The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 26


Ahti lived upon an island
In an inlet of Cape Far.
He was plowing in the field,
Making furrows in the fallow.
He was very keen of hearing,
Ears especially alert.

7 From the village comes a clatter
Echoing from beyond the lake-
Tramp of hoofs upon the ice,
Rumbling sleigh upon the heath. 10
Then it struck him, the idea:
A wedding's there at Pohjola-
A secret crowd, a drinking bout.

15 He curled his lip and skewed his head,
Tearing at his big black whiskers
As the blood drained from his cheeks,
Red cheeks of the wretched man.
Right away he quit his plowing,
Left the plow there in mid-meadow,
Leaped upon his horse's back 20
And he set out for his home,
Galloping home to his mother,
To his most devoted mother.

25 On arriving there he said:
"O my mother, venerable woman!
Get some food out for me quickly
That a hungry man may eat,
For an eager man to bite on.
At the same time heat the sauna,
And prepare the cabin quickly so
That a man may cleanse himself,
That a man may groom himself."

35 Readily his mother served him,
Set a meal before him quickly
That the hungry man might eat,
For the eager man to bite on
While a bath for one was readying,
In the time the sauna heated.

41 So he ate his dinner quickly
And at once went to the sauna, 40
Went into the bathing room.
There the chaffinch bathed himself,
The snow bunting cleansed his body;
Washed his hair to flaxen hue,
Scrubbed his neck to wondrous whiteness.

49 On returning from the sauna,
He again addressed his mother:
"O my mother, venerable woman!
From the storehouse on the hill
Bring me down my finest clothing, 50
Very best of all my wardrobe
So that I can dress in style,
Set my figure off in fashion."

57 But his mother interrupted
And she managed to inquire:
"Where now are you going, son,
Going off to hunt a lynx
Or to chase the elk on skis1
Or perhaps for squirrel shooting?"

63 Said the wayward Lemminkainen, 60
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"0 my mother, my dear bearer,
I'm not going to hunt a lynx
Nor to chase an elk on skis
Nor to any squirrel shooting.
I am bound for Pohjola,
For the secret drinking bout.
So bring down my finest clothing,
Very best of all my wardrobe
To be shown off at a wedding, 70
To be clad in at a party."

75 Mother now forbade her son
And the wife forbade her husband.
Vainly both of them protested
And three nature spirits joined them,2
Forbidding Lemminkainen's leaving
For the feast at Pohjola.

81 Said the mother to her son,
Spoke the parent to the child:
"Do not go, my boy, my own, 80
My precious son far-minded,
To the feast at Pohjola,
To that dreadful mob of drinkers.
You were neither asked nor wanted:
You're not wanted there at all."

89 Said the wayward Lemminkainen:
"Wretched people go on summons,
Worthy people like free dancers.
Here's a summons old as moonlight
And a summoner unfailing: 90
In my fire-swift sword enduring,
In my flashing blade assuring."

97 But his mother still insisted:
"Do not go there, my poor boy,
Don't go to that Northland stewing;
Many strange things are on the way,
And great wonders on the road;
Three times Tuoni will be waiting,
Thrice will Death's hand reach out for you."

105 Said the wayward Lemminkainen, 100
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"That's the talk of all you women-
Death, destruction.everywhere!
But a brave man does not bother,
Does not hedge himself with omens.
Never mind that now, but tell me
That my ears may hear it plainly,
What's the first doom that awaits me,
Tell the first one to the last one."

115 Then his mother answered firmly, 110
Said the aging gentlewoman:3
"I will tell the doom by causes,
Not according to your wishes.
I will name the first doom first,
As it's what you'll come to first:
You will go a little way,
Just a journey of a day;
You will reach a flaming river
Blazing right across your road:
First there are the fiery falls, 120
Beneath the falls a blazing island,
On the isle a flaming hill,
On its peak a flaming eagle
Sharpening its beak at night,
Its three talons in the daytime
For the stripping of all strangers,
For the ripping of all rovers."

