The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 18


Old reliable Vainamoinen
Thought it over, pondered on it:
Should he go to woo that maiden,
Go to see that long-haired lovely
Up there in dark Pohjola,
In the foggy land of sedges,
Famous daughter of the north,
Special sweetheart of the Northland?

9 Put blue broadcloth on his boat,
Also red sails on his vessel, 10
With the bow and stern posts gilded,
Overlaid with silver figures.2
One day early in the morning,
Very early in the dawning
Vainamoinen launched his vessel,
His new boat, the hundred planker -
Off the barkless rollers launched it,
Slid it from the pinewood skids.

19 Stepped the mast and set the sails,
Set a red one, set a blue one, 20
Then he settles in the boat,
Stepping down into the vessel,
And he sailed away to sea,
Out upon the blue sea surface.

27 There he prayed the seaman's prayer:
"Jumala, the merciful,
Come thou with me in my vessel,
Lend thy strength to a little man,
Make the manikin more manly
On these far-horizoned waters, so
Out upon the open ocean.

35 "Rock my boat, O wind, O wave,
Drive it on across the water
Without a finger on an oar,
Without a stroke to break the surface
On the broad back of the sea,
Out upon the open ocean."

41 Annikki of goodly name,
Girl of night, maid of twilight
Busy through the horseshoe day, 40
Long before the rising sun,
Watching at the early dawn,
Was already washing clothes,
Rinsing now the laundered garments
On the red steps of the jetty,
On a spacious landing place,
Watching from the misty point
At the head of Foggy Island.

51 Gazing, turning, this way, that way,
She was welcoming good weather 50
In the sky above her head
On the shore across the water.
Up above the sun was shining,
Down below the waves were sparkling.

57 She looked seaward, she turned southward
By the mouth of Finland's river,
To the waters of Vainola-
Saw some dark shape on the water
Like a blue cloud on the billows.

63 "Whafs that dark thing there," she said, 60
"Dark blue object on the billows?
If you are a skein of geese
Or a flock of old squaws floating,
Then spring up in sudden flight,
Soaring high up to the heavens.

71 "If you are a school of salmon
Or some other raft of fish,
Streak off in a sudden swimming
Or then dive beneath the surface.

75 "If you were a rocky island 70
Or a water-driven pine log,
Then the waves would break upon you
And the water overflow you."

79 Nearer comes the boat, a new one,
Vainamoinen's new-built vessel,
Sailing by the misty point
At the head of Foggy Island.

83 Then she recognized the vessel,
Knew the boat, the hundred-planker,
So with sly words she addressed it: so
"If you are my brother's boat
Or the vessel of my father,
Then turn this way toward your home,
Pointing toward your native acres
With your prow now toward these landings,
With your stern toward other landings;
But if you're an utter stranger,
Swim off farther out to sea,
Facing other landing stages
With your stern in this direction." 90

97 It was neither a boat from home
Nor an utter stranger to her -
It was the boat of Vainamoinen,
Vessel of the ageless singer.
Then it sailed on near and nearer
Till it was in hailing distance -
Till one word was clearly heard,
Then a second, and a third.

105 Annikki of goodly name,
Girl of night, maid of twilight, 100
Calling to the vessel asked:
"Where were you going, Vainamoinen,
Where headed, man of Quiet Water,
What intending, pride of earth?"

111 From his vessel Vaino answered:
"I am going to fish for salmon,
Maybe catch a spawning lake trout
From the murk of Tuoni's river,
From the depths of Sedgy Brook."

117 Said the maid of goodly name: 110
"Don't you tell me empty fibs;
I know all about the spawning.
It was different when my father,
Different when my honored parent
Went out fishing for the salmon
Or to spear the fatty sea trout.
Then the boat was full of nets,
And the vessel full of drag-nets;
There were seines and there were ropes,
Beating poles along the aides, 120
Under benches were barbed fish spears,
In the stern long punting poles.
Where were you going, Vamamoinen
Where headed, man of Quiet Water?"

133 Said old Vainamoinen to her:
"I came out to look for geese
Where the dapple-wings aire playing,
And to catch the drooly-mooths
In the deeps of Saxon sounds,
Out upon the open ocean." 130

139 Annikki of goodly name
Put the matter into words:
"I can tell a truthful speaker
And detect a liar also.
In the old days it was different
When my father, honored elder,
Went out hunting for the hankers,
Hunting for the red-beaked honkers
With his mighty crossbow strung,
Ready drawn the bow of beauty, 140
With the black dog on a leash
And the leash tied to a boat rib.
Along the shore a mongrel ran,
Puppies padding on the shingle.
Tell the truth now, Vainamoinen.
Anyway, where were you going?"

