södergran and ‘the land that is not’

Finding English translations of some of her poems online, I thought it might be worth revisiting Finland-Swedish poet Edith Södergran. There’s a whole book written in Swedish about her relationship to anthroposophy (Jan Häll: Vägen till landet som icke är). It’s a fascinating book (we talked about it in an old thread). She was quite infatuated with Steiner, but she was also occasionally disappointed with him, when he didn’t match her expectations (to her, he didn’t appear to be pious enough — she had some complaints…). One of her most famous poems is ‘The land that is not’, and it’s also one of her last; she died very young. Here’s the first verse:

I long for the land that is not,
For all that is, I am weary of wanting.
The moon speaks to me in silvern runes
About the land that is not.
The land where all our wishes become wondrously fulfilled,
The land where all our fetters fall,
The land where we cool our bleeding forehead
In the dew of the moon.
My life was a burning illusion,
But one thing I have found and one thing I have really won –
The road to the land that is not.

The poem is a bit longer and you can continue to read it here.

There are a couple of articles online in English. This one mentions Steiner, this one does not (but might be more interesting, although I didn’t finish it). And the other day when I was googling a bit, I found an essay by a student at Helsinki University. Unfortunately, it is in Swedish, but I mention it (for the benefit of those who read Swedish!) because like Jan Häll’s book it deals specificially with Edith Södergran and anthropsophy. You can download it here.


5 thoughts on “södergran and ‘the land that is not’

  1. Her name has been familiar to me as long as I can remember — not only is she a famous poet, she is finland-swedish! which matters — but I didn’t know the stuff about anthroposophy until fairly recently (when I discovered Jan Häll’s book). Apparently most literature scholars have not known what to do with it, and have researched her work from other angles (one of those researchers is Ebba Witt-Brattström, whose essay I linked to above (the second one)).

    There are several collections of her work in English. Falk (Tom H-S) recommended one in the earlier thread: https://zooey.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/sagen-mig-om-han-ar-en-charlatan/#comment-4704. There’s also another collection: http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Poems-Edith-Sodergran/dp/0906427398/.

  2. So, she was disappointed in him….Poor old Rudi, not sufficiently pious. There you are for drinking Cognac and smoking cigars in your younger years, in the company of philosophical Ladies of Fame, Actresses and the lot. Not pious enogh, jeeezzeessss!

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