133 Answered wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"This may be a doom for women, 130
But for a brave man it's no menace.
I recall a stunt already,
Cunning trick to foil the eagle.
Out of alder I will conjure
Horse and rider to precede me
Or to go along beside me.
I myself will dive down safely
As a mallard or an old squaw
Far below the big bird's talons,
Out of reach of griffin's claw nails. 140
0 my mother, my dear bearer!
Tell me whafs the second doom?"

149 And his worried mother told him:
"Second day, a second doom:
On your second day of travel
You will reach a trench of fire
Stretching right across your road,
Running ever farther eastward
And northwestward out of sight,
Pull of hot stones redly glowing, 150
Banked with crackling boulders blazing.
Hundreds have attempted it,
Thousands tried to force their way;
A hundred brave men with their swords
And a thousand armored stallions."

163 Said the wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"In that there is no man's doom,
Nor the death of any person.
I recall another ruse, 160
I devised a foil already:
I'll just conjure up a snowman,
My own image out of snow,
Send it over through the fire pit
Flailing with a copper slapper
Like a bather in a sauna.
I myself, unharmed behind it,
Will come strolling through the fire
Without singeing a single hair
From my scalp or from my beard. 170
0 my mother, my dear bearer,
Tell me, what's the last destruction?"

l81 Lemminkainen's mother answered:
"Woe the third upon the third day.
You will go a little farther,
Just the journey of a day.
As you near the gates of Pohjola
Where the roadway narrows sharply,
There a wolf will spring upon you
And a bear will be a second, 180
There at Pohjola's dim portal
Where the roadway narrows sharply
They have eaten a hundred men,
Have devoured a thousand brave ones.
Why should they not eat you also,
Unprotected as you will be?"

195 Said Lemminkainen: "That's no worry.
Let them eat the ewe as mutton,
Tear the raw flesh into pieces,
But no man, the worst of them, 190
However helpless he may be!
By a brave man's belt I'm girded,
With a brave man's buckle tongue
Clasped around me by a buckle
So that I'll not yet be swallowed
By the wolves of Untamoinen,
Down the maw of those damned creatures.

207 "I recall a spell for wolves
And another for the bears:
For the wolf I'll sing a muzzle, 200
Iron fetters for the bear,
Or then chop them both to pieces,
Pound them through a sieve to powder.
Thus I'll clear myself of danger
And arrive at journey's end."

215 But his mother answered warning:
"Even so, you're not there yet;
Those are only on your way there,
Those great wonders on your journey,
Three horrendous hazards waiting, 210
Three deaths there for any man;
Even after you arrive there
You will meet still greater horrors.
Go on just a little farther
And you'll be at Pohjola.
Round the park of Pohjola
Is a fence as strong as iron
Or as strong as any steel one,
From the earth to heaven uprearing,
From the sky to ground downclosing. 220
It is staked with upright lances,
Wattled with the snakes of earth,
Withed with snakes, and tied with lizards,
Where their tails are weirdly waving
And their club heads weirdly swaying
With a hideous sound of hissing,
Tails turned inward, heads turned outward.

237 "On the ground are other serpents,
A long line of vicious adders
Upward hissing with their tongues, 230
Downward lashing with their tails.
One's more frightful than the others:
On the ground across the gateway
Longer than a cabin rafter,
Even thicker than a gatepost,
Upward spitting with his tongue,
Upward hissing with his mouth,
Aiming at no other person
Than yourself, unlucky man."