155 Said old Vainamoinen then:
"What if I were going to war,
To those great and butchering conflicts
Where the battle is in balance, 150
Where the blood is on your shanks,
Red and gory to the knees?"

161 Annikki as usual answered,
The tinny-breasted girl5 replied:
"Even war I understand:
Long ago when my father
Went off to those bloody wars
Where the battle was in balance,
A hundred men with oars were rowing,
A thousand without oars were sitting; 160
In the prow were ready crossbows,
Handy swordblades on the benches.
Tell the tmth that can be trusted,
Solid truth-and no evasion:
Where were you going, Vainamoinen,
Where headed, man of Quiet Water?"

175 Then said Vainamoinen softly:
"Come into my boat, my pretty,
In my little vessel, maiden,
And I'll tell the very truth, 170
Solid truth-and no evasion."

181 Angry, Annikki replied,
Loudly shrieked the tinny-breasted:
"May a blast come in your boat,
With cold Ahava as your shipmate!
Upside down I'll turn your vessel
With the prow-end pointing downward
If I do not hear the truth,
Where it is you want to go,
Hear the truth now, pure and simple- 180
Let this be the last of lying."

l9l Then old Vainamoinen answered:
"Now indeed I'll tell the truth
Even though I fibbed a little.
I was going to woo that maiden,
To beseech the virgin's favor
From the dark of Pohjola,
From the foggy land of sedges,
In that man-devouring region
Where so many humans founder." 190

201 Annikki of goodly name,
Girl of night, maid of twilight,
When she recognized the truth,
Solid truth without evasion,
She forgot her unwashed kerchiefs,
Unrinsed laundry on the wharf;
On the broad wharf there she left it,
On the red sill of the jetty.
Then she gathered up her skirts,
Raised her dress hem in her hand 200
As she hurried on her way,
And at once she started running;
Reaches Ilmarinen's home
Where she steps into the smithy.

215 There the craftsman Ilmarinen,
The eternal hammerer,
Was fashioning an iron bench
Overlaid with silver figures,
Ell of fine ash on his head,
Soot a fathom on his shoulders. 210
221 Cried his sister from the doorway:
"Smith, my brother Ilmarinen,
You, eternal hammerer,
Forge a little shuttle for me,
Lovely rings too for my fingers,
Two or three pairs for my ears,
Five, six hangers for my belt.
Then I'll tell you truth that's plain,
Something true that can be trusted!"

231 "Yes indeed," said Ilmarinen, 220
"If your message is a good one,
I will forge a shuttle for you,
Pretty rings too for your fingers,
Silver crosslet for your bosom,
And repair your earrings for you.
If your message is a bad one,
I will smash the ones you have,
Throw them in the furnace fire
On the bottom of my forge."

241 "O you blacksmith," said his sister, 230
"Don't you ever think of marrying
Her to whom you are betrothed,
Whom you wanted for your housewife?

247 "You just go on hammering,
All the time clinking, clanking:
In the summers shoeing horses,
Winters making up the horseshoes;
Nights you build your basket sleigh,
Days you fix the sides for traveling
So that you can go off wooing 240
To the halls of Pohjola.
Let me tell you: even now
Slyer men are on the way,
Cleverer ones ahead of you.
They will win your very own one,
Take your dear one for themselves
Whom you've yearned for two long years
And for three years you have courted.
Right now Vainamoinen's headed
There across the wide blue sea 250
In a boat with golden prow,
Steering with a copper oar
For the dark of Pohjola,
For the foggy land of sedges."

267 For the smith the news was grievous,
Heavy was the hour for him;
Then the tongs fell from his fingers,
Heavily his hammer sank.

271 He said: "Annikki, my sister!
I will make a shuttle for you, 260
Lovely rings for your fingers,
Two or three pair for your ears,
Five, six hangers for your belt.
Now just heat a sauna for me,
Make the vapor sweet as honey,
Make the fire up with small kindling,
Sticks and splinters quickly burning.
With a little lye and ashes
Make some lye soap ready for me
So that I can clean my head, 270
Scrub my body till I'm white,
Wash away the soot of autumn
And the ash of winter's work."

