The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 3


Old reliable Vainamoinen
Lived his days in lyric leisure
In the glades of Vainola,
On the heaths of Kalevala,
Singing songs and learning wisdom,
Always singing, night or day,

7 There recalling and rehearsing
Memories of bygone ages,
The oldest lore of origins,
When and how all things began - 10
Songs that children cannot copy
Nor even wise men understand
In these dreadful days of evil,
In this last and fleeting age.

15 Quickly spreading north and south
Far and wide the rumor ran
Of Vainamoinen's magic singing,
Of the fellow's skill and talent
Till at Pohjola they heard it.

21 There indeed young Joukahainen, 20
He the lanky lad of Lapland,
Visiting round among his neighbors
Heard of wondrous charms recited,
And that magic songs were sung,
Better runos there recited
Out on Vainola's burned clearings,'
On the heaths of Kalevala,
Better than he knew himself,
Better than his father taught him.

31 And it irked the youngster sorely 30
For he envied Vainamoinen,
Jealous of him as a singer,
Singer better than himself.
When he got back to his mother,
To his much-respected parent,
He declared that he was leaving
And insisted he was going
To those huts of Vainola,
To contend with Vainamoinen.

41 But his father was against it, 40
Father, mother both forbade him
Going off to Vainola
To contend with Vainamoinen:
"Surely he will sing you down,
Sing you down and bewitch you,
Plunge you headfirst into snowdrifts,
Bring on you such numbing weather
That you cannot flex your fingers,
Cannot even move your feet."

51 But young Joukahainen answered: 50
"Father's counsel is a good one
And my mother's better still,
But my own is best of all.
If I want to match my rivals,
Draw up even with the champions,
I must sing the singer down
And enchant my own enchanter,
Sing the best of singers now
To the worst of singers then:
Shoes of stone upon his feet, 60
Wooden trousers on his loins,
Anchor rock upon his chest
And his hands in flinty gloves,
Rocky yoke upon his shoulders
And a boulder for his hat."

67 Heedless of his parents' warnings
He went out and took his gelding
From whose muzzle fire was snorting,
From whose shanks the sparks were flying.
Harnessed up the fleet-foot gelding, 70
Hitched him to his driving sleigh;
Mounts his seat and settles down.
Struck his racer5 with the whip,
Laid on with his beaded lash.
Then the horse began to run,
Racing forward at a canter.

79 On he hurried helter-skelter,
One day, two days, and a third;
On the third day he was there
In the glades of Vainola, so
On the heaths of Kalevala.
85 Vainamoinen, knower eternal,
That day also was out driving,
Overseeing his own acres
In the glades of Vainola,
On the heaths of Kalevala.

91 There young Joukahainen came,
Driving on the road against him;
Rushed on straight against him-crash!
All the harness tangled up, 90
Shaft with shaft and trace with trace,
Hames with hames and shaft-bows butting.

97 There they stuck, stopped astonished,
Stood a time deliberating
While the horses' sweat was dripping
And the shafts were wet with foam.

101 Then old Vainamoinen asked,
"Of what clan may such as you be
Rushing on so stupidly,
Recklessly against a man? 100
Broke my horse's bent-wood hames
And my shaft-bows bent of saplings;
Made a wreck of my poor sleigh,
Crashed it all up into kindling."

109 Then young Joukahainen answered:
"I'm the young man Joukahainen.
Now you tell me who you are,
Of what lineage are you,
From what mob, you miserable man?"

115 Old reliable Vainamoinen 110
Frankly told his name-then added:
"Since you are young Joukahainen,
Draw aside a little now;
You are younger far than I am."

121 But young Joukahainen answered:
"Younger? Thafs of small account;
Young or old, that doesn't matter.
He who has the greater knowledge,
He who has the mightier memory, "
Let him hold the road ahead, 120
Let the other move aside.
If you are old Vainamoinen,
You yourself the eternal singer,
Let us start our singing now,
Speaking words of magic clearly,
Testing one another till
One or other wins the game."

135 Vainamoinen then replied:
"Who am I to be a singer,
Who am I to be an artist? 130
All my life I've passed my days
In the solitary clearings
Close within these home-field borders
Listening to my cuckoo calling.
Setting that aside, tell me
In the hearing of my ears
What is it you know the best,
Understand it more than others?"

147 And young Joukahainen answered:
"Well, I know a thing or two! 140
These are things I know for sure
And I understand them clearly:
Smoke hole must be near the ceiling7
And the flame be near the hearth.
153 "Pleasantly the seal is living,
And the water-dog8 is sporting,
Feeding on the salmon round him
And the whitefish close beside him.