249 Wayward Lemminkainen answered, 240
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"Such might make a doom for children,
But for a brave man it's no doom.
I know how to quench a fire
And extinguish any flame,
How to exorcise the worms,
And to turn away the serpents.
It was only yesterday
I plowed up a field of adders,
Turning up a nest of serpents 250
With my hands entirely bare;
Handled adders with my nails
And the serpents in my hands,
And I killed at least ten adders,
Cmshed a hundred of the black worms,
Adders' blood smeared on my fingers,
Hands all slobbered up with snake grease.
So it's not so very likely,
Not at all that I'll become
Just a mouthful for the monster, 260
Victim of the vicious serpent.
I myself will choke the monsters,
Squeeze the nasty things to death,
Sing the adders far away,
Send the serpents slithering off,
Then cross the yard and go inside-
Crash the party at Pohjola."

277 Said his mother: "Do not go
To the House of Pohjola,
Into log-walled Sedgeland village. 270
There are men with belted swords,
Henchmen harnessed in their war gear,
Crazy men and madly drunk,
Mean ones after too much drinking.
They will chant a spell upon you,
Sing you under swift sharp swords.
They have sung down better men,
Even nobler men undone."

289 But her reckless boy replied:
"I have lived in Pohjola 280
In those gloomy huts before.
No mere Lapp is going to charm me
Nor a Finnmarker coerce me.
I myself will charm the Lapp
And I'll do my own coercing:
With my singing and my magic
Split his shoulders, break his jaw,
Cut his collar, cmsh his breastbone."

301 "My poor boy!" exclaimed his mother,
"Dwelling still on past adventures, 290
Boasting of your former travels.
So you've lived there once before4
In the cabins of the northland.
You have swum the stagnant pools
And have tried the hairy dog's-tongue;5
You have tumbled down the rapids,
Speeded downstream in the rivers,
Tried the cataracts of Tuoni,
Sounded out the streams of Mana-
And you'd still be floating there 300
If your mother had not saved you.

315 "Then remember what I tell you:
When you come to Pohjola,
The hillside will be full of stakes
And the dooryard lined with pillars
Which are capped with human heads.
Only one stake is unheaded
And to cap that single stake
Your poor head is marked for cutting."

323 But with arrogance he answered: 310
"Only fools and feeble fellows
Worry much about such feudings,
Wars of five, six years' duration,
Even up to seven summers.
Brave men are not frightened by them,
Hesitate because of them.
So get me now my fighting gear,
Warrior's tested battle harness;
I myself will get the sword,
Look out for my father's blade: 320
Long and lonely in the cold,
Hid in darkness it has lain,
Weeping for a lifetime there,
Longing for a worthy bearer."

339 So he got his fighting gear,
Warrior's tested battle harness,
Father's ancient sword unaging,
Old war comrade of his parent.
Gripped his weapon in his hand,
Struck it down into the flooring, 330
Thrust it hard into the planking;
In his hand it bent unbreaking
Like a green young chokecherry tip
Or a new-grown juniper.
Then he turned about and boasted:
"There's no man in Pohjola,
In that log-walled Sedgeland village
Who can take the measure of it
Or compare it blade for blade."

353 From the wall he swung his crossbow, 340
Stout bow from the wall peg, saying:
"If there is a man in Pohjola,
In that log-walled Sedgeland village
Who could bend this bow of mine,
Bend it, string it properly,
I would take him for a real man,
Worthy to be called a warrior."

363 Then the wayward Lemminkainen,
He the handsome man far-minded,
Put his ready armor on, 350
Got into his battle gear.
And he called his serving man:
"Come my good and faithful servant,6
My hard worker, got with money,
Get my battle stallion ready,
Harness up the war colt quickly -
I am leaving for the party,
Orgy of the devil's crew."

375 So the meek slave did as bidden,
Hurried outside to the barnyard 360
Where he harnessed up the stallion,
Fiery red between the shafts,
And reentering he said:
"I have done my job already,
I've attended to your stallion,
Harnessed up your favorite racer."

383 This the moment of decision,
Time to take his leave and go-
One hand, yes, the other, no,
Till his finger sinews ached. 370
But at last he took his leave
Without further hesitation.

