The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 27


Now I've brought my man far-minded,
Escorted Ahti Islander
By the mouth of many deaths,
Past the reach of Raima's tongue
To the doings at Pohjola,
Homestead of the secret people.
I must now indeed relate,
Tell it with my tongue completely
How the wayward Lemminkainen,
He the handsome man far-minded, 10
Came to Pohjola's log cabins,
To the log-built homes of Sedgeland,
Crashed the party uninvited,
Joined the jamboree unsummoned.

15 There the wayward Lemminkainen,
Lively lad, the mddy rascal,
Strode at once into the house,'
To the center of the floor
As the linden flooring shook
And the house of fir logs echoed. 20

21 Then he spoke with brash defiance:
"I greet you, you greet me,
Let the greetings two ways be!
Listen, master of Pohjola!
Would there be within this house
Barley for a horse to bite on,
Ale enough for a man to drink?"

29 At the table sat the master,
And disdainfully he answered:
"On this homestead there's a place so
Where your stallion may be stabled;
You yourself won't be forbidden-
If you're decent in this house-
From standing at the doorway there,
At the door beneath the lintel,
Between two kettles and three pothooks."

41 Lemminkainen tugged his beard
Which was black as were the kettles,
And he gave his angry answer:
"Let the devil Lempo come, 40
To stand up here, in the doorway!
Let him rub against your soot,
Let him scrape your crud away!
But in bygone days my father,
My well-honored parent did not
Ever stand there, in that place,
At the door, beneath the lintel.
There was then quite room enough:
Proper stable for his stallion,
House washed clean for men to enter, 50
Place for gloves and pegs for mittens,
Even wall stands for their swords.
Why should I not be respected
As my father was before me?"

61 Then he stepped up to the table,
To the head where sat the master,
And he sat down there beside him,
Pinewood bench beneath him bending
As it creaked beneath his weight.

67 Said the wayward Lemminkainen: 60
"Maybe I'm no favored guest
Since no mug of ale is offered,
Offered to the new arrival."

71 Ilpo's daughter, Louhi, answered:
"Well, my boy, you Lemminkainen,
What a guest you are among us!
Came here to oppress my mind
And distract my understanding.
All our ale is unbrewed barley,
Still in malt the tasty drink, 70
And the wheaten bread unbaked,
And the meat stews still uncooked.
You should have come the night before,
Or have come perhaps tomorrow."

83 There the wayward Lemminkainen,
Curled his lip and skewed his head
As he twisted his black whiskers,
And he spoke out in his anger:
"Here the food has all been eaten,
Bride-ale drink, the doings over. so
All the ale has been apportioned,
Mead measured out among the men.
All the mugs have been collected,
Put away into their places.

93 "O you mistress of Pohjola,
Long-toothed2 matriarch of Darkland,
You mismanaged the whole party,
Fit to honor dogs maybe;
Baked the bread and brewed the beer,
Six ways sent out invitations, 90
Summoners in nine directions,
Summoning the wretched folk,
All the miserable and poor;
Called the riffraff and the robbers
All the lean and hungry tenants,
Laborers in their skimpy tunics;
All the others too invited-
I alone have been rejected.

107 "Why should this be done tome-
In return for my own barley? 100
Others brought it here in spoonfuls,
Others dribbled it in dishes,
But I dumped it out in bushels,
Poured it out in many half-kegs
Of my own-grown barleycorn,
Grains that I myself had sown.

115 "Maybe I'm not Lemminkainen,
Surely not a favored guest here-
Not a mug of ale is offered,
Not a stew pot on the fire, 110
Nothing cooking in the kettle;
Not a twenty-pound3 of pork,
Nothing here to eat or drink
At the end of my hard journey."

123 Ilpo's daughter, kindly matron,
Spoke then to her little handmaid:
"Come, my little one, ever ready,
Put the stew into the pot,
Get some ale to give the stranger."

129 Then the maid, the wretched child, 120
Rinsed the dishes, wiped the spoons
And scoured the ladles slovenly.
So she fixed a pot of stew-
Meatless bones and stinking fish heads,
Old and withered turnip tops
And hard crusts of old rye bread.
Then she served him with a tankard,
With a jug of nauseous brew
As a drink for Lemminkainen,
For an eager man to drain. 130
Then she said: "Are you the man,
Man enough to drink this, down,
Drain it to the very bottom?"

