Lydia Koidula

PoemsLydia Koidula

About Lydia Koidula

Lydia Koidula (Lydia Emilie Florentine Jannsen, from 1873 Michelson; 24./12. XII 1843 – 11. VIII / 30. VII 1886) was a national poet of Estonia, a dramatist and story-writer.

Koidula was born at Vändra as the eldest child of Johann Voldemar Jannsen; she had five siblings. In 1850 the family moved to Pärnu. Lydia received her basic education from her father at home; from 1854 to 1861 she attended Pärnu Higher Girls’ School. As the editor of the newspaper Perno Postimees, her father involved his daughter in translating and adapting reading matter; her first piece to appear was the story Kiwwi-rist (‘Stone Cross’) in 1861. In 1862 Koidula sat the Tartu University examination and took up a post as a tutor. In 1863 the family settled in Tartu, where Jannsen started publishing the newspaper Eesti Postimees, whose literary supplement Juttotubba was actively furnished by his daughter. Lydia took a lively interest in the rising national movement, and was in correspondence with Dr. Paul Blumberg, the folklore collector Pastor Jakob Hurt, Carl Robert Jakobson and Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald. In the second half of the eighteen-sixties she became the most influential exponent of national sentiment in Estonian literature. Enthusiastic participation in the activities of the Vanemuine Society, the staging of plays, public performance of her poems and stories, correspondence with Estonian, Finnish and German literary figures placed Koidula in a central place in Estonia’s developing cultural life. She visited Finland at the invitation of the editor of the newspaper Uusi Suometar, Antti Almberg, with her father and brother Harry Jannsen in 1871, she met Senator J. W. Snellman, E. Lönnrot, and Professor Y. Koskinen. Later Harry worked as a censor in Riga and Tallinn (1886-1892, 1903-1913), and was a journalist in Budapest, Vienna, Berlin and St. Petersburg.
In 1873 Lydia married the Latvian medical graduate Eduard Michelson (1845-1907) in Tartu, and settled in Kronstadt, where her husband had secured a post as a military doctor. Far away from home she carried on writing poetry, often visited Estonia and mixed with the Estonians and Estophiles in St. Petersburg. From 1876 to 1878 she and her husband were living in Wroclaw, Strasbourg and Vienna. After the split in the national movement and the deterioration of her father’s health, Lydia supported her father’s conservative camp. Her two daughters grew up, while her two sons died early. In 1882 her health started to fail; her last years were a painful struggle with cancer. Koidula was buried in Kronstadt. For the 60th anniversary of her death, the poet’s earthly remains were taken from the family grave-plot and interred at the Metsakalmistu Cemetery in Tallinn in 1946.