287 Annikki of goodly name
Warmed the sauna secretly
With kindling that the wind has broken,
By the lightning struck asunder;
Chose the right stones from the rapids
That the steam might rise up hotly
When the stones are splashed with water 280
Carried here from a lovers' spring,
Bubbling from a whey-like quagmire.
Cut a leafy slapper for him,
Tender one of sapling sprays,
And she steeped it honey-soft,
Steamed it on a honey stone.
Then dissolving milky ash
With marrow, she prepared the soap,
Foamy, frothy, glistening soap
As a cleanser for the suitor, 290
For his head and for his body.
305 While the sauna was preparing
And the bath for one made ready,
Ilmarinen, smith eternal,
Forged the ornaments she wanted.
When he put them in her hand
She replied obediently:
"I have warmed the sauna for you,
Heated up the steamy vapor
And have steeped the slappers tender, 300
Tender as the lover's leaf.
Bathe now, brother, at your pleasure,
Splashing water without stinting;
Wash until your hair is flaxen
And your face is white as snowflakes."

321 So the blacksmith bathed himself,
Bathed himself there at his pleasure,
Rinsing till his skin was white,
Pouring water recklessly
Till his face was glowing clear, 310
Temples flushing like a flower,
Neck as white as any hen's egg,
His whole body whitely clean.
When he came in from the sauna
They could hardly recognize him
With his face so shining bright
And his cheeks so flushing red.

333 "Sister Annikki," he said,
"Fetch me now my linen shirt,
Bring me all the proper clothing 320
Which will set my figure off,
Make me look a proper suitor."

339 So she brought his linen shirt
For his bare and sweatless body,
Then the snugly fitting trousers
Which his mother's hands had sewn,
Covering up his sootless flanks
So that not a bone was showing.

347 Then she brought him supple stockings,
Stockings knitted by his mother, 330
By his mother as a virgin,
For his legs now free of lather
And the well-fleshed turn of calf;
Then she brought him sturdy shoes,
Sturdy boots of German make,
Fitting over stockings knitted
By his mother as a virgin.

355 Next a jacket of blue broadcloth
With a liver-colored lining
Over his fine shirt of linen 340
Woven from the purest flax;
Then a homespun woolen topcoat,
Edges trimmed with four-fold stripes,
Over his blue broadcloth jacket
Tailored to the latest fashion;
Then a fur coat thousand-buttoned
With a hundred loops" beribboned
Over homespun woolen topcoat,
And the latter trimmed with broadcloth;
Over all, around his middle, 350
A gold-ornamented belt
Woven for him by his mother
When she was a braid-head maiden;
Then the well-embroidered gloves,
Golden-wristed fancy gauntlets
Made for him by Lapland children,
Fitted for his shapely fingers;
Lastly on his yellow curls
A high-peaked hat his father left him,
Bought when he himself went courting. 360

379 So smith Ilmarinen dresses.
Garbed in all the proper garments
He is ready for his journey
And instructs his faithful servant:
"Harness up a good horse for me,
Hitch him to my traveling sleigh.
I am starting for a drive,
I am off to Pohjola."

387 Said the man: "We have six stallions,
Sleek ones, oat-fed horses all, 370
Which one of them do you want?"

391 Said the craftsman Ilmarinen:
"Take the best of all the stallions,
Put the young colt into harness,
Hitch that brown one to the sleigh.
On the shaft-bows, on the traces
Put six cuckoo bells, seven
Bluebirds making mournful music
Like the grieving of a lover
To make the lovelies look around 380
And delight the virgin maidens.
Bring me now a bearskin rug
So that I can sit there warmly;
Then devise a sleigh top for me
From the hide of a water dragon."

405 So the faithful lifetime servant,
Lifetime servant bought with money,
Put the young colt into harness,
Hitched that brown one to the sleigh.
Put six cuckoo bells, seven 390
Bluebirds making mournful music
On the shaft-bow, on the traces;
Set the bearskin on the seat
So that he could sit there warmly
And devised a sleigh top for him
From the hide of a water dragon.

