The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 43


Louhi, matriarch of Northland,
Called all Pohjola together,
Armed the mighty crowd with crossbows
And the warriors all with swords;
Built the boat of Pohjola
And equipped it as a warship.

7 She embarked the men upon it
And arrayed the fighting heroes
As a scaup lines up her fledglings,
As a teal arrays her children. 10
There were a hundred swordsmen standing
And a thousand bowmen ready.

13 She prepared the ship for sailing,
Stepped the mast and set the yardarms,
Quickly hoisted up the canvas;
Set the sail upon the mainmast
Fluttering like a long cloud-banner,
Like a high flag in the sky.
Then she started on her voyage,
Sailing out and hurrying onward 20
To regain the stolen Sampo
From the boat of Vainamoinen.

23 In the meantime Vainamoinen,
Sailing over the blue sea surface,
Is addressing Lemminkainen:
"O you lively son of Lempi,
You, most precious friend and comrade!
Climb up there now to the masthead,
Scamper nimbly up the mainmast;
See what weather looms before us, 30
Keenly scan the sky behind us:
Do the horizons show up clear,
Are they clear or unsettled?"

35 Then the wayward Lemminkainen,
Lively lad and ruddy rascal,
Always ready without urging,
Quick in action without praises,
Climbed up there onto the masthead,
Scampered quickly up the mainmast.

41 He looked eastward, he looked westward, 40
Then he looked south and southwestward,
Gazed across to Pohjola's shore.
High from the masthead he announced:
"There the weather's clear before us,
But behind the sky is foggy;
Northward there's a little cloudlet
And a patch of cloud southwestward."

49 Said old Vainamoinen slyly:
"Now you may be simply fibbing;
There may be no cloud at all 50
Nor a little cloudlet either,
But a sailing boat behind us.
Look again, and look out sharply."

55 So he looked, and looked out sharply
And announced down from the masthead:
"Far out there an island glimmers,
Dimly looming in the distance;
On it aspens full of falcons,
Birches full of speckled wood grouse."

61 "That can't be," said Vainamoinen, 60
"Surely falcons they are not,
Nor can they be speckled grouse:
They're the boys of Pohjola.
Look out carefully the third time."

67 So the wayward Lemminkainen
Looked the third time and announced:
"Now ifs coming, the Pohjola boat,
Vessel with a hundred oarlocks,
On the thwarts a hundred rowers
And a thousand idle sitters." 70

75 Vainamoinen saw the truth,
Recognized the situation
And began to shout quick orders:
"Row, you craftsman Ilmarinen;
Row, you wayward Lemminkainen;
Row, row everybody!
That the boat may run on faster,
Speed on forward quick and quicker."

83 Rowed the craftsman Ilmarinen,
Rowed the wayward Lemminkainen, 80
Everybody rowed and rowed.
Straining bent the piny oars
With the rowan rowlocks whining
And the pinewood vessel rocking.
Like a seal the prow surged forward
As the stern-wake roared like rapids,
While the sea boiled up in bubbles
And the foam in balls was flying.

93 Like rowers in a race they pulled,
Strained like racers on a wager- 90
But the boat is not advancing
Nor the wooden boat escaping,
Escaping from the chasing vessel,
From the ship of Pohjola.

99 At that moment Vainamoinen
Felt his ruin coming on him,
Saw the day of doom before him,
So he wondered and considered
How to live, or how survive:
"Yet I know a spell for this, 100
Can invent a bit of magic."

107 Then he fumbled in his wallet,
Dug down in his tinder box
For a tiny bit of flint
And a pinch of ready tinder.
These he threw into the water,
Over his left shoulder threw them
As he solemnly intoned:
"May a rocky reef rise up,
Secret island, under water, 110
For the Northland ship to run on,
Hundred oarlocked one to split on,
Battered in the heat of breakers,
In the pulsing pound of sea surf."

121 And they grew into a rocky reef,
To an island under water,
Lengthwise eastward, crosswise northward.

125 Rushing came the Northland vessel,
Cutting straight across the rollers.
On the unseen reef it grounded, 120
Held fast by the hidden island.
There the wooden boat was sundered,
And the hundred-ribber broken;
Into the sea the masts went splashing,
Down with them the sails fell flapping
For the wind to blow away,
By cold Ahava far driven.

135 Louhi leaps into the water
Where she tries to raise the boat,
Tries to get the vessel righted, 130
But the boat cannot be righted-
All the ribs were cracked to splinters
And the oarlocks all in pieces.

