Sunday, December 20, 2009

"There will be an uprising here before long,"

On that gray, dreary northern coast the long winter was fast setting in. Poor oppressed Finland suffers under a hard climate with August frosts, an eight months' winter in the north, and five months of frost in the south. Idling in sleepy Abo, where the public buildings were so mean and meager and the houses for the most part built of wood, I saw on every hand the disastrous result of the attempted Russification of the country. The hand of the oppressor, that official sent from Petersburg to crush and to conquer, was upon the honest Finnish nation. The Russian bureaucracy was trying to destroy its weaker but more successful neighbor, and in order to do so employed the harshest and most unscrupulous officials it could import.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

På gatorna i Helsingfors

På vårvintern stormade det och bände på isarne kring Helsingfors, så att ändtligen midt i april den blå randen utanför Gråhara båk kom allt närmare, medan isarne vid hamnarne alltmer antogo den smutsgrå färg, som ändtligen i slutet af månaden blef lika klar som vattnet, tills det
hela sjönk likt skum och försvann för solstrålarne och några milda vindar i förening.

Studenterna firade som vanligt sin första maj i Kajsaniemi, stodo utanför värdshuset i snömuddret och sjöngo, medan en mängd kypare och jungfrur ombesörjde en artificiel värme och dito solsken medelst en mängd punschbålar, hvilkas innehåll tömdes och fyldes lika hastigt.

Herr Adolf sjöng icke med i qvartetten. Han hade börjat taga lektioner för stadens fashionablaste sånglärarinna och fick inte slita ut sin fina tenor i korsång. Dessutom var han icke omtyckt af kamraterna, fruntimmersaktig som han var. Han tillhörde ett litet kotteri fattige adelsmän, hvilkas ekonomiska stöd han, den borgerlige, i nåder fick vara. Det var en hop finhyade, pomaderade och moderna modejournalsungdomar, mycket nogräknade om sitt rykte, då det gälde det, som verlden fick veta. De visade sig endast i de fashionablaste familjer, talade endast med de unga damer, som i allmänhet i societeten voro mest observerade, och aktade sig på allt vis att i något afseende visa någonsomhelst sjelfständighet eller karaktär. De sågo i allmänhet helst på, voro öfverallt, logo öfverlägset åt allt, och drogo jemt och ständigt i små nödvuxna och ynkliga mustascher, som aldrig blefvo längre.

Daniel Sten: "Sämre folk"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A number of telegrams from Helsingfors

It is needless for me to tell you that most of the stories that have come from Russia regarding atrocities, horrors, immorality, are manufactured in Viborg, Helsingfors, or Stockholm. The horrible massacres planned for last November were first learned of in Petrograd from the Helsingfors papers. That anybody could even for a moment believe in the nationalization of women seems impossible to anyone in Petrograd. To-day Petrograd is an orderly city--probably the only city of the world of its size without police. Bill Shatov, chief of police, and I were at the opera the other night to hear Chaliapine sing in Boris Gudonov. He excused himself early because he said there had been a robbery the previous night, in which a man had lost 5,000 rubles, that
this was the first robbery in several weeks, and that he had an idea who had done it, and was going to get the men that night. I feel personally that Petrograd is safer than Paris. At night there are automobiles, sleighs, and people on the streets at 12 o'clock to a much greater extent than was true in Paris when I left five weeks ago.

William C. Bullitt: The Bullitt Mission to Russia

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What kind of Finns we would encounter

We were now not at all sure what kind of Finns we would encounter, but soon we saw two Finnish soldiers and much to my relief I recognized them as being White Finns. They stopped us and then took us to the village to their officer. A young lieutenant was sitting at a table in a small hut. We reported to him and when I mentioned that I was an officer and named my regiment, he rose and saluted. The Finns were very decent and helpful in every way. Despite their own difficulties, they extended help to the numerous refugees coming over, established receiving camps and medical units for the sick. We were taken by sleigh to Terrioky. Nelka as having temperature was taken to the hospital and I to the camp. As soon as possible we communicated with our friends the Wredes in Helsingfors and they immediately took steps to get us out of camp and into their own home. So in a few days we were on our way to Helsingfors where we received the warmest hospitality from the Wredes and remained with them for about six weeks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

In the neat, shiny, carefully scrubbed little city of Helsingfors

They had a hair-raising time in Helsingfors. On one occasion, German officers forced Palla’s door at night, and the girl became ill with fear while soldiers searched the room, ordering her out of bed and pushing her into a corner while they ripped up carpets and tore the place to pieces in a swinishly ferocious search for “information.”

