THE FINNISH SPIRIT
Finnish identity began to take it current shape when Sweden lost its
eastern section, Finland, to Russia in the war of 1808-09. At that
point the Finns began to concentrate on spiritual independence, encouraged
by statements from Czar Alexander I. The Russian emperor hoped to
turn Finland away from its previous ruler as quickly as possible,
and to clarify the new relationship between the Grand Duchy of Finland
officials were enthusiastic about it because all the languages
in Finland were spoken widely by the people, except Finnish which
was incomprehensible to anyone else. Bishop Jacob Tengström
of Åbo wrote a plan for the future on the subject. Its most
important element was a national writer. He had in mind the poet
F. M. Franzén, until Johan Ludvig Runeberg arrived in Åbo
and began his studies.
in the west coast town of Pedersöre on February 5, 1804,
Runeberg was the right man in the right place at the right time.
What sort of a man was he? How did he look and what kind of personality
did he have? This is the man who wrote The Tales of Ensign Stål,
including its opening poem "Vårt Land", which
became the highly praised national anthem.
Runeberg arrived in Åbo he was already considered a promising
poet and was showing signs of focused ambition. This was boosted
by his obvious literary gift. In 1830 and 1833, the Swedish-speaking
people read Runebergs first poetry collections. They wondered
about verses about nature and the common people that were written
by an upper-class academy student. Runebergs feeling for
nature was born early in the shore landscapes along the Gulf of
Bothnia. It was strengthened by a few years as a home tutor in
Saarijärvi, a Finnish-speaking part of the countryside. He
ended up there because he was short of cash. He was enthusiastic
about hunting and rambling in the wilds in his imagination as
was a great fortune that Runeberg ran short of money as a student
and that he ended up among the common folk along with his teaching
responsibilities. In those days, the segments of the population
who had attended school considered those who had not to be primitive
and amusing. In his fellow Finns, Runeberg saw dignity and valuable
life experience, not least from the War of Finland that had been
fought 14 years earlier. He met two veterans who are considered
the role models for his best-known character, Ensign Stål.
gång drömde jag att jag var i himlen.
Där såg jag alla, kände doften av alla
blommor som voro mig kära förr.
Men de jordiska blommorna voro
mot de himmelska, som om de
vuxit i månsken i stället för solljus.
Liljekonvaljen ensam var sig lik, både
i himlen och på jorden. Samma
oskuldsfärg, samma vällukt där uppe
som här nere, men här blott för några
dagar om våren, där för hela året om.
"Lily-of-the-valley" was probably the last poem written
took advantage of the unique opportunity to listen and ask these
men about their war stories. At the same time, the landscapes
of inland Finland were etched deep in his heart, later to emerge
in many of his poems as the archetypal image of the fatherland.
Professor Matti Klinge has said on various occasions that the
moral values and ideals that are portrayed in the Ensign Stål
poems, such as bravery, faithfulness and endurance, can also be
seen represented in Finlands natural landscapes. He said
that since this book appeared, it has formed a basis for patriotism
which is different from that of the Swedes or Russians.
were efforts to memorialize Runebergs cult status with a
statue while he was still living. When he died in May 1877, the
project was revived. His own son, the sculptor Walter Runeberg,
completed a rough version in 1882. He portrayed his father in
his creative heyday at age 55. The bronze monument in Helsinkis
Esplanade Park is a typical portrait of Runeberg, one hand in
the pocket of his priests coat.
depicted as tall, handsome, broad-chested, open and manly. His authority
is emphasized by his spectacles and his clerical outfit. The national
flower, the lily-of-the-valley
was Runebergs favorite. Not to mention the sweet pastry, now
known as the Runeberg tart, with which he is honored.
Irmeli Tanttu Suomen Silta No. 2-2004