The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 17


Though the staunch old Vainamoinen
Failed to get the spells he needed
From the haunts of Tuonela,
Timeless caverns of the dead,
Still he kept on puzzling, pondering,
With his head upon his hand
Where the words might yet be gotten
To fill in the magic charm.

9 Then a passing herdsman told him
Where they might be likely searched for: 10
"You can get a hundred spells,
A thousand strands of magic verse
From the mouth of Vipunen,
Belly of the verseful one.
But to get there you must travel
On a path that must be followed -
It is not the best of journeys
Nor the very worst of passes:
For the first stunt you must run
On the points of women's needles, 20
For the second you must skip
On the sword points of the swordsmen,
For the third stunt you must stride
On the edge of battle-axes."

25 But the staunch old Vainamoinen
Made his mind up to attempt it.
Then he hurried to the smithy
Where he spoke to Ilmarinen:
"O you smith, you Ilmarinen,
Forge me shoes and gloves of iron, 30
Iron shirt and iron cowlstaff,
Make it steel-and all for pay.
Make the core of it from steel,
Wrought iron on the outside only.
I am off to get great magic,
To unriddle mighty secrets
From a belly full of magic,
From the mouth of Vipunen."
41 Said the forthright Ilmarinen:
"Vipunen has passed away, 40
Long ago he disappeared
From the laying of his traps,
From the setting of his snares.
You will get no magic there,
No, not even half a word."

49 Vainamoinen did not heed him
And proceeded on his way:
For the first day lightly stepping
On the points of women's needles,
For the second gaily skipping 50
On the sword points of the swordsmen,
For the third day widely striding
On the edge of battle-axes.

57 Verseful Vipunen now lies,
Rich with oldest lore of magic,
Underground with all his verses,
Stretched out sleeping full of riddles.
On his shoulders grew an aspen,
Birches rising from his temples;
Alder thicket on his jaw, 60
Willow bush upon his beard;
Squirrel-spruce1 upon his forehead,
From his teeth an old pine growing.

67 Vainamoinen when he got there
Drew his sword, bared his blade,
Drew it from its leather scabbard
Hanging from the goatskin belt.
Felled the aspen from the shoulders,
Cut the birches from the temples;
From the jaws the spreading alders, 70
Bush of willow from the beard;
Squirrel-spruces off the forehead,
From the teeth the tall old pine tree.

77 Then he drove his iron cowlstaff
Into the mouth of Vipunen,
Straight between his grinning gums
And between his trembling jaws
As he shouted to arouse him:
"Slave of man, it is time,
To wake from sleep beneath the earth, so
Waken from your long, long dreaming!"

85 At once the verseful Vipunen
Did awaken from his dreaming;
Felt an agonizing pain,
An excruciating anguish.
Clamped his teeth upon the cowlstaff,
Biting on the weak-wrought iron,
But he could not bite it through,
Could not crack the steely core.

93 As old Vainamoinen waited, 90
Standing by the open mouth,
One foot slipped, the other slid
Sliding on the giant's jawbone
Into the mouth of Antero.

99 Then the verseful Vipunen
Opened his enormous mouth
Till he swallowed man and sword,
Gulped them down into his gullet.

105 Cried the verseful Vipunen:
"I have eaten many a morsel, 100
Eaten lamb and eaten kid,
Eaten beef and eaten boar,
But never anything like this,
Nothing with a taste like this."

113 Said the startled Vainamoinen:
"Maybe now my ruin has come,
Day of doom descended on me
In the cavern of this demon,
In this graveyard cave of Kalma."

119 Then he wonders what to do, 110
How exist or how survive.
In his belt he has a knife,
Handle carved of curly birchwood;
Out of that he makes a boat,
Conjures merely with his magic.
Rows and slips it through the gut
In the belly of the giant,
Through the gut from end to end
Scouring every nook and corner.

