Denunciation | Marie Under
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.
Marie Under was one of the greatest Estonian poets ever lived; EstonianWorld.com publishes six of her poems in full.
Who was Marie Under and why is she so important for Estonians? Like many Estonian cultural greats of the turbulent 20th century, who lived during the oppressive Soviet occupation, her story is full both of joy and sadness.
Born into the family of a teacher from Hiiumaa in 1883, she showed a talent for literature from an early age, starting to read at four and write her first poems at fourteen. She studied German, French and Russian in her early years at a private German Language School (her education later helped her translate German poetry and drama into Estonian).
After brief stints working at the newspaper Teataja and filling her free time writing poetry in German (which, at the time, was considered the most important language in Estonia, due to the country’s history), she got married in 1902 and lived in Moscow for four years. During this period, it was the Estonian artist, Ants Laikmaa, who convinced her to start writing her poetry in Estonian. It is also believed that Laikmaa fell in love with her and he also painted many portraits of the poetess. -estonianworld.com
Cover: Marie Under (portrait by Ants Laikmaa).