Jakob Liiv

PoemsJakob Liiv


About Jakob Liiv

Jakob Liiv (28. II 1859 – 17. I 1938), the elder brother of the renowned Estonian poet Juhan Liiv, was a poet, playwright and prose writer. He was born in Alatskivi parish in Tartu county, studied at Naelavere village school and Kodavere district school, and passed the elementary school teaching exam at the Hollmann College in Tartu in 1897. He then worked for a lengthy period as a teacher, mostly at Triigi-Avispea school in Väike-Maarja parish in Lääne-Virumaa county. There he emerged as an eminent public figure who gathered around him writers who were living long- or short-term in the area (known as the “Parnassus of Väike-Maarja”). In 1901 he gave up his school work and ran a book shop in the small town of Väike-Maarja. In 1913 he moved to the town of Rakvere where he worked as a bank clerk for several years and edited a local newspaper for some time. As a member of the Estonian Labour Party, founded in 1917, he was the mayor of Rakvere from 1919–1921. Afterwards he worked as a primary school teacher in Rakvere until his retirement and participated actively in Rakvere cultural life, being one of the initiators of the creation and construction of Rakvere Theatre. He died in Rakvere in 1938.
Jakob Liiv became interested in reading and writing poetry thanks to the book-loving and at the same time Estonian national spirit nurtured by the teachers at Kodavere school. In the early 1880s his poems started to appear in the press, and in 1886 he published his first poetry collection Viru kannel (‘Viru lyre’) which was followed by three more collections of lyrics at the end of the century and a couple of longer epic poems (“lugulaulud” or “storysongs”) in separate volumes. The best known of these is Kõrbelõvi (‘Desert Lion’, 1898), which is based on Arabic subject matter and is an allegorical depiction of the fight between the two opposing factions of the national movement and their leaders. A large part of his poetry of this period is collected in the publication Jakob Liivi kirjatööd I–II (‘Jakob Liiv’s Writings I–II’, 1909–1910), which was supplemented by the selection Lüürilised laulud (‘Lyrical Songs’, 1929). Liiv published the poems written in his old age in the collection Päikese veerul (‘On the Sun’s slope’, 1933). An example of his later work is the poem Revolutsioon (‘Revolution’, I: 1927, II: 1937), which is based on Bible motifs.
In keeping with post-Romanticism, the subject matter of Liiv’s early poems is predominantly home, nature and love; the tone is mostly one of longing and melancholy. The poetry of his more mature years reflects more of his contemporary reality, primarily problems related to the russification policies of the tsarist government. The author’s individual writing style inclines towards the rational epic and frequent use of allegory. A contemplative, common sensical view is also evident in his later nature poetry. More emotional are the images from his childhood landscapes by the shores of Lake Peipus. Liiv’s poetic use of language tends to be flowing and formally elaborate; he became one of the most important practitioners of the sonnet in early Estonian poetry.  
Liiv was a prolific playwright: if we include his plays for children and texts in manuscript form, his dramatic works come to twenty titles. His debut play, Tühjale maale (‘To the Empty Land’), which deals with the emigration of farmers from Estonia, was completed at the end of the 1880s. This and other important plays such as the historical drama in verse Ordumeister (‘The Master of the Order’) and the satirical village comedy Kolmat aega vallavanem (‘Third-Term Parish Elder’) were published much later because of censorship, which diminished their novelty value and restricted their staging opportunities. Liiv also wrote short prose pieces on topical subject matter but of modest achievement which were compiled into a three-volume collection Vihud (‘Notebooks’, 1901–1908). Of greater significance is his later autobiographical prose: the collection of short stories, Mälestusi lühijuttudes (‘Memories in Short Stories’, 1938) and above all the autobiography, Elu ja mälestusi (‘Life and Memories’, 1936; reprint 2008).

