The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 12


Then that Ahti, Lemminkainen,
He the handsome man far-minded,
For a time lived pleasantly
With his young bride by his side;
He did not go off to war
Nor Kylli to the village rompings.

7 Then upon a certain day,
On a certain early morning
It so happened Lemminkainen
Set out for a catch of fish roe; 10
Did not come home in the evening
And for one night he was absent.
Kylli went off to the village,
To the rompings of those hoydens.

15 Who is going to bring the gossip,
Whose tongue now will do the tattling?
It was Ainikki who told it,
Ainikki, Ahti's sister,
Told it to him, tattled it:
"My dear Ahti, little brother, 20
Kylli has been gallivanting,
Going round to strangers' gates,
To the romping of those hoydens
At the parties of the braidheads."

25 Ahti lad, the only son,
He himself, lithe Lemminkainen
Was dumbfounded and so angry
That for long he brooded on it.
Then he spoke out to his mother:
"O my mother, my old mother! 30
Go and wash my war shirt now
In the black blood of the adder.
Dry it quickly for my wearing
For I'm going off to war
With the sons of Borealis,
With the Lappish lads of Northland.
Kyllikki's gone gallivanting,
Running round to strangers' gates,
To the rompings of those hoydens
At the parties of the braidheads." 40

41 Kyllikki of course protested,
And she got her word in first:
"0 my dear, my darling Ahti,
Please do not go off to war!
For I saw a dream while sleeping,
As I was lying fast asleep:
Fire as from a smithy's furnace
Flashing out and blazing up
Right along the rear wall terrace.
Then it whirled into the house so
Like a roaring cataract
From the floor up to the ceiling,
Through one window to another."

55 There the wayward Lemminkainen
Answered in these words himself:
"I take no stock in women's dreaming
Any more than wifely vows.
0 my mother, my dear bearer!
Go and bring my armor here,
Have my battlegear made ready. 60
Now I have but one desire:
Want to drink the battle beer
And to taste the mead of war."

65 But to this his mother answered:
"Ahti, you my only darling,
Do not go off to the wars!
We have lots of ale at home,
Alder kegs all filled with it,
Behind their oakwood bungs fermenting.
I will bring you drink aplenty 70
Even if you drink all day."

73 "I don't want your ale," he said.
"I'd rather drink the river water
From the blade of tarry oar,
Sweeter to my palate now
Than the homemade brew you offer.
So bring out my armor here,
Have my battlegear made ready!
I am off to Pohjola,
To the land of Lappish lads so
To inquire about their gold
And demand to see their silver."

85 Said the mother of Lemminkainen:
"Oh, O Ahti, my dear boy!
We have gold coins in abundance,
Silver pieces in the storeroom.
Only yesterday a slave,
Very early in the morning
Furrowed out a field of adders,
Turning up a snaky acre, 90
When the plowshare raised a chest lid
Which disclosed a hoard of coins
Heaped in hundreds, stacked in thousands.
Quick I rushed it out of sight,
Hid it in the storehouse loft!"

99 "I don't want your gold," he answered.
"If I win a mark in battle,
I will value it far more
Than the golden hoard at home
With the store of plowed-up silver. 100
So bring out my armor, mother,
My full battle harness ready.
I am off to war in Northland,
Off to fight the lads of Lapland.

109 "I am wanting, I am thinking,
I myself would like to hear it,
Like to hear it with these ears,
See it with these eyes of mine:
If there is a girl in Northland,
Virgin in that dismal Darkland 110
Who will not accept a lover,
Will not take the best of men."

117 And again his mother pleaded:
"Oh, O Ahti, my dear boy!
You have Kyllikki at home,
Your own wife of higher station.
Horrible to think of it,
Two wives there in one man's bed."

123 Said the wayward Lemminkainen:
"She is just a gallivanter- 120
Let her run to all the rompings,
Let her sleep in all the cabins,
At the sportings of the virgins,
At the rompings of the braidheads."