389 Still his mother kept advising,
Parent cautioning the child
From the door beneath the lintel,
From beside the kettle nook:7
"HY poor boy, my only son,
0 my child, my one assurance,
When you're at the drinking bout
Or wherever you may be, 380
Do not drink the pitcher dry,
Drink the measure only midway;
Give the other half, the worse,
Bottom half to someone worse:
A worm is wiggling in the tankard,
Curb worm groping at the bottom."

403 Still his mother cautioned him,
Showering warnings on her child
From the farthest of the meadows,
From the last gate of the pasture:8 390
"When you're at the drinking bout
Or wherever you may be,
Sit down on the half seat only,
Step out with a half step only;
Give the worse half to another,
Give it to a lesser person.
Then indeed you'll be a man
And a well-respected person
Fit for public courts and councils,
Able to attend to law suits 400
In a group of noted persons
As a man among the men."

419 But at last he drove away
In his sled behind thfc stallion,
Struck the racer with a switch,
Laid on with a beaded lash.
Then the racer started forward,
Loping lightly on his way.

425 For a while he drove along,
Swaying, rocking in his sleigh. 410
On the road a flock of grouse,
Black grouse flew up in alarm;
The whole covey whirred away
To escape the running racer.

431 Just some scattered feathers left,
Black grouse feathers on the road.
Lemminkainen picked them up,
Put them carefully in his pocket:9
No one knows now what will happen,
Come to pass on such a journey; 420
Anything can come in handy,
Of use in some emergency.

439 Drove a bit, a little stretch,
When his horse pricks up its ears,
Lop-ears starts to jib and shy.

443 Wayward Lemminkainen rose,
Stood up in his basket sleigh,
Leaning out to look around.
It was as his mother said,
As his parent had predicted: 430
There's the very river flaming
Across the road before the horse;
In the river flaming rapids,
Blazing island in the rapids,
Flaming hill upon the island,
On the height a flaming eagle-
From its throat the flame was foaming,
From its beak the fire was pouring,
All in fiery plumage blazoned,
All around it sparks were shooting. 440

459 Far off it sees the man far-minded,
In the distance Lemminkainen:
"Whither goes the man far-minded,
Whither away the son of Lempi?"

463 Said the wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"To the feast at Pohjola,
To the secret drinking bout.
Move a little to one side
And indeed get off the road; 450
Let a traveller go by,
Lemminkainen especially,
So that he can pass there by you,
Go along there past your side."

473 Eagle answered, fire-throat hissing:
"To be sure I'll let him pass,
Most especially Lemminkainen -
Pass ahead right through my mouth,
Straight ahead right down my gullet.
That way goes the road for you, 460
Goes for you and goes forever
To that long, long drinking bout,
To that everlasting session."

483 What was it to Lemminkainen?
Nothing much to worry about.
Put his hand into his pocket,
Drew the feathers from his wallet,
These the feathers of the black grouse;
Stroked them softly in his palms,
In the curve of his ten fingers 470
And a flock of grouse created,
A whole flock of capercaillie.10
Into the eagle's mouth he shoved them
Into the monster's hungry maw,
Gullet of the fiery eagle,
Into the gums of the striker bird.
Thus he cleared himself of danger-
First day, first doom now behind him.

499 Struck the racer with a switch,
Laid on with the beaded lash. 480
At a good pace went the stallion
Loping lightly on its way.

503 Drove awhile, a little stretch,
Hurried on a little .distance.
Now the stallion's acting oddly
And is snorting nervously.

507 Standing in his racing sleigh,
He cranes his neck to look around.
It is as his mother said,
As his parent had predicted: 490
There's a blazing pit before him,
Stretching straight across the road,
Running ever farther eastward
And northwestward out of sight,
Full of hot rocks, blazing boulders.

517 What was that to Lemminkainen?
He just made a prayer to Ukko:
"0 Ukko, god above the gods
Or the father of the heavens,
Raise a great cloud from the northwest, 500
Send a second from the westward,
Sprout a third one from the eastward,
Raise another from the northeast;
Push them edge to edge together,
Crashed together in one mass.
Let the snow swirl down in drifts,
High and higher, staff deep, lance deep
On those hot rocks, blazing boulders."

