The glory of a Finnish summer night

White Finnish summer nights

Extract from "Our Land" by Zacharias Topelius (1818 - 1898)

Pictures near island Päijätsalo, Lake Päijänne,

Sysmä-Voipala, at the holiday house "Sunny Mökki Sysmä"

Photos taken by the "Sunny Mökkis"

Painters have sought to depict all the loveliest effects of light in the sky. They have portrayed the sun and moon in all their different positions in the sky but no one has yet succeeded in capturing on canvass the miraculous brightness of the northern summer night.

Light from the sun and the moon spreads from one direction over all the objects within its circle of influence, whilst others remain in shadow. But on a clear summer night in the far north, the whole sky glows and the air itself seems to shimmer in soft, gentle light.

When the northern sky is cloudy no shadow can be seen because the light comes from every direction and seems to radiate from objects themselves.

When the sun goes down to rest briefly, the whole of nature settles into a strange dreamy mood. The bringer of the day is gone, birds have fallen silent, people and animals seek rest and plants wait for the night that does not come.

Instead a dim silvery light spreads over forests waters and shores. It is not the light of the sun, the moon or the stars, nor is it dusk. It is the night´s own radiance, serene yet festive, like eternal joy amid the transience of spring.

I searched for something in life that could compare to this, but I can find no picture to equal this luminous night except perhaps the glow of evening reflected in the window of a deserted house wherein have lived cherished friends, or the brightness of dear eyes looking at through the tears of inexpressible love.

In such a picture of night there is nothing that would shock. The eyes are not dazzled, the heart beats calmly, everything appears to be unchanged, yet all is different. The whole of nature glows, everything is soft, clear contemplative.

The grass is like finest velvet, the leaves translucent. Commonplace objects, a fence, a barn, a horse in the meadow, look strange and wondrous.

When I walk in the forest the rugged pine trees appear to be wrapped in cotton wool. When I row on the lake, I feel as if the shore has never looked so enchanted. All around is silence interrupted only by the melodious song of the blackbird, and the loneliness that always accompanies the night.

All of this pours into the soul of the beholder who experiences the invisible bond that links nature to all living creatures. On feels as if the glory of the night might enter the beholder´s eye.

The birds know time. They sleep as little as possible. For an hour or two they keep their heads under their wings then again start to sing.

Country people, know time too. In winter they often sleep ten or twelve hours a night, but in summer only three or four. Only amongst the gentry are there those who upturn the order of nature.

On long winter nights they may stay awake with lamp or candle, but on light summer nights they sleep behind closed curtains.

 It is a pity to lose what is most beautiful in nature.


I have searched everywhere for that soft twilight which was engraved on my mind forever in the dusk of a Finnish summer night, but I have never experienced it again.


Alexandre Dumas