The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 39


Said Vainamoinen to the craftsman:
He himself proposed it:
"Oho, good smith Ilmarinen!
Let us go to Pohjola
To get that precious Sampo there,
To behold the ciphered cover."

7 Said the craftsman Ilmarinen:
"But we cannot seize the Sampo
And behold its ciphered cover
From the dark of Pohjola, 10
From the foggy land of sedges.
There the Sampo has been taken
With its many-colored cover
Into Pohjola's stone mountain,
Hidden in a hill of copper
And secured behind nine locks;
Rooted there nine fathoms deep,
One root down in mother earth,
Second by a water run,
Third one on the homestead ground." 20

23 But old Vainamoinen urges:
"Come now, brother Ilmarinen!
Let's start out for Pohjola,
There the Sampo can be captured.
Let us build a mighty warship;
On it we will take the Sampo
With its many-colored cover
Out of Pohjola's stone mountain,
From inside the hill of copper,
From behind the nine-lock cavern." 30

33 But the craftsman here objected:
"Travel overland is safer.
Let the devil go to sea,
Death go on the open ocean
Where the wind will rock us roughly
And a storm would overturn us,
Leave us rowing with our fingers,
Steering with our palms for rudders."

41 "Yes," said staunch old Vainamoinen,
"Travel overland is safer, 40
Safe but harder and more toilsome,
Longer too and roundabout.
It's a joy to sail the sea
Where the boat goes rocking, rocking,
And the lucid water sparkles
There upon the wide sea surface
While the boat is rocked by breezes,
Borne along by the billows,
Cradled forward by the west wind,
Carried onward by the south wind. 50
But then, if you do not like it,
Do not wish to go to sea,
We can travel overland,
Following the shore road there.

57 "So now, hammer me a sword,
Forge a new and fiery blade
So that I can whip those mongrels,
Frighten off the Pohjolanders
When we battle for the Sampo
In that cold and wintry village 60
In the dark of Pohjola,
In the foggy land of sedges."

65 Ilmarinen, smith eternal,
Heaves the iron in the fire,
Steely ingots on the coals,
Then a whole handful of gold
And a whole fistful of silver;
Set the slaves to work the bellows
And the hirelings pumping on.

73 All the slaves and all the hirelings 70
Pumped and worked the bellows well.
Iron melted into soup,
Steel as malleable as dough;
Silver flowed like gleaming water
And the gold like splashing billows.

79 Ilmarinen, smith eternal,
Looking down into his forge
Where it blazed beside the bellows,
There beheld a sword blade forming
And a hilt of gold upshaping. 80

85 Then he took them from the fire
And transferred the precious makings
From the furnace to the anvil
For the hammering and the sledging.
He hammered out the blade at will,
The sword, the very best of blades,
Which he then embossed with gold
And embellished then with silver.

93 Vainamoinen came to see it
And received the fiery blade, 90
Received it with his good right hand.
Then he looks it over keenly,
Turns it over as he wonders:
"Will the weapon match the man,
Will the blade befit the bearer?"

101 Yes, the sword will match the man,
And the blade befit the bearer.
At the point a moon was gleaming,
On the flat a sun was shining,
And the hilt with stars was studded; 100
On the blade a horse was neighing,
On the knob a tomcat mewing,
While a hound bayed on the scabbard.

109 Vainamoinen swung the sword
As if to split an iron mountain,
And he said: "Now with this weapon
I could even split a mountain
Or could crack a crag in two."

115 Said smith Ilmarinen: "With what
Shall I, poor man, protect myself, 110
Gird myself, indeed prepare
For the perils of land and sea?
Shall I fit my shins with shin-guards,
Shall I wear an iron shirt,
Gird myself in belts of steel
Since an armored man is safer,
Safer in a shirt of iron,
Stronger in a belt of steel?"

127 When the time to start arrives,
The time that they agreed upon, 120
They set out to find a horse,
Vainamoinen in the lead,
Craftsman Ilmarinen second,
Set out to catch the flaxen mane,
Yearling's bridle on the belt,
Young coifs harness on the shoulder.
They go searching through the trees,
Watching for the horse's head,
Searching keenly, carefully
Through the blue haze of the forest; 130
Come upon him in a spinney,
Flaxen-maned one in a fir grove.
Staunch old Vainamoinen first,
Craftsman Ilmarinen second
Harnessed him with bit and bridle,
In the yearling's mouth a bit,
On his head a golden bridle.
To the shore they drive together
Where they hear the sound of wailing,
Complaining from the landing stage. 140

149 Vainamoinen then surmised:
"There a maiden must be crying
Or some little chicken wailing.
Shall we go and take a look
And examine it more closely?"