129 But his mother still forbade him,
The venerable woman cautioned him:
"Do not go, my darling son,
To the houses of Pohjola
Without the knowledge of their magic,
Without the skill to match their spells; 130
Not to the fires of Northland's lads,
To the plains of Lapland's children.
There a Lapp will sing you down
And a Finnmarker will thrust you,
Mouth in soot and head in clay,
To the elbows in the embers,
With your hands in hottest ashes
There upon the burning boulders."

143 Lemminkainen answered her:
"They bewitched me once before - 140
Wizard's wit and adder's curse -
Once upon a summer's night
Three Laplanders put me through it,
Stretched out naked on a slabstone,
Beltless, not a stitch of clothing,
Not a twist of string around me.
This is what they got from me,
This is what the wretches got:
What an ax gets from a flintstone
Or an auger from a gragrock, 150
Or a slab of wood from slip-ice,
What death gets from empty houses.

157 "All their threats I turned against them,
And they came out in reverse.
They intended to amaze me,
Threatened to drown me in a swamp;
Make me into stepping logs,
Causeway over slushy places;
Sink me to my chin in mire,
With my black beard in a bad place. 160
But it did not even scare me,
Not me, such a man as I.
I myself now turned enchanter
And began my incantation:
Sang the warlocks with their arrows
And the bowmen with their weapons,
Enchanters with their iron knives
And the seers with their steel;
Sang them to the Falls of Tuoni
Where the froth is fiercely foaming 170
Under the highest cataract
Into the all-devouring whirlpool.
Let the warlocks slumber there,
Let the evil sorcerers sleep there
Till the grass grows over them,
Through their heads, through their helmets,
Through the shoulders of the shamans,
Through the shoulders of the sleepers,
Of the wizard slumberers."

185 But his mother still objected 180
To Lemminkainen's going there,
Mother forbidding her dear son,
Wife contending with her husband:
"Do not go, my son, I tell you,
To that cold and dismal village,
To that dim-lit Pohjola!
Certain ruin will befall you,
Ruin on you, noble boy,
Downfall of lithe Lemminkainen.
Tell it with a hundred tongues 190
Even then I'd not believe it:
There's no magic singer in you
To outsing the lads of Lapland.
You don't even know their language,
Not a single spell in Lappish."

201 Just then wayward Lemminkainen,
He the handsome man far-minded,
Was busy combing out his hair,
Bmshing back his handsome locks;
Crashed the comb against the wall, 200
Flung the brush against the stovepost,
And he growled out his answer:
"Lemminkainen will be lost
And the noble boy be ruined
When that comb begins to bleed
And that brush turns red with blood."

213 Then the wayward Lemminkainen
Set out for gloomy Pohjola,
Heedless of his mother's warnings
And against her dire dissuasions. 210
217 He helts7 himself, he belts himself;
He puts on his iron shirts,
Girds himself in belts of steel.
He puts the matter into words:
"A man is hardier in a harness,
Better in a shirt of iron,
Stronger in a belt of steel
In the face of Lapp magicians -
Readier to destroy the weak ones
Nor worry much about the strong ones." 220

227 So he took his own good sword,
Quickly seized his fire-swift blade
Which was whetted by the demons
And was polished by the gods,
Sheathed it in its well-lined scabbard,
Tied it safely to his side.

233 Where shall a man prepare himself,
Stalwart man secure himself?
He prepares a bit already,
Stalwart man secures himself 230
At the door beneath the rafter,
By the doorpost of the cabin
And outdoors there at the lane's mouth,
At the farthest of the gateways.

241 There a man could guard himself
Only against the womenfolk;
Those precautions are not strong ones
And the shelter unreliable.
So he sought security,
Secrecy from all the menfolk 240
Where a pathway forks in two,
There upon a blue rock's back,
On the brink of shifting quicksands,
On the brim of bubbling fountain,
By a foaming fall of rapids,
In the chum of mighty waters.

