The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 45


Mistress Louhi heard the tidings,
How they throve in Vaino's country,
Prospered there in Kalevala
By virtue of the Sampo fragments,
Splinters of the ciphered cover.

7 This she envied and resented.
So she was forever scheming
What destruction she could compass
Or what means of doom devise
For the folk of Vainamoinen, 10
For the land of Kalevala.

13 Thus she makes her prayer to Ukko,
Begs him as the god of thunder:
"Ukko, Jumala the highest!
Strike down now the Kalevalanders;
Rain down iron hailstones on them
And with steely arrows pierce them.
Slay them with the pestilence
And annihilate the nation,
Menfolk on their spacious acres, 20
Women on their cowshed floors."

23 The maid of Tuonela was blind;
Loviatar, the old ogress,
Was the worst of Tuoni's daughters,
Nastiest of the underworld
And the source of every evil,
Cause of myriad disasters.
Darkly ominous her features
With a skin of hideous hue.

31 That dark maid of Tuonela, 30
Blind eye of the barren wasteland,
Made her straw bed at the crossroads,
Laid it on unholy ground.
There she lay, her back to windward,
Slantwise to the bitter blowing
With the piercing cold behind her,
Facing eastward toward the dawn.

39 But a blast of wind came blowing.
From the east a furious storm wind
Blew her heavy, big with child, 40
Pregnant in a treeless country,
On the open twigless barrens,
Ground ungreened by turf or tussock.

45 Bore her womb, her painful belly,
Carried it for two, three, four months;
Five, six, seven, even eight months;
For the full nine months she bore it,
And, according to the old wives,
Even half the tenth she bore it.

53 By the end of nine full months, 50
Or the outset of the tenth one,
Her full womb is aching-heavy
And her labors overcame her-
Yet the borning is unborn,
Still the offspring undelivered.

59 Then she shifted from that place
To another place to lie in.
There she went to bear her young,
The whore of hell to bear her children,
There ravined between two cliffsides, 60
In the hollow of five mountains-
Yet the borning is unborn,
Still the offspring undelivered.

67 She searches for a better place
Where to lighten her big belly,
By some quaking quicksand lying
Or some overflowing fountain.
There she found no fitting place
Where to lighten her full belly.

73 Then she tried to birth her children 70
And relieve her painful burden
In the foam of swiftest rapids,
In the swirl of mighty waters,
Under fall of triple rapids,
Down below nine riverbanks-
But the borning is unborn,
And the monster's womb unlightened.

81 Now the nasty wretch was weeping,
Hideous monster loudly wailing,
Being baffled where to go, so
Where to ease her aching womb,
Where to birth her urgent offspring.

87 From a cloud spoke Jumala,
The Creator from on high:
"Yonder on that marshy shore
Stands a small three-cornered cabin
In the dark of Pohjola,
In the foggy land of sedges.
Go out there to do your birthing,
There to lighten your full belly. 90
That's the only place you're wanted,
Where your children are awaited."

97 Thus it was that Tuoni's daughter,
Vicious maid of Manala,
Came to the House of Pohjola
To unburden her big belly,
Yean her young, birth her bratlings.

103 Mistress Louhi, sparse-tooth matron,
Led her to the bath in secret,
To the steam room of the sauna 100
Without a word to any neighbor,
Without the village hearing of it.

109 Secretly she warmed the sauna,
Bustled about to make it ready.
Then she oiled the doors with ale
And with table beer the hinges
To prevent the doors from creaking
And to stop the squeak of hinges.

115 Louhi turned to higher powers
And began her incantation: 110
"Blessed matron, nature's daughter,
Thou the beautiful and golden,
Thou most ancient of all women,
Primal mother of us all!
Run out knee-deep in the sea,
Waist-deep in the lapping wavelets:
Take the spittle of the ruff,
The saliva of the burbot
And anoint the bone joints with it,
Rub it in along the flanks. 120
It should free her from her birth pangs,
Ease a woman's writhing belly,
Loose it from this twisting torment,
From the laboring of her womb.

131 "And if that is not enough:
O thou llkko, god of gods!
Come, O come where thou art needed,
Help, O help where thou art summoned!
Here's a handmaid in her labor,
Woman writhing in hard birth pangs 130
In the midst of sauna vapor,
In the common village sauna.

139 "Take thy golden truncheon up,
In thy mighty right hand raise it!
Crash the doors, spread the door jambs,
Loose the locks and bolts of nature
That a big one or a small one,
Even a weak one may come through."

147 There the evil one, the ogress,
Shut-eyed daughter of grim Tuoni, 140
Eased her body of her burden,
Brought her angry offspring forth
Under a copper-broidered blanket,
Underneath the gauzy netting.

153 Three times three, nine brats she bore
In this single night of summer,
In one steaming, in one bathing,
From one belly, from one wombful.

159 Then she named them all in order -
As we do with all our children-150
Thus proclaimed what she had wrought:
Cramps and Colic, Gout and Rickets
Were the first four sons she named:
Cancer, Boil, and Scab made seven,
And the eighth she named the Plague.

171 Only one was left there nameless,
He, the youngest of the litter
On the straw bed at the bottom:
Him she sent to distant places
As a warlock on the water, 160
Wizard in the forest hollows
And a sorcerer everywhere.

177 Louhi ordered all the others
To that misty point of land
At the head of Foggy Island,
And she urged the savage creatures,
Drove the brood of strange diseases
To infect the land of Vaino,
To destroy the Kalevalanders.