416 Ilmarinen, smith eternal,
Now entreated Ukko humbly,
Prayed to Ukko-Thunderer:
"O thou Ukko, send down new snow, 400
New fine snow in powdery flakes "
For my sleigh to slide on swiftly,
Slippery snow to speed my way."
425 Ukko did send down new snow,
New fine snow in powdery flakes
Covering up the heather stalks
And the stalks of berry bushes.

429 Then he mounted to the seat
On his steely-runnered sleigh,
And he prayed his starting prayer: 410
"May good fortune bless my reins,
God be with me in my sleigh;
Good luck will not break the reins,
Jumala never wreck a sleigh."

437 Then he took the reins in one hand,
In the other held the whip,
Struck the horse and urged him onward:
"Off now, Blazehead, run for it!
Go now, Flaxmane, at full speed!"

443 Then he drives on easily 420
Over the dunes along the shore,
Swiftly by the Straits of Mead
And along the alder ridges,
Rattling off along the shore,
Coasting out along the sands,
On his face the gravel gritting,
On his breast the sea spray splashing.

451 Drove a day and drove a second,
Even on a third day driving; '
It was on the third day when he 430
Overtook old Vainamoinen,
And directly he addressed him:
"So it's you, old Vamamoinen!
Let us strike a friendly bargain:
Though we're rivals for betrothal
And opponents in our courting,
Lefs not take the girl by force,
Marry her against her wishes."

463 And old Vainamoinen nodded:
"Very gladly I agree, 440
Let's not take the girl by force
Nor marry her against her wishes;
Let her go to whom she chooses,
To the man that she desires-
Keep our friendship without grudges,
Without feuding over her."

471 Then they went on, each his way:
Sailed the vessel, shoreline humming;
Ran the stallion, earth was rumbling.

475 Just a little time passed over 450
Like a tiny rash of rain
Till they heard the watchdog baying,
Guardian of the Big House barking
From the dark of Pohjola,
From the gloomy land of sedges.
On its haunches by the cornfield,
With its tail it thumped the ground;
It first listened, growling softly,
Then barked out in loud alarm.

485 Said the master of Pohjola: 460
"What's the gray dog barking for,
Hop-ear making all that noise for?
Go out, girl, and look around."

489 Cunningly the girl replied:
"But dear father, I've no time:
That big cow barn must be cleaned
And that big herd must be tended;
Then there's all that grain to grind
And the fine meal to be sifted -
Fine the meal, the grindstone heavy, 470
And of little strength the grinder."

497 Deep the castle-demon's baying,
Now and then the gray dog growling.
Said the master of Pohjola:
"Go, old woman, take a look.
What's the gray dog barking at,
Flop-ear of the castle baying?"

503 But the woman said to him:
"There's no time, and I can't do it:
I must feed this numerous family 480
And attend to every breakfast;
Knead the dough and bake the bread -
The loaf is big, the meal is fine,
And of little strength the baker."

511 Said the master of Pohjola:
"Always women are in a hurry
And their daughters always busy -
Busy toasting on the stove bench,
Busy lolling on their beds.
You go, son, and look around." 490

517 But the son in turn replied:
"I've no time to look around:
I must grind the dull old ax bit,
Chop that big old log in two;
Split a mighty pile of faggots
And make kindling out of cordwood-
Big the pile, small the kindling,
And of little strength the chopper."

525 Still the guardian dog was barking,
Watchdog of the castle baying; 500
Still the savage whelp is howling
And the island watchdog whining
As its rear end bumped the ground,
With its woolly tail upcurling.

531 Said the master of Pohjola:
"A guardian's barking does not lie,
Never gives a false alarm,
Not just growling at the pine trees."

535 So he went to look himself,
Walking out across the farmyard 510
To the very farthest meadow,
To the last of his back pastures.

539 Looking where the dog was pointing,
Sighting straight along its muzzle
Over a barren rise of ground
And along a ridge of alders,
He beheld the reason for it,
Why the gray watchdog was barking
And the best of dogs was whining,
Why the wooly-tail was howling, 520
When he saw the red boat sailing
By the shore of Lovers' Bay,
Where a basket sleigh came hurrying
On the landward side of Meadwood.

551 Then the master of Pohjola
Quickly went into the house,
To the shelter of his roof
And announced: "Strangers are coming
On the surface of the blue sea;
There a basket sleigh is coasting 530
Yonder on that side of Meadwood,
And a big ship sailing here
On this side of Lovers' Bay."