157 "There the whitefish have smooth fields,
Salmon have a level ceiling; 150
With the frost the pike goes spawning,
Drooly-mouth9 in bitter weather.
Then the stubborn perch, the humpback,
Swims among the depths in autumn,
Though it spawns in summer dryness,
Flopping round along the shore line.

165 "If you think that's not enough
There is something else I know
Which I hold of special value:
In the north they plow with reindeer, 160
In the south they use a mare,
And an elk in hinter-Lapland.
I know the trees on Pisa's Hill
And the pines on Devil's Tor -
Tall the trees on Pisa's Hill,
High the pines on Devil's Tor.

175 "Three mighty waterfalls there are,
Three lakes, wide-watered as the sea,
Three sublimest mountain peaks
Underneath the lid of heaven. 170
Hame has the Halla whirlpool,
Karelia, the Rapids of the Loon,
But there's none to beat the Vuoksi
Where the mighty Imatra leaps."

183 Vainamoinen broke in here:
"Childish notions, woman's tattle,
Not for bearded men and married!
Speak to me of origins,
Birth of things, of things unique."

189 Said Joukahainen in his turn: 180
"Whence the titmouse came I know,
Know the titmouse for a bird,
I know the adder for a serpent
And the roach a fish in water.
Iron is brittle, black soil acid,
Boiling water on you hurts,
To be burned by fire is painful.

199 "Water is the oldest lotion,
Foam of falls most ancient nostrum;
The Creator, wisest wizard, 190
Jumala the oldest healer.

203 "Water's born upon the mountain
And the fire out of heaven,
From the rust the seed of iron,
Copper from a rocky cliff.
207 "Tussocks are the oldest wetlands
And the first of trees the willow;
Foot of pine the first of houses"
And a flat rock first of cookers."

211 Then old Vainamoinen asked him: 200
"So, what more do you know -
This the end of all your chatter?"

215 To which Joukahainen answered:
"No, I still remember more!
I remember wondrous times
When I was plowing out the sea bed,
Hoeing out the hollow caverns,
Digging grottoes for the fishes
And the bottomless abysses;
Scooping out the lily ponds, 210
Moving mountains, making hills,
Building, fitting rock on rock.

225 "I was but the sixth of seven,
Of the seven heroes then
Present at the earth's creation
Spreading out the sky above,
Setting up the pillars of heaven,
Raising up the rainbow there,
Leading on the lights of heaven,
Guiding forth the sun and moon, 220
Lining up the Greater Bear,
Scattering stars across the sky."

235 Said old Vainamoinen mocking:
"You are simply lying now!
You were never seen there then
When the ocean beds were plowed,
And the hollow caverns hoed,
Grottoes for the fishes dug
And the bottomless abysses;
When the lily ponds were scooped, 230
Mountains moved, hills upraised,
And the rocks built together.

245 "Maybe you were never seen,
Maybe never seen or heard of,
Present at the earth's creation,
Spreading out the sky above;
Setting up the pillars of heaven,
Raising up the rainbow there;
Leading on the lights of heaven,
Guiding forth the sun and moon; 240
Lining up the Greater Bear,
Scattering stars across the sky."

255 This young Joukahainen answered:
"Since you seem to scorn my knowledge,
I will ask my sword to prove it.
Come on you, old Vainamoinen,
Come on you, you big-mouthed singer.
Let us measure sword to sword-
Draw your blade and on your guard!"

263 Said old Vainamoinen calmly: 250
"They don't frighten me at all,
Not your knowledge or your weapon,
Swords or spells, whims or notions.
But apart from all that nonsense,
I'm not going to measure swords,
Not with you, you pitiable creature."

271 Thereupon young Joukahainen
Curled his lip and tossed his head
As he tugged at his black whiskers:
"He who will not stand and fight 260
When he's challenged to a duel,
Him I'll sing into a pig,
Charm him to a snouted swine.
Fellows such as that! - I'll knock them
Here and there, like this, and this,
Throw the corpse upon a dunghill,
Stuff it in a cowshed corner."

283 This roused Vainamoinen's wrath.
Stirred to anger and to shame,
He himself began to sing, 270
Conjuring with words of power.
They are not the songs of children,
Songs of children, women's laughter;
They're the songs of a bearded man
Which not every child can copy,
Half the youths not imitate
Nor one-third the suitors either
In these dreadful days of evil,
In this last and fleeting age.