129 But old verseful Vipunen 120
Was not greatly troubled by that.
Whereupon old Vainamoinen
Turned himself into a blacksmith
And became an iron worker;
Turned his shirt into a smithy:
From the sleeves he made the bellows
With his fur coat as the blowers;
From the pant leg made the air pipe,
From his socks the mouthpiece for it;
Set his knee up for the anvil, 130
Used his elbow for a hammer.

141 Then he hammered, banged away,
Working, forging diligently
Through the whole night without resting,
All day without taking breath
In the belly of the wise one,
Mighty man with mighty magic.

147 Verseful Vipunen, astounded,
Cried out in alarm and wonder:
"If a man, who are you there 140
And what sort of human creature?
I have eaten men by hundreds,
By the thousands swallowed them
But never anything like this:
To my mouth hot coals are rising,
Firebrands on my tongue are burning,
Cinders choking up my gullet.

157 "Get away from here, you gruesome,
Go, you evil of the earth,
Before I go and get your mother, 180
Call upon your honored parent.
If I tell your mother on you,
Drop just one word to the old one,
She will bear a greater burden,
An enormous torment to her
That her son is doing evil
And behaving very badly.

167 "I can see no reason for it
Nor can even guess the cause
Why you demon, fastened on me, 160
Where you death's head, ever came from
To bite and eat, gnash and gnaw.
Are you really a disease,
Were you made by the Creator,
Doom decreed by Jumala,
Or a conjured black illusion3
Wrought by other power than his,
Sent here as a heathen hireling,
A thing performed for money only?

179 "If you are a god-made illness, 170
Doom decreed by Jumala,
So be it; creature to Creator,
On his mercy then I cast me -
God does not reject the good
Nor cast away the innocent.

185 "If you're just a bad illusion,
And an ill devised by others,
Surely I can learn your lineage,
Your birthplace and your origin.

189 "There of old the ills began 180
From the haunt of sorcerers
Whence black magic emanated:
From the pastures of the singers,
From the dens of sly deceivers,
From the meadows of magicians,
From the graveyards of the heathlands
In the ground beneath the ground;
From the houses of the dead
In the courtyard of cadavers,
Soggy soil and crumbling earth, 190
Rattling gravel, saueaking sands;
From the dampness of the hollows,
Mossless fens and quaking bogs
And from overflowing fountains,;
From the cave ofHiisi's coppice;
From the fissures of five mountains,
From the top of Copper Mountain,
From its highest peaks of copper;
From the rustling of the spruces,
From the hollow-humming pine wood, 200
From the tops ofpunky pines,
And the rotting evergreens;
From the yapping-place of foxes,
Ski trails of the swift elk hunters,
From the stony lair of Bruin,
From the bear's own rocky cave;
From the way-back fields of Northland,
From the wide extent of Lapland,
Fields unplowed and barren clearings;
From the blood of battlefields 210
Where great hosts of men are slaughtered
And the bloody grass is shrinking
As the steaming gore is reeking;
From the wide expanse of sea,
Out upon the open ocean,
From the black ooze at the bottom
Down a thousand fathoms deep;
From the rippling of the rivers,
From the boiling of the maelstroms,
From the cataract ofFinnmark, 220
From the might of crashing water;
from beyond the high horizon
Back of clouds foreboding drought,
from the wind-way of cold Ahava
Where the infant winds are cradled.

239 "Was it there, you black magician,
Where you too originated?
Is it from there that you came
To torment an innocent heart
And abuse a harmless belly, 230
Eating, gnawing, biting, crunching?