E. S. (Translated by M. M.-K.)

Books in Estonian

Wiru-Kannel. I. jagu. Luuletanud Jakob Liiw. Tallinn: M. Leppik, 1886, 54 lk.
Wiru-Kannel. II. anne. Jakob Liiw’i laulud. Rakvere: N. Erna, 1891. 102 lk.
Leina-lilled. Kimbuks köitnud Jakob Liiw. Jurjev: 1894, 15 lk.
Kõrbelõwi. Luuletanud Jakob Liiw. Jurjev: Postimees, 1898, 62 lk.
Wiru-Kandle III. anne. Jakob Liiw’i Laulud. Tallinn: Uus Aeg, 1900, 83 lk.
Püha kuju. Jakob Liiwi lugulaul. Tallinn: G. Pihlakas, 1900, 32 lk.
Waimude org. Jakob Liiwi luulelugu. Tallinn: 1906, 15 lk.
Jakob Liiw’i kirjatööd. I. anne, Laulud. Tallinn: 1906, 250 lk.
Jakob Liiw’i kirjatööd. II. anne, Lugulaulud. Tallinn: 1910, 296 lk. [2. trükk: Tallinn: 1918.]
Revolutsioon. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1927, 63 lk.
Lüürilised laulud. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1929, 367 lk.
Päikese veerul. Rakvere: J. Liiv, 1933, 80 lk.
Revolutsioon. II. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1937, 108 lk.

Õnne otsijad. Wiie järguline näitemäng. Rakvere: N. Erna, 1901, 64 lk.
Musti lell ehk Isand Kibe kimbatus. Naljamäng kahes waatuses. Rakvere: N. Erna, 1901, 48 lk.
Kolmat aega wallawanem. Wiiejärguline näitemäng. Jurjev 1904. 64 lk. [2., muudetud trükk: Kolmat aega wallavanem: Rahwatükk kolmes waatuses. Viljandi: H. Leoke, 1914, 74 lk.]
Halastaja õde. Neljajärguline näitemäng. Jurjev: 1904, 80 lk.
Ordumeister. Jakob Liiwi wiiejärguline kurbmäng. Jurjev: J. Liiv, 1905, 123 lk.
Pahased naabrid. Jakob Liiw’i kolmejärguline näitemäng Johan Liiwi sellesama nimelise jutukese ainetel. Väike-Maarja: J. Liiv, 1906, 40 lk.
Tühjale maale. Jakob Liiw’i wiiejärguline näitemäng. Tartu: Hermann, 1910, 87 lk.
Pilved. Lõbumäng kolmes waatuses. Viljandi: H. Leoke, 1912, 67 lk.
Ware. Neljawaatusline kurbmäng. Viljandi: H. Leoke, 1913, 79 lk.
Obligatsioon. Draama 3 järgus. Tallinn: 1921, 95 lk.
Marjulised. Ühejärguline laste näidend. Tallinn: Kool, 1922, 32 lk.
Ust, õue!. Kolmewaatuseline näidend lastele. Tallinn: Kool, 1922, 71 lk.
Kullaketrajad. Kahejärguline lastenäidend. Tallinn: T. Mutsu, 1924, 49 lk.
Omad vitsad. Tartu: Sõnavara, 1925, 48 lk.
Ülemiste haldjas. Dramaatiline luulelugu vabaduse sõjapäevilt. Rakvere: 1931, 60 lk.

Short stories
Musti lell. Jakob Liiw’i jutustus. Rakvere: N. Erna, 1899, 58 lk.
Puujala Mats. Jakob Liiw’i jutustus. Rakvere: N. Erna, 1899, 77 lk.
Wihud, I. parmas. Kodumaa nurmedelt põiminud Jakob Liiw. Rakvere: N. Erna, 1901, 140 lk.
Wihud, II. parmas. Rakvere: N. Erna, 1903, 132 lk.
Wihud, III. parmas. Tallinn: G. Pihlakas, 1908, 230 lk.
Mälestusi lühijuttudes. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1938, 218 lk.

Elu ja mälestusi
. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1936, 262 lk. [2. trükk: Tartu: Ilmamaa, 2016 (saatesõna Hando Runnel).]

Selected works
Valitud teosed. Koostanud [ja eessõna] Oskar Kuningas.
Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1960, 
407 lk.