“But other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.”
— Lloyd Stone, “This Is My Song”
The cruise we just enjoyed gave us a day in Helsinki, the capitol of Finland. Our tour took us to see the monument to one of the country’s most famous sons, Jean Sibelius, (1865-1957). We all know his most famous composition, the symphonic poem Finlandia, first performed in 1900. The memorial was in two parts, both coated with shiny metal which might have been aluminum.
One part (above) included the composer’s face with additional ornamentation (clouds?).
The other looked to me like a pipe organ from fantasy land. The vertical tubes of all different lengths were variously decorated with perforations or additional metalwork, giving the structure a fantastic appearance. I couldn’t help but wonder if the monument whistled when the wind blew across the tops of the pipes! Our guide told us that the tube sculpture was deliberately non-specific so that any “meaning” we might see there would come partly from what the viewer brings to the work. As I said, in my eyes, this was clearly a pipe organ just waiting to make the forest rumble! The photo below shows the entire installation, pipes at center, face on the right.
Of course I heard the strains of Finlandia in my head for the rest of the day. In case the melody has not already hooked into your ear, listen to this flash mob men’s chorus singing the national song at the Helsinki train station.
The tune was originally part of an orchestral piece, later re-worked into a hymn. The chorus above is singing Finnish lyrics which were published in 1941; this has become an informal national song (but not the national anthem) just as “America the Beautiful” competes with “The Star Spangled Banner” in our hearts. The Finnish lyrics celebrate the country’s endurance through trying times, but it is far from any English text I have ever heard.
Wikipedia tells me that Finlandia has several sets of lyrics in English alone. The one that I love is titled “This Is My Song” and in my mind it is inseparable from the tune, as if words and tune sprang from the composer’s mind as a unit. What I love about these lyrics is that they recognize BOTH how strong our feelings are for our homeland AND that other people have the same feelings about their home, just as dearly held. The second verse praises “my country’s skies,” fields, and forests, then adds “but other lands have sunlight too and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.” I love these words precisely because they recognize what most patriotic songs (from all nations) implicitly ignore: landscape and strength of your feelings do not make any country unique in this world. What comes before and after these observations is the statement “This is my song,… a song of peace for their land and for mine.”
In my humble opinion, this is the sort of sentiment we need to dwell on much more in this century. May we ALL have peace in our homelands, and may we always remember that others feel as strongly as we do!
Here is the complete text of “This Is My Song”:
This is my song, oh God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations;
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms:
Thy kingdom come on earth thy will be done.
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
And hearts united learn to live as one.
Oh hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;
Myself I give thee; let thy will be done.
Stanzas 1-2 by Lloyd Stone 1934, Stanza 3 by Georgia Harkness 1939
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
20 June 2013