245 "Shrivel up, you hound of Hiisi,
Mongrel out of Manala;
Out, you toad, now from my bowels,
Out of my liver too, earth's horror;
Stop devouring my heart's flesh
Stop the scraping of my spleen;
Stop the stretching of my stomach
And the twisting of my lungs;
Leave off nibbling at my navel 240
And the griping of my groin;
Quit the stripping of my backbone
And the flaying of my flanks.
From the fields earth's primal masters,
All the swordsmen of the soil 250
And the horsemen of the sands
As my people, as my powers
To my side as my defenders
In this painful toil and trouble,
In this agonizing anguish.
269 "If you pay no heed to this,
Do not ease up just a hit,
Then arise, ye primal woodsmen,
And ye junipers with your people,
Ye tall pine trees with your families, 26
Landlocked pondlets with your children
Come, a hundred swordsmen now
And a thousand armored war-men,

257 "Since my human powers fail,
I will call on higher powers
To unload this horror from me,
Make this terror disappear.
261 From the earth I'll raise the earth-wives,
To obliterate this Hiisi
And annihilate this Judas.

279 "If you pay no heed to this,
Do not ease up just a bit,
Then rise, you mistress of the water,
Blue-cap mistress from the waves,
Finely dressed one from the marshes, 270
From the ooze, form of beauty!
Strengthen thou this little fellow,
Make this manikin more manly,
Lest I be devoured guiltless
And must die without a sickness.
289 "If you pay no heed to this,
Do not ease up just a bit,
Then I'll call upon the Mother:
Woman primeval, nature's daughter,
Precious, more beautiful than gold, 280
Thou, the oldest of all women,
Thou alone the first of mothers,
Come to name the pain that haunts me,
Ukko at the pole of heaven,
Riding on a thunder-head, 290
Come thou here where thou art needed,
Hurry down where thou art called on
To cut short these evil works,
To strip bare these black enchantments
With the flashing of thy sword,
With the lightning of thy blade.

309 "Get away from here, you gruesome,
Go away, you curse of earth!
This is not the place for you
Even if you need a refuge. 300
Move your hut away from here,
find a refuge somewhere else -
Back there in your master's barnyard,
Drive away these dreadful days,
Take away this torment from me,
Cleanse me of this dread infection.

299 " If you do not heed that either,
Do not ease up just a bit,
In the footsteps of your mistress.
317 "When you get there, journey ended,
Through the meadows of your maker,
Your creator's pasture lands,
Make a sign of recognition,
Give a secret signal then:
Make a rumbling like the thunder 310
And a flashing like the lightning!
At the farmyard kick the gate in,
Lower the window-board and enter -
Whirl in like a hurricane!
By the hock and by the heel
Drag the masters and the matrons
From the corners of their comfort.
From the master, gouge his eyes out,
And the mistress, crush her skull in;
Turn their fingers into pothooks, 320
Twist their heads until they're backwards.

337 "Or if little comes of that,
Fly the laneway as a rooster,
As a hen's child to the farmyard,
Chest first to the rubbish heap!
And, commanding from the dung-heap,
Drive the horses from the stable
And the cattle from the cowshed.
Turn them over, horns in dung,
With their tails along the ground 330
And their eyeballs upside down -
With a quick twist crack their necks.

347 "Maybe you're a windborne sickness,
Driven by the wind-stream here,
Gift of spring wind Ahava,
By his chilly breath escorted.
Go away then as you came,
And depart upon the windway,
On the sledway of the spring wind
Without perching on a tree, 340
Without resting on an alder
To the crown of Copper Mountain,
To its highest peaks of copper,
Lullabied by rocking winds,
Swayed by breath of Ahava.
359 "Maybe you have come from heaven
Back of clouds foreboding drought;
Then go back up there again,
Soaring to the upper air,
To the sprinkling of the clouds 350
And the twinkling of the stars,
There to glow in fiery splendor
On the highway of the sun
And the halos of the moon,

369 "Or if waterborne, you plague,
Driven hither by the seawaves,
Then go back to where you came from
Down beneath the seawaves running,
There along the muddy bastions
And along the watery ridges - 360
There to rock repeatedly
To the dreary beat of breakers.

