Marie Underist, P. Mustapääst ja 1920. aastate ballaadidest. On Marie Under, P. Mustapää, and Ballads of the 1920s


  • Satu Grünthal Helsinki Ülikool Turu Ülikool



The purpose of this article is to discuss the poetic relations between two neighbouring countries with a particular emphasis on the ballad. For both Estonian and Finnish poetry, the 1920s were a productive and interesting period for the writing of ballads. I will focus my inquiry on two poets, Marie Under and P. Mustapää. Closer analysis will be carried out of one motif, the self-sacrificing woman, which is found in the ballads of both poets, particularly in view of the importance of these ballad themes in the context of the art and social life of the 1920s. From the perspective of comparing Finnish and Estonian literature, it is interesting to examine common features and reciprocal influences in their ballads. For Finnish poet Martti Haavio, whose pen name was P. Mustapää, Estonian poetry of the 1920s was an important source of inspiration and models, a fact that he emphasized especially in his memoirs, and which was also expressed mainly in his later poetry. Marie Under held an important place among the Estonian poets who inspired P. Mustapää; in the article this is demonstrated through a thorough analysis of P. Mustapää’s poem „Under the Laurel Trees” („Varjossa laakerien”). The poem moves on two levels. On the one hand, its content is the poet`s childhood memory, on the other – as is so often characteristic of P. Mustapää, the poem treats metapoetically of the process of how poetry and art are born, and of the wonder of creation. Both Marie Under and P. Mustapää wrote many ballads, and in addition, P. Mustapää used ballad motifs in many of his other poems. In the article, the motif of the self-sacrificing woman is discussed with respect to the works of both poets. Closer examination is given to P. Mustapää’s poem „The White Lady of Haapsalu”, a poem that contains ballad material, and to Under’s ballad „The Birth of Naissaar”, with additional comments on her ballads „False Foot”(„Ebajalg”) and „The Cattle of the Sea” („Merilehmad”). At the close of the article there is a brief discussion of the reasons why female figures who test the boundaries of tradition and who transcend societal and moral norms come to the fore in the ballads of the 1920s. In addition, the article emphasizes how important Estonian literature and culture was to Finland’s literary classic P. Mustapää at the beginning of his journey as a poet.


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