But they did nothing worse to her, and, for some reason, left the hotel without disturbing Brisson, whose room adjoined and who sat on the edge of his bed with an automatic in each hand––a dangerous opportunist awaiting events and calmly determined to do some recruiting for hell if the huns harmed Palla.

She never knew that. And the worst was over now, and the Scandinavian border not far away. And in twenty-four hours they were over––Brisson impatient to get his papers to Washington and planning to start for England on a wretched little packet-boat, in utter contempt of mines, U-boats, and the icy menace of the North Sea.

Robert W. Chambers: The Crimson Tide

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nearly as independent as is Norway of Sweden

The town of Åbo has a population of about twenty-five thousand, who are mostly of Swedish descent. It is thrifty, cleanly, and wears an aspect of quiet prosperity. The place is venerable in years, having a record reaching back for over seven centuries. Here the Russian flag—red, blue, and white—first begins to greet us from all appropriate points. The most prominent building to catch the stranger's eye on entering the harbor is the long barrack-like prison upon a hillside. In front of us looms up the famous old castle of Åbo, awkward and irregular in its shape, and snow-white in texture. Here, in the olden time, Gustavus Vasa, Eric XIV. and John III. held royal court. The streets are few but very broad, causing the town to cover an area quite out of proportion to the number of its inhabitants.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Capturing Sveaborg, Helsingfors

The fortress of Sveaborg is built on a granite island about a mile in advance of Helsingfors, the Russian capital of Finland. There are eight island rocks connected by strong fortifications, and in the centre is situated the fort in which the Russian flotilla was congregated. It was looked upon as the Gibraltar of the North, and had been considerably strengthened since the commencement of the war. The citadel of this water-surrounded fortress is called Wargon. The allied fleet, consisting of seventeen British men-of-war, fifteen gunboats, and sixteen mortar-vessels, with two French men-of-war, six gunboats, and five mortar-vessels, left Nargen on the 6th of August, and anchored the same night among the islands about five miles from Sveaborg. During the night and next day, some batteries were thrown up on the neighbouring islands; and early on the morning of the 9th, the squadron having taken up their positions,--several behind the islands, where the enemy's guns could not reach them,--the bombardment commenced. The showers of shot and shell told with terrific effect on the devoted fortress; powder magazines and stores of projectiles one after the other blew up, and fires broke out in various directions, which all the efforts of the garrison could not extinguish, and in a short time the whole of the arsenal was reduced to ashes. Still the mortars continued to play, to prevent the fires which were blazing up around from being extinguished. Very few men were wounded, and none were killed during the whole of the operations. Although the naval and military stores were destroyed, the fortress still remained intact. The Russians, however, had been taught the lesson that it would be better for them in future not to make aggressions on their neighbours, or to venture hastily into war.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Beautiful music-loving Helsingfors

"I can recall how proud I was when he sent me to beautiful music-loving Helsingfors, in Finland—where all seems to be bloodshed and confusion now—to play a recital in his own stead on one occasion, and how proud he was of my success. Yet Auer had his little peculiarities. I have read somewhere that the great fencing-masters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were very jealous of the secrets of their famous feints and ripostes, and only confided them to favorite pupils who promised not to reveal them. Auer had his little secrets, too, with which he was loth to part. When I was to make my début in Berlin, I remember, he was naturally enough interested—since I was his pupil—in my scoring a triumph. And he decided to part with some of his treasured technical thrusts and parries. And when I was going over the Tschaikovsky D minor concerto (which I was to play), he would select a passage and say: 'Now I'll play this for you. If you catch it, well and good; if not it is your own fault!' I am happy to say that I did not fail to 'catch' his meaning on any occasion. Auer really has a wonderful intellect, and some secrets well worth knowing. That he is so great an artist himself on the instrument is the more remarkable, since physically he was not exceptionally favored. Often, when he saw me, he'd say with a sigh: 'Ah, if I only had your hand!'
Frederick H. Martens: Violin Mastery

Monday, July 20, 2009

Their features were wooden;