377 "If you come from Graveyard Heath
Where the dead forever slumber,
Then go back the way you came
To those graveyard grounds of Kalma,
Down into the moldy earth,
To the ever-shifting grounds
Into which the people vanish,
Under which strong nations sink. 370

385 "If you, stupid, come from there,
From the forest cave of Hiisi,
From the dens among the pines,
From among the tall, old pines,
There I conjure you to go,
To the demon's den returning,
To the dens among the pines,
To among the tall, old pines,
There to live in solitude
Till your floors all rot away 380
And mushrooms grow upon the walls,
Till the ceiling falls down on you.

397 "I will exorcise you yonder,
Drive you there, you vicious vermin,
To the lair of old Bruin,
To the house of his old she-bear;
To frozen fens and hellish hollows,
Quaking quicksands, gushing geysers;
Into landlocked fishless ponds
Where no perch is ever swimming. 390

407 "If there's no place there for you,
Then I'll conjure you instead
To the tundras of the northland,
Lapland's wide and barren plains;
To the clearings without saplings
To an empty unplowed land
Where there's neither moon nor sun
Nor in the east the rising day -
May it be your luck to live there
And your joy to wander there 400
Where on trees the carcasses
Of the elk and deer are hanging
For the hungry ones to eat
And the greedy ones to gorge on.

421 "I will conjure you on farther,
Will propel you up to Finnmark,
To the mighty cataract,
To the boiling whirlpool there
Where the trees are plunging downward,
Where the pines are whirling round, 410
Tall ones diving butt-end first
And the pollards tip-end foremost.
Swim there then, you painful pagan,
On the foaming cataract,
Twisting in the violent vortex -
Live there in the crowded waters.

433 "If there's no place there for you,
Yonder then I'll conjure you
Down to Tuonela's black river,
The eternal stream ofMana 420
Whence you never can return,
Never escape in all your days
If I do not come to free you,
Hurrying to arrive in time,
Get there with nine gelded rams
Farrowed by a single ewe,
And together with nine bullocks,
With the heifers of one cow,
And with nine colts of one stallion,
With the young colts of one mare. 430

447 "If you're looking for a ride,
Begging for a carriage horse,
Gladly I'll provide conveyance,
Gladly give you carriage horses:
Hiisi has a very good one,
Red-mane on a barren fell,
From his muzzle fire outspurting,
Flame outbreaking from his nostrils;
All his hoofs are made of iron,
All those prancing hoofs of steel. 440
They can go uphill at ease,
Climb the slope of any gully
Guided by a hardy horseman,
Ridden by an expert rider.

461 "And if this is not enough,
Get the ski gear of the Demon,
The Devil's right skis made of alder,
The ski pole of the Bad One;
Then ski off to demon country
Wandering through the devil's thickets, 450
Skimming over Hiisi's hillocks,
Gliding down the devil's tracks.
If a rock is in the way
May it crumble into fragments;
If a pine bough lies there lengthwise,
May it also break asunder;
If a man stands upright there,
Send him sprawling to one side.

475 "Go on now, you one-too-many,
Move along, you devil's brat, 460
Quit before the day is dawning
Or the morning star appears,
Now before the sun has risen,
Quick before the cock crow sounds.
Time to run away, you bad one,
And, you evil one, to flee,
While the moonlight still is shining
So that you can see your way.

485 "Mongrel dog without a mother,
If you do not quit and leave me, 470
I will get the claws of eagles,
Talons of the red-blood drinker,
Flesh-outripping beak of buzzard,
Tearing talons of the hawk -
And with these I'll crush you, toad,
Fix you, nasty creature, till
Not a head or hair can stir,
Not a breath to breathe a sigh.

495 "Formerly the demon always,
The true devil, mother-born, 480
Vanished at the break of day
In the hour ofJumala's waking
When his saving light appears;
Won't you quit and leave me now,
Go, you motherless abortion,
Vanish, dog without a master,
Now depart, you motherless mongrel,
With the ending of the night,
With the fading of the moon."

