The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 48


Vainamoinen, knower eternal,
Thinks it over, how to do it,
How to weave a linen seine,
How devise the hundred-meshed one.

7 Then he says so in these words:
"Is there one to sow the flaxseed,
Anyone to plant it, plow it
So that I can make it ready,
Have the hundred-eye prepared
As the catcher of the firefish, 10
Destroyer of that dreadful creature?"

15 They discovered a bit of land,
Little spot of land unburned
On the largest ridge of fenland,
In the hollow of two stumps.

19 When the two stumps were uprooted
There they found a hidden flaxseed
In the cache of Tuoni's worm,
In the larder of the earth grub.

23 There was indeed a heap of ashes, 20
Little pile of fine dry ash
Where a wooden boat was burned,
Where a craft had been consumed.
In the ash they sowed the flaxseed,
Plowed it in among the ashes
On the shore of Lake Alue,
In the clay soil by the lake.

31 Out of this a seedling rose,
An unusual flax plant flourished,
Stretching up and bushing out 30
In one single night of summer.

35 Sowed at midnight, plowed in moonlight,
It was cleaned and it was carded,
Plucked and rippled, pulled on sharply,
And the knots were stripped out neatly.

41 Then they took it to be retted.
When the fibers had been softened,
Took it up and quickly dried it.

45 It was hurried to the house
And was quickly cleaned of shives, 40
Cleaned and cmshed with brake and swingle,
Combed and brushed out in the evening
And made ready for the distaff
As a little tuft of flax
In one single night of summer,
In the time between two days.

55 Sisters spin it, sisters-in-law
Thread it through the netting needle,
As the brothers weave the seine
And fathers-in-law put on the drag rope. 50

59 Swooped the needle to and fro,
Bobbed the roller back and forth
As they got the new net ready
And attached the cordage to it
In one single night of summer,
And, indeed, in half the time.

65 Thus they got the new net ready,
Rope-net made of flaxen cords,
Its bag a hundred fathoms long
And its wings full seven hundred; 60
Weighted it down with stones for sinkers,
Buoyed it up with a set of floaters.

71 All the young folk go out seining,
While at home the elders wonder:
Will they catch the fish they seek,
Will they really get the firefish?

75 They go rowing, searching, dragging
Downstream, upstream and across -
Catch a few fish small and bony,
Mostly only worthless fish fry, 70
Bony perch and gallish carp,
But they do not get that firefish,
One for which the net was woven.

85 Said the staunch old Vainamoinen:
"Ah, thafs it, smith Ilmarinen!
Let's go out there now ourselves
With our net upon the water."
So the two of them set out,
Took their net out on the water;
Cast one wing upon an island, 80
The other on a grassy headland,
And a net hoist set up there
At old Vainamoinen's pier.

97 Casting, pulling, backing, dragging,
They at last get fish aplenty,
Perchy, herchy, trouty, pouty,
Salmon, bream, all other fishes-
But they do not catch that firefish,
One for which the seine was made
And the linen net intended. 90

107 Then Vainamoinen adds more nets,
Extends the wings five hundred fathoms
And the rope-net seven hundred.
"Let's go farther out," he said,
"Take the net to deeper waters;
Let us drag the net once more,
Make another try at casting."

117 So they take it farther out,
Take it out to deeper waters,
And they drag the net once more, 100
Make another try at casting.

121 Here old Vainamoinen chanted,
Sang the fisherman's incantation:
"Vellamo, mistress of the deep,
Rushy-breasted water woman!
Come and change your reedy shirt,
Come and clothe yourself anew.
You have on a shirt of rushes
And you wear a sea-foam bodice
Which was woven by the Windmaid, 110
Given by the Wavemaid to you.
I will give you a linen bodice,
Bodice made of purest linen;
It was woven by the Moonmaid,
Spun by the daughter of the sun.

135 "Ahto, master of the billows,
Ruler over a hundred sea caves!
Take a spar five fathoms long,
Seize a pole of seven fathoms,
Go out on the water with it 120
And roil up the deepest bottoms;
Raise a shoal, a raft of fish bones,
Guide them straight into our net bag
Which the hoist is hauling in,
Buoyed up by a hundred bobbers.
Drive them from the fishy caves,
From the rocky salmon grottoes,
From the far poles of the ocean,
Murky depths and sunless caverns,
Depths unsecured by the sand." 130

151 Then a little man arose,
Tiny dwarfman from the sea
Standing straight upon a wavetop,
And addressed old Vainamoinen:
"Do you need a water thresher,
Handler of the long-pole beater?"

157 Staunch old Vainamoinen answered:
"There is need for such a thresher,
Handler of the long-pole beater."

161 Then the little man, the dwarfling, 140
Ripped a pine tree from the shore,
Tall one from a pinewood grove,
And he tied a boulder to it
As an end weight, and he asked:
"Shall I thresh with all my power,
Beat according to my strength,
Or according to the gear?"

169 Shrewd old Vainamoinen answered:
"Thresh according to the gear,
That will be enough of threshing." 150

173 So the little man, the dwarfling,
Beats the water as instructed
And according to the gear;
Drove the fish into the net,
The seine that they were hauling in
Buoyed up by a hundred bobbers.

179 Now the smith is at the oars,
Vainamoinen is the hauler,
Hauling in the flaxen cord-net,
Pulling in the hundred-floater. 160

183 Said the staunch old Vainamoinen:
"Now the finny herd is here
In the net that I am hauling,
Buoyed up by a hundred bobbers."

