The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 29


Lemminkainen, lively lad,
He the handsome man far-minded,
Filled his sack with good provisions:
Bushelful of summer butter,
Butter enough for one year's eating,
Pork too for the second year.
Then he went off into hiding,
Took his leave and hurried off,
Soliloquizing as he started:
"Now I'm going, I am fleeing, 10
Going off for three whole summers,
Maybe even for five years,
Leaving everything behind me:
Fields for vermin to devour
And the woodlands for the lynxes,
Meadows for the deer to roll in,
Clearings for the geese to nest in.

17 "Farewell, stay well, my good mother!
When the Northlanders arrive,
When the Darkland crowd has come 20
Asking for my head, just tell them
That he's wandered off somewhere,
Gone away from here forever
After cutting out the clearing
Which I cut down for the burning."

25 Then he went down to his vessel,
Hauled it down upon the billows;
Launched it from the steely staging,
Slid it down from copper rollers;
Set the sails upon the mast, 30
Spread the canvas on the main spar.
He himself sat in the stern,
Ready to begin his voyage,
Trusting in his birchwood bow,
Relying on his rudder oar.

35 Then he shouted to the elements:
"Blow, wind, blow into the sails!
Drive the boat, spring wind Ahava,
Make the wooden boat run on.
Onward, onward, pinewood vessel, 40
To the undiscovered island,'
To the nameless promontory."

43 Wind-rocked, wave-tossed ran the vessel,
Fleeing on the clear, sea surface,
Out upon the open ocean.
There it rocked along for two months,
Even on the third month, rocking.

49 There the headland girls were sitting
On the shore by the blue sea,
Gazing, turning here and there, 50
Eyes turned toward' -the blue sea surface.
Some are waiting for their brothers',
Others for their fathers' coming,
But the ones who truly waited,
Waited for their missing lovers.

57 Far out Far-mind now appears,
Farther still his vessel looming;
It is like a little cloudlet
Hung between the sea and sky.

61 Maidens of the headland ponder, 60
Virgins of the island say:
"What's that odd' thing on the ocean,
That strange object on the billows?
If you're one of our own vessels,
Skillful sailer of the island,
Turn then homeward to our island,
Vessel to our landing stages
So that we may hear some news,
Messages from foreign nations-
If the shore folk live in peace 70
Or still suffer persecution."

73 Wind in sail and wave at stern,
Driving, lifting on the sailer,
Quickly wayward Lemminkainen
Steered his vessel to the shore,
Steered it to the little island
To the tip-end of the headland.

79 After getting there, he says,
On arriving he inquires:
"Do you have a landing here 80
On the area of this island
Where a man can beach a boat,
Dry spot where to turn it over?"

85 Say the virgins, of the island,
Maidens of the headland answer:
"There is room upon this island,
On the area of the island
To beach a boat and turn it over:
Here are landing stages ready
And the shores are full of rollers, 90
Ready for a hundred vessels,
Even for a thousand sails."

95 So he beached his vessel there,
Docked it at a log-built staging.
Then he put another question:
"Is there room upon this island,
On the area of the island
For a little man to hide in,
For a feeble man to flee to
From the roar and din of battle, 100
From the clash and clang of swords?"

105 Say the virgins of the island,
Maidens of the headland answer:
"There is room upon this island,
On the area of the island
For a little man to hide in,
For a feeble man to flee to.
There are castles more than needed,
Large estates for you to live on
Even if a hundred came 110
Or a thousand men arrived."

115 Said the wayward Lemminkainen:
"Is there room upon this island,
On the area'of this island,
Some small corner of a birch wood
Or a crumb of other land
For a man to cut a clearing,
Stand of pine for me to work on?"

123 Say the virgins of the island,
Maidens of the headland answer: 120
"There's no space upon this island
On the area of this island,
Large enough to lay your back on,
Nothing bigger than a bushel
For a man to cut a clearing,
Stand of trees for you to work in.
Island lands are all allotted,
Fields all measured out in strips;
Lots are drawn for clearing sites
And the meadows all apportioned 130
At the meetings of the commune."

135 Said the wayward Lemminkainen,
The handsome man far-minded asked:
"Is there room upon this island,
On the area of this island,
Space where I can sing my songs,
Chanting out long incantations?
In my mouth the words are melting,
Even on my gums are sprouting."

143 Say the virgins of the island, 140
Maidens of the headland answer:
"There's room upon this island,
On the area of this island,
Space for you to sing your songs,
Lyricking the best of ballads-
Leafy groves for frolicking,
Level meadows made for dancing."

