Tuesday, August 30, 2011

An atmosphere of cleanliness and civilization

During my stay in Russia at the time of the Crimean War, I had been interested in the Finnish peasants whom I saw serving on the gunboats. There was a sturdiness, heartiness, and loyalty about them which could not fail to elicit good-will; but during this second stay in Russia my sympathies with them were more especially enlisted. During the hot weather of the first summer
my family were at the Finnish capital, Helsingfors, at the point where the Gulf of Finland opens into the Baltic. The whole people deeply interested me. Here was one of the most important universities of Europe, a noble public library, beautiful buildings, and throughout the whole town an atmosphere of cleanliness and civilization far superior to that which one finds in any Russian city. Having been added to Russia by Alexander I under his most solemn pledges that it should retain its own constitutional government, it had done so up to the time of my stay; and the results were evident throughout the entire grand duchy. While in Russia there had been from time immemorial a debased currency, the currency of Finland was as good as gold; while in Russia all public matters bore the marks of arbitrary repression, in Finland one could see the results of enlightened discussion; while in Russia the peasant is but little, if any, above Asiatic barbarism, the Finnish peasant--simple, genuine--is clearly far better developed both morally and religiously. It is a grief to me in these latter days to see that the measures which were then feared have since been taken. There seems a determination to grind down Finland to a level with Russia in general.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

You have still further to go!

'Ah, you poor creatures!' said the Lapland woman; 'you have still further to go! You must go over a hundred miles into Finland, for there the Snow-queen lives, and every night she burns Bengal lights. I will write some words on a dried stock-fish, for I have no paper, and you must give it to the Finland woman, for she can give you better advice than I can.'

Friday, August 19, 2011

Finn's tent, made exactly like a Terra del Fuego wigwam

A considerable resemblance is said to exist between the Finnish and Chinese languages, and the similarity in their countenances is very striking. A Dutch officer told Mr. Knoph that he talked Chinese to a Finn for a considerable time before the latter discovered that he was not speaking Finnish, though he could not understand what was said to him. We returned to Roraas in the afternoon, round the head of the lake Oresund, over a very desolate country, with scarcely any inhabitants.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

We are told that in Finland the great wealth of the people lay in certain animals

Surely the etymology of "reindeer" admits of no dispute. The earliest English description of the animal bearing the name is, I think, that which we find in King Alfred's book on Geography. In that book we are told that in Finland the great wealth of the people lay in certain animals. The king's informant said that lie himself owned—tamra deora unbebohtra syx hund (tha deor hi hatath hranas) tharu waeron syx stael-hranas, tha beoth swythe dyre mid Finnum, for tham hy foth tha wildan hranas mid — six hundred tame deer unpurchased (the deer they call ranes), of them six were decoy ranes, which are of much value with the Finlanders, for with them they catch the wild ranes.

Rane was the name by which the Finlander distinguished the animal which we, not understanding the origin of the word, call reindeer, rangifer, &c. In my translation I give deer as the equivalent for deora, not presuming to judge whether the original word in that connection signify " deer" in our modern sense of the word, or simply "wild animal" in its more extended meaning: ("Rats and mice and such small deer.") Your readers can for my "deer" substitute "beast" if they please.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The courage and enterprise of the Finlander

The hunting of the Seal also sets the courage and enterprise of the Finlander in the strongest possible light. The season for this chase begins when the sea breaks up, and the ice floats in shoals upon the surface. Four or five peasants will go out to sea in one small open boat, and will often continue more than a month absent from their families. Thus do they expose themselves to all the horrors of the northern seas, having only a small fire, which they kindle on a sort of brick hearth, and living on the flesh of the Seals which they kill. The fat and skins they bring home. The perils with which these voyagers have to struggle, are almost incredible. They have incessantly to pass betwixt masses of ice, which threaten to crush their little bark to atoms. They mount the floating shoals; and, creeping along them, steal cautiously upon the animals, and kill them as they repose on the ice.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

At Helsingfors the landlord speaks German, and keeps a very good inn

Borgo is esteemed a town of consequence in Swedish Finland, has a Gymnasium, and carries on some trade by a river, which is thus far navigable for small craft. From that place to Helsingfors, I found it excessively hot, much more so than I experienced near AEtna, and in Lombardy. The inns were at a great distance from each other, and by no means good. They looked neat and inviting, but in general nothing was to be obtained at them except very sour beer, very coarse bread, and very bad butter. These inns were the post-houses, and I observed that they were not kept by very conscientious people, for the posting charge was frequently added to my expences. I suppose the good Swedes thought me an eccentric kind of character, who ought to pay for his whims. The Swedish miles are extremely long, and the charge for posting is not heavy. The traveller proceeds with great rapidity, and only with a single horse when alone and unincumbered with luggage as I was. I therefore seated myself in a carriole, first to escape the heat, secondly to expedite my journey, and thirdly because it cost me no more but perpaps less than if I walked. In Italy probably these reasons would not have all had their force. At Helsingfors the landlord speaks German, and keeps a very good inn. At Swensky I even met with a postillion who understood my native tongue, and had often been on board of ship to Reval. Near Mialbosta, there are several very fine situations upon a lake, with some country-houses.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It was a motley crowd

This is a stormy Sunday, December ninth, but the weather is not so bad as yesterday, and B. and L. came back from the Home. We have eight men here today, including the two young fellows who have been at work on the Home building, and who came over from Nome weeks before the rest of us. This is the first time they have been here since we arrived. They, too, are Swedes, as are all these men but M., who is a Finlander.
Something unpleasant has happened. M., the Finlander, told me this morning that he wants the room I occupy upstairs, and, of course, I will have to give it up. As the other rooms upstairs must be left for the men, of whom there are such numbers, there is no place for me except on the old wooden settle in the sitting room. To be sure, this is in a warm corner, but there are many and serious inconveniences, one being that I must of necessity be the last one to retire, and this is usually midnight.

May Kellogg Sullivan: A Woman who went to Alaska