531 So that Ukko, god of gods,
Ancient father of the heavens, 5io
Raised a great cloud from the northwest,
Sent a second from the westward
And a third one from the eastward,
From the northeast raised a wind;
Pushed them edge to edge together,
Crashed together in one mass.
Then the snow rained down in drifts,
High and higher, staff deep, lance deep
On those hot rocks, blazing boulders.
Fiery pit became a pond, 520
Slushy lake from bank to bank.

545 Then the wayward Lemminkainen
Conjured up a bridge of ice
Straight across the pond of snow,
Right across from bank to bank.
Thus he warded off that danger
And survived the second day.

551 Struck the racer with a switch,
Laid on with the beaded lash.
At a good pace went the racer, 530
Loping lightly on its way.

555 The racer ran a verst," a second,
Sped the best horse of the land.
Suddenly the horse has halted,
Stands stone-still and will not budge.

559 Wayward Lemminkainen, startled,
Started up to look around:
At the gate a wolf is crouching,
In the lane a bear is waiting,
At the gate of Pohjola, 540
At the lane's end ready for him.

565 Then the wayward Lemminkainen,
Himself the handsome man far-minded
Put his hand into his pocket,
Fingers fumbled in his wallet
And drew out a tuft of ewe's wool;
Rubbed it soft between his palms
In the curve of his ten fingers.

573 He blew once upon his palm,
And a flock of ewes appeared, 550
Followed by a line of lambs.
Hungry wolves then hurtled at them,
And the burly bears attacked them,
While the wayward Lemminkainen
Drove by calmly on his journey.

581 A little farther and he was there
At the yard of Pohjola.
An iron fence had been erected,
Steely palisade all-stopping,
Hundred fathoms under ground, 560
Thousand fathoms skyward soaring.
It is staked with upright lances,
Wattled with the worms of earth,
And with serpents interwoven,
And with lizards bound together.
There their tails are weirdly waving
And their club heads weirdly nodding;
To and fro the big heads swaying,
Heads turned outward, tails turned inward.

595 Lemminkainen stops to ponder' 570
"It is as my mother said,
As my bearer fully warned me:
There's a towering palisade
From the earth to heaven erected;
Deeper down an adder creeping,
Deeper still the stakes are driven;
Higher up a bird is flying,
Higher still the fence uptowering."

605 Lemminkainen was not worried,
Was not much alarmed at that: 580
Drew his knife, his iron blade,
Slid it swiftly from his scabbard,
Cut the stakes and sliced the fencing,
Slashed the snaky palisade;
Flattened out the iron fencing
From the fifth stake to the seventh
For the length of five fence posts,
For the space of seven stakes.
He himself drives calmly forward
To the gates of Pohjola. 590

617 On the road a snake is writhing,
On the ground across the gateway,
Longer than a cabin rafter,
Even thicker than a gatepost.
The serpent had a hundred eyes,
And a thousand tongues the reptile;
Eyes the size of flour sifters,
And the tongues as long as lances;
Teeth as long as hay-rake handles,
Seven skiffs the monster's measure. 600

627 There the wayward Lemminkainen
Did not dare to touch the monster,
Monster with a hundred eyes,
Reptile with a thousand tongues.

631 Said the wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"Black worm from beneath the earth,
Grub worm with the hue of death,
Slinker under last year's grasses,
Burrower under devil's bracken, 610
And a twister through a tussock,
And a wriggler in a tree root,
Who has stirred you from the stubble,
Waked you up out of the grass roots
To crawl about above the ground,
Writhing here across the road?
Who has lifted up your nose,
Who has told you, who has urged you
To hold your head so high and upright,
With your neck so stiffly standing? 620
Was it father or your mother,
Oldest brother, youngest sister,
Or someone else of your great kin?

