The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 31


Mother hen, she raised her fledglings,
A big brood of swans she nurtured;
Set the fledglings in a hedgerow,
Took the young swans to the river.
They were picked up by an eagle,
They were scattered by a hawk,
And the flying bird dispersed them:
One he carried to Karelia,
Dropped a second one in Russia,
And the third one left at home. 10

11 There the one borne off to Russia
Grew up to become a merchant,
And the one dropped in Karelia
Grew up there as Kalervo,
While the third son, Untamoinen,
Left at home with his parents,
Proved the torment of his father
And the sorrow of his mother.

19 Untamoinen sank his fish nets
Into Kalervo's fish-waters. 20
Seeing the nets all filled with fish,
Kalervo just simply took them,
In his creel he stowed his own.
Then quick-tempered Untamoinen
Raged and ranted in his anger,
Fingers fisting for a fracas,
Palms just itching for a fight.
Started fighting over perch fry,
Quarreled even over fish guts.

29 Back and forth they battled vainly, so
Neither winning, neither losing;
If one got a blow in roundly,
Then the other struck back soundly.

33 Two or three days after this one
There arose another quarrel:
Kalervoinen sowed his oat field
Back of Untamoinen's homestead.

37 Untamoinen's greedy ewe
Ate up Kalervoinen's planting.
Kalervoinen loosed hi(r) dog, 40
And it tore the ewe up badly.

41 Untameinea. raged and threatened,
Direly threatened his own Brother;
Swore to kill off affl MBktedred-
Strike the grown-tijpB, 9Mke the children,
And destroy iHftle^etettentfeely-
And to burn! tftefchomes to ashes.

47 Mustered men with belted swords,
Men withweaporis in their hands,
Boys with stabbers in their belts, 50
Women with billhooks on their shoulders.
Thus he went to wage big war,
War against his own, own brother.

53 Kalervoinen's daughter-in-law,
Lovely woman at the window,
Asks him: "Is that thick smoke there,
Or is that a dark cloud forming
At the far edge of those meadows
At the new lane's outer end?"

61 Neither smoke nor cloud was forming: 60
It was Untamoinen's army
Marching on them battle-ready.

65 On they came to destroy them.
From their belts their swords they loosened;
Killed the troops of Kalervo,
Massacred his whole great clan;
Burned his homestead down to ashes,
Razed his farmstead to the ground.

71 Left alive of that great clan
Was but one lone pregnant housemaid 70
Whom they took with them as servant
For the sweeping of the floors,
For the cleaning of their cabins.

77 Soon a, child was born, a man-child,
To this lonely, luckless mother.
By what name did they call him?
His mother called him Kullervo.
Untamoinen, Battle-Hero.1

83 Then the orphan boy they swaddled,
And they laid him in a cradle, so
In a cradle to be rocked,
Swinging cradle to be swung.

87 So they swung him and they rocked him,
Rocked him till his hair was flying;
Rocked him one day and a second,
But already on the third day
The young bratling started kicking,
Kicking, thrashing, flailing round him-
Snapped his bellyband asunder,
Tore the swaddling all to pieces; 90
Got up from beneath the blankets
And he smashed the linden cradle,
Ripped his diapers into ribbons.

97 They thought that he would turn out well
And grow up quite capable.
People on the farmstead waited
For him to grow up pleasant, manly,
And a right good, worthy fellow,
As a worker worth a hundred,
As a servant worth a thousand. 100

105 He grew up for two months, three months,
On the third the knee-high bratling
Spoke out boldly in this manner:
"I am waiting till I'm bigger,
Till I'm strong enough to do it:
I'll avenge my father's heatings,
And repay my mother's weepings."

113 Untamoinen, hearing, muttered:
"Kalervo, reborn in this one,
May in turn destroy my people." 110

ll7 Men were pondering, women wondering
What they could do with this boy,
How to bring about his death.

121 So they put him in a keg,
Shoved him down into a barrel;
Then they took it to the water,
Lowered it down upon a billow.

