Carl Gustaf Mannerheim – Man of all of Finland’s Time

A small tribute to (one of) the Greatest Finn(s) of all time: C.G. Mannerheim. Did he live in interesting times, I’ll say.

In honour of your father,
the theatre is yours now, Mannerheim.
So tell us – or dictate, rather –
in Swedish tone or through Russian rhyme
of your first fight, not played right;
of your arranged wife,
and this deranged life thereafter.

Of a war commenced in laughter,
followed by decorations,
declarations, expeditions,
rough transitions –
monks pelting stones,
trains breaking down –
Chinese grins and moans,
Tibetans in a wedding gown.

And all the while, a world on fire
flames lash out
in single file;
Fired then re-hired;
a second bout,
a white-on-red, your comrads’ death;
a country’s pride, a leave at night.

Your neighbour’s changed and claims your plot now
“Brave soldiers of Finland!
We are fighting for our Homeland!”
You re-arrange; their spirit wanes and reeks of rot now
Defeat has never felt so right before.

You’ll meet your neighbour at a different door,
yet he will now finally respect you:
He’s known and now expects to
win wars in bloody ways;
And stars pass by, burn up in days;
The times of late of June, of ’42 –
so much too soon, War’s again awaiting you.

The score is settled,
the heavy metals
of battles far away
are slowly melting: coming Finland’s way again;
the monks, their pelting – such fate becomes a man.

A guest of hate’s now here to celebrate
the lighting-up of your cigar;
this rambling pest of always-ever-shall-I-dictate
isn’t fighting, bub – you’ve won this little war.

But war is yet to come:
complicated, double prong,
fights left and right, switch sides,
keep track of time;
Says Uncle Joe:
“Well, you know,
because of Mannerheim.
Finland’s Finland still”

And to resign as President,
recuperate in Switzerland –
that most warless country behind its rocky wall –
far in-land – feel no shame: Finland’s lucky all the same.
You’ve paid the cost – no longer, Carl.
All wars are lost: Death conquers all.

Most non-Finnish people probably never heard of Mannerheim to begin with – I can’t blame them, I thought he was some German officer at first glance as well. Thanks to my reading-up on Russia/Eastern-Europe, I ended up with cross-references to the Winter War and eventually learned to appreciate Mannerheim for what he was.

Too bad my local library hasn’t got anything specific on this fascinating person (or the Russian Civil War or the Winter + Continuation Wars, for that matter). I’ll have to make do with the Internet for now – here’s one site that stood out for me so far.  Feel free to drop in more links & references to movies or books.

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