(Finnish) Rosvo, Rosvo (Robber, Robber)

Rosvo, Rosvo

A portion of this song is quoted on page 61 of the printed Heritage Songbook.

Finnish:
Rosvo, rosvo, olit sä, kun varastit mun kultani.
Rosvo, rosvo, olit sä, kun varastit mun kultani.
Luulen saavaani, luulen saavaani,
luulen saavaani toisen paremman.

Kyllä mä sen rosvon tunnen, se on pitkä musta mies.
Kyllä mä sen rosvon tunnen, se on pitkä musta mies.
Luulen saavaani, luulen saavaani,
luulen saavaani toisen paremman.

English:
Robber, robber, over there, You stole my girl away from here.
Robber, robber, over there, You stole my girl away from here.
I think I shall, I think I shall,
I think I shall, Go and find a prettier girl.

I know, I know, the robber there, Tall of form and dark of hair,
I know, I know, the robber there, Tall of form and dark of hair,
I think I shall, I think I shall,
I think I shall, Go and find a prettier girl.

(Click here for a PDF version of the music) * (Click here to hear the song performed by RW)

Marjorie Edgar describes this as a circle game. It sounds as if it requires
an odd number of players. It beins with a player in the middle (you
might think of that player as “it” in a gang of tag). That person picks a partner from
the circle. Everyone else changes partners, once again leaving someone in the center —
who, obviously, has been robbed of a partner.

Although the game is clearly “folk,” the earliest reference I can find to it is
literary, in the works of the Finnish writer Minna Canth (1844-1897). Canth, according
to Joseph T. Shipley, editor, Encyclopedia of Literature Philosophical Library,
1946, article on “Finland Literature” by John B. Olll, p. 287, began her career “follow[ing]
the traditional ways, romanticizing country life.” But she would in her later years become
a strong advocate for women’s rights and the rights of the poor. The description of her
works sounds very modern, and indeed a day celebrating her was added to the Finnish
calendar in 2007.

Her use of this song apparently belongs to her early period, from her 1883 play
“Murtovarkaus” (which seems to have been made into a movie in 1926). Her version
seems actually somewhat worn down from the Edgar version, though also rewritten:

Rosvo, rosvo olit sä, Kun varastit mun ystävän;
Rosvo, rosvo olit sä, Kun varastit mun ystävän;
Minä luulen, Fralla laa, Minä luulen, Fralla laa,
Minä luulen, Fralla lalla, fralla lalla laa!

Enpä tiennyt syytä siihen, Miksis minun hylkäsit;
Enpä tiennyt syytä siihen, Miksis minun hylkäsit;
Minä luulen, Fralla laa. Minä luulen, Fralla laa,
Minä luulen, Fralla lalla, fralla lalla laa!

Jukka Martikainen of Finland kindly translated this version for me, rendering it as

Robber, robber, that you were, stole away a friend of mine
Well I think (that), tra-la-laa (x3)
tra-la-la-la-laa.

I couldn’t really figure out, why on earth you’d leave me so.
Well I think (that), tra-la-laa (x3)
tra-la-la-la-laa.

A singable translation would be something like

Robber, robber, over there, You stole my friend away from here.
Robber, robber, over there, You stole my friend away from here.
Why did, tra-la-la, Why did, tra-la-la,
Why did, tra-la-la, Why did you take her, tra la laa.

I cannot see the reason why, You left me so far behind.
I cannot see the reason why, You left me so far behind.
That was so unkind, that was so unkind,
That was so unkind, to leave your love so far behind.

Source: The Minnesota version are from Edgar (#18, p. 141). She reportedly
collected it in Ely in 1931. The lyrics are as she took them down; I have dramatically
rearranged the tune (changing key and time signature and quadrupling the note values;
it’s the same tune, but minus Edgar’s mass of sixteenth notes).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s