The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 11


It is time to talk of Ahti,
That amusing rascal lover.

3 Ahti lad, the Islander,
He the wayward son of Lempi,
Grew up in a high-born home
With his most devoted mother
At the head of a big wide bay,
In the shelter of Cape Far.

9 On a diet of fish he flourished,
Eating perch he stretched up tall 10
And became the best of men
As he blossomed out red-blooded,
In all points quite capable
And a good man all around-
Save that he was somewhat wayward
With some rather rakish habits:
Always playing around with women,
Always at the all-night parties
To the pleasure of the virgins,
At the rompings1 of the braidheads. 20

21 Kylli was the island maiden,
Island maiden, island flower.
Brought up in a high-born home,
She grew up a graceful beauty,
Gracing there her father's hall,
Sitting on the springy back bench.

27 Long she dwelt there, famed afar.
Suitors came from far and near
To the beauty's well known homestead,
To her handsome home estate. 30

31 For his son the sun-god wooed her,
But she would not go to Sunland,
Would not go to shine up there
Through the hurry of the summer.

35 For his son the moon-god wooed her,
But she would not go to Moonland,
There to glimmer with the moon,
Circling round the orb of heaven.

39 For his son the star-god wooed her,
But she would not go to Starland, 40
There to twinkle through long nights
In the dark and wintry sky.

43 Suitors came from Viroland,
Others came from Ingerland,
But she would not go there either,
And she said so in these words:
"You are wasting gold for nothing,
Spending silver to no purpose.
I won't go to Viroland,
Will not start nor even promise 50
Ever to row on Viro water
Or pole among the islanders.
I will neither eat their fish
Nor take a sip of Viro soup.

55 "I won't even start for Inger,
Inger, Hinger, Hunger-land.
They have hunger, hunger everywhere:
Short of wood, short of shingles,
Dearth of water, dearth of wheat -
Dearth of even coarse rye bread." 60

61 Then the wayward Lemminkainen,
He the handsome man far-minded,
Vowed that he himself was going
Up to woo this island flower,
Woo and win that bride-to-be,
Beautiful with braided hair.

67 But his mother tried to stop him,
The old matron cautioned him:
"Don't you go, my darling son,
Don't you go among your betters! 70
They may not put up with you -
Not those high-born island folk."

73 Said the wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"Since my House is not so high
And my kinship not so great,
With my handsome frame I'll conquer,
Capture with my other features."

79 But his mother keeps insisting
That he should not go among them, so
Go among that powerful clan,
Up to that great island family:
"There the girls will jeer at you,
Women just make fun of you."

85 Lemminkainen didn't care,
And he said so in these words:
"I'll put an end to women's fun
And the titterings of the hoydens-
Kick a boy into their bellies,
Drop a handful in their laps. 90
There's an end to all good fun,
Even to the best of joking."

93 But his mother cried aloud:
"Oh, this miserable life of mine!
If you seduce the island women,
Lead astray the virgin daughters,
It would start a row indeed,
End up in a big war surely.
All the suitors of the island,
A hundred swordsmen would arise 100
And attack you, wretched boy,
Standing all alone at bay."

103 Lemminkainen didn't care;
Heedless of his mother's warnings,
Ahti led his stallion out,
Harnessed up his champion colt.
Then he drives off to the island,
To the well-known island village
There to woo the island flower,
Woo and win that peerless bride. 110

111 There the women laughed at him,
And the girls all jeered aloud
As he drove up crazily
Through the lane into the farmyard,
Overturned his racing sleigh,
Crashing it against the gatepost.

117 Lemminkainen showed his anger,
Tossed his head and curled his lip
As he tugged at his black whiskers,
And he put it into words: 120
"Never have I seen this yet,
Never seen it, never heard it!
Me the butt of women's laughter
And the tittering of the housemaids."

125 After all, why should he heed them,
And he said so in these words:
"Is there room upon this island,
Land enough upon the mainland
As a place for me to play in,
As a field for me to dance on 130
At the sportings of the virgins,
At the rompings of the braidheads?"