253 There lithe Lemminkainen chanted
And composed his counter-magic:
"Up, ye swordsmen, from the earth,
Earth's coeval spirits waken; 250
From the deep wells, up ye fencers,
From the rivers, rise ye bowmen!
Rise, 0 forest, with your woodsmen,
All the backwoods with your nations!
Come thou, Old Man of the Mountain,
Come thou with thy gathered forces;
Water demon with your terrors,
Water mistress with your people,
Primal woman with your powers.
Up, ye maids, from every dell, 260
Finely-dressed ones from the marshes,
Come ye all to be my comrades,
Aid a man who stands alone
And protect a famous hero
From the arrows of the warlocks,
From the sword of the sorcerers,
From the iron knives of wizards,
From the weapons of the marksmen,

273 "And if these are not enough
I can think of better ways, 270
There are higher powers to call on:
There's the Ancient of the Skies,
Who holds sway among the clouds
And directs the scattered cloudlets.

279 "0 Thou Ukko, God of gods,
Ancient Father of the heavens,
Thou, the speaker from the clouds,
Whose word is heard across the heavens!
Give me now a blade of fire,
Scabbarded in sheaths of flame 280
Wherewith to scatter my opponents
And to ward off evil magic,
Slay the earthbound sorcerers,
Overwhelm the water demons,
So to clear the way before me
And behind or overhead
Or beside me, left or right -
Beat them down on every side:
Fell the warlocks on their arrows,
Wizards on their iron knives 290
And the sorcerers on their steel,
All the ruffians on their swords."

297 Then the wayward Lemminkainen,
He the handsome man far-minded,
Whistled his colt up from the coppice,
Golden-maned one from the stubble;
Harnessed up the fiery red one,
Backed the colt between the shafts.
He himself sat in the sleigh,
Slumped down in the basket sleigh; 300
Struck his racer with a switch,
Raced him with the knotted lash:
Ran the racer, journey quickened,
Slid the sleigh, the way was shortened,
While the silver sand was singing
And the golden heath wide humming.

311 Traveled one day and a second,
Traveled even on the third day;
It was then upon the third day
That a village loomed before him. 310

315 Then the wayward Lemminkainen
Coasted forward in his sleigh,
Drove along the nearest road
And approached the nearest homestead.
From behind an entry prop,
Over the doorsill he inquired:
"Is there anyone in this homestead
To undo my racer's breastband,
Lower my sleigh shafts to the ground
And release my racer's shaft-bows?" 320

325 Said a child from the floor,
Small boy from the stair-top answered:
"There is no one in this homestead
To undo your racer's breastband,
Lower your sleigh shafts to the ground
And release your racer's shaft-bows."

331 Lemminkainen was not worried;
Whacked his racer with the whip,
With the beaded lash ajingle
As he coasted on his way 330
Out along the middle road
And approached the middle homestead.
From behind an entry prop,
Over the doorsill he inquired:
"Is there anyone in this homestead
Who can take my racer's reins,
Able to undo his breastband
And unhitch the leather traces?"

343 Snarled a woman from the fireplace,
An old clack-tongue from the stove bench: 340
"Surely there is in the house
Many a man to take your reins,
Able to undo the breastband,
Lower the sleigh shafts to the ground!
There are tens of them or hundreds
Who can give you good conveyance,
Offer you a horse to ride on,
To get home on, ugly frog!
Off to where you came from, bad one,
To your master's homestead running, 350
To the doorsteps of your mistress,
To the gateway of your brother,
To the stair-top of your sister,
Long before this day is done,
Long before the set of sun."

361 Lemminkainen was not worried
As he heedlessly replied:
"May such hook-chins all be shot
With an arrow through the jaw."
Lashed his racer to a run, 360
Hurried forward hummingly,
Took the upmost road this time
And approached the upmost homestead.

369 As the wayward Lemminkainen
Now approached the upmost homestead
He intoned a magic spell:
"Shut the barker's mouth, O Hiisi,
And the devil clamp his jaws,
Put a lock upon his muzzle
And a bolt between his teeth 370
So that he can't make a whimper
Till the man has passed him by."