295 Then old Vainamoinen sang: 280
Shook the earth, the lakes splashed over,
And the copper mountains quivered;
Cliffs were cracking, boulders breaking,
On the shore the stones were splitting.

301 He enchanted Joukahainen:
Sprouted saplings from his shaft-bows,
Willow bush upon the hames,
Sallows at the end of traces.
Then he sang his gilded sleigh
To a dead pine in a pond, 290
And bewitched his beaded whip
To a reed upon the shore.
Then the white-blazed horse he charmed,
Charmed it to a spotted rock
On a bank beside the rapids.

311 Sang his golden-hilted sword
Into lightnings in the sky
And his decorated crossbow
To a rainbow over water.
Then he sang his feathered arrows 300
Into swiftly swooping hawks,
And his hook-jawed hound he turned
To a flat stone on the ground.

319 Sang his hat from off his head
For a cloudcap in the sky,
And the mittens off his hands
For water lilies on a pond.
Then the blue coat from his back
For a cloud patch in the sky,
And its woolen belt became 310
A belt of stars across the heavens.

327 Then he sang young Joukahainen,
Sang him loin-deep in a swamp,
Groin-deep in a grassy meadow,
To his armpits in a heath.

331 Now young Joukahainen realized
And the youngster understood
That his journey's end had come,
That his road had taken him
To the contest, to the singing 320
With the genuine Vainamoinen.

337 When he tried to free himself
Could not even lift his feet;
Tried one foot and tried the other
But his feet were shod with stone.

341 Then indeed young Joukahainen
Feels a terror coming on him
As his sad condition worsens,
And he cries out in his fright:
"Wise Vainamoinen, knower eternal, 330
Now reverse your incantations"
And call back your magic spells!
Let me out of this tight spot,
From this awful tangle free me!
I will pay the highest ransom,
Give the tightest guarantee."

353 Said old Vainamoinen mocking:
"So, what will you give me then,
If I do reverse my words
And recant my incantations, 340
Let you out of this tight spot,
Free you from this awful tangle?"

359 Said the frightened Joukahainen:
"I'm the owner of two bows,
Two of the handsomest of crossbows;
One is quick in striking, and the
Other accurate in aiming.
Take whichever one you want."

365 And old Vainamoinen answered:
"I don't want your crossbows, rascal, 350
Nor any of your bows, you wretch!
I myself have plenty of them,
All the walls are crowded with them,
With a bow to every wall peg.
They go to the woods themselves
And do the hunting without hunters."
So he sang young Joukahainen,
Sang him down, down still deeper.

375 Said the youngster Joukahainen:
"I'm the owner of two vessels, 360
Two of the handsomest of boats:
One is speedy in a race,
The other stout to carry cargo.
Take whichever one you want."

381 Said the venerable Vainamoinen:
"I don't want your vessels either,
Do not need your boats at all.
I myself have plenty of them,
With a boat on every slipway,
All the coves are crowded full. 370
Some hold steady in a gale,
Others sail against the headwind."
So he sang young Joukahainen,
Sang him down, down still deeper.

391 Said the youngster Joukahainen:
"I'm the owner of two stallions,
Two of the handsomest of horses:
One is swifter as a runner,
The other powerful for pulling.
Take whichever one you want." 380

397 Said the venerable Vainamoinen:
"I don't want your stallions either,
Covet any of your whitesocks.
I have horses too aplenty,
All the stables full of them,
With a horse to every manger,
Fat along their backbones like
Pools of fat upon a platter."
So he sang young Joukahainen,
Sang him down, down still deeper. 390

407 Said the youngster Joukahainen:
"O thou venerable Vainamoinen!
Do reverse your magic spells
And recant your incantations!
I've a helmet full of gold
And a felt hat full of silver
Which my father won in battle,
Which he brought home from the wars."

415 Said the venerable Vainamoinen:
"Neither do I want your silver 400
Nor, wretch, do I covet gold!
I myself have plenty of them,
All the storerooms stuffed with coins,
Every coffer crammed with them,
Moon-aged gold and sun-old silver."
So he sang young Joukahainen,
Sang him down, down still deeper.

425 Said the sinking Joukahainen,
"O thou venerable Vainamoinen!
Let me out of this tight spot, 410
From this awful tangle free me!
I will give you all my cornstacks,
Throw in all my sandy meadows
As a ransom for my safety,
To preserve my head from danger."