133 Say the virgins of the island,
Answer all the headland maidens:
"There is room upon this island,
Land enough upon the mainland
As a place for you to play in,
As a field for you to dance on
As. a herder on a clearing,
Herdboy on burned-over land, 140
But the island boys are skinny,
While the island colts are fat."

143 But it made no difference to him,
Hired out as cattle tender;
In the daytime he went herding,
Nights he gamboled with the girls,
Making merry with the maidens
At the rompings of the braidheads.

149 This is how young Lemminkainen,
Handsome man far-minded did it, 150
Put an end to women's laughter
And the tittering of the hoydens:
There was not a single daughter,
Not the saintliest of maidens
Who escaped from his attentions,
By whose side he did not lie,
In whose arms he did not rest.

157 There was only one true maiden
Of the numerous island tribe
Who would not accept a lover, 160
Even from the best of men:
Kyllikki the beautiful,
Lovely flower of the island.

163 It was Lemminki himself,
He the handsome man far-minded,
Who wore out a hundred boots,
Broke his oars up by the hundreds
In pursuit of that proud maiden,
Chasing after Kyllikki.

169 Now that Kyllikki, the lovely, 170
Put her feelings into words:
"Why, wretch, are you running round here
Like a shore sandpiper drifting,
Asking for the girls from here,
Quizzing all the tinny-belted?
I've no time to bother with you
Till I wear my quernstone out,
Beat my pestle to a stub,
Pound the mortar to a pulp.

179 "I don't want a hooligan, 180
Hare-brained, helter-skelt like you.
I desire a well-built body
Matching with my own proportions;
I desire a stately carriage
Equal to my own high bearing,
And, to equal my own beauty,
A face far handsomer than yours."

187 Then a little-time passed over,
Hardly half a month thereafter;
It was on a certain day, 190
On a certain summer evening
That the girls were out for pleasure,
All the lovelies tripping it,
Dancing in a woodside grove
On a very pleasant heath -
And the fairest of them, Kyllikki,
Famous flower of the island.
197 Then the ruddy rascal came,
Reckless Lemminkainen driving
With his own good sturdy stallion, 200
With his very chosen colt
To the center of the playground
At the party of the lovelies
Where he snatched up Kyllikki,
Flung her in his racing sleigh,
Laid her on his bearskin rug,
On the planking of the sled.

207 Then he laid on with the lash,
Slapped the racer with the reins
As he coasted on his way 210
Shouting threats out as he goes:
"Don't you virgins ever dare
Even think of tattling on me,
That I was ever here at all,
That I snatched a girl from here.

215 "If you don't obey this warning,
I will lay a bad spell on you,
Sing your suitors off to war,
All your young men to the sword point,
Nevermore to be heard of, 220
Nevermore to be seen
Walking through the village lanes,
Riding on the open clearings."

223 Kyllikki of course protested,
Flower of the island wailed:
"Now, I beg you, set me free,
Let this child go by herself,
Let her go back to her home,
Go back to her weeping mother.

229 "If you do not free me now, 230
Let me go back to my home,
I have five strong brothers still,
Seven sons born to my uncle,
Treaders on the hare's trail,
Claimants to the virgin's head.

235 Since he would not let her go
She began to sob and plead:
"Miserable me, born for nothing,
Born for nothing, grew for nothing,
To no purpose lived my time. 240
Now my lot is with an idler,
With a no-good ne'er-do-well,
Going off to war on purpose,
Always in the thick of battle."

245 Answered wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"Kyllikki, my own heart's core,
My delicious little berry!
Don't you worry any more,
I won't treat you very badly: 250
In my lap when I am eating,
Hand in hand in my walking,
Side by side in my standing,
And beside me when I'm sleeping.