651 "Shut your mouth and hide your head,
Tuck your darting tongue away,
Kink yourself up in a tangle,
Coil yourself up in a hoop.
Give me roadway, half the roadway,
That a traveller may pass!
Or get off the road entirely, 630
Off the road into the scrub;
Slither off into the heather,
Hide yourself among the mosses,
Waft away like a tuft of wool,
Pass off like a stick of aspen;
Tuck your head into a turf, -,
Stuff it straight inside a tussock-
Turf your home, your hut a tussock.
If you lift your head from there,
Ukko-god will break your head 640
With steel tipped needles, iron hailstones.

671 That's what Lemminkainen said,
But the worm did not obey;
Went on hissing, tongue outspitting,
Vomiting its deadly venom
At the head of Lemminkainen.

677 Then the wayward Lemminkainen
Brought to mind some ancient spell,
Once recited by a housewife,
Which was taught him by his mother. 650
Said the wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"Since you won't obey my bidding
Nor give way at least a little,
You will puff up in great pain
And swell up in agony.
You will split in two, you bad one,
Into three, you nasty scoundrel,
When I search out your own mother
And reveal your honored parent; 660
Name your origin, you coiler,
And your rearing, you earth's horror.
The old ogress is your mother,
Water-witch your honored parent.

695 "Once she spat upon the waters,
Spewed her spittle on the billows.
This was cradled by the breezes,
Rocked on by the breath of water
for six years, seven summers
Out upon the clear sea surface, 670
Riding on the swelling rollers;
By the water stretched and lengthened,
By the sunshine warmed and softened,
Brought to land then by the breakers,
Washed ashore there by a wave.

707 "On the shore three Nature Spirits
Were walking by the surging sea,
By the edge of booming breakers.
When they saw the thing, they wondered:
'What would such a thing become 680
If the great God gave it life,
Blessing it with eyes to see with?'

715 "The Creator overheard it
And directly gave his answer:
'Out of evil only evil;
Devils vomit only devils-
That is what would come of it
If I gave it breath of life
And endowed its head with eyes.'

721 "Demon Hiisi heard the matter, 690
The evil one examined it,
And himself began creating:
Gave the breath of life to it,
To the evil creature's spewing,
To the spittle of the ogress,
And the thing became a serpent
And was turned into the black worm.

729 Whence the breath of life to stir it?
Breath of life from Hiisi's ember.
From what was its heart spewed out7 700
Whence its heart but from the ogress.
Whence the evil creature's brain?
from the foaming of strong currents.
Whence the sense of the destroyer?
from the foam of boiling rapids.
Whence the Bad One's head put on?
Head is from a rotten pea seed.

739 from what were its eyes created?
from the flaxseed of the devil.
Whence the ears on its head? 7io
From the leaves of devil's birch.
from what was its mouth devised?
from the buckle of the ogress.
Whence the tongue in Wretched's mouth?
From the spear shaft of an imp.
Whence the teeth of the nasty thing?
From the awns of Tuoni's barley.
From what does it get its gums?
From the gums of a graveyard virgin.

751 From what is its back erected? 720
From the charcoal fork of Hiisi.
From what comes its swaying tail?
From the braid hairs of the Bad One.
Whence its knotted guts begotten?
From the belt of death it got them.

757 So much for your kith and kin,
For your vaunted reputation.

759 "Black worm, crawler underground,
Deadly colored grub of Tuoni,
Earthen-colored, heather-hued, 730
All the colors of the rainbow!
Take yourself away from here,
Let the traveler go by,
Leave the road and let him pass.
Lemminkainen's on his way
To the feast at Pohjola,
Banquet of the Holy Birth,"

769 And the weird worm did depart,
Off the road, the hundred-eyed;
Let the traveler pass by, 740
Lemminkainen stride along
To the feast of Pohjola,
To the secret drinking bout.


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