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

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[chapter 4]

  [p. 12]  

4

Nature's own colors were harmoniously varied even at this time of year and in this part of the country. And wherever there was a dissonant blemish from some recent deed or happening, nature, using the different means of the particular season, at once blended it with the harmony of the whole. At first sight the colors were gray, red, white — it is natural for the eye always to be caught by human dwellings — then green in all its shades; it was the beginning of July. As day declined, the sky to the northwest turned to gold, which told of the approaching evening. There was also the blue water of a long, narrow chain of lakes, which appeared to come from one direction and vanish into the distance, shrinking now and then to a calmly flowing channel behind the wooded points and islets. There seemed to be no wind, but now and then a delicate ruffle moved across the water, deepening its blueness. Here and there against this blue a flat, golden-brown streak was boldly outlined — a log raft. From a suitable lookout one could see four or five of them, and alongside each one the warping-raft with its windlass, hut, and smoke. The color of the sky was indefinite — apart from the gold there in the northwest. When the stars are invisible, it does not occur to man to look at the sky. The colors and scents of the earth, its repose and movement, bind his vision and determine his mood.

These were the colors — but the scents were those of the   [p. 13]   herbs and flowers, of which some were only now bursting into blossom, the greater part were in full bloom, and a few were already going to seed — those which a month ago, on an afternoon like this, tuned man's senses to a different key from that of today. Now a scythe had been at work somewhere behind a cottage on the hillside, just enough for the melancholy smell of the faded stubble and the dried straw to be noticeable, reminding a passer-by that the coming week, by the time it was half over at least, would bring the urgent work of haymaking in earnest. But on this afternoon and early evening the honeyed seas of clover and the lakeside banks still lingered in their calm completeness, in the plenitude of countless individual flowers and grains of pollen.

All these had their observers here and there. The sky was pale in color, to be sure, but when a solitary human being looked first at it and then back at the surrounding earth, he seemed to have been up there in the paleness and to have had a wider view of all these things. Over there a crofter, Jalmari from Syrjämäki, was walking about the pasture he had leased, wondering whether there would be enough grass for his cow. A drop of rain wouldn't be out of order . . . . A sunburnt farmer, the master of Teliranta, fifty years old but still with the vigor of youth, was strolling around his land, trying in his quiet optimism to fit in both rain and sunshine: a shower during the night would not hurt the hay but would certainly freshen up the root plants and the grain. His crops were hardy enough, however, to stand continued clear weather, and in his mind he saw the coming week as one long, unbroken spell of sunshine; the hay would be so good that he could almost imagine the delicious taste in his own mouth when he thought of the cattle eating it — this hay which would have been cut at the right time and then not known a drop of rain . . . .

The log floaters on their warping-raft had no thought for   [p. 14]   such matters, nor had the young farm hands loafing at the village crossroads. They merely existed and enjoyed the fact. The dust of the highway even in its gray immobility, had a familiar and faintly enticing smell. The road, to which all had a right, was bordered by yarrow and burdock and branched off from this point in four directions; each signpost gave the name of a town and the distance. They were like poems to a man who had roamed the world and had now stopped at one of the neighboring farms as a day laborer, these names and figures painted on a signpost in different colors. That was the road to such and such — he had been there once, too. And if not, he could always go.

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