379 As he halted in the courtyard,
Smacked his lash against the ground,
From it rose a misty vapor;
In the mist a dwarf appeared
Who undid the horse's breastband,
Lowered the sleigh shafts to the ground.

385 Then the wayward Lemminkainen
Cupped his ear and listened closely, 380
Although no one caught him at it,
No one even noticed him:
From outside he heard the runos,
Through the chink-moss conjurations,
Through the wall a magic music,
Singers through the window hatch.

393 Then he looked into the house,
Peered in from his hidden corner:10
Saw the house was full of adepts,
Benches crowded with enchanters, 390
Side walls lined with Hiisi's harpers,
Doorway jammed with sorcerers;
On the back bench sat the seers,
Wizards in the chimney corner.
They were chanting Lapland runos,
Howling out the hymns of Hiisi.

403 Then the reckless Lemminkainen
Dared disguise himself and enter
In another form entirely.
So he went into the house, 400
Got in through the log-lock corner;"
As he entered he addressed them:
"Worth of a song is in its ending,
Brevity in poems is beauty-
Better that you end it shortly,
Than be cut off in the middle."

413 Then the mistress of Pohjola,
Pacing where the floorboards meet
In the center of the floor,
Questioned the intruder smartly: 410
"Here we had a dog just now,
Iron-colored mongrel watching,
Plesh-devourer and bone-biter
Always ready for fresh blood.
Who are you among your clansmen,
Of what rank among your kinsmen,
Coming in this house of mine,
Sneaking in through log-built walls
Without any watchdog hearing,
Quite unnoticed by the barker?" 420
427 To this Lemminkainen answered:
"Mark you, I have not come here
Without craft or magic art,
Without power or knowledge either,
Nor without my father's magic,
Unprepared by my elders
To be eaten by your dogs,
To be chewed up by your barkers.

435 "As a lad my mother washed me -
Three times on a night of summer, 430
Nine times on a night of autumn.
Three and nine times she prepared me
As a knower of every road,
Master magician everywhere,
In my home a magic singer,
One who knows his way abroad."

443 Then the wayward Lemminkainen,
He the handsome man far-minded,
Proved his power as magic-master
And began his incantations: 440
From his coat hem fire was streaming,"
In his eyes a light was gleaming
As the son of Lempi sang,
As he sang and worked his magic.

451 Sang the best of singers down,
Made of them the worst of singers,
Fed their mouths with pebbles edgewise;
Boulder after boulder flatwise
Heaped upon the best of them,
Best magicians, best of singers. 450

457 All such miserable men he scattered
Hither and yon to barren tundras,
Fields unplowed and fishless ponds
Without a single swimming perch;
To the mighty falls of Pinnmark,
Into the boiling, whirling maelstrom,
Into foam beneath the current,
There as boulders in mid-rapids;
Conjured them to flame like fire
And to flash like shooting sparks. 460

469 Thither wayward Lemminkainen
Charmed the swordsmen with their swords
And the war-men with their weapons.
Charmed the old ones, charmed the young ones,
Charmed in turn the middle-agers,
Leaving only one uncharmed,
A most wicked cattle herder,
That old man, the shut-eye herdsman.

477 Wet-hat was the evil cowherd
And he spoke out with resentment: 470
"O you brat, you son of Lempi!
Charmed the young and charmed the old
And in turn the middle-agers.
Why did you not charm me also?"

483 Said the wayward Lemminkainen:
"This is why I did not charm you-
Since you're ugly enough to look at,
Let alone the touching of you.
When you were a stripling boy
And a worthless cattle herder, 480
You deflowered your mother's child,
Raped your very own, own sister,
And you harried all the horses,
Then abused the mares and fillies
On the swamps and in the quicksands
Where the muddy waters gather."

495 Then the evil cowherd Wet-hat
Felt a fierce and vengeful hatred -
From the door he slammed out madly,
Through the yard and open country 490
Ran to Tuonela's dark river,
To the sacred river's whirlpool.
Waited for the man far-minded,
Waited there till Lemminkainen
Would be coming back from Northland,
Passing on his homeward journey.


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