Marie Under

PoemsMarie Under. Photo: Aleksander Jurich

About Marie Under

Marie Under (27./15.III.1883 – 25.IX.1980; real name Hacker from 1902, Adson from 1924) was one of the greatest Estonian poets, as well as a translator.
She was born in Tallinn, the daughter of a schoolteacher from Hiiumaa; from 1891 to 1900 she attended a German-language girls’ school in Tallinn. In 1901-1902 she worked in the editorial office of the newspaper Teataja, where she got to know writers, artists, politicians (E. Vilde, A. Laikmaa, K. Päts and others). She lived with her husband and two daughters in Moscow from 1902 to 1906, and having returned to Tallinn, separated from her husband and changed her own home into a literary salon. In the Siuru writers’ association, devoted to Impressionism and sensuality, form 1917 to 1919 she took on the role of the Princess. A. Adson embodied her Pageboy. She took part in the activities of the Expressionist, socially critical Tarapita grouping in 1921-1922. She was a founder member of the Estonian Writers’ Union in 1922 and was elected as an honorary member of the the Estonian Literary Society in 1932, the London PEN Club in 1937, the United Poets Laureate International after the World War II, and the Free Asian University and the Finnish Writers’ Union in 1963. She was a professional writer in Tartu 1924-1925, subsequently in Tallinn. The private house whose construction was overseen by A. Adson at Nõmme in Tallinn is now the Under and Tuglas literary centre and museum. She travelled to several parts of Europe, and escaped with Adson and her daughters in September 1944 to Sweden. After a period in a refugee camp, in 1945 she settled at Mälarhöjden in the Stockholm suburbs, and worked as an archivist at the Drottningholm Theatre Museum until 1957. She received an award from the H. Visnapuu fund in 1955 and 1964; in many people’s view she deserved the Nobel Prize for literature. She died in Stockholm, and was buried in the Woodland Cemetery there; in 2016 she was reinterred at Rahumäe cemetery in Tallinn. In 1993 a documentary film about Under was made, Lauluga ristit (‘Baptized with Song’, by P. Puks). In Estonia a ‘Marie Under’ rose variety has been bred; scholarships have been awarded in Under’s name; a statue of her, created by M. Karmin, was unveiled in 2010 in front of the National Library in Tallinn.
Under began writing poetry in German; her first Estonian poem appeared under the pseudonym Mutti in the newspaper Postimees in 1904. She published verses in several publications, including the Noor-Eesti and Siuru albums. Under the Siuru imprint appeared the collections Sonetid (‘Sonnets’, 1917), Eelõitseng (‘Pre-Flowering’, 1918) and Sinine puri (‘Blue Sail’, 1918), which quickly became popular. Under aroused admiration in younger readers, but irritation among the older ones with her erotically direct and vigorous, synaesthetic and decorative love and nature poetry. She was able to combine a restricted metre with free spontaneity. On the model of German Expressionism there followed poetry collections that were concerned with war and the degradation of humanity, expressed in longer lines of free verse and the intonations of prose, Verivalla (‘Bloodletting’, 1920) and the more conventionally metrical Pärisosa (‘Heritage’, 1923). Euphoric joy and neurotic anxiety are often intertwined in Under’s work, as reflected in the titles of the collections Hääl varjust (‘Voice from the Shadows’, 1927) or Rõõm ühest ilusast päevast (‘The Joys of a Beautiful Day’, 1928); more and more a metaphysical tendency, a generalization of imagery, is becoming evident.
Central to Under’s poetry was the conflict of the human aspiration for happiness with spiritual or social oppression, with the severance from love and fertility. The ballad collection Õnnevarjutus (‘The Eclipse of Happiness’, 1929) is in its way one of the pinnacles of European ballad art. In finding themes and motifs from myths and legends, she filled them with content from her personal experience. The imagery in her epic ballads is overpoweringly rich, the arsenal of tropes, figures and instruments is dynamic and powerful. In the composition of the work one can recognize the ground plan of a church: ten unhappy tales are told, in which half of the destruction is wrought by men, half by women. Only in the Biblical-themed Tuudaimimarjad (‘Mandrakes’) is one able to leave the circle of love whole, come out of the crisis and rise to heaven, although with painful reservations. The twelfth text is a non-narrative poem of exaltation about a miasma of drowning in a swamp, which offers keys of interpretation. Under was influenced by both Goethe’s idea of fertility and Rilke’s conception of the Weltinnenraum of the lovers.
In her lyrical collections Lageda taeva all (‘Under an Open Sky’, 1930), and Kivi südamelt (‘Stone off the Heart’, 1935) the confessional reflection deepens, the alternation of the sense of life’s dark side and surges of joy. Grieving meditations over her family intertwine with the horror of the wartime destruction of the nation in the collection Mureliku suuga (‘With Sorrowful mouth’, 1942), in which the contemporary reader found spiritual support. In exile the collections Sädemed tuhas (‘Sparks in the ashes’, 1954) and Ääremail (‘Borderlands’, 1963) appeared, in which the poet’s clarity of ideas and expression is polished to perfection. Before the face of transience she holds intimate veiled conversations with God, weighing up the internal significance of the long life she has lived.
Under translated poetry from several languages (German Expressionists, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Lermontov, Pasternak) as well as plays (Sophocles, Schiller, Goethe, Ibsen, Maeterlinck, Claudel, Rostand, Hofmannsthal, Grillparzer, Hasenclever, Hauptmann); her own work has been translated into a score of languages. In many people’s opinion Under is the most brilliant Estonian poet, the modern embodiment of the archetypal mother of song in the constellation of Estonian women poets from the folk singers and Koidula until today.