155 He stepped nearer for a look,
To examine what it was.
It was not a maiden crying
Nor a little chicken wailing,
But it was a vessel crying, 150
Just a little boat complaining.

161 Stepping,to the boat he asked:
"Wooden boat, why are you crying,
Why an oarlock boat complaining;
Do you weep because you're wooden
Or concerned about your tholepins?"

167 So the wooden boat replies
And the oarlock vessel answers:
"Even from the tarry rollers
Every vessel yearns for water, 160
As even from a high-born home
Every maid desires a man.
This is why I'm crying here,
Sorry vessel that I am,
This is why I am complaining:
To be let down on the water,
To be launched upon the waves.

177 "As they built me, they assured me,
Sang when I was being fashioned
That it was a battle ship, 170
A raider that was being fashioned,
That I'd have my fill of plunder
With my hold all crammed with treasure,
But I've never gone to battle,
Never on a raid for plunder.

185 "Other vessels, even bad ones,
Are always going off to war,
Always shuttling off to battle;
Three times every summer season
Bringing back a load of booty 180
With their holds all full of treasure.
Here I am, a well-built vessel,
Hundred planker in construction,
Left to rot among my wood chips,
Lying here where I was built.
Here the worst of worms on earth
Live and gnaw beneath my ribs,
And the nastiest birds of air
Make their nests within my rigging.
Even frogs from out the forest 190
Play at leapfrog on my prow.
Doubly better would it be,
Twice as good, three times better
To stand as a pine tree on a hill,
Evergreen upon the heather,
Squirrel running on my branches,
Puppy frolicking beneath me."

207 Vainamoinen then replied:
"Do not cry now, wooden boat,
Stop lamenting, oarlock vessel. 200
Soon enough you'll go to war,
Shuttling back and forth to battle.

213 "You, the product of the Maker,
Creation of the great Creator,
Will be launched upon the water
And let down upon the billows
Without the touch of human hand,
Not a single hand laid on you,
Without the guidance of a shoulder
And no arm directing you." 210

221 Then the wooden boat replies
And the oarlock vessel answers:
"No one of my numerous kindred,
Surely not my brother vessels
Will be launched upon the water
Or let down among the billows
Without the help of human hand
Or the guiding of an arm."

229 And old Vainamoinen answered:
"If I launch you on the water, 220
Will you run on without rowing,
Unassisted by the oars
And unguided by a rudder,
With no wind to fill the sail?"

235 Then the wooden boat replies
And the oarlock, vessel answers:
"No one of my numerous clan,
No one else of my own kindred
Runs on without fingers rowing,
Unassisted by the oars 230
And unguided by a rudder,
With no wind to fill the sail."

243 Then inquired Vainamoinen:
"Will you run along by rowing,
Pushed on by the power of oars,
Guided by a rudder oar
With a wind to fill the sail?"

249 Then the wooden boat replied
And the oarlock vessel answered:
"Surely all my kindred vessels, 240
All the boats that are my brothers
Run along rowed by fingers,
Pushed on by the aid of oars,
Guided by a rudder oar
With the wind to fill the sail."

257 Hearing this, old Vainamoinen
Left the horse upon the sand.
Hitched the halter to a tree,
Threw the reins across a branch;
Pushed the boat into the water, 250
Sang it out upon the billows.
Then he asked the wooden vessel:
"O you vessel set with oarlocks,
O you vessel ribbed so stoutly!
Can you be as good a carrier
As you're beautiful to look at?"

269 Then the wooden boat replies
And the oarlock vessel answers:
"I can be as good a carrier,
And my deck is very roomy, 260
Room enough for a hundred rowers
Plus a thousand passengers."

275 Vainamoinen chants on softly.
Conjured one side of the vessel
Full of lads with sleek brushed hair,
Iron-fisted, leather-booted;4
Conjured on the other side
Troupes of tinsel-headed maidens,
Tinny trinkets in their hair,
Tinsel-headed, copper-belted, 270
Graceful girls with gold-ringed fingers.

285 Vainamoinen went on singing;
Sang the benches full of people
Of the older generation,
Idle elders, long time sitters
Where a little room is left them
By the younger generation.

