THE ROWER OF THE WAR

04.11.2021

THE ROWER OF THE WAR
(rough translation by Atso Almila)

Only as bare bones, a ghost
at the bottom of the Svensk Sund (Swedish Strait)
without blessing, without escorting,
remembered by no one on land
I lie in the depth of five and twenty fathoms

Forgotten am I, my name was Antti.

And I can't get away, it rings
it rings in my hollow head
invented by the king
that tune in the form
of a minuet, very stiff

What victory? What was the achievement of
the bloody battle?
The border remained in place,
the great cousin Catherine just snorted
if even her fan on the matter swung

Gustav, with his victory kept the court in check
until the assassin's bullet took him, took him.
After all, theatre was his court
and the end – such a handsome curtain

But he, king, was blessed to rest, I was not.
Antti I was,
now just bare bones
I lie forever, forever
without blessing, without escorting,
remembered by no one
in the depth of five and twenty fathoms

An order went to the rustholl:
The man to the coast, to row!
I was a soldier, maintained, never been to seas,
unable to swim
like many other men

Now there was a huge need for men to be trained
not for the woods, not on foot, not horsemen
but to the oars of the archipelago fleet

Because the defining battles
and every now and then windless waters
needed men in oars, who were tought hard
to follow orders, follow them
in every tightest spot

We boarded our ship, the Starkotter
category hemmema- or hämeenmaa
with a crew of 300
Antti to the rower’s seat,
down to the cannon deck
bowing under
the main deck

my grip on the oar I adapted
to the pace of my neighbor
and to the giant blades of others, adapted
Long days with with my shoulders I pulled
I pulled, pulled to the commands
shouted in the language of Swedish

Ro öfver alt!

-blades in the water, start rowing

Ligg på årorne!

-oars up, we shoot

Stryk!

-now we had to push-row

And then…

Practice shot!
LIGG PÅ ÅRORNE!

The old knew
if the ball passes, it’s just a hiss
but you won't have time to hear the hit
but you won't have time to hear the hit

Weeks pass in spring, it rains, winds
Only ashore you get to eat
and shortly sleep
where the same commandments ring in my head

Ro öfver alt, Ligg på årorne, Stryk…!

Hands blistered, squeezing shoes
shirt grinds and butt is soar
diseases bring down men, we healthy get to work
harder, harder and harder all the time

Keep up the tempo! I flinch, rowing is repaired

The old knew
if the ball passes, it’s just a hiss
but you won't have time to hear the hit
if the ball passes, it’s just a hiss
but you won't have time to hear the hit

Quiet winds, quiet waters
one can't get forward, what does one do
one can't get forward, what does one do
waves as rollers do us rock

Oars in water, rowing
so the ship can be moved ahead
it is the only way to move towards the battle
waiting for us
King's fleet, the archipelago fleet,
king’s fleet protecting the kingdom from the enemy
Can we get our ship there, can we get our
Starkotter there?
It will meet the enemy, meet the enemy

Quiet winds, so with the oars we just pull
doing a heavy journey on the king's ship
heavy journey, heavy journey
Without wind the only way is to row, with oars to row

All calmed down, the winds calmed down
no rollers on the sea when we get into position
and anchor to form a fire line
and to wait

The southwesterly wind rose to make a heavy sea

All our ships anchored to form the fire line
aim the side with cannons to destroy the enemy

The trial begins! Even the rowers to the cannons!
Let's shoot, one can't hide one’s fear!
Aaaa…!

What's that over there?
The cannon pulled in for charging, from the gate
we see…

A ship capsizing, sinking
The enemy’s archipelago Frigate, Svjatoi Nikolaj
after stubbornly persevering
like a sieve the whole of its side
sinks without lowering its flag

because the captain refused to surrender
he took hundreds of others with him

We got hit, our Starkotter on the side

When the cannon gate was smashed
with a massive hit
like sharp knives my body was ravaged
by the splintered tree, and many men were killed

Trying to stumble up I hit my head
I noticed, I lost one leg, so I just fell
the ship tilted, to the broken gap I fell
broken from the hit
and I fell, into the waves of the sea I fell

I didn't have time to bleed
no need for a doc and bandage
no wounds to burn shut
because already my dream was turning to eternal
with no more breath, as I fell into the water
I was covered by a wave, pressing me deeper

I didn't swim, I couldn't, none of us could
now I'm just sinking and sinking
The pain will end without time to start at all

I'm already dreaming with no breath
and I disappear from the world

The wheel of time rotates
Winters, Springs eat meat from bones
turned white by the chain of years

while the sea gets free from ice
quiet winds do, year after year,
fade thousands of the dead
in the depths into oblivion

Bones sometimes rattle against each other
rocked by the streams,
Antti I was, now bare bones, a ghost with one leg
Antti, not remembered on land, not ashore
by anyone

But hey, man! You, who might you be
squeezing that pole with your bony fingers, you?
Your Russian flag has almost disappeared
you've been there for a long time
with your head down
considering your gloomy fate

The Captain Marshall of Nikolaj?… young man…
You stubborn fool, obstinate man,
you sunk your crew to the bottom here
in vain, those hundreds, for nothing

A mercenary from abroad,
they couldn't get you to lower the flag?
You should have surrendered and spared them
from this pain of death

Soldier's honor is death!
So shouts Marshall's ghost,
glory in defeat is death, life would have been a
disgrace!

Now he is with his honor
at the bottom of the Svensk Sund
the man who jumped overboard
descended to the waters holding his flag
already almost gone,
only the pole left to hold with his bony fingers

King Gustav ashore on the rock,
him, the Third,
composes a minuet in the heat of the victory
its damn echo goes to our bones,
to their marrowless canals

ringing through the walls of our sculls

Lord of the seas, war and peace
have mercy on us dead
drowned in vain

without blessing, without escorting,
forgotten by the people ashore

too suddenly gone, with our white bones
in the depth of five and twenty fathoms

have mercy on us

Atso Almila