151 Lemminkainen burst out singing
And began his magic-making:
Conjured rowans in the dooryards, 150

In the center oak trees rising,
Oak trees graced with level branches,
On each branch an acom growing,
Golden wheel on every acorn,
On each golden wheel a cuckoo.
When the cuckoo there is calling,
From his mouth the gold is bubbling,
From his beak the bronze is blowing
And the silver too is gleaming;
All the land is bright with shining, 160
Silver hills and hillocks golden.

165 Lemminkainen went on singing,
Still he sang and still he conjured:
Sang the sands to pearly beads,
Pebbles into shining jewels,
All the trees to golden red,
All the flowers to lovely blooms.

171 And again sang Lemminkainen:
Sang a well there in the farmyard,
On the well a golden cover, 170
Golden basin on the cover
Where the brothers come to drink,
Sisters come to wash their faces.

177 Sang a lakelet on the meadow,
On the lakelet blue-green mallards,
Golden-browed and silver-headed,
And their webbed toes all of copper.

181 How the virgins of the island,
All the headland maidens marveled
At the songs of Lemminkainen, 180
At his art of magic-making!

185 Said the wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"I would sing a master lyric
That would echo through the island
If I were beneath a roof
At the head of a long deal table.
Since I have no house to sing in
And no proper floor is lent me,
In the woods I'll leave my words, 190
Dump my verses in the bushes."

195 Say the virgins of the island,
Maidens of the headland answer:
"There are houses you can come to,
Large estates for you to live on,
Take your songs in from the weather
And your magic words to shelter."

201 No sooner was he in the house
Than he sang full pintpots to him
At the end of the long table, 200
Tankards full of foaming ale,
Mugs of mead and brimming bowls,
Many dishes heaped up high.
There the table was all set:
Mugs of mead and beer in bumpers,
Pork and butter all laid out
As a feast for Lemminkainen,
Set to please the man far-minded.

215 Then he took on airs of grandeur,
Would not even taste the banquet 210
Unless his knife was silver-hilted
Or a golden sheath-knife ready.

219 So he got one silver-hilted,
Conjured up a golden sheath-knife,
And he feasted to the full,
Drank the good beer to his pleasure.

223 Then he strolled about the hamlets
To enjoy the island virgins,
Beauty of the long-haired maidens.
Wheresoever he turned his head, 220
There his mouth was sweetly kissed,
And wherever he reached his hand out,
There it would be gently squeezed.

231 Night by night he went a-playing,
Having fun in secret darkness.
On the island were ten hamlets,
In each hamlet were ten houses,
In each house at least ten daughters,
Nor was there a single daughter,
Not a single mother's child 230
By whose side he did not lie,
In whose arms he did not nestle.

241 So he knew a thousand brides,
Slept beside a hundred widows.
There were scarcely two in ten,
Hardly three in one whole hundred
Maidens whom he did not have,
Widows whom he did not lie with.

247 Thus the wayward Lemminkainen
Passed the time so pleasantly 240
For the whole of three sweet summers
In big island villages.
He delighted the island girls
And he solaced all the widows,
But there was one left unsolaced,
One unfortunate old maiden
Living at the very cape end
In the tenth, the farthest hamlet.

257 It was in his mind already
To return to his own country 250
When the spinster came to see him,
And she spoke to him forthrightly:
"You poor fellow, beautiful man!
If you don't remember me,
I'll bewitch you on your leaving,
Run your boat upon a rock."

265 Since he had no crowing cock,
Had no chanticleer to wake him,
He was late for his appointment
To delight the aged virgin, 260
Play with her the game of laughter.

269 On the appointed day it happened:
In the evening he decided
To get up before the moon set,
Long before the cock crow sounded.

273 So he got up in good time,
Long before the time appointed.
Without wandering off on by-paths
He went on to his appointment
To delight the aged virgin, 270
Play with her the game of laughter.

279 As he walked alone that night,
Passing through the other hamlets
To the last one at the cape end,
To the tenth, the farthest hamlet,
He saw not a single homestead
Where was not a trio of cabins,
Nor did he see a single cabin
Where was not a trio of men,
Nor did he see a single man 280
Who was not putting sword to whetstone
Or grinding sharp his battle-ax
For the head of Lemminkainen.

291 Then he thought in desperation:
"Woe is me, the day is dawning
And the blessed sun is rising,
Shining on this miserable lad,
Down upon his wretched neck.
May the devil now protect me,
Single man who stands alone, 290
Shield me underneath his cloak,
Hide me well beneath his mantle,
Throw his cape of darkness on me
When a hundred men come at me,
Thousands come in force against me!"