185 They infected Vainola, 170
And the Kalevalanders sickened
Of mysterious diseases,
Diseases never named before
Till the floors beneath them rotted,
Quilts above them soaked with sweating.

191 Vainamoinen, knower eternal,
Went to work to save his people
And to ransom them from sickness:
Went to war against dark Tuoni
And to battle all diseases, iso

197 First he heated up the sauna
And the stones to make the vapor,
Burning only clean-washed firewood,
Driftwood gathered on the seashore.2
He brought slappers in his shadow,
Water hidden by his coat;3
Steeped the slappers in hot water
Till their hundred twigs were tender.

205 Then he tossed a scoop of water
On the hot stones till they crackled, 190
Throwing up a cloud of vapor,
And the vapor was like honey
Rising from the heated stones
As old Vainamoinen chanted:

211 "Be thou present in this vapor,
Father of the sky, be present
In the vapor with thy healing-
Wipe away the conjured virus,
Quench the poison of the fever;
Fan all evil vapors out, 200
Blow away the fever bearers
Lest they burn away thy children
And destroy thine own creations.

221 "Now wherever I throw water,
Throw it on the heated stones,
Let it be transformed to honey,
Altered into flowing nectar.
Let a river of honey run
And a pond of nectar ripple
Through the heap of heated stones, 210
Misting up the moss-chinked sauna.

229 "We are not to he devoured,
To be slain without a reason
Till the great Creator wills it,
Death ordained by Umala.
Who would slay us without reason,
May his spells turn in his mouth,
His intent recoil upon him,
On himself the ruin fall.

237 "Butifl.achildofllkko, 220
Am no hero to deliver
Anyone from wizard's wiles
Or relieve all illnesses,
There is always Ukko's power,
He, the ruler of the clouds-
He himself lives in a cloud,
In a cloud of good dry weather,
Governs there among the cloudlets.

245 "0 thou Ukko, god the highest,
Great, cloud-topping Jumala! 230
Come, 0 come where thou art needed,
Speed, 0 speed where thou art called for!
Here to name these dread diseases
To avert these days of evil,
Free us from the dread enchantment,
Cure us of this dire contagion.

253 "Bring to me a fire-swift sword,
Lightning blade of flashing power
So that I may fight the demons,
Settle the devils forevermore; 240
Drive the torments down the windway,
Out upon the open barrens.

259 "I will chase these ills away,
Drive these torments over yonder
Into rocky cave and stony cellar,
Into heaps of rusted iron,
There to torment stones and boulders-
A stone does not cry out in pain,
Boulders not complain of ailments,
No, however much you heat them 250
Or oppress them out of measure.

269 "Thou Pain Maiden, Death's own handmaid,
Sitting there upon the Painrock
In the delta of three rivers
Where the flood divides in three,
Grinding down the ills and torments
As the Painrock ever turneth,
Go and gather up the torments
Into the hollow of the blue rock,
Or then roll them in the water, 260
Into the deepest sea abysses
Where no breath of air can stir them
And no gleam of sunlight glimmer.

281 "And if this much will not do it,
Come, good mistress Kivutar,
Lovely lady, nurse and healer,
Come and help me with the healing
To restore good health and vigor
That harmony may reign once more.
Make pains painless, wounds unaching, 270
That the sick may lie in comfort
And the feeble without worry,
That the dormant ones may waken,
That the sick shall rise and walk.

293 "Put the hurts into a bucket,
Aches into a copper basket
So that you can take them yonder
And there sink the sicknesses
In the middle of Pain Hill,
At the summit of Pain Mountain. 280
Boil them in a tiny kettle
Small enough to fit a finger,
Big enough to hold one thumb.

303 "In the middle of the hill
There is a stone; in the middle
Of the stone there is a hole
Bored by bit and drilled by auger.
We will throw the pains down there,
Overcome the bad diseases
And put down the dread infections, 290
Hold them helpless in the nighttime,
Keep them moveless in the day time."

313 Vainamoinen, knower eternal,
Was still tending to the sick ones
And anointing them with ointments,
Ninefold salves and eightfold nostrums,
As he chanted prayers to Ukko:
"O thou Ukko, God the highest,
Hear, thou ancient of the heavens!
Sprout a cloud up from the eastward, 300
From the southwest raise a big one
And a cloudlet from the westward.
Rain down honey, rain down water
As an ointment for the sick ones,
As a salve upon the sore spots.

329 "But without the grace of God
By myself I could do nothing.
Give me help, thou good Creator,
Add thine aid, 0 Jumala,
When my eyes have seen the sickness 31 o
And I've laid my hand upon it,
Made my magic over it
And blown upon it with my breath.

337 "Where my own hands cannot reach,
May the hands of Jumala touch;
Where my fingers cannot soothe,
God's own fingers can relieve -
Jumala's fingers are much finer,
The Creator's hands more able.

343 "Come, Creator, work thy magic, 320
Jumala, speak thy sacred spells,
Thou, Almighty, now protect us!
Keep us healthy in the nighttime
And immune throughout the daylight
That we suffer no more sickness,
No more crampings of the stomach
Nor succumb to any heartstroke -
That we suffer not the slightest,
Not the tiniest touch of sickness,
Never, never again forever 330
While the moon is gleaming golden."

355 Vainamoinen, knower eternal,
Cleaned out the witch-begotten place,
Cleared away the great contagion
And dispersed the spells of Louhi,
Healed the land of weird enchantments.
Back from Death he drew his people
And preserved the Kalevalanders.


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