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Sillanpää, Frans Eemil, 1888-1964 / People in the summer night; an epic suite (1966)

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[chapter 1]

  [p. 3]  

1

There is almost no summer night in the north; only a lingering evening, darkening slightly as it lingers, but even this darkening has its ineffable clarity. It is the approaching presentiment of the summer morning. When the music of late evening has sunk to a violet, dusky pianissimo, so delicate that it lengthens into a brief rest, then the first violin awakens with a soft, high cadence in which the cello soon joins, and this inwardly perceived tone picture is supported outwardly by a thousand-tongued accompaniment twittering from a myriad of branches and from the heights of the air. It is already morning, yet a moment ago it was still evening. The lark springs aloft, higher and higher, singing from above to the smaller, prettier warblers in the foliage and telling them what the morning looks like from a wider view. Enraptured by the light and the ascent, it rises until ecstasy attains its climax and suddenly slackens and relaxes, and the silent bird almost plummets to earth and changes into a drab field walker. The sun is shining.

There are human dwellings — by the lake shores, on the hillsides, near the fields; clusters of buildings which have adapted themselves skillfully to the needs and instincts of the people living in them. In this very early morning light they look as innocent and childlike as nature itself. Even the affairs of their inmates are at peace. The clamorous sparrows   [p. 4]   in the lilac hedge between the farmyard and the barn rule the scene; they are all screaming at once, darting about nervously, each one wanting to have his say and lay down the law now that they have possession of the farm, but none can get a word in edgewise, what with that one shrieking and that one and that one . . . . Until old Manu, who is puttering about bright and early, stained with smoke and tar, shuffles past — then the shrill flock flies out of the lilac hedge and mans the ramp leading to the stable loft.

There are all kinds of houses, large and small, from lake to lake, from parish to parish, with here and there the cross of a church showing above the leafy churchyard. A motor car with graceful lines, subtly expensive in every detail, speeds almost noiselessly along the level, gently winding road; within a few hours it has shown itself to dozens of villages, hundreds of dwellings, and has left behind it many a church, on whose crosses the morning gleams as it quietly blesses the countryside below and the human tasks of the coming day. The car does not disturb the morning calm. With that ease peculiar to great, refined power, it appears, passes, and is lost from sight.

But the houses are still there. A few that have just been built are stiff as yet. The spirit of life's joys and adversities has not seeped into the walls, either from within or from without — the spirit that alone gives life even to lifeless walls. But among the houses and cottages are those which received life a hundred years ago and have preserved it. Some are on the brink of dilapidation, but others have been watched closely and cared for by their owners year after year, from one generation to the next, and a skillful hand has always been ready to intervene. An old house like this may have been thoroughly repaired and painted this year — the sunken stone foundation straightened, the porch with dry rot   [p. 5]   renewed — but it goes on looking with its windows at the centuries-old fields, as old and dignified as before. The lines and proportions of its eaves and doorposts have remained unchanged; its strong and healthy — one might almost say, wise — frame has merely been given the new covering that it long deserved . . . .

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