Koidula’s texts have been extensively set to music (by A. Kunileid, F. Saebelmann, M. Härma, K.A. Hermann, K. Türnpu, Juhan Aavik, M. Saar and A. Läte among others). The most famous festival song, Mu isamaa on minu arm (‘My Fatherland is my Love’), set by Gustav Ernesaks, became the alternative anthem of the Estonians during the Soviet occupation; there is rarely a funeral in Estonia, even today, where a farewell is not sung in Koidula’s words. There is a Koidula street in more than a dozen Estonian towns, there are two villages of that name in Estonia, and one in Kemerovo oblast in Siberia. In Pärnu there is a Koidula museum and a secondary school bearing her name. Koidula is commemorated by a monument in Pärnu (by A. Adamson), a memorial stone with portrait at her birthplace at Vändra (by J. Raudsepp) and at Leppälahti in Finland (by J. Eskel). A monument to Koidula and Jannsen has been created in Tartu for the centenary of Estonia’s independence. Koidula’s portrait and signature were portrayed on the Estonian 100-kroon banknote after the restoration of independence. As a symbol of the emancipation both of the Estonians and of women, Koidula has provided plenty of inspiration to writers (in drama: A. Adson, H. Wuolijoki, A. Undla-Põldmäe, O. Kruus, M. Unt, H. Lindepuu, L. Ots, A, Kivirähk; in prose: T. Tuvikene, E. Ståhlberg; in poetry: F.R. Kreitzwald, A. Reinvald, K. Kuhlbars, Jakob Liiv, K.E. Sööt, A. Haava, E. Aun, V. Adams, M. Raud, B. Kangro, D. Vaarandi, J. Smuul, A. Kaal, F. Kotta, A. Alliksaar, A. Kaalep). The poetry of the “mother” of Estonian literature has been translated into a score of languages.
The most significant part of Koidula’s creation is her patriotic poetry. Her first poem, Koddo (‘Home’), appeared in the newspaper Eesti Postimees in 1865 under the pen-name L. In her anonymous first collection Waino-Lilled (‘Meadow Flowers’, 1866) she followed the German Biedermeier style of sensitive idyllic poetry; most of the poems are based on models. Some of the poems are already sounding a note of patriotism, which was to become her mission. In the second anonymous collection, Emmajöe Öpik (‘The Nightingale of Emajõgi’, 1867, cover date 1866), she appears as a bard of the nation, whose romantically exultant verses gave expression to the feelings and thoughts of a nation awakening to a new life. No more collections of verse were published, but her poetry writing continued in both Tartu and Kronstadt, where the motifs of yearning became more frequent, but her originality deepened. Beside the powerful patriotic lyrics her oeuvre also includes poems about nature, love and ideas, ballads and dedications, as well as children’s songs – altogether more than 300 texts. Despite the undeveloped Estonian literary language, in her best verses the poet achieved a deep emotionality, a folk-based imagery, a beautiful timbre and a natural rhythm, applying diverse verse-forms. The pen-name Koidula (from koit “dawn”) was given by C.R. Jakobson to her in a school reader published in 1867.
Koidula’s stories (eighty-six of them) mostly appeared in supplements to the newspaper Eesti Postimees, growing out of her contributions to the paper. Outstanding among her mostly adapted works are Enne ukse lukutamist (‘Before Locking the Door’), Ainuke (‘The Only One’), and Tammiste küla ‘vesketondid’ (‘The ‘Mill Ghosts’ of Tammiste Village’, 1868), from her later period Loigu perenaine (‘The Mistress of Loik’, 1881). Of her free interpretations and adaptations, the best-known appeared under her father’s name: Ojamölder ja temma minnia (‘Ojamölder and His Daughter-in-law’, 1863, 1864 on the cover, after L. Würdig), Peruama wiimne Inka (‘The Last Inca of Peru’, 1865, after W. Horn), Olesja (1869, after M. Vovchok), Juudit ehk Jamaika saare viimsed Maroonlased (‘Judith, or the Last Maroons of the Island of Jamaica’, 1870) and Martiniiko ja Korsika (‘Martinique and Corsica’, 1874); the latter tales emphasize the theme of nations striving for freedom.

Much smaller in scale, but pioneering, is the dramatic work created by Koidula, and her activities in establishing the Estonian stage. The first small comedy, Saaremaa Onupoeg (‘The Cousin from Saaremaa’, 1870, after T. Körner) was staged by Koidula in the Vanemuine Society for Midsummer Day 1870, and is considered the beginning of the Estonian-language theatre. The same autumn the comedy Kosjakased (‘The Wooing’) was staged, and in 1871 her best play, Särane Mul’k, ehk Sada vakka tangusoola (‘The Man from Mulgimaa, or A hundred Bushels of Groats’, published in 1872). In Kronstadt she also wrote the comedy Kosjaviinad (‘Suitors’ Liquor’), which was not staged (printed, like Kosjakased, only in 1946). Her plays, modest and simple in view of the circumstances, initiated a truthfulness to people’s lives, and idealistic thinking, on the Estonian stage, which is why they have been repeatedly staged in later years.

A. M. (Translated by C. M.)

Books in Estonian

[s. n.], Waino-Lilled. 1: Eesti-rahwa heaks meleks. Kurresare: Ch. Assafrey, 1866, 48 lk. [Kättesaadav:]
[s. n.], Emmajöe Öpik. 1. Tartu: H. Laakmann, 1866 [tegelikult 1867], 64 lk. [Kättesaadav:]
Kogutud luuletused. Kogunud ja korraldanud Jaan Bergmann; järelredigeerinud ja sissejuhatus: Gustav Suits. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1925, XVI+206 lk.
Valitud laulud. Koostanud Daniel Palgi jt. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1934, 93 lk.
Valitud luuletused. Valinud ja saatesõna: Bernard Kangro. Tallinn: Eesti Kirjastus, 1943, 114 lk.
Valik luulet. Koostanud ja eessõna: Aino Undla-Põldmäe. Tallinn: Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, 1948, 232 lk.
Valitud luuletused. Toimetanud Henno Jänes. Göteborg: Orto, 1949, 96 lk.
Lydia Koidula. Koostanud A. Undla-Põldmäe. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1967, 127 lk. [Sari ‘Väike luuleraamat’.]
Luuletused: tekstikriitiline väljaanne. Koostanud E. Aaver, toimetuse kolleegium: E. Ertis jt (Eesti NSV Teaduste Akadeemia Fr. R. Kreutzwaldi nim. Kirjandusmuuseum). Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1969, 688+XX lk. [Sisaldab registreid. Kokkuvõte saksa ja vene keeles.]
Eestimaa, su hiilgav rada: valik luulet. Koostanud Mall Jõgi. Tallinn: Tammerraamat, 2011, 201 lk. [Sisaldab ka: Gustav Suits, ‘Koidula luuletajasaatus’.]