The Finns at the market were not to be mistaken for Russians. Their features were wooden; their expression was far less intelligent than that of the Russians. The women were addicted to wonderful patterns in aprons and silver ornaments, and wore, under a white head kerchief, a stiff glazed white circlet which seemed to wear away their blond hair. These women arrived regularly every morning, before five o'clock, at the shops of the baker and the grocer opposite our windows. The shops opened at that hour, after having kept open until eleven o'clock at night, or later. After refreshing themselves with a roll and a bunch of young onions, of which the green tops appeared to be the most relished, the women made their town toilet by lowering the very much reefed skirt of their single garment, drawing on footless stockings, and donning shoes. At ten o'clock, or even earlier, they came back to fill the sacks of coarse white linen, borne over their shoulders, with necessaries for their households, purchased with the proceeds of their sales, and to reverse their toilet operations, preparatory to the long tramp homeward. I sometimes caught them buying articles which seemed extravagant luxuries, all things considered, such as raisins. One of their specialties was the sale of lilies of the valley, which grow wild in the Russian forests. Their peculiar little trot-trot, and the indescribable semi-tones and quarter-tones in which they cried, "Land-dy-y-y-shee!" were unmistakably Finnish at any distance.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bread in the Middle ages

Bread.--The Gauls, who principally inhabited deep and thick forests, fed on herbs and fruits, and particularly on acorns. It is even possible that the veneration in which they held the oak had no other origin. This primitive food continued in use, at least in times of famine, up to the eighth century, and we find in the regulations of St. Chrodegand that if, in consequence of a bad year, the acorn or beech-nut became scarce, it was the bishop's duty to provide something to make up for it. Eight centuries later, when René du Bellay, Bishop of Mans, came to report to Francis I. the fearful poverty of his diocese, he informed the king that the inhabitants in many places were reduced to subsisting on acorn bread.

In the earliest times bread was cooked under the embers. The use of ovens was introduced into Europe by the Romans, who had found them in Egypt. But, notwithstanding this importation, the old system of cooking was long after employed, for in the tenth century Raimbold, abbot of the monastery of St. Thierry, near Rheims, ordered in his will that on the day of his death bread cooked under the embers--panes subcinericios--should be given to his monks. By feudal law the lord was bound to bake the bread of his vassals, for which they were taxed, but the latter often preferred to cook their flour at home in the embers of their own hearths, rather than to carry it to the public oven.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Found himself transformed into a horrible vermin

One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off any moment. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, waved about helplessly as he looked.

"What's happened to me?" he thought. It wasn't a dream. His room, a proper human room although a little too small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls. A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table - Samsa was a travelling salesman - and above it there hung a picture that he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gilded frame. It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur boa who sat upright, raising a heavy fur muff that covered the whole of her lower arm towards the viewer.

Gregor then turned to look out the window at the dull weather. Drops of rain could be heard hitting the pane, which made him feel quite sad. "How about if I sleep a little bit longer and forget all this nonsense", he thought, but that was something he was unable to do because he was used to sleeping on his right, and in his present state couldn't get into that position. However hard he threw himself onto his right, he always rolled back to where he was. He must have tried it a hundred times, shut his eyes so that he wouldn't have to look at the floundering legs, and only stopped when he began to feel a mild, dull pain there that he had never felt before.

Franz Kafka: Metamorphosis

Friday, April 24, 2009

An Old-fashioned Girl

Up came the little girl, with her hand out, and a half-shy, half-merry look in her blue eyes, as she said, inquiringly, "This is Tom, is n't it?"

"Yes. How did you know?" and Tom got over the ordeal of hand-shaking without thinking of it, he was so surprised.

"Oh, Fan told me you 'd got curly hair, and a funny nose, and kept whistling, and wore a gray cap pulled over your eyes; so I knew you directly." And Polly nodded at him in the most friendly manner, having politely refrained from calling the hair "red," the nose "a pug," and the cap "old," all of which facts Fanny had carefully impressed upon her memory.

"Where are your trunks?" asked Tom, as he was reminded of his duty by her handing him the bag, which he had not offered to take.

"Father told me not to wait for any one, else I 'd lose my chance of a hack; so I gave my check to a man, and there he is with my trunk;" and Polly walked off after her one modest piece of baggage, followed by Tom, who felt a trifle depressed by his own remissness in polite attentions. "She is n't a bit of a young lady, thank goodness! Fan did n't tell me she was pretty. Don't look like city girls, nor act like 'em, neither," he thought, trudging in the rear, and eyeing with favor the brown curls bobbing along in front.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kände ni drottning Karin Månsdotter?

— Kände ni drottning Karin Månsdotter?

