Inspired by | Eino Leino: Nocturne

Inspired by: a monthly creative blog series by Riikka Kovasin and Marsha Valk

It’s the 10th and I’m back with a regular instalment of Inspired by!

Inspired by is a blog series by my friend Riikka and I. We decide on a theme (and that theme can be anything from a film, a book, a painting, to an item, colour scheme or material) and then we create something with that theme or thing in mind.

We keep what we’re making a secret until reveal day on the 10th, when we show you and each other our creations.

This month the theme is (again) something we’ve never tried before. I think the first idea was to find something that would evoke a feeling. And Riikka immediately thought of a poem.

The poem she chose for us to work with is:

Nocturne by Eino Leino (translated by Keith Bosley)

The corncrake’s song rings in my ears,
above the rye a full moon sails;
this summer night all sorrow clears
and woodsmoke drifts along the dales,
I do not laugh or grieve, or sigh;
the forest’s darkness breathes nearby,
the red of clouds where day sinks deep,
the blue of windy hills asleep,
the twinflower’s scent, the water’s shade
of these my heart’s own song is made.

You, girl as sweet as summer hay,
my heart’s great peace, I sing to you,
O my devotion, tune and play
a wreath of oak twigs, green and new.
I have stopped chasing Jack-o’-Lantern,
I hold gold from the Demon’s mountain;
around me life tightens its ring,
time stops, the vane has ceased to swing;
the road before me through the gloom
is leading to the unknown room.

According to Wikipedia, this is the most famous Finnish poem and it describes the natural mystique related to Finnish summertime. Leino wrote it in July 1903 and it was first published in 1905.

I’m sure Riikka has a lot to say about Eino Leino and this poem in particular. I, on the other hand, don’t think I can even begin to grasp the entire meaning of the poem. I’m guessing most of it has gotten lost in translation and I suspect hidden meanings or cultural references, but I have no clue what they are.

The feeling

I do know that Leino was a neo-romantic, so it makes sense that this poem is about feelings/emotions, love, nature and death/ending.

To me, it describes that feeling you can have at the end of summer. You just don’t want it to end, but there’s the inevitable change in the air and a yearning for new adventures.

Anyway, that’s what it evokes in me. That feeling of the last day before school would start again after six weeks of summer holidays. You don’t want the holidays to end, but you also look forward to seeing your friends (or colleagues) again, going back to a normal routine and the return of crisper air.

The words (in this translation) also seem to describe a meditative state: standing still, aware of all the sights, sounds and smells around, feeling feelings, listening to the heart.

Marsha Valk | Inspired by: Nocturne

The project

It’s weird to think about the end of summer, when spring has barely begun!

I thought about the end of summers long ago, I thought about the last BBQ of the season in recent years, I thought about the end of vacations, of other things I never wanted to end… And I decided that I didn’t want to go there. Not literally.

I also really liked the images that formed in my head through the words of the poem. So I asked myself what I felt like doing (Gelli printing… what else!) and then I went to work.

First I sketched a landscape, then I cut out each element so I could use them as masks and then I started printing.

Once I had everything printed, I went back in with more acrylic paint, water-soluble crayons and a fine-tip paint pen.

Marsha Valk | Inspired by: Nocturne

I worked on two prints at the same time, thinking that if I messed up, I would have a duplicate. They both ended up pretty decent!

Marsha Valk | Inspired by: Nocturne


Despite that I didn’t want this to be about my own memories, they’re still there. A real sunset (without clouds moving into view at the last moment) is still on my bucket list, but pine trees, a lake, smoke, the stars and a full moon are all things I associate with summer and (one or more) vacations.

It’s funny how that works!

Now… I don’t know about you, but I’m eager to learn more about this famous Finnish poem and what it means to Riikka. You can visit her blog here: Paperiliitin!

Enjoy your day!