The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 1



I am wanting, I am thinking
To arise and go forth singing,
Sing my songs and say my sayings,
Hymns ancestral harmonizing,
Lore of kindred lyricking.
In my mouth the words are melting;
Utterances overflowing
To my tongue are hurrying,
Even against my teeth they burst.

11 Come good brother, little brother, 10
Pretty playmate of my childhood,
Start now with me for the singing
Sit together for the speaking,
Now that we have met together,
After separate pathways travelled;
Seldom do we come together,
Rarely do we have each other
In these ragged border regions,
These benighted northern marches.

21 Strike we now hand into hand, 20
Fingers into curve of fingers,
So that we may sing good songs,
Voice the best of all our legends
For the hearing of our loved ones,
Those who want to learn them from us,
Those among the rising young ones
Of the growing generation.
Magic verses we have gathered,
Kindled by the inspiration
From the belt of Vainamoinen, 30
Under forge of Ilmarinen,
Sword blade of the man far-minded,
Aim of Joukahainen's crossbow,
From the way-back fields of Northland,
From the heaths of Kalevala.

37 Long ago my father sang them
As he carved his ax's handle
And my mother also taught me
Though she kept her spindle spinning,
As I, milk-bearded mischief maker, 40
Clabber-mouthed and tiny tumbler,
Rolled about the floor before her:
Magic never failed the Sampo,
Louhi never lacked for spells;
Old in story grew the Sampo,
In her spells old Louhi vanished,
In his singing Vipunen,
Lemminkainen in his capers.

51 There are other words of magic,
Incantations I have learned, 50
Plucked in passing from the wayside,
Some I broke off from the heather,
Some I gathered from the bushes,
Others pulled from tender saplings,
Rubbed from haytips, snatched from hedges
Where I roamed about the cowpaths
As a youngster herding cattle,
Minding cows in cattle pastures
On honeyed hills and hillocks golden
By the side of spotted Frisky, 60
Trailing Muurikki, the black one.

65 Then the frost was singing verses,
Many a rhyme the rain recited,
Other poems the winds delivered,
On the seawaves songs came drifting,
Magic charms the birds have added
And the treetops incantations.

71 These I rolled up in a ball,
Made a fitting yarnball of them,
On my sled I put the yarnball, 70
On my sleigh I hauled it home
Right up to the threshing barn,
Hid it in a copper casket
On a shelf-end in the storehouse.

79 Long and lone in the darkness,
In the cold my verses lie.
Shall I take my verses out,
Save my songs from freezing weather,
Bring the casket to the cottage,
Set it on the bench-end there so
Underneath this famous rooftree
And beneath this splendid ceiling?
Shall I open up the casket,
Treasure box of magic sayings,
Snip the end off from the yarnball
And undo the knot entirely?

91 I will sing a good song for you
And I'll make it beautiful:
Do it on a rye bread diet,
Wash it down with barley beer. 90
If it chance no beer is brought me,
No drink offered to the singer,
From a leaner mouth I'll warble,
Sing along on water only
To make this evening's joy more joyful
Honoring this famous day,
Or tomorrow's joy it may be -
With the dawn the new day opens.

103 Thus I heard the poems recited,
Learned how verses were composed. 100
Lonely come the nights upon us,
Lonely dawn the brightening days;
Lonely born was Vainamoinen,
All alone, the poet immortal,
From the beautiful who bore him,
From his mother, Ilmatar -

111 She, the virgin of the air,
Beautiful maiden. Nature's child,
Long maintained in holiness
Her eternal maidenhood 110
In the far-horizoned heavens,
Level meadows of the air.

117 But in time she wearied of it,
Was estranged from this odd living,
Always being by herself,
Ever living as a virgin
In those far-horizoned heavens,
In those vast and empty spaces.

123 So at length she then descended
To the seawaves down below, 120
To the open clear sea surface
Out upon the open ocean.
Suddenly a storm wind blew,
Out of the east an angry blast
Blew the water to a foam
Heaving up the rollers high.

131 By the wind the maid was rocked,
On a wave the maid was driven
Round about the blue sea surface
By the whirling whitecaps lifted 130
Where her womb the wind awakened
And the sea-foam impregnated.

137 Thus a full womb now she carried,
Long she bore her burdened belly,
Seven hundred years she bore it
For nine lifetimes of a man,
Yet the borning was unborn,
Still the fetus undelivered.

143 As the mother of the water
Aimlessly the virgin drifted: 140
She swam eastward, she swam westward,
She swam south and northwestward,
Swimming round the whole horizon
In the anguish of her birth pangs,
In her belly's bursting pains.
Yet the borning was unborn,
Still the fetus undelivered.

151 Then she fell to weeping softly,
Said a word and spoke out thus:
"Woe is me, the water wanderer, 150
Luckless girl, misfortune's child!
Now already I'm in trouble,
Shelterless beneath the sky,
Ever rocking on the seawaves
To be cradled by the wind,
To be driven by the billows
On these far-extending waters,
Endlessly repeated billows.

161 "Better had it been for me
To have stayed the airy virgin 160
Than to be as I am now
Drifting as the water-mother.
Ifs too cold for me to stay here,
Painful to be drifting here,
Wallowing in this watery waste.

169 "0 thou Ukko, lord of all,
Hear me, thou the all-sustainer:
Come, 0 come where thou art needed;
Come, 0 come where thou art called! 170
Loose the maiden from her misery
And the woman from her womb-ache;
Come thou quickly, soon arriving
Where thy help is sooner needed."