293 He himself sits at the stern,
Settles in the birchwood stern
As he steers his boat to sea 280
With these words: "Go on, vessel,
Sail across this treeless waste,
Speeding over sparkling waters
Like a bubble on the ocean,
Like a lily on the waves."

299 Then he set the youths to rowing
With the maidens sitting idly.
As they rowed, the oars were bending-
But the boat did not move on.

303 So he set the girls to rowing 290
With the young men sitting idly.
As they rowed, their hands were straining-
But the boat did not move on.

307 Then he set the elders rowing
With the young ones sitting idly.
As they rowed, their heads were trembling-
But the boat did not move on.

3ll Then the smith himself took over,
And the vessel did move on;
Blithely ran the wooden boat, 300
Sped the boat, the journey quickened.
Splash of oars was. heard afar,
Far the creaking of the oarlocks.

317 Now the boat went rippling onward:
Rowers' benches rocked in rhythm,
Planking swaying with the motion,
And the rowan oars were rattling,
Handles whirring like a partridge,
Oar blades like a black cock cooing;
Like a swan the bow was whooping, 310
And the stern croaked like a raven,
While the oarlocks hissed like geese.

325 Vainamoinen ripples onward,
Seated in the red boat's stern,
Steering with a long stout oar.

329 On their course a cape appears,
A wretched village looms ahead.
This is Lemminkainen's headland,
Cape of Kauko the far-minded.
In a cove there he was weeping, 320
Grieving for his poverty,
Fishless, breadless, he was weeping
At the smallness of his larder,
At the pittance of his portion.

337 He was adzing out ship timbers,
Keelson of a brand new vessel
At the tip of Cape Starvation,
On the edge of Famine Village.

341 He was very keen of ear,
But his eye was even sharper. 330
He looked northwest, he looked southward,
Saw a rainbow in the distance
Or a far off cloudlet coming.

347 But there was no rainbow there,
Not a rainbow nor a cloudlet;
It was just a vessel coming,
Sailing on the clear sea surface,
Out upon the open ocean,
At the stern a worthy steersman,
At the oars a handsome rower. 340

355 Said the wayward Lemminkainen:
"I don't recognize that boat,
Cannot place that splendid vessel
Which comes rowing out of Finland,
From the east with stroke of oars,
With the rudder oar set northwestward.

361 Now the ruddy fellow hailed it,
Shouted, hooted and hallooed
From his cape across the water.
Thus the ruddy fellow shouted: 350
"Whose boat is that upon the water,
Whose the ship upon the billows?"

367 From the boat the men replied
And the women also answered:
"Who are you, some country bumpkin,
Ignorant backwoods knock-about
That you do not know this vessel,
Know the ship of Vainola
Nor the steersman in the stern
Nor the rower at the oars?" 360

375 Said the wayward Lemminkainen:
"Now I recognize the steersman
And the oarsman who is rowing:
Vainamoinen is the steersman,
Ilmarinen is the oarsman.
Where, men, are you travelling to
To what place now are you heading?"

383 "Northward," answered Vainamoinen,
"That is where we're traveling to,
Toward the fiercely foaming breakers, 370
Through the white-capped choppy billows
To obtain the Sampo there,
To behold the ciphered cover
In dark Pohjola's stone mountain,
Hidden in the hill of copper."

390 Said the wayward Lemminkainen:
"Oho, you old Vainamoinen,
Take me with you as third partner
If you're going to steal the Sampo,
Carry off the ciphered cover. 380
I can still pass for a man
When the need comes for a fighter;
I can still command my hands,
And depend upon my shoulders."

401 Vainamoinen took him on,
Took the rascal on his vessel.
Lemminkainen comes on quickly,
Hurrying to get aboard,
And he brings some planking with him
To the ship of Vainamoinen, 390

409 "But," objects old Vainamoinen,
"I have planking on my ship,
There is freeboard quite sufficient,
And I need no greater cargo.
Why bring on this planking then,
Adding lumber to its freight?"

415 Said the wayward Lemminkainen:
"Forethought does not sink a vessel
Nor a prop upset a haystack.
Often on the northern ocean 400
Winds require a higher planking,
Headwinds call for added freeboard."

421 To this Vainamoinen answered:
"That is why this battle galley
Is iron-clad and prowed with steel -
That no wind can change its course
And no storm blast overturn it."


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