125 After waiting two nights, three nights,
They went down to see what happened -
Had the water drowned the bratling, 120
Was he dead inside the keg?

129 No, he had not, drowned at all,
Had not died inside the barrel.
He was now outside the barrel
On the surface of the water,
Fishing with a rod of copper
And a line of silken cordage;
Angling for a sea fish calmly,
Gently rocking on the wavelets,
Fathoming the depth of water. 130
As the ancient proverb has it:
If there are two ladlefuls,
That is quite a depth of sea;
If one measures accurately,
There would be part of a third one.

141 Once more Untamoinen puzzled:
"Where to put this bratling boy,
Find for him a deadly finish,
How to bring about his death?"

145 Then he bade his workfolk gather 140
Birches, hardwood, pitchy pines,
Trees with countless cones and needles,
Trees with oozing pitch aplenty
For the burning of the boy,
For the death of Kullervoinen.

151 So they gathered in one pile
Birches, hardwood, pitchy pines,
Trees with countless cones and needles,
Trees with oozing pitch aplenty,
Hundred stacks of holy-rowan, 150
Thousand sledges full of birch bark.

157 Then they set it all on fire,
The whole pyre of wood ablaze,
And they flung the boy upon it
In the center of the fire.

l6l Burned the first day, burned a second,
Still upon the third day burning;
When they went to see what happened,
The boy was knee-deep in the ashes,
To the elbows in the embers 160
With a coal rake in his hand,
Stirring up the fire anon,
Raking the coals up off and on.
Not a single hair was singed,
Not a curl was even crinkled.

171 Untamo got really angry:
"Where now can I send this bratling,
Send him to his deadly finish
And get rid of him forever?"
So they hanged him from an oak branch, 170
Strung him up beneath an oak tree.

177 After three nights and three days
Untamoinen once more wondered:
"Now it's time to see what's happened,
If the bratling's dead already
Hanging on the gallows tree."

183 Messengers he sent before him
Came back with this wondrous story:
"Kullervo's alive and healthy,
On no gallows was he strangled, 180
There he sat upon the gallows
With a stylus in his hand,
Carving pictures on the gallows.
The whole tree is full of pictures:
Cuts of men and cuts of sword blades,
Even lances leaning by them."

193 What could Untamoinen do,
Do with that unruly urchin?
Plan whatever ruin for him,
Or invent whatever doom, 190
He will slip from death's own jaws,
And in no way will he die.

199 But at last he wearied of it,
Of inventing death traps for him
Or of rearing Kullervoinen
As a serf to take his orders,
This young slave boy as his own.

203 So he reasoned with him slyly:
"If you act like other people
And behave with some decorum, 200
In my household I could keep you,
Doing the labor of a slave.
Even wages I will pay you
According as you may deserve it:
Round your waist a handsome girdle-
Or a crack across the ear."

213 So when Kullervo was bigger,
Grown at least a handspan taller,
He was given work befitting
To accustom him to labor: 210
To rock a baby in a cradle,
Rock a child with tiny fingers:
"You must care for baby kindly;
When you feed him, you eat with him.
Rinse his diapers in the river,
Keep his little garments cleanly."

223 For a day or two he nursed it-
Broke its hand and gouged an eye out;2
On the third day let it die,
Killed it with some dread disease; 220
Threw the diapers in the river
And the cradle on the fire.

229 Untamoinen now considered:
"Useless! He can't mind our babies,
Cradle-rock our little children,
Babies with such tiny fingers.
To what work now shall I send him;
Shall I send him to the forest
To cut out a clearing for me?"
So he sent him to the forest 230
To cut out a clearing for him.

237 Kullervo, son of Kalervo,
Put his feelings into words:
"Once I have that ax in hand
Then even I will be a man
Better looking than before,
Maybe kinder than before.
I'll be worth as much as five men,
Equal half a dozen others."

