Tuesday, August 26, 2008

There is no centre, no emulation, nothing to say,

On entering into Finland, every thing indicates that you have passed into another country, and that you have to do with a very different race from the Sclavonians. The Finns are said to come immediately from the North of Asia ; their language also is said to have no resemblance to the Swedish, which is an intermediate one between the English and the German. The countenances of the Finns, however, are generally perfectly German : their fair hair, and white complexions, bear no resemblance to the vivacity of the Russian countenance; but their manners are also much milder; the common people have a settled probity, the result of protestant instruction, and purity of manners. On Sundays, the young women are seen returning from sermon on horseback, and the young men following them. You will frequently receive hospitality from the pastors of Finland, who regard it as their duty to give a lodging to travellers, and nothing can be more pure or delightful than the reception you meet with in those families ; there are scarcely any noblemens' seats in Finland, so that the pastors are generally the most important personages of the country. In several Finnish songs, the young girls offer to their lovers to sacrifice the residence of the pastor, even if it was offered to them to share. This reminds
me of the expression of a young shepherd, " If I was a king, I would keep my sheep on horseback." The imagination itself scarcely goes beyond what is known.

The aspect of nature is very different in Finland to what it is in Russia; in place of the marshes and plains which surround St. Petersburg, you find rocks, almost mountains, and forests : but after a time, these mountain-, and those forests, composed of the same trees, the fir and the birch, become monotonous. The enormous blocks of granite which are seen scattered through the country, and on the borders of the high roads, give the country an air of vigor ; but there is very little life around these great bones of the earth, and vegetation begins to decrease from the latitude of Finland to the last degree of the animated world. We passed through a forest half consumed by fire; the north winds which add to the force of the flames, render these fires very frequent, both in the towns and in the country. Man has in all ways great difficulty in maintaining the struggle with nature in these frozen climates. You meet with few towns in Finland, and those few are very thinly peopled. There is no centre, no emulation, nothing to say, and very little to do, in a northern Swedish or Russian province, and during eight months of the year, the whole of animated nature is asleep.

1 comment:

Willo said...

Dear Kaisa,
I found your 'virtual bookshelf' though a google alert on "Finns, Finland."
All four of my grandparents were Finnish Immigrants to the South Dakota, first to the gold mines around Deadwood and from there to the prairies to the north.
If you will allow me, I am going to add your quoted note on the sound of the Finnish language to my own blog. Finnish is indeed a musical lullaby to my ears and takes me back to my own childhood home.