255 "What is it that worries you,
What has made you sigh in sorrow?
Is it this that worries you,
Is it this you're sighing over,
That you might be cowless, breadless,
Lacking in life's common comforts? 260
I have cows, many milkers:
Blackie in the boggy meadow,
Then there's Strawberry on the hill,
Lingonberry in the clearing-
Sleek without a lot of feeding,
Handsome without any grooming.
There's no tying up each evening
Nor the letting out each morning;
There's no throwing down of hay,
No need of breakfasting or salting. 270

273 "Or is this what worries you,
Is it this you're sighing over:
That my family is not great
And my homestead not so noble?
If my family is not great
Nor my homestead quite so noble,
I have here a fire-swift sword,
Gleaming, flashing blade of steel;
It is of the highest born,
It is of the highest kin, 280
By the demons it was whetted,
By the gods it has been polished.10
With it I shall raise my kinfolk
And enhance my people's power -
With this sword, with this fire-blade,
With this bright and flashing steel."

289 The poor maiden still was sighing
As she answered with these words:
"0 you Ahti, son of Lempi!
If you want me for your girl, 290
As your faithful mate forever,
As your little chick of love,
You must swear an oath unending
That you'll never go to war"
Even for the want of gold,
Even for the lure of silver."

299 To this Lemminkainen answered:
"I will swear an oath unending
That I will not go to war
Even for the want of gold, 300
Even for the lure of silver.
You yourself must also vow
Not to gad about the village
Even to the best of parties,
Even if you want to join them."
309 Then they vowed their vows together,
Gave their everlasting pledges
In the face of Jumala,
Under God's own countenance
That Ahti would not go to war 310
Nor Kylli gad about the village.

315 Then the wayward Lemminkainen
Urged the horse on with a switch,
Slapped the stallion with a rein
Shouting out a sweet goodbye:
"Fare you well, island meadows,
Firwood roots and pitchy stumps,
Where in summer I meandered
And in winter often wandered, 320
Snuggling there on rainy nights,
Taking shelter from rough weather
While hunting this sweet hazel grouse,
Chasing my dear long-tailed duckling."

327 They are trotting homeward lightly
When young Ahti's home appears.
Whereupon young Kylli asked him:
"Over there a hut is looming,
Looking like a hungry ruin.
Who lives in that little coop, 330
Whose home can that old wreck be?"

335 Lemminkainen answered gaily:
"Don't you worry about the houses,
Sigh about your living quarters!
We will build us other houses,
Build us better homes to live in
Of the most enormous logs
From the tallest stands of timber."

343 Thus the wayward Lemminkainen
Came home proudly with his bride 340
To his dear and waiting mother,
To his cherished, honored mother.

347 Longingly his mother spoke,
Put her yearnings in these words:
"You've been gone a long time, son,
Very long in foreign lands."

351 Proudly Lemminkainen gloated:
"I seduced the laughing women
So that I could laugh in turn.
On the girls I took my vengeance, 350
Got the best one in my sleigh;
Laid her on my bearskin rug,
On. the planking of the sled;
Beneath the woolen robe I rolled her.
So I paid the women back
For their mocking, and the hoydens
For their hoity-toity tittering.

363 "O my mother, you who bore me,
My dear mother, you who raised me!
What I went to get I got, 360
What I went to catch I caught.
Now, get out your finest bedding
And the softest of your pillows -
Ah! to sleep on my own grounds
With my young bride in my arms!"

371 Said the mother prayerfully:
"Jumala be thanked for all,
Praise be to the great Creator,
That he gave me such a daughter,
Such a competent young woman: 370
Kindler of the morning fire,
Splendid weaver of fine cloth,
Altogether an expert spinner,
Such a strong one for the washing,
For the whitening of the clothes.

381 "You yourself, just thank your luck
That you captured such a good one.
Goodness our Creator promised,
Good the Merciful has given:
Fair the bunting on the snow, 380
Fairer still at home beside you;
White foam upon the sea,
Whiter still what you can hold;
Bright the star up in the sky,
Brighter still is your betrothed.

393 "Make your floors wider now,
Set in bigger windows also,
And erect the walls all new
And construct the whole house better,
With the doorsills at the front 390
And the new doors on the doorsills,
Now that you have got your bride
And so beautiful to look at,
Even better than yourself,
Of a greater clan than yours."


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