245 Then he went into the smithy 240
Said, "0 smith, my little brother,
Hammer out an ax blade for me,
Ax that's suited to the man,
Bit that's worthy of the worker;
I am off to cut a clearing
Even to the last'slim birch tree."

253 So the smith forged what was needed,
Hammered out an ax blade for him,
Ax that's worthy of a man,
Blade-bit worthy of a worker! 250

257 Then the son of Kalervo
Proudly sharpened his new ax blade;
All day long he honed and sharpened
And by twilight made a handle.

261 To do the job of clearing there
He went to the high backwoods
To the choicest stand of timber,
Timber towering tall and awesome.

265 With his ax he struck a tree,
With his even blade he felled it- 260
With one blow the good ones toppled
And the bad ones with a half stroke.

269 Cut down five trees in a fury,
Eight of them in all, and said:
"Let the devil do the labor,
Let the demon cut the beams!"

275 Struck a stumphead with his ax,
Then he hooted and hallooed,
Whistled shrilly and he shouted:
"Let the clearing be destroyed 270
And the last slim birch be broken
As far as my voice can be heard,
Far as where my whistle echoes.

283 "Let no seedling here arise
Nor a grass blade ever green it,
Never in the course of time
While the golden moonlight glimmers
On the clearing cut by Kullervo,
In that very good man's forest.

289 "If a fallen seed should sprout up, 280
If a young shoot show above ground,
Let it shrivel without shadow;3
If a stalk should struggle upward
May there be no head upon it,
Bearing nothing for the gleaner."

295 Then the artful Untamoinen
Came to see what Kullervo,
Son of Kalervo, had done,
How his war-slave cut the clearing.
Saw the clearing was not cleared 290
As a young man should have cleared it.

301 Untamoinen there reflects:
"He's not fitted for such labor.
Here he's spoiled the strongest planking
And destroyed the soundest timber.
What to do and where to send him?
Maybe he could build a fence."
So to make a fence he sent him.

309 Kullervo puts up a fence.
For the fence rails took whole pine trees 300
And whole fir trees for the fenceposts;
Tied the branches close together,
Withing them with tallest rowans,
Building up a wall unbroken,
Made it without gap or gateway.
And he spoke these words: "Whoever
Cannot fly up as a bird,
Soar up on a pair of wings,
Cannot get across the fence
Of Kullervo Kalervoson." 310

325 Untamoinen knew his way,
And he came to view the fence
Built by the son pf Kalervo,
Thus constmcted by the war-slave.

329 He saw a fence without an opening,
Without a hole or crevice in it,
Built up from the ground below,
Towering to the clouds above.

333 Once more Untamoinen said:
"He's not suited,for this labor. 320
What's a fence without an opening,
Solid-built without a gateway,
Reaching to the clouds above us,
Rising to the roofing heavens?
You can't get through it either way,
Neither over it nor under,
Not an opening to pass through.
What to do, where to send him?
Ah! the rye is ripe for threshing."
So he sent him to the threshing. 330

345 Now the son of Kalervo
Got to threshing out the rye,
And he flailed the rye until
There was nothing left but husks -
And pounded all the straw to pulp.
Then the master went to see,
Went himself there to inspect
How the son of Kalervo,
Kullervo, had done the threshing.
The rye was beaten into husks 340
And to pulp the straw was pounded.

355 Untamoinen lost his temper:
"As a worker he's just hopeless;
Every kind of work I give him,
He, the stupid, simply ruins.
Shall I send him off to Russia
Or then sell him in Karelia;
Sell him to smith Ilmarinen,
Let him thresh the iron there?"

363 So he took this Kullervo, 350
Took the son of Kalervo
And sold him to smith Ilmarinen,
Cunning craftsman of the hammer,

367 How much did he get for him?
Oh, he got a lot for him:
Two old pots all beaten up,
Three half hooks and five old sickles,
And six broken down old grub hoes
For that worthless laborer,
For that slave of Untamoinen. 360


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