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

Books in Estonian

Poetry collections
Sonetid. Tallinn: Siuru, 1917, 62 lk. [Kättesaadav:
Järgnevad trükid:
Tallinn: Siuru, 1919, 78 lk;
‘Kogutud teosed, 1’, Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1940, 247 lk.]
Eelõitseng. Tartu: Odamees, 1918, 60 lk. [Kättesaadav:
2., täiendatud trükk: Tallinn: Varrak, 1920, 71 lk;
3. trükk: ‘Kogutud teosed, 1’, Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1940, 247 lk.]
Sinine puri. Tallinn: Siuru, 1918, 69 lk. [Kättesaadaav:
2., täiendatud trükk: Tallinnas: Auringo, 1919, 63 lk;
3. trükk: Tallinn: Varrak, 1921, 78 lk;
4. trükk: ‘Kogutud teosed, 1’, Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1940, 247 lk.]
Verivalla. Tallinn: Auringo, 1920, 79 lk.
[2. trükk: Tallinn: Varrak, 1920, 79 lk;
3. trükk: ‘Kogutud teosed, 2’, Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1940, 225 lk.]
Pärisosa. Tallinn: Tallinna Eesti Kirjastus-Ühisus, 1923, 77 lk. [2. trükk: ‘Kogutud teosed, 2’, Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1940, 225 lk.]
Hääl varjust. Tallinn: Eesti Kirjanikkude Liit, 1927, 93 lk. [2. trükk: ‘Kogutud teosed, 2’, Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1940, 225 lk.]
Rõõm ühest ilusast päevast: VII kogu luuletusi. Tallinn: Eesti Kirjanikkude Liit, 1928, 76 lk.
[Järgnevad trükid:
‘Kogutud teosed, 1’, Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1940, 247 lk;
Göteborg: Orto, 1948, 78 lk.]
Õnnevarjutus: kogu ballaade. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanikkude Liit, 1929, 77 lk. [Kättesaadav:;
Järgnevad trükid:
‘Kogutud teosed, 3’, Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1940, 252 lk;
Göteborg: Orto, 1948, 78 lk;
Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2000, 100 lk;
Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2003, 98 lk.]
Lageda taeva all. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanikkude Liit, 1930, 62 lk. [2. trükk: ‘Kogutud teosed, 3’, Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1940, 252 lk.]
Kivi südamelt: kümnes kogu luuletusi. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1935, 85 lk. [Kättesaadav:
Järgnevad trükid:
Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1937, 101 lk;
‘Kogutud teosed, 3’, Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1940, 252 lk.]
Mureliku suuga. Tallinn: Eesti Kirjastus, 1942, 70 lk. [2. trükk: ‘Mureliku suuga; Sädemed tuhas; Ääremail’, Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1998, 135 lk.]
Sädemed tuhas: kaheteistkümnes kogu luuletusi. Toronto: Orto, 1954, 135 lk. [2. trükk: ‘Mureliku suuga; Sädemed tuhas; Ääremail’, Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1998, 135 lk.]
Ääremail. Stockholm: Vaba Eesti, 1963, 118 lk. [2. trükk: ‘Mureliku suuga; Sädemed tuhas; Ääremail’, Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1998, 135 lk.]