303 There he left the girls unpetted,
Left them with no more embraces
As he hurried to the mooring
Where his luckless boat was waiting-
But his boat was burned to ashes,5 300
Nothing left but fine dry ashes.

309 Now he felt his ruin coming,
Day of doom descending on him.
He began again to build,
To construct another vessel.

313 Wood was lacking for the shipwright,
Timber for another vessel, "
But he got a bit of wood,
Found a few chips for his purpose,
Just five fragments of a distaff 310
And six splinters of a spindle.

319 And from these he built a vessel,
Carved himself another craft;
Built the vessel by sheer magic,
Made it with his wizard knowledge:
One stroke, and one side was ready,
Two strokes, and two sides were ready,
Three strokes, and the boat was finished.

327 Then he launched it on the water,
Let it down upon the billows. 320
To the boat he said: "Go now,
Be a bubble on the water,
Water lily on the billows.
Eagle, let me have three feathers;
Eagle three, the raven two
To protect the little boat,
Bulwark for the feeble vessel."

337 Then he stepped into his boat
Where he sat down in the stern,
Head bowed down in deep dejection, 330
With his pointed hat all crooked,
Sad to lose his nightly pleasure,
The delight of daily living
As the joy of island virgins,
Playing with the loose-haired maidens.

345 Said the wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"Comes a day when a lad must go,
Take his leave of happy bowers,
Leave the pleasures of the virgins, 340
Leave off dancing with the lovelies;
And indeed upon my going,
When I leave them all behind me,
Virgins will not be rejoicing,
Loose-haired girls will not be joking
In these houses, cheerless homesteads."

357 Now the island girls were weeping,
Headland maidens sadly sighing:
"Why now leave us, Lemminkainen,
Why forsake us, best of lovers; 350
Was it for our chastity
Or the scarcity of women?"

363 Said the wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"Hardly for your chastity
Nor the scarcity of women.
I could have a hundred women,
A thousand maids to kiss and cuddle.
This is why your Lemminkainen,
Why your best of lovers is leaving: 360
I am homesick for my country,
Longing for my own home acres,
For the strawberries in my meadows,
My own raspberries on the hill,
For the girls of my own Cape Far,
For those darling chicks at home."

377 So he took his leave of them,
Sailed his vessel out to sea.
Came a sudden wind that blew him,
Came a heaving wave that drove him 370
Out upon the blue sea surface,
Out upon the open ocean.
On the shore he left the maidens,
On a waterstone the lovelies-
Left the island maidens weeping,
Left the headland girls lamenting.

387 There they wept and there lamented
While the masthead was in sight,
Iron-oarlocked boat still looming.
They're not weeping for the masthead, 380
Longing for the iron-oarlocks,
But the man beneath the masthead,
Master of the oarlock rope.

395 Lemminki himself was crying,
Grieving deeply every moment
That the island was in view
With its ridgeline looming dimly.
He's not weeping for the island
Nor regretting any ridges.
He is weeping for the maidens, 390
For those wild geese on the ridges.

403 So the wayward Lemminkainen
Sailed across the deep blue sea,
Sailed a day and sailed a second.
On the third a storm arose
As the high horizon thundered
And a wind blew from northwestward
And a strong wind from northeastward-
Took a bulwark, took a second,
Turned the whole ship upside down. 400

413 Then the wayward Lemminkainen,
Drifting boatless on the sea,
Started rowing with his fingers,
Treading water with his feet.

417 For a night and day he swam,
Covered quite a stretch of ocean;
Saw a dark spot in the distance
Like a cloudlet in the northwest-
But it turned out to be land,
And indeed it was a headland. 410

423 On the cape he found a dwelling
With the mistress busy baking
And the daughters busy kneading.
There he entered and entreated:
"O my good and gracious hostess!
If you only knew my hunger,
Understood my bad condition,
You would hurry to the storehouse,
Swift as blizzard to the beerhouse;
You would fetch a pot of ale 420
And a little slice of bacon;
Put it in a pan to fry it
With a pat of butter on it
That a weary man may eat
And a swimmer quench his thirst.
I've been swimming days and nights
At the mercy of the seawaves,
With the wind my only shelter."