145 Lemminkainen peered down at it,
Scrutinized it very closely:
On the bottom grubs were crawling,
In the middle snakes were coiling;
On the edges worms were wiggling,
Lizards linking round the rim.

151 Said the wayward Lemminkainen, 140
Shouted out the man far-minded:
"To hell with all you tankard bearers,
To Mana all you can carriers
Before the rising of the moon,
Before the setting of the sun!"

157 Speaking to the ale he added:
"O you ale, you miserable wretch!
You've become a beverage
Of no use to anybody,
Though a man may taste a mouthful 150
And throw the garbage on the ground
With his left thumb and third finger."

165 Put his hand into his pocket,
Groped around inside his wallet;
Took a fish hook from his pocket,4
From his pouch an iron barb
Which he dangled in the pitcher
And went fishing in the ale pot.
Caught the reptiles on his hook,
Angry adders on his angle; 160
Fished up frogs, at least a hundred,
And a thousand black snakes hissing;
Threw them on the earth for earth,
Down upon the floor he threw them.
Then he drew his sharp knife quickly,
Slid the grim blade from its scabbard,
Cut the reptiles' heads off neatly,
Through their necks the swift blade slicing.
He drank the ale down for good luck
And the black mead for his pleasure. 170
Then he said to host and hostess:
"Maybe I'm no favored guest here
Since no ale is offered me,
Not a better draught to drink
Nor by hand more generous served
Nor tendered in a bigger vessel;
Not a ram or big bull slaughtered,
Not an ox brought to the house,
Nor any splithoof to this cabin."

193 Said the master of Pohjola: iso
"Why then did you come at all,
Who invited you to come here?"

197 Said the wayward Lemminkainen:
"An invited guest is good,
But an unexpected better.
Listen now, you Pohjolander,
You who are the master here:
Sell me then your ale for money-
Hospitality for cash."

205 That made the Pohjolander angry, 190
Very angry, lost his temper:
Sang a pond upon the floor
In front of Lemminkainen, saying:
"There's a river for your drinking,
Pond for you to paddle in."

213 What did Lemminkainen care?
He said: "I'm no woman's heifer
Nor an ox with tail behind me
To drink up your river water
Or to paddle in your pond." 200

219 Then he himself began to conjure
And to work his own enchantment:
Sang a bull upon the floor,
A great ox with golden horns;
In the pond it splashed about
And for good luck drank it dry.

225 The Pohjolander, the long fellow,
Made a wolf by magic words
Which he conjured on the floor
To devour the beefy bull. 210

229 Lemminkainen, lively lad,
Sang a hare full white with winter
To hop around upon the floor
Right in front of that wolf's mouth.

233 The Pohjolander, the long fellow,
Conjured up a hook-jawed hound dog
To devour the winter hare,
Rend the slant-eye into ribbons.

237 Lemminkainen, lively lad,
Sang a squirrel on the lintel 220
To run about upon the rafters
For the dog to bark at vainly.

241 The Pohjolander, the long fellow,
Sang a marten golden-breasted,
And the marten nabbed the squirrel
As it sat upon a rafter.

245 Lemminkainen, lively lad,
Conjured up a russet fox,
And it ate the golden-breasted,
Killed the handsome-coated marten. 230

249 The Pohjolander, the long fellow,
Made a hen by magic words
To hop around upon the floor
There before the fox's mouth.

253 Lemminkainen, lively lad,
Used the magic of his words
To create a hawk quick-taloned,
And it ripped the hen to pieces.

257 Said the master of Pohjola:
"Things won't get much better this way, 240
Till the crowd of guests gets smaller;
To their labors all the housefolk
And the strangers to the highway,
Even from the best of banquets.
Out of here, you sprout of Hiisi,
From the sight of decent people.
Hurry home, you toad, you scoundrel,
Headlong to your own home country!"

267 Said the wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded: 250
"You can't banish any man,
However feeble he may be,
And remove him from his place,
Make him run away by talking."