Poetry selections
Ja liha sai sõnaks: valimik kümnest kogust. Tartu: Eesti Kirjastuse Kooperatiiv, 1936, 365 lk.
Sõnasild: luulevalimik. Vadstena: Orto, 1945, 221 lk.
Südamik: valik luuletusi ja ballaade 1917-1957. Essee: Aleksis Rannit; kujundaja: Rein Murre. New York: Ülemaailmne Eesti Kirjanduse Selts; Stockholm: Vaba Eesti, 1957, 250 lk.
Kogutud luuletused. Essee: Ants Oras. Stockholm: Vaba Eesti, 1958, 523 lk. [Täiendatud ja autori poolt redigeeritud.]
Valitud luuletused. Koostanud ja järelsõna: Paul Rummo. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1958, 280 lk.
Kolmteist ballaadi. Tallinn: Ajalehtede-Ajakirjade Kirjastus (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 1963, 56 lk.
Uneretk. Tallinn: Perioodika (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 1968, 64 lk.
Mu süda laulab: luuletusi 13 kogust. Koostanud Paul Rummo, järelsõna Erna Siirak. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1981, 510 lk. [2. trükk: Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1984, 440 lk.]
Marie Under. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1987, 285 lk. [Sari ‘Väike luuleraamat’.]
Lauluga ristitud. Koostanud Karl Muru. Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2006, 588 lk. [2. trükk: Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2012, 624 lk.]

Collected works
Kogutud teosed. 1. köide. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1940, 247 lk. [Sisu: ‘Eelõitseng’, ‘Sonetid’, ‘Sinine puri’, ‘Rõõm ühest ilusast päevast’.]
Kogutud teosed. 2. köide. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1940, 225 lk. [Sisu: ‘Verivalla’, ‘Pärisosa’, ‘Hääl varjust’.]
Kogutud teosed. 3. köide. Järelsõna: Ants Oras. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1940, 252 lk. [Sisu: ‘Õnnevarjutus’, ‘Lageda taeva all’, ‘Kivi südamelt’.]

Letters and diaries
Under armastusest. Valik ja järelsõna: Sirje Olesk. Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2002, 84 lk. [Luuletused ja katkendid kirjadest.]
Under ja Tuglas: Marie Underi ja Friedebert Tuglase kirjavahetus. Koostaja Rutt Hinrikus. Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2006, 208 lk.
Marie Underi päevikud 1922-1957. Koostanud ja kommenteerinud Rutt Hinrikus. Tartu: Eesti Kirjandusmuuseumi Teaduskirjastus, 2015, 138 lk. [2. trükk: Tallinn: Ekspress Meedia, 2017, 148 lk.]

About Marie Under
Ants Oras, Marie Under: lühimonograafia. Toimetaja Bernard Kangro. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1963, 64 lk.
Marie Underi eluraamat. 1. Koostanud Artur Adson; toimetanud Imant Rebane. Stockholm: Vaba Eesti, 1974, 301 lk. [Meenutused.]
Marie Underi eluraamat. 2. Esseid. Hinnanguid. Bibliograafiat. Koostanud Artur Adson; toimetanud Imant Rebane. Stockholm: Vaba Eesti, 1974, 224 lk.
Marie Under: personaalnimestik. Koostajad: Anne Valmas, Vallo Kelder. Tallinn: Teaduste Akadeemia Kirjastus, 1994, 240 lk.
Marie Under. Koostanud Rutt Hinrikus, Janika Kronberg, Sirje Olesk, Tio Tepandi; toimetaja Janika Kronberg. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 2003, 286 lk. [Pildialbum.]
Sirje Kiin, Marie Under: elu, luuletaja identiteet ja teoste vastuvõtt. Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2009, 864 lk. [2., täiendatud ja täpsustatud trükk: ‘Marie Under: elu ja luule’, Tallinn: Tammerraamat, 2011, 671 lk.]