143 She reflected and considered:
"What contrivance in this crisis,
What devices to invent?"

147 She transformed herself completely
And became a different creature:
Took five scythes and six mattocks
Which she fastened on her fingers; 140
Then transformed them into talons,
Lifted them up as her hands;
Half the wrecked boat set beneath her,
Changing boat-sides into wings
And the rudder to a tail-
Under her wings a hundred men,
On her tail a thousand more,
Altogether a hundred swordsmen
And a thousand ready archers.

l6l Then extending wide her wings, 150
Soared up in the shape of eagle.
With fast beat of wings she hastened
To discover Vainamoinen.
One wing glanced along the clouds
While the other grazed the water.

167 Now the Mother of the Water,
Kindly matron, called a warning:
"Now beware, old Vainamoinen!
Turn your head from looking south,
Cast your eyes to see southwestward, 160
Look a little there behind you."

173 Old reliable Vainamoinen
Turned his head from looking south,
Cast his eyes to see southwestward,
Looked a little way behind him.
There the dame of Northland's coming -
A peculiar bird approaching,
From its shoulders up a hawk
But in body like a griffin.

l8l Overtaking Vainamoinen, 170
She alighted on the masthead,
Moving quickly to the yardarm,
Overbalancing the vessel
So the boat was near to sinking,
Vessel almost keeling over.

187 At this menace, Ilmarinen
Throws himself on God's good mercy,
Puts his trust in his Creator
As he prays the warrior's prayer:

191 "Shelter me, O firm Creator, 180
Guard us, gracious Jumala,
That the man may not be lost,
Mother's child not die in battle,
Fall from Jumala's creation,
From the great Creator's record.

197 "Ukko, thou most present Godhead!
Thou thyself, O heavenly father!
Cast a fiery robe around me
And a shirt of flame to guard me
As a bulwark in the battle 190
And behind which I may fight
That my head may not be stricken,
That my hair may not be injured
In the flashing play of iron,
On the point of some keen sword."

207 "Oho!" cried old Vainamoinen,
"Ahoy, you dame of Pohjola!
Will you share the Sampo with us
On that misty point of land
At the head of Foggy Island?" 200

213 She replied: "No, I will not,
Will not go to share it with you,
Wretch that you are, Vainamoinen."
Then she tried to drag the Sampo
Out of Vainamoinen's vessel.

219 But the wayward Lemminkainen
Drew the iron from his sword belt,
From his left side whipped the steel blade;
Struck out at the eagle talons,
Lashing at the perching feet. 210

225 Striking, Lemminkainen shouted:
"Down, you men, and down, you swords!
Down, you worthless warriors!
From beneath the wings by hundreds,
From each feather tip by tens!"

231 Said the dame of Pohjola,
Spoke the mistress from the masthead:
"O you lively son of Lempi,
Wretched man of far-out fancies!
You who have deceived your mother, 220
Who have lied to your own parent:
Swore you would not go to war,
Not at all for six, ten summers
Even for the want of gold,
Even for the lust of silver."1

241 Vainamoinen, knower eternal
Judged now that his hour had come,
Felt the moment had arrived:
Raised the rudder from the sea,
Mighty oak slab from the water; 230
Brought it down upon the woman,
Struck the talons of the eagle,
And its claws were crushed to pieces,
All but one weak little finger.

251 From her wings the lads came dropping,
In the sea the men were splashing,
From beneath her wings a hundred,
From her tail a thousand plunging;
Then the eagle too came crashing,
Down upon the boat ribs tumbling 240
As a wood grouse drops from a tree top,
As a squirrel from a fir branch.

259 Still she reached out for the Sampo,
Hooked it with her nameless finger,
Hurled it with its ciphered cover
Over the side and into the sea,
Over the side of that red boat
Into the depths of the deep blue sea,
Where the Sampo crashed to pieces
And the ciphered cover crumbled. 250

267 So they went, those crumbled fragments
And the Sampo's bigger pieces,
Down beneath the placid waters
To the black ooze at the bottom
To enrich the realm of Ahto,
Treasures for the water people
So that never after that
While the gold-bright moon is shining
Will the water lack for riches
Nor old Ahto want for treasures. 260

277 Other parts were still remaining,
Though they were but smaller pieces
Floating on the blue sea surface,
On the widely rolling billows
To be cradled by the breezes
And be driven by the rollers.

283 There the breezes cradled them,
And the sea swells gently lapped them
Floating on the blue sea surface,
On the wide expanse of rollers, 270
Herded landward by the wind,
Driven shoreward by-the billows.