561 Said the matron of Pohjola:
"Where now can we get an omen
For a sign about the strangers?
O my small maid, put a stick,
Stick of rowan on the fire,
Holy twig into the blaze!
If the. sap should ooze out bloody, 540
Then it means that war is coming;
When it leaks out water only,
We shall always live in peace."

571 So the little maid of Northland,
Serving girl, humble maiden,
Put the rowan in the fire,
Holy wood into the flames.
But it does not ooze out bloody,
Neither blood nor water oozing -
But began to drip with honey, 550
Sweetly trickling out as mead.

579 Said an old crone from the corner,
Lying there beneath her blanket:
"When the wood is oozing honey,
When the mead is trickling out,
It foretells good company -
Mighty suitors must be coming."

585 Then the dame of Pohjola,
Northland matron, native daughter,
Bustled quickly out-of-doors, 560
Stepping outside to the farmyard.
Looking seaward, turning southward,
There she saw a new boat sailing,
Saw a hundred-planker coming
By the shore of Lovers' Bay.
Red and blue the boat was gleaming,
At the stern a handsome fellow
Steering with a copper oar.
Then she saw a stallion running
With a red sled coming on, 570
Speeding with a basket sleigh
On the landward side of Meadwood,
With six golden springtime cuckoos
Carved upon the shaft-bow calling,
And then seven bluish creatures
On the traces sweetly singing.
There a man sat reins in hand,
Stout and of a serious aspect.

609 Said the matron to her daughter:
"Which one will you choose to go with 580
When they come here asking for you
To become their lifelong partner,
Little chicken of their bosom?

615 "Now the one who's sailing here
In the red boat on the bay,
That one is old Vainamoinen,
And he comes with many presents,
In his boat are costly treasures.

621 "But the one who drives the sleigh,
Hurrying in his fancy sled 590
On the landward side of Meadwood,
Is the craftsman Ilmarinen.
And he comes with empty lies,
Loaded up with would-be magic.

627 "When they come into the house
Fetch a pitcher full of mead,
Bring it in a two-eared pitcher;
Put the pitcher in the hand
Of the man you ought to go with-
Hand it to old Vainamoinen 600
Who brings good things in his vessel,
Such a freight of many treasures."

635 But the lovely northern maiden
Gave the answer she had ready:
"O my mother, you who bore me,
Bore and reared me-no, my mother,
I don't want to choose a husband
For his wealth or for his wisdom
But for the goodness of his features
And the beauty of his body, 610
Nor has any virgin ever
Wanted to be sold for dross.
This girl must go without barter
Freely to smith Ilmarinen
Who already forged the Sampo
And devised its ciphered cover."

649 Said the mistress of Pohjola:
"O my child, my little lambkin!
So you're going to the blacksmith-
Sweetly stroke his sweaty forehead, 620
Launder out his homespun tatters,
Even wash his sooty head."

655 But to this the daughter answered:
"I won't go to old man Vaino,
Not to such an ancient dotard;
It would only lead to trouble
And I'd be forever lonely."

661 First to come was Vainamoinen;
Sailed his red boat draped in broadcloth
Straight up to the copper pier, 630
To the iron-banded rollers.
Then he went up to the Big House,
Boldly underneath the roof.
Standing in the open doorway
On the floor beneath the lintel
He addressed the northern maiden:
"Now, girl, will you come to me,
Will you be my friend forever,
Will you be my lifelong partner,
Little chicken of my bosom?" 640

677 Said the lovely northern maiden
And, remembering, inquired:
"Have you built the boat already,
Have you shaped the wondrous vessel
From the splinters of my spindle,
Crumblets of my carding comb?"

683 Slyly Vainamoinen answered:
"I have built a goodly vessel,
Shaped a big sea-worthy ship
Which is sturdy in a storm, 650
Holding steady against a headwind,
Cleaving through the ocean rollers
As it sails across the sea;
Riding lightly like a bubble,
Floating like a waterlily
On the waters of Pohjola,

On the crest of whitecaps rising."
695 Said the lovely northern maiden:
"Seamen are not to my liking,
Not those riders of the see 660
Where the wind can wreck the mind,
Ahava can blast the brain.
I think I may not come to you,
No, I will not come to you
To become your friend forever,
Little chicken of your bosom,
As the spreader of your bed,
As the smoother of your pillow."


Use of the text for commercial purpose is forbidden

Table of contents