by Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804 - 1877)
Translation © by Emily Ezust

Fåfäng önskan
Language: Swedish (Svenska) 
Available translation(s): ENG FIN FRE
Otaliga vågor vandra
På hafvets glänsande ban.
O, vore jag bland de andra
En bölja i ocean,
Så liknöjd djupt i mitt sinne,
Så sorglöst kylig och klar,
Så utan ett enda minne
Från flydda sällare dar!

Dock, skulle en våg jag vara,
Den samme jag vore väl då.
Här går jag ju bland en skara
Af svala vågor också.
De skämta med fröjd och med smärta,
På lek de tåras och le,
Blott jag har mitt brinnande hjerta:
O, vore jag utan som de!


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Settings in other languages, adaptations, or excerpts:

  • Also set in German (Deutsch), a translation by Anonymous/Unidentified Artist ENG FIN FRE ; composed by Robert Kajanus.

Other available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (Emily Ezust) , "Vain desire", copyright © 2019
  • FIN Finnish (Suomi) (Erkki Pullinen) , "Turha toive", copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , "Vain désir", copyright © 2013, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website: 2008-09-17
Line count: 16
Word count: 85

Vain desire
Language: English  after the Swedish (Svenska) 
Countless waves roll
Across the gleaming sea.
Oh, would that I were among them,
A wave in the ocean,
My mind so indifferent,
So carefree, cold, and clear,
So free of a single memory
Of happy days long past!

But if I were a wave,
I would still be the same as I am now:
Even here I move in a multitude
Of cold waves.
They joke about joy and pain,
In jest they shed tears and grin;
Only I have a heart that burns:
Oh, would that I had none, like them!


  • Translation from Swedish (Svenska) to English copyright © 2019 by Emily Ezust

    Emily Ezust permits her translations to be reproduced without prior permission for printed (not online) programs to free-admission concerts only, provided the following credit is given:

    Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust,
    from the LiederNet Archive --

    For any other purpose, please write to the e-mail address below to request permission and discuss possible fees.

Based on


This text was added to the website: 2019-07-22
Line count: 16
Word count: 93