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24 July 2010

The origin of "Matkan lopussa"

Today we're taking a break from the biography. I hope you find this short article interesting or, at least, curious. However, there's still a lot that can be said about this traditional song, so if you know Russian or Finnish or just know better about the song, please feel free to leave some comments! (No need to be registered anywhere.)

"Matkan lopussa", meaning "A journey's end", is the last song of Moonsorrow's third album Kivenkantaja (2003). The lyrics were written by Ville Sorvali, but the music is traditional - not Finnish, as one could think, but Russian. The first known version was a Russian hussar mazurka from the 18th century, but the lyrics are unknown, and actually only the melody of the chorus was borrowed in later versions. There's also a romance whose melody is based in this one: it's called "Fragrant clusters of white acacia" (Белой акации гроздья душистые), and was transcribed as sheet music for the first time around 1902. Its lyrics talk about the loss of youth.

During the Russian Civil War (1917-1923), this song was used under the title Смело мы в бой пойдём, with the same melody but obviously a different character, as this is a war song. It was actually used by both sides, but some lines were different; there even were versions with minor differences within the same side (for example, a "white" version starts saying "listen, grandfathers" and another one says "listen, brothers"), but all of them said pretty much the same. This is the Red Army version:
Слушай рабочий Война началася Бросай своё дело В поход собирайся Припев: Смело мы в бой пойдём За власть Советов И как один умрём В борьбе за это
Listen, workers, the war has begun. Leave what you're doing (?) and go on campaign. Chorus: Boldly we will go into battle for the power of Soviets, and as a single person die fighting for it.
And this is the White Army version:
Слыхали, деды, Война началася, Бросай свое дело — В поход собирайся. Припев: Смело мы в бой пойдём За Русь святую, И как один прольём Кровь молодую.
Listen, grandfathers, the war has begun. Leave what you're doing (?) and go on campaign. Chorus: Boldly we will go into battle for the Holy Rus (=Russia), and as a single person spill young blood.
The Finnish version is pretty much the same as the older Russian one, the romance: the melody is identical and the lyrics are an approximate translation of the original. Note that Finland was a part of the Russian empire at that time, so it's not strange to find this song there too. This version is called "Valkoakaasiat", which means "White acacia"; you can read the lyrics in the first comment of this entry. Here I'm posting some of the versions I could find:
Tamara Lund, 1962
Instrumental acoustic guitar version by a band called Steelers
Moonsorrow arrangement with title changed to "Matkan lopussa", lyrics by Ville Sorvali
A Russian film called Дни Турбиных - Days of the Turbins, dating from 1976, showed a different version of Белой акации гроздья душистые (the romance) - so different that it's even hard to find parallelisms in the melody. It's actually called "Целую ночь соловей нам насвистывал..." - "A nightingale was singing for us all night long". So don't confuse both versions. You can find many more versions on YouTube: Finnish and Russian, older and newer, by different singers... etc etc. Have fun! Thanks a lot to Bogdan, who gave me the basis to start with, and to Óðinn, who clarified several points I wasn't sure about.



    Tuoksuvat tuomien valkoiset kukkaset,
    terttuinsa peitos on puu.
    Lehdossa laulanta soi satakielien.
    Hiljaiseen yöhön luo loisteensa kuu.
    Muistatko kesän, kun tuoksussa tuomien
    haaveillen istuimme ain?
    Kuiskaili silloin tuo helkyntä hempeä:
    Armaani, aina, sun ain oon ma vain!

    Vuodet on vierineet,
    hurmos on haihtunut,
    nuoruus jo mennyt on, oi!
    Vaan en ma valkoisten tuomien tuoksua
    unhoittaa koskaan, en koskaan ma voi

    No translation, sorry. Help would be appreciated!

  2. Valkoakaasiat actually means "white acacia"; musically, it is identical to the Russian romance you've mentioned. The lyrics seem to be translated from Russian as well.

  3. Well, I heard a couple of versions of the romance "Белой акации гроздья душистые" and, while "Valkoakaasiat" and the war hymn have pretty much the same melody, the romance's is quite different, I found it even hard to find parallelisms.

    However, thanks for pointing out the meaning of the title, the lyrics are actually very similar, about the loss of youth etc... I'm adding that, thank you!

  4. Oh, no problem. I attempted to research this very topic a few months ago. It's good to see someone is summarizing it in such a coherent manner. By the way, the "Белой акации гроздья душистые" song you've heard is not the original Russian romance. It is the 1976 variation on the theme, written for the Soviet movie called "Дни Турбиных" - "Days of the Turbins", and it's actually called "Целую ночь соловей нам насвистывал..." - "A nightingale was singing for us all night long".

    Check out this version: - you'll find it to be identical to "Valkoakaasiat". This melody was transcribed as sheet music for the first time around 1902. Finland being a part of the Russian Empire at the time, it's not surprising the song surfaced there as well.

  5. Everything has been corrected now. Ripped-off some of your sentences ;) Thanks again! :)

  6. Great material you got here. Why don't you publish in ptbr too?

  7. Hello! If by ptbr you mean Brazilian Portuguese, the reason is that I don't speak that language. If you mean something else, please elaborate. :)

    If you wish to do a translation, send me an e-mail, you'll find my address under "Contact" in the menu above!