— En fattig krigsman, som vandrat mycket omkring, måste väl känna den enda drottning som bott här i landet. Jag kom aldrig den gång till Liuksiala, utan att den välsignade frun lät först undfägna mig på det bästa i folkstugan och sedan kalla mig upp till sig att berätta för henne om forna dagar. Det fanns icke en fattig på många mils avstånd, som icke var dag välsignade henne i sin morgon- och aftonbön, och lika blid 103 var hon mot alla, hög eller låg, vän eller ovän, ja mot själva herr Olof Stenbock, som varit så grym mot kung Erik i tiden. Jag minns nog den dag, när Stenbocken stack sig undan för hertig Karl och blev skjuten som en eländig flykting i skogarna, huru fru Karin då lät uppsöka hans döda kropp och begrava honom i vigd jord, vedergällande ont med gott... Mig var hon synnerligen huld för att jag var en bland kung Eriks bågskyttar i mina unga dagar; det fick jag ofta för henne förtälja. Och för fyra år sedan råkade jag just komma till Liuksiala, när hon låg på sitt yttersta. Jag fick komma till hennes säng och säga farväl åt henne, jag med alla andra av gårdens folk, och hon orkade intet mer tala, men hon gav fru Sigrid ett tecken att läsa för henne Johannes’ första epistel, som är om ljuset och kärleken, och vid fru Sigrid läste mitt i andra kapitlet, förmärkte vi alla, huru den kära gamla fruns ögonlock sakta föllo ihop, och i den samma stunden vart hon saligen döder. Så var det med fru Karin, och dotter hennes, som nu beder i koret, brås uppå mor sin; sonen kände jag inte; han reste världen omkring undan kung Johan. Men dottersonen, unge herr Åke, lärer brås uppå morfadern, varandes en ostadig och hårdsint herre, duktig i slagsmål, såsom ock Tottesläkten hör till de styvare här i landet.
Zacharias Topelius: Ungdomsdrömmar

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Winesburg, Ohio

Upon the half decayed veranda of a small frame house that stood near the edge of a ravine near the town of Winesburg, Ohio, a fat little old man walked nervously up and down. Across a long field that had been seeded for clover but that had produced only a dense crop of yellow mustard weeds, he could see the public highway along which went a wagon filled with berry pickers returning from the fields. The berry pickers, youths and maidens, laughed and shouted boisterously. A boy clad in a blue shirt leaped from the wagon and attempted to drag after him one of the maidens, who screamed and protested shrilly. The feet of the boy in the road kicked up a cloud of dust that floated across the face of the departing sun. Over the long field came a thin girlish voice. "Oh, you Wing Biddlebaum, comb your hair, it's falling into your eyes," commanded the voice to the man, who was bald and whose nervous little hands fiddled about the bare white forehead as though arranging a mass of tangled locks.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What a delight to any company

A man, named Robertson, once gave exhibitions in Paris, in an old chapel, and at the close of his performances he generally caused a great skeleton figure of Death to appear among the pillars and arches. Many of the audience were often nearly scared to death by this apparition. The more ignorant people of Paris who attended these exhibitions, could not be persuaded, when they saw men, women, and animals walking about in the air between the arches of the chapel, that Robertson was not a magician, although he explained to them that the images were nothing but the effect of a lantern and some glass lenses. When these people could see that the figures were produced on a volume of smoke, they were still more astonished and awed, for they thought that the spirits arose from the fire which caused the smoke.

But Robertson had still other means of exhibiting the tricks of light. Opposite is a picture of the "Dance of Demons."

This delusion is very simple indeed, and is produced by placing a card-figure on a screen, and throwing shadows from this upon another screen, by means of several lights, held by assistants. Thus each light throws its own shadow, and if the candles are moved up and down, and about, the shadows will dance, jump over each other, and do all sorts of wonderful things. Robertson, and other public exhibitors, had quite complicated arrangements of this kind, but they all acted on the same principle. But all of those who exhibit to the public the freaks of light are not as honest as Mr. Robertson. You may have heard of Nostradamus, who also lived in Paris, but long before Robertson, and who pretended to be a magician. Among other things, he asserted that he could show people pictures of their future husbands or wives. Marie de Medicis, a celebrated princess of the time, came to him on this sensible errand, and he, being very anxious to please her, showed her, in a looking-glass, the reflected image of Henry of Navarre, sitting upon the throne of France. This, of course, astonished the princess very much, but it need not astonish us, if we carefully examine the picture of that conjuring scene.