187 Then they hoisted up the cord-net
And unloaded, shook it out
Into Vainamoinen's vessel.
Now they got that school of fish,
The one for which the seine was made,
For which the cord-net was intended. 170

193 Old reliable Vainamoinen
Steered his vessel to the shore,
To the side of the blue pier,
To the end of the red jetty.
There he cleaned the shoal of fishes,
Piling up a heap of fish bones,
And from there they got the grey pike,
The one for which they fished so long.

201 Vainamoinen hesitated
As he wondered: "Do I dare- 180
With my bare hands dare to touch it,
Hold it without iron gauntlets,
Gloves of stone or copper mittens?"

207 Hearing this the son of Day said:
"I would slit the pike wide open,
Dare to handle it barehanded
If I had my father's sheath-knife,
Sheath-knife of my honored parent."

213 From the sky a knife came falling,
From the clouds a sheath-knife dropping, 190
Golden-hilted, silver-bladed,
Down upon his belt directly.

217 So the skillful son of Day
Seized the sheath-knife with his hands
And he split the pike wide open,
Slit the carcass of the broad mouth.
In the belly of the gray pike
They discover the silver lake-trout;
In the belly of the lake-trout
There they found the sleek-skinned whitefish. 200

225 When he slit the sleek-skinned whitefish,
There a blue clew was discovered
In a gut-bend of the whitefish,
Hidden there in the third gut coil.

229 And when this one was unraveled,
From the blue clew fell a red one.
When the red clew was unraveled
In its middle was the fire-spark
Which had fallen from the heavens
And had dropped down through the clouds 210
From above the eighth high heaven,
From the highest ninth empyrean.

239 As Vainamoinen was considering
How he might convey the fire
To the dreary fireless houses,
To thetabins long in darkness,
Suddenly the fire-spark sprang
From the hand of Day's own son,
Singed the beard of Vainamoinen,
Even worse with Ilmarinen, 220
For the fire burned his cheekbones,
And it scorched his hands severely.

249 Uncontrolled, the wildfire bounded
Through the billows of Lake Alue;
Flashing through a bush of juniper,
Burned a heath of juniper;
Running through a firwood forest,
Burned up all the stately spruces;
Rolling even farther on,
Burned up half the Northern country; 230
Burned the borderland of Savo,
And both sides of wide Karelia.

259 Old reliable Vainamoinen
Followed hard upon its track,
Climbing quickly up the backwoods
Following the fiery spark.
There he found the little spark
At the root of two old tree stumps,
In the root knot of an alder,
In the crook of a hollow stumproot. 240

267 Vainamoinen thus addressed it,
Thus the man of wisdom scolded:
"Little firespark. God's creation,
Little flame. Creator's creature!
For no reason you went hiding
To the deepest parts of Alue,
Went too far for no purpose.
It were better to return now
To the stone-built hearths of home folk,
In the ashes, in the embers; 250
Daytimes bright in birchen billets,
And at nights your flame confined
To a golden-glowing fireplace."

281 Quickly then he put the fire-spark
On a piece of ready punkwood,
Bit of birchen tinder fungus -
Flicked it into a copper kettle;
Took the fire in the kettle
Burning on a bit of birchbark
To that misty point of land 260
At the head of Foggy Island:
Got the fire to the houses,
And the cabins all were lighted.

291 In the meantime, Ilmarinen
Hurried headlong to the sea,
Plunged himself into the water,
Struggled to a waterstone,
That great slabstone by the shore,
In the torment of the fire,
In the fierce pain of the flame. 270

298 There he set to quench the fire,
To extinguish all the flame.
And he spoke the magic fire words:
"Fire, by Jumala created,
Panu, offspring of the sun!
What has made you act so badly:
Bum my cheeks and sear my loins,
Rake my flanks with such anger?

307 "What to do to stop this torment,
Quench the fire, soothe the blisters, 280
That the burning may be harmless
And its flames made impotent,
Lessening the time of torment,
Cutting short the bitter smarting.

313 "Come, thou maiden out of Finnmark,
Hurry hither out of Lapland
With slushy socks and icy shoes,
In your skirt with hoarfrost hemmed,
With a rimy kettle in your hand,
Icy ladle in the kettle- 290
Come and cool me with cold water,
Icy water, sleety water,
Over all the burning places,
All the sores of angry fire.

323 "But if that won't do it, come on,
Son of Northland, lad from Lapland!
Come, you tall one out of Darkland,
Big one, high as backwoods timber,
Big as the bog pine in the marshes,
Rimy gloved and rimy booted, 300
Frosty capped and frosty belted.

333 "Bring the frost from Pohjola,
Coldness from that coldest village.
There is ice enough in Pohjola,
Plenty in that arctic village:
Slush on rivers, ice on lakes,
Glare ice in the very air;
Rimy are the rabbits hopping,
Icy-coated bears are running
Up and down the snowy hill, 310
On the slope of snowy mountain;
Icy swans and icy mallards
Swimming on a snowy river,
On the 'brink of icy rapids.

347 "Bring the hoarfrost on your sled,
Ice upon your little coaster
From the wind-swept barren hilltop,
From the slope of mighty mountain.
Let the hoarfrost be the healer,
Let the ice perform the cooling 320
Of the hurts committed on me
By Panu, offspring of the sun.

355 "But if this won't do it, hear me,
Ukko-Jumala in the highest,
Ukko, ruler of the clouds
And controller of the cloudlets!
Send a cloudlet from the eastward,
From the westward raise a cloud bank;
Push them closer, side by side,
Crash them edge to edge together. 330
Rain down ice and rain down hailstones,
Rain the best of ointments for me
On my fire-wounds, on my blisters."

367 This is how smith Ilmarinen
Quenched the fire, soothed the burning.
He recovers from his fire-wounds
And is the man he was before
In spite of all the burns he suffered.


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