433 Said the venerable Vainamoinen:
"I don't want your cornstacks either.
What would I do with your sand banks?
I have fields enough already,
I have fields in all directions, 420
Cornstacks too in every clearing,
And my own fields are much better,
My own cornstacks, too, far finer."
So he sang young Joukahainen,
Sang him down, down still deeper.

443 Then indeed young Joukahainen
Was at last appalled to panic,
Sunken to his chin in quicksand,
To his beard in a bad place,
To his mouth in marsh and mosses, 430
To his teeth in fallen fir sprigs.

449 Cried the frantic Joukahainen:
"O Vainamoinen, wisest wizard,
O thou knower, seer eternal!
Now reverse your magic spells,
Leave me yet my miserable life;
Let me get up out of here,
Quicksands dragging down my feet
As the grit grates on my eyeballs.

457 "If you will reverse your magic 440
And recant your incantations
I will give my sister Aino,
Let you have my mother's darling
To keep your house and sweep your floors,
Scour your firkins, wash your clothes,
Weave you golden-threaded fabrics,
Bake for you the honey bread."

467 Hearing this, old Vainamoinen
Was delighted beyond measure:
Winning Joukahainen's sister 450
For his old age-sweet provision!

471 Down he sat upon the joystone,
On the singer's rock he settled;
Sang an hour, sang another,
Through the third hour singing also:
Sang his magic backward now
And reversed his incantations.

477 Joukahainen then was free:
Got his chin up from the quicksand
And his beard from the bad place, 460
His horse back from the rapids' rock
And his sleigh back from the pine brush,
With his whip back from the shore reeds.

483 Then he heaved himself aboard,
Slumped down limply in the sleigh;
Guilty-minded, heavy-hearted,
Started homeward to his mother,
To his well-respected parents.

489 Hurried homeward and arrived
In the most astounding manner- 470
Crashed his sleigh against the barn,
Broke his shafts across the stairway.

493 First his mother started scolding
But his father interrupted:
"Smashed your sleigh up for no reason
And you broke the shafts on purpose!
What a crazy way to drive,
Coming home here like a madman!"

499 Joukahainen burst out crying,
Head bowed down, guilty-minded, 480
Hat askew and lips awry,
Even with his nose down-drooping.

505 Said his mother, the good woman,
Who knew trouble when she saw it:
"Tell me now, my son, my dear one,
Whom I bore when I was young,
What is it you're crying for,
Lips awry, with droopy nose?"

511 Sadly Joukahainen answered:
"0 my mother, you who bore me! 490
Reasons for it have been born,
Malicious magic has been done;
Cause enough there is for crying,
To lament the magic malice.
This is why I'll weep forever,
What I'll mourn throughout my lifetime:
That I gave my sister Aino,
Even pledged my mother's child
To Vainamoinen as a helpmate
And provider for the singer, 500
As caretaker for a duffer,
Keeper for a corner-sitter."

525 Then the mother clapped her hands
And she rubbed both palms together
As she answered quite delighted:
"Do not cry, my darling boy,
There is nothing here to cry for,
Nothing much to mourn about.
This is what I've always hoped for;
All my lifetime I have wanted 510
This great man to be my kinsman,
Distinguished person in my clan,
Vaino for my son-in-law,
That great singer for my kinsman."

537 Joukahainen's sister Aino
Now herself began to cry;
Wept a day, wept a second
Crouched across the outer stairway,
Wept for great and simple sorrow
Welling from her hearts despair. 520

543 But the mother took the word:
"Why do you weep, my little Aino,
Since you have so great a suitor,
Going to a great estate
There to idle by the windows,
Gossiping upon the benches?"

549 But to this the daughter answered:
"0 my mother, you who bore me!
Surely I've a thing to weep for:
I am weeping for my hair, 530
For the beauty of my braids,
For my fine and youthful tresses
If they're hidden when I'm young,
Covered by a wifely kerchief.

557 That will make me cry forever
For the dearness of the daylight,
For the tenderness of moonlight,
For the harmony of heaven-
If as maiden I must leave them,
As a child I must forget them 540
In my brother's whittling yard
Underneath my father's windows."

565 Said the mother to her daughter,
Spoke the elder to her dear one:
"Go away now with your worries,
Useless, silly with your weeping!
There's no cause now for dejection,
None for all this mournfulness.
Elsewhere out there in the world
Shines the sun of Jumala - 550
Not just through your father's windows
Or the gateway of your brother.
There are berries on the hillsides,
Strawberries too in open clearings
For your picking, little silly,
Even in the world outside,
Not only on your father's clearings
Or your brother's burnt-out patches."


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