Heldi Marleen Lang

Marie Under

Astonishing poet which is considered as Estonian Goethe
My name is Heldi Marleen Lang. I'm from Tartu, Estonia.
In this topic I'm going to talk about Estonian poetry of XX century

The spring of 1917 is known in Estonia for an explosion in poetry, due to the founding of a romantic literary movement by the name of Siuru. For that reason, this period is also referred to as the spring of Siuru. This movement aimed to improve modern Estonian literature and spread it during a time when there were virtually no literary activities due to the war.

That was an expressionistic and a neo-romantic movement, which was composed mostly of poets who saw the brighter side of life. Although they only had a few conflicts within the movement, which only existed a little short of three years, their impact on Estonian literature and culture can largely be credited for saving the situation of Estonian literature. Among the seven truly impressive male poets, there was also a female poet named Marie Under (the word ''under'' means '' miracle'' in Swedish) who is the one, that stood out the most.
Marie Under was born in Reval, now called Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, in 1883. Her parents Priidu and Leena were very strict when it came to raising the girls in the family. She learned to read at a very young age, being only 4-years-old and started writing poetry at the age of 13
In ages from 4 to 9, Marie went to a school for small children, but had to resign from her studies, due to the fact, that her family didn't have the opportunity to pay for her studies any longer
From 1893 to 1898, she studied in a private German school for girls, but unfortunately, she didn't graduate, also due to financial difficulties. She later claimed that luckily she was still somehow included in the list of graduates. Later she started working with children but continued to write poems in German in her free time.
Ever since she was a child, she was very fond of culture and used to read a lot, which influenced her in great ways. Marie met many culture-related people, for example, writers and painters, who later worked along with her, at her piano teacher's house. Since these people used to speak Latin some of the time, she started to also learn Latin on her own, without her parents knowing of it. She presents, in an excellent way, how one's childhood can influence their whole life and shows one's progression through life and in the field of arts.
Portrait of Marie Under by Ants Laikmaa. 1904
In 1902, Marie Under married Carl Eduard Friedrich Hacker (Later named Kaarel Haling), together they soon moved to Moscow, where they had two children named Dagmar and Hedda. Her husband and his family didn't care neither for culture nor literature, this, however didn't deter her. Hedda's godfather, an Estonian painter, Ants Laikmaa who encouraged Marie to publish her works for the first time in one of Estonia's largest newspapers. At that time, she used to write under the name ''Mutti''
Portrait of Estonian poet Marie Under by Ants Laikmaa. 1904
In 1913, Marie met a writer and poet named Artur Adson, who later became her editor. Artur collected her works and collocated them, to publish her first poetry book in 1917 , this was a collection of sonnets and went on to become one of her most outstanding works. Since her first husband wasn't right for her as he wasn't very educated, they got divorced in 1924. Shortly after that, she got married to Adson who most probably was the love of her life
After the first world war, nothing was the same in Estonian literature, as before the war, it was pretty much just a small part of Russian literature even though writers still used to write in Estonian. That was a time when many stereotypes were broken and the role of women in society, changed drastically. As there was almost no one else left, Adson and Under became the heart of Estonian literature. Their love was one of a kind and inspired both of them to write. Because Marie was taller than Artur, people often made fun of them, but still adored their poems and that is what matters the most.
In 1944 Under and her family fled to Sweden as the war was in full force and it was not safe for them to stay in Estonia. Romance wasn't the main theme of her poetry at this time, as she was incredibly upset about the situation, so much so, that she started to write political poetry. When she was 89-year-old she wrote her last poem called ``Soov`` (´´A Wish´´) which was short and said that you shouldn't live with half of your energy to save the other half for something better. Marie died in Stockholm in 1980 and was also buried there at first. In 2016 she was reburied in Tallinn together with her husband Artur, daughter Hedda and sister Berta.
Under's work has been translated to at least 26 languages, Igor Severyanin has translated her poems to Russian. She was the most influential poet of the 20th century in Estonia and nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature for eight times but was never chosen because of the political situation between Russia and Sweden. She sure wasn't scared to write very romantic and even erotic poems that shocked the whole Estonian society of the time. Marie Under truly was the Estonian Goethe.
Some examples of Marie Under's poems:

We saw those berries, over-ripe and glowing,

in weak and tepid light of the October sun

persisting red as blood, in right full-growing,

without much inkling of the winter clouds to come.

And then a wind-gust brushed those heavy bunches:

and some of them burst, falling to the ground

on wilted grass, soon after, under branches

gold leaves with purple berries lay around.

And hand in hand we walked uphill together

and pushed by the capricious wind's bad weather,

eye to eye, as in anxiety, we asked:

our love's moist, joyful red in present flowering,

will life's wind carry it away, devouring,

or will it fall to the grave's soil, and last?


I cry aloud with all my people's mouths,

our land is smitten by a plague of fear and lead,

our land is shadowed by the gallows tree

our land a common graveyard, huge with dead.

Who'll come to help? Right here, at present, now!

Because the patient's weak, has lost his hold.

But, like the call of birds, my shouting fades

in emptiness: the world is arrogant and cold.

The sighing of the old, the baby's cry —

do they all run to sand, illusion, fail?

Men, women groan like wounded deer

to those in power all this is just a fairy-tale.

Dark is the world's eye, its ear is deaf,

the powerful lost in madness or stupidity.

Compassion's only felt by those whom suffering breaks,

and sufferers alone have hearts like you and me.

Contact me!