505 Vainamoinen now responded: 490
"This is such a pleasant place
To pass the time agreeably:
Liver serves me well for bread
And the juices make good drinking;
Lungs are very good for stewing,
Belly fat the best of eating.
513 "In your heart I'll set my anvil,
Sink it deeper in your heart flesh,
Come down harder with the hammer,
Bang upon the sorest places 500
So that never in all your days
Will you ever have relief
If I do not hear the words,
Learn in full your words of wisdom,
Hear the charms abundantly,
Magic sayings by the thousands.
Knowledge cannot stay concealed,
Hidden in some secret burrow;
Words of wisdom never vanish,
Though the wise men pass away." 510

527 Then the verseful Vipunen,
Oldest sage with oldest wisdom,
In his mouth the greatest magic,
In his bosom endless power,
Opened up his ark of sayings
And revealed his store of verses
For good singing, best of chanting
Of the deepest origins
From the very birth of time,
Which not every child can copy 520
Nor even grown-ups understand
In these dreadful days of evil,
In this last and fleeting age.

541 Sang of origins and birth signs,
Chanted all the charms in order-
How by words of the Creator,
By the will of the Almighty
Air itself was self-begotten,
From the air the water issued,
From the water came the earth, 530
From the earth all growing things.4
549 Sang the shaping of the moon,
Hoisting of the sun on high,
Raising the pillars of the sky
And the starring of the heavens.

553 There the verseful Vipunen
Surely sang and sang with skill!
Never in all the days of time
Was such a singer heard -or seen,
Never a better magic maker, 540
Never a smoother sorcerer.
From his mouth the magic leaps
As on his tongue enchantment rides,
Quick as the feet of a two-year colt,
Rapid as the hoofs of a running racer.

563 Day and night he sang unceasing
Till the whole creation heard,
Wakened, shaken by the word.
The sun stopped in its course to listen
And the golden moon to stare; 550
On the sea the waves stood still
And the billows in the bay;
All the rivers forgot to run
And the Finnmark rapids rested;
Moveless stood the falls of Vuoksi,
Even Jordan's river5 harkened.
573 Now that all the spells were spoken
And he had the charms he needed
To repair his broken song-sled,
Vainamoinen was quite ready 560
To escape out of the maw,
Out of the belly of the verseful,
From the bosom of the big one,
Away from Vipunen entirely.

581 Said old Vainamoinen then:
"O you Antero Vipunen!
Open up your mouth much wider,
Stretch it up and stretch it under-
If I could get from gut to ground
I would head for home, and quickly." 570

587 Then said Vipunen the verseful:
"I've drunk and eaten many things
I And devoured them by the thousands,
But never anything like this one
Before I ate old Vainteioinen!
In your coming, you did well,
Now do better in your going."

595 Therewith Antero Vipunen,
With his gummy grin agape,
Opened up his mouth much wider, 580
Stretched it up and stretched it under.
Vaino lost no time in leaving,
Leaping through the mighty mouth
From the belly of the verseful,
From the bosom of the big one;
Sprang out from the gaping jaws,
Landed running on the heath
As if he were a golden squirrel
Or a golden-breasted marten.

607 Then he went on stepping briskly 590
Till he reached the craftsman's smithy.
Said the forthright Ilmarinen:
"Have you learned the words already
To complete the precious charms:
How to fix the gunwale firmly,
How to fasten on the stem
And to set the prow and stem posts?"
615 Staunch old Vainamoinen answered:
"Yes, a hundred spells already,
Magic sayings by the thousands, 600
Snared them from the secret places,
Lured them from the hidden crannies."

621 So he went back to his vessel,
To his place of magic-working.
Then he got his boat completed
As he fixed the gunwale firmly,
Finished off the stern-end neatly,
Lined the prow and stern posts up -
Built the boat without a tool-touch,
Without whittling off a sliver. 610


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