177 Then a bit of time passed over
Like a tiny rash of rain,
When a scaup, the honest bird,
Came on hovering here and there
Searching for a nesting place,
For a spot to build her home on.

183 She flew eastward, she flew westward, 180
Flew to northwest and to southward
But she cannot find a spot
Even in the worst of places
Where to build her needful nest,
Where to take up her abode.

189 Hovering, fluttering back and forth
Thus she thought and pondered it:
"Must I make my home on wind,
Build my hut upon the billows
Where the wind can blow it over 190
Or a wave can wash away?"

195 So the mother of the water,
Water mother, airy maiden,
Raised her knee above the surface
And her shoulder from the wave
As a refuge for the scaup
And a welcome nesting place.

201 Then that scaup, the lovely bird,
Fluttering round and hovering over
Spied the water-mother's knee 200
Lifted from the sea's blue surface;
Took it for a grassy tussock
Or a tuft of new-grown turf.

207 Plies about, flitting here and there,
Settles on the lifted kneecap.
It is there she builds her nest,
There she laid her golden eggs -
Six were the golden eggs she laid,
But the seventh was of iron.

213 She began to hatch the eggs there, 210
Heating up the lifted kneecap;
Brooded one day, brooded two days,
Even on the third day brooding.
Then the mother of the water,
Little mother, airy maiden,
Felt the rising heat upon her,
Felt as if her skin were scorching,
Thought her kneecap was on fire,
That her very veins were melting.

223 All at once she jerked her knee, 220
Agitating every member,
And the eggs rolled in the water
To the tumbling of the tides;
Into bits the eggs were broken,
Shattered into crumbs and pieces.

229 But the eggs and pieces were not
Mixed up with the mud and water
For at once the crumbs grew comely
And the pieces beautiful.
One egg's lower half transformed 230
And became the earth below,
And its upper half transmuted
And became the sky above;
From the yolk the sun was made,
Light of day to shine upon us;
From the white the moon was formed,
Light of night to gleam above us;
All the colored brighter bits
Rose to be the stars of heaven
And the darker crumbs changed into 240
Clouds and cloudlets in the sky.

245 Quickly now the time goes forward
As the hurrying years pass by
While the newborn sun is shining
And the newborn moon is gleaming.
Still the mother goes on swimming,
Water mother, airy maiden,
Swimming on those peaceful waters
Over misty seawaves wandering.
Before her flowed the liquid deep, 250
Behind her shone the empty heaven.

255 In the ninth year, tenth of summers,
Raised her head out of the sea,
Lifts her crown above the water;
Set to work on her creations,
Hastens on her handiwork,
Out upon the clear sea surface,
Out upon the open ocean.

263 Where she gave her hand a turn
There she put the capes in order; 260
Where her foot struck bottom, there
Grottoes for the fish were formed;
Where the bubbles reached the surface
There the deeps were made still deeper.

269 Where her side had scraped the land
There the level shores appeared;
Where she turned her foot to landward
There the salmon grounds were formed,
And wherever her head touched land
There the broad bays opened out. 270

275 Swimming farther out from shore
She halted on the smooth sea surface
Where she made the little islands.
Then she raised the hidden reefs
Where the grounded ships would founder,
Many a seaman lose his life.

281 Now the islands were in order
And the small isles of the sea;
Pillars for the sky were planted,
Lands and continents created; 280
On the rocks the writs were written"
And the signs drawn on the cliffs.
Yet Vainamoinen is unborn,
Poet eternal not emerged.

289 Old reliable Vainamoinen
Traveled in his mother's womb,
Traveled there for thirty summers
And as many winters too
On the ocean now so peaceful
In that misty world of water. 290

295 He is pondering, he is thinking,
How to live or how survive
In this dismal hiding place,
In this narrowest of dwellings
Where he never saw the moon,
Never got a glimpse of sunlight.

301 So he speaks out in these words,
Says it in these sentences:
"Free me. Moon, and Sun, release me!
Thou, Great Bear, do ever guide me, 300
Lead a man here through strange doors,
Through these unfamiliar gates.
Release me from this narrow nest,
From this shut-in dwelling place!
Guide the traveler to the land,
Child of mankind to the open
To behold the moon in heaven
And to wonder at the daylight,
Get to know the Great Bear's grandeur
Or just to stare up at the stars!" 310

315 Since the moon did not arrive
Nor the sun come to release him,
Alienated from his birth time,
Impatient of this dull existence,
He pushed against his prison lock
Pressing with his nameless finger,
Slid the bony bolt aside,
With his left toe opened it;
Scrabbling with his nails he came
Crawling through the exit door. 320

325 Headlong in the sea he tumbled
With a hand-turn in the waves.
There the man was left alone
In the rough care of the billows.

329 There he floated for five years,
Six, seven, even eight years,
Stopped at last upon the surface
There beside a nameless headland,
On a treeless continent.

335 Stmggling up with knee and elbow 330
He stood up to see the world:
To behold the moon in heaven
And to wonder at the daylight,
Get to know the Great Bear's grandeur
Or just to stare up at the stars.

341 That was the birth of Vainamoinen.
Such the daring poefs descent
From the beautiful who bore him,
From his mother, Ilmatar.


Use of the text for commercial purpose is forbidden

Table of contents