Thursday, December 13, 2007

The most beautiful Christmas songs

Many songs which are dear to me, have lost their magic when I have grown up. They told about elves and Santa and mainly they were targeted for children.

One of my favourites nowadays is “White Christmas” which has also a Finnish translation.

My two top favourites are however Finnish.

Often cited as the most beautiful Finnish Christmas song, Sylvia's Christmas Song was written by school teacher Zachary Topelius, in the 19th century. He was in Italy during Christmas-time, and acutely missed his homeland. If you want to make a Finnish expatriate cry, this is the song.


Sylvia´s Christmas song

Now Christmas did come to the north country here;
Christmas came to the snow covered strand.
Now candles are burning and shedding good cheer
Across all the broad, far flung land.
But hanging on high from the cross beam above,
A bird cage now holds captive my pretty dove,
Which, pining away, makes no sound, high or low;
Oh, who will take heed of the prisoner´s woe?

Oh, star, glowing bright, may your light shine on high,
O´er the northland´s remote wintry scene.
And then, when your radiance fades in the sky,
Your mem´ry will linger in dreams.
So dear none can I ever anywhere find
As may native country, the land of my kind!
And thanks do I offer with Sylvia´s song,
Resounding forever so splendid and strong.

(Transl. by Paul Sjöblom, © WSOY)

Sylvia (The Blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla) is a Migratory bird, which spends the winters in Sicily, and the poem tells about the wonders of the south like cypresses and Etna (the translation is lacking that verse of the song) but also about homesickness and patriotism. The original text was written in Topelius’ native language, Swedish, and at the time the Finnish version was created, someone came up with the idea that Topelius was deported in Italy because of his support to Finnishness and that is why he wrote a symbolic poem which says “A bird cage now holds captive my pretty dove” meaning that bad Russia has Finland in his claws.

The Italians in the other hand captured the birds by taking one in the cage as a decoy. Topelius was an active conservationist and one of the founders of the first animal protecting assosiation in Finland.

The other one of my favourites “The sparrow on Christmas morning” tells about Topelius’ dead son Rafael. Topelius lost two sons and a daughter at the time these poems were written.

Here is the only attempt for the translation I found for that:

The Sparrow's Christmas Morning

In the valley fell the snow,
over trees and flowers.
Frozen waters’ vernal flow,
summer gone for sowers.
Poor little sparrow mine
Ate up summer-grain so fine
Frozen waters’ vernal flow,
summer gone for sowers.

At the door, beneath a tree,
stood a girl so darling:
Sparrow little, come to me,
take a morsel, starveling!
Christmas for us begun,
sparrow little woebegone
Sparrow little, come to me,
take a morsel, starveling!

To the girl then sparrow flew,
joyful wings do flutter:
Gladly take I grain from you,
morsel from your platter.
God shall then once reward
the one who gives me a guard
Gladly take I grain from you,
morsel from your platter.

A stranger am I not to you,
though from far away.
I’m your little brother who
passed away a spring day.
The grain you brought to the poor
who had come at your door
you gave it to your brother who
passed away a spring day.



3 comments:

www.limeehai.com said...

Very touching!

Cyn said...

What beautiful verses, your language is very poetic
Cyn

Leena said...

Thank you, limeehai and Cyn! I also think it is poetic because we have so many vowels, the only exceptions are the ä and ö, the Scandinavian letters which don't sound so nice :)