273 Then the master of Pohjola
Whipped his sword down from the wall,5
Grasped his fire-blade as he challenged:
"O you Ahti Islander,
Or the handsome man far-minded!
Let us measure swords instead 260
And examine both our blades,
Whether my blade is the better
Or the blade of Island Ahti."

283 Answered wayward Lemminkainen:
"What is left of my poor blade,
Broken on so many bones,
Battered on so many skulls?
But that doesn't matter now
Since this party won't get better.
What is left but measuring swords? 270
Lefs see whose blade is better.
In his time my honored father
Never backed down from a duel.
Has the son changed with the times,
Is he child of lesser kin?"

295 Whereupon he took his sword,
Bared his blade, his fire-swift steel,
Slid it quickly from its scabbard,
Hanging from his bast-lined belt.
Then they measured and appraised 280
Each the length of those two swords:
Pohjola's a nail-edge longer,
Or by half a finger joint.6

305 Then said Ahti Islander:
"Your sword's longer, you strike first."

309 Then the master of Pohjola
Made a pass, slashed out fiercely,
Aiming at the head of Ahti.
Missed his stroke and struck the rafter,
Struck the lintel overhead, 290
Cutting through the arch-beam cleanly
As the lintel flew in two.

317 Then said Ahti Islander,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"What harm has the rafter done you
Or what injury the lintel
That you're aiming at the rafter,
Breaking down the very lintel?

323 "Listen, man, you Pohjolander,
You who are the master here: 300
Fighting in this house is bad,
Brawling in the midst of women.
We will break the new house down
And will stain the floor with blood.
Let's go outside to the barnyard
Or the meadow for our dueling,
In the open for our fighting.
Blood is fitter out-of-doors,
It looks better on the ground
And more natural on the snow." 310

335 So at once they went outside;
In the barnyard lay a cowhide
Which they spread out for their fencing,
Standing on it face to face.

339 Then said Ahti Islander:
"Since your blade's a little longer
And indeed it must be mightier,
Better use it first, and quickly,
While you still have time to use it-
Quick, before your neck is broken. 320
Strike out, lay on, son of Northland."

347 Then the fellow hit out wildly,
Struck once, twice and a third time,
But he did not touch his body,
Did not even graze the skin.

353 Lemminkainen then suggested:
"Let me try a little now,
For I think my luck is turning."

357 But the furious man ignored him,
Went on flailing, hitting nothing, 330
Aiming at his mark but missing.

361 Flame was flashing from the iron,
Fire was sparking from the blade
In the hand of Lemminkainen,
With its brightness flashing forward
At the neck of the Pohjolander;
Said the handsome man far-minded:
"Oho, master of Pohjola!
Your neck is very red, poor wretch,
Like the glow of dawn so red." 340

371 So the master of Pohjola,
He himself the very master,
Turned his eyes down toward his neck.7
Lemminkainen Struck the master with his sword,
With one quick cut of his blade.
With one slashing blow he struck him,
Sliced the head off from his shoulders,
Stmck the skull off from his neck
As a turnip top is snipped, 350
As an ear of grain is sickled
Or a fin from fish is severed,
And the head dropped to the ground,
Tumbled down onto the farmyard,
As, when struck down by an arrow,
A large grouse falls from a tree.

389 A hundred stakes were on the hill,
Thousands standing in the yard,
Heads by hundreds on the stakes.
Only one of them was headless, 360
And to that one Lemminkainen
Took the head of the Pohjolander,
Bore the man's skull from the farmyard,
Where he stuck it on that stake point.

397 Then returning to the house,
Ahti told the serving maid:
"Bring me water, angry woman,
So that I can clean my hands
Of the blood of your bad master,
Of the wretched fellow's gore." 370

405 Now the dame of Pohjola
Was indignant, angry, furious.
Then she conjured up a swordsman,
Armed one man and then a hundred,
And then a thousand ready swordsmen
To take the head of Lemminkainen,
Cut the neck of the far-minded.

413 Now the time has come for certain,
Time for him to leave and quickly.
Things are getting out of hand 380
And the situation dangerous.
Lemminkainen could not linger,
Could not stay there any longer
At the feast at Pohjola,
With the secret crowd of drinkers.


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