441 Then that good and gracious hostess
Went to the storehouse on the hill, 430
Carves some butter in the storehouse
And a little slice of bacon;
Puts it in a pan and fries it
For a hungry man to eat,
Sets a pot of ale before him
For the swimmer to quench his thirst.
Then a new-built boat she gave him,
A completely furnished sailer
For the man to sail away in,
And to reach his own home acres. 440

453 Lemminkainen, coming home,
Reaching his home territory,
Recognized the fields and shores,
Sounds and islands, and the jetties,
All his former old home places;
Recognized the piny hillsides,
All the fir-clad hillocks there-
But he did not know the home-place,
Where the house walls stood before,
For already on the site there 450
New-grown chokecherry trees were rustling,
Pine grove on the old home hill,
Junipers rooted on the well path.

467 Said the wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"There's the grove where I once played,
There the rocks where I once clambered,
There the meadows where I frolicked,
Slopes on which I rolled and tumbled.
What destroyed my happy homestead, 460
Who demolished all the buildings?
Now it's all burned down to ashes
And the ashes blown away."

477 Lemminkainen broke out weeping,
Wept a day and wept a second,
Wept not for the house destroyed
Nor the storehouse now demolished,
But the dear one of the household,
Kindly keeper of the storehouse.

483 Sees a bird come flying over, 470
Eagle hovering to and fro,
And inquires of the eagle:
"Tell me, eagle, would you know
Where my lovely mother is,
Where the lovely one who bore me,
She who bore and suckled me?"

491 But the bird remembers nothing,
And the dull bird has no sense.
It knows only that she's dead,
That she's gone the raven knows: 480
She was cut down by a sword,
Battered down by battle-axes.

497 Said the wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"O my lovely mother, my bearer,
You who bore and suckled me!
Now already dead and gone,
And your flesh is turned to dust,
Fir trees growing at your head,
Junipers rising at your heels, 490
Willows sprouting from. your fingers.

507 Now the vengeance that I've fought for
Turns to vengeance on myself:
I have measured sword to sword,
And I bore the best of weapons
To the yards of Pohjola,
In the fields of that dark village
To the ruin of my people,
To the loss of her who bore me."

515 Looking, turning here and there, 500
He comes upon the faintest footprints,
Trodden grasses, broken heather.
Then he goes to search the trail,
To discover where it leads,
And it guides him to the forest,
And he finds the right direction.

523 Walking on a verst or two,
Covering quite a stretch of country,
He was in the deepest forest,
In a corner of the backwoods. 5io
There he sees a secret sauna,
A little hidden sauna hut
Quite concealed between two cliffs
In the angle of three fir trees.
There he found his loving mother,
Found his most beloved parent.

533 Lemminkainen was delighted,
And his joy was truly boundless
As he shouted: "0 my mother,
My dear mother, my life-giver! 520
You are still alive, my dear one,
Still alive, awake, my mother,
When I thought that you had died,
Altogether vanished from me,
Fallen under sword or spear-
Wept until my eyes were darkened
And my handsome face was haggard."

547 Said the mother of Lemminkainen:
"I am still alive, my boy,
Though I had to flee our home, 530
And to go off into hiding
In the deepest-wilderness,
In this comer of the backwoods.
Pohjola fought its war'against you;
Hordes of Pohjalanders came
To fight against your wretched self,
You the man of hard misfortune;
Burned the buildings down to ashes
And demolished the whole homestead."

559 Said the wayward Lemminkainen: 540
"O my mother, my life-giver,
Do not worry any more
Over this or over that:
Buildings burned can be rebuilt,
Better ones can be constructed.
We can fight the Pohjolanders
And destroy the devil's people."

567 Said his mother tenderly:
"Well, my boy, my son far-minded,
You were gone a long, long time, 550
Dwelling in those foreign lands,
Very long in far-off places,
Always at the doors of strangers,
Living on an unknown island,
On a nameless promontory."

575 Said the wayward Lemminkainen,
Spoke the handsome man far-minded:
"But to live there was delightful,
Just to roam about was joyful-
All the trees were shining redly, 560
Red the trees and green the land,
With the evergreens swathed in silver
And the heather blossoms golden.
There the hills all flowed with mead
And the cliffs were full of hens' eggs."
Honey leaked from dried-out fir trees,
Sweet milk flowed from hollow pine trees,
And fence corners oozed with butter
As the stakes all spouted ale.

589 "It was very good to live there, 570
Pleasant to while away the time.
Then it changed and things went badly;
I became an outlaw there.
They were worried for their maidens-
That I would take advantage of them-
And suspected their loose women,
Those hussies and those hoydens,
Those pudgy waddlers of the devil;
Thought that I was misbehaving,
Overdoing the nightly courtings. 580
I, of course, hid from the maidens,
Shunned every mother's child of them-
As a wolf would hide from piglets,
Hawks avoid the village hens."


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