silloin aina se sirkuttaa ~*~*~ Then it will croon, sweetly sing
monta muistoa tieltä, ~*~*~ about the flight and the travel,
ei toki tunne ongelmaa ~*~*~ won’t care for the vexed thing
näin joka kiusaa mieltä. ~*~*~ that tonttu just can’t unravel.
Seinän raosta loistaa kuu, ~*~*~ Through the cracks in the wall,
ukon partahan kumottuu, ~*~*~ shines the moon, its ancient call,
liikkuu parta ja hulmaa, ~*~*~ tonttu slowly stroking his beard,
tonttu se miettii pulmaa. ~*~*~ knows this mire won’t be cleared.
Vaiti metsä on, alla jään  ~*~*~ Silent the forest, in ice endowed
kaikki elämä makaa, ~*~*~ all life at wintery rest,
koski kuohuvi yksinään, ~*~*~ only the rapids, thundering loud,
humuten metsän takaa. ~*~*~ beyond the woods, in the west.
Tonttu puoleksi unissaan ~*~*~ Tonttu half asleep as he dreams
ajan virtaa on kuulevinaan, ~*~*~ hearing time, its infinite streams
tuumii, minne se vienee, ~*~*~ he wonders about its curious course,
missä sen lähde lienee. ~*~*~ time’s hidden, eternal source.
Pakkasyö on, ja leiskuen  ~*~*~ Frosty night, with glimmer and glow
pohja loimuja viskoo. ~*~*~ the north flings its flickering flame.
Kansa kartanon hiljaisen ~*~*~ Folk in the manor so quiet though
aamuhun unta kiskoo. ~*~*~ sleep till the morn they claim.
Ääneti kuu käy laskemaan,~*~*~ Quietly sets down the moon,
puissa lunta on valkeanaan,~*~*~ trees dressed in white as they swoon,
kattojen päällä on lunta. ~*~*~ the rooftops all veiled in snow.
Tonttu ei vaan saa unta. ~*~*~ But into dreams Tonttu can’t row.

4 thoughts on “The rooftops all veiled in snow…

  1. Wahey – and what a lovely surprise on Christmas Day to see this from you Kat. 🙂 What a beautiful song, thanks so much for posting it. Very much looking forward to seeing you in 2017 – here’s to creativity, and the sharing of words …. certainly beats work hands down, for sure. x


    • Hello! And what a lovely comment from you 🙂 Thank you keeping me included in the emails about poetry stuff as well, I’m going to try to be more active on that front this spring. I’ve just been so exhausted with work that haven’t even written much and then energy for anything social that isn’t something one absolutely has to do has been low to say the least.

      Anyway, thanks! Glad you liked the song, poetry translation is tricky but I actually quite enjoyed exercising that part of my brain.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed that – it was a nice extra Christmas present!! I love the idea of Ttontu wondering about everything and making sure all is well.

    I also have some kind of resolution to do better at blogging in 2017 so we can pinky swear together and nudge each other!

    Oddly (?) I almost always get more ‘likes’ when I post poems so I ought to make the effort – and I even have some lying around that only need to be spruced up and posted – as well as choosing and photoshopping one of my photos to go with them, of course.


    • Excellent for extra Christmas present! Kotitonttu is definitely a house guardian who makes sure that everything is as should be. There’s tonttus or haltijas for house, sauna, stables, forest etc in Finnish mythology.

      Mutual nudging would be helpful I think. I know that I need to make room for non work things or risk burn out so it’s a necessity!

      Yay more poetry from you! Always love seeing it so looking forward to some verse!


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