[s.n.], Saaremaa Onupoeg: Eestikeele näitemäng. Tartu: [L. Koidula], 1870, 31 lk. [Kättesaadav:]
“Saaremaa Onupoja” kirjutajast, Särane Mul’k ehk Sada wakka tangusoola. Tartu: [L. Koidula], 1872, 55 lk. [Kättesaadav:]

Short stories
Ojamölder ja temma minnia: Üks jut Eestirahwa römuks ja öppetusseks, mis Lydia Jannsen üllespannud. Eestkönne J. Jannsen. Tartu: H. Laakmann, 1863, 68 lk. [Kättesaadav:]
Perùama wiimne Inka, mis Eestirahwa rõmuks ja õppetusseks wannast aearamatust wäljakirjutanud Johann Jannsen. Tartu: H. Laakmann, 1866, 139 lk
Martiniiko ja Korsika: Kirjapannud Johann Jannsen. Tartu: H. Laakmann, 1869 [tegelikult 1874], 107 lk.
Juudit ehk Jamaika saare wiimsed Maroonlased: Wälja annud Johann Jannsen. Tartu: H. Laakmann, 1871 [kaanel 1870], 176 lk.

Kreutzwaldi ja Koidula kirjavahetus. 1-2. Eessõna H. Rosenthal; toimetaja ja tõlkija K. Leetberg. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1910-1911, XV+511+318 lk.
Koidula ja Almbergi kirjavahetus. Trükki toimetanud ja kommenteerinud Aug. Anni. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1925, 120 lk.
Koidula kirjad omakseile: 1873-1886. Tõlkinud ja toimetanud Edith Rosenthal-Lipp. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1926, 540 lk.

Selected and collected works
Teosed. 1. Luuletused. Koostanud ja järelsõna: Aarne Vinkel. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1957, 434 lk. [Sisu:  ‘Vainulilled’ (1866), ‘Emajõe ööbik’ (1867), 1866-1872, 1873-1886, Käsikirjalisest pärandist (‘Kogutud luuletused’, 1925).]
Teosed. 2. Jutud ja näidendid. Koostanud ja kommenteerinud E. Sõgel. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1957, 450 lk. [Sisu: ‘Säärane mulk ehk Sada vakka tangusoola’, ‘Maret ja Miina ehk Kosjakased’, ‘Saaremaa onupoeg’, ‘Kosjaviinad ehk Kuidas Tapiku pere laulupidule sai’, ‘Ojamölder ja tema minia’, ‘Enne ukse lukutamist’, ‘”Ainuke”‘, ‘Tammiste küla “veskitondid”‘, ‘Olesja’, ‘Talvine metsasõit’, ‘Loigu perenaine’.]

About Lydia Koidula
Aino Kallas, Tähelend: Koidula elulugu. Soome keelest tõlkinud Friedebert Tuglas. Tartu: Odamees, 1918, 222 lk. [2. trükk: Tartu: Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1929, 264 lk.]
Karl Mihkla, Lydia Koidula elu ja looming: L. Koidula mälestuseks tema 120. sünniaastapäeva puhul. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1965, 360 lk.
Lydia Koidula bibliograafia, 1861-1966. Koostanud Herbert Laidvee. Eesti NSV Teaduste Akadeemia, Fr. R. Kreutzwaldi nim. Kirjandusmuuseum. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1971, 288 lk.
Aino Undla-Põlmäe, Koidulauliku valgel: uurimusi ja artikleid. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1981, 359 lk.
Aino Kallas, Tähelend: Eesti poetessi Koidula elulugu. Soome keelest tõlkinud ja järelsõna: Ants Paikre. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1999, 197 lk.
Ants Järv, Koidula. Tartu: Vanemuise Seltsi Kirjastus, 2000, 16 lk.
Madli Puhvel, Lydia Koidula: elu ja aeg. Tõlkijad Tiina Randviir, Katrin Kiik, Krista Mits. Tallinn: Ajakirjade Kirjastus, 2016, 303 lk. [2. trükk: Tallinn: Ekspress Meedia, 2017, 318 lk.]
Malle Salupere, Koidula: ajastu taustal, kaasteeliste keskel. Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2017, 568 lk.

Sirje Olesk, Koidula. Emajõe ööbik ja Eestimaa tütar. Pärnu: SA Pärnu Muuseum, 2020, 32 lk.