289 Vainamoinen saw those pieces,
Those small fragments of the Sampo,
Splinters of the ciphered cover;
Saw the sea swells lifting them,
Herded landward by the combers,
Driven shoreward by the breakers.

295 Heartened by the sight he said:
"There's a seed of future fortune, 280
Germ of everlasting thriving
For our plowing and our planting
And for crops of every kind
That will make the moon to glimmer
And the sun of fortune shine
On the wide farmlands of Finland,
On the lovely land of Suomi."

305 Still to this dame Louhi answered:
"I recall a trick for that,
Can invent a counter-magic 290
To your plowing and your planting,
To your crops and to your cattle,
To the glimmering of your moonlight
And the shining of your sunlight:
In a rock I'll stuff your moon,
In a cliff will hide your sunlight.
Then I'll let the frost hard-freeze you
And the bitter weather stay you
In your plowings and your plantings,
All your sowings and your reapings. 300
I will conjure iron hailstones,
Steely ones let rattle down
Over all your well-kept clearings,
On the best of all your grain fields.

323 "From the heath I'll rouse the bear,
Sparse-tooth bmin from the firwood
To rip up your grazing geldings,
Maim your mares and kill your cattle
And to scatter all your milkers.
I will send a dire disease, 310
Slay your people with the plague
And annihilate your kindred,
So that never in this world
Will that name again be mentioned."

333 But old Vainamoinen answered:
"No Laplander can bewitch me
And no Finnmarker outsing me:
'God alone appoints the weather.
In the hand of the Creator
Are the keys of all good fortune, 320
Not beneath the arm of wizard
Nor the fingers of ill-wishers.'

341 "If I trust in my Creator,
Keep good faith with Jumala,
He will keep my crops from grub worms
And the enemies from my grain;
Stop them grubbing up my sowings
And from killing off my growings,
From the spoiling of my seedlings
And the blighting of my harvest. 330

349 "You, mistress of Pohjola,
Stuff the rocks with^ your disasters
And the cliffs with your bad omens
Or the mountains with your evils,
But the sun and moon let be,
Never hide the lights of heaven.

355 "Let the frost freeze you yourself
And the bitter weather hold back
Your own seedlings, your own plowings.
Let it rain down iron hailstones, 340
Steely hail down on your furrows
Turned up by your own plow
On the fields of Pohjola.

363 "Rouse the bear up from the heather,
Savage wildcat from the brushwood,
Curvy-claw from forest den,
Sparse-tooth from his firwood lair
To the lane of Pohjola,
Herdway of the Northland cattle."

369 Sighed the mistress of Pohjola: 350
"Now my magic powers are waning
And my mighty prestige fallen,
With my wealth sunk in the sea,
Sampo broken in the billows."

375 Weeping sadly she turned homeward,
Took her northward way lamenting.
She brought with her of the Sampo
Nothing worthy of the telling,
But she brought a little something
Hooked upon her nameless finger: 360
Brought the cover to Pohjola,
Got the handle into Sedgeland.
That is why there's dearth in Northland,
Hungry, breadless time in Lapland.

385 When Vainamoinen went ashore
He found pieces of the Sampo,
Fragments of the ciphered cover
On the fine sand of the seashore.

391 Sowed the pieces of the Sampo,
Fragments of the ciphered cover 370
On that misty point of land
At the head of Foggy Island,
There to grow, increase and flourish
To provide good barley beer
And the grain for solid rye bread.

399 There old Vainamoinen prayed:
"Give, Creator, grant, O God,
Grant us good life and good fortune
And at last to die with honor
In the lovely land of Suomi 380
And in beautiful Karelia.

407 "Now protect us, firm Creator,
Guard us, gracious Jumala,
From men's notions, women's whims.
Cast from us all earthly enviers
And forestall all water wizards.

413 "Be the bulwark of thy sons
And thy children's help forever,
Always through the night support us,
Be our guardian in the daytime 390
So that neither sun nor moon
Shall shine upon an evil time,
That the wind may not blow badly
Nor the rain fall fiercely on us,
Nor bad weather harm thy children,
That the freezing cold not touch us.

423 "Build us now a fence of iron
And of stone construct a stronghold
Round my country and my people,
From earth to sky and sky to earth - 400
There my home, my only dwelling,
My support and my protection
Where no evil can destroy me
And no foeman blight my harvest,
Never in the course of time
While the golden moon keeps gleaming."


Use of the text for commercial purpose is forbidden

Table of contents